This is the last week of my vacation in India. In the last 2 months, I have enjoyed not one, not two, but three big, fat Indian weddings of my cousins!
During the preparation of one of the weddings, the bride to be, asked me a question that really made me think. Being a wise, young woman that she is, she was determined to make sure she is prepared for what’s next. 😉
And am I glad that she brought up this question! Because it made me look deeper into my marriage, and verbalize why it’s working.
I am using today’s blog post as a channel to share with you what I have learned so far in my marriage. This is exactly what I told her, and I sure hope this helps you as well in creating that beautiful and strong bond of love with your beloved.
Here’s the question from the bride:
“Is there such a thing as a perfect marriage? What can I do to bring it close to perfection?”
Before we get started with my answer, I want to make sure that I clarify the meaning of the two English words that are used interchangeably in some other languages. I know we have readers from all over the world, and I want to avoid any confusion linguistic differences may cause.
The word “Marriage” means the bond that exists between a married couple for as long as they stay married. “Wedding” is the one time celebration, the event that declares this bond to the world.
Now let’s get started!
First of all, I am impressed that you are asking how to build a strong and happy marriage. That eagerness to learn is an important first step.
Secondly, you are wondering what YOU can do. It’s important in a marriage to think how you can serve your partner. If you constantly ask what the other person has done for me or will do for me, you are soon to experience some disappointments. Not because they will not do it, but because there comes a point when your expectations will become too big to satisfy.
That being said, I don’t know if there is such a thing as a perfect marriage. Perfection is a final phase. By definition, a perfect thing will become stagnant because there is nothing to improve.
I don’t think of marriage like that. I think marriage is a constantly evolving bond. Situations change, people change, and so a marriage has to adapt to those changes. Maybe a perfect marriage can be defined as the one that takes into account the changing lives, and adapts accordingly to still bring out the best in the lives of those involved.
Marriage is like a plant. You sow the seed in your wedding. After the celebration is over, the seed needs water, fresh air and fertilizers to become a plant, and eventually, blossom into a tree. It is only then it can provide flowers, fruits, and shade to those around it.
Unfortunately, many of us don’t think of it like that. We think of it as a before and after transition. There wasn’t even a seed before the wedding but after the wedding, we expect that the tree in completely grown and ready to bear fruits. Consequently, we don’t think about the needs of the plant, and slowly it starts to lose life. It may still manage to survive but it just isn’t well-nourished.
So to answer your other question, what you can do to build a strong and happy marriage is the water, fresh air, and fertilizers.
What are those?
There are many but here are the 3 most important ones, in my opinion.
1. Focus ( = Fresh Air)
A plant cannot grow in toxic air no matter how good the seed is or how well fertilized and watered the plant is. Fresh air is the bare minimum it needs to sustain.
Similarly, for your marriage to survive, it needs to be in a place of its own. This special space is in your mind. Your marriage needs to be your top priority.
More often than not, I see that couples don’t make it their highest priority. Career, children, socials, and daily chores take over because marriage becomes an everyday thing that exists even without you doing anything about it.
Once you label it as a routine, you think it’s not special. The moment you start thinking it’s nothing special, it starts proving you right. Before you know, all the enthusiasm, giddiness, and love you had on your wedding day, starts fading away.
If only people pay as much attention to their marriage as they give to their weddings, there will be a lot more happiness in this world.
If you want this relationship to become stronger, you need to do it intentionally. Assuming that it will just happen is leaving the most important aspect of your life to accident. You take more pain than this in planning your job search, then does it make sense to just leave it be?
How exactly do you “focus” on your marriage?
It’s all in the mindset!
Think of it this way:
If something sticks with you for that long, for every single day of your life, shouldn’t you make it the best it can be?
Once you see how omniscient that marriage is in your life, you will know how much impact it is going to have on your happiness. That will motivate you to take actions to make your marriage successful, meaningful and rewarding. (For some, this may even mean finding a different partner. But that’s a totally different topic of discussion for some later time.)
What is in focus, gets done! Everything else is left behind.
I have heard people say, “You have to work to make a relationship successful”.
But when that relationship is your highest priority, you don’t look at it as work. It becomes a welcome experience of growth and learning. It’s just like in a career. If you love what you do, it’s not work anymore.
With this renewed focus on your marriage, you will understand why it is more important to watch a movie at home with your spouse than to go for another birthday party around the block.
You will know why you should not be afraid of asking your boss for that vacation even when none of your colleagues are looking for one.
You will not let that ego be an obstacle in saying “Sorry, I was wrong”.
It all starts with the focus, so give your marriage your focus!
2. Time ( = Water)
Once a plant has a conducive space to sustain, now it needs water to grow. For marriage, that water is time.
