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Initial marriage years: Steps just before and after marriage to avoid marital problems
- Before marriage: Must clarify following two points. One, for working partners, do have a friendly conversation 'before' marriage and decide whether your spouse(especially female) would continue her job or not. Don't assume that even after marriage, your partner will continue working and earn money. If there will be a break in career after marriage, agree on the approximate duration of break. Two, get to know what debts/loans each of you have and what your approach is towards saving and investing. This would save many 'hard' conversations later on.
- First experience mantra: Each partner should ensure that most 'first experiences after marriage' are unforgettable. First anniversary, first birthday, first movie outing, first pregnancy, first surprise etc. No excuses for being busy at work and missing such 'first' experiences as these help solidify the relationship during those first few years after marriage. Laughter, humour, generosity and forgiveness are positive emotions that will help tide over every difficulty.
- Invest in relationships: The relationship circle of both partners gets bigger when they get married. Do not ignore relatives on your partner's side or give undue preference only to relationships on your side. Both spouses should also discuss how much time they want to spend with their respective in-laws. Remember actions are forgiven but words once said linger on. So watch what you speak and maintain dignity of spouse at all times. Make sure that in no way an argument becomes so ugly as to destroy the other’s self esteem.
- Managing finances: Bad money management is the leading cause of arguments among couples. Ideally, open three accounts after marriage- Your, Mine and Our. Pay all shared/household expenses from the 'Our' account. The 'Your' and 'Mine' is the money each of you is free to spend as you please. Be honest and maintain a lifestyle that correlates to your current financial situation. Mutually decide and volunteer what household responsibilities each partner can take up and who will cut the monthly bill cheques. After marriage, it is always prudent to decide a monthly budget for household expenses and keep that aside as a fixed monthly amount. Let one partner manage household expenses. For any non recurring household or big expenses like vacations, electronic gadgets etc... plan and mutually decide how and when would the funds be allocated.
- Long lasting fun: Honeymoon and marriage hangover lasts only for a few months. Though sexual frequency may relatively lessen over time, it is important to build a long lasting, compatible relationship by spending time together and trust each other by accepting each others likes/dislikes. Having self and family goals helps. Accept their will be differences of opinion or days when your partner makes you unhappy because of whatever reasons... but that happens in every relationship. Avoid knee jerk reaction, calm down and talk it out. Also refer to other problems in this section to further solidify the bridges of relationship.
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Mood swings: Dealing with negative mindset, behavioral issues and emotional tantrums
- Its not about the other person: It is not so much about what your spouse does, but how 'you' take it and choose to react to different situations. Ask your spouse experiencing mood swing if he/she is facing a problem. Listen well and take appropriate remedial action if you can. Sometimes just asking the spouse to share their feelings or even giving them some space helps. Hug your spouse and commit to be there if (s)he needs any help. A positive emotion is always stronger than a negative one... Happiness, humour and love help solve such problems.
- Understanding man/woman differences: Men and women think and act differently. Example: Men like to watch sporting events more than women. Men like to be 'respected' while women like to be cared for and loved. Men ponder about their problems in isolation while women tend to share them with others quickly. Its important to 'understand' your partner's likes/expectations and not expect them to change drastically. Key is to accept and 'plan' your day accommodating their preferences. Example: Asking a husband to go shopping when he wants to watch a sporting event on TV or expecting your wife to join you for a walk when her favorite soap opera is on TV may trigger mood swings/tantrums.
- Accept the reality: Your partner is a mixed bag of attributes... most of which you like but some you don't. The ones you don't like usually surface after marriage but expecting your partner to be perfect will only make you restless. So accept this reality of life. Divert your mind by cultivating hobbies. Exercise, meditation, yoga, diet, spa massage etc help control mood swings including ones related to female menopause or pregnancy.
- Close friends/relatives: Have at least couple of very close friends or relatives whom you can call even at 3 am in the night in case of an emergency. Spend time with them. Socializing helps control mood swings. So dine out or catch up over cup of tea/coffee for a nice chit chat. For nice fun place options with friends: Click here
- Manage house tasks: Household work pressures contribute a lot towards mood swings. Criticising/badmouthing your partner in front of others or behind his back does not help. Key is to mutually divide household/financial/job responsibilities and praising your partner for things that are done. Gently remind your partner- at the right time- for missed tasks. Words of appreciation and mutual cooperation gets more tasks done versus any loud shouts/criticism. Change your attitude and think positive! If you feel lonely or emotionally disconnected, see point 6 below.
