Marital Discord: Who is to Blame?

Standing on the rear balcony and pulling out clothes from my washing machine to dry out, I heard a man’s loud and angry voice, “Can you ever keep this house clean? There’s a dead pigeon on top. Call the cleaner at once” to which I could hear a distant, irritated, shrill reply from his wife, “Why do you have to start your cleaning operation after the sweeping and swabbing has been done?” The door opened as she came out and screamed in despair, “Look at the mess you have created! There is no one to clean it up.” He raised his voice and began condemning her rudely by which time I had gathered the wet pile of clothes and quickly rushed back into my house. I then walked to the other balcony (yes, this house has three, lucky me!) to hang out the clothes and there I see the silhouette of the man who was still shouting. He hadn’t seen me. I hurriedly hung the clothes as he spat the words out, “aaj aane do tumhare bete ko, dono taange thod doonga uski” (let your son come home today, I’ll break both his legs). I turned and looked up to see this seemingly terrible man and at that precise moment he spotted me. I looked away after giving him a disapproving look and he quickly said aloud in a rather subdued fashion (as if to explain to me) “I had asked him to throw the socks in the clothes bin and he has chucked them here in the balcony, near all that filth”. I walked back to the quiet of my bedroom and turned the air conditioning on to cool down. I get upset when I hear raised voices.

As it is, I had been in a low mood, after hearing both my domestic helps, one after the other, crying over their daughters’ plight respectively; one suffering a suspicious spouse who hit her brutally and didn’t want her to interact with anybody including her mother and sisters and the other one suffering at the hands of her husband who gave no money for the upkeep of his wife and children and hit them all on most days, in drunken stupor. The day prior, I had been made aware of certain marital problems of another couple known to us, by a friend.

Made in Heaven, marriages are the most sought after relationship. In many cultures, it is the ultimate goal, at least for a girl though this concept is now, thankfully, changing. However, nuptials are still considered sacred and it is entered into with the promise to last till “death do us part” or eternity or as they say in Northern India especially, for “saat janam” or seven births (since we believe in rebirths in the Hindu tradition at least).

This very grand alliance is one of the most complicated of all alliances ever made! Needless to say, it is the only relationship that runs into rough weather often and causes stress to great measure if handled sloppily. It is a vast subject and even as I type my thoughts I wonder why I am taking this on. Yet, I feel very strongly about the issue and the half dozen cases that have recently come to my notice have been trigger enough to make me want to try and make sense of it and put some sense into as many people that read this and possibly benefit from their input.

To begin with, I believe in the sanctity of marriage. I am in no way standing in judgement on live in relationships or affairs/flings for I firmly believe “to each his own” and “live and let live”. The institution of marriage is sacred to me probably due to social conditioning or romanticizing the relationship courtesy books and films or because it fulfills my need of security or maybe all that and more.

At 44 years of age and being wedded for nearly 21 years, I’d like to tell you that I am no demure person, who will tolerate anything just to keep the husband and children happy and though my husband comes across as a quiet, unobtrusive man, he is a Leo so while he is warm and caring, he does have canines!! We do have a fair share of quarrels sometimes over trivia and sometimes about bigger issues. There have been days (very few though, touchwood) when we have actually gone to bed without making up and sat with swollen faces that would put a puffer fish to shame. Yet, we are in a comfortable space and I would like nothing better than to spend my days with just the four of us. Reason being we have worked really hard to get here and we know that with our temperaments, one wrong move has the potential to cascade into something that someday might be beyond our control and we do not want that. So we nip our arguments if they carry on for the sake of ego. We communicate a lot-even unpleasant things till our needs are satisfied (this is more my demand than his).

I took a look at the divorce rates across the world and was surprised to see India having the lowest rate of 1% and that 1% happened in love marriages more than arranged marriages! Then again, I wasn’t really surprised! In India, we are driven by “log kya kahenge” (“what will people say”) every step of the way. We are so socially conscious that what we do or abstain from doing is less about our happiness or that of our loved ones and more out of what “impression” our actions would make on others.

Secondly, life is made hell for a woman spurned by her husband- from raised eyebrows to taunts and more, it is made really ugly for the estranged wife. To add to this women are seldom financially independent and this stops them from moving out of a hellish marriage. Knowing all this, men and their families have a ball getting their own way while the woman is made to toe the line by her own family, leave alone the husband and in-laws. A number of laws have been made in India to protect the woman but the very women, who actually need this support, seldom use it. Instead, there is this new breed of women supported by their families who get married to simpletons and exploit them using these laws. Yet, such cases are few and far between. Times are changing in cities but women’s emancipation is a long way off.

For me, the only thing that is more tragic than a broken marriage is the silent suffering of either spouse in the marriage. A marriage is a union of two hearts, bodies, minds and souls and in that it is sacred. It can be the most beautiful relationship if nurtured carefully and willingly.

 In India, the concept is that marriage is not between two individuals but two families. This second reason is both the unifier as well as the deal breaker. Unifier as the family always finds reasons to patch things up and deal breaker by interfering unnecessarily in the relationship.

