When Ben Affleck said marriage is "the best kind of work," I was moved by his words.
I agreed with him.
Two years later, Ben Affleck announced his divorce. I was moved again.
I was upset one more marriage had ceased to work. It hurts me when I see relationships crumbling and marriages ending forever.
I am a firm believer in the institution of marriage. Although I've only been married for six years, I think I've learned the most important lesson about marriage.
When I was a single woman, I believed marriage would be my ultimate bliss.
I thought marriage would make everything swiftly fall into place. I thought marriage would navigate itself without being pushed or pulled.
I believed marriage was a self-runner, a natural course of life that moves on.
It needs no external motivation. It's powered within, like a river.
Before I got married, marriage symbolized a different world to me.
My partner and I would dwell in each other's arms. We would live in this small nest of ours that would always smell of fresh roses and sweet compliments.
I always imagined this little fantasy world of ours would constantly echo our naughty laughter and silly pranks, peppered with warm embraces and spicy sex.
Does this kind of life sound even a tiny bit like work? Not at all.
Certainly not when you're single.
Since getting married, I've learned marriage has indeed created a different, unique world in which my partner and I (and my 5-year-old daughter) reside.
Our small nest often smells of compliments (some sweet, some not-so-sweet) and stale flowers in the vase I hardly find time to change.
It reminds me every day I have to go wake my daughter up for school because my husband walked into the bathroom the very second this needed to happen.
I leave my cooking mid-way and pace up to the bedroom to wake her up.
She requests, "A bit more time, Mommy." Then, our sweet, little home feels like really hard work.
Scientifically, energy spent without causing any displacement is not work. But practically, every bit of energy spent is considered work.
Otherwise, how do we explain statements like, "I'm exhausted after the long discussion with her," or "I'm tired, so I can’t wait for you any longer."
After all, discussing things with her and waiting on him both cost lot of energy.
Work is defined as the product of the force applied and displacement.
In simple terms, in any marriage, some force has to be applied onto the partner to make him or her move. This results in work being done.
Getting him to keep the trash bin out of the house or asking her to accompany you to the soccer match cause movement, and these require force.
This product is called work.
Marriage is all about commitment, and any kind of commitment is work.
When I call it work, I don’t mean bonded labor, a contract or work in the sense that you do a task and get paid.
I mean the kind of work we indulge in without being asked, the work we diligently and deliberately choose the moment we say, "I do."
This work seems like our calling and gives us the highest gratification and contentment.
It seems like real, hard work when the compassion, devotion and love one gives goes unrequited.
In other cases, it's a naturally flowing river that keeps blossoming the flowers along its bank.
I let my marriage flow along its natural course, but I do insist on certain rules.
When my husband replies to his office emails and messages past 10 pm, I snatch his phone, remind him of our family rules and give him a light hug.
This is work.
It takes effort to do so when I am half asleep already, but I still do it. I love to do it.
My mornings begin with a peck on his forehead (or his on mine, depending on who gets up earlier), and my life seems like sailing in an ocean with the force of the winds: easy, smooth and relaxed.
But when he leaves for the office and leaves his wet towels on the bed (yet again) and his slippers under the couch (yet again), the same sailing starts to feel like heavy rowing.
This indeed takes effort.
So much so that now, I have come to a stage where I feel asking him to keep things in their place is more taxing than simply doing the chores myself.
Similarly, he puts his share of effort in the marriage when he works hard on his laptop on weekends to research the stock market, so he can provide some financial stability.
Or, he does so when he wakes up, half-sleepy every morning at the ring of the doorbell — which marks the arrival of the milkman — and I refuse to budge.
Or, he does so when my preschooler pees in the bed, and I move to the farthest corner of the bed, asking him to change her clothes.
Marriage is work, just like everything else. But unlike most other things, it is the best kind of work.
It is the work that pays you in kind, not in cash.
Its best perk is the awesome companionship.
Its incentive comes in the form of cherished memories.
Its monthly payment is true love and the assurance that if it has come this far, it can go farther.
Its pension is a retirement plan in which you don’t have to grow old alone (unless it’s terminated by death).
You can claim you've lived a well-loved life.
But staying in marriage demands vacations, too.
At least, I demand vacations, and I keep having them. Every late morning, after dropping my kid to school and seeing my husband off to the office, I take a nap.
That is my daily vacation. I can dream about beaches or hill stations, or simply have a sound, dreamless sleep.
Once a fortnight or so, I meet up with my friends or go out to a restaurant with them, where we crack up at the silliest and cheesiest jokes.
This is my break from my married routine.
The day we got married is our date of yearly appraisal, where we talk about our strengths and weaknesses as a couple.
My marriage is a job.
It's a job I chose six years ago, and I make the same choice every single time we have an argument.
I choose to stay in this job, with this particular colleague, in this peculiar (yet so very familiar) home office.
It's the most fun-loving job I have, with infinite opportunities to grow and love.
Marriage is the only institution in which both parties work on the same side of the table and for the same goals.
I hope to make the marriage last. This is what makes it worth all the effort.
Being in this marriage is my favorite kind of work.
The best part is, it's now become my hobby, too.