Life and Relationships
Whether we like it or not, a lot of biases are fed into our minds over the course of life.
Children are like sponges. They see and hear everything and absorb most of it. Without meaning to, adults around the children say things or behave in ways that severely influences and shapes the way children perceive the world around them. This, in turn, shapes the behavior of children as they grow up.
Often times, I am shocked at myself when I realize that I have been carrying a certain bias. I am more informed today, and therefore at least able to recognize this as a bias or prejudice, and work towards getting rid of it.
Biases can be classified under social, religious, political and many other such umbrellas. In this post, I am touching upon biases with regard to marriage.
The Husband has to be Taller than the Wife
Admit it! When you see a celebrity couple where the reverse is true, no matter how open-minded or unbiased you are, there is a split second where you feel that the symmetry of the couple is off.
Happens to me all the time. I don’t know who told me that men have to be taller in a relationship. I don’t know why it should matter. And I know enough now to realize that it really doesn’t matter. Yet, each time I see a couple where the woman is taller, I find it awkward. Almost like an OCD acting up.
The Husband has to be Older than the Wife
This one might have its roots from the time where the husband was the sole breadwinner of the family. He was the head of the family. In order to be respected and listened to, it was important for him to be older (and therefore hopefully wiser?)
I am just guessing the basis here. Regardless I am not sure it is relevant today. Yet, one finds that consciously or unconsciously, age is a factor while looking for a partner. Women seek older men and vice versa.
And if by chance a celebrity couple finds themselves in the category where the man is younger, even by just a bit, the paparazzi and the meme machines have a field day! Don’t believe me? Look up Nick Jonas and Priyanka Chopra.
If a man is about 10 years older than the woman in a relationship, somehow it is not that troll-worthy. Double standards, what?
The Husband has to Earn more than the Wife
Again, this is probably a remnant of the society where the man was the sole provider. Earning more than the wife keeps the balance of power in place. If the wife earns more or is seen as more successful, the balance tilts catastrophically.
In a society where everyone from the mother-in-law to the distant uncle has access to information about the income, this becomes a point of discussion.
She earns more than him. No wonder she bosses over him. Oh, she is so proud. How useless is he, he can’t even earn as much as his wife.
These phrases keep poking both the husband and the wife until they begin to believe that there might be some truth in it and the relationship falls apart.
In a day and age where stay-at-home dads are becoming common, this bias still exists, unfortunately.
A Woman is on the Shelf if Unmarried at 30
Somehow it is ok for a man to be older and unmarried, but women overrun their shelf life as they hit their thirties.
Here again, the bias might have something to do with a woman’s child-bearing years. As women grow older, their ability to bear and rear children reduce. So, looking for women who are younger and with a longer patch of reproductive years might be a genetic predisposition.
For today’s woman with her own aspirations and things to achieve in life, this bias is a bit unfair. What if she chooses to achieve other things in life before taking on the responsibility of marriage and kids? Does that mean she has no chance to be married at all?
Married? No Kids Yet?
This is a high-pressure situation. Married to a taller man — check. Married to a man who earns more — check. Married before 30 — check.
Had your first kid within a year or two of marriage — nope. Ouch!
Do you have a problem? Is everything ok between you two? Have you consulted a doctor? I know a guy in my village who can help you produce kids in a jiffy (er…!)
Aaargh! This bias is simply unbelievable. I mean, people are literally getting into the bedroom of a couple to check what is going on!! Never heard of invasion of privacy?
Can a couple not choose to have their baby a bit later? Or maybe not have kids at all? Couples not wanting to have kids ever is something most people cannot wrap their heads around!
What About the Second Kid?
What? Only one kid? The poor kid will be lonely! Hasn’t it been three years since the first one? High time you had the second child.
Again — the sheer invasion of privacy and checking on the couple’s bedroom activities.
I know enough single kids who grew up happy and sane. Fine example — me!
Why is it so critical to produce a second child? That too within the timeframe determined by random aunts and uncles? And if that does not happen, the couple has to deal with the social stigma.
Who made up these rules? And why?
An Endless List
The list could go on. These biases have been handed down across generations. So much so that sometimes your best friend, the one you grew up with, the one who you thought was on your wavelength, could surprise you by tossing one of these ‘bias questions’ your way. How did that happen? Maybe his or her cultural setting is different from yours. That’s all it takes to alter the thinking.
How do we Overcome These Biases
First of all, one has to be able to recognize that we have such a bias. Most times, we don’t understand that simple fact. For example, it is ok for a couple to choose not to have kids at all. Who am I to judge that?
In order to recognize that we have a prejudice, and then to take steps to overcome it needs a larger world view. Reading, conversations with people from different cultures and ethnicities, exposure to different ways of life, all of these help in recognizing our biases.
The biggest thing is our ability to open our minds and be willing to accept that our thinking was not right. And that it is ok to change the way we view the world and its people.