Newlyweds Smriti and Gaurav had a near-perfect romance – a nine-year-long courtship, perfect understanding between themselves and a love so strong that it sailed past family disagreements. But six months after their wedding ceremony, Smriti was surprised to find that married life was anything but the proverbial bed of roses. Instead of cementing their (she thought) rock-solid relationship, she and Gaurav were fighting constantly, and couldn’t bear even to be civil to one another.
What went wrong, wondered Smriti?
Incredible as it may seem, marriage was the answer. According to marriage counsellor Dr Kamal Khurana, in 90 per cent of cases, newlyweds face problems within the first five or six years of marriage, irrespective of whether they had an arranged or love marriage.
Dr Rachna Singh, holistic medicine and lifestyle management expert at Artemis Health Institute, Gurgaon, adds that 80 per cent of married couples find the initial years of marriage the toughest. She has couples often come to her, confused and quite clueless about the sudden change. “Many couples tell me that in their years of dating, they never fought once. But, post marriage they can’t stop quarrelling,” Dr Singh says.
Dr Gitanjali Sharma, marriage counsellor with transformlifestyle.com, says that people should be made aware that married life is not the same as dating. “People change and so do their relationships. It’s better that couples are prepared for newlywed blues and consciously make an effort to tide over them,” she advises.
In fact, a recent study The Connubial Crucible: Newlywed Years as Predictors of Marital Delight, Distress and Divorce, published in 2001 in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, found out that the way couples deal with problems in the initial years of marriage eventually pave the way for their future. If a newlywed couple starts to become disillusioned within the first year, it spells trouble. We list here the three most common problem areas:
He prefers a Hindi flick on weekends, whereas she is an English movie buff. He wants lights out by 10 pm, she is wide awake then. He is a homebody, she want to party all night. “While they are dating, people do tend to overlook their differences,” explains Dr Sharma, adding, “Also, since you spend fewer hours with one another, lots of issues don’t really matter. But when you stay together, every little detail becomes magnified. Either you end up asking your spouse to change, get into constant arguments or keep feeling cornered.”
Dr Singh says that disagreements should be seen as part of married life. “Couples should be made aware that any sort of change requires adjustment,” she explains. Journalist Reena Yadav dated her husband for ten years before she got married. “Reena always knew I slept early. Despite that she would insist we go out with friends till late even on weekdays. If I didn’t seem excited, we ended up fighting,” says Nikhil, a computer engineer.
The best way to deal with this problem is to be more patient. Advises Dr Sharma, “Accept that both of you are different. Acceptance is very important. The next step is to not try and change the other person. Make practical alternate arrangements that would suit you both and compromise once in a while. But, compromise only till you don’t feel you are doing a sacrifice. Both partners need to put in a conscious effort.”
Enter the in-laws
Marriage counsellor Dr Khurana says that 95 per cent of people who divorce within the initial years of marriage cite the in-laws, specifically the mother-in-law, as the main reason. The issues with in-laws range from them being too interfering, disapproving or downright indifferent. The problem is more acute in love alliances because often the family feels that they have had no role in choosing the spouse.
Interior designer Sakshi Malhotra married pilot Saurabh Sarin after dating for five years. Though she knew Saurabh’s mother didn’t approve of her, the situation deteriorated after marriage. “My mother-in-law would call up Saurabh and garner sympathy as to how I was so different from her family and how she didn’t feel looked after. After a year, Saurabh started to feel guilty. He was great with me, but he started to be apologetic with his parents about me and I couldn’t stand it. That caused us to fight often. After three years, we realised we had let his parents take control of our marriage, which was now falling apart,” says Sakshi Malhotra. Not all in-laws play such a direct role in their children’s marriage. But even if they do not stay together, their virtual presence does affect the alliance.
Experts suggest that the onus of solving this problem lies on the husband. “A husband’s role is that of a manager. He should ensure that his wife gets respect and her place in the family. He can achieve this by presenting the girl’s strengths to his family. To the girl, he should make clear his family customs and ways. Each house is different, so he should talk about how she can fit in comfortably,” explains Dr Khurana. Experts add that couples should also refrain from getting into the ‘my family, your family’ mode. Instead, try to see them as ‘our family’. Assign days to meet both sets of parents and try and get along. “It’s not an instant process. It takes time and patience. Needless pressure is not required,” says Dr Singh.
Where’s the love?
‘He doesn’t get me flowers anymore’, ‘She doesn’t call me as often’, ‘He loves me less now’. Couples often find themselves comparing the behaviour of their spouse before and after marriage, but experts caution against doing this. Says Dr Singh, “Women complain to me about how their husbands would get them gifts every day before marriage. Men crib about how their wife doesn’t take as much care as she did before. People are willing to part ways because of these issues.” She adds that people resist the natural progression of their relationships into something more stable and that it is necessary for couples to be practical. “Couples should leave room for change, discuss their expectations with each other and come to a practical middle path,” explains Dr Singh.