"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. And whichever culture you're from, the vows you take essentially are a pledge to stay together until death do you part.
Often times, however, we tend to overlook the fact that the people tied together in this eternal bond are two different human beings and not two halves of a whole. They are 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 will not always agree and disagree on the same things. This fact holds true not just for marriage but every kind of relationship.
Another fact is that most people are not like the guys over at the Meteorological Department. They don't have access to equipment that can tell them if the following week will be sunny or stormy. A couple has no way of predicting how happy or unhappy they will be five years down the line. What they can do, however, is influence what the future will look like by acting in a certain way now.
So, what goes wrong in so many marriages? Why are divorce rates increasing in so many countries, including our own? There is more to it than the two facts I've mentioned above. If you think about it, more often than not the problems boil down to some basics.
" Without a strong bond of friendship with your significant other, your relationship is hollow and the love you have vowed to each other is just a façade whose foundation will eventually crumble."
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 family friends. Since this was a person I was meeting for the first time with the potential intent of marriage, I was quite sceptical about when and if we would get comfortable with each other. Today, I can happily say that what I value the most about our marriage is that he is my closest friend and confidante. This needs to really be the foundation of every marriage. Without a strong bond of friendship with your significant other, your relationship is hollow as a drum and the love you have vowed to each other for all eternity is just a façade whose foundation will eventually crumble.
A growing relationship needs a very strong and indispensable ingredient -- patience. 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 building your capacity for patience over the years is priceless. In fact, it's an essential skill in any area of life. 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 trying to change each other instead of accepting them for who they are. No one is perfect and no one person will be perfect to the other.
"I have just listed some of the fundamental qualities we have been taught as children. And yet, too many of us are unable to apply these lessons."
The sooner we accept this and and focus on the good things while letting the little annoyances slide, the closer we get to being happier and making our partner 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. The best way? Just say it. And then talk. Talk and communicate and solve together.
The other key component of communication is listening. Think about your own need to be heard and understood. Don't you expect your partner to listen to all your problems? Well they need it as much. Sometimes you may not be able to advise or help them but it is often enough to just lend an ear and be there.
I am no expert on marriage, but the five years of my wedded life have already taught me valuable lessons that I know I will be able to use as ammunition for the rest of this journey. I hope to learn and grow each year from my conversations, arguments and debates with my significant other.
I know that what I am saying is common sense. I have just listed some of the fundamental qualities we have been taught as children. And yet, too many of us are unable to apply these lessons. The need of these times is to equip all those we know who are about to embark on this matrimonial journey with the importance of these virtues in building a happy, successful marriage.
Yes, sometimes there are problems that are too great and complicated to fix but I am confident that most damage can be avoided or minimised if both partners show the will to implement these basics right from the start.