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How to prevent divorces

Image from City With No Divorce


I attended a wedding ceremony today at St Xavier’s Church near Kottayam in Kerala (India). What I liked most was the homily which was based on the fact that a particular town in Bosnia-Herzegovina has no divorces. I checked it out with the help of Google and got this: City With No Divorce. “Siroki Brijeg is a rural town of 30,000 inhabitants… The city has suffered centuries of war and famine, cultural and political strife. Yet, not one single divorce has been recorded.”

The secret is the cross. Of Jesus. The homily said.

The wedding ceremony in Siroki Brijeg has an additional ritual: the couple are made to choose a cross on which they pledge to be faithful to each other till the end. ‘Marriage Crucifix’ is the name given to the tradition. It’s not just a wedding ritual; it’s meant for the entire married life. The cross on which they pledge is taken home as a holy icon to be looked at every day!

What the ritual means is this: you are not marrying the best partner in the world. Don’t expect your partner to be any ideal. He/she is as imperfect as you are. She/he is going to be your cross. Accept it. Accept the cross. There is no other way if you want to make this journey together to its possible end.

I liked the homily. It kept me engrossed till the end and beyond.

Yes, we are all limited individuals. With too many shortcomings and imperfections. Loathsome, quite often. How will any individual tolerate all that nonsense of yours for years and years 24x7? There will be disagreements. There will be fights. There will be bouts of depression. You might even want to murder the other!

Yes, living with another individual is tough. It is a crucifixion.

But it is a lot more than crucifixion. That is where I disagree with the homily.

I have completed nearly three decades of married life. I have never thought of my married life as any crucifixion. On the contrary, Maggie was my best friend all through.

Friendship. That is what marriage should be.

Friends don’t impose themselves on each other. They understand each other. They accept each other. They renew each other.

Maggie is a devout Catholic and I am an apostate Catholic. I don’t go to church on Sundays but I drive Maggie to the parish church on any Sunday that she asks me to – the church is just walking distance, but when it rains she prefers to have a ride. What matters is that I don’t question why she goes to church and she doesn’t question why I don’t. We accept each other’s differences. She has every right to practise her religion as much as I have every right to practise my scepticism.

Maggie believes that grammar plays a vital role in the learning of a language and I don’t give two hoots to teaching grammar. We are both language teachers. We both teach English. In the same school. And we are both doing fine there. She checks her students’ grammar and I tell my students to wield the language more stylishly. Maggie is right and I am right too. We have our own teaching methods and strategies which are different but are effective in their own ways. The classroom requires that diversity. The nation requires it too.

The couple requires it all the more!

YOU ARE YOU AND I AM I.

You are not here to live up to my expectations. Nor am I here to live up to your expectations. [Heard of Fritz Perls?]

Maggie knows too well how I decimated my life trying to live up to somebody’s expectations in Shillong. My youth. Silly. That’s what I was. That’s what most of us are if we dare to admit it.

You are you and I am I. Let me borrow this homily from Frits Perls. Be yourself. And let me be myself.

Maggie agreed. So sweet of her. To this day. We are a wonderful couple. Claps, please.

Thank you.

When I failed to be myself, when I pretended to be somebody else, when I thought my mask was the real me, Maggie chose to remain as my good friend. Instead of asking for divorce. Even when I suggested divorce as the only solution. That was long ago. In the initial years of our marriage. When we were still grappling with our mutual differences and my idiosyncrasies on top of those differences. Add my masks too. Must have been a crucifixion for Maggie.

The society of Shillong didn’t help in any way. The Catholic Church was worse. [The Church loves crucifixions!] When you are down and out, you don’t usually find friends around. I did. My wife was my friend. The only one. She has remained my best friend until today. She will be so until the time’s winged chariot will carry me - like the end of a sour joke perhaps, but inevitably.

And I am her best friend. In spite of myself. In spite of my lingering idiosyncrasy.

Not a crucifixion, however. No, Maggie and I won’t ever think of our life together as some crucifixion. Let the town in Bosnia-Herzegovina go on with their wedding ritual. What suits them need not suit others.

The homily-preacher used a word that I liked, however. You are marrying a cross. Embrace that cross. Embrace. That word.

Embracing the cross is quite different from being crucified. If you are interested in knowing more about that, tell me. I will write the next post on that. [This is getting too long.]

 

Comments

  1. It's refreshing to know a tiny part of Maggie & Tomichan's life story. I always suspected this to be like this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Shillong was my real crucifixion. Delhi my heaven. Now Kerala is a pathetic anticlimax for reasons not related to the two of us.

      Delete
    2. Priyabrata Nanda, I know Tomichan-Maggie couple as their ex-colleague for about 9 yrs and friend till ...we forget this world in our eternal oblivion. Imagine how much I have learnt from this couple-friend duo! I tell you that way I am relishing my life besides all the 'cross'! Sir has taught me how to embrace the cross, never by preaching, but by setting himself an example. I tell you they were the most coveted couple in that tiny little wonderland of a residential school in Delhi where we worked together. ❤

      Delete
    3. Thank you, friend. You are way too magnanimous.

      Delete
  2. Hari Om
    A fair insight; I bow to better understanding, myself having opted for singledom! YAM xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sure there are a lot of couples who have discovered happiness in their own unique ways.

      Delete
  3. May your together happiness last for many more years!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Nicely written. I feel that many of us have too many options, ego, stress and these are the main reasons why divorces are on the high. People are brought together, forced to marry and then you don't want to tolerate each other's nonsense or one gets abusive. It's sad. But when you decide to become friends and embrace life and ur wonderful partner, life and its lemons can be handled!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Why are divorces happening in the first place? Because one partner is exploiting / dominating / violating the other. Friendship has solutions for all of these - as I learnt from my young students.

      Delete
  5. Mkdhillon.blogspot.comNovember 24, 2023 at 1:10 PM

    Marriage shouldn't be thought of as a must do. It should happen when it is right for you, you look at that person and wholeheartedly think, yes,i can see myself waking up with you and being with you only. Are there going to be ups and downs, of course there are, which are there in any form of relationship. Its how you approach and work through situations together that brings you closer and you learn a little more about each other, just when you thought you knew everything .. . .always room for surprises and improvement. What i will say is everyone lives are different, their lifestyle, their environment and the challenges that come along their way, so what works for one, doesnt for another, you can only do your very best but if its really not working out, maybe better to separate as friends than be in a relationship that makes you unhappy now. Personal situations and choices.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Always room for surprise and improvement. You said it.

      Delete
  6. I'm glad to hear you got through your rough patch and are still (happily?) married. But some people should get divorced. There's no shame in it. It's great to work through problems. Grow together. Find your way back to each other. And stay married. But what's right for one couple won't be right for another.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, some relationships don't work for various reasons. I was just suggesting a way that worked for me.

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  7. I understand that it takes a lot of courage and conviction to be yourself. I have heard so many times people using these two words ' Be Yourself' just like that. You have to muster all the energy in the world to be what you are and it comes with its own price....And there're only a few people who have realised it. From what I read Tomichan and Maggie are among them. God bless....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Shalet.

      Both Tomichan and Maggie have felt time and again that they are quite silly in a world of super-intelligent people. Being yourself is fraught with a lot of unpredictable risks.

      Delete

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