What counts in making a happy marriage is not so much how compatible you are, but how you deal with incompatibility. George Levinger
Strange as it may sound, the theory of opposites attract as is proven by magnets is perhaps just as applicable in marriages. The genesis of the marriage could be anything from love marriages to arranged marriages or marriages of convenience as would perhaps happen when a divorcee marries another divorcee or a widower marries a widow ; the focus though is often on how compatible the couple is and we mistakenly believe that compatibility will cement the relationship. Compatibility certainly plays a vital part in getting a couple together else there would be no commonality of interest/ purpose/ objective/feelings. However compatibility does not really address the reality that surfaces after the courtship and honeymoon, that of the individuality of the partners that manifests itself in differences, disagreements, opposing style and personality traits and even in completely divergent expectations and behavior.
The real issues in marriage often surface soon after marriage but the emotions of love, tenderness, joy and the eagerness to please the partner and respective families and friends camouflage the differences that may have crept in. In many ways the earlier the differences come to the fore the individuality of partners becomes more obvious and enables the couple to find ways and means of handling it using all the positive emotions and by suppressing ones ego and making adjustments. There is no doubt that in this process each partner also does sacrifice a part of his/ her individuality and adapts and adjusts to the demands of married life. The good part is that we get used to the adjustments early on and so the process is easier than unlearning and relearning which is tedious, painstaking and above all a major psychological hurdle to cross. To explain, if one partner is obsessed with brushing the teeth before going to bed and the other couldn’t care less the earlier they adjust to the reality by either accepting each one’s differences or one of them adjusting to the others pet peeve it won’t be long before the issue becomes a major bone of contention in a temperamental married life.
It is essential to accept the fact that when we express our individuality there would be a hugely disproportionate number of differences that come to the fore. While many of these could be insignificant it is the serious differences that could often mar an otherwise harmonious marriage. It is equally possible that the differences small or big get to be more frequent, more stressful and more acrimonious and that is when the strain of living together comes to the fore. The chief culprit that actually stretches the relationship to breaking point is often cited as incompatibility but this is just a pseudonym for intolerance, ego hassles, inflexibility, bickering and nagging not to mention finger pointing and possibly culminating in use of vile and abusive language tone and threats. If one can manage to bridge the differences that crop up in a relationship through a combination of understanding, give and take, acceptance, adjustments, sacrifices, forgiveness and unconditional love, handling incompatibility would never pose a problem ; ask those couples who tenderly hold hands even when they squabble, have a love tinged mischievous smile when then poke fun at their other half and revel in the affection of their partner and display both concern and pain when the other is suffering. The vows of marriage when the couple get married offer a clear clue to the incompatibility that is central to marriage when they vow to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness or in health, to love and to cherish ’till death do us par.
Remember : “More marriages might survive if the partners realized that sometimes the better comes after the worse.” Doug Larson
- If you are married outline the 3 most annoying traits in your spouse that you never realized before marriage. In the same breath also jot down 3 wonderful traits that your spouse has that really surprised and elated which you never knew before marriage. If unmarried, list 3 traits that you would hate to have in your future spouse and 3 traits that you hope he/she will have.
- Identify 3 ideal couples known personally to you (other than your own family members)who have been married for less than 5 years, married for 5-10 years and 20-25 years. Why do you think they are an ideal couple? Is there some trait that you can emulate in your relationship now or in the future?
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