If marriage is more about prioritisation, then courtship is about attention, caring and being there for each other.

People used to say it a few years, if not a couple of decades, after they got married. But in recent times, many seem to be saying it within weeks of getting married. “If I’d known you were going to change like this, I would never have married you”, or “You’re not the person I married”, or words to this effect. And then they ask that most sought-after of modern day sages – Google – why people change after they get married. And within 0.64 seconds, they have about 559,000,000 answers to their question. Whether they have the patience to go through even some, if not all of the results, I have no idea, but the fact that Google autosuggests the above question even when you type in only “why do people change…”, tells me that a lot of people are asking it.

So, why do people change….?

The answer to this question would depend on which one of the four methods you used for choosing your partner. Yes, four. In the past, you either had an ‘arranged marriage’ or a ‘love marriage’. Today, in addition to these two, you could also resort to a ‘love-cum-arranged marriage’ (LCAM) or an ‘arranged-cum-love marriage’ (ACLM). These are not terms I’ve dreamed up, believe me, but these are what many young people throw at me when I ask them how they chose their partner. From what I’ve been able to understand, if you have an LCAM, you choose your partner by falling in love and getting your respective parents to accept this. The subsequent marriage functions like any other arranged marriage with all its rules and regulations. If you have an ACLM, your parents have chosen your mate, but both of you fall madly in love with each other almost instantly and for all practical purposes, yours is much like a love marriage with all of its trials and tribulations. If yours was neither of these, then you’ve had a traditional LM or AM.

Usually, during the period of courtship in a LM or LCAM, after the initial wooing and the first declarations of love, pretty much the entire focus of the relationship shifts to how it’s progressing. Will it end in marriage or heartbreak? What each partner looks for in each other is the strength of the commitment. As a result, the principal goal of courtship is to get married, and this period usually passes in a haze of hormones, romance, and anxiety. Even those couples who’ve been in a long courtship don’t necessarily know or understand what sort of a spouse their partner will make and project onto their partners idealised attributes of whatever they think will ensure that the courtship culminates in marriage.

Learning new skills

In other words, they may know their partners well enough as a boyfriend or girlfriend, but little do they realise that the act of marriage is going to forever change their relationship, for the challenges that marriage brings in its wake are extraordinarily difficult to anticipate or plan for. Not because marriage is a minefield (although many married people feel it’s precisely this), but because even the best boyfriend or girlfriend may have to learn new skills to make the transition to becoming a good husband or wife.

Courtship is about attention, caring and being there for each other. Marriage, on the other hand is about prioritisation of each other, regardless of the demands made by others – parents, relatives, friends and work colleagues. So, a loving fiancé or fiancée, may not necessarily know how to juggle these demands and still retain the same focus on the relationship once the marriage takes place.

In an AM, the process of partner choice may appear to be more rational, even clinical, but is often not so, for the principal parameters used are family background, educational levels and financial prospects. Of course, the partners have to feel comfortable with each other, but in truth they are relating more to each others’ profiles than to who they really are and what they really want from each other.

As a result, assumptions get made of each other based on their profiles, as in a man who’s lived for four years in the United States will not be a chauvinist or a girl who’s grown up in a joint family will be very loving to her parents-in-law and so on. In the case of an ACLM, since the courtship usually begins after the engagement, there are no anxieties about how the relationship will progress. However, the heady romantic attraction ensures that the courtship passes in a haze and that each relates more to the other’s profile than the real self, which means they are still going to be surprised when they start making a home together.

Here’s the deal. Marriage is full of surprises. The one you fell in love with or whose profile you thought was ideal, is still the same person sleeping next to you. The problem is not that you or your partner has changed. The problem is that you haven’t changed enough to adapt to the needs of marriage. It happens to all of us. If we anticipate this, even though we can’t predict much else about marriage, then we’ll probably be in a good position to learn how to jointly navigate our married lives better.


Boundaries, not wallsDecember 8, 2012