Marriage and relationships of any kind are basically one of the most challenging yet widespread situations humans find themselves in. Marriage or a romantic relationship with two people who are 100% happy is difficult to find. Humans are different and each one unique with their own aspects of character, culture, upbringing and history. To build a marriage or a relationship that lasts, it takes efforts from both sides. Does that make it a sort of adjustment? I would say no. Not as long as you can be you within that relationship.
As a counseling professional, I come across couples who have troubles. Now, who doesn’t have fights with their spouse or partner? It is completely normal once in a while. But if your life is a series of disappointments and moments in which you are forced to rethink your decisions, if you feel your identity is threatened or your presence or the lack of it doesn’t make a difference in the relationship or marriage you are in, you might be in a troubled marriage or a wrong relationship.
Many couples complain of lost passion, absent love and fireworks and a dampened state of details. But, from what I have seen of marriages or relationships that have lasted for years, and sometimes, even decades, I garnered the understanding of what matters in the long run. And, surprisingly, it is not love, sex or passion. Sex is a very important component of marriage. So is love and being in love. The chemistry between two partners/spouses plays out in these natural ways of bonding. Their role in keeping two people together is not irrelevant.
However, when it comes to relationships or marriages that last, this chemistry comes about when the real pillars are placed rightly. In this fast-moving era of digital communication and instant gratification, couples have to work harder to stay together and love and sex are not enough to hold onto the promises.
Let me share the four pillars that I found to be essential in a marriage or relationship to make them last.
We all come from different homes and families. Few are alike. Each of us have our own memories, experiences, cultural differences and disparities in perception and perspectives. This calls for an understanding and acceptance of other’s differences.
In a marriage or a relationship, two people from entirely different sets of parents, history, upbringing, life situations etc., are thrown together. The best chance of avoiding these disparities would be to go for an arranged marriage which is so common where I come from. But, personally, it is appalling even for me to be with a stranger for the sake of less differences in living standards, educational qualifications or family situations. So when you opt to choose your partner, when you fall in love with someone, know that they are individuals from a different kind of life. Something or other in them is going to be very different from your own life. Always.
Accept this. Understand their reasons, if you can. Accept them as they are, accept where they come from and what that has contributed to making them the persons they are now. Acceptance is essential to carve a path forward together. Nobody is perfect and the flaws are more loud about our individuality than our perfections. This is true for you and them.
Acceptance does not mean adjustment. You shouldn’t be putting up with any unacceptable behavior. Adjustment only makes you miserable. Compromising and sacrificing your identity, individuality and interests are not acceptance. In the long term, you will experience burn out. It is their duty to accept you for who you are if they want you in their life, just as much as it is yours to accept them.
Acceptance is naturally followed or coupled with respect. This is a universal good practice. Respect all, regardless of age and gender and whatever differences are there in this universe. In a marriage or relationship, respect is of immense importance.
Respect — likes, dislikes, opinions, disagreements, privacy and boundaries.
Respect no’s. Respect personal spaces and interests. Respect decisions.
We would want the same from them. Respecting earns respect back.
However, you must be vigilant when you are not respected in the above departments. A marriage or relationship that lasts has respect in abundance.
This is obvious. Relationships form when people bond. Two people bond through familiarity. Bonding calls for communication and in a relationship, this is crucial.
The person you fell in love with or got married to may not be all that enthusiastic to converse. Or they might be passionate chatterboxes. Either could happen. Whether we are talkative or not, whether we prefer a calm and quiet companionship rather than a cute, albeit fussy one, the communication has to be lucid.
Communication between two partners or spouses must be clear, transparent and respectful. It must be a mode of sharing love and companionship. Several marriages go berserk because one of them doesn’t want to talk as much.
To the talkative: Try to understand your partner if he or she is not talkative. Do not misunderstand their silence for a lack of affection or interest in you. Their expressions may be different from yours, not as verbal.
To the silent: Most people love to talk. It is human and normal to love talking. If your partner is someone who loves to talk a lot, if you are not able to keep up, you can definitely be a good listener. But make sure you express your affection to them in actions and make sure they understand that. Also, if it gets on your nerves (it could), focus on the things you love about the person before you decide to reprimand them for being talkative.
Again, these differences are natural. What is important in communication is how lucid it is and to ensure that it does not introduce misunderstandings, but rather clarifies things. A relationship or marriage works best when this balance of understanding is attained. Once it is, the differences might be even a blessing.
I couldn’t stress this enough. Compassion and consideration is such a deep human need. Everyone needs it, young or old. This is a pillar that can help you strengthen the previous three as well.
Being compassionate and considerate is being kind and empathetic. Difficult situations arise in a marriage and relationship. Struggles are bound to happen. One of you maybe in need of extra care. Endow them with it.
Understand when they need a break. A marriage or a relationship is a partnership. Both persons involved have equal rights and both need to be responsible. Be each other’s home — home is where the heart is, as the old saying goes — and be each other’s safe harbor. When the world turns cold, you need to light the fireplace with compassion to keep your marriage warm and help it survive the rains of adversities. Be someone they can count on.
Show compassion through little things — pick the grocery, get them a coffee when they are working hard, simply ask if they are all right, do something they couldn’t get around to. Compassion elicits compassion. What goes around, comes around.
What is lovelier than humans who are kind to each other?
In a marriage or relationship, when these four pillars are not intact, the domes you build with love and passion may not be able to stand on their own. Safety is a basic human need that has ensured the existence of humans and their survival. You need to measure your safety against the components of your marriage or relationship and make sure you are in a marriage that has these four pillars — acceptance, respect, communication and compassion — which can ward off uncomfortable situations. These pillars let you and your partner be open about yourself and your expectations. No marriage or relationship will be unconditional — it is merely foolish to expect that. But being open about it and giving the other the freedom to be candid about it makes life easier.
And then, to love and to forgive become second nature.
Sana Rose was shortlisted for the ARL Literary Awards 2018 under Best Author category for her debut novel ‘Sandcastles’. She is a Homeopathic Physician and holds an M.Sc. in Applied Psychology majoring in Counseling Psychology. She is an art enthusiast dabbling with brushes and paints when not writing. She also works as a freelance content writer. She runs the blog The Writeous Way intended to mentor aspiring writers. Sana lives in Calicut, Kerala (India) with her husband and daughter.