Noah Webster, like most husbands through history, would sit down and try to talk to his wife – even if it’s only once in a while.
But, as soon as he would start to tell something, his wife would say: “And, just what is that supposed to mean?” This is how Webster’s Dictionary, goes the story, was born.
Even if you decide to believe in the tale, Webster’s Dictionary was, and is, an awesome piece of work. So, for an institution that has been one of the biggest sources of humour all over the world, Webster also seemed to have done well for himself in terms of communicating clearly, even if he didn’t.
For a genius, Mozart’s marriage, to cull another example, was described as, “A happy marriage, though not necessarily [so] for his wife!”
You may also know of “Not a word, but a sentence,” a source of a very special fear called “gamophobia” – the fear of marriage – which is sure a sweet-sour experience of a lifetime. And, yet, most of us marry and remain married. Successfully. Like a soldier friend once quipped, “A marriage is rather like being in the army. Everybody complains, but you’ll be surprised at how many re-enlist.”
Attitude and aptitude
“Different attitudes have helped different generations to retain their married status,” says 60-year-old Lata Vaduskar. “One of the partners has to play a passive role. This is imperative, if the relationship is to work.” Pratibha Prakash  agrees: “A marriage is like a see-saw. Sometimes, he’s all up there, powerful and assertive; the next time, it’s me.”
“Keep quiet, even if it’s not your fault, and he’s tearing his already disappearing hair in rage. Who wants his raised blood pressure?” says 33-year-old Madhurima Rao. “I’d prefer his arguments to a possible heart attack.” She adds, “To keep your marriage brimming with love in the marriage cup, and whenever you’re wrong, admit it. Whenever you’re right, shut up.”
The guys don’t think differently. For Deepak Shirodkar  letting tempers cool off seems the best option. “If something has upset my wife, I hear her out. And, I’m aware that she does this, too.” Adds Pradeep Gopalan , “You have to accommodate your partner in every way. There are times when you know that she’s going to have her say. You let her…”
Research shows that women speak between 5,000-7,000 words in 24 hours, while, on an average, men speak approximately 2,000-2,500 words a day.
“Talk, communicate, no-holds-barred. This is how a marriage works,” says 41-year-old Jyoti Priyadarshan. “I’d prefer to discuss things, however unpleasant. For me, ignorance is not bliss; it’s downright unacceptable.”
Total transparency? Most don’t believe in it. “Share as much as you can, but not everything,” says Shirodkar. Adds Kali Lonkar, now in her mid-60s: “I’ve used the policy of Satyam bruyat, priyam bruyat, ma bruyat satyam apriyam, to keep my marriage going. It means: speak the truth, speak sweetly, and don’t speak the truth that’s not sweet.”
“Sure, I’m transparent, like Saint Gobain’s Glass,” chuckles 42-year-old Ajay Shirish, as he quickly adds, “I would like to shield my wife from unpleasant aspects of life. And, also maintain peace at home; so, if I know that something is going to upset her, I keep it away from her.”
There can’t be value judgments about how a relationship is supposed to work. Some behaviour patterns are generally unhealthy, either for the relationship, or for the individuals involved. However, in other aspects, what works for one couple can be a debacle for another.
Research has shown that effective communication may not work every time. Some may prefer to walk away from a conflict, and let it dissipate on its own. Their marriage can be perfectly happy as long as it is convenient for both.
Says Gopalan: “Things settle down. on their own.” But, the same approach can be difficult if one of the partners has a need to talk things through. “I prefer that we thrash out the matter. Nothing works out by simply brushing it under the carpet,” says Priyadarshan.
Make it work
It is often felt that keeping romance in a relationship will help it survive. But, what happens when one or both the partners find romance outside of their marriage?
“There’s no denying that, at times, the grass does seem greener outside,” says Priyadarshan. “Couples who deny that this happens in their marriage are being dishonest,” adds 40-year-old Richa Thakar. “Not only men, but women too go through these phases.
The trick to keep your marriage going is to help each other get over it – and, this is not only for the sake of the children. It’s also for the sake of love that you have for your partner – the foundation of your marriage.”
“Love is entirely a matter of chemistry. But, this is no reason to treat each other preferentially, or [in]differently, or what suits you, whatever it is,” quips Shirish.
He adds: “Respect, adjust, accommodate. This is more than a good idea. It will also help your love to bloom and your marriage to work smoothly.”
10 Happy Marriage Secrets
- Enhance your love map. While love is very important in a marriage, sometimes it just isn’t enough. You have to work at your marriage just like any other relationship
- Nurture your fondness and admiration. Both partners in the marriage must be prepared to put their partner’s happiness ahead of their own, from time to time, for the marriage to truly work
- Turn towards each other instead of away. It’s great to have a lot of common interests, but it’s also essential to have some things that you enjoy doing on your own.
- Let your partner influence you. Sharing physical closeness will keep your marriage happy. Even small gestures such as hugs, or holding hands, give you the opportunity to reconnect with your spouse on a daily basis
- Solve solvable problems. Finances can cause a great deal of stress in a marriage, so it is important to do your best to ensure that you do not allow your financial situation to devastate your marriage.
- Overcoming gridlock. Open and honest communication is necessary for a happy marriage
- Create shared meaning. It’s important that you let your partner know if they have said, or done, something to hurt you. Failure to do so will allow the problem to continue to cause problems in the marriage
- Understanding. You and your partner won’t always be in complete agreement. Try to bring a sense of balance to conflicts; better still, resolve them without delay
- Spontaneity. This is an important part of a happy marriage. Falling into a predictable pattern can lead to boredom. Being spontaneous – in love, or anything you do – will prevent monotony from setting in. It will also keep the relationship exciting
- Always remember. Yes, at all times, remember why you married your spouse – this is one of the most important secrets of a happy marriage.
A happy marriage is not guaranteed, no matter how much you love each other. The only thing, and the best thing, you can do is make it work for you and your partner – and, more importantly, make it a part of a truly great joint enterprise.