When it comes to matters of the heart, it is usually a safe bet to trust your instincts…

Living, as we do, in the age of internet matrimonial portals and wedding planners, you'd think that it would be most natural for two people who love each other or like each other's ‘profiles', to order mangalsutras and rings and so forth. Not always, it seems. Weighed down by the hundreds of doubts that burden their minds, increasing numbers of beleaguered urban couples find it easier to either call it quits or stay stuck in some sort of irresolute limbo. So when you think of the person you are dating or chatting with on the net as your spouse-to-be-may-be-may-not-be, don't get into a flap about this. It happens to the best people and you are in excellent company. However, to resolve the issue and to regain mental health, you will need to work through your commitment conflicts.

Taming the beast

The first of these is the nature of the beast hypothesis. It centres around the concern that humans are innately polygamous creatures. And therefore the question is, Isn't marriage against the nature of the beast? Sure. If the beast in question was living a few millennia ago. Monogamy has been such an integral part of our social history that it's pretty much ingrained in our DNA now. However, those amongst us who are still conflicted tend to use the American divorce rate as a beacon to illuminate this argument. If you visit a remarkable website called www.truthorfiction.com, you'll realise that the much touted statistic that ‘one out of every two American marriages ends up in divorce' is, in fact, fiction. The basis for this inaccurate perception may be the observation that for every two marriages registered in a particular year in an American state, one divorce was registered. (The correct method of computing the divorce rate is dividing the number of divorces in a particular period by not only the newly registered marriages during the period, but all the existing marriages in the area). You might also want to drop in on your neighbourhood Marriage Registrar and see how many divorcees are getting married again. The beast, it appears, has finally been tamed.

Many potential marriages have been aborted by the ‘What if' conundrum. What if he turns out to be an alcoholic or wife beater? What if she stops loving me? The basic worry here is: what if our relationship changes after we get married? Let's get one thing out of the way. Your relationship will change after you get married. Your partner will change after you get married. You will change after you get married. Change is inexorable. But it need not be for the worse. If both of you try hard enough, it can even be for the better. Then there is the ‘Mr/Ms. Right Uncertainty'. The soul mate or the ‘right' partner could always be around the next corner and maybe the person you're seeing now should be put on hold. As I see it, if you're still going to be looking around corners, you're never going to make it to the highway. At some time, you have to make a call and just because the person in your life is not a ‘10', is no reason to dither. Go with your heart. Strange as it may sound, most marriage decisions are taken from the heart and not the head, for, there exists no foolproof matrix that accurately predicts compatibility.

And finally, there is the good old ‘Why Get Married, Why Not Live Together Argument'. You'd be surprised at the number of couples in live-in relationships today who are reluctant to formalise their relationships. I usually find that most protagonists of this argument think that living in would make separation easier if the relationship does not work out. This is a big fallacy. Believe me, it is never easy to walk away from a relationship and if you think you can just pack your bags and leave your long-term live-in partner, please think again. Live-in partners find it much harder to separate than married couples. I have known couples in very long-term relationships that have been through real nadirs, determinedly sticking it out together, but equally stoutly refusing to ‘go legal'. Why they don't get married will always remain a mystery to me, considering that for all practical purposes they're probably more ‘married' than other married couples.

Legal tangles

A sobering thought: live-in partners run the risk of sharing the experience of Eva Gabrielsson, the long-term live-in partner of Stieg Larsson, the phenomenally successful Swedish author of the Millennium Mysteries trilogy, who died intestate (actually he left behind an unwitnessed, and therefore legally void, will). Since Swedish law does not consider Eva his legal heir, his rather substantial estate has gone to his father and brother.

In the final analysis, the only resource that you have at your disposal when you pop the question or have it popped at you is your instinct. We tend, most of us, to undervalue our instincts. And this can be a big mistake. Learn to respond to it and hone it and you will find that it rarely lets you down. All you need to feel sure of is that your partner responds with an equal and matching commitment. Remember, you are only making a commitment to work on your relationship; you're not selling your soul.

The writer is the author of the just-launched Fifty-50 Marriage: Return to Intimacy and can be contacted at vijay.nagaswami@gmail.com

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