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 Marriage Counselling

With exploding egos, stressful lifestyles and altering attitudes, the image of enduring marriage is crumbling. However, traditional prescriptions of love, communication and respect for each other hold good today, when men and women need each other even more than ever before. Let us, for a while, put on hold the modern cynicism we are prone to. As the following stories will testify, love followed by the bliss of matrimony can strike anytime, any place. Even in the hostile times we live in.

Shalini and Vikram Mehta met as majority of couples in India do-through relatives.

Shalini was immediately drawn to Vikram's simple, earthy attitude. Vikram sought a wife who was educated and independent, someone like her. The two gave their consent within an hour. After the brief courtship that followed, they were married in 1998.

Today, their relationship has matured into one of deep understanding and companionship. The birth of their son Aryan a year ago was the fruition of these qualities.


The last century has proved to be a graveyard for institutions such as the state and religion, believed to be cornerstones of most cultures.

The term 'marriage', unromantically enough may be taken to denote the action, contract, formality or ceremony by which the conjugal union is formed.

The word is derived from the Latin 'maritare', which means union under the auspices of the goddess Aphrodite-Mari. The Vedas also exhort: "United your resolve, united your hearts, may your spirits be one, that you may long together dwell in unity and concord!"

ALTERNATIVES TO MARRIAGE

Sunjoy and Puneeta Roy admit having married under societal pressure. Otherwise the couple belive that ‘‘marriage as an institution is obsolete’’.

They argue: ‘‘What is it that you can do in a marriage that you can’t do outside it?’’

A view endorsed by Dipti Priya Mehrotra who finds marriage a confining institution. A social activist, she has been exposed to the most gruesome underside of marriage—dowry demands, bride burning, physical and mental abuse by in-laws. Her own unsuccessful marriage shattered any remaining illusions of marriage as a way to be happy.

Dipti is critical of the so-called ‘lasting marriages’, which are seldom more than an arrangement of compromise: ‘‘Most marriages will go on smoothly for a long time if the set stereotypical patterns were adhered to."

Women’s lib has seen a rising number of women who choose to remain single, adopt a child or conceive through artificial insemination or other means.


Most counselors assert that spouses in a happy marriage are more productive on the job, are physically healthier and experience less emotional stress than their unhappily married counterparts. A married couple face a lower cost of living since the expenses and the household chores are shared by two people.

They also raise happier, healthier, more confident children who go on to have happy marriages themselves. The initial parent-child bonding is most elemental in the shaping and development of a personality.

"Just as children suffering from vitamin D deficiency grow up with distorted limbs, so children deprived of parental love develop rickets of the soul", says
Rashna Imhasly Gandhy, Delhi-based psychotherapist and author of Psychology of Love.

Unlike the western civilization where love precedes marriage, in India the assumption largely is that love between the partners comes after marriage. Arranged marriages are still the norm though the number of love marriages is steadily increasing.

Observes kumar: "Everyone admits that compatibility is the key. Therefore love or arranged, it's imperative that the couple get to know each other before marriage."

These mixed trends point towards one fact-in today's fast-paced world, men and women need each other more, not less. A good marriage can offset the loneliness of life in crowded cities and provide refuge from the hammering pressures of the competitive workplace.

"Emotional, temperamental and sexual incompatibility are leading crack-builders in a marriage," says Barmi. "Though couples may be aware of difference of opinions and interests during courtship, these get magnified only when you spend a lot of time with each other as after marriage."

Physical proximity is perhaps the most obviously important factor in sustaining a marriage. Over 20 per cent of her cases, Barmi reveals, pertain to sexual incompatibility, which could also refer to seeking too much. Many

women allege that their husbands want to have sex several times a day. The sexual relationship is often an indicator of how well the couple is faring on the marital front.

"I see many marriages pulled apart because of the inability to sacrifice individual needs," comments Minnu Bhonsale. "And after the early romance has worn off, it's easy to lose sight of those special endearing qualities of each other in the daily grind of the mundane and dreary."

"But, if he has a problem, he can clean it himself." feels Rajat. All issues should be understood by both individuals, which depends on how mature they are.

Puneeta Roy, married to ad film-maker Sunjoy Roy for a happy 16 years, recounts: "After being married to Sunjoy for four years, I realized that the very things that attracted me to him had started annoying me."

Ramon Chibb, who has been married to Anku Pande for the past four years, advises: "If you are marrying into a different community, you have to be sure because it is not as hunky-dory as it sounds. Anku is from the Brahmin community where rituals are very important. Although she doesn't believe in them, they are so ingrained in her that we began to notice the differences."

Often, society isn't very accommodating of couples from diverse backgrounds. As in the case of journalist Sultan Shahin, a Muslim married to Pragya, a Hindu. They fought against it together and have been married 23 years now.

"We might seem to have a lot of differences," says Sultan, but these societal and political problems did not interfere and break their marriage. Given the Indian scenario of 'marrying not the person, but his or her family', the matrimonial ship often sets sail, cargoed by the hopes and expectations of families and friends involved.

However, specific concerns intrinsic to such relationships, like varying preferences-the way the kids should be brought up, their religion and food habits, conflicting personality types of the couples and dissimilar intellectual levels-could still pose a threat. But problems that beset cross-cultural or inter-caste marriages are the same as those faced by others.

Fidelity would still remain the fundamental contract in the marriage, tied to issues of honesty and faith. A couple in their early 40s found their marriage on the rocks. The husband had a couple of extramarital affairs.

