Our driver met his wife one night when driving a client home. He had several suitors at the time, as he was an attractive guy with a car and a job that paid well. When he pulled up to the house he saw this girl and said, “that’s her.” “I didn’t care about caste, money, or anything,” he said. “I knew instantly that she was the one.” He went on to explain that he knew, too, that he wanted to marry a simple village girl. He didn’t think the educated city girls would ever put up with his schedule as a driver. “They would complain and get upset about my coming home at 2:00 in the morning. My wife, she doesn’t mind at all.”
Despite the limited set of requirements he’d used to select his bride, they were actually quite a cute couple. He went home early whenever he could and couldn’t wait to see her. We all went out to dinner a number of times and they were forever telling in-jokes and pausing to giggle with each other. I started thinking again about arranged marriage.
Zeet and Zameet, our fearless director and producer, were also a couple. They were married quite young during a mad sequence of events wherein he started teaching a youth group just to get a chance to talk to her, she was almost killed in a car wreck, and in a groggy haze of pain meds at the hospital she said, “Why are you here? You hardly know me! If you’re so in love with me, fine, marry me.” He of course replied, “yes” immediately and, dumbstruck, she responded with, “Wait, what just happened?” He spent the next year helping her learn to walk again, a feat the doctors didn’t believe was possible. Of course, they didn’t think she would live either. She now runs for exercise and they’ve been happily married all of their adult lives.
Of course, that’s a great story. But the fairy tale version isn’t the most interesting, it’s what happened next. They began fighting, having various issues that are naturally born of close proximity to in-laws and the limited relationship toolset of youth. Things got so bad that she moved out. Despite this, they each knew that they had to stick by their vows. They weren’t going to quit the marriage they had agreed to. They struggled though, learned from the process, and today are like chocolate and peanut butter.
These two examples confirmed something for me that I’ve been wondering for a long time. How much does it really matter who we choose to marry? I’m beginning to believe that, given a resolve to work things out, people are capable of crafting relationships that evolve and merge because they have to. Perhaps our ability to pick and choose, along with the relative ease of divorce, is actually hampering us and making life more difficult. (This, of course, discounts abuse, addiction, and other such factors.)
Barry Schwartz and Dan Gilbert both have excellent TED talk videos (and, I believe, books) that discuss the counterintuitive reality of choice. Humans are actually happier given fewer options, or when they are stuck with a choice they’ve made.
I’ve almost married several times, once going so far as to be engaged to a wonderful woman. I think my exes are much better off without me but that doesn’t mean I don’t still love them dearly. One of the big factors in the eventual breakups was my unwillingness to be ready to have children. While the idea of having to focus on children horrifies me now, I know deep down that if I were forced to have them I would find my own happiness in that world. I know myself well enough to know that I can find ways to be happy in almost any environment. Would I be as happy driving rush hour traffic to bring a toddler to school as I am running through fields in India? Right now I don’t think so, but of course I’ve made myself happy in my current life already, and the hormones that kick in during child rearing aren’t in effect. Maybe I would be.