Relationship rules have undergone a sea-change thanks to changed socio-economic scenario and differing expectations. It’s more a relationship of equals these days but that has also ironically increased conflicts. So how does one ensure a smooth ride? Nagaswami, whose new book, 24×7 Marriage: Strategies for New Beginnings analyses the modern Indian marriage, lays down the new rules of the game:
Own your marriage
Marriage is between two individuals, and not two families. Unfortunately, parents often tend to control their children’s marriage. In many families parents even accompany the couple on their honeymoon! They do not give them their required space, and want a say in every matter. If a couple has problems, the entire family turns up at the therapists’ office. Don’t let others get a hold of your marriage. Make your own decisions; if you invest in your relationship, you’ll value it more. A marriage helps you grow as a person — provided you allow it to happen.
In a marriage, apart from the two sets of personal spaces (‘I’ space), pay attention to the ‘We’ space too. If each of you says “don’t interfere in my space”, there’ll be nothing left to do together. It doesn’t mean you have to be joined at the hip, but make conscious efforts to spend time together despite super busy careers. Do simple tasks like household chores together. Or go for a walk along the beach. Keep the cell phone off for at least an hour when you are with each other (and don’t look at it on the sly!).
Relationships with parents and children should be conducted outside the marriage space. Even as you love your family, don’t put marriage on the backburner. A lot of couples allow kids to sleep with them until they are grown up. They would not kiss or cuddle because “it makes kids uncomfortable”. Where would you find the space to bond with each other then? Just get the message across that while you love your parents and kids, you still love each other.
Seek help if needed
Don’t hesitate to seek professional help when things get sticky for it’s not easy to find solutions when you are part of the problem. Admit that certain issues can be resolved only with an objective approach.
A new template
Often the template we acquire about marriage are from our parents. A girl might think her father is a great husband for she has seen him do grocery shopping or help with her homework. If her husband doesn’t do similar stuff, she gets disappointed. Similarly, a man might feel his mom is a fab cook and when his wife doesn’t match up, he gets annoyed. But the couple might not have seen the “other side” of their parents’ marriage. Remember that your parents’ template is not the best for either of you. You need to make a new one.
The parent trap
Don’t expect your partner to love your parents like you do. Don’t get into the ‘Me and My Family Vs You and Your Family’ conflict. Instead, get on to the ‘We and Our Family’ platform. Often your spouse can point out imperfections in your parents better than you. Remember, parents aren’t perfect.
Fab friends but…
…Don’t allow them inside your marriage. Agreed, men adore their boys’ night out and girls, their shopping trips. And you’ll have friends who will give you tips on everything — from handling in-law problems to tackling wives’ tantrums. But friends’ advice are often based on their own life experiences; they may or may not work for you. So listen to them, don’t always act on them.
This is a sacrosanct and protective space where only the two of you are allowed to enter. Work hard on the bubble. And don’t allow anyone else into this hallowed space. Work on all these aspects and a marriage can be a truly enriching journey.