When two people decide to spend the rest of their lives together, they are bound into matrimony not just by law but in most cases by consent. Hence, it is the onus of both equally to keep that marriage going. Unless, either one of them is a psycho and has confined the other in such a way that she/he cannot ask for help, both parties are to blame 50-50, if something goes amiss. In such cases, leaving the toxic relationship is the only solution.

I shall only talk about those marriages with mutual consent, that turn sour. Though most of it is applicable to marriages the world over, a few reasons plague Indians alone!

Dowry:  An Indian tradition, it started in ancient India, wherein the daughter’s parents give all that they possibly can to their daughter, willingly, when she gets married almost as a parting gift for their sunshine, possibly due to lack of inheritance rights. In the North Indian tradition, a daughter is brought up, unfortunately, as “paraya dhan” (somebody else’s wealth) to be given away when the time comes. Over decades, this tradition got corrupted and became a demand from the groom’s side. Sometimes, it is just a display of wealth by affluent families. However, there is no limit to greed and dowry death cases have plagued India forever. The girl is tortured so that her parents can cough up more wealth whether or not they can afford it. Strict laws have been made but this sad tradition still continues in a hush-hush manner. If the girl is from a modest family, she suffers atrocities but if she is from an affluent family and is smart enough, the husband is a puppet in her hands- this is seen more in modern India as opposed to earlier times. My advice to all young men and women waiting to tie the knot is to grow up! Dowry, really?! Get a life! Keep your families out of this by taking a firm stand against it. If you both as individuals are not enough for each other, find somebody else for no amount of money that comes to you like this is going to bring happiness and bliss into your married life! 

Incompatibility: This is the most compelling reason for divorce the world over. When the couple drifts apart and falls out of love! It is shocking to see divorces that happen after two decades of staying together. Incompatibility occurs because in their prime, couples are so caught up with earning, running the household, raising children that they never inculcate common interests. The dominant spouse most likely has his/her way while the other functions hiding resentment and living a parallel life. When life begins slowing its pace, suddenly they find they are two individuals who have lost touch with each other and since they are so used to one another there is no spark left either! This ends in quarreling, pettiness and the blame game which eventually brings with it the need to break free.

A marriage has to be nurtured. Two different personalities from two different backgrounds are tied together and they need to really work towards being a team and finding common ground while also catering to their individual interests. Mutual respect, trust and love are all important and in that order if you please. I remember the first year of our marriage was the most difficult. All the best behavior that we were on, while dating, had gone out of the window and we started making our presence felt in the relationship! Little things led to huge arguments but then in the early years, the physical nature tides over all problems. In time, we grow more accommodating of one another’s flaws and idiosyncrasies, accepting one another without trying to change each other!

Warning: It is a misconception that having a child will appease the relationship. Please do not have children till you learn to get on amicably. The child cannot change your personalities. Don’t torture her/him with your battles. If you cannot live with each other peacefully, you are not meant to be parents. Don’t let your family and friends bully you into starting a family as a solution to your fighting.

Infidelity: Surprisingly, despite all the hue and cry about infidelity, the divorces due to this reason are as less as 13% as compared to incompatibility reasons. Needless to say, cheating on one’s spouse is definitely not acceptable. How would you like it if someone you trusted lets you down? Trust once broken can never be the same again plus the hesitation to err happens once; if you don’t stop yourself that one time, you won’t stop yourself again. Is it worth it? You have a perfect life and you give it all away just for lust or for mid life crisis reasons (trust me, the issue is a lot deeper and everyone goes through it and infidelity will not solve the crisis either). It is silly if you ask me and what about infections- condom or no condom?!!! Ugh!!!! If you do digress for emotional reasons, then obviously something is amiss in your marriage, please talk it out with your spouse and if you still have to go, leave him/her and then go ahead and have a blast. Be brave and do it the right way. You cannot sail on two boats at once! It is unethical to say the least.

Anyone who is hooked on to any of these is obviously fighting deeper issues. Actually food is addiction too but unlike the top three it does not affect the partner’s life as much. Why kill yourself while wreaking havoc in your spouse’s life? Not a great example for a parent either! Resolve your issues- speak up. Get out of the addiction. Life is so beautiful.

Physical/Mental/Emotional Abuse: No one has the right to do any of this to anyone else or to themselves. Projection is a huge cause. You project all your past hurts onto one person and see that person as the reason for your problems and then just have a go at her/him. See a psychologist/psychiatrist instead. I reiterate, Live and let live. Do read up about projection. It is an eye opener.


-   There are no quick fixes in a marriage. It takes hard work, patience and  understanding in equal amounts by both partners.

-   Mutual respect, trust and love are the essential ingredients. You are both equals. No walking over one another.

-       Be comfortable with yourselves, before expanding your family.

-       A husband and wife are a team and are above everyone else in decision making- no parents from either side and no kids are to come in the way. Give each other top priority.

-      Respect each other’s families. Do not drag them in arguments.

- Three Cs: Cultivate common interests. Compromise over and over. Communicate freely.

