Fairy tale marriages are just that—a fairy tale. Most married people openly acknowledge the hard work put into a marriage. Of course, a lot of factors determine the health and longevity of any union, but mainly it is an unconscious attempt to replicate the primary model we witnessed first-hand—our own parents’ marriage.All kinds of bullying come into play: financial, physical, emotional, sexual, intellectual... the list is endless. Within the cosy space between two people, very soon the air can become too thick to breathe. The inherent gender imbalance in the entire planet applies automatically to the domestic sphere, where power struggles are the norm, and one party, having tasted blood, will always want the upper hand.
How then can couples transform this much misunderstood alliance—complicated by caste, cash and kids—into a level-playing field?Melinda Gates, in her new book, The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World, addresses two important facets of the modern marriage—abuse in a relationship and the conscious effort that goes into building equality between spouses. She wrote: ‘I’ve been in an abusive relationship.... It killed my voice and my self-esteem for years. That, to me, is not that different than women in the developing world who lose their voice or have no decision-making power.’
Women bringing in higher salaries, whittling down number of offspring, hiring nannies, travelling for work etc have skewed the balance. A new kind of man has to step up. Men can bristle at the slightest gender disparity directed at their daughters, while their wives roll eyes at the double standards. The #MeToo movement saw a lot of fathers and daughters avoiding each other’s eyes.
Power structures in the nuptial arena can turn the bedroom into battlefields. The scars are borne, of course, by the children, who go on to distrust the opposite sex, and start marriages by putting on armours.
Melinda Gates says: ‘Bill has said often in interviews that he’s always had a partner in everything he’s ever done. That’s true, but he hasn’t always had an equal partner. He’d had to learn how to be an equal, and I’ve had to learn how to step up and be an equal.’
Honest couples own up to the daily struggle within marriages—for a say, to take a stand, to fight stereotypes and expectations of ‘happily ever after’. If a foreign cupid site for married women—Gleeden—can say with glee that seven of 10 Indian women cheat on their husbands, it is perhaps because the husbands are either steeped in their ‘provider’ role or fail to understand the changing female personality and wants.
The funny part is that as he lays down the law at home and puts his foot down and generally acts the tyrant, he is also most probably simultaneously romancing other men’s wives. That is, if the Gleedon stats can be trusted. Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive...If the man had treated his wife with respect and equality in the first place, he wouldn’t be out there looking for another woman to disrespect and patronise.