Married Couples Must Meet Seven Challenges

Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

At work, a lot of us have to be "the chief cook and bottle washer," and strive to be many things to many people. Marriage is even more precious than a job and so it ought to be. Therefore, a person is required to play many more roles, perform many more tasks and expected to be many more things to his or her partner.

Here are the seven "conjugal challenges" that a couple must meet in order to have a happy and satisfying marriage: 1. Identifying totally with your partner and still be your own self; 2.Being a partner and a parent; 3. Striking the balance between your family, work, and social life. 4. Defining the boundaries between your parental families and your own; 5. Loving and supporting your partner even during a crisis; 6. Being a lover and a nurturer and 7. Keeping the romance of the marriage alive. In order to meet these challenges, we must often resolve opposing and contradictory tasks and juggle several different roles all at the same time. Here are some thoughts that might be of help in tackling the 7 challenges:

1. Identifying totally with your partner and still be your own self is about love and self-identity. Successful partners totally identify with each other. They can finish each other's sentences, anticipate what their partner would think in a given situation and are able to feel what he or she would feel if "X" happened. They are bonded as a twosome and yet give each other space to pursue their own interests and reach their full potential. They strike a balance between togetherness and separateness. Know your partner like the back of your hand. Well, almost. Know your partner's hopes and aspirations, fears and concerns, strains and stresses as well as things that interest and make him or her happy. Do the same for yourself.

2. Being a partner and a parent. Pregnancy and child-birth are the most joyous times but they present a critical juncture in marriage. Some men begin to feel isolated and insecure and perceive their partner as uninterested, uninvolved and inattentive to them. Some women get totally involved with the baby and don't understand why their spouse is not as involved. As a result the distance between the couple grows. The man may turn to friends, work, or alcohol and the woman may spend more and more time alone with the baby. Unless partners can strike the balance between intimacy and parenthood, their marriage is at risk.

3. Striking the balance between the family, work, and social life. Ask your friends, "What do you value more, your family or work?" I can't imagine anyone stating that they value the latter. Yet, a lot of people one day wake up to the fact that they have climbed up the work ladder but their spouses have left them and their children have grown up resenting their absence. "Not having enough time" is not the real problem. When people remind themselves constantly, and never lose the sight of the fact that family is the most important value in their lives, they can accomplish a lot in being together for even five minutes. Each one of us is capable of being a good partner, worker, and an involved citizen;

4. Defining the boundaries between your parental families and your own. To some, it may feel as a disloyalty to their families, but the process of growing up requires emotionally separating oneself from one's family of origin and investing in the family of marriage. A couple has to define the relationship with both families of origin. It's possible to be a loving child to your parents, a loving brother or sister to your siblings, connected to your extended families, and be a loving partner and a parent in your family.

5. Loving and supporting your partner even during a crisis. In many marriages all is well as long as the going is smooth but once a couple enters the troubled waters, their marriage is "on the rocks." When the going is tough, it gets tough everywhere, even at home. Couples start fighting and thus increase their stress even more. Adopt the "we against them" attitude. Take your partner's side. When you're stressed out, don't take it out on your partner. Care and love your partner even in a crisis. Successful partners come even closer when they face a crisis.

6. Being a lover and a nurturer. Each person has a need to be supported, appreciated, validated, and above all nurtured. We expect it from no one more than from our own partner. Accept your partner totally. Which qualities of your partner you appreciate and admire? Happily married couples think fondly of, and feel proud of each other. They reciprocate each other's sentiments, and some more.

7. Keeping the romance of the marriage alive forever. Successful partners keep alive the romantic and idealized images of falling in love. Whenever reminded of such associations of their courtship as the dress, the place, the gift or any other related matter, their eyes assume a dreamy look and they'd enter in a trance like state. They can capture that moment with the same feeling even 40-50 years later. Those falling in images and memories work as a mortar that binds the relationship forever.

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Copyright 2000, Mind Publications 


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