For those of you out there on the brink of matrimony, these may just cause you to pause and consider saying, ‘Shaadi? Aur tumse?….Abhi nahin!’
The true test of compatibility
Some people feel you only get to know a person once you’re living with them and in India it tends to happen only post-marriage, but a long courtship certainly gives you a reasonable preview of what’s to follow.In a long courtship, you have enough time for the initial lovey-dovey spark to die down a little, chances are you will get to witness each other’s surlier moods — and those unique quirks which have a tendency to look so endearing in the beginning, but then tend to become rather trying later. It gives you the opportunity to see if you’re going to be able to endure each other in the long haul. And marriage may be a lot of things, but ‘Endurance’ — with a capital E — is definitely an essential ingredient in the mix. Why not see if your relationship looks like it can stand the biggest test of them all — Time?
The time and space to discover yourself
This one applies to cases like mine where a short courtship also coincides with being young. Say you’re in your early 20s — you may be legally an adult now, but let’s face it, there’s still a lot of growing up to do. So why rush into marriage — probably the most all-consuming relationship you’ll ever have — before you’ve fully explored your own tastes, beliefs and values?
This is the one phase of life I really think I missed out on, going from my parent’s home to management school hostel and straight into married life. You’ll have the rest of your lives to argue about which colour sofa to buy with your spouse. So before that, why not live by yourself for a significant period of time — indulge your own tastes, set up your home the way you want to and allow yourself the time and space to be your own person while in a committed relationship? A period of self-discovery and self-awareness is likely to stand you in good stead for the rest of your life.
Time for the two of you
In a long courtship period, the two of you get enough time to be with each other and there’s no pressure from your families. And as lovely and angelic the families may be, they do tend to bring with them at least some pressures and complications to deal with. At the very least, you may face situations of ‘Okay, so where do we spend this Diwali, at your parents’ or mine?’ If you are lucky enough to live in the same cities as your families, numerous aunts on either side may insist on both of you going to visit them at the same time. Family commitments do tend to come into play much more in a marriage.
But for now? If you’re in a long-term relationship, you’re possibly old enough to not get asked too many questions, and yet have the freedom to hang out and just be together. Savour it. Even more importantly, you’re building a special bond with each other before you get married. As a good friend of mine put it, rather eloquently, ‘This way, your relationship is already strong, right at the beginning of your marriage and you’re only a new entrant into the lives of the relatives, not in the life of your spouse’.
Of romance and friendship
Marriage often can turn into a romance-killer. And things do change once you are in matrimony together. But I’m certainly not selling marriage short here — with time, you end up discovering many beautiful things about each other, your relationship strengthens so much more and companionship becomes more important than the spark.
However most people that I’ve interacted with who’ve had long courtships were able to immediately and rather wistfully, recall some special fond memories from this period — going out twice a week for a movie etc in which they’ve build memories together. You also have the opportunity to become really good friends during this period. Apart from this, someone I had spoken to also said that during courtship you also tend to make common friends, which helps you strengthen this bond.
Romance and friendship. Both things to be celebrated and savoured, right?
The freedom to change your mind
If you do discover, somewhere along the way, that you weren’t really meant to be, you’d rather end your relationship during the courtship period than after jumping into the whole marriage gig.
Of course, there is no guarantee that a long courtship will prevent irreconcilable differences that may arise later in life. But your chances of discovering each other’s non-negotiables in various situations definitely increase when you’re together for a significant period of time. So either you will get an idea of what you’re getting into and can go in with your eyes open, or you can choose to say that you’ve change your mind. It may still be painful and complicated to part ways after so much time, but at least it won’t actually involve other people — like several distraught family members, and a judge.
It’s the rest of your life we’re talking about here, so if you suspect it’s not going to work, it’s better to speak now rather than trying to forever hold your peace. A long courtship offers you that choice even after years of trying to make it work.
So if you examine the issue of a courtship for a good duration of time in its entirety, you find that there’s not only perhaps an extension of the romance and excitement involved, but it works out to be practical and sensible as a decision too. And that’s a unique mix worth considering.
The flip side
A long courtship period is not ideal for those who are madly in love with each other and cannot wait to get married, or for those who feel that their biological clock is ticking away. Most people I came across went blank or managed to come up with, ‘Well, why wait, really?’ or ‘We didn’t think all that much about it’ or ‘Anyway, you get to know the person only after marriage, right?’ I wasn’t too convinced.
Someone else said, ‘But you’re anyway going to get married someday, right? What’s the point of putting it off?’ For me, this was the equivalent of ‘You’re going to get old and die someday, right?’
The only answer I really liked was the one by a young woman with her tongue firmly ensconced in her cheek. ‘The biggest advantage of a short courtship? It makes a good story!’ Nice. But if I had to do it over, I’m pretty sure I’d try the waiting game.