Ever wonder what happens after you’ve walked into the sunset with your dream man? Today an increasing number of educated, financially independent, city bred women find themselves caught in a confusing battle of identity and tussle for supremacy post marriage. To go from calling the shots on every aspect of their lives to adjusting to the demands of a brand new relationship and the ties that come with it; several women today realize that straddling modern values with traditional expectations is not an easy task.
When Jagriti (name changed on request) married her college sweetheart everything seemed to float perfectly well until she received her new passport, with a new name. “Though I had mentally prepared myself for the change, seeing my husband’s name alongside mine made me feel as if a part of me had simply disappeared. And I’d have to create a new identity all over again.” It doesn’t matter how expected or accepted the norm is, for most women today with a strong sense of self, it is a reluctant adjustment, if made at all. Many women today choose not to adopt a new last name- a trend that seemed blasphemous thirty years ago. However, decisions such as these, in a country that holds tradition so dear, are looked upon as ‘bold’ and usually require more than just coaxing the in-laws. Moreover, the choices made require one to put a firm foot down- a task that seems so arduous that many prefer to simply make their peace with the new change.
For a generation that has grown up on cable TV, lives off Facebook and Twitter and identifies itself with characters from popular sitcoms, the influence of the western way of life feels most normal. And this often makes conforming to traditional Indian norms a struggle. “Marriage means compromise. Period,” says Jagriti, “And though it is needed to maintain a commitment, compromise holds meaning only if both the partners consent to it.” But how often is the consent from women, a willing one? Even if they see themselves as self-sufficient and independent, women find it difficult to toe the traditional line.
“It’s strange how things work post-marriage,” says Vijaya, a homemaker, “I had been working since I was seventeen. Once I got married I was looking forward to taking some time off for myself and my husband was more than willing to support me. However, my in-laws didn’t want me to quit my job. Their logic was that while most of India prevents women from working, they were being pretty forward. My logic of course, was that whether I chose to be at home or work in an office, the decision had to be mine. It took some time and a lot of explaining until they grudgingly backed off.” When you’re caught in a society that’s facing a transition from the old to the new, such issues are bound to crop up. However, without an understanding, supportive partner backing you all the way, holding on to your beliefs can be quite an uphill task.
“I think most men today understand a woman’s need to hold her own,” thinks Jagriti, “They are more open and adjusting because they too have grown up with the same influences of popular culture that we have.” Of course, there are certain exceptions. It isn’t uncommon to find romantic breakfasts in bed replaced with arguments over who puts out the garbage. The once Mr. Charming suddenly seems too self-engrossed and your own ego takes quite a beating when you find yourself completing not only your chores but also get loaded with his. While this may seem like a simple case of adjustment to some, it may feel like a loss of identity and diminishing respect for beliefs to others. How you work through this, defines the character of the relationship you share with your partner. “After we were married, my husband suddenly turned into this over-dependent person who expected me to act like his mother. It took several arguments before he realized that while she was happy being a homemaker, I needed all the help I could get juggling the family and my career,” says Jagriti.
There is also the issue of personal space, something which more and more women today feel sensitive about. “Marriage today is about living separate lives together,” opines Jagriti, “Space is important in every relationship and I think the generations before us realized it too. However, it wasn’t such big a deal back then.”
Getting used to a new life requires immense patience. How big the minor issues can turn out to be and how important change, or the absence of it, is depends entirely on how you choose to address the issues. What’s important is to be realistic and prepared for the adjustments to come and be clear about how far you’re willing to go. After all, a match may be made in heaven, but marriages are lived here on earth.