My friend Manoj, a cardiologist and his wife, Riya, an anesthetist got married on 02/02/02. On 03/03/03, they are on the verge of a divorce. The reason is communication failure between the two. Both feel that the other person does not understand what is being communicated. Every conversation between them is misinterpreted and as a result, there is a constant tension between them. Within 6 months, they separated and are now contemplating divorce. What should be done so that they can have a better-married life?
Today many marriages are breaking and the chief cause being a communication failure between the two partners. Like Manoj and Riya there are many couples, who although together are living a life in which the communication is superficial. Even though the words are exchanged, the essence of the talk is nothing and this creates a void in their lives. Both the partners then turn to other tasks of life like career, children, extended family or religion. Some like Manoj and Riya call it a day while some keep on quarrelling for the rest of their lives. The reason for this lack of understanding is that these people are etched in their own conditioning of the world. Manoj may have used a lot of methods like intimidation, guilt – tripping, appealing to motivation, vanity, exerting economic and social pressure to influence Riya. These would work for a while as Riya went along outwardly, but because the understanding from the depths of the heart was absent, things do not last for long. The harder he tried, the more Riya recoiled, and it stirred more feelings of rebellion. Manoj was moving from his own value system, his background and experiences, his expectations and his conditioning. He could not accept that Riya could see the world differently because she was different. There is no way to have rich, rewarding relationships without real understanding. The relationship between Manoj and Riya was a superficial, functional relationship without the foundation of genuine understanding. Rather than a malintention, it was the lack of understanding and inability to really look inside the other person’s heart that broke the relationship. One of the factors is the expectations that we have and our inability to adjust our expectations accordingly. Our satisfactions come from our expectations and if the expectations are not fulfilled, there is disappointment, frustration and dissatisfaction. They do not understand and hence act unwisely believing that what they are doing is right. Another factor is the tendency to judge instead of understanding. This then leads to looking subconsciously for evidence in the partner’s behavior that supports the judgment. Action is taken on the basis of the reconfirmed judgment and it produces more of the same behavior thus becoming a self- fulfilling prophecy. It creates a downward spiral, a form of codependency and collusion that feeds on itself until both partners are convinced that they are right and actually need the bad behavior of the other to confirm their rightness. If there were understanding, then the other partner would feel the real concern and begin to feel safe to open up and share on a deeper level. Both Manoj and Riya would also realize their real concerns if the other becomes an affirming listener.
What to do?
Both Manoj and Riya should sit down and know what constitutes their marriage. They should first try and understand the personality of the other person, the likes and dislikes, the strengths and weaknesses as they are and not from their own conditioning. This is central to the rebuilding of the relationship otherwise; they may be caught up in doing tasks that hold no value for the other person. Use your perceptions to understand what would carry meaning for the other person. It is a common tendency to project our own feelings and motives on other people’s behavior. You have to understand that your spouse is unique in his or her own way and what is a great sacrifice on your part may be an irritating action. The next point is to leave the negative baggage behind. A lot happened in the first year of marriage, if you carry all those even now, there will be a lot of bitterness. There are a lot of challenges ahead and the groundwork can be laid only if the baggage is left behind. You have to rise above the hate, the blaming and accusing. You have to become open and vulnerable, acknowledge your own parts in the situation, apologize and forgive. This will help you to heal and cleanse, open the door to a more authentic relationship, to create a synergy in which you can establish a better situation for yourself. You will also abandon your pride. Pride can breed anger at not being right, if this anger surfaces, it can touch a raw nerve and affect the quality of the relationship. Anger can make the other partner avoidant. The spouse refrains from authentic feedback for the fear of arousing the anger and to avoid embarrassment and then all contact with the real situation is lost. The effect is very wounding to the relationship, intimidating, threatening and overpowering. You will go back to the situation of living independent lives rather than together and the meaning of the relationship is lost. The last word is in doing a lot of work in your mind not to say or do those things that you know will offend and to overcome your anger or express it at better times and in ways that are more productive. You need to be deeply honest with yourself and realize that most of your anger is merely guilt overflowing when provoked by the weakness of the other person. It is easier to live alone in a relationship, to do your own thing, to come and go as you wish, to take care of your own needs and to interact as little as possible. It will take tremendous effort, constant effort and a lot of courage to do rebuild this relationship again but there is where the real joys of life lie.