Marriage holds an important place in human relationships because it fulfils the basic need for love, companionship and family in a way no other relationship can. The phrase often used for this is “settling down”, words that seem more suitable for your stomach than for one of life’s most difficult adventures! It’s a game of chance but the upside of a successful match makes it a worthwhile journey to embark on. While a good marriage is an ideal framework to raise children in, choosing a suitable partner is the start rather than the end of a search. Whether you are newly wed or have been married for some time, nurturing the relationship is of paramount importance.

This is more true today when the institution of marriage is facing a shake-up. People are questioning the validity of the arranged marriage system on the one hand, while on the other hand a love marriage may not guarantee happiness either. Parents are over-anxious for their children to marry and unintentionally force wrong matches or put their child off from thoughts of marriage. The patience to make relationships work is dwindling, as the distractions of modern life take over.

Women don't need men to support them, and many choose to focus on their careers and delay marriage. Unlike marriage, success in a career seems more in their hands, more under their control. Well-adjusted men accept this change in attitude and encourage it while others are caught between two worlds, the one they were raised in and the one they live in.

Is there a lesson from the past to meet the challenges of the present? The beautiful words of Khalil Gibran in The Prophet come to mind:

stand together yet not too near together:

For the pillars of the temple stand apart,

And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each others shadow.

These simple words convey the overarching quality of the marriages that do work — distance in togetherness.

Some thoughts on achieving this fine balance:

Having ‘control’ or a say in everything in the other person’s life does not foster nurturing.

Focus on your partner’s positive traits.

Take an interest in each other’s hobbies; it’s a great way to spend time together. However, remember every activity need not be a joint one.

Maintain as good a relationship as you can with his family without killing yourself over it but don’t make him choose sides.

Learn to communicate well; this includes listening and encouragement.

Don’t give up on your own dreams and talents after marriage; find a way to weave it into your journey together.

A relationship built on mutual respect, basic courtesy, acceptance, and compromise is an effective way to make good on that whole “till death do us part” thing.

Shvetha Jaishankar was once a top-notch model; has an MBA from ISB, Hyderabad; and is traveller, entrepreneur, experimenter, and connoisseur of the fine things in life. Mail her at shvethaj@gmail.com

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