The mirage of marriage

Don't let your erroneous beliefs about marriage come in the way of a truly fulfilling relationship.

Heart sign drawn on the sand

In spite of the abundant collective experience of marriages that mankind has, it is surprising that the myths surrounding it are copious and profuse. Myths…because they seem so real, but are just inventions of the mind. Many myths that surround marriage give couples unrealistic expectations—they can be misleading and could well set your relationship up for a lingering dissatisfaction or a disappointing end.

Marriage will make me happy

People enter marriage with this belief and keep waiting for the happiness to happen. If it doesn’t, they feel that marriage is a sham. No marriage can make you happy—it’s you who can make you happy. The unhappiness that you probably feel now is a function of your mental perceptions and conclusions that you draw in a given scenario. Unless you change your point of view, the sadness/frustration/disappointment will remain. The happiness in marriage is for you to find and create. But for that you have to change your glasses, look anew at the source of your feeling and happiness will be right at your door.

Together, we are whole

A lot of people believe this, even many years into the marriage. But they keep feeling incomplete and are sort of dependent in their relationship and this feeling underscores what they get out of their marriage. If you do not perceive yourself as a whole self sufficient stable entity, you will constantly look towards the other to make you feel whole. Isn’t that too big a burden for your partner to carry? If s/he is busy making you feel whole, then how is s/he to feel fulfilled in your company and this is bound to leave its impact on the relationship. What are you adding to the alliance as his/her partner? Find yourself first and you could be two wholes in one relationship. Now, that is a good marriage.

Taking my partner for granted isn’t good

I admit I am guilty of believing this one myself and would take offence if my partner takes me for granted. But, it is still a myth. If I cannot take my I-will-love-you-even-with-your-morning-breath soul mate for granted, then who am I supposed to count on in my hour of need? With overly individualistic family members, unreliable maids and vacillating body mass, he is the only enduring truth in my life. A marriage where there’s no security that your partner will be there for you, feels shaky. I say, you should take the middle path and lean on your partner when you need to, without allowing it to become an every day occurrence.

My partner should be perfect

All of us have our imperfections…small blemishes and big flaws. That is what makes us human, and unique as well. How would you feel if your partner expects you to behave like a demi-god? It would require you to be mature and right all the time. How many of you will survive this label—will you act out against it or meekly accept a role that is not you/can never be you? And, more importantly, will the marriage survive it? See your partner for who he/she is and love the human quirks and idiosyncrasies that are uniquely his/her.

Ours should be a fairy tale marriage

The fairy tale stories are just that—fairy tales. In real life, there are chores at home, traffic jams, office and family politics, bills and EMIs and cranky kids, most of which you must be aware of right now. But that does not mean it’s not a good marriage. Any marriage based on the precept of Cinderella and her Prince will bite the dust. A more realistic way of looking at a marriage is that, you have a partner to share that load with and find solutions to build something together even though there are fights and disagreements along the way. You will have happy times and there will be challenges too. If you are pragmatic about it, you will have a better shot at a good marriage.

Sex isn’t a big deal

This especially happens in marriages that have weathered a few years. We live in an age when sex is discussed more easily, is depicted often in movies and is talked about openly. But I have often seen it dismissed as just sex. In the marriage, sex or its lack therein can mean disappointment, stress at work, physical and mental fatigue, anxiety, hurt and so on. Don’t just repress it or brush it off as if it’s nothing. Examine any change in the sexual rhythm and communicate with your partner about it. Just that dialogue could set it right. Sex is important in a marriage; it is what keeps the spark and keeps you together. Never forget that.

Kids will bring us closer

On some levels, they do but on many levels they don’t. Raising kids can be tiring and tedious and catch your marriage by the coat tails. The diaper duty, the homework, house chores can keep you too busy to even notice your partner…forget feeling close to him/her. Most couples I know and see in my clinic, call those days a roller coaster of emotions interspersed with thunderous arguments and vociferous accusations. But if you keep thinking that kids are only supposed to bring you closer, then these disagreements will lead to feelings of resentment towards your kids.

Kids change the dynamics of the relationship, which now functions on a different plane. As is the case with every new job, you will have to find ways to settle in and make it work.

There are many floating around, supposedly based on empirical evidence. Every marriage is unique and so are the two people involved in it. Empirical evidence in this scenario is bound to be flawed. You have found someone special to share your life with. Don’t downgrade your relationship by subjecting it to the generalities and fables at hand. If you do so, you have everything to lose.


A version of this was first published in the August 2012 issue of  Complete Wellbeing.

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