Many people suffer from a needless compulsion to change their partners. A wife wants to change her husband’s friends, his ties, his jackets and even his favourite music. A husband wants his wife to talk more [or less], laugh [more or less], grow slimmer or fairer, cut her hair or grow it.
What a sad thing it is when we can only find faults with whom we love! We rarely realise that our complaints stem from our own peculiar whims and moods. “People have one thing in common,” says Robert Zend, “They are all different.”
There was a woman who started to ‘work on’ her husband, determined to change him to suit her own preferences. She nagged, cajoled, begged, threatened; she moulded, shaped and influenced. After several years, she ‘got him into shape’—he was exactly how she had wanted him to be. But now
she had a new problem. “He’s just not the man I married,” she sighed in frustration.
A happy and healthy relationship requires that you give each other the space and time you both need to be on your own. It is both possible and desirable that within the framework of marriage, partners are able to maintain their individuality and creativity. This does not just mean having large rooms for your exclusive use where you can paint or sing. After all, how many of us live in mansions? What I mean by space is really the freedom and the opportunity to pursue those interests that your spouse does not share.
For instance, a husband may set up some fitness equipment in the home, a wife may attend music lessons or take a course in pottery and ceramics. This way, each of them learns to live at peace with himself/herself and with the other.
Tina and Pravin are a devoted couple. Tina is energetic, fun-loving and a livewire, who takes interest in all that goes on around her. She is a member of the PTA in her son’s school, and the cultural secretary of their housing society. Weekly bhajan sessions and rehearsals for programmes keep her busy and occupied.
Pravin is a devout and pious man who calls himself a “practical businessman and an avid tennis player.” His mornings in the home are sacrosanct. He likes to perform a traditional pooja that lasts an hour, and includes the recitation of different mantras each day of the week.
Tina and Pravin give each other the ‘space’—the time and the freedom—to pursue those activities that matter to them. And they are proud of each other. “No committee can manage without Tina,” says her husband proudly. “My husband balances his religion and his business beautifully,” she says about him.
You don’t have to shut yourself up or get rid of your partner to give yourself space. You have to create space for yourself within your home and marriage.
The great secret of human happiness lies in understanding—and understanding is indeed a complex art involving many things. It requires kindness and empathy; it involves tolerance and loving patience; it includes a healthy respect for the other’s interests. As you make the effort to understand your spouse, you grow in the understanding of yourself and the events of life. You acquire wisdom and patience, and you learn to avoid those needless misunderstandings that waste so much time and energy.
Kamla and Kishore are a working couple. Kamla works in a bank and Kishore is a software engineer.
One day, Kamla was held up in office due to the yearly closing of accounts. She requested her husband to buy some milk, bread and vegetables on his way home. “I’ll make toasted sandwiches and coffee, and that will take care of the dinner,” she said to him on the phone.
When Kamla entered the flat at 8pm that night, Kishore was relaxing in front of the TV. “Hi, good to see you back so early!” he called out cheerfully. “I remember, last year your colleague dropped you home at 10pm!”
Kamla was tired and hungry. Secretly, she was also irritated that Kishore was relaxing and watching TV at ease. She looked at the shopping bag on the sideboard and saw that it was empty. He had forgotten to do the shopping!
She was about to make some tea and tell her husband all about her hectic day but she changed her mind. She shut herself up in the bedroom, barely able to control her anger. He was so selfish and careless! Well, she would teach him a lesson. There was nothing to make dinner with, and he could settle for an enforced upvas [fast].
She came out to get herself a drink of water from the fridge and found milk packets neatly laid out in the chiller. Oh good, she could make the tea, after all. And when she turned on the gas stove she saw that bread had been neatly sliced and ready to be popped into the sandwich toaster. Kishore had sliced cucumbers, tomatoes and onions and lavishly spread cheese between the bread slices. Oh, how kind and sweet and loving her husband was! Kamla’s eyes filled with tears of love and gratitude.
This is how misunderstanding can affect attitudes. When you misunderstand your spouse, you look at the situation with jaundiced eyes. When the truth dawns on you, you see things differently.
Understanding human nature is indeed a complex and challenging art. Each human being is unique—a profound and mysterious being.
“With all thy getting, get understanding,” urges The Book of Proverbs. True! Understanding is the most precious quality a human being can possess. It cultivates your inner vision; it enhances the intuitive faculty, which enables you to perceive the truth about yourself, others and your life.
This was first published in the March 2012 issue of Complete Wellbeing
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