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?

GITA ASSEFI:  How nicely and romantically Rabindranath Tagore, the famous poet and painter of the Victorian era has defined marriage. Each time you read this quote, it sounds like music into your ears. A soothing answer to such a nice but at the same time challenging bindings as marriage. I believe that it is too difficult and too optimistic if we think of this quote as a reflection of what family lives are in our time. We have entered a new era of technology and globalization which sadly has a formidable impact on our communication and relationship. The less we communicate, the less we can have an understanding of the needs and the requirements of our spouse.  But as any issue, it is the mind and the creativity of mind for every individual that can make good things happen. We cannot expect of a marriage as a steady journey where the couple tend to live happily ever after but we can make changes in our expectations and insight towards this bindings so that to make it work for our good. Let us not forget that marriage wasn’t as nicely portrayed by the artists and the poets in the Victorian times. Inside the seemingly happy figures as depicted in the paintings back then, there was a sad side to it. This is very similar to what most of the surviving marriage institutions are nowadays

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?

GITA ASSEFI: . Let us make a division between infatuation that has a lot of chemical effects on the brain to mutual understanding and love. Most of us fall into the trap of mixing the first for the latter. That’s why most of the psychologists suggest the couples who have newly met to spend some time getting to know each other before they involve in a sexual relationship which blinds them of truly understanding a person.

Songsoptok:  What according to you are the main factors for keeping marital relationship alive and healthy?

GITA ASSEFI:  I think we need to have a great understanding of our opposite gender. This even should go into the syllabus of the schools. We need to understand that men are so different than women in terms of their thinking and approach to certain issues. Later, we need to be ready to show kindness, love and understanding and a certain level of sacrifice for a marriage to last. Nowadays, sadly eveything can be discarded in a second and thrown to the garbage bin. 

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?

GITA ASSEFI:  . Patriarchal system usually keeps its sustainability when the woman is economically poor and needs the man for the continuity of her life. Nowadays, women started being very successful in business and they have achieved their independence but we still have examples of Patriarchal families and happiness is absolutely not a term used for them. I think they just keep appearances to fulfil the task of what their near society asks them to do. For a marriage to be happy, it is ought to be built on strong footholds and one of these footholds is equality.

Songsoptok: Tolstoi 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?

GITA ASSEFI:  I absolutely agree with Tolstoy. Although not necessarily every relationship that is rooted in love is bound to last for the  lifetime but as Elizabeth Gilberth says in her book “Committed”, ‘ It is the prerogative of all humans to make ludicrous choices, to fall in love with the most unlikely of partners and to set themselves up for the most predictable of calamities’.  I would say yes to love when after all it is a short life that we have and I don’t think we can have a definite worldwide solution to our blunders rather than trying our best to know a person well as well as showing some patience and love for our relationship to work for us without having  great expectations that it will 100 percent work as nothing  in the world comes with a guarantee paper.

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?

GITA ASSEFI:   Yes, definitely. It will result in feeling suffocated and thus fosters the tragic ending. I think the best marriage is the one in which there is some kind of freedom and space for every spouse with the maturity level that no relationship may last forever. However, I highly believe that with the right proportion of love and understanding and definitely space, a marriage can last long.

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 depend 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?

GITA ASSEFI:    Marriage institution is a serious institution that shouldn’t be confined into cohabitation of two people and reproduction. In our modern society, we see many examples of successful marriages in which the couple decide not to have any offspring. We cannot assume that if there are two people and some children, that is a successful marriage. In the Victorian period, where having a family life was something that any dignified person want to have, the reality inside wasn’t very pleasing. All the things that could bring the demise of a family life happened behind the close doors. For a marriage life to work, there has to be more. People should be able to see if they enjoy being together and if they respect each other’s differences and point of view. More than anything love is the essence of a good marriage. A marriage without love would be an unhealthy situation for both people involved.

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?

GITA ASSEFI:  The intolerance of society towards the independence of women is one of the reasons that trigger instability in the marriage life. Some men seem not to be fully satisfied with this new modal of a woman that can do multi-tasking on the contrary to the men. Some men don’t really comprehend the share of household chores when their wives have to work both outside and inside. Women too should be aware of the expectations of their spouses. We just arrive to the same conclusion that the path to a happy marriage is mutual respect and understanding.

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?

GITA ASSEFI:  If making a compromise can change things then it should be a mutual compromise. When there is a need for a divorce, women are usually blamed for. Of course this can get harsher in more conservative societies. Nowadays as the number of divorce is skyrocketing, people started to deal with it as a more normal issue. But still women feel the pressure of acting in accordance to the society’s norms not to be singled out and stigmatized. Women seem to still carry a big pressure while married and while divorced. Society seems to have greater expectation from women than men.

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?

GITA ASSEFI:  For children to be in a family household where their parents constantly fight and disgrace each other is worse than to live with single parents. Divorce may have irremediable effects on children if the parents haven’t reached the maturity level to have a civilised relationship. What is normal and approvable is that even divorced, parents can do their best for the welfare of their children and thus to build up a friendly relationship. This may sound hard in the beginning but once you get a peaceful life and see your kids are still smiling and have confidence in themselves, you will know that you are doing the right thing.

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?

GITA ASSEFI:  Children definitely need to be with their mothers after divorce, but they also need their father. Especially, boys need their fathers as a role model. As boys reach puberty, they want to cut ties with their mothers and step into manhood. During this time, they definitely need their fathers as a role model more than any other time. Mothers should facilitate and encourage the relationship between children and their father.

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?

GITA ASSEFI:  . I am not so optimistic about the condition of marriage life in the coming years. When we look at the young people, we see a group of highly egocentric beings that want the world revolve around them. We see wealthy, educated parents who endeavour to create perfections by sending their kids to different courses without putting their skills and feelings into consideration. We see a society which is becoming more competitive, mechanical, constantly addicted on their computers, and mobile phones unable to express their emotions, or communicate. We see a group of people who are constantly bored and easily ready to end things without enough patience to build and improve. I just can hope that some kind of awareness will come into people and they make a new beginning. Some artists paint some paintings, some writers write the history with its examples and some poets write poems that raise awareness in the societies. But still for a change to happen, one needs to have an open mind...


We sincerely thank you for your time and hope we shall have your continued support.
Aparajita Sen

(Editor: Songsoptok)


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