Marriage does not become a strong, unbreakable bond that we expect it to be, overnight. It needs constant attention, and time with your spouse.
Taking time to discuss important issues with your other half, spending time doing the activities that you or your spouse enjoys, making dates with your partner a regular part of your schedule – these are just a few ways you can incorporate in your lifestyle to make sure you spend quality time with your love.
The biggest hurdle (and excuse) I have seen couples make for not giving each other enough time is their job.
I understand that we all need to work to pay the bills. But let’s not make “all work and no play”, a habit.
Deadlines will come and go. But that milestone birthday, that special concert, and your youth is not turning back.
This is when knowing your focus makes your decisions clear cut. You give time where your focus is. And your time will make it stronger. Now the choice is yours.
In today’s era, you can keep on working without anybody ever asking you to stop and go home. You need to make a decision on when to stop, and train others on what to expect from you. That doesn’t mean you compromise on productivity. You just become more efficient, and persuasive in convincing others why you do what you do.
Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg has said that she leaves work at 5:30 PM. But for a long time she felt guilty doing that even though her performance was beyond excellent. Such is our work culture these days. But we need to make our choices.
Spending time with your spouse provides you opportunities to understand and discuss their feelings, aspirations, and challenges. No matter how close people are by relation, it takes time, familiarity, and trust before they open up to you.
It took me months before I understood just how passionate my husband is about cooking. And we knew each other years before our marriage!
It was a no-brainer to know cooking is his hobby, a way of relaxation. However, I would have never known that’s one of his top passions, had I not spent the time with him, heard the way he talks about his cooking experiments, and asked him more questions about it.
All this takes time. If you want to know your partner better than anyone else, you got to invest time in finding that out.
Getting to know each other is like peeling an onion. You got to be patient, and peel one layer at a time. That’s how you win each other’s confidence, and trust. If people’s minds were wide open encyclopedias, you would read it in one sitting if you wanted to. But it’s not that simple, is it?
On the same token, don’t assume that your partner knows everything about you. Spend time with them, and let them know who you really are.
Sharing brings you closer. Blissful marriage is the one where the couple shares their deepest fears and dreams. That’s what creates a strong bond of marriage.
And all this takes your time commitment so give your marriage the gift of your time!
3. Communication ( = Fertilizers)
Fresh air is the bare minimum for a plant to sustain, and water is a basic need. But if you want the plant to be healthy, it needs nourishment. That comes through fertilizers.
For the plant of marriage, the best fertilizer is effective communication between the partners. I recently heard a What’s App message in Marathi which says it eloquently,
“Half of our problems are caused by the anger we express, and the love we never express.”
Marriage is no exception!
You need to be able to express your love for your partner in a way that they understand it. You also need to communicate with them how you perceive love – Is it through gifts? Is it through hugs? Is it through dinner dates? Whatever it is, you need to be able to communicate it with them without hurting their feelings. Expecting that your partner figures it out on their own is not just to them. They are not mind-readers.
You need conflict resolution skills. Two people are bound to have difference of opinions. When they live together, these differences are going to come out. You need to learn how to handle these conflicts positively, and with respect for each other’s perspectives.
Conflict is not bad in and of itself. In fact, it can teach you a lot about the other person, and introduce you to new ideas which you may even find out to be worth accepting. So it is important in any relationship that you neither avoid conflicts nor make a big deal out of it.
Resolving conflicts effectively, makes you learn and grow. Growing together helps you make the bond of marriage even stronger. So learn the way to resolve conflicts between you two, that best suits you as a couple.
Have you thought about persuasion skills? You definitely need these. When you want them to listen to your side of the story, or accept what you know to be right, you are going to have to be convincing.
What about listening skills? That’s the basis of any step you will take to get to know each other. Your marriage wouldn’t go anywhere without this skill.
You get the point, right?
People often think that communication skills are to be learned for your career only. But I would say, they are a lot more crucial in building relationships. If marriage is your top priority, you better make sure you learn how to communicate with your partner. I promise you, the rewards will be much more worth than the effort!
You have seen how much energy goes into planning the event that is called a wedding. Can you imagine how much effort it will take to maintain the feelings that this event initiates – the feelings of love, bonding, and togetherness?
If you want all these feelings to still be with you two after 30, 40, 50 years of marriage, you got to give it your focus, time, and communication.
And during your blissful marriage, if you find out something else helped you keep it lively, come and tell me about it. I will also learn from it. 🙂
Now it’s your turn:
What have you learned from your marriage? Do you think the above 3 points help or is it something else for you? Every couple is different so I would love to hear what your experience has taught you.
Thanks for sharing! Let’s all help each other in bringing more happiness in this world.
Image credit: blickpixel at Pixabay