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Changing Shades Of Togetherness

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Changing shades of togethernessIf your work often brings you into contact with married couples, like my consultation as a Tarot practitioner does, over a period of time you begin to notice a distinct difference in partners’ attitudes, usually depending on the vintage of the marriage. In this context, I am specially referring to the need for togetherness, and the way people’s attitude changes towards it, with time.

Among young people, who have been married just a few months or years, one encounters wives who yearn for their husbands to spend more time with them, help them with household chores, try to see their point of view – in short, take the place of the friends and family they left behind when they got married. In these cases, the husbands seem aware they are treading a difficult path. They steal a few moments with their friends every now and then, while attempting to stay true to the ‘family man’ image their wives have obviously built for them. In front of their friends, men may pretend as if they don’t care about their wives’ expectations or needs, but in fact they do, a lot. Young husbands also look for togetherness – a partner who finally looks up to them, gives them unconditional love and acceptance, and makes them qualified to be that wonderful thing: fathers!

By sheer contrast, when one meets older couples, who have been married for ten years plus, you can already see the effects of a decade of living together. I call these years of a marriage the ‘giving-each-other-space’ years, when the earlier togetherness has given way to a phase of growth for both husband and wife. Now you see wives gravitate towards each other at a party, and begin to compare notes about children, house help, and yes, husbands. Even in cities where the sexes mingle freely, such as Mumbai, there is a distinct bonding of women with women and men with men in social gatherings where couples meet. Also, in such gatherings, jokes about the ill effects of marriage begin to do the rounds with great frequency – both sexes poking fun at each other, and sharing laughs about what marriage is doing to them.

Wives may still be yearning for their husbands’ attention at this time, but it is more in the areas of child-rearing, taking care of problem or aging in-laws and other such matters that they want their spouses’ advice and help. By the time couples reach this stage, women have already begun to show signs of growing out of their husbands’ shadow, and the tensions that may make or break a long-term relationship have begun to show themselves very distinctly. Slyly, surreptitiously, men and women begin to notice other people’s partners, and wonder, ‘Does he or she have a better deal because they have X sharing their life, while I have Y sharing mine?’

And so couples carry on, till they reach the years past the silver wedding anniversary. Now they have become so immune to each other’s habits that anything the partner does is like second nature to oneself. I have a mental picture of a particular couple in this category, the beloved parents of a close friend. When the silver haired husband used to call the wife’s name, she used to wince and grimace in irritation. “Now he will ask me to fetch his glasses, or pick up his coffee cup,” she would mutter angrily under her breath. In a strange irony, this man died with his wife’s name on his lips. As she sat by his body, she looked at me with sad, but strangely calm eyes. “We were married more than sixty years, Scharada,” she said. “No one else knew me as well, I never loved, or fought with, or laughed with, or suffered any one more. What will I do now?”

The sheer dignity and sincerity of this wife will always stay with me. Somehow, in her question, she had collected the final essence of togetherness in marriage – husband and wife truly complete each other.

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