This past weekend I attended a raucous wedding. The groom was an old friend; growing up, he was so much into the concept of one true love we always thought he would be the first to find her and institutionalize it. As it usually happens, he ended up being almost the last to get hitched. So there we were, his friends, all married people, drinking around a table, and the men started cracking the usual clichéd jokes about the death of life after marriage.
Happily ever after rule No. 1: Each spouse must have his/her own television.
“Hey guys, marriage is fun. I’m happily married. I love it,” I said weakly.
“Never believe those who scream their happiness from rooftops,” one stranger said.
“I swear I’m still in the honeymoon period,” I said. “Maybe it’s because we don’t have children?” (yes I know children are God’s gift, but no children also means no fights over who will feed, clean and entertain them/do their homework/manage their tantrums).
“I’m sure your husband would tell us a different story if he were here,” the stranger said (while a friend gestured with an imaginary whip. Crack, crack). “How long have you been married?”
“Ten years in December,” I said. “And you?”
He was a three years, two children kind of married man. Totally in love with his wife. But, seemingly, always alert to the possibilities of life on other planets.
Two days later I happened to ask my mother’s driver if he had seen the new Marathi movie everyone was talking about. He looked in the rear-view mirror and drawled: “Jab se shaadi hui hai aadhi duniya bhool chuka hun (since I got married, I’ve forgotten half the world).
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Of course, any healthy/happy marriage takes work.
Coordinating daily likes and dislikes for one. Vegetarian vs meat lover. Tragic foreign films vs happy Hollywood blockbusters. Fiction vs non-fiction. Active exerciser vs couch potato. Stay-at-home type vs party animal. Spontaneous vs a planner. Jazz vs rock. Picnic in the park vs five-star brunch. Early bird vs after-dark animal. Sea person vs mountain person. Outdoors vs indoors. Organic vs processed. Chatterbox vs strong and silent. You get the point.
And, of course, when you adjust to each other’s likes and dislikes, you have to deprioritize some of your likes. Like switching channels from CSI (just when they’re on the verge of uncovering the climactic forensic clue) to watching tiger cubs being rescued. “No, love, you take the remote tonight. I insist. You’ve had a rough day,” you might say. My parents solved this one a long time ago by buying two television sets.
Of course, in any successful marriage, you’ll find that the big things are usually in sync. It’s certainly easier to stay married if you agree on money matters; that stray dogs need love too; that temples and mosques shouldn’t be mentioned in party manifestos; and that both of you will respect and love each other’s parents.
Then there’s the staying focused angle.
There are all kinds of attractive people out there—and many of them are magnetically drawn to happily married people such as yourself. It’s so much easier for a 30-plus married person to have an affair than for a 20- or 30-plus singleton to find true love (unless that singleton is looking for true love from a happily married person). An acquaintance whose little black book spills over with the phone numbers of bored married women says cheating really helps him stay focused on his marriage.
My theory is that people cheat because meeting someone new you click with always makes you feel younger and more attractive. Like you’ve got a while to go before your sell-by date. You have to experiment (or stay away periodically) to keep the chemistry going with your lifelong partner, but a stranger who wants to jump you? One you don’t plan to grow old with? Just this once? Or twice? You’re already feeling hot, aren’t you?
The only way to stay married, and not be overly distracted by life on all these other shiny planets, I believe, is if you’re sure you’re in it for the long haul. That and a clear cheat-and-I’ll-kick-your-butt-out-of-this-marriage policy.
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