HOW TO MAKE IT WORK

COMMUNICATE

Listen, listen, listen. Listen patiently. And try to understand what your spouse is saying.

Avoid bashing those ideas even if you think the person is in the wrong. Save the criticism for later. Also, talk, talk, talk.

Tell the person everything you feel. To expect your partner to understand everything without being told is expecting too much.

GIVE SPACE

Made-for-each-other doesn’t imply binding each other.

You are two different people who need some personal space to develop as individuals.

Not only will it keep both zestful, it will also provide you with a lot more to keep your marriage bustling and breathing.

FIGHT FAIR

Fight your battle with your partner. It will only clear things up. But make it fair.

Trying to win a fight is not the solution. The idea should be to curb your anger and solve differences without letting arguments go out of control.

Don’t forget to throw the egos out of the window.

AVOID ROLE PLAYING

The husband can cook and the woman can earn.

Just because you are married, you don’t have to get caught into a daily rut of being husband and wife.

It is a partnership, not ownership.

BE PATIENT

What you thought was endearing about your spouse when you were only dating, is probably the reason you are fighting.

Or you have discovered things about the person you think you would rather scoot for hell than witness.

Learn to work around them because expecting perfection from anyone is unrealistic and can get too demanding.

GET INTIMATE

Get intimate With pleasure, good sex also conveys love and commitment.

It is a way to bond in private where you are leaving aside alien factors ravaging your relationship.

THINK POSITIVE

There are pros and cons to every heartfelt relationship.

What you need to do is look at those positive aspects of your relationship that can further strengthen your marriage.

Simultaneously, work on the weaker points so they don’t surface too often.

EMPATHY

Get over ‘you said’ and ‘you did’. Look within and try putting yourself in the shoes of your partner.

It will give you a whole new perspective that you might need to work upon even if it means sacrificing your preferences.

ACCEPT

If you think fighting over his alcoholism is the way out, you need a shift of paradigm.

Accepting the person for who he or she is, is more likely to change the person, lending security and belief to your love.

FINE-TUNE

Everything has its tiding and ebbing. That doesn't imply you stop working on yor marriage.You need to continue to foster love and resoect for a lasting bond. Make a journey of joyful growth.

MONEY AFFAIRS

'When money is tight, couples fight'.

The earning partner should not feel in control of the house for the support he or she is providing.

And the spendthrift should hold his reins if the other has sleepless nights over managing the finances.

"In cases of physical or mental abuse, the partner being abused should leave to retain her health and sanity," she argues. If violent abuse begins within one or two years of marriage, there are greater chances of the marriage breaking.

Being together 24/7 means understanding each other, acknowledging your habits and peculiarities and trying to accept those of your spouse.

Know that there will be a new revelation every day, that emotions will go swish-swoosh and that your partner will change over time.

In fact, the longer the marriage, the better you know how to accept and handle these surprises that infuse novelty in the relationship.

According to Ella: "The trick is to keep at it and persist till it works." Yet, occasional fights are good.

"It is like throwing up to clear your system," as Solil puts it. Sultan Shahin philosophises that every person is in the world to learn a lesson. What we are here to learn in this life is the area where we will face problems, conflicts and failures.

For the Roys, it is also about one person relenting at some point of time because two big egos cannot co-exist in a marriage. "Because people are always trying to get heard, they are always in conflict," feels Puneeta.

Although it is not true that love marriages are usually the ones that go bust, what makes them delicate are the expectations attached to them.

INTIMATE MATES

In its truest form, sex is not only connected to a sense of pleasure, but also to love and commitment. The ultimate sexual experience is a deep and satisfying union that is emotional, spiritual and physical.

Sex undeniably plays a vital role in a marriage. The richness that can be experienced through sex will follow when the other essential ingredients — represented by commitment, love, union, pleasure and oft times even the possibility of procreation—are in place.

Harriet Lerner in The Dance of Intimacy, correctly says: ‘‘It is when we stay in a relationship over time—whether by necessity or choice—that our capacity for intimacy is truly put to the test.’’

Strong emotional bonding often precedes warm and intimate sex. Neglecting either aspect could lead to problems, such as the man looking out for better sex, or the woman nagging her way out due to sexual frustration.

Dr vimal kumar points out that sex has the power to salvage a marriage. ‘‘Physical proximity is important in sustaining a marriage. Often, despite marital discords, if the sexual relationship is good, the marriage survives,’’ he says.

Sex is a healthy form of releasing frustration and resolving conflicts. The saying ‘‘All fights should end in bed’’ is true.

Ramon and Anku second this. ‘‘If you have a fight then sex works a lot.’’

However, most couples insist that sex, though important, is only part of the larger picture.

At Engaged Encounter, run by the Catholic Church in Mumbai, regular pre-marital workshops held for couples cover aspects like encountering the self, spirituality and the sacrament of marriage as well as the relevance of communication, unity in marriage, morality and sexuality.

For Sultan Shahin, what is important is the appreciation of personalities and complementing each other, "filling the gaps for each other''.

"I know what'd make Rajan feel special, so when he comes home tired, I press his shoulders…or when I come home from classes, he will please my finicky sense of cleanliness by clearing up any mess."
There are certainly no sure-fire rules. But working towards sustaining a marriage is worth attempting. Consistency is the key to every achievement.

And for all the offerings that a marriage bestows on society, on your children and on you, there is a need to live up to it. There is one truth about all relationships-the more you invest in them, the better you help them grow. Marriage? Ditto


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