Home is where the Heart[h] is

A couple's relationship is similar to a tender and fragile sapling. It needs to be watered attentively everyday - to get strong and develop deep roots for the happiness of the family

Happy familyStudies show that the divorce rate in American couples is almost 60 per cent. In other words, almost two-thirds of all marriages in the US end in divorce.

In India too, the divorce rate is understood to be increasing at an alarming rate.

Statistics worldwide show that 20 per cent of all marriages end in actual divorce through the courts.

Here’s more. 20 per cent couples have a hostile and volatile relationship marked with physical and verbal violence, leading to homicide and/or suicide. Another 20 per cent consists of couples who are technically together for reasons such as children, social reputation, financial security etc., but they are, in fact, “emotionally divorced,” and totally indifferent to each other.

This is not all. 20 per cent of couples “appear” as happy and well-adjusted couples, but this is exactly what they are: “adjusted.” These couples share a “sick” and psychologically immature relationship with each other, with one of the partners as the child and the other as the parent.

The child is “needy” and takes, and the parent has a “need to be needed” and gives. They “appear” “adjusted,” but their relationship is like the calm before the storm. When one of them changes the status quo and grows psychologically, the dynamics change and all hell breaks loose.

Now, if we add the above four unhealthy types of marriages, we see that 80 per cent of the marriages in the world are apparently “toxic.”

United they stand

A couple is the smallest unit of community living and how the couple functions sets the stage for the entire family. Thus, the beginning of a family, whether functional, or dysfunctional, starts with the couple.

A family is known as dysfunctional when the desired goals of closeness, self-expression and meaning cannot be attained by the family members. When this happens, “suggestive” behaviour takes place.

The family unit is certainly the main institution where values and attitudes are taught, but it is also the institution in which the greatest hostility, anxiety, stress, and depression, are learned and expressed.

Your parents are the only world that you, as a child knew, or knows for a long time. They are the foundation of your relationship with oneself and the rest of the world. Your attitude and behaviour in your own future man-woman relationship are also greatly influenced by the relationship shared by your own parents. It is, therefore, crucial for a couple to have a healthy and harmonious relationship with each other – not only for themselves, but also for their child.

The way we are

Parents today are so keen to provide their child with the best learning opportunities and exposure that they can afford – to ensure a happy life for the child. A large chunk of our home budget is allotted for this. Children running from tuition classes, dance classes, etiquette lessons, drama and elocution, sports to trekking etc., is a common sight today. But, not much thought is given to the type of learning and exposure children are subjected to at home.

When a child sees hostile, violent or even indifferent parents, it changes something inside them forever. It is as if the child’s world is breaking down. And, to make matters worse the child feels ripped apart as it finds itself in the precarious position of taking sides.

The child of psychologically immature parents feels like an emotional “orphan,” and when s/he cannot find emotional fulfilment at home, the child starts looking for it elsewhere. Juvenile delinquency is the direct result of a dysfunctional family, and teenage pregnancies, alcoholism, substance abuse, association with terrorist outfits, and anti-social groups, are nothing but a desperate and misguided attempt at creating a world, a family for themselves.

The crux of the matter

Everyday young children and teenagers are brought by their parents to counsellors for treating “bad behaviour,” such as temper tantrums, rebellion, anti-social behaviour, lack of interest in academics etc., Counsellors are faced with the daunting task of gently but firmly confronting parents about the toxic emotional environment at home. It is most of the time a Herculean task to get defensive parents into therapy as a family, and more so as a couple.

Let this article not be mistaken as a meditation on parent bashing, as it is understandable that most parents are often not messing up their lives and their childrens’ lives – consciously and intentionally. Nevertheless, the disarray is commonplace. The principle that most parents can follow is – “You did then what you knew then, now you know better you can do better.”

As mentioned earlier, the emotional health of the couple directly affects the emotional health of children and family as a whole. It is, therefore, critical for parents to start focussing on their relationship as a couple and work towards strengthening it. The time and effort put into creating harmony with each other will reap rich dividends in the form of optimal family health and wellbeing.

The relationship of a couple is like a tender and fragile sapling which has to be watered carefully everyday to get strong and develop deep roots. If it is neglected, it simply withers away and bears no fruit. If it is nurtured with love and care, it grows into a tall tree and bears quality fruit in the form of happy children.

Is this not motivation enough for couples to create happy families and, therefore, happy communities, happy nations, and a happy world?!

Minnu Bhonsle
Dr Minnu R Bhonsle, PhD, is a Mumbai-based consulting psychotherapist and counsellor. She conducts training programmes in Personal Counselling [Client-centred Therapy] and Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy, and also workshops in Stress Management, Art of Listening, Couple Therapy, and Communication Skills. Minnu has co-authored the book, The Ultimate Sex Education Guide along with Dr Rajan Bhonsle.


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