What does it take to live with someone for a lifetime, without regrets? The mounting stack of divorce papers in family courts would tell you the answer isn’t just Love or Arrangement. Let’s find out what experts and couples have to say…
Marriages are always hard work. In an age of 13 divorces per 1,000 marriages in India (2015 survey), it’s more hard work than ever. But have you ever wondered why some marriages last while others don’t? “Our elders viewed marriage as a life-long journey, but these days, people don’t have the ability to stay in something… anything for long. Couples whose marriages have lasted many decades have not let any conflict get bigger than the marriage. These days, even a small issue makes people quit the marriage, or at least, start thinking about it,” says Dr Avdesh Sharma, psychiatrist, who sees far more people seeking therapy for unhappy or failed marriages. Research indicates that what was once called a seven-year itch, can now be a seven-month itch or even less. Divorces granted by the family courts have increased by 350 per cent between 2003 and 2011 in Kolkata, and doubled in Mumbai between 2010 and 2014. What does it really take for a marriage to last a lifetime? Sarod exponent Ustad Amjad Ali Khan and his wife Subhalakshmi Khan complete 40 years of marriage this September. Says Subhalakshmi Khan, “Making marriage work is in one’s own hand. It requirespatience, tolerance and a whole lot of understanding. Marriages aren’t just big talk. The younger generation gives up too soon on each other. If your journey is too smooth then it’s no fun. Marriage brings its own ups and downs. Enjoy it. You’ve got to be resilient. There’s a lot of give and take. You have to nurture your marriage and work on it to make it last forever.” One of the factors thats lead to a quick decline of relationships is fairy tale expectations while living in reality; especially a reality that doesn’t have a solid support system of a joint family, or elders being close to you for emotional support.
“REFUSE TO QUIT”
Romance author Preeti Shenoy says, “The one single factor which makes marriage last a long time is the refusal to quit. Hurtful words spoken in anger can leave scars on the soul. If you are angry or upset, go for a 5-km run! Put a duct-tape over your mouth and run. That will help you rather than venting. Arguments are inevitable but keep them healthy and discuss only the issue. Never get personal and bring up each and every one of your partner’s fault.” When you choose to get married, be prepared for how you will be dealing with problems. There is no one rule book that can suit all marriages. But certain trends have merged around the world when studied why some couples make their marriages work. According to a recent article in Time magazine, what’s of prime importance is to inculcate grit and resilience. It also says negative communication is better than no communication at all, and that arguing is good. Learn to have happy endings to your conflicts. Says romance author Ravinder Singh, “What marriage needs today is: understanding and adjustments. If you and your partner have matching music playlists, it doesn’t mean your partnership will last a lifetime. You don’t need to have common interests. What matters is an interest in each other, irrespective of your differences or similarities. There are scores of couples who remain happily married for five, six or even seven decades. A recent study by Daniel O’Leary and colleagues at Stony Brook University, New York, US, suggests that a large percentage of couples stay intensely in love even after a decade of marriage. A report published in the Journal of Social Psychological and Personality Science says thinking positively about one’s partner is another common element of couples who can make their marriages work.
“EMPATHY MAKES LOVE LAST”
Television actor Rohit Roy, who has been married to his co-actor Manasi for 17 years, says, “Empathy makes love last. If you want to remain married, learn how to swim through the dark, rough periods in tandem. I’ve been married for 17 years and dated Manasi for seven years before that, so I should know! The day you fall in love is very different from the day you get married. Ask yourself, if you are prepared for the ride. And remember that you will enjoy the ride, with seatbelts on.”
If a couple wants to make their marriage long-term, they need to acquire conflict management skills, without being overtly critical or aggressive. They also must accept that they would change as individuals – and adapt to the change, keeping their couple goals in mind. It’s essential to keep promoting each other’s self esteem — Gitanjali Sharma, psychologist
If your journey is too smooth then it’s no fun. Marriage brings its own ups and downs. Enjoy it. You’ve got to be resilient. There’s a lot of give and take. You have to nurture your marriage and work on it to make it last forever – Subhalakshmi Khan, dance exponent
Rules of commitment
“There is the biology of falling in love, but there is also a biology of long-term attachment too – you have to lay down those Rules… Couples should celebrate their differences, give up habits and addictions and find freedom through commitment.” -Mark O’Connell, author of The Marriage Benefit: The Surprising Rewards of Staying Together
“Couples who handle conflict differently will be together. There’ll still be sources of annoyance and irritation but the intensity of their conflict doesn’t reach the ‘rage’ stage.” -Maggie Scarf, author of The Good News About Marriage in the Later Years
“Every marriage eventually becomes an arrangement. However, like any joint venture, a partnership must be profitable for it to be viable. The currency to be gained through such labour is Love. But one must not keep score of who did what. That is where marriages fail, when partners feel overworked and unrewarded. Resolve to stick your neck out. One can’t expect a positive outcome if you keep one foot out, ready to turn tail when things get contentious.” -Reetika Nijhawan, author
“Choosing a partner is choosing a set of problems. There are no problem-free candidates.” -Carol S Dweck, professor of psychology
Our parents had lasting relationships because they had a different mindset. Today, the word ‘compromise’ makes a relationship sound ‘not-so-good’, but compromise’ is ‘understanding’, to me – Shilpa Shetty, actress
I’ve been married for 24 years… what it really takes is commitment to stick it out, and with it, patience. We all live in glass houses. Marriages are vulnerable and need nurturing because it will get quite tough down the road — Rina Dhaka, fashion designer