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Term Paper

We live once, die once, we get married once and love--love also only occurs once. ~translated

quote from Bollywood movie, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai

Marriage is about finding someone that is present during the ups and downs of life. Or at

least that is the compassionate idea that my parents claim to believe. Happily married for over 29

years, my parents present similar opinions regarding the institution of marriage and divorce.

According to my father the ultimate purpose of marriage is to have kids in order to continue the

family heritage and if one does not get married it leaves society to believe that he or she is

incapable due to a physical or mental illness. My mother extends on the institutional concept of

marriage by stating that you want to find a life-long partner. By claiming that your partner must

be life-long one may believe that my mother is purposing that marriage is an inseparable bond

and undermining the option of divorce. As expected she states that divorce is never a good thing

and should be a last-resort option. She adds that it is only appropriate if the spouse excessively

drinks, smokes, and/or engages in violent behavior. She explains that if these acts cannot be

stopped then there is danger of suicide leading to more loss in a marriage than the potential loss

in a divorce. But she also says, a smart woman is one that can work out a marriage without

getting divorced. This statement bestows an immense amount of responsibility onto the wife if a

marriage fails even though the reasons for divorce that my mother mentions are faults commonly

associated with men. But when asked about the reason for a successful marriage she responds: a

compromise between both the husband and wifean interplay of validating statements. Between

these two instances, the attention suddenly turns from the wife being the reason for a failed

marriage to both the husband and wife being the reasons for a successful marriage. It is difficult

to rationalize this view but it seems that, according to my mother, the woman is expected to
control her husband. This event of blaming a woman for a mans shortcoming, although in a

different context, was also presented in lecture as a double standard; If a man goes too far it is

the womans fault, women are expected to control and limit male sexual advances. My mother

adds that women can work if money is needed but ultimately men will decide for them. It is

interesting that my mother undermines the authority and voice of a woman, even though she

herself is a woman. However, if one analyzes the strict male dominated culture my mother grew

up in, her opinions align with the norm.

My mother supports the conservative mate selection process of the 18th and 19th centuries

that is portrayed in Stephanie Coontzs book, Marriage A History. According to my mother, a

successful marriage should not include prior cohabitation or physical relations (sex). She says

that an arranged marriage is preferred because parents have their best interest for their kids.

My mother grew up in conditions where only arranged marriages were considered the norm and

almost all of those marriages were successful. Even my maternal grandparents, who also had an

arranged marriage, have been married for over 60 years. Witnessing the success of these

marriages probably reinforced my mothers strong views for arranged marriages. I want a long-

term marriage like my parents have but not for the exact same reasons. Although what my

mother outlines to be the purpose of marriage is true, in my opinion there is more to a marriage.

Marriage involves falling in love, whether my parents find the girl I fall in love with or if I do, it

is important for me to have that connection prior to marriage. My views parallel the prototype of

love in which I can develop a compassionate relationship with my partner instead of solely

marrying because its the right thing to do.

According to my mother, a successful marriage is where both partners have control over

themselves. She describes that most conflicts in marriage arise when both people are furiously
arguing without listening to each other. She believes that if one partner is mad about something

the other one should sit and listen to why they are mad. This will allow them to express

themselves and release anger that was boiling up. She says that if anger boils up too long you

might end up saying things that you do not mean. She adds that it is important to recognize that

you are wrong and own up to it by apologizing. Dont be scared to admit that youre sorry, it

doesnt show that you are weak, but instead it shows that you are understanding and realistic.

My mother is outlining the importance of validating interactions by suggesting the importance of

listening to the other person even if your opinion differs. She is describing how one should not

attack, but instead convey an acceptance of the other person feelings and awareness. If matters

worsen both my parent do not believe in going to couples therapy. Instead a couple should go to

an elderly such as parent or an in-law. Family problems should be kept in the family. They

rationale this by saying that these conflicts are too intimate to be shared with complete strangers.

But perhaps it is more about the damage that can be done to a couples reputation among society

by exposing marital conflicts.

