"New-age marriages are based on partnership"

Dr Vijay NagaswamiDr Vijay Nagaswami qualified as a psychiatrist from the Madras Medical College in 1984. He has had wide experience in schizophrenia research, corporate therapy, individual psychotherapy and couples therapy. He has written four books, Courtship and Marriage: a guide for Indian couples, The Splintered Mind: Understanding Schizophrenia, The 24x7 Marriage, The Fifty-50 Marriage: Return to Intimacy. He is currently working on his next book, provisionally titled 3’s a crowd: Understanding and Surviving Marital Infidelity. He conducts workshops and seminars for business corporations as well as individuals and couples on marriage and personal relationships management.

How are modern marriages different? What has been the paradigm shift in the factors that define marriage then and now?

The ‘ownership’ of the New Indian Marriage by both partners is higher. At least, in urban India, it’s more likely to be two people getting married, not two families. As a result there’s greater consciousness, mindfulness and therefore, expectations from each other and the marriage.

Are marriages nowadays seeing a shift in gender-specific roles?

Only in part. Although women have started sharing the ‘provider’ role, men have not been so ready to share the ‘homemaker’ role. But things are certainly getting better in metros with more sharing taking place.

Young men have also changed and are accepting and tolerant of wives who work full time
Young men have also changed and are accepting and tolerant of wives who work full time

How has the invasion of technology affected the modern marriage?

In a variety of ways. On the one hand, it has enabled partners to stay in touch with each other. But it has also enabled extra-marital involvements. However, it has also enabled the detection of extra-marital relationships. It has also ensured that the work space constantly encroaches on the marriage.

How can a counsellor help young couples? Is there lesser inhibition among younger couples in visiting counsellors?

Today, young people don’t feel stigmatised about seeking help. However, as in the rest of the world, Indian men find it harder to take help than do women. It’s more of a ‘guy’`A0thing’ than a ‘stigma’ thing. Counsellors can and do help, not by giving advice to the couple, but by helping them understand the dynamics in the relationship that they’re not aware of and helping them make considered choices.

How would you define the "new Indian marriage"?

It’s slowly beginning to look more like a partnership, based on companionship and intimacy, though the process is very slow.

More divorces do not merely mean the boat is being rocked it could also mean lesser hypocrisy and unwillingness to live under the same roof despite deep differences.

Very true. More often than not, the "emotional divorce" of yesteryear’ couples are being converted to "legal divorces" by today’s couples. So`A0the rising divorce rates are no indicator at all of the stability (or lack`A0of it) of marriage. After all, the remarriage rates continue to remain high!

Is the concept of space over-rated? How is the fiercely individualistic personality reconciled to the demands and diktat of parental control/authority because in India the umbilical chord is never really cut?

It’s under-rated actually. By not recognising or being in denial of the need for ‘I’ as well as ‘We’ spaces, many couples ensure that their umbilical cords stay looped around their necks. However, those who understand and implement the technology of cutting the cord, end up having not just better marriages, but better relationships with their parents.

Are the tolerance levels very low nowadays? Is that why the youngsters do not really think twice before splitting?

Yes, tolerance levels are low, and sometimes the reasons for which young people seek divorce (sometimes within weeks of their wedding) are quite shocking. However, fortunately, a majority of our young people do hang in there and give themselves a chance to get it right.

The general perception is that women have changed and men have not and that is why the equations are more rocky. But since an entire generation of boys has seen mothers working, is it so that they are more accepting and tolerant of wives who work full time and do not expect to be waited upon?

You’re absolutely right. Young men have also changed, perhaps not at the same pace as women have, but since they now have role models, who are less of "sacrificing moms" and more of "pragmatic mothers", they find it easier to relate to girlfriends and wives, who approach marriage with the object of partnership.

What tips would you give young couples for a happy marriage?

The main thing is not to put marriage on the backburner. It’s a live entity and needs nurturing. And this can happen if both partners stay ‘connected’ to each other. — AN