Songsoptok: ‘Marriage is a lifelong symphony with one central theme but the music is played in anew everyday’ – this is a rough translation of a line from a short story by Rabindranath Tagore. Do you feel that this comment, made in a period dominated by Victorian romanticism, is true today?
RIMI PATI:  Yes, I feel this comment still holds true for those couples who wish to honor marriage as a  lifelong commitment. Today, as opposed to the Victorian era, marriage is no longer the most significant point in a woman’s life, but Tagore’s words are still applicable today.  Just like in a symphony, all the players in a marriage must play their part in a cohesive, synchronized manner, otherwise, the relationship is bound to suffer.

Songsoptok: What, in your opinion, is the real chemistry of an intimate relationship? Do you think that the social institution of marriage is based on that chemistry?
RIMI PATI: The social institution of marriage is contractual in nature, not necessarily based on romance or physical chemistry. Today, in Western society, marriages are often based on premises of good chemistry between the couples.  The emotions and physical symptoms related to feeling strongly attracted  to one another is defined as chemistry. But good chemistry alone is not a  true indicator of long term success in marriage. Men are naturally “hard-wired” for seeking  sexual novelty. The social institution of marriage  cannot be based on fleeting notions of good chemistry with a prospective partner.

Songsoptok:  What according to you are the main factors for keeping marital relationship alive and healthy?
RIMI PATI: The ability to laugh with one another is a true sign of vitality in a relationship. Romance cannot exist in a vacuum. Spontaneous intimacies, ability to indulge each other’s idiosyncrasies, appreciating partner’s uniqueness, spending quality  time with each other – all help to keep marital relations alive and healthy.  A healthy marital relationship must include a combination of passion, intimacy and commitment. Being able to enjoy the sunset from the same perspective is a always a plus in a healthy relationship. If both partners agree and wish to give each other some breathing space by taking separate vacations that is perfectly  fine too. There is no cookie-cutter formula to achieving a lively relationship. For me the ability to surprise each other after three decades is the key. 

Songsoptok: Very often we see that a happy marital relationship results when one of the partners surrender to the other’s ego. Do you think this is how it should be? Especially since it is most often the woman that surrenders to the man, or more generally to the patriarchal system?
RIMI PATI: In unions where submission or surrender is a precondition, the happy marital relationship is an illusion . The submissive wife feels victimized and  at some point the anger will surface even if it takes decades to do so. Today’s women need to step away from such  abusive relationships which often comes cloaked in various religious disguises as God’s will and social norms.

Songsoptok: Tolstoy said in his story THE KREUTZER SONATA “... a marriage without love is no marriage at all, that only love sanctifies marriage, and that the only true marriage is that sanctified by love”. We all agree that this is how it should be. That there should not be a tragic end to any marriage. What is the reason then for the increasing number of divorces in all societies?
RIMI PATI: Although I agree that love sanctifies marriage but  dramatic violent ending such as the murder in Tolstoy’s story is totally undesirable in real life. Love cannot be the catch-all phrase that determines a good marriage. Marital relationships are multifaceted, dynamic and forever changing in unforeseen patterns.  Unrealistic expectations of love in marriage, inability to work with a partner’s shortcomings, economic freedom for women and a different set of moral and social norms have resulted in unprecedented rates of divorce. Such outcomes are inevitable as society evolves.

Songsoptok: By the word ‘marriage’ we generally think of a well defined relationship built on the tenet of spending the entire life together. Do you think that this in itself creates a type of suffocation which leads to break-ups and divorces?
RIMI PATI: Marriages are based on the premise of a life long tenure.   Human nature, however is not genetically predisposed towards monogamy. A feeling of suffocation is not unusual but it should not be the sole criteria to leave an otherwise sound marriage.  Break ups and divorces often occur when the partners were ill suited in the first place and subsequent attempts to reconcile breaks down repeatedly.

