My friend Sanjay is miserable. I try to analyse why a man who has it all- cars, homes, friends who love him, looks, education just about everything I can think of is so downcast?
“It’s my wife, she’s always ‘offhand’ and nasty, nagging and ticking me off, sometimes publically to my acute embarrassment. Over the years I find it getting worse. The problem is I love her and I’ve been married to her for so long I don’t want to end the relationship.”
You thought only women had the raw end of the stick in relationships? The emotionally ravaged and dependent underdogs are not always women, as feminists would have us believe. I have been observing the tables slowly turning, with women becoming independent, assertive and nearly like new converts with a growing aggression flaunting their ‘rights’. But rights come with a responsibility- that of responsibility and composure.
'According to the recent National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report, the number of married men committing suicide is actually higher than that of married women. While, women ending their lives due to marital harassment, is well played out in the media, and by several NGO voices, the marginally higher number of married men who have taken their lives is seldom heard. The NCRB report has it that 70.8% of the suicide victims are married males while 66.6% are married females.'
Sanjay is just one such man who is a victim of the new age woman, women doing lunches, who have flung away the demure avatar for the more sexy frock! The woman who generally throws her weight around in ‘society’. Often in a case like this, she feels her husband is priority ‘z’. The husband is unable to handle the combination of aggression and independence the new woman displays in an equation of love and togetherness of what they had perceived as ‘happily ever after’.
There are two noticeable drifts observant to me in our urban societies where there is an influx of materialism and the desire to be upwardly mobile. One is the quintessential Indian man who is used to being the cynosure of his woman’s world as his father was to his mother is no longer his wife’s priority. I see the dynamics changing very fast, with a woman becoming acutely aware of her ‘rights’ as a wife or a lover. The second development I’m noticing is that the once meek, submissive woman go the other extreme today- ‘feeling her oats’ with the whole equality of women refrain that saw a beginning since females demanded the vote. I came back to India in the mid-nineties, when most women wore the sari or shalwar kurta. The more ‘forward’ women wore pants, but frocks and dresses were a very rare occurrence especially with non- Anglo Indian women. Things have changed drastically, and with discarding the traditional attire they donned the frock and shorts and also in many cases discarded the traditional values of respect and care necessary for a marriage to work. Urban women began to call the shots. Now while I would not get into the feminist angle of equality here, I would like to go back to Sanjay and many of his kin who now bear the brunt of an off-hand, brusque woman who stands to lose the romance and love of the relationship that brought them together in the first place. And in this one case Sanjay is still trying desperately to hold on indulgently to the vestiges of the love they had shared.
What is the course Sanjay should take?
I'd say the first course of action would be to communicate his concerns.
It's smarter to dig deeper into ones wife's problems and hold one’s own while coming up with a solution. If it’s the growing malaise I’ve been noticing in those marriages that have hit a roadblock- where women have found home, hearth and husband second fiddle to popularity, glamor and lunches-I’d say it is advisable for the man to communicate his sense of neglect to his partner. He should not sound like he’s complaining but more as if he is sharing and so giving her a wake up call. Have you noticed how we sometimes don’t even realize that we are unable see ourselves objectively and being shown a mirror to ourselves is helpful?
All relationships are a work in progress. I recommend that Sanjay write an email to his wife about all the issues he sees in their marriage without making it sound like one long dirge. Many a time we don't even realize that we might have got carried away with life and the ‘trappings’ until we are shown a mirror so that we may introspect. If Sanjay would write a letter it would be a reality check to his wife Ravina on whose current priority list are lunches, long phone-calls with girlfriends discussing diamonds, clothes and parties or then handbags. It is always more effective when a spouse or partner articulates their thoughts. It is a good way to be prepared and ready to combat any negativity with equanimity and composure than to fly off the handle.
When communicating ones grievances one has to be careful about giving respect to receive it in return. The moment one feels that sense of entitlement you have lost your audience to treacherous feelings of resentment and anger.
I've noticed that in a relationship whether it is a marriage or a live in relationship, whenever one hits a roadblock one thinks of walking out as a way out. Remember that it's always smarter to find solutions and work things out before that final step. However here's the punchline- if it's a no win situation to stay caged in a bad situation thinking life is over is also a no win situation too. Should there be no recourse I'd Sanjay should find himself a lawyer and find his way out.