As human beings, our basic requirements for survival differ from person to person. However, in the hierarchy of needs, food, water, shelter, and sex are the most fundamental of all. While an individual can manage food, water, and shelter on their own, emotional wellbeing and intimacy are dependent on our relationships. As social beings, finding a companion to live a happy and fruitful life with is something most people only dream of, so much so that we call our spouses our ‘better halves’.
Relationship experts say that the honeymoon phase in a relationship usually lasts 18-24 months. When the rose-coloured glasses finally come off, disagreements between two people are likely to crop up. And this is true across the gender spectrum – whether it is a single or mixed-orientation marriage.
I use the term ‘marriage’ loosely here – for the sake of simplicity, by marriage, I mean two people committed to a mutual engagement.
Notwithstanding that there can be severe problems in a marriage – emotional manipulation, gaslighting, verbal abuse, etc., in which case you’re probably better off ending it. But most unions are not as romantic and seamless as they are portrayed on TV and as reality hits, any two people in the world are bound to develop some conflicts. In case your partnership falls in the second category, let’s explore some typical relationship issues.
These stressors exist in every marriage in varying levels of intensity, but let’s also recognise that we have power over our behaviours and choices. Change begins with the identification of our weaknesses:
We expect a lot from our better halves, and why shouldn’t we? After all, we open up to them, we give up some of our independence, negotiate our friendships, and take great pains to be with them. But modern romances are often set in cities – where most of us are migrants. Many of us are uprooted from the place we grew up in and have no family where we live.
As a result, the responsibilities which were fulfilled by people in our community like parents, siblings, neighbours, now fall on the shoulders of a single person. In short, our lofty expectations from one person might be causing more friction than needed in a relationship.
How to deal with it:
Communicate, and don’t expect the other person to understand your needs without a word. Every relationship needs people to articulate their feelings and their desires, and without doing so, our unconscious script often takes over and our dissatisfactions manifest themselves as passive-aggressive behaviour or constant bickering. Be mindful of these little behavioural disorders, and talk to your partner about your expectations from them.
Diversify your sources of happiness – go bowling with a friend or choose a gym buddy, join a book club or learn a skill with a group of people. It is common knowledge that the more diverse our pool of friends, the less expectation we place on them individually, thereby becoming happier in the process.
When we spend a lot of time with someone, we observe everything about them, and many of us often fall into principle traps, where we judge our partners according to our moral compass. Judgement is a prominent bone of contention in a relationship, and it can hurt us exceedingly if our partner judges us for the clothes we wear, our political views, our ambitions, or our friends.
Understand that when you’re judging your partner, what you’re really trying to tell them is that it’s not ok for them to be themselves. People who have judgmental behaviours invariably have trouble in their lives with maintaining healthy relationships.
There’s another way to deal with the judgemental self – by taking different perspectives. Try to remember that everyone has their personal struggles and their pasts form who they are today. Objective realities are a slippery concept, and do you really want to judge your partner according to what you might think is right?
As a mental exercise, place yourself in their shoes for a day and think more deeply about why they might behave or think like that, without necessarily agreeing with them. You will realise that it is possible to be happy despite your differences.
Human beings tend to take each other for granted after living together for some time. Ever wonder how we can say the most abrasive things to people who are closest to us, like parents or siblings? The liberty we take to hurt people has much to do with the assumption that they will never leave us. No one likes to be taken for granted, least of all our partners, who, at the outset, were drawn to us for how wonderful and desirable we made them feel.
How to deal with it:
Remember the impermanent nature of things.
To say the very least, it is arrogant to think that we have our partners forever when in reality they are free to go when they genuinely wish it and when death or sickness can strike any of us at any time.
We are continually evolving, and our partners may not be the person they were when we met them at all, and so it is essential to realise the futility of taking any human being for granted.
Comparison is a significant relationship killer, whether it is comparing yourself to your partner or their friends, or comparing your partner with other people in thought or in front of them. When there is any incongruence between two people, it is natural to become restless and start comparing. Some of us make positive upward comparisons “They are so happy, we can be that way too!” and some of us make negative upward comparisons, “Look how she planned a summer trip for them, why wouldn’t you do the same?”
How to deal with it:
Understand that it is less about making comparisons, which most of us do, and more about how you interpret them. If you tend to become miserable by making negative conclusions, consider making a conscious effort to remember the positives of your relationship. Make a list of all the things your partner did for you, and try to ask yourself sincerely if you’re grateful for them. And if you are, consider thanking your partner for their thoughtfulness – rewarding people for good behaviour sets a positive precedent and goes a long way in maintaining a healthy relationship.
It is nearly impossible to tackle the question of marital stress in a single article when every marriage can be individual and mind-bogglingly complex. But our relationships impact us in significant ways – good ones bring us strength, support, and wellbeing, and bad ones can stress us, make us miserable, and affect our health in the long run.
Reading books and articles, developing empathy, talking to friends, taking a healthy distance from each other are all excellent methods to better understand your partner and give your relationship a chance. But sometimes, it can take a professional to hear both sides of the story to offer detached advice and an objective point of view. Many relationships have not just survived but thrived after reaching a crisis point – speak to one of our relationship experts on Docvita today and give your relationship a breath of fresh air.