Let there be spaces in between your togetherness — Khalil Gibran, on marriage.
After witnessing the Valentine's Day celebrations and attending a cousin's wedding, we got thinking if imagining a fairy tale happily- ever- after actually makes a solid base for a long- lasting and fulfilling relationship.
At the beginning, be it in a relationship or marriage, we look at our partners with unadulterated love and devotion. We ignore things that would otherwise have bothered us, because we are ' in love!' We think we are going to make each other very happy, that we won't be like the couples that fight because we are truly in love. We tend to believe that our love is so special that it will never fade.
Dr Dorothy Tennov, after studying many couples, concluded that the average life span of a 'madly in love' feeling is two years. Eventually we all wake up to reality. The longevity of our relationship depends on how well we cope with this reality.
The reality kicks in when we start noticing how annoying some of our partner's habits are, how hurtful or angry they can be... so irrational at times, often ignorant, insensitive and unavailable. This is the time when bathrooms are left wet and dirty, the lights are never turned off, the wardrobe is left ajar, shoes and socks never find their way to their designated places, and one of the partners is 'always busy and has no time'. This is when we feel that we are 'putting in all the effort' or that our partner is 'insensitive, always complaining, feeling- less' or even 'selfish'. From the world of finding no faults, we end up where a look can hurt, or a word can crush.
So what goes wrong? The root lies in the initial fairy tale period. In our quest for harmony, we start overlooking our personal needs, view points, values and at times even our identities.
We try to create too much 'positivity'. We convince ourselves secretly that our love is so genuine that though our partner is not giving what we need now, they will give later, or will somehow figure and willingly adopt to our value system. That eventually they will have the same priority as ours. We do everything we can to eliminate any significant disagreements.
This creates a false sense of security and builds up our expectations.
We avoid conflicts and pretend or even lie to ourselves that they don't exist. We create a make- believe world for both us and our partner.
In the process, we deny ourselves the opportunity to learn how to deal with these conflicts. Without having developed the confidence and desire to know each other's emotional vulnerabilities and reactions to dissent, we don't learn the tools that those challenges call for. Here are a few tips that will come in handy when you enter a new relationship.
WHEN YOU'RE IN LOVE
Be yourself: You are beautiful as you are. Only when you are yourself will you be able to know who your partner is, their preferences, goals, ambitions and ideas. It may then be easier to find a real common ground.
Respect and love yourself: Do not lose yourself 'in love'. If you don't respect yourself, others may not either. Respecting yourself does not mean that you become rigid. It means you remain true to your identity. We can only feel loved when we love ourselves.
Expecting your partner to make you feel loved all the time may not work in the long run.
Be realistic and open to learn: Expect differences. Be open to learn from them. It will not only strengthen your bond but also widen your horizon.
Express your love: There are many ways to express love — verbally, through touch ( not always sexual), through actions to make them feel cared for, or special by giving gifts, occasionally praising them for their efforts, spending quality time. The idea is to choose the love language preferred by your partner, not what is convenient for you .
Dr Sangbarta Chattopadhyay and Dr Namita Bhuta are medical practitioners, psychotherapists and life coaches Write to them at
dr.sangbarta@ gmail. com