You are in a difficult marriage. Maybe you are attracted to someone else. Maybe your partner seems like a completely different person to the one you married. Maybe your spouse is cheating on you. Maybe your in-laws are too pushy.
You want to get out. But it’s not an option.
Nobody in your family has ever sought separation, and you don’t want to be the trailblazer. Or your spouse isn’t “always” bad. Or the financial burden is way too much for you to bear and you’d be more miserable alone than now. Or your kids will be broken if they leave one of their parents.
Okay, honestly, you have a difficult path to walk. In this 3-part series, we will share some actionable steps that you can take to stay happy, peaceful and content while going through tough times. Here is the first part of the series.
Being in a difficult marriage is an emotionally draining existence. And there is no doubt that it can disturb your peace of mind, your equilibrium and your ability to function normally. But the reality is that we can only polish our own rough edges.
So start there. Reconnect with yourself and with the things that make you ecstatic with joy. Is it dancing? It could be writing, or it could be reading. It maybe cooking, or it could be travel. Whatever it is, pursue it with a fiery passion. If you don’t know what the thing is, embark on a journey of self-discovery. But become obsessively passionate about doing things that make you happy.
When two people come together, there are going to be a lot of differences. It’s unfair and suffocating if you expect that both of you can learn, grow and evolve in the same direction that you want.
The willingness to understand these differences and accept them while allowing the necessary space to your partner will help you remain sane. Lay your hands on a book like ‘Personality Plus’ by Florence Littauer where she beautifully (and humorously) explains different personality types, their classic characteristics, what ticks them off and what excites them. Reading an insightful book can help you understand yourself and your partner better leading to “Accept & maybe even celebrate the differences”.
Most of us do not enter marriage by logically discussing and analyzing our alignment on important goals like money, children, hobbies and sexual needs. Differences of opinion on these issues, if not addressed, can cause huge dents in the relationships. So how do you address these issues?
Find mutually acceptable solutions. For instance, it could be that one of you wants a child while the other vehemently does not? Sunaina and Rohan (names changed) found themselves in this situation where it was Rohan who wanted a child. Sunaina was working a great job where she was in a position to financially support the entire family. So Rohan decided that he will quit his job and become a full-time primary caregiver to their child. That is an unconventional solution, but they have made it work for them.
Finding a mutually acceptable solution requires honest conversations and confrontations. More importantly, it requires a willingness on the part of both partners. As tough as that maybe, try. The more aligned you both are, the better your lives will be together.
In the bestseller book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman, he says:
“Happily married couples aren’t smarter, richer or more psychologically astute than others. But in their day-to-day lives, they have hit upon a dynamic that keeps their negative thoughts and feelings about each other ( which all couples have) from overwhelming their positive ones.”
“A marriage is not an absolute thing that you can do once and forget. It is an active partnership. Two human beings weaving their lives into one has a certain beauty.” ~ Sadhguru
Unfortunately, we are constantly sold on the idea that you get married once and then it’s a happily ever after. This idea couldn’t be further away from reality. Any married couple will tell you that marriage is an everyday job. You have to keep communicating, keep nourishing the soil so that the flowers of love, trust, respect can keep blooming in the relationship.
Marriage requires work which you may find extremely difficult to put if you are going through choppy waters. But that is even more reason to work on it. Reflect on these questions to know if you are bringing your share of the emotional investment to the relationship: Are you giving it your 100%? Do you feel distant and uninterested in your spouse?
Here are some ways to overcome disinterest:
– Consider living apart together (no divorce, no separation, just living apart). It can give you some space and freedom and make you realize each other’s value. It can be done as a trial.
– Renew your marriage vows once a year. You’ll feel freshly married once again. It can help you go on and not feel stuck.
This will make you feel wonderful, grateful and worthy. Even though it’s fake, start with something. You’ll soon find that it isn’t as bad as it looks.
When you have a turbulent marriage, finding flaws and focusing on the miserable part is easy. That’s when you should do this exercise. It’s impossible that your partner hasn’t, in any instance, taught you nothing.
Dr. Dhruv Thakkar, a marriage counselor & psychiatrist, also suggests: “Even if we select any two random people, there will be some similar interests or thoughts that can bind them together. The couple can engage in a mutually interesting activity on a regular basis. Be it sports, music, art, charity, spiritual activities, social activities or even a business. And if it seems to be working, they can increase the time spent in that, or take it up as a side-profession.”
Do you think these suggestions are actionable? We sure hope so. Do share your thoughts on these and get ready to read the second part of the series with more valuable tips here.