In magnets, opposite poles attract each other; in marital relationship, similarity in tastes and qualities attract the partners initially. However, it is mostly when the honeymoon period ends, that the partners get exposed to the presence of diametrically opposite qualities in each other!
The diametrically opposite qualities may range across many aspects of personality, habits, beliefs, principles and values, ethics and convictions, cultures and so on. The trouble really starts when one of the partners starts displaying a “holier than thou” attitude, justifying, glorifying or emphasizing his/her side of qualities to be superior to the other; when he/she expects the other partner to drastically modify and adapt to suit his/her preferences, the problems get compounded.
While what one of the partners claim as a better trait/ quality/ value may even be true, the resistance
to accept the other becomes strong when one starts trumpeting one’s superiority at every opportune moment and starts attempts to “reforming” the other.
Let us take an example. The man is an owl type who goes to the bed late and gets up late in the morning. His wife on the other hand is an early bird who rises up briskly even before dawn and goes to bed early. The wife has been indoctrinated to believe right from her childhood by her parents that rising early is the best of all habits. She starts chiding her husband for his sloth and dullness in the mornings. She tries to reform him by forcefully waking him up early in the morning and compelling him to go for jogging!
To make a success of marriage in such diametrically opposite qualities, here are some guidelines:
Accept and respect biological differences
Early rising or late rising, taking a nap habitually in the afternoons, disliking certain food items that are really good for health, sumptuous eating or sparse eating, excessive desire in sex — these are some basic biological differences that exists in nature in the individual constitution of people. There is really no point in forcing the partner on such matters. It is best for the cordiality of the marital relationship for one partner to accept and adopt oneself to the differences in the other.
Accept the views of the partner whose ethics and values are better
Let us consider another example. The husband comes from a family where accepting or giving bribes is considered highly unethical. On the other hand, the wife comes from a family where accepting money or goodies in return for doing out-of-turn favors is never considered wrong. The wife may pester her husband, who works in a Government office where bribing is taken for granted, to accept bribes (like the other colleagues in the office who have no qualms about it), in order improve their financial status. This puts the husband into a very disturbing mental agony and moral dilemma. Whose resolve should succeed in such a situation?
In the interest of long term mental peace and wellness of the family, it is always best if the morally sound partner takes the upper hand and convinces the spouse on the importance of sticking to time-tested principles and values.
Take another example — one of the partners is a spendthrift while the other is miserly. Lots of tempers can raise in such a combo! In such a scenario, only through healthy discussions, arguments and give-and-take, the couples can pull along. The spendthrift has to curtail her instincts while the miser should learn to open his wallet wider and more frequently to satisfy genuine needs of the partner.
Tread extra cautiously in matters of religion and cultural differences
Thanks to the mind blowing advancements in communication, traveling and globalization of businesses, people get lots of exposure to other cultures, religions, languages and communities. Naturally, men and women are exposed to falling in love with persons having diametrically opposite religious and cultural moorings. In fact, even such differences have the potential initially make the love affair extremely attractive and thrilling!
But unfortunately affinity to one’s religion or sub-sect of religion, culture, language, food habits etc are so strongly and fundamentally interwoven in every individual’s psyche that, sooner or later, one-upmanship on these sensitive issues are bound to sprout in a marital relationship.
Unless the husband and wife look at each other first as a human being, next as a loving and lovable personality and lastly as a person of religion/ cultural deviation, conflicts cannot be brushed away. Mostly one of the partners who has better adaptability many have to adjust more than his / her due share and sacrifice for the sake of sustaining the marriage in the interest of long term bondage.
These steps may include a high degree of tolerance to criticism on one’s basic religious faiths at the lower end to conversion to the spouse’s religion at the extreme end. Other adjustments may include changing dress codes, learning the spouse’s mother tongue, learning to cook to the weird tastes of the other and sacrificing most loved food items (for example, a husband accepting vegetarianism for the sake of his wife). It may be painful to miss the joyful family get-together functions in the erstwhile relatives’ families, celebrating favorite religious functions, visiting and praying in traditional places of worship (of the original religion) etc. One has to tread very carefully if he/she feels tempted to laugh at the cultural idiosyncrasies of the partner, because many people have very sentimental attachment to religion and they may react angrily rather than logically.
An overpowering love for the partner, desire to retain the sanctity of marriage, lots of give and take, a broad-mindedness, a high degree of sense of humor, a drastic surrender of egotism, tenacity to withstand the negative counseling by relatives and friends – these are some of the essential qualities needed in one or both the partners on the matter of differences in religion, culture etc. Only with these qualities, the couple can make a success of marriage under very trying conflicts.