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My dear son, if you ever make your marriage a battle of egos, it will never work. Learn to let go. A letter to my son (who’s now a teenager) when he thinks of getting married.
You are a young man now, a very handsome, accomplished, and happy young man, I am sure. I am sure you would now love to share that happiness and success with someone special in your life.
Someone who not only shares these positive things with you, but who lends you a helping hand in the not-so-good moments that life throws at you. Someone who helps you grow even more as an individual, and who enables you to see the world in a way that you never knew even existed – from her point of view.
Believe me the world you live in and take for granted as a man is a completely different beast to tackle when you are from the other gender.
I am sure it feels great to be valued, praised, and encouraged for your unique capabilities, to be welcomed with smiles, slaps on the back and “You go boy!” shouts wherever you go. This might make you not so familiar with the ordeal of being judged for things women are judged for.
What you wear (and what you don’t wear), what you say (and what you don’t say), what tone of voice you use (the pitch, the bass, the tenor etc.), what words you use to convey your message (and what words you don’t), how much you smile (or how much you scowl, how much you smirk, how much you don’t smile), how you smile…the list is endless.
I have tried to make you see the world from as your sister sees it, for example, but I realize that you cannot really just take peeks from time to time and understand what she is going through. As her younger brother, I can understand that you weren’t quite on the same plane as her to be able to decipher and digest the issues that she was facing as she tackled school, college, family, career, and life. But that is going to change.
Soon, you will be sharing your life with a woman that you love. She will be part of your life like no other, not even me. I want to make sure that you give the most important woman in your life the significance she deserves.
Yes, my darling son, she should be the most important woman in your life – not your mom, not your sister, nor your best friend, not even your future daughter. The woman you are going to marry, the woman who is going to share every little aspect of your life, the woman who is going through the ordeal of giving birth to your children, the woman who is going to walk beside you hand in hand, should be the woman you value the most. She should get your utmost respect, attention and above all your love.
Go ahead and fall gloriously in love with her. Love like you have never loved before. Love her like she’s a part of you. Love her like she deserves to be loved – completely and with abandon. Spoil her with your attention, with your adherence to her likes and dislikes.
Ignore the world that might label you with their misogynistic titles – a ‘henpecked husband’ being the top of the list. You have my permission to show them the finger I have asked you not to show to anyone. This is the kind of situation that you need to preserve it for. I know I have raised a strong young man who does not get fazed by the meaninglessness of the bad wide world.
I want to see you falling hopelessly in love with your woman. I want you to do everything for her ignoring the customs, follies, and the we-mean-you-well friends and family members.
I want you to break the traditional mold of – “I am the man, so my family, my boss, my dog should get more preference than you, your family, your boss and your dog” mentality that is so prevalent among men in general, and South Asian Men in particular.
My dear son, if you ever make your marriage a battle of egos, it will never work. Learn to let go, even though it is hard to let go, learn to let go. Learn to adapt, to change, to think beyond one’s family, one’s friends.
It’s quite OK if she gives more preference to her family. Her parents have brought her up, she has lived surrounded by her family all her life, how and why should you expect her to suddenly treat yours better? That is quite unfair. She has a right to continue to love her mom, dad and siblings in peace. She has a right to continue her old associations and relationships as she wants to
Never ever make her choose or make her choices for her. Even if she were to choose you, she will never really be happy about her choice; it will plague her, she will never quite get over what you did to her. Don’t let your ego be so fragile that it needs constant validation by needing her to prefer you over anyone else. I hope I have brought you up to behave like an adult man instead of a spoilt brat.
Love is a beautiful emotion in itself, it is what makes the world go around. If it weren’t for love, I don’t think the human race would have survived so far.
But love can get ugly too. If love for your own self supersedes your love for other human beings, then that is when things start to go wrong.
Learn to love her like your own. Encourage her to achieve her dreams, revel in it when she does. Don’t hold her back in anything. I have taught you to take care of yourself, so when the need arises, I hope you rise to the occasion to not just take care of yourself, but to take care of her too.
Also, don’t make her decisions for her. She is as, if not more accomplished than you are. She is capable enough to handle herself, her life problems and issues. If she asks you for advice, then by all means tell her what you think is right, but don’t meddle unnecessarily in her affairs. Give her space to grow. Let her make her own mistakes and learn from them.
Stand by her no matter what. Don’t be the one who says I told you so, but the one who says I am here for you. Not just one who says, but one who does, because after all my love, actions speak louder than mere words ever can.
I want to see your eyes light up whenever she walks in a room. Spoil her with your presence, your affection and your love. Never ever feel like you are trying too hard to please her, there is nothing like that. For what all she does for you without you even realizing it, everything that you do for her is always going to fall short of what she does for you. Love her with abandon and watch as the happiness you give her comes back to you tenfold.
