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Do you invest in your marriage?
Fatema H Kagalwala
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January 03, 2007

Everything comes with an expiry date. And, these days, everything comes with a short shelf life as well.

Marriages are no exception.

Today's crazy lifestyles and rapidly changing value systems take a toll on your relationship with your spouse/ partner. In order to nurture it, here are a few simple things you can do:

Lifestyle tweaks

Unrealistic job timings, working in shifts (particularly in call centres), both partners working are some of the realities one cannot escape today. The resulting lack of time for each other puts couples under a lot of pressure.

Says Firdaus, a newly married visual merchandiser working independently in Bangalore, "My husband comes back at 5 in the morning and I work through the day. So I get up when he comes home; we spend sometime together before he catches up on his sleep. I catch up by going to bed early."

With a little planning, adjustments such as the one Firdaus has done can be made. "If we had more years behind us, we may not have felt the need to do this. But, since we are just beginning, we want to begin right," she says.

Couples are known to travel together to and from office, meet for lunch and spend time on the phone with each other in order to stay connected.

Says Dr Rahul Ghadge, a Mumbai based psychiatrist and counsellor to couples with specific relationship problems, "Couples must spend time doing 'fun' activities together. It enhances the feeling of sharing and encourages them to respect quality time."

Even reading something of his/ her interest to your partner over your morning coffee is a source of bonding. Many couples mistake physical time together for quality time; this is a strict no-no.

Nagging

Negative communication can spell doom for a couple, especially if it takes the form of nagging. Like repeated exposure to the same sight makes one blind to it, repeated sound makes one oblivious to it too. The same way, repeated negative behaviour from either or both partners leads to emotional distance.

Says Anuradha Goyal, a marriage and relationship counsellor in Mumbai, "Nagging is a cycle of automated response-reaction; it is the death of meaningful communication. What's worse, it can become a habit. We advise couples to exercise self-control instead of reacting with negative criticism. We also ask the other partner to examine if there are justified reasons for the nagging. If yes, then the onus lies on the nagged partner to change his/ her behaviour."

Though largely viewed as a womanly indulgence, Dr Ghadge says male nagging also exists and is largely the result of male dominance and society's perception of manliness.

Your partner's eccentricities

Experts say that, in the first two to three years of a marriage, a couple faces adjustment problems.

A realistic perception and understanding of your own expectations can go a long way in helping you accept your partner the way he/ she is. Make it a point to overlook your partner's quirks and eccentricities as much as possible -- there could be many annoying things about you too.

Your tolerance levels

An argument will not turn into a fight if your goal is to find a solution instead of proving yourself right. Stanley J Gross, psychologist and co-owner of a firm offering behavioural health services in Massachusetts, USA, believes a couple should deal with problems together -- as 'we'.

He says one can get to the 'we' by using an empathy technique that allows each partner to develop an understanding of how the other partner approaches a conflict. Neither partner makes any effort to change the other; acceptance is the key. Thus, they have a better chance at finding a mutual resolution to their difference; if not, they are better able to 'live with' it.

In living with our spouse and his/ her differences, we tend to completely forget there is a third entity -- the relationship. Many couples make the mistake of becoming complacent about it or wishing away problems.

It is very important that, both as a couple and as an individual, you take stock of the relationship. Marriages need constant investment and nurture. This is something couples should keep in mind from the moment they get engaged.

You and your relationship

Imran Sayeed, a 35-year-old software professional from Mumbai, says, "The number of hours you spend with your partner will not be as effective if each of you continue to take your relationship for granted." What you need to do, he feels, is increase your personal contribution to the relationship and reduce individual expectation from it.

Investing time, effort, patience, keep an open mind and heart in your relationship is the only way of getting a good return.

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