Sunday, August 20, 2006

Nirpal Dhaliwal - Watch Part Four

Marriage is a good thing, even for me
Evening Standard (London); Jul 12, 2006; NIRPAL DHALIWAL; p. 37

SOME new research in America suggests that couples who live together rather than get married are merely in an "intense form of dating" because so many split up.

The average cohabiting couple in Britain lasts two years. More than half of them break up within five years of having a baby, while less than a tenth of married couples do. It seems marriage is the better bet for a long relationship. I read these pieces with a twinge of self-recognition.

I haven't been a great husband.

I've been unfaithful and slacked in my household responsibilities. My wife and I have had issues because of our different ethnic and social backgrounds, and she is also older and more successful than me. But despite our problems we've achieved six years together, four of them in marriage. We love each other and gain a great deal from having one another in our lives. Regardless of what the future holds, I'll always consider this marriage to be the most formative experience of my life.

When I got married, aged 28, I was looking forward to textbook happiness. I was determined to make it a success, without an inkling of what would happen and how I would behave. I wasn't prepared for how much I'd change and how much my personal baggage would make things difficult.

Despite the commitment I made to my wife in front of my friends and family, the desire to have independence and experience life (and other women) didn't disappear. It was just submerged, only to reappear later.

I was hoping for an all-consuming spiritual union that would make sense of everything. It was a shock for me to realise that I was still an individual whose path wouldn't always run parallel with my wife's, and that I'll always have issues that I have to work out for myself. Knowing that about yourself and your partner lets you give them space to evolve. I'm sure that's why my wife took me back.

She knew I had stuff to work through that I was only dimly aware of myself.

Getting married didn't harmonise our characters or prevent trouble arising, but it was a forceful declaration of commitment that stemmed from how much we loved each other.

That commitment is what has kept us going and made us have to deal with each other's flaws and screwups. If we hadn't been married the urge to quit and not deal with each other would have prevailed.

Marriage has taught me how complex life and people are. Though we've been married a while now, I never feel that I wholly know my wife. I'm sure she'd say the same about me. I think that's just how people are: however intimate you are with someone, they'll always be something of an enigma. Had I not been married, I'd still naively think that a neat and perfect life was out there and be wasting a lot of time trying to find it. I know things are more complicated than that now. It's been a valuable lesson.

Without my wife I am a hideous slob
Evening Standard (London); Aug 2, 2006; NIRPAL DHALIWAL; p. 35

MY WIFE has been away on holiday this week. I love having the house to myself.

I bask in the silence, freedom and solitude, but I also realise how thankful I am to be married.

Within minutes of my wife's departure, I reverted to my Neanderthal default setting. Now, after a couple of days on my own, I'm starting to frighten myself. Without a woman's disciplining presence, I'm a retarded slob, wholly incapable of looking after myself.

I love cooking, and when my wife's around I make interesting and creative meals: Indian, Thai, Italian, all sorts. But the gourmet in me vanishes the moment I'm left alone. My fridge is packed with delicious organic food but last night my dinner consisted of a tube of Pringles, a couple of chocolate eclairs and a packet of cigarettes. I was so disgusted with myself I binged on ginger snaps to improve my mood. Needless to say, it didn't work. I crashed on the couch in a bloated stupor, promising I'd purge myself with a jog in the morning. I never did.

The most basic habits of tidiness have disappeared. The sink is full of coffee cups, though it takes no effort to put them in the dishwasher. The bed hasn't been made once, and unopened post and old newspapers are strewn all over the kitchen table.

I've collapsed into a useless slump.

I feed the cats and take a shower, then pat myself on the back for a productive day.

When the wife is gone, I become a porn freak. Intending only to have a sneaky peek, I drift into hours of surfing through mucky sites, watching hot women getting their groove on. This is what guys do when no one is around.

Black, white, gay, straight, rich or poor - we all look at porn.

Lots and lots of it. It's what God made the internet for. I now set the alarm on my mobile phone, to jar myself into reality after 30 minutes.

If I didn't, I could easily lose the whole day doing it.

I'd planned to spend this week reading and writing, and planning future projects; instead, I've had a bout of shabby, cretinous indolence.

What spooks me about my present state is that I never slobbed out this badly until I moved in with my wife.

I'm sure it's my id, avenging itself for its repression during the everyday civility of married life. But men need the civilising company of women. Without them, we fall into a dark, primordial spiral of gluttony, masturbation and death.

Women are often a pain in the male butt, but they save men from themselves.

I'm looking forward to the wife coming home, but it's good for me to witness what I'd be like if she weren't around. Right now, it's like I'm spending the week in a theme park of unfettered masculinity. Believe me, it's not a pretty sight.

Awww, isn't that sweet? When she's not in the flat he misses her.

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