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A Gradual Alienation

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EstrangementHow do people who fall in love and get married drift away after many long years of marriage? This is a question disturbing quite a few among us in Indian metros, with a rising number of couples seeking to go their separate ways after twenty years or more of marriage. “I was shocked beyond belief, when my fragile looking neighbour, whom I met every other evening at a party with her husband, calmly told me she had walked out on him,” confessed my friend Nithya to me the other day. “I wouldn’t have dreamed that anything was wrong – they made such a nice couple.” 

The social image is not always the true picture, as many have found, with their friends, relatives, and family members deciding to call it quits at different stages. What seems to be good for a silver jubilee suddenly gives way. However, in actual fact, it can never be as sudden as it seems. For a relationship to end, the couple has normally passed through many stages of ‘estrangement’, literally turning into strangers for each other. 

So what are these trouble spots that younger couples can avoid?   

  • When formality takes over a relationship that was once carefree and intimate. This usually means that there are taboo areas that are blocking true communication. ‘You shall not talk thus about my mother’, or ‘You and your friends just never really grew up’ may be the underlying mines around which conversation has to be negotiated, and when this happens on a sustained basis, the couple pay the price. 
  • Competition overtakes co-operation at the simplest levels of the relationship. Life together becomes more focused on proving who is the better manager of money, the better parent of the kids, the better driver, the more socially skilled partner – anything and everything becomes the basis of comparison with each other. And the worst part is that neither of the parties involved ever own up to feeling competitive this way! 
  • Resentment of each other’s friends replaces any shared interests or pastimes. I have seen a very stately couple arrive at a party, with husband and wife resolutely staring out of their respective windows in utter silence, being driven by a driver, and have wondered at their state of actual communication. That same week, I may have seen the wife being utterly uninhibited with her won set of friends at a mall in the daytime. Long after they have got married, when a wife and husband regularly seek solace in ‘stag’ or ‘hen’ parties, and only ever emerge from their shells on such occasions, things are pretty miserable at home. 
  • In every conversation with each other, it appears difficult for one to believe in the goodness of the other. Sarcasm, brittleness, cynical remarks become the order of the day. Every time it feels as if one will have to work extra hard to prove the goodness of one’s intentions to one’s own partner. After a point, it is very tempting to stop trying. The marriage turns into a relationship of adversaries, defeating each other’s purpose of being good, happy and human! 

I’m done with listing out any more of these horrible symptoms! Suffice it to say that if you find yourself heading for even one of these states, do something about it, quick. Or the holiday you were to take together on your silver wedding anniversary may become a solitary cruise on the Nile. Good luck! 

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