Marriage does not thrive solely on emotional love.
The day is still fresh in my memory ...
I was draped in a bright red crepe saree with golden embroidery. My make-up wasn't perfect. But I looked good. I was happy, and that made me look beautiful.
It was my wedding day. But, my wedding day was probably much different than what you'd typically expect.
You see, I said "yes" to him without ever seeing his face. (This is how besotted I was with him — his simplicity, honesty and integrity.)
Ours was an arranged marriage where my parents introduced me to him and exchanged our numbers. We talked on the phone for a few days. And, what started off as dislike and attitude soon melted away into love.
During our two month courtship period, we vowed to be with each other. When it came time to complete the formalities of a legal marriage, we decided to have a simple, traditional wedding.
I know many people think an arranged marriage can never work and we can never be truly happy. Well, yesterday, we completed seven years of marriage. And I am incredibly happy.
These are the crucial (and heart-warming) lessons every married couple should remember if they want a relationship that lasts:
1. Marriage is a decision.
Movies and romantic novels make us believe that marriage is an emotional state, like love. From a young age, we tend to romanticize the idea of marriage, and believe that marriage and love are complimentary; they can't exist without each other.
While it's great if your marriage is ripe with loving emotions, successful marriages do not thrive solely on emotional love. A happy marriage requires hard work. It needs attention and constant grooming. It requires much more than just romance, dinner dates and breakfast in bed. It is a conscious decision right from the moment you say, "I do."
It is the commitment within the words "I do" (that mean: "I choose you to be my life partner") that is the heart and foundation of a solid marriage. A happy marriage is the end result of consistently making good on that commitment every day.
2. True love lies in growth.
Thinking about a person for the whole day and calling up every hour to check on him is not love; it is a disorder. True love lies in personal growth — in letting your partner achieve his best potential. Let him become the best version of himself.
Remember: if it doesn't let you grow, it isn't love. It is control, insecurity and over-possessiveness, and it is far from genuine love.
3. Life isn't all about 50/50.
And it is also not about 100/100. There is no set formula to weigh in each partner's contribution to a marriage. The ratio varies every single day.
Some days you contribute more and some days he does. There may be days when one of you brings zero to the table and the other brings the entire 100. Do not get lost in keeping score. Life's matters are subjective. They cannot be objectified in numbers and units.
I didn't know my husband's household habits before marriage. When I moved in with him and saw his wet towels on the bed, his slippers under the couch and his refusal to lift a finger, I was not only shocked but hugely disappointed. I had quit my job to move in with him, and that made me even more distraught.
With time, I learned to mark his presence with his gestures and intentions. I understood that he is simply a lazy bum who doesn't like moving around, but he genuinely loves me and that is more important. He is never late to help whenever he sees me getting exhausted, but if I ask him to do it on his own, he won't listen.
More than the numbers, focus on the intent. Does he intend to help you around the house? Does she want to accompany you to the soccer game but really can't? Give your spouse the points they deserve.
4. True contentment comes from within.
Every state of being comes from within — stress, anxiety, jealousy, happiness, contentment and peace. Your brain (and thus, its thoughts) play the most important character in your life. It decides how you respond to a situation, and your response decides what you experience in return.
Don't be a slave to your thoughts. Bring them under your control. Do not blame anybody else for your own misery. You are the only master of your life. The sooner you accept it, the better it is (for you and your marriage).
I noticed a drastic change in my marriage after I deliberately made attempts to count the blessings more and ignore the petty negatives. The day I changed my pattern of thinking, my marriage got infinitely better.
5. Bad health is a Pandora's box.
Most of the problems in life originate from bad health, and yet we ignore it. Women especially have to deal with it to a greater extent than men. Particularly after childbirth, our bodies are no longer the same.
Weight gain is the most common problem and that leads to several other health issues: High BP, diabetes, anxiety, depression. These are all side effects of not taking good care of your health.
There was a time when I tried hard to lose weight and gave in to fad diets. I remained hungry for hours at a stretch, and while I didn't lose an ounce, I did lose mental peace. I became irritated and cranky, and that only made matters worse in my relationship.
Bad health reflects in our mood, and that affects how we behave with people around us. Losing your temper on every little thing and constantly nagging on errands is a sign that you need to check your health records.
6. Quitting is not a (good) option.
Those who understand the tradition of arranged marriage know that it involves two families and there is social pressure for the couple to stay married. This is not to say that arranged marriage encourages remaining in abusive marriages, but yes, it does encourage staying married otherwise and finding a way to work things out.
We are taught from the beginning that divorce is not a good option, and this makes us give our best to our marriage. I am in no way bound to stay married if I am truly unhappy, but I do not have the freedom to simply leave the moment I please. I must have a valid, concrete reasons to step out. I can't just pack my bags on a whim.
Marriage is challenging. It would be so easy to walk away from 100 marriages the moment something upsets us or doesn't feel good. But since I do not have this option, I need to look for a substantially major reason to leave my husband — and in the last seven years, I haven't found any.
7. Gratitude helps a TON.
Being grateful in life helps in more ways than I can count. Gratitude helps us in staying real. Practicing gratitude everyday helps us avoid taking anything for granted. It reminds us that life is volitional, and being thankful only adds depth and brightness to it.
8. Little things matter the most.
When I gave up the opportunity to live and work in a developed country, I wasn't a tiny bit regretful. I knew the small, little things I was gaining for this lovely choice I made would bring me more happiness. And with time that has proved true.
The on-site opportunity with a hefty pay package did seem like a big thing at first, but then I looked at my 6-month-old daughter and my happy marriage, and I knew that "big job" I passed up wasn't that important in life.
9. Dates aren't important — moments are.
Women are known to be fixated on dates (anniversaries, birthdays); I used to be, too.
Last night, a dear friend asked, "So what did he gift you for your anniversary?" and I replied, "Nothing." My husband does not believe in gifts. He is quite expressive otherwise, but gifts? Nah! That isn't something he can deal with.
To add to it, he doesn't believe in symbolic dates, either. To him, all days are the same, of the same value. How we spend them is what matters to him the most.
With time, his effect has rubbed on to me too, for the better. Forget the big date — it is just a number. Moments are more significant. Later in life, we do not cherish the numeric date of a celebration, we remember the memories created in the life we shared.
10. Knowing his love language definitely helps.
If I have to pick one external item that has helped me building a better marriage, I would say it is the book Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. Ever since I have learned my partner's love language, my life has simplified on its own. Not only do I get few complaints from him, but I am now able to understand things from his perspective.
You see, didn't I just say, "Gifts aren't his language?" Fortunately, they aren't mine either.