Marriages may be made in heaven but need maintenance on earth, here’s a look at the parameters for the 21st century matrimonial bliss.
What is the definition of a healthy marriage?
One that is equally satisfying to both partners, says marriage counsellor, Pratibha Gheewala. In a world of rapidly changing social definitions, the answer to this question has altered considerably from what it was ten years ago. According to clinical psychologist Dr Varkha Chulani, the definition of a healthy marriage has evolved into one where both individuals retain their individuality and believe that in being a couple, they can make their lives healthier and happier. Though a healthy marriage is an art that comes without a guidebook, there are a host of parameters that can guide it in that direction.
Communication is a very important ingredient for a healthy married life.Men and women tend to assume that their spouses must understand them completely without even as much as vocalising their expectations.This is the worst assumption to live by, according to Dr John Gray, the author of Men are from Mars,Women are from Venus.Men and women are inherently disparate and attach priority to different aspects of a relationship.” Though thoughtfulness is a welcome bonus, one should not be chastised for the lack of it”, says Radhika Mehta, a housewife from the city whose husband regularly forgets birthdays and anniversaries. Men love rules and guidelines and find it much easier to toe the line than always having to guess a woman’s mind, she says.Women tend to have fairy tale expectations of marriage whereas men are more practical. It is a healthy balance between the two that really works. One needs to put in more effort to communicate with each other like having meals together, talking about each other’s day and being affectionate with each other whenever possible.
Even though we are known as the land of the Kamasutra, sex is a subject that is rarely discussed openly.”Sexual compatibility is very important in a relationship”, says Dr Meera Iyer, a marriage counsellor. In India we tend to feel shy about discussing our sexual needs. In our society, the sexual dynamics have been such that the male has been dominant in a sexual relationship. However, women are waking up to their physical needs and are making their expectations more explicit. With stressful work lives and time reigning at a premium, couples are sharing lesser intimacy, either having lesser sex or a mechanical approach towards it. “The key to a healthy sex life is in mutually communicating one’s needs and working towards achieving them. It is this physical bond that differentiates a husband and wife from any other relationship in the world”, says Dr Iyer.
According to Neena Nath the key to her healthy marriage is the fact that her spouse is also her best friend. One is caring and selflessly available for our friends; however,we tend to forget that in a marriage.”We are careful not to hurt our friends and always put their interests foremost in our minds, if we treated our spouses the same way, there would be a lot less unhappy marriages,” says Dr Tendulkar, a clinical psychologist.
Each relationship requires both breathing space and space to grow.”It’s very important to accept and maintain each other’s individuality in a marriage”, says Dr Chulani. Most often, couples are trying to change one another to suit their needs which lead to one’s loss of identity and eventual dissatisfaction with the marriage. It is important to allow your spouse the space to make his or her choices and be responsible for them.
Respect and acceptance
Respect and acceptance are one of the most important tools in creating a healthy marriage. Very often couples tend to take each other for granted and believe they have a right to be condescending towards each other. Couples need to respect one another and allow each other space for mistakes. One needs to accept the other as an individual with a past, a present, a career, personal choices and existing relationships. “A constant need to reject and change your spouse leads to humiliation and loss of self esteem, contributing to an unhealthy marriage”, explains Dr Chulani.
Interests and passions
A common interest or passion contributes greatly to a healthy marriage. Learning about each other’s careers, playing a sport together, sharing a passion for reading or simply playing board games, can inject a marriage with vitality. Studies show that couples who play together stay together.
Commitment and fidelity
Gheewala believes that earlier marriages were more secure though less fulfilling, whereas now marriages are more fulfilling but less secure.Marriages are on a shorter fuse than ever before. Women are becoming increasingly financially independent and couples no longer feel the need to stick to each other for lack of a better option. Expectations from each other have also increased due to increased exposure to the outside world. Dr Chulani stresses on forethought and making the right choice for a partner before one gets married.When young, people tend to make their choices based on the wrong pretexts, therefore pre marriage counselling is a great idea, one that is gaining momentum these days. For post marriage health, a positive and constructive attitude is what helps couples tide over the years, and of course, lots of love and fresh air!