(Published in The Huffington Post India : http://www.huffingtonpost.in/shaira-mohan/ )
‘It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.’
– Friedrich Nietzsche
The famous German poet and philosopher nailed it in that one line.
The ‘institution’ of marriage, as it is called, binds together the lives of two individuals in holy matrimony – ‘for richer or poorer, in health and suffering, in happiness and sadness till death do us part’ – the vows that are meant to be the most sacred, and the inherent promise – eternal.
Often times, however, we tend to overlook the fact that the objects involved here that marriage binds in this holy, eternal bond are in fact two, different human beings – brought up in different homes, to different parents, different ideologies, different beliefs, different cultures (perhaps) – the list can, of course, be longer or shorter but the point here is very clear – No two people are alike and so, naturally, human nature dictates that no two people will always have the same opinion or always agree and disagree on the same things. This is not a theory but a fact that holds true not just for a marriage but in every kind of relationship.
Another fact is this – human beings cannot predict the future! I mean sure, the guys over at the Meteorological department are able to use satellite imagery and measurements and what not and can predict what the weather will be a week from now but can a newly married couple predict how happy or unhappy they are going to be five years down the line? No. There is no satellite equipment that can help with that. What they can do however, is influence what the future can look like by acting accordingly NOW.
But these two above facts cannot justify the massively increasing divorce rates in many countries today, including our own, flashing a huge question mark on the fundamentals of what goes wrong in most cases. And if you think about it, more often than not the problems boil down to some basics.
They say ‘Love conquers all’ but it is also said that ‘Love is not enough’. I believe that falling in love is easy but working towards retaining and maintaining that love is what is the true test of any relationship. In Hindi we say, ‘taali dono haath se bajti hai’. One can only clap with both hands. A relationship can only grow when both persons work at it. Not just one.
Nietzsche points out that friendship is paramount in a marriage and personally, I couldn’t agree more. I met my husband through an arranged setting wherein we were introduced to each other by common family friends. Since this was a person I was meeting for the first time with the potential intent of marriage and not someone I had known for years, I was quite skeptical about how long it would take us to get comfortable with each other and if, at all, that would happen. Today, I can happily say that what I value the most about our marriage so far is that he is my closest friend and confidante and this needs to really be the foundation of every marriage. Without a strong bond of friendship with your significant other, your relationship is as hollow as a drum and the love you have vowed to each other for all eternity is just a façade whose foundation, like an ageing building, will eventually crumble.
A growing relationship needs a very strong and indispensable ingredient – Patience. Folks, let’s face it. I will change Bob Marley’s words a little here – No Patience, ALL cry! The lack of patience in the dynamics of any relationship is a sure shot recipe for disaster. Inevitably, situations arise in every relationship which require one or both parties involved to muster all their mental and emotional strength and channel it to just …. Remaining calm. It can be the hardest, most testing thing to do but the value of possessing patience and building it over the years is priceless. In fact not just for a relationship but even just as a personal goal – to build some patience for yourself. I started doing yoga a year ago and I feel that has really helped me to become a calmer, more patient person. Finding an external activity that could help is also good.
It also seems to me that another thorn in the rosebush is that people are constantly and perhaps sometimes obliviously trying to change each other instead of accepting them for who they are. No one in this world is perfect and no one person will be perfect to the other. The sooner we accept and focus on the good things and let the small, frivolous, unimportant things go, the closer we get to being happier and making happier. To own an ego is good, but knowing how to tame the ego is the win!
Honesty, of course, is the best policy and it is the seed that will bear the fruit of trust as well – without either of these the marriage is as good as done. Sometimes the struggle is how to tell the truth which may be difficult for someone. The best way? Just say it. And then talk. TALK AND COMMUNICATE and solve together.
As important as it is to communicate, equally is it important to listen. Just like we expect our partners to listen to all our problems and be the knight in shining armor that you expect them to be and help you with the perfect advice, let’s not forget we need to reciprocate by listening to them and their problems and sometimes just being there even when you can’t help.
I am no expert on the matter of marriages and divorces, nor do I have too many years of marriage behind me as yet, but my (almost) five year old happy married life has already taught me valuable lessons that I know I will be able to use as ammunition for the rest of this journey throughout which I hope to learn and grow each year from my conversations, arguments, debates with and opinions of MY significant ‘other’.
What is perhaps the most distressing is that none of this is some new found information or the findings of some great new experiment. All of these are fundamental qualities taught to us since we started going to school – the only thing that changes as the years go by is the number of ways and situations we can use them in.The need of the hour is also to equip all those we know who are about to embark on this matrimonial journey with the importance of these virtues and more so that they can find the most useful to pave the way for happy, successful marriages.
I truly believe that if more people can find it in themselves to house just that little extra helping of Patience, Honesty, Humility, Acceptance, and above all – the willingness to stay and fix rather than get up and leave – that is when the glass can start looking half full again – one happy drop at a time.