My parents celebrated their 57th wedding anniversary recently and we kept joking about how nowadays staying together for 57 days or weeks was in itself a rarity. So, what was the secret of the longevity of their relationship? Were they so in love and besotted with each other even after all these years? Were they so compatible that they never had any difference of opinions? Was it all roses and candle light all the way?
Damn, no – not by a long shot. My parents had an arranged marriage and were as different as chalk from cheese. My father was laid back and had a Que Sera Sera attitude to life – What was to be, would be. He was extremely content with his lot. My mom, on the other hand, had to have things just so. She had an opinion about anything and everything and knew exactly how she wanted things in her life to be. She always felt she had been short-changed by fate and that she had not gotten her due.
They fought – spirited fights – more spirited from mom’s side, and many a time we kids would ask them to stop it. It was only later we realised that it was their special way of communicating. They fought because they cared – and it was always about small things — they were together on all the important issues.
So what’s the secret of their relationship? What is it that has kept them together through the turbulence of life? Here are a few pointers that I learned from them throughout the years, and, if you look closely enough, you’ll see that these are also 10 of the most common habits that can ruin relationships. Watch for them!
1) The need to always be right.
Oh Yeah? The most common reason for a relationship to sour is the innate need for people to always be right. It might be a small thing like predicting it will rain or a huge thing like investing your life savings, people take great pleasure in blowing their own trumpet – again and again. “I told you so” might sound quite sweet to the person who says it, but to the one on the receiving end, there’s nothing more irritating than failing in something and then being told why you were wrong by a smug partner. Just let it lie. The lesson is already there.
2) Never letting go.
No one hates anything more than a nag. Saying it once is tolerable, but going on and on about negative things? Not good. Every little argument digs up the past and brings out all the bad stuff from the back of beyond. When I see people nagging their partners, I feel like yelling out aloud, “Oh please, let go!” Who likes to be nagged? Life is so full of things to enjoy and cherish, why waste time on digging up the dead wood?
3) Emasculating your partner in front of others.
“You are a great one to talk! You can’t manage your mom, but you talk about mine. Huh!” Sound familiar? While something like this is common ground in the privacy of our own homes, it strikes much harder when it’s done in public. This is one of the major causes of rifts in otherwise healthy relationships. It hurts.
Every person has an Achilles heel, but to kick it in front of others makes it that much worse. No one likes to be put down, and if one has to put up with a partner who enjoys eroding and undermining your self-esteem in such a manner, is it any wonder then that the relationship is short lived?
4) Not having personal space.
“With deepest joy, I receive you into my life that together we may be one.” No doubt, a couple is intrinsically bound together through joy and sorrow and all things nice and not so nice. In the initial rose tinted period, they may put aside their own personal likes and dislikes and try to adopt all their spouse’s interests. This is natural.
However, it is always necessary to retain a little bit of space for yourself to enjoy some me time. Otherwise, one’s identity is lost and after a bit, you lose track of who you really are and what you want. Any attempt later on to regain that identity, leads to misunderstanding and conflict between partners and may be seen to be disinterest in the togetherness enjoyed thus far.
5) Not listening or showing interest.
In seeming contrast to the last point, one major relationship busting habits is that of not taking a keen interest in your partner’s life. While there may be an excess of interest in the other’s life and activities in the beginning, as the relationship progresses, the latter often becomes the case. The honeymoon is over and you are both back into the daily grind – both busy with your jobs, friends, children , chores – at the end of a long day, all you want is some time to sit calmly and relax – who wants to listen to how your partner spent his / her day, right?
Wrong! While having some ‘me time’ is beneficial for any relationship, it is also necessary to take an active interest in what excites your partner – football, gardening, trekking, barbequing, singing – whatever it is, you should at least listen to what they have to say about a really great time they had doing something, or take part in that activity with them. If you don’t show interest, they could very well end up gravitating to someone who does.
6) Not having secrets.
Come again? Isn’t it important not to have secrets in a relationship? Not necessarily. A lot of friction arises in relationships when truth is revealed. Your life is your own and if you have done something in the past that might upset your partner, telling it to him might aggravate a problem in a relationship. So, what should you reveal and what should you hide? Only you can decide what is inconsequential and can be kept to yourself, and what is of earth shattering importance and has to be shared. If it’s an old lesson that you’ve truly learned from, the need to express it won’t be dire at all. It doesn’t matter anymore.
7) Failing to notice the good.
Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. I knew a couple who were going through a rough patch in their marriage, and were considering breaking up. Yet when my friend was talking to another friend of hers about it, she was surprised to hear her praise her husband for his sensitivity and caring nature. Her husband – caring and sensitive? Really? Sometimes we are so fixed in our ideas that we can’t or don’t see things that are right in front of our eyes. If it is a shaky relationship, all we concentrate on are the negative aspects and this in turn hastens the end.
8) Trying to change your partner.
By far, the most damning habit that can ruin a relationship is the overriding urge to change one’s partner to fit in with a pre conceived notion of a perfect spouse. No sooner does one get into a long-lasting relationship than the domination starts. Stop smoking! Don’t eat with your mouth open. What are you gawking at her for? You should really read more. etc etc.
This is something we’re all guilty of in one way or another, and, of course certain terrible habits DO need to be addressed (this is all part of the ‘work’ involved) but becoming obsessive over these things can doom the relationship.
So, is there a hard and fast rule for a successful relationship — a marriage mantra that works in all situations? No. Each relationship is individual, but sensitivity and common sense DO go a long way in any situation in life.
“We’ve got this gift of love, but love is like a precious plant. You can’t just accept it and leave it in the cupboard or just think it’s going to get on by itself. You’ve got to keep watering it. You’ve got to really look after it and nurture it.” ~ John Lennon