I had an arranged marriage and barely met my fiancée except for family dinners and a few movies. On the honeymoon my wife said that she has been forced to marry me by her parents and that she loved her boyfriend. She slept on the floor of the hotel room and said that I should not touch her sexually or else she would commit suicide. I got our air tickets changed and we flew back home. On our return she told her parents that I was impotent and that she had been cheated in the marriage. Because of the non-consummation, the marriage was annulled, but I was forced to pay a large sum of money to her. It has been four years since this happened. I am extremely afraid of marriage and find it difficult to trust any woman for marriage. I want a loving companionship and family life, but I also want peace. I feel marriage is a huge risk and gamble. What should I do?
Ans: What you went through was traumatic and humiliating. However, it’s vital for you to be rational about this experience, since it would seem that you have already seen what being purely emotional about it has already felt like. The good news is that she’s gone from your life and that she can no longer hurt you. The bad news is, you are still reeling from the shock of the events that preceded her exit. What happened between you and your ex-wife was an unfortunate accident, but also quite the inevitability. To go into something with lack of information, casual optimism, a carefree attitude or ‘fingers crossed’ approach often sets people up for disappointment, failure and even exploitation.
As you wonder if you perhaps knew her well enough before you married her, know that you didn’t have all the information you needed before making such an important life decision. Blaming yourself requires very little effort and is usually a cop out. Use this moment as a chance to learn a little more about your mistakes so you don’t repeat them. Nobody escapes this world without making a few mistakes or/ doing a few things that felt right in the moment but that created quite a mess subsequently. It’s understandable if you are looking to make calculated moves at this point in your pursuit of happiness and companionship.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to live on your own terms again. Take your time. There are wounds to attend to and there are facts to contend with. Let’s work with the facts. To have married a woman before you had the time to make a more enduring and holistic assessment of her was risky and perhaps a tad premature. To have let her parents pressure you into a decision that
you’re going to have to contend with on a daily basis was also risky. People don’t live our lives for us. We have to live our own lives. So the decisions we make for our lives need to be decisions made by us based on the information that we have independently sought out. Offices, marriages, friendships and even casual acquaintanceships are all affected by relationship dynamics. When one has had limited exposure to a person, there is always the possibility of hidden areas of their personality, history and lifestyle manifesting in a way that can cause quite the jolt and stir.
Not all surprises are happy surprises. When you are looking to get into a more permanent living or social situation together with another person, you need to consider many factors before you go ‘all in’. Information and facts are more significant to any decision making process than hope and conjecture.
How will you go after these insights? Well for starters, movies and family dinners are fun. No doubt about that. However, at such occasions, people are likely to only let their best-selves be seen. To truly, test the waters with someone who you’re looking to spend a lifetime with (if that’s what you still want), you are going to have to embark on a series of learning experiments with the person you seek out. Have private conversations about the prospect of life together and the emotional, social or financial values that you will wish to share in this new life.
Sometimes a trip taken together to see how compatible you are in foreign lands and unfamiliar situations can also help. Nurture a shared project or cultivate a common interest or hobby. These are points of inflection and reflection where people reveal their truest and most spontaneous traits. Realisations stemming from such experiences will make for a more complete perception of what life together will feel like. Sometimes the things we do and say to make others happy may come back to haunt us as people frequently change their minds about what makes them happy.
Everyone wants new things. This is why it is important for you to prioritize your happiness. Happiness is hard work and it’s a daily responsibility too! Your life deserves your attention, curation and the ability to troubleshoot your way through all the challenges that come your way. This requires time, patience and intelligence.
Based on your story, you were ‘threatened’ at several points. First with the threat of witnessing her suicide, then with the rumour about your impotence that she spread and subsequently when she came after your money, too. Know that you are no longer threatened by her. All relationship dynamics evolve from what we learn. Sometimes rude awakenings also visit our lives but the lessons should help us grow and learn what ‘doesn’t work out very well for us’. The next time you are in doubt about yourself or someone else, seek the objective facilitation services of a mature friend, well-wisher or even better – a trained counsellor.
(Aman R Bhonsle is a qualified Psychosocial Analyst and a Professional Youth Mentor with specialisation in Transactional Analysis and REBT. He is available for consultation at the Heart To Heart Counselling Centre.)