I often remember an episode in my childhood when I was learning how to swim – my first interaction with an instructor had been a man who threw us all into the deepest end of the pool in the hope that we’d flap our arms to safety. The scene repeated itself throughout the years, particularly with teachers who felt that public shaming and humiliation was a tough love approach to teaching a human being to like a discipline or to awaken a competitive spirit to achieve more.
It probably works on a number of people with more grit, but by the same token most people I know to have survived it post-rationalise the experience. No one likes it, but they all claim ‘it was necessary’ to help them get to where they are. It reminded me of Victoria Pendleton’s memoir of desperately trying to please her ‘tough love’ dad, to the point of self harm. Apparently it works because some rise above the rest and turn into performers, but being a ‘star’ often comes with a high cost of being miserable inside or a social outcast.
Speaking of tough love and force of habit, a few months ago I read „The Art of Choosing” by Sheena Iyengar and it got me thinking.
Most ‘Westerners’ or people from the Westernised/developed world must find it horrendous to have someone decide whom you end up marrying, i.e. not having a choice: choosing makes us happy and other people can’t and shouldn’t do it for us. We’re highly individualistic, rich and well educated – we marry for love and feelings, not for convenient arrangements of cattle, dowry or status only to cheat with the first person who sparks the flame of passion (not as much, anyway).
Little support remains for traditional marriage arrangements (not to be confused with cohabitation). Having almost equal incomes means there’s a lot less financial volatility than there used to be, and whatever volatility does exist, it doesn’t make one a complete outcast. There are far more social support safety nets to help, at least in theory and in most ‘developed’ nations. It’s not ideal, but parents can and often do bring up children on their own.
So the author asks, ‘why do most marriages end up in divorce?’
Marrying for love is equally strange to anyone used to arranged marriage. It’s not mandatory to love the other person when someone else picks for you – you’re largely expected to get along, consolidate wealth and produce offspring to leave a legacy in very broad, insensitive sweeping generalisation terms. Relatives and friends pick matches based on ‘best interests of the family and community’ rather than best interests of the individual, what we think we’re doing most of the time when we choose a husband or wife.
Marrying for love means you start ‘hot’ and promise to love and worship one another if you observe religious rituals, but the feelings grow cold. Instead, arranged marriages often start cold but the two gradually get used to each other and end up ‘warm’ or even ‘very hot’, like the historic example of Mumtaz Mahal.
That’s a sweeping generalisation too, because it omits the thousands of marriages that don’t end up in anything but resentment. It ignores the possibility of same-sex relationships ever emerging or existing. It’s food for thought that habit is as strong a tool as humiliation, but it also ignores that sometimes men give in to alcohol, vices, violence or other habits and women can do very little about them.
Hello common theme – people seem to end up happy because often they get used to one another.
There’s a reason why surveys of where people have met their partners have ‘work’, ‘gym’ and ‘school’ at the top of the list: the places where you spend so much time together, it’s not a massive stretch of the imagination to just extend that relationship to the home. It’s not the picture-perfect love story we’re conditioned to experience but it works. ‘Tough love’ and humiliation are as strong as habit and living with someone you don’t like to begin with; you get used to it and post-rationalise mundane unhappiness as ‘necessary’ for some other goal: the children, what the ‘others’ will think..and who knows what else.
Thankfully, not everyone does.