A husband and wife relationship is a unique and difficult one as it brings two individuals together in the name of marriage and expects to be together rest of their lives. Before committing into any relationship It is very important to understand and acknowledge that every individual has unique personality and different in its own way. If couple learned to accept each other unconditionally by respecting and enjoying each others differences then marital life will be successful. The given real life case study describes how lack of trust and poor communication could fracture a relationship. How an external influence could sever the couple bond leaving the partners feel deserted. It also shows how marital Counseling could help the couple to communicate the messages that were not expressed earlier and to facilitate better relationship skills.
Life without relationships is impossible in this universe. We come across different relationships in every stage of our lives. Among those relationships a husband and wife bond is a unique and difficult one as it brings two individuals together in the name of marriage and expects to be together rest of their lives. What is important in a relationship or how to maintain harmony is the question arises in the minds of everyone or atleast most of the partners. In order to stay in the relationship one partner should inspire the other partner intellectually, emotionally, spiritually and physically. They should be in the same inspirational level or atleast has some part of it in order to keep the relationship going. It helps to develop compatibility between the couple. With compatibility, communication is another important aspect that helps the couple to stay connected. Active communication allows one person to know the needs of the other person and therefore keeping the feeling of love alive throughout.
In the book “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus”(John Gray,1992) the author suggests different ways to understand the communication styles and the emotional needs of the opposite gender to improve husband –wife relationships. He says basically women have different communication style and emotional need when compared to men. For an instant; women want their problems to be acknowledged so they are complaining whereas men complain as they want to find solutions. Women are dissatisfied if their husbands do not acknowledge the problem and men feel disappointed if they do not get help from their wives to find the solution. It creates misunderstanding in between the partners and leads to conflicts.
Another point John Gray brings out in his book is men react differently under stress and women react differently in their own way. Both have specific stereotype behaviours. He explains the difference through “the cave and the wave” concept. He describes men as “retreating into their caves” when they are under stress or until they find the solution to the problem. Men’s retreatment or withdrawal is like ‘time out’ as they determined to get solution. This timeout help them to look at the problem with a different perspective when they revisit the problem.
In the case of women when they are under stress they like to talk out. Their “waves” would go high and crashes when they are under pressure and thus badly wanting to talk and share with the other partner. The natural cycle for women which is referred as wave is the ability to give their love and energy to other people. But when pressurized she expects the other person to give that energy and love to rejuvenate herself. Eventually under stress they grow closer to their partners. Under stress men move back into their caves while woman’s natural reaction is to talk out .There arise conflicts between husband and wife.
Gary Chapman , a relationship counselor argues that couple need five love languages namely words of affirmation(making positive statements),quality time(degree of emotional involvement),receiving gifts(expecting nothing in return, a voluntary act),acts of service(any sort of help) and physical touch(nonverbal communication vital in interpersonal relationship) to express and understand the emotional love. Eventhough people speak all five languages everyone will have one primary love language. Picking up that primary language and satisfying that will lead to successful and satisfactory marriage life.
A husband cannot expect his wife to react or think in that way he does. That will create frustration. Unrealistic expectations from either gender ends in disappointment. The frustration level drops when we understand every one is different and they will have their own ways or styles. This will let one to have realistic expectations from the other gender. It is very difficult to explain the gender differences as the likes and dislikes of men and women fall under a large spectrum.
Marital counseling or otherwise called as couple counseling is a recent phenomenon that gained popularity within short span of time. Until late 20th century marriage counseling was primarily dealt by elders in the family, close friends, mentors or religious leaders. With adopting westernization that gives more financial freedom to both men and women and shifting of joint family system to nuclear families, lot of issues crop up between husband and wife. Unable to disclose to any family member or sometimes no body to address the issue they started approaching professionals for help. A counselor is a person who has a balanced mind and mature disposition and non judgmental by nature handles the case with empathy, respecting their emotions, opinions and feelings and maintains confidentiality.
The following is real life case study that describes how lack of trust and poor communication could fracture a relationship. How an external influence could sever the couple bond leaving the partners feel deserted.
Overview of the case:
Sunil and Maya were married for one year. Sunil was eldest in the family with two younger brothers. He lost his father when he was doing his 10th standard. With lot of struggle his mother brought up all three sons. Sunil had high regards for his mother and very attached to her and his brothers. Maya was the eldest in the family. She had one younger sister. She also lost her father when she was 12 years old. As her mother was a working woman both Maya and her sister were left at the hostel. They had lot of financial difficulties as they never received any assistance or support from anybody including relatives. As her mother was earning they were able to manage things within the income. Maya was not very attached to either to her mother or her sister. As a person she was very quite and calm. Even in the hostel she would not mix with other students. She was not a group oriented person.
