Question: Sir, I was reading a study in the 'Times of India'. It said that women are happier being single. Now, when I read this as an Indian woman, brought up in the Indian culture, this is very conflicting because women in India are looked down upon if they are single.
If there is any single girl in your family, then they just want you to get married as soon as possible. So, how do I reconcile this conflict?
Acharya Prashant (AP): There is no rigid rule in this regard. The report that you are quoting says, "Single women are happier." I am assuming that by the happiness they mean a higher kind of happiness that includes contentment.
So when it comes to that happiness, that Real happiness, there is no rule that a single woman would be happier than a wedded woman, or a family woman, or somebody who is in the relationship, or vice versa.
It depends on the quality of your relationship.
If indeed the study is true, if it passes the test of scientific data gathering and objective evaluation that single women are indeed happier than married women, it only reflects on the quality of decision-making of young people.
You see, it is not necessary that you have to have a bad partner or a troubling relationship, it is not necessary that not being with someone has to be the best state of existence possible. But here what we are seeing is a comparison. What we are seeing is that if a woman is single, she is probably doing better than if she were hitched; so that’s just a relative thing. And if it’s a relative thing, then it tells about the quality of relationships that women have and hence obviously men have, and hence it tells about the quality of the mind that agrees to those relationships.
When you get into a relationship because you just don’t know why you are getting into it, because it’s the done-thing - everybody has a partner so you too ought to have it, otherwise you will be such a bad loser - with that kind of mindset when you get wedded, because again that’s the thing to be done in your age-bracket, then obviously the decision that is being taken is a bad decision; it's an unwise decision. So the woman in the relationship is obviously going to be unhappy. What is not being said here is that - the man is probably going to be equally unhappy.
You cannot have a relationship in which the woman is discontented, and the man is gloriously joyful; that’s not going to happen. So it’s a mutually destructive thing.
Two people holding hands and exchanging vows without even knowing why they should be together, and whether they should be together at all, is a very pitiable situation. Unfortunately, that is what we find in many relationships; I am afraid most relationships.
So, women are unhappy, men are unhappy, entire families are unhappy. And the kids that are bred in such unhappy environments come up as not healthy human beings. So it is in the context of such unhealthy holding of hands, that the study has probably inferred that it is better to remain single.
Let’s not jump to the conclusion that not being related to anybody throughout your life is the necessary and unavoidable way to have Peace or happiness.
If you really can relate with someone who can bring a certain elevation, beauty, understanding to your life, nothing like it.
But then that has to be the objective in the first place before you enter the relationship. And that then cannot be merely the objective of that particular relationship, that has to be the objective of your entire life, your twenty-four hour activity.
You have to have a mind that is seeking Light, that is seeking to get clarity and betterment and upliftment. When you have that kind of a mind, then whether you pick up a partner, or a piece of cutlery, or a cup of tea, or whether you choose a destination to travel to, or whether you decide how to spend the festive season, or whether you make a decision regarding your finances - all the decisions then are centered on the same thing.
You say, "Is my decision going to be really uplifting? Or will it just provide me some kind of very temporary excitement, some appreciation in the eyes of my peers and those around me, family members, etc.?"
AP: And security. Even that security we all know is such an illusion. There is no real security in the ways it is sought.
So one has to ask, "What am I doing? What am I here for? What am I enrolled in a college for? What I am in a job for?" And only when you have that kind of mind that is constantly inquiring this way, will you also inquire - "What am I holding his hand for? How has this person managed to sneak into my life?"
"Sir, what are you doing here? Hello, why are you occupying that chair? It's an important chair, you see. I will be forced to more or less constantly look at your face if you occupy that chair, so I ask. I mean, what’s the very raison d’etre for this relationship? If you are sitting there then we are sharing meals, if you are sitting there then I have to live through your behavior, if you are sitting there then I will have to be necessarily absorbing some of the effects of your company. So much from you will come to me, and vice-versa. So, why I am with someone?"
That question has to be asked.
If that question has been honestly asked and reasonably answered, then you cannot go wrong - whether you marry or not, whether you remain with someone or not. And mind you, these are not really permanent decisions to be made. There is not something that gets etched on stone.
There might be a phase of life then when it’s really important, even holy to be with someone, and then comes a time when it’s better for both of you to grow a little independently of each other. So, anything is possible and welcome, as long as the intention is right. And the intention, I am repeating it, has to be—to make the best use of life, to grow to your fullest potential, to not to really look behind and repent.
One has to be totally into life. One has to be responsible, one has to understand, one has to have a certain depth. And from there comes Joy. And to such a person, bad relationships are very unlikely to happen.
