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Marriage is a union between man and woman. Some call it civil contract, some legal, some religious; whatever the terminology, marriage provides a legitimate platform in society for men and women to commit their lives to each other. Marriage is probably the most misunderstood institution. Because it is riddled with many myths, ill-formed ideas, illogical thinking and baseless assumptions. Rather than looking at marriage, we shall try to examine the basic ground; which is man-woman relation.

Man-Woman Relation – Romance: The all starry eyed, cloud nine, out of this world type romance does happen in this very world and for ordinary mortals. Problem occurs when we demand life-time warranty on it which is not admissible.

It is a lovely relationship in which both are at their best. Chivalry, courtesy, generosity, forgiveness, sensitivity, intensity, empathy and every other conceivable good feeling is abundant and free flowing. In all that glitz and glitter, the real people are not visible to each other. As soon as the real faces show up, it leads to confusion, denial, anger, disillusionment, disappointment and contempt; in that order. There is an American group of researchers who have recorded and viewed hundreds of couples to see what early indicators leading to future separation could be. The one common factor they have identified is CONTEMPT. Contempt robs away all good feelings from a relation. In Pakistan, we don’t separate due to social pressures and keep living miserably, subjecting our partners and ourselves to a slow death.

Man-Woman Relation-Friendship: If such a thing exists. Contrary to popular claims, it is impossible to have true friendship between men and women. There are always undercurrents of physical attraction. What we see and label as ‘friendship’ is actually a mild form of romance from which physical factors are deliberately kept away. It is a great relation nonetheless as it has all the fine ingredients of romance but does not carry the burden of excessive expectations. In our social system, man-woman friendship has limited prospect as our value system does not allow free mixing up of sexes.  Women particularly are not allowed to move around freely and at will. It is also common observation that the so-called friendship frequently turns into ‘romance’ or even ‘marriage’.

Man-Woman Relation – Marriage: All said and done, it never was and never will be an equal relation. In patriarchal and male-dominated societies like Pakistan, it is more so because men have no intention to treat women any better than property. Anyway, both parties enter into marital relation with apprehensions and carrying all the burden of ‘advices’ given over time and reinforced just before the event. They see one another suspiciously and are fearful. No wonder then that both attack simultaneously and try to ‘kill’ or ‘subjugate’ other. Since it is a war, there will be victory and defeat; there will be plots and schemes and conspiracies; and there will definitely be oppression. There are three possible scenarios.

One Party Wins. The winner takes all. Winning husband will openly treat wife as dust, misuse her, hurt her, disrespect her, cheat on her; degrees vary from mild to severe. Winning wife will treat husband with contempt, take undue advantage where she can, maltreat in-laws and alienate children from father; degrees vary. This may be more common and visible in illiterate, rural and suburban areas; but other segments are not free either.

No Party Wins – Fight Continues. This is probably more common in urban areas. The fight may be open but mostly it is below the surface, simmering type. It is a conflict here, an argument there. Life is not too bad if the intensity is low.

Both Parties Give Up On One Another. This is common among more affluent types. The wife and husband bring their own baggage into relation and remain busy with that. Both look at each other and understand there is no reason to make an effort. Both then carry on the relation publicly (physically?) but are so averse to each other that they usually choose to even live in separate rooms.

Marriage sounds scary, isn’t it? It is unless we enter into relation with an open mind and open heart, liberated from the shackles of myths and advice and aloof to the interference of families. Since the conditions are met rarely, a good, mutually satisfying marriage happens rarely. It is not impossible, just a little demanding. If both or even one partner acts sensibly, then after the initial bumps, things settle down and work out well.

This then is the ‘other side’ of relations, very briefly.

What do we do? How do we survive? Should we allow ourselves to be carried away by the charm of romance or security of marriage? Yes, and Very Yes.

Men and women have been created to be together. One is not complete without the other. The world has been designed around them. There are several reasons for this design though we may not know all of them. Women bring the much-desired softness, patience, perseverance, consistency, reliability, affection, care and service to this world. Men contribute physical strength, ambition, power, domination, persecution, winning, passion and freedom. If they willingly complement one another, it is a great relation. Feminist movement has achieved much but they get on the wrong foot when they insist that women must get into men’s roles to get rights. Women must get rights as women and not by aping men.

The world would definitely be unworthy of living without the presence of women, in all their roles. Men need to grow up and understand and give the rightful place to their finer counterparts.

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