A disturbing reality that I witness in my clinical practice is the declining trend of happy adjustments made for harmonious family living among married couples. Apparently, the woman /the new wife/ bahu/ daughter-in-law should be blamed you would say instantly. Oh! These women think no end of themselves! Yes, to some extent the new generation educated woman has fallen in her sense of responsibility and her skills of coping with family conflict. Yes, she has lost out on patience, tolerance and resilience. She has decided not to compromise beyond a limit in taking insults from the husband and mother-in-law. She has decided that she and her parents deserve more respect and dignity than they are usually given. The issue is indeed complex and deep and deserves serious thought and research. Is the woman the only one to blame if she has changed in her attitudes and values about equality? Blaming one or the other will not help solve the problem but in fact will aggravate the issue as it is happening. For, when the man blames the woman in totality for lack of adjustment in the family he makes a terrible mistake as he fails in introspection of his own areas of weakness and faults. He only defends himself and projects his guilt on her. When the woman blames the man entirely then too she is looking at reality from one side and ignoring the other. Looking at the issue from a neutral angle is what we would like to do.
Is there a neutral perception of truth the psychologist would ask? Of course there is never any neutral angle strictly speaking –for truth is never one. Truth has many colours as life has. It has all the variety of colours of the rainbow as variety is the most natural principle of ‘nature’. Truth is coloured by people’s thoughts, attitudes, ideologies, culture, society they live in and how they are nurtured and tutored at home by their mothers and in school by their teachers. I believe in equality and all that democracy stands for as stated in our wonderful constitution. Many do not understand the meaning of women being equal to men. They only understand it in bits and pieces. They have not been tutored and sensitised about the issue. They do not understand what it means to respect all women, irrespective of her status and role in society. For example, a man can respect a wife of his elderly friend for then she immediately becomes respectful as a ‘bhabiji’. The same man cannot respect a single woman who does not ‘belong’ to any man. This means a man relates to a woman through her ‘man’ and not as an independent person. He has not learnt to relate to a woman who can think, take decisions of her own, who can earn and be independent. This is still an urban phenomenon restricted to a very small community that has been sensitised by their mothers and families. Take another commonly seen example, a man can love and admire his girlfriend but the moment he gets married she becomes the ‘bahu’ of his mother and then a wife. His own perceptions change with the change in status and his new wife unprepared for this sudden volte-face is shocked. The honeymoon is over soon enough. The age old traditions persist stubbornly as we refuse to have a re-look at them and discuss them. Therefore the perception of truth will be different from someone who thinks differently than the other. Who am I to judge is the question?
The question is again not of judgement but the social- psychological situation of changing reality. The family system is being damaged which is the most wonderful institution we have. We can again blame the woman but that will not help. Women have changed as they gain higher education and economic freedom- women are not willing to take insults anymore and men do not know what they are fussing all about. He thinks he has given his name to her and taken her to his home and she should be grateful to him for that. She thinks otherwise. The perception of reality is different for both. This reality gap can be bridged only when issues are discussed more openly by both parties and choices are made not on emotional factors like ‘love’ but on deep thought.
It is also up to the new generation mother to change the trend by teaching her male and female children the concept of equality and respect for all. Sensitisation on the issue should begin from infancy.