Even if by dent of circumstances he or she lands into a tricky relationship, you can rest assured that the fellow will be able to bring some health to that relationship.
But yes, obviously, if it is the norm, if it is a widely prevalent condition that ninety-five percent people who do anything, including choosing a partner, are doing it in sheer ignorance, then we very well know that the remaining five percent would be better-off. The remaining five percent would be better-off as the quoted report says, just because the ninety-five percent are acting in very unwise ways. It’s like this, the analogy will probably work for you: "Fasting is better than eating contaminated food." So, better than having stale food or bad food is to have.....?
Questioner: No food at all.
AP: No food at all. And when the society has come to a situation that bad and stale food has become the culture, the accepted norm, then probably the ones who eat very little are relatively the healthiest. That's what your report is saying.
Questioner: So it reflects more on that marriages are unhappy, rather than being single.
AP: Yes, yes, yes, yes.
When I say that, I am not against staying single; I am just saying that being born in a human body, it will not be possible for you to really not relate to anybody. I do not know what the term 'single' really means. Does it mean- abstinence from the socio-legal institution of marriage? If it means that, then obviously it is possible to stay single your entire life. But, in the more practical terms of life, nobody can really remain single.
If you are with someone even for a dinner or as friends, colleagues, whatever, then you are not really single; you are in a relationship. Aren’t you in a relationship? Relationships need not always be romantic, they need not always have that angle. But, you are always relating with someone or the other.
We must have the sense to relate properly. We must know what is it that draws us to the other person. And if we smell something foul there, then we must have the Wisdom, the guts, most importantly the honesty to call the whole thing off.
Questioner: If one is smelling foul, where does one draw the line? How does one know that this is, you know, this is where I am drawing the line, that beyond this I am not going to be relating to you? Because we have that expectation that people will change.
AP: See, there are tell-tale signs. You have to understand this. And some of what I am now going to say might sound odd to you, so just bear it.
You have to see what the person has started meaning to you. Has the other person assumed some kind of a larger than life importance in your eyes? Ask yourself, "If someone else were to objectively evaluate this person, what kind of value would he give to him, based purely on the person's merits?" When you are in a relationship, then you do tend to give an exaggerated value, which is alright; it’s part of being human. But if the fact is that the general audience is going to accord a value of five to that person, whereas in your eyes, in your behavior, the value is five hundred, then you must know that things are wrong. It’s bizarre thing rather.
That’s one thing.
Second thing is: Has the thought of the other started meaning fear, or greed, temptation, or apprehension to you? Has the other started dominating your mind? You have to ask this - whether your mental space has been colonized, and you have to guard against it. It is not right, even if it appears sweet and acceptable; not merely acceptable but actually welcome in initial stages of the relationship. It is something very unhealthy.
If somebody has started encroaching upon your mental space, if somebody has really started affecting the way you go about your day-to-day activities, the other person has started showing up his presence even where he should not be, then you should know that the relationship is not going healthily.
And you should know where to draw the line.
Similarly, you have to see whether a particular angle of domination is creeping into the relationship. In the name of care or concern, has the other started becoming dominating just a little too much upon you? Even without giving explicit consent, have you become accountable, answerable? If these things have started happening, then you should just stand up and say, "Something is not quite right here." You have to guard against neurosis.
Our unhealthy tendencies show up in the most pronounced ways in our relationships. Especially if the relationship has a romantic or a sexual character, then all the garbage that otherwise keeps lying hidden within.
Questioner: We keep it hidden.
AP: And we keep it hidden. But when the relationship assumes the intimate character, then all the garbage just shows up in all its crudeness, with all the stink. So, it’s not really difficult to know when and whether a relationship is going foul. You will know that. It’s just that we lack the courage, the integrity to act on what we already know.
Questioner: To walk out of it.
AP: Need not always need an absolutist reaction that - if you know that the relationship is growing up little upon you, then you call it off or walk out. You don’t always need to walk out. Obviously the first response has to be to try to modify the relationship, to bring it back to healthy contours.
Questioner: Which brings in the question: Can people change?
AP: If people cannot change, then we should not be talking.
The purpose of every human interaction ultimately has to be betterment, improvement. What we call as 'casual chit-chat' or 'gossip', is of no avail. And even when you say that you are interacting reasonlessly, it is not really reasonless, it is just that you do not know the hidden reasons.
So, we always have reason in whatsoever we do; let the reason be an improvement.
So, yes people can change, and people are changing all the time; let's just change rightly.
How do we know what kind of change is right? You are the best judge. You know better than anybody else, whether life is going right for you.