Given today’s casual dating culture, troubled marriages and high divorce rates, one cannot help but wonder whether the institution of marriage and harmonious relationships are a fallacy. The simple truth, however, is that it’s a conscious effort.
Ishdeep Sawhney, CEO, and Founder, Banihal, which helps people connect, lists three tricks the unconscious plays in a healthy and loving relationship — and how they are harmful.
* Keeping a secret: We have a unique experience of the world so that inherently makes our moments our secret memories. The secrets in a relationship that should be avoided are the ones that define our personal self-image. Let’s say, you have been married for a year and one day you get an email from an ex who was not significant in your life — and you delete that email. At this time, there is potential for a secret to be created if you acknowledge that your current relationship is a source of discomfort. If the email is something you would not think twice about later then it doesn’t become a secret. Secrecy creates a breach in the relationship through solitary reflection and avoiding feedback. The fix for a secret is to agree to the facts and listen to your partner as they get comfortable with it as well.
* Agreeing to a false story: My wife enjoys many things but driving the kids to school is not her idea of fun. When it’s time to drop our son at school, she sometimes — especially if she is running late — asks for help. I would mostly do so. However, on one occasion, when she asked me to drop our son when it was her turn to do so, I got upset as I thought that she did not value my time. That was a false judgment that arose from a disagreement that took place a day before and came from residual emotions that had generated a thought that was an extreme assessment of the facts. I discarded the thought as baseless before it could take hold. It is an accumulation of these thoughts that cause the narrative to drift further from reality. These instant stories that come without any effort to justify our current emotion are independent of facts and reality.
* Being the authority for justice: We are human and we all make mistakes. In a relationship, sometimes one person might take an action that has bad consequences for their partner. Let us suppose that parents of one spouse are sick and live in a different city. That person wants to go be with the parents for three months and the other partner objects to the trip citing reasons like work, kids or the timing of it. The other person could feel cheated and decide on a tit-for-tat fight and not cooperate on other daily activities. A deeper understanding of our desire to be the authority and dole out justice might be more helpful in letting the emotion gradually get weaker and not acting on it.
As human beings, our brains are wired to choose instant gratification. We punish people who deceive and can go to the extent of suffering a personal loss to make sure justice is served. However, this need to punish at the moment cannot balance the toll it will take on our long-term relationship with our partner and balance it against all the good from the past and in the future. The way forward in this scenario is to recognize and let this primal emotion run its course and then calmly make progress.