We have all grown up listening to these beautiful fairy tales (and I am not even getting into the damsel in distress part), where everything ended well. The couple got united after all the hardships and troubles, and “lived happily ever after”. And all of us were happy, dreamy-eyed, with hopes in our hearts that we would all have these “fairy-tale romances”. 

We enter relationships- dating, intimacy, marriage and Boom! We wake up… that last part of the story wasn’t the end. It was the beginning. Beginning of a tale with ups and downs, with fun and fights, with tears and laughter, with little, happy surprises and big heartbreaks. And then the realization dawns – a relationship cannot be perfect; it requires ongoing efforts from both sides to make it a “happily ever after”. 

Without getting into the tangle of love vs arranged marriages (anyway, the concept is primarily South Asian), I want to highlight some of the issues that any married couple faces and the effective ways of dealing with them.

–> Adjustment Issues: – Irrespective of the type of marriage, expect some teething issues in the initial months of marriage. In arranged marriage, you are completely new to each other, so there is a lot to handle and learn. In love marriages, you realize that staying with your partner 24*7 is a different experience than meeting them for a few hours. Little habits often become point of contention, e.g., “You called me ten times in a day, and now it’s only three times.” For a couple living-in together, the transition maybe somewhat smoother, however, adjustment might be required with respect to the new roles, involvement of families and planning a shared future together. Acknowledging this and giving yourself and your partner some time to adjust to each other can strengthen bonds. Patience and acceptance of the partner’s good and bad parts helps. The foundation of any relationship is COMMUNICATION. Good communication is a two-way process, so it’s not just important to tell your partner what you want, but also listen to their needs.

–> “Jo tumko ho pasand, wahi baat kahenge, tum din ko agar raat kaho, raat kahenge…” (“I will always say what you want to hear, if you call day a night, I will say the same”): – Well! Wouldn’t we all want that from our partner? However being in perfect agreement at all times is not a possibility. A relationship is made of two people, neither of whom are flawless, and who bring into the relationship their good, bad and the ugly sides – their beliefs, biases, expectations, needs, insecurities etc. We often expect that our partner would just understand what we want and always do accordingly. And when that doesn’t happen, we feel as if our partner doesn’t love us or care about us. Now imagine if both partners expected that from each other – quite messy, right? Agreeing all the time is not a sign of love. It is important for the couple to understand and respect each other’s perspectives and embrace the differences. 

–> I Know I misbehaved, and you made your mistakes, and we both still got room to grow…”: –An old classic by John Legend shows that conflicts in a relationship are inevitable and necessary. Why I say it is necessary? Well, it shows that the couple is interacting and at that point are disagreeing about something. However, it is also essential to nip that battle in the bud before it becomes a warzone. Some rules of healthy fighting and conflict resolution are: – (1) Do not push conflict under the carpet and pretend it never existed; (2) No blame-games; (3) Fight on the current issue, not something that happened one year ago; (4) Avoid words like “Always”, “Never”; (5) No passive-aggressive behavior or cold-wars or physical or verbal abuse and (6) Try to resolve the fight ASAP. The best resolution is when both parties can win, but at times, it can be a win for one and lose for another and its OK. 

–> Division of Labour: Although, the world has changed, but we still follow the patriarchal system. “The woman is expected to manage the house, while the man can help with the chores.” This issue usually doesn’t come to the forefront if one of the partners (more specifically the woman) is a homemaker. But if both couples are working, not sharing household work can be a point of contention. Another reason, fights may happen when one partner expects the other to take initiative, while the other partner is ready to work, but by just following instructions. Sharing of household work has multiple benefits – it can reduce pressure on one partner, strengthen the bond of the couple and give them more time to explore other pleasurable activities together. So again, communicate about who would do what and then giving the person space and time to do it. 

–> Handling in-laws: From time immemorial, conflict between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law has existed. From jokes to, hilarious movies to true stories of domestic abuse, this phenomenon is prevalent everywhere. Now, majority of in-laws do not come from a place of bad intention, but eventually, it ends up in the couple fighting. For a healthy marriage, it is important for the couple to establish clear boundaries. It is not about disrespecting any family member; it is about understanding what needs to stay between the couple and what can be discussed with in-laws. Also, relationship with your own parents would always be different from your relationship with in-laws, with the latter being more sensitive. Therefore, I personally feel it is the task of the couple to “handle” their own parents, in a gentle but firm manner.   

–> “Tu Jahaan, Jahaan Chalega, mera saaya saath hoga…”: – Did you see the movie – “Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara”? One of the main issues by Abhay Deol was that her fiancée had suddenly left all her dreams, aspirations and interests and was becoming too invested in him. For some couples, this may be a desirable act as it reflects how invested you are towards the relationship. However, it is not a healthy phenomenon as it may lead to clinginess, excessive demanding behaviour and high expectations. It would eventually end up in one partner feeling frustrated and the other suffocated. Hence, it is important to have some activities that you, as a couple, can enjoy together and at the same time, some activities that you would rather do on your own or with friends.

–> Hot Sex, Gentle lovemaking or Routine: – Sexual intimacy is an integral part of a relationship. Few difficulties that couples may face in this regard are – (1) discovering they are not sexually compatible; (2) development of sexual difficulties in one partner, e.g, vaginismus in women or erectile dysfunction in men and (3) sex becoming a routine activity and hence boring. For the first two issues, it may be a good idea to meet a counselor or therapist who can help you to identify the root-cause of the issue and reach a resolution. The third can be prevented by activities that can keep the spice alive – having date nights, planning surprises for the partner, introducing fantasy into the intimate moments, talking dirty or erotic with your partner, and trying new positions. 

–> Financial “infidelity”, Overspending and Budgeting: Money can become a major source of conflicts between couples. Financial “infidelity” refers to hiding either your earning or spending from your partner. Other issues can range from financial dependence by an unemployed partner to making money-related decisions especially when children and extended families are involved. Money, how we approach money-related talk depends upon our personality, upbringing, and the quality of our relationship. Some couples choose not to talk/discuss money-related issues and each partner is free to spend the way they want if no-one feels over-stretched. However, it may be a good idea to set aside time to discuss budgeting, savings, and expenditures. For example, a certain amount being set aside for the household expenses, EMIs/loans, recreational activities etc. Its important to decide on what’s “mine”, “yours” and “ours”. 

To summarize, a happy and healthy marriage requires two people who are willing to make the efforts to sustain the relationship and create a base where each of the partners and their families can flourish.