12th November 2022 marks the 8th year of my marriage. How was it? Pretty darn amazing. This year, unlike the last 7, I celebrated each day of the anniversary week. Every single day of the week, I was grateful for Vivin and the experiences I’ve had, and more than that – the lessons I’ve learnt as part of these experiences. I’ve reflected everyday of the week and been joyful of how much I’ve grown as a person because of this.
Come to think of it, I now believe that these pillars of marriage as I know them, have upheld me every day of the last 8 years. So, I’m going to share these tidbits of knowledge that may benefit you the slightest bit.
Never compare you as a couple to any other couple
I was all of 22 when I got married and the only thing I knew about marriage back then was that I loved this guy and I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. I was in for a shocker in the very first year. I love him but I hated him for most part of the year and it wasn’t his fault at all. Not that he didn’t mess up but that I only began to see his flaws. Everything I loved about him became the very things I dreaded about him.
For instance, I loved that Vivin didn’t take too many things to heart and I could freely just express what I felt. He is an amazing listener. He would listen to be complain about everything, only to realise later that this nature wasn’t helpful if I needed to complain to him about his shortcomings. I mistakened his patient listening as his disinterest in my complains. But on searching the depths of why I was truly angry and dissatisfied, I knew that it all stems from me subconsciously comparing him to other “influencer husbands on YouTube”. The sooner you realise that you need to tweak your perception of your husband, the clearer you can see the amazingness in his traits.
Commit to helping each other grow
Over years of watching couples around me, the one common negative aspect I’ve noticed about their stunted lifestyle is the inability to separate collective growth from individual growth. Growing collectively is amazing, if you can achieve it. It’s amazing to have an “our” mentality. The fault in this mentality is, one person tends to get neglected. Their individual dreams become secondary. One person sacrifices more than the other and simply put, it’s not fair! Nor to the one pushing over their dreams and neither to the ones overcompensating and stressing over added responsibilities.
You may say, “It works for us”, and that line right there is usually a coping mechanism. It only breeds contempt and resentment. If you let it get to this stage, there can be so many complications and some may never return from this point. So commit to helping and pushing each other to grow individually. You learn so much about yourself and your spouse in this process.
Ask your spouse how you can be a better spouse for them
One of the best things you can do for your spouse is to ask them how you can be a better companion for them. Just like everything on this planet, it is extremely essential to nurture your marriage. When you clash with your spouse, the natural way to react is to tell them to change their ways. Instead shift focus and ask your spouse how you can be better for them. They’ll tell you exactly what you can do to make them feel loved. There’s no better way to break down egos and discover something new about yourself. I’m so grateful that Vivin asks me this question occasionally and I definitely feel loved and understood.
Break generational cycles
Both spouses come from different walks of life and have significant differences in the way we are brought up. All of these differences can create conflict in your marriages. I mean, it’s only natural they do. These negative behaviours and destructive patterns can lead to a vicious self-destructive patterns that get passed down generations, creating repetitive cycles of these misfortunes.
In fact recently Hasan Minhaj in his comedy special said, “Our parents prepare us for a certain version of the world, and by the time we came of age, that world had fundamentally changed.”
So, it’s important to realise what may have been prevalent in your parents’ generations as a norm may not be something worth continuing in the present age. So, it’s your responsibility to nip it in the bud and not let it run too deep. It’s essential to have a conversation about the path forward for your family.
Work on your mental health
If you take just one thing from this blog, let this be it! You cannot pour from an empty jar. Working on your mental health means replenish your jar before pouring out. Fill yourself before you feed others. You can feed from an empty plate and a hungry stomach. In fact, this is the exact reason airplane stewards instruct you at take off to help yourself in case of an emergency situation before helping others around you. So, work on your mental health so that you stop propagating your issues on your spouse. They love you but they won’t necessarily be able to help you always.
Financial transparency & independence
Another very common couple dynamic I notice among South Asian couples is the lack of transparency and independence in terms of finances. The art of relying on your spouse in entirety for your finances is a diminutive idea. If you don’t have financial independence, you don’t have any power of decision making. It’s not a matter of fact, but the eventual result of the situation.
On the other hand, financial transparency is crucial to the growth of your marriage. Hiding your finances only hurts your marriage. The idea of “what you don’t know, won’t hurt you” is skewered mindset. This was an extremely hard lesson for me to learn. I’m my worst self, when it comes to talking about finances but I’m getting better at it, every day.
Ask for help
Asking for help to open a tight jar of jam can be easy. It’s the other aspects of your life that asking for help that can be tough. Talking for help in managing finances, mental health, health in general and decision-making processes is extremely tough. Every time your ego acts up and stops you from asking your spouse for help, remember, your spouse is the only person who wouldn’t enjoy your failures. Your failures directly affects their wellbeing. So, the person who will do anything to help you is your spouse. Turn to them. Don’t let your ego draw your well dry.
Personally, I’m working on this myself. I suck at asking for help. Ego just doesn’t help the process. Vivin, on the other hand, is good at asking for help. He does it every time I pass by his side of the bed. Surprisingly, he always needs me to fetch him something new. 😛
The most important lesson being married has taught me is to be a good listener. Most often than not, when your spouse shares their problems with you it’s not because they want a solution, it’s because they need a patient, loving and considerate listening ear. The burden is lighter, shared; not when carried alone. So, share and if your shares with you, listen. Pay attention! Listening is not a multi-tasking action. Listen intently with an undivided attention.
If you think you are not getting your spouse’ undivided attention, make it known. Don’t fight for attention, instead ask them when they can stop what they’re doing and give you complete attention.
These are the 8 invaluable lessons the last 8 years being married to Vivin has taught me. I hope these tips help you out too.