Vinay Heblikar and his wife Shruthi have an exchange policy when it comes to movies. The software engineer watched Bride Wars with her when her friends were out of town. In return, she patiently sat through GI Joe: Rise of the Cobra with him the next weekend. "We have opposite tastes in everything, including movies, and prefer doing these with friends," says Vinay. He and his wife, both Bangaloreans, do several things separately with their own friends, whether it’s treks (he) or an Art of Living course (she) or even dinner and drinks. Married for three years, the couple does not think they are missing out on valuable together time. "We do stuff together as well and are happy that we can trust each other to let go," says Vinay sagely.
It’s a mantra employed by many couples, who do not wish to give up their lives just because the person they’ve married doesn’t exactly lead the same one. The days when one’s post-marriage circle consisted largely of the husband’s (or wife’s, depending on who was more dominant and social) friends, colleagues and their spouses seem rather medieval. Many couples today believe in following their heart and hobbies individually instead of trying to force them on their spouse or giving them up altogether.
‘Me’ time matters
Mumbaikar Sheetal Mehta occasionally likes spending time without her man and with her own friends. “It’s also a gender issue,” Sheetal, a mother and freelance writer, says candidly. “You can’t always share with a guy what you can with a girl. Besides, you have known your friends for longer than your spouse, so sometimes you want to be with them.”
Her entrepreneur husband Siddharth says that though they don’t have similar tastes in areas like movies, television, music, health food and socialising, he does try to take an interest. Both have tried to accommodate each other’s likes over the years, but feel they haven’t changed too much, post marriage, as people.
The important thing is to be interested in the other half’s hobbies and interests. Bangalore’s Barkha Shah, an editor with online guide Metromela, says she and her husband are poles apart in personality but do show curiosity about the other’s individual likes. “He has taken a liking to the vegetarian food that I cook at home though he is non-vegetarian and I have worked on shedding my inhibitions with dogs,” explains Barkha.
She thinks couples need to accept each other as individuals rather than as each other’s clones. “They need to want to spend time with each other rather than be forced to do that. And for that, some distance is required,” says Barkha.
Family counsellor and psychologist Meera Ravi from Bangalore says very few couples have similar personalities. “After marriage, if a person really wants to change, it’s his or her decision but if it’s done to please the spouse, it’s a farce,” she explains. This is why Mumbai homemaker and mother of two Kuhu Banerjee prefers to do her own thing. She’s spontaneous and gregarious, her husband is not. “We feel rather than fighting, it’s better to let each other do their own thing, be happy and keep your marriage sane. If I tell him I need to go out and meet my friends he doesn’t say no and I don’t stop him from doing what he likes,” she says.
Kuhu adds that in relationships where this doesn’t happen, many people, especially women, often tend to lose touch with their own selves and friends after marriage. “I know women who do not socialise because the husband doesn’t want to,” she exclaims.
It’s probably because letting the other half do her or his own thing requires a certain amount of understanding, trust and sense of security. It’s easily acquired in some marriages and in some it’s hard to come by. How you lucked out depends on your equation with your spouse.
Delhi-based media planner Baishali Baruah’s husband is a complete people’s person while she is diametrically opposite. But both share enough love and trust to have their own lives. “I try once a month to have an all girls’ day with my friends,” says Baishali, mother of a teenage daughter. But she constantly battles the guilt factor when she’s out doing her own thing. The same applies to Sheetal.
It’s a woman thing?
Meera feels that somehow women do tend to give in more and sometimes end up losing their own identities in the marriage. “It goes back to our upbringing and culture and defined roles for men and women, though that is changing.” She often counsels urban middle and upper middle class families and thinks how you maintain your distinct identity and interest depends upon your sense of self and assertiveness.
“Guilt is instilled in women as mothers and wives but they need to understand that it’s absolutely okay to do something they like to do. It brings out their inherent personality.” Constant role playing as the good mom and wife can take its toll, even if you do it unwittingly. “I think doing what you enjoy at your own time is important so these roles don’t become a burden,” says Sheetal.