I am totally not surprised at the number of clients who come to me complaining about their marriage & spouse. Many times they see their spouses as their biggest problems – from not feeling loved to emotional or physical abuse to complaining inlaws etc etc – the spectrum of complains is very wide. And it is the same irrespective of whether the marriage was a love marriage or arranged marriage. Just like Gary Chapman in his book ‘5 Love Languages’ says – all that ‘in love’ experience ends after first 2 yrs – and both types of marriages end up in the same situation within a short time. The blame game continues – inlaws, joint family, busy work hours, stress, financial problems, extra marital affairs – there are enough reasons to complain from both sides!

love and marriagesI have come to believe that ‘marriage itself is a traumatic event’ – for 2 individuals to co-exist for years together is really tough – even with our own parents who have brought us into the world – we find it tough at times to be together all the time without having differences and heartburns – so living 24x7x365=all our life, with a person who has come from a completely different background and conditioning ; of course is most stressful!! Its not a ‘happily ever after’ in most cases – and most times it’s a façade. There are always underlying compromises, grudges, suppressed resentments and unexpressed anger and other emotions. We have to put in an effort to make the journey harmonious and less negative, and if we are blessed, then romantic nd fun! In our society many a times couples are together only because of the kids.

Unhappy marriages can be the reason of a lot of health issues – starting from anger, fear, anxiety, depression, stress, to physical ailments whose root cause can be traced to emotional issues stated above.

So what? One shouldn’t marry at all? Well, if you ask the singles they are also not necessarily happy! Those who have had unhappy marriages seldom find happiness outside of marriage – if they do it is short lived. Second marriages have higher rate of divorce than first marriage. Why is this so?

As souls we usually choose our life partner who can help us with our lessons that we have chosen to learn in this life. That is why I have seen so many couples who are polarized opposites! They can compliment each other beautifully if they play upto their strengths but if they are in a loveless negative spiral this difference just translates into incompatibility, huge communication gaps and misunderstandings and total breakdown of the relationship. As souls we choose our partners to support us in our journey or to teach us a few tough lessons that no one else can teach! If our relationship is taken in that light, it becomes easier to convert it into a positive learning experience. If my husband is totally laid back and I am totally hyper, instead of getting agitated with the laid back attitude I can ask myself what do I have to learn from him that I lack? Or what can I learn from him to balance my extreme attitude and vice a versa. Such perspective can help iron out many differences that arise from opposite personality types. We can learn a lot (what to do and what not to do) if we treat our spouse as our teachers!

Again those who are perfectionists (which stems from low self worth= I am not good enough so I have to keep getting everything right and nothing is good enough for me which is why I have to keep striving for perfection) tend to be most dissatisfied with their spouses, children, inlaws etc etc. They are constantly seeking imperfections and trying to correct them – which never happens since they are dealing with humans and not machines! No one can change another person completely! Result is that the perfectionist is always dissatisfied, angry and at times gets abusive with spouse and kids. Only when they learn to let go, do they find peace.

Thirdly, those who have low self esteem and who feel they are not worthy (of being loved or appreciated) are constantly looking for love outside, for appreciation and acceptance outside. So they need others to make them feel loved and worthy (I used to fall in this category in the past). Now when they marry this burden of loving, appreciating and making them feel worthy falls on the spouse. If by chance the spouse has also lived in low self worth and constant need to be appreciated and loved, then it’s a disaster – since both are empty and unloved, none can fill up the other! There is bitterness and negativity and at times couples just end up living different lives under same roof. These individuals then seek for love outside of marriage – but unfortunately there also they are usually most insecure, negative and there is extra baggage of guilt, stress of living a dual life, societal values etc etc. Also, if at all these individuals leave their respective spouses and marry the other person, many a times that marriage also falls in the same pattern as previous one leaving them both disillusioned and bitter.

Usually I have more women clients who come to me with husband issues. Not many men probably think that marriage is something that needs so much importance that they need to seek therapy. Somewhere the wife and marriage jokes condition us those marriages and wives are a pain, so bear it! Men joke about their miseries or totally live in denial (again, I am generalizing based on my experience as therapist). So I have women clients who invariably come with the feeling that its the husband who needs to be fixed!! But then, I work with the women, sorting out their own issues – some of which I stated above (feeling of being unloved, low self worth, low confidence, seeking to be better all the time etc etc) And then after a few sessions they come back saying even the husband has changed!! This is not surprising because when one person has changed his/her energies and started feeling loved, appreciated (from within, not from others) then his/her attitude transforms. So the spouses reaction to that new attitude also transforms and new patterns of behavior set in – which is always positive. Hence, even one one partner undergoes therapy of any sort, it changes the entire family unit subtly and slowly!

Giving space, understanding the differences with respect, learning to let go, trying to find a positive balance, and more importantly, deciding each day to make the marriage work is what goes into making a successful relationship. It doesn’t usually happen like in movies – build a romantic house on the hills and sing and dance away into the sunset! Each day both partners have to put in some extra effort to iron out the differences before they become big, to appreciate each other, to seek help to resolve issues that cant be resolved by both and to work on their own selves on being positive, letting go, appreciating self and others, being calm, sensitive to each others emotions and being totally aware of own behavior patterns and past conditionings.

My own experience (being married for 20 yrs to a person who is my polarized opposite) along with the numerous client experiences has taught me one thing – its all about us. Its not about marriage or society or families or cultures. Its about what is our attitude and how is our approach to this institution (that has existed for generations, but has also kept changing its form over thousands of years). If our attitude is right, if we r positive, then any relationship is good – enriching and helping us grow – marriage, separation or divorce, joint family or nuclear family, arranged marriage or love marriage! IF we take out time to work on our own selves, introspect a bit and understand ourselves better, most things fall in place. Some of us need to fall a few times to come to that stage – some of us get it instantly, some get it after a lot of failures, heartbreaks and struggles – but eventually self-work is the only work that can make everything work!! (no pun intended! wink emoticon

Ririi Trivedi

p.s. personally I have my doubts if this man made institution will last too long…..its expiry date seems not too far away…..since it is a system made by humans and is not followed by any other species in nature…like many other systems we humans have developed. Till it lasts, and till we wish to live by it, we have to work on our approach and attitude towards ourselves and others

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