ok, so today let’s unlock the third secret of a have a Happy Married Life!
Nowadays, as couples get married at a later stage in life, they already have developed some strong interests before getting married. While in 80’s and 90’s I saw people getting married in the early twenties, now the age of marriage is gradually shifting to 30+ or even 35+ in general.
A fallout of the late marriage is that the habits and hobbies of both partners are well developed and the scope of change is limited. You can call it rigidity but ultimately it is human nature. There is an old saying,’ You can’t add more clay to an already baked pot.’ (Hindi version sounds more catchy).
Take the case of Hiral (29) and Jitu (32). Both have a pretty similar background, having grown up in suburbs of Mumbai and belonging to Gujarati Jain community. A common aunty in their community ‘matched’ them. After the initial meeting under the supervision of parents at the CCD in ‘parla’ they hit it off really well. Since both of them wanted to pursue the proposal, they decided to meet more frequently before taking a final call.
The parents understood the importance of compatibility, having seen a few divorces recently. In the second meeting, Hiral raised the topic,’ You know Jitu, it is just not enough to like the person outwardly. For a marriage to succeed, the partners need to be compatible at all levels.’
‘I agree, Hiral and we should take our time to take a final call. I hope you don’t mind sharing what you like to eat, what kind of movies do you like and your other hobbies.’
‘Not at all. That’s the idea. The more we know about each other before marriage, easier will it be to get along.’
Over the next few months, they had frequent meetings in café’s, over movies and restaurants. They shared their likes, dislikes and interests in great detail. They didn’t mind the differences and were all too accommodating. After six months, during one such meeting, Jitu said,’ I am loving this time with you.’
‘Me too, Jitu. It’s nice to meet someone like you.’ They agreed that they seemed compatible and had no problems with the other person’s likes and dislikes.
They gave their go-ahead, the parents planned the marriage and executed it according to the community prescribed format. As both were in the job and didn’t get long leaves for marriage, they decided to go for their honeymoon in a couple of month’s time. Jitu proposed,’ Let’s go to Manali, I really like the hill-stations in the north.’
‘I thought Goa would be better in December. It’s very pleasant and sunny,’ Hiral proposed her choice.
‘We have lived in Mumbai all our lives. We have seen enough Sun and humid climate. Why not go for something different?’
Then the argument started and they could not decide on the honeymoon destination. Apparently, months of dating and trying to ‘understand’ each other had not helped. After a week of haggling, they settled for Agra as their honeymoon destination. After all, it is the home of the ultimate romantic icon in India. They spent a few days in Agra and came back to Mumbai. Although, they enjoyed each other’s company both felt they were unhappy with the choice.
Getting into the daily routine, it became clear in the first year that they were very different from each other. Jitu wanted peaceful time at home, while Hiral wanted to head out to noisy discs. He wanted to watch action movies and loathed romantic sitcoms. She was opposite. After an year of marriage, they were struggling to live with each other, making them feel that happy married life was a mirage.
One day Jitu told her, ‘Hiral, I wanted to speak to you about something important.’
‘Even I wanted to talk to you. Something has been going on in my head. But you tell me first.’
‘Look Hiral, don’t get me wrong but I am feeling a bit suffocated living in this house. I really love you but at the end of the day, I am not feeling at peace with myself.’
‘OMG, I was going to tell you exactly the same thing. I also like you and you are a great person but then why do I feel tense and not at ease?’
Both were relieved that they were not alone in feeling like this and decided to consult a marriage counsellor. When the parents heard that they were going to meet a marriage counsellor, all hell broke loose.
In a meeting of all the parents, Jitu’s mother started yelling,’ These days, people need coaching for everything. In our time, there was so much housework on our head that we never went astray. Do your work, get tired, go to sleep. Once in a while produce babies, that was it.’ And she held her head.
‘Prabha-ben, you are right. They need to go for a baby. Everything will be settled,’ was the solution presented by Hiral’s father.
Jitu took a hard stand,’ This is precisely why we need professional advice. Your old ways don’t work now. We just thought we would let you know about this.’
