Should you adjust or compromise?

Life is dynamic with changes happening continuously. Unfortunately, no one likes changes. We may make peace with it, react to it with displeasure or cope with it to the best of our abilities. But it always leaves us feeling unsure, perhaps bitter or dissatisfied with an emptiness within of having lost a way of life.

Most relationships allow for two people to entwine their lives with each other while creating a space for themselves within that twosome. This process is facilitated by either adjustment or compromise. The words are used interchangeably and are considered to be the gospel truth (read advice) that most elders pass on.

Adjustment is the adaptation to a particular condition, position, or purpose while compromise is a settlement of differences by mutual concessions and reciprocal modification of demands.

Depending on one’s state of mind, listed below are a few everyday things that might call for an adjustment or compromise. In some instances, the differences aren’t given due importance because it is believed that they’re inconsequential no matter how much they annoy you. But for others they’re game changers leading to a break-up.

New set of parents – from having one set of parents (and your baggage of issues with them), suddenly you inherit another pair. Often your feelings get transferred or you may develop newer issues! Alternatively, if you’re making an effort to be extra nice, your parents might feel offended that you’re paying them more attention. Simultaneously, blinkered thinking like ‘my parents can do no wrong or they truly want what is good for us,’ can also lead to friction.

New House and a new way of living – in most Indian families it is still expected that after marriage, the girl will live with her in-laws. Being the newest member it is commonly believed that she should adjust and compromise. What isn’t acknowledged is that the other family members also find themselves suddenly having to accommodate a new person they may know nothing about. Thus, an instinctual survival mechanism kicks into gear for everyone. The girl believing that this is her new home (the operative word being ‘home’) tries to recreate her parental home while the others try to instil in her the unsaid rules and regulations of their lives. Clashes begin when there is a discrepancy between the two and each tries to manipulate the other into living their way.

Food – the most essential requirement for living and living well. Interestingly, both partners claim that their mother’s cooking is the best. No matter how well you cook, you can never measure up! Potentially the number one reason for discontentment, is it stupidity to even try? It often starts here and gradually moves on to feelings of intrusion in other areas. So, what whets your appetite? Fish head cooked with lentils, spicy food, experimenting with different kinds of meat, eating nearly raw food, too much sugar or bland food, ‘healthy’ eating. Are you irritated with coffee brewed incorrectly, whole garam masala in your food, inconsistency in the thickness of dal, tea not strong enough, or frying onions and potatoes together not separately? Life of course, gets even more interesting in a regional marriage!

Sleeping habitsThe early bird catches the worm or early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise, may ring true for some people but not if you’re a night owl. Do you prefer to sleep hugging a pillow or on your stomach or tend to rotate or slide down the bed? Do you kick in your sleep or dream aloud or simply snore? Is your partner constantly reminding you of how much sleep you require? Do you like to read or surf the net or watch TV before going to bed?

After sex rituals are as stressful as the inability to reach orgasm or making love in certain positions. Do you rush to clean up immediately after? Do you light up a smoke? Do you turn around and start snoring? Does the sex act make you feel alive and awake, so you go watch more TV or read? Do you put a pillow between yourself and your partner after you’re done? Lying spent would you rather sleep in the buff or wear your clothes? Do you like to be hugged and fall asleep in your partner’s arms or would you rather sleep comfortably by yourself?

Bathroom habits – Do you like a clean and dry bathroom before every use? Do you finish reading the paper (physically or online) or play a mind game (perhaps Sudoku) while at it? Do you screw back the toothpaste top after use? Do you mess the entire basin area or mirror splashing water? Do you keep the shampoo and conditioner name facing front after use? Do you always forget to switch off the geyser or your towel before a bath? Do you suffer from constipation or irritable bowel syndrome or anything else ensuring that you’re always in the bathroom? Where do you hang the wet towel?

Shopping evokes different feelings. One might go shopping armed with a checklist while the other loves window shopping or buying whatever fancies them. Do you shop to relax and unwind? Do you love mindless walks through malls? Do you enjoy checking out newest gadgets as soon as they’re launched? Do you shop at full price or during sale season?

