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Relationships: Coping with the past
Fatema H Kagalwala
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January 05, 2007

A marriage is a new beginning. Yet, very often, the glow of this new relationship is marred by the grime of the past.

You need to make a conscious effort to move away from the past to ensure a healthy present and future.

Past relationships

At times, you may find yourself unable to let go of a past relationship despite being in a new one. Sometimes, it may be your partner who faces this problem. Then, there are cases where the family and society has a problem with a person's history.

Take the case of Archana, 28, who is based in Mumbai and owns a travel agency. She is happy in her new relationship and is to be married soon. Yet, she finds herself unable to let go of what she felt for her ex-boyfriend.

She says, "I decided to go on with the marriage even though I have not gotten over my last relationship. I know one has to move on. And the sooner one does it, the better."

Archana is right, to a point. However, if she wants to begin her marriage on a strong note, she has to understand that her relationship with her ex-boyfriend is over and she has to get over her feelings for him.

Moving on is not a problem that only you could face;  your partner could face it as well.

Richa Mishra, a 26-year-old teacher in Bilaspur, recently married her boyfriend of one year. Her husband, who is also from Bilaspur, finds it difficult to deal with the fact that Richa, a city-bred girl, has had other men in her life.

Richa says, "It's not that he doesn't trust me, but my past niggles him. However, it is not an issue we speak about."

This is a cardinal mistake couples make. Mumbai-based psychiatrist Dr Rahul Ghadge says, "If something is bothering one of the partners, it should be discussed rather than wished away. By talking, other related issues come to light and problems can be resolved or become simpler."

Family skeletons

Nigaah, a Mumbai-based 32-year-old mother of two, still has to hear comments about her sister's divorce a few years ago. Her in-laws do not approve of being associated with someone from such a 'tarnished' family.

Her husband does not protect or defend her from these comments. His silence, coupled with Nigaah's own inability to assert herself, is beginning to affect their relationship.

In this case, Nigaah, who is obviously not responsible for her family's actions, needs some concern and compassion from her husband. Both of them also need to, politely but firmly, tell her in-laws that they cannot continue to harrass Nigaah.

Financial history

A past debt or financial commitment, discovered by your spouse, can cause problems.

Mumbai-based CA Manish Lapsiwala, 38, says, "You must look for signs of financial mismanagement in your partner before you get married. You can do this during conversations as well as by making inquiries about his/ her family. Unpaid personal loans and credit card debts indicate your partner is not handling money well.

"If such a situation arises after marriage because of lack of prior information, you need to keep a few things in mind.

"If it is a one-time mistake, it is best for the couple to deal with it together. After taking stock of their income and savings, they need to figure out a ratio in which both will contribute and pay off the loan/ debt.

But if such financial misbehaviour threatens to be repetitive, then the other partner has to take a firm stand. Financial irresponsibility affects a couple's lifestyle, the future of their children and their retirement plans."

Legally, a spouse can refuse to pay off/ help pay off other person's debt. However, sharing financial burdens, even if they are mistakes of the past, go a long way in building solidarity and trust in a relationship.

Manish says, "Dealing with financial problems in a marriage is more spousal responsibility than financial responsibility. If the problem is dealt with maturely and responsibly, it can strengthen the foundation for a good future together." 

Scars of the past

At times, the effect of an event on a person is more harmful than the event itself. A betrayed relationship may lead to mistrust of the opposite sex. Experiences with an authoritarian father lead to rebellion against authority. Even having an abusive role-model (for example, if your parents constantly fought with each other or were abusive with each other) leads to adjustment problems.

Dr Ghadge says, "To get over the past, you need to be frank with yourself. You need to learn to act on and not react to problems."

Transactional Analysis, a psychology concept, calls it touching base with one's 'adult' side. This means you use a mature approach to assertively tackle a problem, instead of passively suffering the side-effects or taking out your frustration on your near and dear ones. 

Get to the root cause of what's disturbing you or your partner and solve that problem. If it is a financial debt, make arrangements to pay it off; if it is emotional obstacles, help your partner to overcome them.

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Number of User Comments: 4

Sub: Learning to act and not to react!!!

"You need to learn to act on and not react to problems." This is not possible in real life scenario. The right time has to ...

Posted by Rose

Sub: what is meant by past relationship?

Dear redifff in your first example even though that lady having a boy friend why she has to marry other guy. she can happily marry ...

Posted by shyamreddy

Sub: Classification of Singles is very important.

Only virgins should marry virgins. Divorced should marry divorced. Widows should marry widowers. Appetizers should marry appetizers. Because, if getting rid of the history is ...

Posted by Deepa N

Sub: Common Sense ++

So many smart people making so many dumb mistakes and also repeating the same again n again n again. So many Gurus making those smart ...

Posted by Deepa N


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