Equals in Marriage

I was intrigued the other day when, mellowed by a sublime biriyani, I landed up overhearing a discussion about the merits and demerits of marriage being a partnership of equals. Because obviously, what is THAT? As in, what on earth is equality in marriage? There is no such thing, is my “expert” opinion as a married person. It is one of those statements that sound funny by sheer virtue of not being funny at all.

As a point for discussion I would like to assume a relationship between a man and a woman – though I wonder how it could be different with spouses of the same gender. Realistically speaking, one of the spouses always does more. And it is not always the wife, even though it is mostly them. As clearly defined roles in every household undergo blurring, and then redrawing, it throws spouses – usually husbands into chaos. Because to me, it appears that even the redefinition of household roles is being taught differently, and in different degrees to different genders.

And the shock waves – I’m being dramatic here, but maybe not dramatic enough – usually wash over spouses of the male gender. The intrinsic genetic wiring of the male predisposes them to resistance to change. Especially when centuries of conditioning has made it easy for them to stay that way. So (in the words of some of my male friends) the tide of change sweeps them in and drowns them before they can adapt – which may take centuries, considering the male gender is not wired to change its behavioural patterns quickly, if at all. In simple English, they don’t know what hit them. And they still don’t. They may have figured out how to keep from drowning, but they haven’t yet learnt to swim to safety. So I guess it’s going to be a long wait for the women.

Now, the women. Objectively speaking, women fight for a change in their conditions only because it is not conducive for their survival, let alone emotional growth. Like I had (in order to drive the fact home) pointed out to a male friend, if men were treated the women are, all over the world, and have been for centuries, men would stand up and protest too. They don’t do it, indeed (even if maybe only passively) refrain from supporting gender equality groups because honestly, who wants to be equal when they can be superior? And so, how can they be surprised if now even the women want to be superior?

Because sometimes it feels like women will, after achieving equality – which will likely take a while – start pushing for superiority. Because it is human nature – gender difference not withstanding. History is full of prime examples of victims eventually turning into perpetrators. Maybe it won’t be that bad – women probably have agendas different from men – but the drive to establish one’s superiority is part of the survival DNA.

My religion is better than your religion, my gender is better than your gender, motherhood is more priceless than fatherhood, the breadwinner is more valuable than a housewife.. Equality is a utopia towards which we can strive, because it keeps us going. And we can only keep going on till we don’t reach there. Since I’m from the “journey is more enjoyable than the destination” school of thought, I hope to not reach that symbol of perfection in my lifetime. The only practical thing to do, as we live out our lives daily, is probably to respect the partner that does more, and accept that the balance will probably always be slightly skewed. Maybe the imbalance keeps things interesting?



Disclaimer: I write this from the precarious position of a woman who managed to get pregnant and deliver a healthy baby almost the moment I decided I wanted one. Having said that, as a person that has experienced both the circumstances indicated in the title, I also declare myself qualified to ramble forth on both. And why the inability to experience one should not stop one from experiencing the other.

That this conundrum existed in people, was a fact that struck me only when I got pregnant. While interacting on an intimate basis with women – dear friends, valued acquaintances – who couldn’t. And were struggling to. For years. I would safely guess that every one of us knows at least one person in that situation. I know many. And I could never understand why.

Not “why can’t they get pregnant? Why are they so desperate? Why is it so important?” Not even “why are they battering their bodies and making themselves miserable?”. But, “why are they giving up on motherhood just because they cannot get pregnant?”

Pregnancy is a temporary state of affairs. Motherhood is a permanent state of mind. An altered state of life. Forever. When women speak of motherly instincts, and rant about the difficulty in getting pregnant, and the biological clock ticking, I always wonder why they are mixing up issues. They are obsessed with pregnancy – rightfully so; after all, it IS a validation of one’s feminity – but overlooking the reality of motherhood altogether. We ALL know – one doesn’t need to get pregnant in order to become a mother. Everyday there are women – and men – who take up the responsibility, the challenge of parenthood with children not born to them. I am not talking adoption (though I’m heading there). I’m talking social workers, activists, even teachers who care. ┬áJust as there is the reality of people who seem to get pregnant far too easily, and offload their duties and rights as parents far too easily on the unsuspecting public.

I have friends who argue that it is about a blood tie. Then what of the parents that abandon their children? Or worse, keep them and abuse them? And if you are incapable of loving people not related to you by blood, what of your spouse? Your closest friends? If one can learn to love their spouse – born to someone else, and having met you after you have gotten halfway through your life without having even known them, is it really so implausible to believe it would be far easier to love a child not related to you by blood? If one can learn to love adults, is it really that difficult to love a child?

This leads me to wonder if it is not simply a matter of ego. From where I am standing, it appears that women would rather batter their bodies and put it through treatments that are meant to defy nature, than to bypass the hormonal mess that is pregnancy or related fertility treatments and find a child to love. I have seen marriages disintegrate, families fall apart and conversations become landmines, all over a uterus’s inability to hold on to an embryo.

Motherhood is not for the faint hearted. It is challenging, frustrating, and fulfilling (though this last one I cannot personally vouch for; not yet). To me it just seems infinitely more efficient to bypass pregnancy and adopt a child. From an extremely shallow perspective – no weight gain, no mood swings, no post partum depression. You get straight to the awesome (and really awful) part – that of being a parent that carries the immense responsibility of bringing up a life to enrich the society in its own way. However a child may enter your life that is the one part that is going to be the same, right?