Your sense of style can vastly effect your interpersonal relationship. Do you dress for comfort, to be presentable or follow fashion religiously? How often do you groom yourself? Is your wardrobe styled to cater to different occasions or do you look the same wherever you go, no matter the occasion? Does your shoe and belt always match? Do you love bright floral prints while your partner likes subdued colours?

Entertaining patterns can be a bone of contention. Do you entertain regularly or only on weekends? Do you always entertain at home leaving you responsible for cleaning up? Or does your partner prefer the newest eateries in town? How often do you catch up with mutual friends, or office colleagues or family? Does it irk you to constantly spend time and money entertaining the same people?

Choice of relaxation – differs between partners. What’s your ideal holiday? Are you an indoor or outdoor person? Do you like adventurous sports or relaxing on a beach? Do you like a scheduled itinerary when travelling? Closer to home, do you like to laze with a book on weekends or catch up on the latest release? Does it bother your partner that you’re most happy ‘doing nothing?!’ Must you meet up with family and friends together or do you like to do your own thing?

Money matters and your attitude towards it impacts your financial health. The belief that your money is my money and my money is my money can be equally problematic as your money is your money, my money is my money. Some couples agree to mutually break up home and living expenses while some crib that they contribute more than the other. Money gives a sense of power, position, control and stability. Couples can hold differing opinions about how money is earned, what its spent on, the concept of saving and what it offers.

Religious rituals – Each family has its own way of praying, celebrating or making an offering. How tolerant are you of your partner’s religion? Do you have an altar or prayer room at home? Do you take a bath before praying? How often do you visit your place of worship?

A life of togetherness can be lots of fun when you see eye to eye on these matters or else, it becomes a constant battle. Sometimes humour helps dispel these differences. Instead of compromising or adjusting you may simply want your partner to stop or change the annoying behaviour.

The irony is that however you choose to handle the above or react to the problems arising from them determines the longevity and health of your relationship.


Love that wasn’t meant to be…

Everyone has a story to tell, rub the surface and out tumbles that hidden someone who made a world of a difference to our lives. Yet each of us has accepted the inevitable, that you can’t have it all or have buried the love stories deep below, only to relive them during those lonely moments.

Tom was diligent, hard-working but painfully shy. He met a girl on a flight and for the first time gathered his courage to approach her. She reciprocated and so began a friendship that changed him forever. He enjoyed her company, did things he’d normally never do and slowly transformed from a shy introvert to a confident young man. When their friendship blossomed into love, he proposed. For the first time he was willing to assert his feelings rather than do his parents’ bidding. Unfortunately the girl got cold feet and was incommunicado for the entire duration his parents came visiting to meet her.  A day before leaving, his father confronted him to say that since his choice couldn’t be trusted, he had to agree to marry the girl they had selected. In anger and frustration he agreed. A month after the wedding, his girlfriend got back in touch to apologise and meet his parents. But it was too late. Today he has a good marriage, he respects his wife and is a dutiful husband and father.

Dick is a successful young businessman. He had a live in relationship with his long time girlfriend for 6 years. They even adopted a dog to share their every day lives. When they broke up he was devastated yet 3 years hence he still writes to her every day. He connects with her at a level which he hasn’t been able to break free from. It’s just something he does, he needs to do.

Mary, married with two children recently reconnected with her erstwhile boyfriend. He was her first love and although their relationship had only lasted a year, they had shared some great moments together. Today she is happily married while his marriage is going through a rough patch. It had felt good to reconnect but soon their conversations became intimate leaving her completely confused about her life.

Jane is successful, charming and an extrovert who can chat up any person and make them open up to her. She fell in love for the first time 13 years after her marriage with someone who groomed her into the person she is today. He made her see herself in a new light, made her love herself, gave her the confidence to fly and explore the world. As much as they loved each other, they fought bitterly. Somewhere they wanted different things from the relationship and they broke up. Years later, she still yearns to make him see what they could have had together. Somewhere in her sane mind, difficult as it is, she has accepted that the relationship is long over yet during moments of weakness the strong pull he still holds on her heart plays havoc with her life.

Love is such a strange emotion. It can make us or break us, it gives us strength to face life yet can be equally debilitating and make us miserable. Love makes it all worthwhile. Love makes everything alright. And love is the only reason why it is so difficult to forget someone or what they did for us. No matter how much one hurts, somewhere it gives us the ability to always be there for the person when they reach out. Tom did just that when years later his girlfriend reconnected. She needed help and he was there for her.

