‘Husband, are you ready for Marriage 3.0?” I asked my husband in the middle of our morning tea ritual.
We follow the rule that newspapers and smartphones must be kept away when we get together for tea and meals, but like much else, the months of lockdown have disrupted this rhythm too. My husband put down the newspaper he was reading and lowered his glasses to look at me.
“What is Marriage 3.0?” he said.
“We spent Marriage 1.0 being super polite to each other and speaking in measured tones even when we disagreed with each other. We were keen to convince ourselves and others that we were getting along fine. Then we realised that we would do ourselves a favour if we allowed ourselves to fight openly and vent our feelings. We spent Marriage 2.0 practising the art of expressing ourselves without the fear that we might break something irrevocably. Now I suggest Marriage 3.0. I think we are ready for it.”
“I never fight, you are the one who is fond of fighting,” said my husband, wanting to register his version before I went on. He took off his glasses and began to fold the string by which they hang around his neck.
“We have had enough time now to find out what we fight about — most of the time we are saying the same thing in different words,” I said. “We are wasting our time when we argue now. Our goals are the same, we just choose different processes.”
By now our 11-year-old daughter, the youngest of our three children, had joined us at the table. She had brought along a murder mystery she is currently reading and seemed completely immersed in it.
“In Marriage 3.0, we don’t need to raise our voices anymore,” I concluded. “We already know the scripts of our well-practised disagreements. We can return to speaking calmly with each other again. We know for sure that we are both on the same side.”
The Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown have been immensely disruptive, but this prolonged break from our regular lives have also given us the opportunity to zoom out and take a renewed look at what we had accepted as normal in the first place. The slowing down of routines, as we travel less and socialise less, should have made more time in our lives, but it hasn’t always been the case. We are in danger of filling up the newly empty slots with fresh distractions and a novel set of anxieties.
“I need another lockdown to spend time properly with my children,” I often thought to myself in the early weeks when I found myself rushing from online meetings to backlog of emails and the endless co-ordination that work-from-home seems to entail. It has been over three months now and the balance between work hours and family time is still hard to achieve as we try to manage both in overlapping spaces and time slots.
Casual conversation needs a new script and it is not entirely a bad thing. “How are you doing?” my best friend often texts to confirm my well-being.
“I’m having a meltdown,” I texted back recently.
“Rest all is okay?” she typed. I picked up the phone and dialled her number. At the end of the conversation, I had phone numbers for a new online yoga teacher and a music school that offers online learning. Why didn’t we think of some of these solutions for our well-being earlier? Traffic and pollution in the cities had seriously impaired our abilities to connect with each other anyway. Why didn’t we stay at home more even when we weren’t forced to?
Change comes in small increments and we know that there is no better place to start than our own lives. We also know that home is the most inconvenient location to start to clean up. Except when there is a pandemic raging in the world outside and it reminds us everyday of our mortality and the precariousness of the world as we have known it.
Back at the scene of the morning tea, our planning of Marriage 3.0 was interrupted by our daughter’s voice. “Good to know that you have been fighting from the very beginning,” she said.
“What do you mean?” asked her father, startled to hear her pipe up.
“It means nothing has gone wrong recently with you two,” she said. “This is your normal state only — fighting unnecessarily.”
My husband laughed out loud. It is both embarrassing and somewhat flattering to be assessed candidly by one’s own child. “I never fight,” he repeated, “it is your mother only.”
The child batted her eyelashes deliberately at her father in response to him. “I like the idea of 3.0, Papa. I think Mamma has a good plan here,” she said and ran off to get some alone time with her book.
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