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In-laws: Managing mother-in-law, father-in-law, daughter-in-law relationships
- Difficult mother/daughter in-law: After marriage, 2 women usually become possessive about 1 man and that sometimes leads to conflicting situations. Mother-in-law (MIL) should be less possessive about her son and accept that he will now share most of his time with the new woman in his life. Daughter-in-law (DIL) should try building a cordial relationship with her and accept that after all, her husband is there because of her MIL. During points of disagreement with MIL, DIL should convey why she is taking a different decision by giving logical, objective reasoning. If disagreement persists, ask for an opinion from her husband. As head of the family, husband should objectively analyze the problem and resolve the situation. Stand firm on taking the 'right' step without being egoistic.
- Job Issue: Some in-laws force their newly wedded daughter-in-law to stop working and ask her to just manage the household chores against her wish. Working after marriage should ideally be discussed before marriage and expectation set accordingly. If the issue comes up after marriage, discuss with your husband and go firmly with what both of you mutually decide.
- Connect with in-laws: Biggest mistake some newly wedded couples make after marriage is not talking much with their respective parent in-laws. Know that your spouse’s parents are an integral part of his/her life. Respecting them is respecting him/her regardless of how their attitude is. As said blood is thicker than water, your spouse will usually tend to take sides of parents due to self respect. So accept them unconditionally as you accept your own parents. The more you show concern and respect for them, more your spouse will follow your example and reciprocate to your parents. If staying in a joint family, spend some quality time with them and discuss topics of mutual interest. If staying away from them, give them a phone call at least once a week. Ask about their well being, share updates and ask their opinion on some issues. Try to solve mutual disagreements without involving spouse as far as possible.
- Surprise: If you are facing difficulty building relationships with the in-laws, try surprising by giving them a surprise visit, a small gift or wishing them genuinely on festivals/birthdays etc. Take care of your parents- financially and emotionally- as they grow older.
- Extreme situation: If for various reasons, its getting difficult to stay with the in-laws, talk to your husband who should take the initiative to help resolve the situation amicably. Do evaluate the pros and cons before deciding to separate from a joint family setup. Sometimes, giving a break of a few days or maintaining distance helps diffuse a problem. Move out as a last step if you feel that will help the family in the long run.
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Frequent fights: We fight/quarrel which spoils our day. What can we do?
- Body language: In marital fights, a win in 'argument' is generally a loss in 'relationship'. So choose to win 'relationship' at all times as fights are temporary but relationship should go a long way. During an argument, maintain non-intimidating eye contact, take a deep breath and give a break. Revisit the topic after a few hours or days if possible. You will be surprised how 'time' takes care of many arguments. Also, walking away at the first sign of an ensuing fight often helps. Be generous in relationships by giving love, time and gifts. For ways to give surprises: Click here
- My way or no way: Many arguments start because a partner is hung on to his/her own suggestion or viewpoint. Approach a solution without any personal bias. Important factor is to resolve a point 'together' keeping egos aside. Trying to prove your partner wrong or saying 'I told you so' doesn't help. When respect develops in marriage, acceptance comes. If not talking to each other, 'you' take the initiative to just go and hug him/her to break the ice.
- Don't build a volcano: Do not let sensitive issues or negative emotions build up inside you. Its just a matter of time when you will explode emotionally and end up having a big fight. Instead, share your feeling/thought with your partner sooner than a spark becomes a fire. Try discussing an argumentative topic at a public location like a walk in a garden, mall, restaurant or market where hopefully neither partner will scream at each other.
- Change yourself: Forget changing your partner's attitude drastically as both are grown up adults and would show resistance to major change. Instead, change yourself and set an example of how a situation can be diffused. Saying 'I am sorry' helps diffuse a situation. Learn to accept your spouse as he/she is. Avoid discussing your fights with your parents or relatives as they may develop a biased attitude towards your spouse which is difficult to transform later. Keep this within yourself and try to resolve it mutually as much as possible.
- Worrying: Its ok to have a few minor fights and most married couples have one every now and then. So don't worry thinking that your relationship is going downhill. In fact, a short reasonable fight/disagreement may help you discover more attributes about your partner and bring both of you even more closer. Having said that, avoid fighting in front of children and never ask them to take sides or who is right. Teenage children would rarely take sides and do not gain anything from parental fights. If you feel lonely or emotionally disconnected, see point 6 below.
