Updated: Nov 20
“I am only here tonight because of you. You are the only reason I am. You are all my reasons. Thank you.” When John Nash from the movie 'A Beautiful mind', spoke these heartfelt gratuitous lines, we all felt it in our hearts. We have all dreamt of a partner like Alicia, John’s wife in the movie, who stood by Nash like a rock, supporting him through his psychiatric illness. But let us slap ourselves with some realities. Is it even possible for everybody out there to have a hidden Alicia in them?
Of course, marriage is a team effort. No marriage happens by accident. It needs to be carried with a strong grasp of reality to be more resilient to disappointment in order to improve the quality of the relationship. Mutual respect, a healthy dose of mutual admiration, and a never-ending portion of love and grace are the three outlining components of a happy and successful marriage. Further, John Gottman, a psychological, researcher, and clinician, came up with research-based features to help couples strengthen their relationships.
Bursting the myth bubble
Gottman, through his research, found many myths that are not just false but also destructing marriages. He claims to be able to predict the outcome of relationships with up to 94% accuracy. After devoting more than 40years to figure out the math to make relationships work, the “Einstein of love” Gottman, has exploded the following myth bubbles about marriage:
Common interests keep you together:
It is highly possible for the wife to love musical theatre while the husband prefers a soccer game. And yes, it is perfectly normal to have separate pastimes, as long as you respect each other’s interests. After all, it isn’t the amount of common interest that is important. Rather it’s how the couple interact while being together.
Affairs are the main cause of divorce:
John and Julie Gottman learned that partners who have affairs are usually driven not because of forbidden attraction but due to loneliness. In other words, though subtle, there were already serious problems in the marriage before the affair occupied.
These affairs come in handy to fill the void with friendship, understanding, respect, concern, and other feelings that a marriage is supposed to offer.
Avoiding conflict can ruin the relationship:
The theme is HOW we handle conflicts, and not that those issues are completely avoided. Everybody has different methods of dealing with disagreements. Of course, sweeping the dirt under the rug cannot sustain for long, nor can a constant barrage of honest criticism be the best policy. Some couples find themselves a self-soothe to calm down and move on from the conflict as if nothing happened. Some other couples, choose to sit down for a talk and rumble until they feel enough.
Finding a middle ground that the two can nod on, allows the couple to talk out when really in need to settle trivial matters.
Men are from Mars and women from Venus:
As Gottman states, “Gender differences may contribute to marital problems, but they don't cause them.” He further states that the determining factor on how satisfied the wives feel with romance, sex, and passion in the marriage is by 70% of the quality of the couple’s friendship. Similarly, for men, the determining factor is gauged by 70% on the quality of the couple’s friendship. Yes, you read it right. Men and women share the same criteria for determining the satisfaction of the marriage. Hence proving that after all men and women are from the same planet.
Men are not biologically “built” for marriage:
The conclusion few therapists prefer to draw is that men are simply biologically more likely to have affairs. These therapists cite differences in natural evolution for men and women to argue that men have been predisposed to have as many offsprings as possible. They also argue that women are inclined to nurture their young ones while trying to keep their fathers close for protection.
However, in this modern age, this particular observation doesn’t seem to fit the narrative. According to new research, the number of extramarital affairs of young women exceeds those of men in slight numbers. The reason discovered was that women have been entering the workplace, giving them more exposure outside the home.
Reciprocity is the source of all good relationships:
Deal-making or a contract, or even a quid pro quo are mostly the functioning of an unhappy marriage. Reciprocity can eventually lead to couples resenting each other. Instead, do nice things for the partner simply because you are a couple, not because you want something back in return.
Mental or personality problems ruin marriage:
We all have our own deficiencies. After all, it's how we handle them that matters and not simply because we have them. The key to a happy relationship is not having a normal personality but finding someone with whom you can be yourself. Neuroses don’t necessarily ruin a relationship. If a couple can accommodate each other’s strange/weird side with respect, care, and attention that the relationship can thrive.
In short, marriage can be disappointing as well as fulfilling. This natural but painful difference between fantasy and reality can leave one disenchanted. It’s important couples get past this stage and end with a vital, satisfying marriage.
After all, marriage isn’t something that is going to keep itself together. It is crucial not to take each other for granted and make conscious decisions to be compassionate and loving to have the relationship going.