-     Do not play the blame game. It is 50-50 always!

-  Please let psychologists/psychiatrists in to your life if you need them-not substances or third party.

-     Never sleep over an argument. Egos are worse the next morning.

-     Dowry is passé. It is a crime. Say NO!

-   Maintain your individual interests and personality. Give a loose rope to one another. Personal Space is important.

-    Please don’t believe books and movies totally. Life isn’t going to turn out like that. Especially for those women who have grown up watching Hindi movies like me, please do not encourage your man to be abusive in the name of being macho and don’t turn into the epitome of sacrifice- it will only lead to frustration and sorrow.

-  Despite all efforts if you still need to separate, be honest, be giving, be magnanimous and part ways amicably. Not easy, but then nothing worthwhile comes easy.


Last but not the least and this was an awakening for me, for I actually relish romantic dialogue with the “you complete me” being one of my favourites. It isn’t true! We are complete in ourselves. God made each of us complete in every respect. Two “wholes” get together in matrimony solely to produce kids. I know! It sounded terrible to me too. Fact of the matter is, if we acknowledge this truth we will stop feeling helpless and not take each other for granted. We will take responsibility for our own happiness instead of wanting our spouses to make us happy. Neither will feel indispensible so both will stay in check. So long as you remember this truth, you can do some foot poppin’ when kissed and use the “you complete me” bit to perfection as cheesy as that may sound!!


  1. You know, it is such a coincidence you wrote on the very topic I have been mulling over for the last couple of days (blame it on my marathon sessions of watching 'The Marvellous Mrs Maisel'). The subtleties of living in an intimate relationship with another human being are too many for any of us to try and capture in mere words. Everyone has their own unique way of dealing with the power play and emotional games of marriage. You hit the nail on the head when you said the key is to have mutual respect, trust and love. Unfortunately, one element or the other is always missing from most marriages. Statistics are misleading. A low divorce rate is not an indication of a culture which has mastered the art of conjugal bliss. It may well be a symptom of rampant oppression. While it is fashionable to quote abuse of men at the hands of women and there may be cases to corroborate the protests, it is unfair to allow the disproportionate figures they pose, against the oppression of women, as equal and similar.
    That notwithstanding, the best way to keep a marriage healthy in all respects is to maintain a mature perspective.... on the part of all parties involved, including the families of both partners.
    Like Kahlil Gibran says -
    '...stand together yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart. And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow'.

    1. I agree with you completely on the fact that the statistics does not consider many relevant factors- it is just a broad outline. I also know that a woman being oppressed and abused is far more rampant than the other way round but men are increasingly under mental stress, perhaps, because they are more in touch with their emotional side now than before. You summed it up beautifully with the Gibran quote.

  2. Actually Anu I never believed in the institution of marriage. I know it may sound funny coming from me. Personally I don't like being tied down by anything. I love the concept of being a free bird. I don't understand why there is so much pressure in our society about the concept of marriage. It's instilled so deep into our veins that we feel we err if we decide not to get married.
    I don't think everyone is made for marriage that's why most people end up in divorces. Reality strikes them one fine day and they wake up.
    Not everyone is lucky and blessed like me to get a spouse who will understand and respect your freedom.
    No matter how complicated, challenging and trying it may seem, having a family with a wonderful partner and kids who keep you occupied all day is an amazing experience.I have grown to love it, especially when my daughter tells me.... " I love you so so so so very much the whole wide world" or when my son says" Ma you're the best cook in the world" or my hubby sings my praises .
    I think you have to be totally selfless and humble to make your marriage successful and not just work. Like you said RTL is the key.
    As always love the way you write straight from the heart

    1. I almost forgot the most important thing in the marriage is the big"F" word without which a marriage is lost ... Hehe i know what your dirty mind was thinking. It's FORGIVENESS ! Everyone will eventually make mistakes so let's add F to the RTL... FRTL ... Gosh it sounds like a licence ;)

    2. Sarah! I have thought about it often. It is in India especially (perhaps Asia and the middle East too) that we have to get married or there are so many conclusions people draw and our parents wouldn't have any of it! It is true that not all people are cut for marriage and that is fine. Touch wood a million times that we have spouses who give us freedom, our space and want us to get that FRTL (yes, with the F...and it does sound like a licence) working ;) If you put in effort selflessly you will have a beautiful relationship- it is true for anything actually! Thank you...xx

  3. A great read during my rather long journey in the Delhi Metro. You've analysed the institution of marriage so well! An eye opener indeed!

  4. Loved where you wrote that "we are complete in ourselves". I think happy people make happy relationships. Having confidence in oneself is also important. For ladies, I believe, it is must to be financially independent... The moolah in the bank boosts morale. Spouse should never be taken for granted. And fight to one's heart's glory but never stop communicating. You have written a good piece and it is truly worth the read.

    1. Thank you so much dodo d! "we are complete in ourselves" is so true but don't you get a heady feeling with "you complete me" :D How romances can throw us off balance in real life!! ;)

  5. All well covered n done!!!


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