Life is too short and youth even more so. So, enjoy it while it lasts, and you cannot enjoy it with anyone else like you can with your life partner. Make sure you lay the foundation of your old age by cementing your relationship with your spouse with love, trust, care and most of all the topmost preference.
Your parents can take care of themselves; your siblings have their own families; your friends have other friends – so don’t put your wife on hold for them. Don’t ignore the one who’s going to be with you all through your youth right into your old age. Sow the seed of love and nourish it with your time, energy and effort and watch it grow like Jack’s beanstalk. You will reap more than you can ever imagine.
Don’t be caught up in who’s doing what and how much. It is your seed, in your backyard and the backyard belongs to the both of you equally, and remember even if you do more or less – remember when this sapling grows into a tree it will encompass both of you in its shade equally. Water it without overwhelming it, prune it, fertilize it, make sure it is getting enough sunlight, protect it, nurture it and watch it bloom and produce the biggest, brightest, freshest flower that fill your life with color and beauty.
My dearest son, I am a grown woman. I have a career, I have hobbies, I enjoy being by myself. Please don’t use me a pawn in your marriage to do what you want to do.
I have seen this happen so much with men conveniently using their mothers as the reason not to spend time with their wives, use their mothers to not work hard, use their mother as an excuse for doing what they want to do. Well, I hope you know that I am smarter than that. I will never allow you to do anything close to this; I know that I don’t have to because I would like to think that I have instilled a little bit of common sense in you.
If you are man enough to want to do something, do it on your own responsibility – do not drag your mom, your dad, you siblings, or any of your friends into it. I am not sure about what others might or might not do, but let me tell you my dearest one, I for one will not allow you hide behind my pallu to get away with things you don’t want to do.
When I was in 3rd grade, my class did a dance for our school’s annual day. It was a patriotic song from Dilip Kumar’s classic Ganga Jamuna – “Insaaf ki dagar pe bachchon dikaho chalke”. (Try walking on a road to justice). I still remember the choreography to which we danced. There is one line in that song that goes something like – “Apne ho ya paraaye, sab ke liye ho nyaay”. (Justice has to be for everyone).
Even at that young age this line impressed me, and I have tried to live by that all my life.
Be fair in your dealings with everyone. Doesn’t matter if a stranger is right and your child is wrong – you always side with the right thing and the right person.
The thing with human beings and especially with moms is that somehow, they can never quite decipher that the child they have brought up can do anything wrong even though they are privy to all the weaknesses of their child. Somehow the other person, be it be a friend that the child has had an argument with, a teacher who did not give the child good grades, or a spouse who does not get along with them. – somehow conveniently, the other person is always wrong, and your child is the victim.
I humbly request you to shake that syndrome away. Doesn’t matter if you don’t even know the person that was wronged and no matter how close the person is to you who is doing wrong. Always side with the right thing and if you don’t really know the state of affairs, then you don’t take sides. You can’t just be on one person’s side because you know him/her.
Be fair my child in your dealings even if it involves the woman who has given birth to you. I am a human being too. I make mistakes too. I will not always be right. Just because I am your mom and cooked the most delicious dishes for you does not mean you put me on a pedestal and behave unfairly with your wife. I don’t want to be up there, I wanted to be treated like an ordinary human being – that’s who I am. I have my strengths and my weaknesses, just like your wife. You can’t hold her weakness against my strength and you can’t ignore my short comings in my favor.
Be fair my love, no matter who it is, be fair. If I were to teach you one thing in life that’s what I would tell you over and over again – be fair, be very fair.
I think my letter to you has gotten too lengthy. I hope you are not rolling your eyes thinking my mom is so noble and selfless to be doing this. Well my son, simply put, I am not. I am being as selfish as any other person who wants to lead a happy life. There is a saying that says that a mother is as happy as her least happy child. I think a truer fact has never been stated.
There is a slight caveat there though, I just don’t want my child to be happy – I want them to be good human beings. I genuinely believe that you can’t really be happy unless you have a good heart. You will find that one achieves a much higher level of joy when one is content and peaceful than when one is just happy. I want you to be content and peaceful in life so that I can be too. As selfish as that. As you can ascertain, I am just looking out for my happiness!
Go ahead my dear, lead a life sans regrets, try to make a heaven in your home, don’t let the devils of ego, jealousy and boredom take root there. They have a tendency to take over the entire heaven that you have so painstakingly built. I wish you the best in life with a reminder that you are responsible for giving your best before you can expect the best and the best of us are those who continue to give their best even when not getting it back in kind.
Best, Your Mom!
PS: And if you think that I am asking you to do too much, let me tell you that I am asking nothing that your wife is not doing for you. You might not have noticed it but it is conditioned in her psyche (and yours) to be doing all this without even asking!
Image source: a still from the film Helicopter Eela
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