Why should anybody partake in the institute of marriage knowing that it’s a toss up between things working out, or things ending in a mess, or simply being dragged on forever? Well, here is the thing – it is not the concept of marriage that is the problem; it is usually our own decisions or choices that are the cause of issues. Everyone needs a companion or someone to be with, to share their life, the ups and downs. It is hard to live in isolation forever. Marriage is a part of life (while not life itself) and a very important part of human existence. It adds meaning and purpose to life. It’s a dream that leads to many more dreams, and makes this journey of life worthwhile.
I have been a witness to three generations of marriages – those of my grandparents, my parents and my siblings/cousins/mine. Couples who have been together 30 years or more inevitably witness their relationship undergo changes that even the most happily wed find challenging. In the beginning of a life together, absence may make the heart grow fonder, but if a couple isn’t mindful, as time passes, familiarity can breed contempt.
My husband and I met in June 1990. We were not a house on fire but we still liked each other. We got engaged and the wedding took place on the 14th of Feb, 1991, marking the beginning of what was to be an emotional rollercoaster. With each passing day we realized that we are poles apart. Of course, that did not stop us from working at the marriage, learning about each other and adjusting our likes and dislikes. The main factor that sustained our marriage was not forcing or trying to change each other. Together we raised a beautiful, intelligent child, survived illnesses and accidents, celebrated professional triumphs and weathered setbacks and evolved into an unexpectedly conventional, happily-married old couple.
Despite our differences and occasional snarls, we’ve found a way to co-exist under the same roof all day, every day. Yet many couples find their rhythms suddenly disrupted and the dynamics of their relationship radically altered when their children leaves the house — or one of them accepts a buyout or starts working from home. Decades of relating to each other as co-parents or working around career schedules abruptly shifts, and suddenly they fall out of step in their well-rehearsed, tuneless dance. What worked for us was probably the fact that we were always looking in the same direction.
The first rule of an association, any association for that matter, is to be patient, observant & adjustable. Patience to look from other’s perspective and not to take harsh decisions. This attitude comes when you value each other more than your egos. And sometimes if not both, then one partner should take the lead the peace-making.
Rules to Building a Life Together
1. Actively listening & responding – shows you are involved.
2. Demonstrating compassion alone and around people – shows you care.
3. Resolving conflicts amiably never involving a third person – shows respect.
4. Engendering mutual respect in every scenario
5. Giving each other enough space to bring about the freshness & rejuvenation of the relationship.
6. Traveling – it will teach you a lot about each other and about your relationship. And even if you’ve been married for many years, traveling can create new memories and strengthen your bond. Couples should not be afraid of conflict.
In our years together we’ve learned that loving each other well means tending to our relationship with thoughtfulness. Putting in a little work makes things a lot of fun, and this holds true while traveling. Occasional fighting doesn’t sap the joy out of spending a lifetime with each other, and it shouldn’t sap the joy out of a trip.
The following points are the heavy lifting of keeping a marriage strong. Before you start fantasizing about a dream partner and a marriage though, remember that it all starts with yourself :
- Always love yourself before loving others.
- Always serve yourself before serving others.
- Always be well groomed – you own it to you. Occasionally pamper yourself.
- Always keep in touch with friends & family.
- Always be updated and relevant.
- Don’t give anyone shit. Don’t take shit from anyone.
Now for the main question – who should you marry, and how do you decide.
For this I would like to share a story,
Actor Bill Murray was eating dinner at a steakhouse in South Carolina when he was approached by a bachelor party. After telling a few jokes, he closed his toast with a message to the single men in the group – If you have someone that you think is the one, don’t just think in your ordinary mind, “Okay, let’s make a date, let’s plan this and make a party and get married.” Take that person and travel around the world. Buy a plane ticket for the two of you to travel all around the world, and go to places that are hard to go to and hard to get out of. And if when you land at JFK and you’re still in love with that person, get married at the airport.
In “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work“ Dr. John Gottman writes that “marriage is something of a dance. There are times when you feel drawn to your loved one and times when you feel the need to pull back and replenish your sense of autonomy.” There is no reason to believe this ceases to be true just because you’re on vacation. It might actually become more salient, since you seldom spent 24 hours a day together during your normal routine. The dance between intimacy and independence will look different for each couple, but we have found that building in days or half-days where we each go explore a city on our own is a great way to recharge—and it gives us stories to share with each other at dinnertime.
The rest is up to you. It is just marriage at the end of the day, not a rocket science. You would learn in your own way, but if you manage to stick out and hang in there, you won’t regret it. You have my word.