How we adjust to these experiences of unrequited love varies from person to person. Some yearn for it, continue searching perhaps for a clone while some others try not to awaken those feelings lest they interfere with their every day lives. Some live otherwise ‘happy’ lives yet take time off (even if it is for a few days) to do what their heart truly desires – breaking the boundaries – consciously accepting that they do it because they can or perhaps it is what sustains them as they continue to live their otherwise routine lives.

Some unfortunate souls though are unable to break free from the clutches of this emotion and continue to compare their partners. They are either unable to love as unconditionally or resist any behaviour that remotely resembles that of their past lover. Author Elle Newmark in The Book of Unholy Mischief explains, “unrequited love does not die; it’s only beaten down to a secret place where it hides, curled and wounded. For some unfortunates, it turns bitter and mean, and those who come after pay the price for the hurt done by the one who came before.”

Everyone inherently wants to be loved, wants to love another and be happy. Yet it can be elusive and slowly everything simply goes awry. Why?

Is it because most often people are unable to deal with the strength of this feeling? Do they require constant reassurances to ‘feel’ loved? Do they feel compelled by the need for the other person’s love to be happy? Does this in-turn overwhelm the partner putting them on a pedestal they are unable to cope with or makes them feel insecure, inferior and incapable of reciprocating? Is love so fragile that it needs kid gloves to blossom?

The practical mind believes that when we know what impacts relationships we can change our behaviour and thereby our responses. But how often is that even possible? Every person is unique and every one reacts differently. In addition our myriad life experiences too moulds our understanding of similar situations differently and thereby how we respond to them. We might want the same things yet how we express it and our partners’ ability to accept and acknowledge that is what makes all the difference.

fb6491aebf7f60d5ad3257bd0de6a957Unrequited love is unattainable. Then how does pining over it help? Isn’t the sense of loss here over something one never actually had? Yet it continues to be attractive. Perhaps because it is untouched by reality. When things go wrong in real life, the heart tends to attribute certain qualities to the unrequited love, thereby glorifying our perception of the individuals and the experiences we shared with them. As author Shannon L Alder says, “the most confused you will ever get is when you try to convince your heart and spirit of something your mind knows is a lie.” Maybe this explains why Mary feels confused or why Jane still wants to make him see how their lives could have been different had they been together!

Or is it that holding on to the glimmer of hope, helps us make peace with the turmoil within?

After all, as James Patterson in The Angel Experiment explains “what’s worse than knowing you want something, besides knowing you can never have it?”





Money in marriage!

Some time ago I read an interesting article that stated “as the US economy improved the divorce rates worsened!”

I’m sure if one were to do a similar analysis in India, the trend would be the same. We might still falter in terms of acceptance from society at large for being divorced but the trend would nonetheless come as no surprise.

What did it really mean?

I would think that it meant that most people look at their own happiness and satisfaction when it comes to divorcing their partner – even if the relationship has gone on for years. To an extent I am generalizing but it is true that when one is financially strong and independent, that is when thoughts of divorce are mostly entertained. If your basic survival depended on the earning member of the family then even though some might refer to it as the Stockholm syndrome, one does tend to find reasons to justify staying on.

It isn’t easy to live on your own – apart from society and sometimes losing friends and family for taking such a step, it is difficult to be responsible for every little thing in everyday life. Sometimes it helps to pass on the responsibility to someone else. But as the current situation and environment is no longer conducive to such expectations, more and more women are moving towards being financially independent.

Psychotherapist and author of How to be a couple and still be free, Tina B Tessina says, ‘financial independence is important in a marriage because it can also mean ‘independence of thought”. Its value is equivalent to a sense of self.

Why do most people believe that money and relationships can never get along? It’s perhaps because money is measurable, i.e., the give and take is quantifiable. Therefore how much the relationship will be impacted by money is dependent on the couples’ spending and saving habits, their experiences with money while growing up, their communication about the same and how they personally view and value ‘money’ and what it stands for to them as individuals.

In addition to this children and expenses related to them, financially dependent parents or siblings, property and inheritance, hobbies which by themselves are expensive to maintain (like diving, photography etc.), filing taxes – can all add pressure on one’s financial commitments.

