Matters of the Mind: Couples, conflicts and consciousness

The pressure of expectations, impressions and ideations interferes significantly with our real companionships.

Our ideas about marriage are fed by movies, fantasies and conversations, long before we even enter into matrimony. Advertisements, selective photo-sharing on social media, filtered reality, and edited stories make us see through rose-tinted glasses, as we embark upon a journey that is far from fantasies.

More often than not, we step into the world of matrimony, ironically, light-headed with expectations of romantic nights, bright mornings with breakfast in bed, families showering us with blessings and our life fragrant with love, lust and perfection.

The pressure of these expectations, impressions and ideations interferes significantly with our real companionships. The reasons are simple. For one, the reality does not match up to our beautifully scripted and illustrated expectations regarding people, places and parties, and second, we despise the cause of that heartbreak, invariably assuming it is the partner who broke all our dreams.

The range of this wreckage is wide. There are colossal fights and damage in some cases; for some, it is scattered. But disappointments in partners is widely and almost universally reported. I could say don’t dream, don’t expect and don’t desire, but instead, I have a simpler to-practice list that may help cope or bring calm and happiness in relationships amongst partners.

Observe them for who they are, not what they should be like or ought to be

You are two different entities with different pasts with many different chapters in your stories. These stories and experiences have constructed you differently and so you will see things, feel and act differently. The dreams can thus be shared and laughed together at, while keenly listening to each other’s stories and watching compassionately your unique paths merge.

Recognise the diversity and value its presence

The strength of a relationship lies in acceptance, open communication and trust. Diversity is often looked at as a threat and we reject or criticise when people are different from us. Acceptance of this diversity is the first step towards eating down a strong foundation for a healthy relationship. I usually go further by saying that don’t stop at acceptance. Value the diversity, unique ideas, thoughts, opinions and cultures as growth factors for your personal self and your partnership.

Stop trying to change her/him/others

Most fights I hear are about “I want him to change” or “Why can’t she do this differently?”. Our mind perfectly justifies what we want, making us persuade and argue, believing strongly that it is for his good or her advantage, good for the family, for the betterment of our social relationships and so on. Becoming conscious of your partner’s inner voice and embracing it is the biggest bond that we can aim for. Changing or modifying someone communicates rejection, inequality and dissatisfaction with the way your partner is. Come to think of it, your conflicts could be arising out of lessons learnt from fantasies written by a talented writer, executed by a powerhouse director, and promoted by a marketing genius, who just meant to entertain.

That which frustrates you, is your perception

The power of perceptions has no boundaries. I rely heavily on this practice in my personal life too. The liberation that comes with not needing someone else to bring you peace, and rethinking perceptions that help you generate it, recognise it, birth and nurture it within yourself is the value I wish for people to recognise. It, unfortunately, is not a one-time achieved and owned asset, it needs consistent conviction, practice and restoration. Motivating ourselves to perceive our partners in ways that give us contentment, choosing to see what is rather than what could be, respecting reality and not chasing fiction is an investment that doesn’t disappoint in relationships.

Practice humility

I am tempted to mark this practice as the all-important, baseline work that we, our community and race need to aim towards if we want to live in peace and with compassion. Our ego, pride and arrogance come in the way of the simplest and most fulfilling pleasures of life. In the words of Herman Hesse:

“It is not for me to judge another man’s life. I must judge, I must choose, I must spurn, purely for myself. For myself, alone.”

To focus on self-improvement and not that of the other, to be willing to say “I need to grow”, and to have the courage to state that “I stand corrected”, is true humility. So long as we hold a magnifying glass at the other, we cannot be rid of our pride. We need to turn inwards and work toward the best version of ourselves. As Ernest Hemingway put it: “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”

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