What are the biggest issues that people come to you for with their marriage? Has the trend changed in the last 17 years?
The issues have become much more frequent. There is a higher incidence of individuality not being accepted in a relationship. The transition in our society – from joint families to nuclear families, from a slow-paced life to fast-paced lives where we need speedy success, travelling and entrepreneurship as part and parcel of life – has brought a lot of new kinds of demands on relationships.
Multitasking has become a norm for both men and women. Most people who come to me are in their late 30s to early 40s, and or early 20s to 30s.
Let’s talk about the issues that couples in the late 30s to early 40s come to you with.
The major issues vary with gender. For most women, it is an identity issue: “I am an educated married woman, I gave a lot to this relationship and today I am a homemaker; both my children are grown up and now it’s a complete vacuum.” And the sense of vacuum that they feel hurts more because their partner is most insensitive. The insensitivity of urban Indian married men is a big issue. The women feel, “I have been taken for granted, because I have sacrificed so much and it has not been acknowledged or respected. I don’t see any reason for me to keep doing it. Now the children have grown up, why can’t I break off this relationship?”
The men’s issue is that they have looked at their role in a marriage as a provider, so they feel, “I have given her everything. I have given her a car, I have given her a driver, I have given her money and I have given her freedom. I don’t know what her problem is. She only cries, she only cribs. ”
– Salony Priya, Counselling Psychologist
Often I’ve seen that the husband is clueless about his wife’s emotional pain. If the woman says she needs companionship, the man says, “What do you mean by companionship? I am there in the house.” She points out, “Yes, he is there in the house, behind the paper; with the teacup in his hand that is supposed to be at the exact temperature he likes – which I have been giving him for the past 30 years and so he doesn’t understand what’s the big deal. I will keep doing it; but now it is nagging me and now I ask myself why I am so upset about it after 30 years. Maybe I was busy with kids, my parents were alive then; now that all these support systems have gone, I feel very, very lonely.”
What about the issues with younger couples? What are the men like in their 20s?
Younger couples mostly have compatibility, career, life adjustment and relationship issues. Many of the men are extremely adaptable; they take their roles as fathers much seriously than their fathers did 20 years ago. They have become much more accepting of working women.
In your experience, do marriages work better when both the partners are working?
That is very difficult to say, because marriages don’t work or not work because of anybody working. Marriages work when people respect each other, when people are compatible, when people develop some kind of companionship and respect for each other. And respect is a component in any relationship.
We now have a generation of people who have been single kids. Instant gratification has been a part of life. You have two people (your parents) who have been doting on you and fulfilling all your needs, then you get married to some guy who cares for you, loves you, but can’t be like your mother and father – fulfilling all your needs.
Emotional skills are very important – handling your own emotions in a better manner. When you are emotionally unstable, have never been independent, never been responsible, the only way you derive pleasure is from constant pampering by somebody. When such couples get married they have nothing much to engage in. You can go for a honeymoon, you can go for four holidays in a month, but at the end of the day you will have to engage yourself.
The wrong kind of parenting leads to this kind of emotionally unstable, insensitive behaviour, especially when parents have not made sure that their son or daughter is emotionally or socially well equipped. Such a child gets into a relationship and causes problems for another 20 people (statistically, one marriage affects 20 people).
Salony Priya is a counselling psychologist with 18 years of experience in training and counselling across educational institutions, social organisations, NGOs and corporates. She is the Director of UMMEED, a multispeciality positive psychology institution.