All around us, we see marriages disintegrating more than ever before. Does this mean that previous generations coped better with conflicts within the marriage? Not necessarily. Compromise and compliance don’t automatically equate to harmony.
So why did they stay together?
Was it because
- of the children?
- marriage had become a habit?
- they loved each other?
- they had to pay the mortgage together?
- they lived in a prohibitive society?
- they were just conditioned to go on no matter what?
- women were financially dependent?
It could have been any or all of these.
What’s different about marriages today?
The traditional male – female gender roles are no longer fully applicable. Most women today are financially independent - that’s one factor out of the equation - to the extent that in some cases it is a major ego bubble. Let’s face it - ego places false, counter-productive, short-sighted limitations on a relationship.
Now, let’s backtrack to compliance and compromise. Automatically agreeing to everything does not augur well for harmony. As for compromise – Beware! For that way lies the path to resentment and power struggles. Compromise not only makes us take on roles that sprout resentment, it also stifles personality, inducing further resentment; unresolved negative feelings accumulate and multiply like unpaid debts. The burden soon becomes staggering.
If not compromise, what then?
Co-operation is the new mantra. Co-operation is the axle that would hold together this two-wheeled cart when riding over those banana peels strewn about the Garden of Eden, we call life. For, co-operation involves both partners whereas compromise burdens just one of the two.
Most couples I know are opposite personality wise. Yet their opposite personalities work in their favour. Then again, there are those who hang on to issues like a dog with a bone despite knowing they are in the wrong. Score-keeping blinds them from seeing the larger picture.
I don’t claim to be an expert on relationships. But coming from a large close knit family – 18 cousins on my mother’s side and 25 on my father’s, I am constantly exposed to a lot family drama and couple dynamics. So much so that my grandmother was fond of saying, “we have enough heroes and villains in our family for our very own epic.”
How strong is our commitment to our spouses?
When we marry, we commit ourselves to being there for each other, more than for others. But in reality, in pursuit of goals that in the long run don’t even really matter, we often put others before our partners.
Most of us are comfortable in our marriages. But are we truly satisfied with the way things are? The immediate reaction to this question is probably – “Don’t go there.” Because, we’d rather not open the Pandora’s Box and upset the status quo?
Be that as it may, beware of these trippers where we tend to compromise and then become resentful
- poor communication
- annoying personal habits
- constant comparisons
- disruptive parental interference
- different ideas on child-rearing
- unwillingness to forgive real and imagined slights
- never outgrowing manipulative behaviour
- the blame game, a futile exercise we often tend to indulge in.
Being a couple is about teamwork – is about being supportive – is being able to express ourselves freely.
Marriage seems to be a lot of hard work, and sliding back into old habits a constant pitfall. Is it worth it? If it is a non-abusive marriage – yes.
So how do we go about making the relationship better, more rewarding and fulfilling?
The first step is reiterating our commitment to each other. Next, down with the barriers that limit communication - in other words learning to co-operate with each other. Finally, having the courage to openly discuss issues we’d rather sweep under the carpet.
Having thrown out defensiveness along with the barriers – we can now honestly introspect - accept that it takes two to tango - that whatever ails the relationship, we are equal contributors. It takes quite a bit of daring to face our short-comings and trust our partners to love us despite them.
With the blinders forced on by our ego removed – all our defensive barriers are now down. Won’t this make us feel exposed and vulnerable?
Yes. But now arguing and quarrelling become negotiating and brainstorming. We even realize that we agree with our partner’s viewpoint – a paradigm shift.
The reward for all this trouble … a fulfilling relationship; free from the limitations and red tape placed by ego, barriers and defensiveness.