Marital conflict

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“Why can’t you take half-day leave and attend the parent-teacher meeting?” “ I cannot miss today’s meeting. You are the mother, so it is more important for you to attend.” “You know how important the presentation is for me? It could get me the promotion I have been yearning.” “Come on, your promotion will only mean increased work pressure and even later hours. You can’t afford that.”

This is how arguments begin in typical urban families today. While dual-career couples do enjoy the benefit of double income, the fact remains that there are only 24 hours in a day. Splitting those  24 hours between domestic and professional commitments, while trying to squeeze in the minimum hours of rest can take a toll.

Young couples with successful careers manage to set up home in plush apartments, go off on foreign holidays once a while, dine at the best restaurants and even party into the wee hours of the morning on weekends. However, what they do not realise in the initial years of marriage is that both the domestic and professional fronts require a certain level of commitment.  They are responsible roles with a great deal of expectations around them.

In a country such as India, where the housekeeping and childrearing activities are still considered to be the responsibility of the woman of the house, and the financial aspects that of the man of the house, it is very easy for marital conflicts to arise.

Family support: Most young Indian women today receive full support of their parents when it comes to pursuing higher studies and high-flying professional careers. However, once they get married, they may not receive the same support and encouragement from their in-laws. This leads to discontentment, especially when young wives are career-oriented and unwilling to be ‘domesticated’ in any way.

Equation with colleagues: Youngsters today spend most of their waking hours at work. Naturally, most of their friends also belong to the workplace. Over a period of time, close bonds are established between colleagues, whether male or female. However, post marriage, the spouses may not always approve of these bondings. If the friendship is between two people of the opposite sex, the spouses may even jump to the wrong conclusions and begin losing trust in their partners. Without trust, no marriage can survive.

Finances: Monetary issues are the main cause for bad marriages.  It is better for the couple to have a common household fund, to which they can add a fixed percentage of their income every month. This fund should be used to run the household and meet expenses, such as gifts for marriages, birthdays, and other events, no matter which side of the family these take place in; expenses of parties and functions; repair work; renovation of the house, and so on.

Habits and traits: In case of arranged marriages, the couples discover each other’s traits and habits gradually as the marriage progresses. Some of these habits may be unpleasant and cause the partner to get annoyed or irritated. If habits that irritate or cause discomfort to the partner are not rectified, they may lead to unnecessary conflicts. For instance, a husband who is always on the phone may end up leaving the wife feeling lonely and irritated. There may also be wives who call up their parents to discuss their marital issues, which the husbands may object to. Other habits, such as excessive drinking or smoking may also harm the health of a marriage.

Arrival of a child: Even the most sorted marriages can witness chaos with the arrival of a child. In Indian families, the woman is expected to be the sole caregiver. When it comes to parenthood, the lion’s share of the responsibilities is shouldered by the wife. As if that is not enough,  the financial burden also starts to become heavy. After all, raising a child is rather expensive. To top it all, the parents lose the personal touch they once had and end up sacrificing their intimacy as they get caught up in the stress of bringing up a child. Working women are guilt ridden when they rejoin work after maternity leave. They feel that they are not doing justice to their role as a mother, but at the same time, they are not in a position to give up a lucrative job or sacrifice their career. This dilemma takes a toll on their mental health. In any marriage, even if one spouse is overly stressed, the foundation of the relationship is deeply affected.

Household responsibilities:  Though the pandemic did teach a lesson or two on how to manage the house as a team, most dual-career couples end up fighting over who does what in the house. The corporate world requires high productivity at all times. Back home, the day-to-day running of the house is also a huge responsibility that has to be shouldered by the couple as a team. If the responsibilities are not shared equally, conflicts will abound.

How to deal with conflicts

Nip them in the bud: The moment a conflict is born, the couple should try and nip it in the bud and not allow it to grow. Like the elders say, ‘never go to bed angry’.

Communicate and discuss: Instead of blaming each other or hurling abuses, it will help if the couple sit across the table and discuss the issues at length. They could deal with it like any other professional problem, by making a list of issues and writing the causes. They can keep ticking them off as and when they discuss and arrive at a solution.

Assign duties: There is no harm in dividing house work. In fact, doing things together, wherever possible, not only helps to get things done faster, but the team work only brings the partners closer to each other. Any time spent together amidst the busy urban life only adds to the foundation of the marriage.

Be patient: No individual is perfect. If each partner understands his/her positives and negatives along with the partner’s strengths and weaknesses, then as time goes by, the understanding between the partners increases. However, this requires a lot of patience. If the partners are patient and understanding, then as the marriage grows and matures, small differences cease to matter.

After all, successful marriages are not about the coming together of two perfect individuals, but about two imperfect individuals learning to enjoy each other’s differences.

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