A honeymoon is supposed to be a blissful time for most couples, but newlyweds Anil and Shikha Malhotra didn't have such a wonderful time on theirs. "We got into an argument that rapidly blew out of proportion," Anil confesses. "We then fought over the next two days, and spent them sulking or crying." Though both calmed down later and apologised to one another, they also decided to do one other thing - avoid any further arguments or confrontation in their marriage.
This, according to psychologist Ranjeev Mirchandani, is typical among many couples. "As life progresses, various issues keep cropping up. Some are too trivial to discuss, like 'who said or did what the other day.' But others may be too serious - such as 'family interference or space issues between the couple'; and discussing these issues with each other may definitely lead to discord. So many couples tend to avoid talking about such matters with one another or with anybody else," he explains.
But while Anil and Shikha's resolution to avoid all arguments worked at the beginning, it slowly began to eat into their relationship. "Issues just kept piling up, and we found we could not ignore them any longer," recalls Anil.
"If any conflict happened, one of us would walk out, come back after a while and behave as though nothing had happened. But the irritation obviously stayed with us. Over the years, it was almost like avoiding even basic conversations."
Today, 15 years later, Anil has filed for divorce. "This decision was also mutual," he explains. "We realised we just didn't have it in us to understand the other's viewpoint," adds Shikha.
According to experts, it's never a good idea to avoid confrontation in a relationship. "Avoiding talking about issues can help maintain harmony for some time, but is detrimental in the long run," says Mirchandani. Psychologist Seema Hingorrany agrees. "Unless they have been sorted, issues never die out, at least not completely," she explains.
While experts blame such avoidance tactics on the basic psyche of a person, they also feel it is a means to escape an uncomfortable situation. "This phenomenon of brushing issues under the carpet is very typical of people who hate any sort of confrontation or argument," says Hingorrany, adding that this is generally an outcome of conflicts or uncomfortable situations the person may have witnessed as a child in his or her family while growing up.
"Arguments between parents or relations within a familial set-up leave imprints on a child's psyche. And that leads to them avoiding anything that they feel might create chaos," she says.
However, another reason, say experts, is the lack of justification for an argument. "A lot of people may not be able to justify many situations or actions. And that is when they avoid talking about them," says Hingorrany. "It's not that they are wrong, but there is fear that their partner will not be able to understand them or accept that a different perspective exists. This leads to such situations."
Whatever the reason, experts believe that it is always a good idea to be as open and transparent in relationships as possible. While it is accepted that two people cannot always think in exactly the same manner, it is important for partners to make each other aware of their ideas and thought processes.
"That is our basic problem," says architect Rohini Rawat, who feels her husband simply does not understand her perspective. "We come from very different backgrounds. His is a very traditional, conservative household. Mine is traditional but in no way are we orthodox or conservative. And that creates issues between us."
She adds, "But since one cannot keep fighting all the time, I tend to brush a lot of issues under the carpet simply because I know that bringing them up will just lead to another argument." Though she is not happy with the situation at all, Rohini feels this is the only way to maintain peace at home. "But at the same time, I feel I just may explode some day," she says.
That is the biggest fear, say experts. "When small things, especially sensitive matters, are overlooked for a long time, they have a tendency to grow. One may avoid unpleasantness for some time, but the person with the grievance keeps brooding about it. And sooner or later that problem combines with various others to become big," explains Mirchandani.
People may also be driven to discuss the problem with others, says Hingorrany. She explains, "Many times, we may avoid confrontation with our partner but go ahead and share our thoughts with a friend or parent. But if one's partner gets to know about this later, they may feel cheated or betrayed, and this can aggravate matters."
While it is important to keep the lines of communication open in a relationship, experts warn about the perils of too much discussion. "Communication is important but we should not over communicate either," says Dr Hingorrany. "We must understand what is irrelevant in our life and what does not merit an important discussion. Other than that, any issue that could hamper one's social and occupational functioning should be addressed."
But what happens when one is sure that discussing a particular issue will lead to a confrontation? "Switch off or walk out, but only temporarily," advises Mirchandani. He adds, "Make sure you broach the topic again when both parties are calmer and amenable. Do not avoid explaining your point of view or listening to the other person's point of view. Otherwise, you will only worsen the
Be a friend!
Here are four ways to a healthy relationship. Remember, you are a lover and a friend to your partner and not a boss or a parent.
Accept her or his differences and flaws. But don't take everything lying down, specially if you feel it's detrimental to your relationship. Give positive feedback and encouragement instead
Do not have a "shut up and put up with it" attitude towards problems in your relationships. You are creating wounds which will
eventually reach boiling point.
Talk it out
Speak your mind. Talk your problems out gently, and with respect. Do not assume that your partner is purposely trying to hurt you.
Stop the blame game
Stop trying to decide who is at fault or who is responsible for finding a solution. It will lead you nowhere.
Be a thoughtful listener
All communication involves more than one person. Hear out your partner patiently. Make him/her feel that you understand his/her
viewpoint and respect it.
Are you guilty of this?
You avoid questioning your partner about his/her indifference to matters of home and family.
You don't accept the fact that there is a problem in the first place.
You avoid questioning the lack of communication and transparency in your relationship.
You avoid confronting your partner if you think he/she has had flings/affairs.
You react to your partner's temper tantrums and anger problems with silence.
You feel your partner's over-possessiveness is unfair, but you don't make an issue of it.
You handle your partner's insecurity by telling him/her small white lies.
If there is discord with the in-laws, you brush it under the carpet.
You feel ignored if your partner takes important decisions without consulting you, but you don't do anything about it.
You constantly try to win the approval of your partner and his family, even if it means going against your grain.
It's ok to fight
Yes, we avoid them. Because fights can be bitter. But sometimes they are healthy for a relationship, say experts. "An argument is always healthy. It makes us aware that another viewpoint exists and that one must respect it. If we can further justify our views with logic, understanding becomes better," says psychologist Seema Hingorrany.
Between couples especially, it is important to have conversations and if they lead to arguments, there is no harm done as long as one remains civil. "Once in a way it is good to lose one's temper and say what one feels. It not just eases the stress from one's own mind, but also makes the partner aware of how strongly the matter could affect the other partner and the importance of the issue," says psychologist Ranjeev Mirchandani.
But do not let things get out of hand, warn experts. It is important to strike a balance. One mustn't pick fights on banal issues, like what to eat and what to wear.