‘Yes, we are not asking for your permission. The appointment is booked for tomorrow,’ Hiral closed the discussion.
‘Kids, nowadays, just want to do their own thing. Then why even call us for a meeting. Jo karna hai karo!’ Parents dispersed with this quintessential Indian remark. (read Should Parents Interfere after Marriage?) So much for a happy married life.
The marriage counseller was a middle-aged lady and gave them a patient hearing for an hour. She asked both of them to speak their heart out in front of the other partner if they were comfortable.
After hearing the story, she began,’ Look Hiral and Jitu, what you are going through is very common. This is a result of the advancement in society that is causing late marriages. We are emulating western culture in every aspect of our lives and this is bound to happen.’
She also complimented them,’ But you guys have taken the bold step of coming to me. Generally, couples live in disagreement and keep getting suffocated for a long time. They don’t ask for help until it is too late. Unfortunately, in many cases, our senior family members are unable to help or even cause the situation to worsen. Their advice is partial, favoring their son or daughter. They treat their child as the victim and the other party as the aggressor.’
The counseller then advised them to start balancing each other’s interests, likes and dislikes. She analysed their honeymoon situation as well,’ See, you made a compromise choice for your honeymoon location and as a result, both of you were not happy.’
‘We felt that. But then what is the solution?’
‘The solution is to respect each other’s choice and take turns. Life is quite long and it doesn’t end with the honeymoon. Look at it as a series of experiences that you will have together. You go to a hill station first and then go to a beach a few months later or vice-versa.’
‘This way you will make each other happy. Each partner needs to understand what makes the other one happy and make choices from that perspective. Respect each other’s choices and balance them by alternating. If you choose a compromise, both will be unhappy all the times and the marriage is doomed to fail.’
Jitu spoke, ‘ I get it. You mean I can take Hiral to a disc every alternate Saturday and she can plan a quiet candlelight dinner for me every other Saturday, rather than both of us sulking in front of the TV.’
‘Exactly my point.’
‘But I don’t understand how can a person enjoy quietly at home or in a restaurant on a Saturday night. It’s time for partying and enjoying,’ Hiral raised a genuine doubt.
‘Hiral, if we think from our perspective alone, we will never understand that. In fact, it is not your job to understand. Just accept that everyone is different and we need to respect their choices. This formula works well if both partners adopt it.’
‘Yes, I was imagining if I only compromise all the time, it cannot last for long.’
‘That happens in suppressive marriages where one partner forces the other to adopt their ways. It may work due to other compulsions but in all likelihood, the marriage will either break or will be dysfunctional.’
‘So, in order to live happily ever after, I need to make my partner happy. I get the lesson, madam. Thanks a lot for your advice,’ Hiral exclaimed.
‘Even I will do my best to respect her choices,’ Jitu added.
The counsellor was not finished,’ In addition to experiencing the other person’s choice, learn to give space to each other. For example, once in a while Jitu may spend a quiet evening at home or watch an action movie and Hiral may go out with her friends. Doesn’t it sound exciting?’
‘It does, but the whole idea of marriage is to live together. Won’t we move apart if we start enjoying our separate experiences?’
‘Again, the central idea is BALANCE. That’s why I said – once in a while. Do it really infrequently and see the effect. Even married people need their space. Some alone and some in a crowd. Give it to each other and don’t be over-possessive maniacs. This helps in building up the trust also.’
‘Thanks again, madam. We are really happy that we came to speak to you.’
‘God bless both of you. Remember, the secret of your happiness is in making the other person happy. And this is the strongest secret of a happy married life.’
Both exclaimed to each other,’ Yes, I will make you happy!’
A seeker and explorer in the quest for lasting happiness, health and well-being. An MBA from XLRI Jamshedpur and a Mechanical Engineer from IIT Delhi. Has been a senior banker with large global banks like Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and ANZ Bank. Working in these demanding global institutions with a gruelling schedule and plenty of business travel. Was fortunate to realise the importance of health and wellbeing early on. Learnt and practiced many wellbeing tools and techniques to focus on his own well-being while balancing the demands of a high-profile career and a lovely family.