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Lonely: Spouse ignores me after marriage and is mostly with friends
- Ask yourself: Try seeing yourself from your spouse's side. Are YOU now overweight or criticizing/nagging/not respecting your spouse lately or not giving enough space or not fulfilling your spouse's sexual needs or not recognizing any of his/her personal issue? Usually such causes create a distance between spouses. Develop self love and self respect by introspection. Do activities that build your self esteem and have a healthy circle of friends to pass your time. Be happy with self and that will draw his energy and attention to you.
- Trigger some changes: Sometimes, a monotonous life usually sets a boring tone even in the best of relationships. So trigger some changes... make some new/lovely dishes that your spouse may enjoy, change home paint/furniture setting a bit, change monotonous routine, take a vacation etc. and address any issue mentioned above in point 1. If your spouse still does not reciprocate, leave him/her for a few days by staying at a friend/relative's place. Hopefully your spouse will get the message and change.
- Partner expectations: Bottomline is that a woman usually wants a feeling of being 'cared/loved/wanted' while a man expects 'respect'. A woman wants to hear the 3 magical words 'I love you' every few days while a man expresses his affection more by his 'caring actions' after marriage. Both spouses expect that the other one takes steps to remain physically fit and appreciate each other sometimes. Most spouses are not even aware of the top 3 expectations of their partner. Just talking and being aware of your partner's expectations usually yields wonders. So have a conversation with your spouse sooner than later.
- Time together: Talking and listening to each other- with undivided attention- helps solidify bridges of relationship. If your spouse is not spending quality time with you because of household chores or busy schedule, 'you' plan ahead in time for a walk, movie or dinner with just the two of you together. Life is good if you make it that way!
- Don't reach a quick conclusion: Don't assume quickly that your spouse doesn't love you. Hope you are not judging your spouse's love just on the basis of sex but also taking into account his 'feelings' and emotional bonding towards you. You can never force anyone to love you... go through the points listed on this page and explore building a mutual, fun relationship together.
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Sex expectation mismatch: What is normal sex frequency? Not enough sex now?
- Frequency/Mood/Mindset: Frequency varies a lot depending upon number of factors. Not counting exception cases, most settled couples have sex 3 to 6 times a week during first few years of marriage, which gradually reduces to 3 to 6 times a month by around 10 years of marriage. There is no one right answer. Remember, don't count! Quality of sex is more important than quantity. Sex usually should be for 15 to 30 minutes or longer with emphasis on foreplay. Your emotional state of mind & feelings dictate your desire for sex. How your day/week was gets into your bedroom. Take steps to address stress, depression, job problems or quarreling issues as they hinder the desire for sex.
- Understand partner's sexual preferences: Both partners should talk/ask each others' sexual preferences and not thrust their sexual desires on each other. Do not 'deny' your spouse's advancements all the time. Reciprocate your spouse's feeling most of the times if not every time. Even if sex declines, touch, caresses, kisses and hugs should not. Do try to 'enjoy' sex instead of 'going through the motions'. Also accept that no sex for many days/weeks is ok if your partner so desires and does not put your relationship in jeopardy. If prolonged, talk to your partner about potential reasons for not having sex.
- Physical factors: During dating times, most put their best foot forward before marriage but some let themselves loose after marriage. Looks matter... do spend some time on grooming your persona. Gaining too much weight reduces sexual desire of the opposite partner. Women should strive hard to take care of her appearance and also accept declining testosterone levels of a man as age advances. Men should address physical factors- if any- like low testosterone/erectile dysfunction by talking to a doctor and be sensitive to a woman's monthly cycles. Any problem must be discussed and addressed in a friendly way without triggering any major argument.
- Distractions: Switch off distracting endless TV programs or social networking urges around bedtime. Create the right ambiance in the room based on mutual preferences like putting on light, soft music etc. After dinner, look honestly into his/her eyes, hold hands, go for a walk together, smile often to show you enjoy his/her company. No sex because children insist on sleeping with parents is ok as an exception... but as a norm, be firm and politely ensure children sleep in their own room.
- Pornography: Partner who sees lot of porn/blue films usually indulges in unrealistic fantasies, gradually loses interest in his/her partner and that negatively impacts the couple's real sexual life. Talk and find out why the partner is focusing on seeking virtual pleasures. Also, a relationship is not just about sex but also a lot about emotional connection. If you feel lonely or emotionally disconnected, see point 6 on this page.
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Handling affairs: Extra marital affair or Suspecting nature of one spouse
(A) Signs of an extra-marital affair?
- Spouse suddenly focuses a lot on new clothes and physical appearance- especially when (s)he goes out alone to meet someone.
- Starts spending lot more time on social networking and refuses to share password.
- Has long phone conversations at home in a low/hushed tone in privacy and hangs up quickly when you approach.
