Dr.Shivani Salil

Marriage is like twirling a baton, turning hand springs or eating with chopsticks. It looks easy until you try it.

-Helen Rowland

Whoever said marriage was easy has to be single. Marriage was never meant to be easy. It is complicated and messy but if you figure your way through it, its love and companionship and so totally worth it. No relationship is without conflict. How we handle that conflict forms its bedrock. Often we are so caught up in proving that we are right, we sidetrack from the main issue. Try to see beyond that so you can understand where it’s coming from. That connect is the only right not your respective point of view.

Marriage is overrated in terms of pressure and expectations. No other relationship extracts as much as this one does. Culled from experiences, some mine and some others’, here are a few pointers, in no particular order, that can help build a healthy marriage.

  • Make your own space. In marriage we start as two individuals and almost overnight we are expected to behave as a single unit. Indian marriages are the strangest. On one hand they want you to be intimate now that their blessings have legitimized your relation and on the other hand they just don’t leave you free. I am not talking about the mandatory rituals but even otherwise usually it’s too claustrophobic. Do not succumb to this insane pressure. Give each other time and a comfort zone. Allow friends and family to connect with you but ensure that doesn’t interfere with your own desires and plans.
  • Give each other space. The other common assumption is that marriage means we have to be together ALL THE TIME. That’s so not true. It means to be able to do stuff together and be secure enough to be on your own as well. It’s our own insecurities and doubts that make us smother a relationship. Deal with them before moving on. Marriage is supposed to give wings Not clip them.
  • Interests. It’s good to have a similar taste but it is also refreshing to have someone with a different set of hobbies and interests. You may not like all of them but some might capture your attention. It helps you grow and also see the world from a different perspective. Even the mundane becomes enjoyable.
  • Friends and Family. Before you met each other you had a life and you had friends. Mingle with each other’s friends.
  • Try to be in the other one’s shoes. With the rest of the world we are accommodating but with THE ONE, we take things for granted. Let us treat him/her in a manner we want to be treated. It’s such a simple thing to do but is so often overlooked. Do not be judgmental. No one has given you the right to sit in the high chair of morality.
  • Sense of Humor. Humor necessarily does not mean behaving like a clown. It is also the ability to find that silver lining and walk that dark tunnel with you to show you the light at the end of it which he could see when you could not.
  • The fights. No one WANTS to fight but they are inevitable. What is important is how we fight, on what issues and how we make up? If the sole aim of a fight is winning it is not a fight any longer. If only one person is apologizing all the time it is manipulation and not disagreement. Agree to disagree and graciously. Never bring in past history of conflict. Deal with the present situation.
  • Us vs I. It is good to have common goals but it is also essential to have a sense of self. A relationship should not rob you of your identity. If you do not respect yourself, sooner or later your partner will follow suit.
  • The promise of growth. To be able to grow personally has to be an important relationship goal. In professional lives we all want to grow and we plan accordingly. But we seem to miss that point on the personal front. Inspire each other to be a better version of yourself. That keeps the spark alive and your respect for each other grows.
  • Children and Finances. With time both these aspects play a decisive role in your future together. Do not avoid putting it off until later. Often it is usually too late and are the two most common causes of disagreement. Face them today so they do not come back to haunt you later.

To put it into perspective, remember that the operative words are ‘respect’, ‘patience’, ‘growth’, ‘equality’, ‘humor’ and the ‘commitment’ to build a life together with common relationship goals. Do not toss it away, you just might have a good thing going for you there. Happily, ever after is not a fairy tale. It’s a choice.

If the two of are unable to iron out your differences, counselling should be given a try. A marriage therapist’s job is to listen to couples’ frustrations and try to help each spouse work through his or her issues. Of course it may entail tough love advice but never give up without a sincere effort. Marriage counseling also encourages both partners to focus on self-improvement and self-awareness. Therapy isn’t very effective if both partners aren’t completely honest about what’s creating distance between them.

The only reason where an opt out should be the only way forward is abuse- physical or mental. We often associate abuse to be physical. It is usually easy to spot. But the mental abuse is worse. Often we take it in our stride but even a single episode should raise your antennae. No relationship can be healthy which has a baggage of abuse. It is NOT normal. Love has no place for abuse of any kind.

I shall leave you with some words of the wise. Behind that humor is probably the shortest advice I would give to anyone who seeks for it.

To keep your marriage brimming,

With love in the loving cup,

Whenever you’re wrong, admit it;

Whenever you’re right, shut up.

-Ogden Nash

Do not read in between the lines and assume that I am asking you not to take a stand but to remind you that people to be loved HAS to be more important than the issues to be resolved.