I am Ritika, a 23 year-old management graduate. I am engaged to marry Rohit, a computer professional, who is working in the United States. I have 2 sisters both of them whom are elder to me. They are married but there are lots of problems in their marriages and they are on the brink of a divorce. I want to be prepared for my marriage and find no guidance on a preparatory level. I would like to know what factors underlie a good marital relationship.
In a marriage, it is a good idea to communicate not only about personal issues and external events but also about the marital relationship. Interpersonal problems are generally related to interactions that deal with the various components and functions of the relationship itself. The topics of these interactions deal with the issues of attachment, status and dominance, autonomy and territory control, sexuality and gender, boundaries and loyalties and perception of the world. Attachment refers to the establishment of an affiliative connection between both of you. In a typical attachment interaction, one of you may seek more proximity and affection and the other either reciprocates, rejects or disqualifies the request; a pattern is shaped through repeated exchanges. This leads to the development of an attachment style, which is a relatively stable communication pattern. If you have an anxious-ambivalent attachment style, you may tend to be obsessed with your husband and suffer from extreme jealousy. If you have an avoidant attachment style, you will be relatively uninvested in the marital relationship and both may feel lonely. You may be afraid of intimacy and tend to withdraw when there is stress or conflict in the relationship. The ideal is to have a secure attachment style in which you are highly invested in the relationship and tend to behave without much possessiveness or fear of rejection. The next are the issues of status and dominance. People tend to resent strategies of influencing to which they are particularly susceptible. Some partners may be sensitive to the threats of withdrawal of affection, others to guilt induction and so on. Acute power struggles usually involve a perceived challenge to the existing dominance structure. You need to have a balance of power that is satisfactory to both of you and facilitates conflict resolution rather than an interactional gridlock. The issues of autonomy and control over resources center on the acquisition, management and defense of personal rights, possessions, areas of responsibility and the privacy of minds. For a healthy relationship, you have to be able to relinquish autonomy and control at times of stress and illness. Problems arise when such dependency is not tolerated. The other important factor is the communication that expresses gender role expectations and signals the presence of absence of sexual attraction. Sexual interactions center on the expression of sexual interest and on the management of sexual tension between both of you. Cultural norms and individual maturity dictate the sexual interactions. You have to synchronize the sexual rhythms and maintain the interest in the relationship. The marital relationship will be influenced largely by other people, external pressure and by the outside activities and experiences of both of you. Your marriage can be undermined by an adulterous relationship as well as excessive jealousy about one partner’s emotional involvement with an outside person or activity. Loyalty conflicts involving the partner and the family are common in the beginning of marriage. Work is often experienced as competing with the relationship. Therefore, every marriage has to define its boundaries in the sense of the acceptable degree of outside interference as well as the acceptable degree of each partner’s involvement with outside elements. Differences in worldview, values and beliefs tend to cause interpersonal conflicts. Differences in how the conflict is interpreted by both of you tends to maintain it. A consistently found mechanism that creates problems is that people tend to interpret their behavior as state dependent or a normal response to the circumstance and the partner’s behavior as trail dependent or determined by the partner’s character. There is a gender difference in thinking about relationships. Women think about relationships more and with more complexity than men do. They are more distressed about problems and more likely to take action to resolve them. Consequently, you may be carrying more than an equal share of the marital relationship responsibility. There is often an exchange of nonlinguistic signals through the tone of voice and nonverbal messages. These subtle exchanges may give you a clue about the existing power structure. The other factor is to distinguish the conflicts of interest from the conflicts of meaning. In conflicts of interest, both of you may agree on what the interaction is about, but each one pursues a different outcome. In conflicts of meaning, you see the interaction from a different perspective and give it a different meaning. For instance, if your husband has had a rough day and wants to be left alone, you may need to have an intimate conversation. You may experience his reluctance to talk as a refusal to engage in intimacy, while he may experience the insistence to talk as an insensitive invasion of privacy. Such misunderstanding can escalate and lead to distorted interpretations of the partner and the marital relationship. You also have to understand that your psychological health and sense of well being depends to a significant degree upon the quality of your relationship and your patterns of interactions with your partner. The marital relationship can be relied upon for personal growth, need fulfillment and support.