On marriage and relationships

As more time passes, and one sees more couples in (relationship) distress, its tempting to see if some generalizations emerge from these multitudes. Like all generalizations, they will be not without fault, and one cannot stress too strongly on the dangers of applying them liberally and literally. One of the things which have been noted by the therapists is that the best marriages or relationships are not necessarily between people who are basically similar in their personalities but rather between people who can respect the differences. One often sees couples engaged in a never ending battle about who is right. Life seems to have petered into a series of one-up-man-ship. One or the other partner will score in one situation and the other seems to be on the lookout for scoring in another. we seem to spend a lot of time and effort in trying to bring the other round to our point of view. If both partners are about equal in their determination to push their point of view across, the futility of such an effort becomes apparent. It is far more expedient if we can learn to understand ourselves and the other person a little better. Its like the parallel tracks of the rail lines. The tracks never meet, but together allow the trains to run. This is easier said than done. We all know from our experience how difficult it is for us to desist from trying to bring the other person round to our own point of view. I am right, aren’t I?, we say. Why should I listen to and try to understand his / her point of view when I know that he / she is wrong? The rub lies in the fact that very often both partners hold the same view. We are reluctant to let go of our own viewpoint and consider another. This is probably a very human feeling; we need to be proven right repeatedly in order to feel good about ourselves. It reminds me of the concluding lines in the acknowledgment section of one of the textbooks of pathology in medical school. The authors acknowledged that it had been a pleasure working with one another on the book. “it was not that we always agreed with each other, but that we had respect for the differences(sic)”. Couldn’t be put better, I feel. Why should we do all this, anyway? Because a lot of us learn that even after the passage of considerable amount of time, the differences in opinion do not disappear. People rarely come round to the other persons point of view. They may comply in their actions, but rarely in their thoughts. And complying in action without a conversion of thought cannot be sustained for very long. Frustration builds up, we feel we are making all the adjustments while the other chap gets away with what he / she wants, and sooner or later we will erupt in self-righteous indignation. Over the years as we look back, we may feel that the patterns have persisted and that we have achieved little. The destructive conflict eats away at our happiness. It is far better that we realize when confrontation is not working, and seek newer and better ways of handling the conflict.


Such are the complex feelings associated with relationships that one cannot help wondering why some relationships are seen as good and some not. It is not as simple as we would think. For example, take the case of say a middle aged man who has been married for 10-15 years. On the face of it, aaall is well. He has a job, kids, and things are peaceful enough at home. Yet when you ask him if he and his wife love each other, there are long pauses. Yes, she cares for me, he says. I think that she even loves me. What about you? Well he says, i think i love her too. But wait, i am not so sure that i can call it love. There is actually another girl who i think i love but that relationship did not work out. What was it about the other person that you loved? What was that something which you cannot find in your wife? Well, he says, she is not very intelligent so that the topics i find interesting she can’t comprehend. But, he goes on to add, I don’t really look for intelligence in women. He did not like the other girl for her intelligence. Nor for looks. But there was a certain something to that relationship. Then something new struck. Could it be that one feels that one is actually in love with a person when they seem to appreciate in us what we too like in ourselves? That is to say, if someone reinforces in us what we feel good about in ourselves, then the connect with that person acquires a special meaning. What often happens in a marriage or a relationship that has been around a long time is that the attributes are slowly taken for granted. Also the marital relationship has to deal with the mundane things of life and has to spend a lot of time and energy solving the problems of everyday life. Non-marital relationships may be spared this. So if we can find someone who likes us for who we are and what attributes we have, we may find that to be a stronger relationship, rather than having to love a person just because he / she happens to be our spouse. So in a marriage as well, we can probably see our relationship in a better light if we acknowledge to ourselves and our partners the qualities that we find likable.