After completing her graduation she got a good job. While working for a reputed company she got the alliance of Sunil through one of her relatives .Sunil was working for MNC and earning reasonably good salary. Both the parties were convinced and agreed for the marriage. Hence they got married and Maya moved to Chennai where he was working and started staying with Sunil’s family. Things went on well in the first month. Slowly things started changing. Maya didn’t welcome the fact that Sunil was helping his last brother in his studies and supporting the whole family. She felt her husband was spending lot of money for his mother and brother. She found fault with his mother and always it ended up in conflicts and arguments. At one point of time she forced him to leave them and wanted to take another house. Sunil refused to listen to her. But his mother convinced him to go as she wanted her son to be in peace. After coming to new house Maya kept quite for sometime. Then she prevented him form giving money to his mother and brothers as one of Sunil’s brother started working. She was very firm and expected him to give all the money and credit cards as she wanted to have a hold on all his expenditure. Sunil refused to do that and continued to give money to his mother. Maya refused to take up any job. Always she was obsessive about his spending and was questioning him.
Unable to tolerate her bahaviour and cope up with situation Sunil opened up the issue with one of his office-mates. He suggested him to take Maya to a psychologist for counseling.
Analysis of the case:
Interactions with Sunil and Maya revealed that the level of communication between the couple was very poor. The space from where Maya was hailing was totally different from the space from where Sunil was hailing. That is having lost his father Sunil became closer to his kin and kith. His was a close knitted family where they shared everything and had a strong bond among the brothers and mother. They considered that as their strength. Whereas Maya and her sister were left in the hostel and she grew up on her own. Even when she went home for vacation rarely she got to spend time with her mother as she was working. Mother always said that she had to work hard as they had none to support them. Maya was not very close to her sister who was 7 years younger than her. Having lost her father at very tender age since that time she always had a feeling of insecurity regarding money. Her mother always preached that money was everything in life. Maya grew up on hearing such advice. It was strongly registered in her mind. She never experienced the joy of any relationship. As a family they were withdrawn from others and within the family they behaved as if they were separate individuals. She agreed to the marriage since Sunil was in a good job and earning a fairly good salary. When she came to know that he was spending large amount of money for his mother and brothers she could not accept that. She developed an fear that if something happened to Sunil like her father she would be left alone like her mother and she had to struggle through out her life. Moreover she could not understand the depth of mother –son relationship or brother-brother relationship as she never had one. She thought that Sunil was giving more importance to his family than her. Like adding fuel to the issue her mother often warned her to have control over her husband and his spending. Mother influenced her not to take up a job. Mother said if she took up a job Sunil might give all his money to his family. Mother influenced Maya to move out of the house with her husband. Mother always said “be careful do not struggle like me”. Maya started feeling very insecure and wanted to have full control over her husband’s activities especially expenditure.
Before committing into any relationship It is very important to understand and acknowledge that every individual has unique personality and different in its own way. The value system with what the person was brought up will play a major role in shaping the person’s nature and behavior. Optimal functioning of relationship gets strained when individuals fail to recognize this fact. Counseling help to make fundamental changes in the perception and attitude of those involved in the relationship. They start looking and responding to the situation with different perspective and positive attitude. This helps to bring a viable solution to the concern. Thus counseling sessions help Sunil and Maya,
To recognize and address the destructive patterns of their behaviours-Maya was made to realize the need for Sunil to help his family and made to understand it was his responsibility, not to get influenced by anybody including mother.
To improve the style to communication to get better understanding-during the session Maya came to know that Sunil is saving one part of his income every month and it is not that he spends everything for his family.
To adopt adult-to-adult interactions during conversations- It is unrealistic to feel that arguments can be avoided. It is ok to have healthier arguments and learn to tackle them skillfully.
To develop new relationship skills-Maya felt she was ‘unheard’-Sunil realized his mistake of never listening to her, giving and receiving gifts, visiting friends and relatives.
To understand the value system and habit that have been inherited from the family in which one grew up-Both Maya and Sunil were made to become aware of the spaces from where they were coming.
To solve the problem together than as two individuals-Maya was motivated to take up a job rather than sitting at home ,she was made to become aware of her irrational thoughts and fears like something might happen to Sunil, money is everything in life.
To develop trust and intimacy-Sunil understood that he needs to spend more time with his wife and it is his prime responsibility to make her feel happy and safe.
Once the couple learned to accept each other unconditionally by respecting and enjoying each others differences then marital life will be successful. Two individuals come together in the name of marriage but by and large they are two different individuals. Men are task oriented and their sense of self come from achievement but women are relationship oriented. Unless couple understands the fact that working together is very much needed inspite of their differences; it is difficult to move on in the path of marriage. Couple Counseling helps to communicate the messages that were not expressed so far and to develop better relationship skills.
Gary Chapman (2004). The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate (new edition). Northfield Press