Marital therapist Vijay Nagaswami on his latest book, his future plans, and more…
The doctor is in. Vijay Nagaswami, Chennai-based psychiatrist and marital therapist, columnist and author of the popular The 24X7 Marriage: Smart Strategies for Good Beginnings (now in its fifth print) is back with the second book in his ‘The New Indian Marriage Series' — The Fifty-50 Marriage: Return to Intimacy (Westland).
Just ahead of its launch in the city, Dr. Nagaswami opened up about the book, the series, his future plans, and, of course, what it takes to nurture one's marriage. Excerpts from the interview.
Did you always plan to make this a series on The New Indian Marriage?
Yes. The first one The 24X7 Marriage was for newly-married couples or couples who were going to get married soon. The second is for couples who've been married a few years, and are wondering what they need to do to rejuvenate their marriage. And, the next book is what everybody seems to be waiting for — on extra marital relationships (laughs). I'm writing it now; it should be out by next summer.
Why specifically ‘The New Indian Marriage'?
Because, I found it was changing so much. The last two decades have been dramatic. I would say that almost every five years, the New Indian Marriage is re-inventing itself. We need to acknowledge that marriage today is different, and we need to enjoy that difference. The difficulty is that our marriage templates are primarily our parents' marriages, and with so much changing, there's conflict between the conscious and the unconscious mind.
What I found fascinating about the The Fifty-50 Marriage was the stories of couples you tell in each chapter. Was that to make the book more accessible?
Yes. You can sound very preachy when you're talking about marriage, and you don't want to because there's no such thing as the ‘right' marriage. There are just certain fundamentals to be conscious of. When people read a book, the tendency is to think: “Oh my god, I've got it all wrong”, and I wanted to avoid that. Which is why I've tried to keep to stories, so different people can relate to different aspects.
Invariably, these are stories of people I'd met or heard about. However, I take only the kernel and the rest of it is heavily fictionalised.
Your final chapter of “Fity-50” is very reassuring… was that again a conscious choice?
Absolutely. When it comes to parenting and marriage, we tend to either be too casual or worry ourselves to death about it. Sure, you're going to get some things wrong. But, fixing it will happen if you've gotten your basics right. Just be conscious about it — then you'll try and find solutions. If you allow your marriage to drift, then you'll just end up drifting away from each other.
What is the message you'd like people to walk away with after reading this book?
That you can't expect your marriage to look after itself — you need to nurture it. Intimacy is what keeps any relationship alive. And, intimacy is about bonding and connectedness. Many people say that we don't have the same interests, so we want to part ways, which is crazy. You can have completely different interests, but still be very connected to each other, because you enjoy the companionship and the closeness, and you do your own things as well.
What was the experience of writing it like?
The most important element was structuring the book. See, there's so much to be said. But, you can't overload people. You can't write such a huge book that people have difficulty even getting started. But, once the structure was there, the writing was not difficult. I took some time off, and wrote the major part of it in Munnar.
Are you planning any other books apart from this series?
Until the next book is done, I'll be focussing on this series. After that, there are some themes I'd like to address — the parent-child relationship, for instance. Or, telling people that gayness is normal, and how it can be dealt with. But, it's all still rather nascent.