Nisha and John were married for a year when I met them. They are well educated, with management degrees from a reputed institution. Before marriage they were in college together. They shared a lot of things, spoke about many things and had good fun together. After graduation, they landed jobs in different IT companies. They decided to marry and there was happiness all around as the families too felt that they were a great pair. They went off for a short honeymoon trip and were soon back in their jobs. They both liked the competition in their respective work places and thrived in it. They went all out to achieve targets. This, most of the time, meant that they would have to spend long hours working even after they returned home. They had a big home, with all the helpful gadgets in it. But they enjoyed their home rarely together as they had a lot of travelling to do. There were many instances when they would catch up on each other in airports. During the rare days when they were both at home, they would be engrossed in their respective jobs and even started communicating by writing on slips and sticking them on the refrigerator.
I am sure you, as a reader, would have realized the direction in which the relationship was headed. Sure enough, they soon met with a counselor and asked whether they were actually incompatible and hence separation was the answer. How had this relationship gone from a great one to a poor one? Well, this is not an uncommon story in post-liberalized India. So is there no hope? There can be if couples learn, struggle, and re-learn to communicate. There are some things that I have learned through my own experiences and interactions with people:
- Virtual talking is no talking. We live in an age where communication is by virtual means to a large extent. I know of families who share many things through social media and, of course, through email. There was a time when my wife and I were faced with some issues and we used email to communicate. It was compounded by the fact that I was outside the country. I soon realized that it wasn’t a successful exercise and decided that the only way to resolve the issue, which was threatening to grow larger, was to return home and resolve it face to face. But we don’t have to do it only when things seem to go out of control. One of our family friends is a great example of good communication. Ravi and Rupa, after putting their children to sleep, talk to each other for at least an hour every day, even if it means that they sleep late. They share a cup of coffee as they sit together and discuss the day. They are determined to make their marriage work. They know that God has a greater purpose through them and they pray, discuss everything and are in the business of making a difference in many lives together. The best way to communicate is to intently make time for each other, get relaxed, share the day, pray and make plans for the family and for the world around.
- Allow “gravity” to affect your negative emotions. One of the things that I have often noticed is that deterioration in communication leads to communication going “through the roof.” I have known people throw things and shout and scream at each other. The “post-fight” scenario is one, in most cases, of cold silence. The temperature just doesn’t seem to come down quickly. One couple for a very trivial matter did not speak to each other for more than two decades! It is an extreme example, but there are other examples, which though lighter leave a great impact on the marriage relationship. During times of extreme emotions one of the spouses, at least, needs to deliberately back off and allow temper to experience “gravity” or a “cooling off” effect. Taking a step back is an act of maturity and need not be evaluated in terms of victory or loss. The biggest gain of the momentary backing off is the realization that the conflict producing matter has reduced in intensity! Later, with a maximum gap of a day, talk to each other, find out where things went wrong, apologize and agree to resolve the matter together and calmly.
- Not just doing things together, but also doing things for each other. I have read many articles that speak of doing things together which help in building relationships. Now that’s a great thing. Doing things together will always help in creating a good and united working relationship. I have another thing to add to this. Don’t just do things together, but do things for each other. It’s a nice way of saying, “I love you.” My co-brother has been a great model. During the week, my sister-in-law has a tough time as she manages the entire household. My co-brother eases that situation for her during weekends. He wakes up a little early and makes the morning cuppa and also breakfast and, at times, lunch as well. Now that’s his way of telling his wife that he cares for her – by doing something for It’s not a one-time activity but a regular one. I come from a home where men are not welcome in the kitchen. But I have decided that I will enter the kitchen and help in washing dishes. Even now, this shocks my mother, but I keep doing this. There are other things too that can be done. Being innovative helps. Do something for each other often, surprise each other – it’s just a way of communicating love.
- Restore your first love. Intimacy does not happen automatically, it is created. All of us have seen young couples before marriage and in love. There are long periods of silence as they gaze into each other’s eyes. They don’t have to talk love; they experience it. How often do we see this happen amongst married couples? I think the answer would be “none” or “rarely.” We are good at having activity-based conversations, but there are not many moments of “experiencing” love. Hey, don’t be embarrassed – go ahead, call your spouse and say that you just want to look deep into his or her eyes! You will find that you have communicated more than you would have done through words. When I was getting to know my wife we went out on long bike rides and enjoyed each other’s company. Some years later, all that was forgotten. We did many things for the family but were steadily feeling the impact of being less intimate. It has taken us effort to regain that. We seized on an opportunity to go out on a bike ride while we were on a speaking engagement in Panchgani. We biked our way to Mahabaleshwar sight seeing and also enjoyed having some strawberries in fresh cream at a farm! It was wonderful. Hold hands, take a walk together, have some fun together – leave the responsibilities and issues behind. You will come back rejuvenated ready to face all situations together.
Nisha and John worked on their relationship. They decided that their joy was in their relationship and not in achieving great things in their work places. They worked out certain things which would help them in their jobs, but most importantly, in their marriage. Little Diya has added to their joy!
By Jose Oommen