Songsoptok:  In a very general way, marriage is understood as the cohabitation of man and woman with a view to reproduction. Can this narrow and very physical dimension be the essence of marriage? Doesn’t the success of marriage depends also on a communion between the personality, psychology and above all the soul of the married couple? What is your opinion? Do you think that in modern society such a definition of marriage is relevant and realistic?
RIMI PATI: Today such a definition of marriage is unrealistic and not inclusive of same-sex partners who cannot cohabit with a view of reproduction. Marriage is no longer necessary for cohabitation or reproduction. The communion between psychology, personality and  souls is ideal but a very lofty goal.  Today, a couple’s ability to optimize the operating point of the marital relationship appears to be the key to long term success once the initial honeymoon phase wears off.

Songsoptok: It seems that in today’s society the clash of personalities, especially within marriage, is an unpleasant reality. Almost 100 years back, D.H.Lawrence said in Lady Chatterley's Lover “The modern cult of personality is excellent for friendship between sexes, and fatal for marriage”. In other words, he thought that the development of woman’s personality is actually a hindrance to successful marriage. What is your opinion? Do you think that it is the inability of the patriarchal society to tolerate the independence of women the main reason for the marital conflicts in today’s society?
RIMI PATI: The clash of personalities may be an unpleasant reality today but the clock cannot be turned back to the Victorian era. Society must value women’s independence and realize that intelligence is an asset not  a hindrance in a successful relationship.   The patriarchal society is resistant to change but I do not feel women need to shy away from conflict or deny themselves opportunities for growth just to appease them.

Songsoptok: Do you think that society perceives a divorced man and woman in the same way? Most of the time we see that the woman is blamed for not making the necessary compromises. So the implicit assumption is that the success of a marriage is directly related to the woman’s capacity to compromise. What is you view?
RIMI PATI: Yes, women are unfortunately made to be the scapegoat in many divorce scenarios. Both parties need to compromise and adjust;  not just women. Neither a man nor a woman should be made to feel like a pariah if they had an unsuccessful marriage resulting in a divorce.  A marriage that depends solely on the woman’s capacity to compromise can have the outward signs of success but it is not one I aspire for.

Songsoptok: Do you think that divorce affects the conscious and the subconscious of the children? What, according to you, could be the effect of a divorce in their adult lives, positive or negative?
RIMI PATI: Parental divorce is an watershed  event in the life of any child.  When denied of the three R’s – routine, rituals and reassurance  – young children may suffer from separation anxieties, bed wetting and reversal to an infantile form. Studies have shown that amicable divorces have no long-term negative impacts on the offspring’s adult lives. Bitterly disputed divorces, however, can have a lasting effect on children and may become a hindrance in their adult lives. The impact on children depend on how the couple conduct themselves in post –divorce.

Songsoptok:  Generally it is the mother who takes care of the children following a divorce. Although children need their mother more while growing up, what kind of impact can the absence of a father figure have on a growing child? So what according to you should be the role of the mother?
RIMI PATI: More often than not fathers are involuntarily relegated to the role of financial providers in custodial hearings. Divorced fathers are  often disengaged from their children’s daily lives.  In the absence of the father, children are likely to develop problems in school, manifest  troubled behavior, delinquency and ultimately youth crimes such as shop lifting or gang activities.  The role of the mother is a difficult one as she is most likely be the one who fulfills both roles. Maintaining continuity in their existing routines, shielding them from ongoing conflicts and taking advantage of friends, family and social networks are some of the ways she can  make the best of the situation at hand.

Songsoptok: What according to you could be the impact of the growing number of divorces on the next generations? Or do you think this is the way tomorrow’s society will evolve?
RIMI PATI: Divorce affects most children in the short run. Gradually these effects diminish in most cases.  A modern family today consists of many units. It can be a family headed by a single mother, it can be a couple with fused children from earlier marriages, or it can be a same sex couple bringing up an adopted child. Society is a dynamic entity. I have full faith that society will evolve to absorb all these changes and find a way to move forward in a positive way.



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