Some time ago the joke doing the round about a wife’s view on money was, ‘darling what is yours is mine and what is mine is mine!’ This notion will not find too many takers today – unless of course, only said in jest! More and more women marry late today or get into live in relationships by which time they have their own place, have planned their financial responsibilities and earn well enough to want to continue exercising the option to make independent decisions about key things in their lives. As for the men, they too more often now see their role as the sole bread-winner changing – their wives/girlfriends are not only equal partners but in some cases earn more than them.

Some exercise the option to split their bills equally or in some form of equitable manner. This allows them the flexibility to use the remaining money on themselves or however they deem fit. The advantage is that it starts off as being reasonable but can lead to resentment over individual purchases or expenses. Also it tends to limit the couple’s spending power.

Some agree on which partner will pay for the bigger expenses (like purchase of property or white good) while who pays for the regular expenses (like rent, or monthly grocery etc.). Some might agree to maintain separate accounts yet open a joint account in which they input a certain amount every month which only goes towards living expenses while some might simply have a joint account for every kind of expense since they are now married and should share their lives together. To each his own!

Whatever the relationship or agreement – money is a key essential element that has the potential to lead to arguments and breakups. How one deals with money matters is solely dependent on each couple as there is “no right or wrong way” of doing it!

Being a Christian and marrying a Hindu, we had a Christian wedding followed by a Hindu wedding along with the legal registration thrown in between! We spent a lot of our own money before the wedding – money that were spent not only on purchases meant for the ceremonies and celebrations but was a way to share expenses with our parents and also have a say in the wedding arrangements. This meant that we were in debt when we married and it took us over a year to become debt free! In other words we both walked into the marriage carrying a substantial financial baggage!

I’m a firm believer that when it comes to money, its best to clear debt at one go and as soon as possible even if it means that I’m living hand to mouth for the rest of the month. My husband on the other hand believes that one must always have loose cash handy for emergencies (he never allows his bank balance to reduce beyond his own set limit) and debt should be cleared in a systematic manner without hampering that. Although we individually cleared our debts, his cleared faster as he was methodical while I struggled.

I don’t enjoy shopping and do so only using a list or I buy what I want when I need it or feel like buying. Also I only like to entertain close friends and family and don’t like to eat out too often. My husband, on the other hand, enjoys the experience of visiting different shops, evaluating the offer (either offline or online), taking his time to decide and then goes ahead and buys exactly what he wants. He mostly shops during sales and therefore always lands up getting a bargain. He loves company and likes to meet up with colleagues, acquaintances and friends for a coffee or drink. He also likes to eat out and enjoys exploring new cuisines or restaurants.

It’s evident that our perspectives on relaxing and spending money are different thereby indicating that we have different “money personalities.” Sometimes we’ve been able to sort out our differences, sometimes we’ve argued bitterly while in recent times (especially since I took a sabbatical from work with the birth of our child) we discuss to get each other’s views and then mutually agree to spend or save according to what works for him within the present situation as currently he is the sole earning member and we have a child to support.

Money matters are a constant in a relationship and therefore should ideally be dealt with as a couple! It’s important to share the work of budgeting, paying bills and handling finances. Otherwise, the person who handles everything could become resentful while the one, who doesn’t could be left without knowledge of the family’s finances especially in the case of illness, separation or death.

Most couples will agree that the crucial agenda with regards to money is not so much who is earning it (and how much) but who keeps control and takes the decision about spending it. That’s where money as power tends to raise its ugly head and if not addressed as a couple with sincerity and sensitivity, it will most definitely lead to trouble in paradise.

Fair fights!

Everything is fair in love and war.

Fighting fair works beautifully when you’re courting – your partner tends to be more accepting of your drawbacks, more open to forgiving and more open to seeing the complete picture. You’re keen to be together and portray yourself as the ideal partner.

Fighting fair is equally important after marriage but it does call for a certain amount of discretion and prudence. You’ve been together for a while now and everyday reality has ensured that you no longer feel the need to be the ‘ideal’ partner. Now the mantra is ‘accept me as I am!’

Differences are natural – there can be no marriage without differences. Conflict and confusion arise out of the pressure of living with someone you love dearly but who sometimes appears unreasonable! It is acceptable to argue and voicing differences is a wonderful way to understand each other. Fighting fair helps to build a sense of comfort and trust.

