They say marriages are made in heaven. At the time of marriage, all couples seem ecstatic about their relationship and sound crazy about each other. They all express that relationship to be the best thing that ever happened to them and they are willing to walk on water to please each other. However, as time passes, some things begin to change. Somewhere down the road, the intensity of that love begins to wane; for some, all it takes is the honeymoon trip for the feeling of disappointment to surface. Consequently, many marriages eventually go through a significant deterioration in the relationship. Some of the stats are scary - in many western societies, one out of every two marriages results in divorce; and, only a third of all second marriages survive. While the numbers currently look much better for Asia, the trends are equally alarming.

What happens to all those beautiful marriages? Where do we go wrong in our relationships? There are obviously many perspectives to this, but let me point out a few key aspects related particularly to our emotional make-up that are at play here and how we can learn to deal with them. First, it’s the limitation of our emotional intelligence – our inability to understand and manage our own emotions and that of our partner. How well do we know ourselves, our triggers, our filters, our hot spots? How deftly can we read our partners’ feelings and emotions? Even if we can understand the partner’s emotions, what choices do we make in reacting to them? At the start of the relationship, all mannerisms of our partner seem so adorable – over time, as the magic of initial infatuation begins to wear off, many of the same habits begin to annoy us. Because of our limited emotional bandwidth, and consequent impatience and discomfort with giving space to the partner, we have the tendency to want the partner to be identical to us – in our likes and dislikes, behavior patterns, parenting style and so forth. Our inability to reconcile differences thereof further adds to the undertone of discontent.

A powerful and intimate relationship like marriage also tests and brings out our stored unresolved emotions. All the childhood experiences and psychological impressions that comprise our emotional past begin to surface quickly in this relationship. Interactions with the partner bring out feelings, suppressed in our personal psyche, of rejection, blame, fear, shame, lack of acceptance and so forth. It is our inability to recognize these emotions and deal with them successfully that leads to continued revival of these feelings. Every time we are unable to cope with them, there is a related tendency to blame the partner for our emotional state, anger and sadness – which inadvertently then leads to arguments and added distress. These stored emotions also make us cling to acting out our personal control dramas to cope with all our difficult interactions – we could be playing out the victim (emanating from old beliefs of never being loved or accepted) or the aggressor (need to find faults or take charge to fix others). Then there is the entire related space of our ego – it just makes it harder for each one to give in or be generous in accepting mistakes or appreciating the partner. Our ego makes us self-centered and selfish – it comes in the way of effectively listening to the partner as we are always listening with an inner assessment of how what is being said affects me. It’s because of our ego that we also take our partner’s comments or actions personally.

Finally, the challenges of relationships in general get some additional and unique accents in a man-woman relationship. Men and women are very different in many ways – from what they value to what their greatest needs from a relationship are. As John Gray writes in his book Men are from Mars and Women from Venus, men are about achievement, women about feelings. Men are looking for success, autonomy, and respect, while women are after nurturing and cherishing. When faced with a problem, men tend to withdraw in to themselves to work it out; women like to share and discuss. When women share, they are not always looking for solutions but just want to be heard and understood. Because of men’s desire to achieve and take charge, every time their partner expresses concern about something even broadly, men have a tendency to take it personally and feel blamed and offended. Also, men are likely to then offer solutions when all their partner is looking for is empathy. Similarly, women’s desire to nurture encourages them to often correct or improve their partners. Men hate the idea of being constantly improved, what they are seeking is respect and appreciation.

In this background, how do we make this very special relationship not only work but actually blossom? I am inclined to believe that it requires us to deeply examine the true purpose of this relationship in our life. Companionship and procreation, while very important, can’t be the sole drivers of this deep relationship. As I have written earlier about how we have an external and a core purpose in our life, the core purpose relating to our undertaking the inner journey of self-realization – of building greater self-awareness and deeper understanding of who we essentially are; of conquering our own fears and anxieties; of experiencing love and compassion in all our dealings; of learning to be present in the moment, and eventually transcending ourselves. In that context, the purpose of marriage appears to be to experience true love in our lives and in the process heal ourselves (and our partner) emotionally and spiritually.

Psychologists believe that every time we get upset, as much as 90% of our hurt comes from our stored unresolved emotions and barely 10% from the immediate incident that triggers it. These unresolved emotions have the ability to overpower us and prevent us from engaging in loving communication. We need to listen to these emotions and become aware of them as they arise. As we begin turning a witness to these emotions, rather than identifying with them, the emotions start to heal and lose their power. As we learn to be present in the now, it allows us to dilute the risk of becoming hostage to our past emotional triggers – thus diffusing the hold our emotional past has on us. Further, our being present in the now prepares us to not get invested in the emotional drama of our partner – thereby, letting us help heal our partner as well. Additionally, as we talked about the differences about men and women, building a better understanding of each other’s unique needs and learning to allow each other to be our true selves can be powerful as well. Finally, giving expression to our difficult emotions, including sharing them with our partner, can be of great help in the process of healing ourselves. Needless to add, such sharing requires both partners to be willing to participate in such a process and respond to each other in a non-judgmental and supportive manner.

Building clarity about the purpose of a married relationship and practicing the above steps can be emotionally healing and spiritually liberating, creating a wonderful relationship where we can experience true and unconditional love – where one is devoted to giving without judgment, ego or any expectation of receiving; where one is equally comfortable receiving, knowing that each one of us truly deserves it.

Author's Bio: 

Rajiv Vij is a life and executive coach and works with business and social leaders to help them discover and fulfill their personal and professional potential. His blog can be accessed at personalalchemyblog.blogspot.com.