Since the majority of people in India have arranged marriages it is important that a family

maintain its reputation. If a family has a tarred reputation due to marital conflicts it will be

difficult for that family to find future alliances. My father verbalizes this sentiment when asked

about divorce and its consequence. He says, Divorce is a shame among society. It is not only

shameful to the couple and their relatives, but it will also affect the marriage of their children.

According to my father, if a couple is divorced they and everyone related to them is labeled as

undesirable. At a greater social context, this belief runs parallel with the family system theory,

which describes how an event that affects one member of the family can affect everyone in the

family. According to my father a divorce between a couple will not only affect the divorced
couples families but also how others view their families. His views against divorce are so strong

that he believes if conflicts become violent, a couple should keep working on their relationship

until this conflict is resolved; he optimistically states, every conflict can be resolved with a little

bit of understanding, there is no need for a divorce. Although my father outlines the negative

impact divorce has on kids, it seems like he is more afraid of divorce than he is against it. He is

afraid of what society will say about his family, what they will think about his values, and how

he will be labeled. The Indian society has a heavy influence on how my parents shape their ideas

about marriage and divorce.

And if you can find any way out of our culture, then that's a trap too. Just wanting to get out of
the trap reinforces the trap. ~ Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters

Caren, 18-year old girl raised by her parents, presents views that greatly differ from what

my parents have to say. She says marriage is a commitment between two people that are in love

each other. Caren demonstrates the compassionate ideal of marriage by using words like love to

describe the purpose of marriage; however, shortly after she incorporates the institutional idea of

marriage by saying, marriage establishes a permanent relationship, while also defining it.

Additionally she outlines the expectations of marriage as child bearing, looking after the home

and kids, and making money. By Carens original statement about the purpose of marriage one

would anticipate her expectations of marriage to be extreme love or life long companionship;

however, she highlights institutional expectations. Through Carens responses it seems that even

if one has the compassionate view of marriage, aspects of the institutional idea of marriage are

quintessential for a successful marriage. I also believe that is true. While we are moving away

from the institutional view of marriage we still carry the fundamentals of it. Many people want to

start a family and have a stable income, but this does not mean that we cannot love our partner.
In fact Caren states that, I love marriage where you fall in love with the person before

you marry them. Marriage is a magical place for Caren in which she finds both happiness and

companionship through the hardships of life. This is the opposite of the situation that Carens

parents went through. They had an arranged marriage in which Caren believes the love was

forced. My mom got to know my dad only after they were married. In finding a partner Caren

wants someone that makes her happy, but does not care about what relatives or parents may be

thinking. It seems that her ideal relationship is the opposite of what her parents have. This is

made clear when she describes the invalidating arguments between her parents. She states that

her father is verbally violent to the point where one is afraid of expressing his or her opinion.

Carens father is practicing the invalidation method of contempt in which he name-calls, berates,

and yells at others. She adds, my parents have many problems but are still together, maybe it is

because of me and my bother, but if I were my mom Id divorce my dad.

Caren describes the her initial exposure to the institution of divorce as being something

that is frowned upon and implies that you couldnt work things out. Even her grandparents,

who do not get along with each other, will not get a divorce because its a cultural thing.

Perhaps her parents are not getting a divorce because they are trapped by society and culture. But

Caren does not view divorce as negative thing, instead she thinks of it is as an alternative. She

would really like to have a successful relationship and will try her best to pursue it but if it does

not work out, she will not rule out the option getting a divorce. She states, I dont want to end

up like my parents. I dont want to live with someone if things are not working out. Thats just

not a marriage anymore. Perhaps, Caren does not view her parents as completely married and

since Caren holds marriages in such high esteem, she is not willing to make willing to wrong the

institution of marriage by reaming together if she and her husband are miserable. She says she
will avoid falling into the trap of arranged marriage by dating extensively and even co-habiting

with her potential partner. She believes that by co-habiting she and her partner will have an

opportunity to live together and assess if this arrangement works for them. Although this differs

from the cohabitation data presented in class, Caren states, every data has exceptions and well

lets hope Im part of that exception. She concludes her interview by describing the inevitability

of change that can even transform someone you loved to someone you can no longer have a

conversation with. Caren makes very logical points in her interview. Although she is submerged

within the romantic idea of love, she thinks rationally and knows not to eliminate the option of

divorce from her life because who knows what the future holds? I am not able to be as

comfortable with a divorce, but I admire how openly Caren is able to embrace change. Although

many least anticipate change, relationships are constantly changing. One can go from the role of

a son, to a husband, and to a father but through this journey there will be drastic changes in ones

life. It is important that one possesses the correct tools to combat the obstacles that are presented

by change.