But, what is a ‘fair fight?’

– Dealing only with the issue at hand and not bringing up past wrongs. Avoid generalisations.

Well, that’s a tough one. Our emotions and its responses are built on layers of interactions and it’s difficult to pick and choose when you’re upset! But sometimes, it’s good to ascertain the situation and its relevance first. Every argument cannot be fought with equal intensity and you’ll realise that it’s mostly unnecessary to do so. You ‘always’ and you ‘never’ kind of statements makes your partner defensive and the argument tangentially moves to a different plane – which isn’t the intention so avoid.

– No name calling and insults.

The point of the argument is to solve something, not to win. If something is bothering you, then it’s also bothering your partner. The reasons might be different, your expressions might be different, your mode of solving it might be different, but at the end of the day, you’re in this together so you have to solve it together. Name calling only leads to hurting the one person who matters to you the most.

– Feel your feelings

State what is upsetting you with honesty and openness. You owe it to yourself to make your partner realise what about the situation makes you ‘feel’ bad or is disturbing. But be careful though about ‘how’ you express it – if your partners’ statement made you miserable, and you express it in a similar manner, it will make your partner feel miserable too. Unless you ‘want’ to hurt them, do remember that is not the intention.

– Take personal responsibility. Open your mind.

It’s good to reflect on your contribution to bringing about a situation that upsets you. Rarely, if ever a partner is exempt from contributing to it in some way.  Open your mind about a different interpretation to a situation or response. If you don’t then you’ll continue to be in a rut and progressively dig deeper with every conflict. Soon your partner will just assume your reaction and ignore its impact on you and the relationship.

– Remember you care.

Your partner is ‘not’ you so accept this fact. Learn to empathise with their point of view. Guard against the belief that you are having difficulty with your partner. It’s more likely that your relationship, that is made up of different interactions, emotions, facets of your lives ‘together’ needs a change of attitude. There is more to your partner and your relationship than this one argument, issue or difference.

– Resolve it!

Do this as soon as you feel the first signs of thawing. Make the first move – don’t fret or let your ego take precedence. You’re in this together, it’s an equal partnership, he matters to you as much as you matter to him. How does it matter who makes the first move? How important is it? How long are you willing to carry the burden? Will you be less miserable if you carry on the fight for another day waiting for your partner to initiate the making up process? Apologise and move on – accept that you had a role to play in the fight too.

After all, making up can be ‘expressed’ as passionately, so go ahead and have fun!

Myths about Marriage

Myth: You must find the ‘right’ person to marry.
Reality: Success in marriage is more than finding the ‘right’ person; it is being the ‘right’ person.

Myth: Until a person finds the ‘perfect’ person to marry, he or she should not be satisfied.
Reality: No one is perfect.

Myth: You should feel totally competent as a future spouse before you decide to get married.
Reality: A person should feel competent to be a spouse, and some feelings of anxiety are natural.

Myth: You could be happy with anyone you choose to marry if you try hard enough.
Reality: It takes two mature and well-adjusted individuals to make a marriage work, so one needs to be reasonably sensitive and selective in the choice of a partner.

Myth: You should choose someone to marry whose personal characteristics are opposite from your own as opposites attract!
Reality: A person should choose someone to marry whose personal characteristics are similar to his or her own. It depends on how much the ‘opposite characteristic’  is important to you and to what extend its impact on your life is acceptable.

Myth: Being in love with someone is sufficient reason to marry that person.
Reality: Although romantic love is important, especially in the early stage of a relationship, other factors are equally or more important to marital satisfaction and should be considered before marriage.

Myth: Choosing someone to marry is a ‘decision of the heart.’
Reality: Choosing someone to marry is a ‘decision of the heart and head.’

Myth: Living together will prepare you for marriage and improve your chances of being happily married.
Reality: Cohabitation may help us to get to know each other better, but will not serve as a trial marriage or increase our chances of being happily married.

Myth: Choosing a partner should be easy.
Reality: Choosing a partner is not easy, the decision should be carefully thought out.

Myth: Preparing for marriage comes ‘naturally.’
Reality: Preparing for marriage is learned and is based on sound information and personal assessment.