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A Joint PURSUIT of Happiness
April 11, 2022 COMMENT comment
A Joint PURSUIT of Happiness
By Nivedita B
Marriage is a union but it offers enough space for both of you to grow your own wings and invest in your own personal happiness. Don't take 'tying the knot' to mean your relationship should get all knotted up. Remember that both of you are different individuals, shaped by your own individual experiences.
We met, courted and fell in love with the idea of doing things together. But after marriage, we realised we were crowding each other. Both of us wanted a life of our own," shares 30-something Radha Gupta.

You might think she is an unhappy wife struggling in a loveless marriage. Far from it. She and husband Gaurang are, in fact, much in love, "and want to grow old together." But it was only when they both acknowledged the other's need for personal space and growth that Radha and Gaurang struck the fine balance. They share dreams but give each other enough space to grow as individuals.

When the tidal wave of hormones has abated, and romance begins to mature into fullbodied love, for some men and women who're now husbands and wives, the bliss of solitary pursuits begins to appear enticing all over again. It does not mean they are abandoning the union, or indicate wavering commitment. Call it the need to grow outwards.

"I look at it this way, there is comfort in sharing a joint account, knowing the other is around, enjoying the shared space and at the same time, acknowledging the desire to delve into the person I am becoming," says Gupta, who runs a small home decor business. "I love him but marriage is only one part of the whole," she adds.

Today, the idea of marriage has evolved, broken the mould, stretched and groaned under the weight of the weighty people it brings together, and who have eventually found new equations and arrangements to stay together even as they both grow as individuals.

For most couples, there is quite a bit of struggle till they achieve this sense of fine balance. Like in the case of Rukmini Kumar (name changed), a senior official with a telecom firm who's been married for eight years. "The initial years of our marriage were a dream. We were together all the time, and excited about it. Each wanted to do the things that excited the other. Then gradually, things began to get quieter," she says.

She has deep affection for her husband, who works with a US-based corporate, but they have different lives. They have accepted they are different people, and that being in love does not necessarily mean doing things together, all the time. "We realised that doing things together had become a chore. I longed to be with my friends, but maintained a facade of enjoying the time out with his friends and their wives. They are all nice people, but I was not the happiest being among them. Then there were other things – our tastes in music and cinema and books and art and food! The way I perceived something and the way he did. His simplistic view of things and my complexities. Eventually we realised that we were just exasperating each other," recalls Rukmini. Little remarks led to big ego clashes, blame game, you-versus-me arguments. He felt she was nitpicking, she felt rejected. To cut a long story short, what began as the perfect love story was speeding towards an end.

That is when they decided to part ways, while being together. "We decided to both grow our own wings, but fly right back home after we'd roamed the skies," she smiles. They did so by taking out time for themselves individually while also reserving some for the two of them as a couple.

Find your space
Most people do that but don't take 'tying the knot' to mean your relationship should get all knotted up. Remember that both of you are different individuals, and your personalities are shaped by your own individual experiences that have not been shared by the other. So it is important to talk about your idea of companionship, your need for your own space, and your spouse's attitude towards this. The idea of doing things together may excite you as a young couple, however, the perception of too much togetherness can sometimes activate feelings of being crowded, trapped and controlled by the other.

Dr Jeffry Larson, researcher and author of The Great Marriage Tune-Up details individual traits that influence marital satisfaction or dissatisfaction. These include a person's personality, attitudes and skills. While he identifies coping with stress, dysfunctional beliefs, excessive impulsiveness, extreme selfconsciousness and anger as major liabilities to satisfaction, what makes good marriages great are sociability, flexibility, good self-esteem, assertiveness, commitment and ability to love. The bottomline therefore is, the more you love yourself, the better you will love your spouse.

Doing what you want is not rejecting the other
The ability to have a passionate, fulfilling relationship requires that a couple balance two natural needs – intimacy and independence. If we don't consciously balance these needs, what often results is a frustrating struggle. One partner pursues intimacy being unaware of their partner's need for autonomy. Similarly, the one who seeks distance is unaware of the other's need for intimacy. This may result in feelings of rejection and dissatisfaction. How do you break this cycle? Train your mind to focus on the positive by avoiding the focus on the spouse's negatives. Overlook the few small things that you don't like and remind yourself of what you do.

Have your own circle of friends
While you should continue to be part of his friends'' group, you should take time off and keep your date with your girl gang, go for your poetry reading, sale shopping, a movie or rounds of the art fair. Doing your own thing and involving yourself in things that interest you as an individual will help you come back home to your spouse with a recharged mind and with more ideas and energy, and feel content with the relationship.

Remember, there are many ways to love but you need to work on it. As Dr Larson says, when there is dissatisfaction in marriage, you can either adjust by resigning to the fact that it will not improve and continue to grow apart; or you can work harder on the relationship and work on ways to experience growing contentment and satisfaction.

Make a conscious effort to move towards companionate and altruistic love!

"The bottomline is, the more you love yourself, the better you will love your spouse."
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