EARLY MARRIAGE: Look before you leap

Marrying hastily, without proper and mature consideration about the conseqeunces, could lead to separation.

CoupleMarriages may be made in heaven, but they are managed here on earth. Just as it is imperative that you have a post-graduate management degree to manage an organisation, it is equally important to have a mature mindset and relationship-management skills to make marriages last.

Mama's boy weds daddy's girl

18-year-old Tanisha fell in love with 22-year-old Jaideep. After a whirlwind romance for four months they decided to tie the knot. They did not give much thought to Tanisha completing her graduation as they were both from wealthy families. Jaideep was the heir to his family business. Tanisha's main focus was to have the "perfect fairytale wedding", and Jaideep's was to quickly cross the milestone of marriage, and provide a grandchild for his aging parents. Neither one of them even thought about discussing their values, priorities, lifestyles, relationship-needs, and ideas about an ideal relationship with each other.

As expected once the fairytale wedding was over, Tanisha was shattered. She had planned her wedding day in great detail but she forgot to plan the days that come after that. Jaideep on the other hand, got down to everyday business after marriage and focused on procreation and recreation during nights.

All that was not discussed earlier started coming up as "issues". Their individual expectations from marriage were not only very different, but they did not have the tools or the skills to negotiate their differences in a mutually satisfying way. Their differences escalated into ugly conflicts, with the families commenting that they "fight like kids". For heaven's sake, they are kids!

Many a marriage is rife with conflict because the men and women are actually "mama's little boys" and "daddy's little girls", who have got together to play a "game of family". Soon they realise that they lack the "emotional maturity" to nurture and sustain relationships. They then go running to their respective parents complaining about how their wife/husband is being mean to them. Such "biological adults" but "emotional kids" can be of any age, but more often than not are those who marry early.

Marriage - a getaway from parents

Manjula, a disturbed girl, had very low self-worth. This was because of her dysfunctional family. Her parents would constantly keep fighting with each other and were so self-obsessed with their problems that they never had any time for her. All the years she grew-up feeling like an "emotional orphan" in need of love and nurturing. When she was just 15 she fell in love with Ashok and married him when she was 18. Initially Ashok adored her "child-woman" demeanour and she of course, was in search of a nurturing environment away from her conflicted home. However, after a few months she realised that Ashok was neither willing nor able to be an "emotional parent" for the "emotionally needy child" within her. The marriage was soon on the rocks as both of them felt unfulfiled. Manjula wanted a parent disguised as a husband and was dissapointed. Ashok wanted an emotional adult as his life partner and he too was disappointed. Ashok soon sought companionship in an "adult woman" and the marriage ended in a divorce.

Nisreen was raised in an orthodox and religious household, with innumerable restrictions. She saw marriage as her "ticket to freedom", and when she was only 19, she enthusiastically accepted a proposal from a certain Javed based in London. Setting up a home in London was not as easy as she thought. Her dreams of freedom soon became a never-ending nightmare of cooking, cleaning, scrubbing the bathrooms, grocery shopping, and serving her husband late at night.

When she confronted Javed, he simply told her that she had no choice but to handle the home single-handedly. Frustrated, she had an affair with the neighbourhood Englishman. Conflicts began at home, which soon ended in a separation.

The reason for many a broken marriage is that "boys" and "girls" often get married at an early age for the wrong reasons. They are not "going towards" marriage or their partner, but are "getting away" from their parents. Often they are looking for an indulgent parent in their spouse, and that's where the trouble begins. Such "emotional kids" need to "grow up" and learn to nurture themselves, so that they can establish an "adult-adult" relationship in marriage.

Marriages – made in heaven, managed on earth

Pankaj and Karishma were high school sweethearts. They, then both 14-year olds, started dating each and after seven years of being together, they got married. When they came for counselling, Pankaj confessed that he married Karishma only because he felt "obliged" to marry her, as he had made a commitment of eternal love at the age of 14.

The truth was that there was a huge mismatch of values and dreams for the future, and yet he married her out of a "sense of duty". The marriage began with a "silent resentment" in Pankaj, which grew with time, and escalated into everyday conflict and emotional distancing. Obviously, when Pankaj made the commitment of undying love at the age of 14, he did not have the maturity or clarity to truly know who and what he was committing to.

The phenomenon of jumping in head first into marriage jolts many a brain later. Then, they do all the thinking that they should have done pre-maritally, often leading to a breakdown of the relationship. However, the examples mentioned, though often seen in early marriages, does not hold true for only biologically early marriages. A marriage can also be termed as "early" if you are marrying either with a "Mills and Boons" idea of romance or seeing marriage as the panacea to all your problems in your parental home. The disease of living in a make-believe world with unrealistic expectations from marriage can afflict people of any age.

Therefore, for marriages to last longer, both individuals need to be equipped with life-coping skills. They need to know the art of constructive communication and problem-solving. They must find personal gratification in vitally fulfilling endeavours other than the relationship, so that both can bring value and joy to the relationship. It is essential to strike the right balance between a shared and mutually nurtured space and the individual space for both to pursue their journey of personal growth.

It is such maturely managed relationships that last longer, and only in such a marriage can the couple both be truly declared "Man and Wife".

Think & Act

Immature mindset traps that make people enter into an early marriage or commitment, even though the relationship is qualitatively less than mediocre are:

  • Low self-worth, "I don't deserve any better."
  • Insecurity, "Something is better than nothing."
  • Laziness of initiating and sustaining new relationships, "I'll do with whatever I have."
  • A sense of obligation/duty, "I owe her/him."
  • Image consciousness, "I will appear uncommitted and selfish."
  • A pay-off [financial/social/sexual/freedom/healthcare], "At least I will have the money/married tag/sex/freedom/a caretaker."

None of the above reasons for entering into marriage are healthy or mature, and therefore can prompt you to make decisions, which are not in your or your partner's best interest. Such relationships, based on an immature mindset, instead of love and mutual respect, are unlikely to have a healthy outcome.

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Minnu Bhonsle
Minnu R Bhonsle, PhD, is a Mumbai-based consulting psychotherapist and counsellor. She conducts training programmes in Personal Counselling [Client-centred Therapy] and Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy, and also workshops in Stress Management, Art of Listening, Couple Therapy, and Communication Skills. Minnu has co-authored the book, The Ultimate Sex Education Guide along with Dr Rajan Bhonsle.
Rajan Bhonsle
Rajan Bhonsle, MD, is a consultant in sexual medicine and counsellor. Along with his wife Minnu R Bhonsle, PhD, who is a consulting psychotherapist and counsellor, he runs a unique therapy centre

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