Last week we spoke of workplace 101 for freshers. In the spirit of adapting to new and significant changes in one’s life, this week we want to talk about marriage 101 for newlyweds. Marriage is probably one of the biggest life events in one’s existence. The idea of surrendering one’s identity and history to a new, shared identity and history is a very big transition and yet, our society does almost nothing to train its marriageable youth on what marriage means and what is expected of them. We spend lakhs of rupees on the wedding and almost no money or time on educating two people on the basics of living together. To this, add the abundance of choice and general lack of patience of the millennial children and you can probably theorize why so many millenials, in survey after survey, do not prize marriage as a vital institution to their growth.
The purpose of this blog is not to advocate marriage. Instead, our purpose is to identify some attitudes and behaviours that will hold newlyweds in good stead and put them on the right path from day one.
Step 1: Have low expectations
After a fairy tale wedding and the kind of high the honeymoon creates, it is easy for young couples to unconsciously assume the high is going to continue. We know it’s not true. The high is temporary and it has nothing to do with running a home and sharing a life. If you’re getting married this year, the single best thing you can do for yourself is set your expectation bar to the minimum. Tell yourself, 1) I am going to be clumsy 2) My new wife is going to be strange to deal with at first 3) The house is going to be a mess and 4) It is going to be a challenge to manage work and home for a few weeks. This isn’t necessarily a negative attitude. It is a way of pre-empting disappointment. You barely know each other. It is your first time living together. There is going to be a storming phase, where the rules get made. Expect it. But be positive. And don’t judge anyone or anything too soon.
Step 2: Define your roles early
Milan Kundera, in his celebrated book, ‘The Book of Laughter and Forgetting’, says,
“Oh lovers! Be careful in those dangerous first days! Once you’ve brought breakfast in bed you’ll have to bring it forever, unless you want to be accused of lovelessness and betrayal.”
This is true. Whatever role you embrace in the first year of your marriage – provider, passionate lover, pragmatist, lazy oaf – the role tends to stick to you. Because the other person’s life adapts to your energy and then, before you know it, a bond, a norm is made. So choose your role wisely. Above everything, be efficient, creative and compassionate. These are the essentials. Focus on them and nothing else for a while, until you find your rhythm.
Step 3: There are no cookie-cutter moulds
In urban India at least, patriarchy – the supremacy of the man and the submissiveness of the woman – is on its last legs. Today’s educated youth have no patience for the kind of repressive systems that afflicted their parents. But we have, more than likely, grown up in a patriarchal society. So we need to be conscious of our mind set. Women, you don’t need to do all the housework. Men, you don’t need to be the only one who works. Both of you have the right to be strong, and both of you have the right to be sensitive. A marriage that allows this kind of gender diversity and inclusiveness from the beginning will be a marriage with real communication, freedom, and love.
Step 4: Love and hate are overrated, ‘grey’ is now the new norm
Have you met people who can either love or hate but do nothing in between? Either they worship you or they resent you – and this usually has to do with whether you have delivered the desired outcomes to them. If you don’t deliver them, they give you a hard time. This love-hate attitude is catastrophic for marriage. Because most of the time, in a marriage, the driving emotion is neither love nor hate, it is a quiet satisfaction that makes the machinery keep moving forward. This recognition of the fact that ‘ordinary is good, even healthy’ is something youth need to absorb before entering marriage. It’s not like in the movies. It’s really quiet, efficient, loving, and sometimes even boring – and that’s OK!
Step 5: Detach yourself from your self
You would have read somewhere that marriage means the union of two souls. It means both parties lose their identity and form a new one. While this level of selflessness is not practical or healthy, a certain amount of it is necessary for a marriage to work. But we are a narcissistic generation. We live inside our technology-mediated world most of the time. We have lost our talent for empathy. For example, if your spouse throws a fit, slams the door and leaves the room, you have two options:
1) Get mad and retaliate
2) Try to suspend your anger and understand why he or she is upset
Option 1 is the kind of behaviour that focuses on the self (‘My anger’ as opposed to ‘their pain’). Option 2 is a more ‘other’ orientation. It detaches from one’s anger and tries to open the door into the other’s problem – the only real way to move forward in this issue.
Step 6: Your spouse was not put on this earth to make you happy in every department
It happens all the time with our parents’ generation. The parents spend all their lives toiling away to pay the rent, put food on the table and put the kids through school. Then the kids fly the nest and the parents are alone and scared. Suddenly, they start to blame each other for all their lives’ miseries. This won’t happen if you remember that before you got married, you were individuals, with dreams, hopes, and plans. What happened to them? When did they dissolve and when did your spouse become the arbiter of your happiness or your sadness? Retain your identity in a marriage and if you can’t, make sure you get external help to facilitate you.
So here are some basic rules and ideas to help you recalibrate your expectations and enjoy your first year of marriage. Of course, theory can only help you so much. Experience is the best teacher. But if you bear these is mind, we believe you stand a higher chance of creating a mature, compassionate, sustainable union that’s built on love, respect and communication.
About the Author:
Sandhya Reddy is a Life coach and Leadership coach based in Bangalore, India. She is the Founder and Principal Coach at Chapter Two Coaching, a coaching consultancy that enables everyone from CEOs to work-from-home parents to achieve their goals by replacing self-imposed limitations with enabling stories.
Sandhya, a life coach in Bangalore, who runs a life coaching academy, can help individuals with a desire for change to examine their beliefs – or their ‘stories’ – and change them for the better, so they can achieve their goals.
Many of us in our thirties experience a disquieting realization: what brought us to middle-management may not take us to senior-management. This is true. To chart a new career path, one needs to think and do things differently. This is where Sandhya can help. She is a coach. Life coaching, executive coaching, personality development, leadership coaching… they are all part of her forte. Her Executive coaching programs helps tomorrow’s leaders set new goals, make new plans to achieve those goals, get that elusive promotion through a blend of knowledge, action and image-building, enhance influence among the leadership team, be more productive, get more out of one’s team, and be known in the company as an indispensable performer and future leader.