When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change;

at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we

are not yet ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back ~Paulo Coelho, The

Devil and Miss Prym

Julie, a 19-year old girl raised by her single mother, believes the purpose of marriage is to

have sex (which is otherwise banned) and to form a family. She adds that her partner should have

the mutual drive to support her, be committed to spend the rest of their lives together and share

the joys, trails, and experiences in this journey known as marriage. Julies views encompass

many ideals from The Me Marriage. She emphasizes, Ill only get married when I have a
peace of mind knowing that my husband is there to support me. Julie fails to mention that she

will reciprocate that support in her marriage. However, this is rationale considering that Julie

grew up without her father. Although in lecture it is mentioned that divorced parents give the

impression that divorce is an acceptable solution to an unhappy marriage, separation of Julies

parents reaffirms her views of never wanting that. She says, I was better off with just my mom,

but it wasnt easy. Having a father would not have made my life better, but I missed having a

strong paternal figure. But then again my mom was really great so its an interesting balance.

And indeed it is an interesting balance, but it seems like Julie does not know where to place

herself in this balance- is she happy she had her mother or does she wish her father was with her?

Perhaps Julie is trying not to undermine the job her mother did to raise her, but at the same time

believes that it would have been easier with the contribution of her father. She makes it clear that

she does not want that for her kids.

Julie extends this thought by stating, divorce is not an option for me. I will always find a

way to work it out. She describes her hesitations of getting married and focuses on how she

needs to be over one hundred percent confident that hes the one in order to commit. However,

after the commitment there is no backing out. Julie is similar to my father in that she is not as

against divorce as she is afraid of it. She is not willing to consider the possibility of change

that Caren embraces so well. But when asked about her sentiments towards divorce, Julie claims,

divorce makes me sad. Its not a failed marriage, its just a consequence due to a lack of

preparation. It appears that Julie might be afraid of being sad or ending up in a situation that she

is not prepared for. She finishes her reasons for not getting a divorce by saying, marriage is a

promise I made to God, I cant go around being inconsistent. It was surprising to see that Julie

was so spiritual in the twenty-first century. Her beliefs regarding premarital sex align with the
cult of purity. She suggests that sex is an activity that should only be pursued after marriage.

She thinks that it is absolutely necessary to cohabit before one marries so that he or she can

compare compatibility. If everything works then its time to get married and push the bed

together and if this doesnt work then bye-bye. Julie seems to be viewing cohabitation as an

exam that decides if a couple places into the next level of commitment: marriage. This may be

true but in her assessment she has no space for any gray area; either the relationship will work or

it will not. One can see that Julie is not expressing the romantic love that Fisher describes in

attraction. Unlike couples that are willing to go to great extents to make a relationship work,

Julie is more concentrated in the inner dynamics of the relationship. Instead of controlling the

relationship, she wants the relationship to control her and her husband. However, according to

Sternberg even if this dynamic is created during the cohabitation period it might change through

marriage.

The change that Julie and my parents are trying to avoid is what Caren has come to terms

with. Perhaps no one is ever fully prepared for a marriage but it is what you make of it. The

graph presented by Belsky and Hsieh (Patterns of Maternal Change) describes that its not where

you start off that is an indicator of marital quality but it is how you respond to different

situations. It is impossible to be prepared for all the situations that may arise in a marriage, so

even though Julie says that divorce is due to a lack of preparation in essence everyone is

unprepared. It is the understanding and compromise that my mother mentions that is essential in

following through with a marriage. Similar to how divorce is not caused by a single event,

marriage too cannot be determined by a single event. Marriage is a mountain with numerous

bumps and as good hikers we need to assess these bumps to decide our next course of action.