- Suddenly starts carrying condoms/birth control pills.
- Has scratch/love marks on body and cannot credibly explain how those came.
- If you have doubt, talk to your spouse. If your spouse is one who suspects you, then try talking him/her out of fears. Be genuine/honest and try your best to convince him/her about your loyalty and commitment. Never talk about other girls/past affairs with spouse even in jest. Do not engage a detective agency to probe or insist on getting into your spouse's personal space to check their mobile/bag etc for evidence as that usually creates a huge rift and breach of trust if they come to know about it.
(B) Biggest cause of affairs?
- Not spending quality time with your spouse is one of the biggest causes of infidelity and may lead him/her to venture out. Long conversations/calls you had during dating time are not sustainable when you are living together after marriage. Don't have time? Well, same 24 hours are available to every person on planet earth. Its upto YOU to plan your day well, cut down a bit on TV and spend quality time with your partner & family.
- Another big factor is not understanding your partner's sexual preferences (see details on this page above).
(C) Lack of physical attraction?
- Sometimes, a spouse takes his/her partner for granted after marriage. Remember, you married someone whom you liked physically apart from other factors. In most cases, 'letting yourself go' and becoming too overweight is bound to have a negative effect on your marital relationship. So even though subtle aging signs are expected, each spouse must respect his/her body. Exercise, take serious efforts to stay fit and avoid becoming fat.
(D) What after knowing about an affair?
- First, yes its tough to deal if you find out that your spouse is having an affair but its not the end of the world for you. Ask few specific questions to your spouse without going into explicit details or being physically abusive. Try not seeking too much information that may get you into depression. Finally YOU decide on the next steps and set clear expectations for future with your spouse.
- Do not lose hope. An affair does not mean an end of marital relationship. Try sorting the issues out especially if you have children as a divorce usually has a negative effect on their mindset. Don't think that the relationship is at a point of no return. If you feel lonely or emotionally disconnected, see details on this page above.
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Number of children: Decision on how many kids to have
(A) No Kids Scenario:
- Some DINK (Double Income No Kids) and other couples opt for this option.
- Advantages: Couple can focus 100% of their time on each other, job and socialize more.
- Disadvantages: Some couples who initially decide not to have kids... end up regretting in latter years of marriage as they feel lonely without any affectionate warmth of children in their house. Also, socializing with some friends becomes a bit difficult as most couples have kids who also influence building the social circle of their parents.
(B) Only 1 child scenario:
- Advantages: Parents can give undivided attention, spend more time and save money by choosing to have only one child. They can also concentrate their energy and time raising the only child. The child also gets more resources as there would be no other sibling to share with.
- Disadvantages: Some single kids are known to miss having a brother and sister over time. With no partner of their age at home with whom the only child can share his/her personal feelings, they tend to seek friends and spend more time outside. Parents need to be doubly cautious to oversee what company their only child is in. Parents should not shower extraordinary special attention/love as the child tends to expect the same when he grows up and faces the real world or may feel distressed when other people do not recognize his specialty.
(C) Two children scenario:
- A family of 4 is considered the ideal balanced scenario- both from parents and children perspective. Two children tend to learn quickly and get support from each other.
- Also, the second pregnancy and child are usually relatively more easy to manage because of the experience gained from the first one.
(D) More than 2 children scenario:
- Go for this option only if both husband/wife love having more children and can support them emotionally, financially including school admissions etc.
- Some couples get into a trap of producing kids till they meet their objective of 'must have a son', which is not advisable as boys and girls are considered equitable now. For effective family planning / birth control options: Click here
(E) How much age gap should be there between children?
- Decision factors: The decision of how many children should be taken solely by husband and wife based on their financial, career and house status. Do seek experiences from friends/relatives but do not succumb to outside pressure. If your partner is hung up on his/her decision you should first try to convince and take help of close relatives. If all this fails, accept the decision happily and go along. Once decision is made, accept it as your own decision also and never ever criticize it.
- Age gap: Although its a totally personal decision, but suggested age gap is 2 to 4 years depending upon personal financial, job and family scenarios. Kids are able to share their feelings and seek opinion from their sibling more openly if their is not a huge age gap. Reasonable gap also helps re-utilizing some of the stuff/toys you bought for your first child & save money. Some families initially decide to have only one child but realize very late the need to have a companion at home for their only child, thus creating a huge age gap. So do not keep on postponing this decision.
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Physical abuse: My spouse hit and slapped me. How to handle the situation?
- First reaction: Convey clearly that it will not be tolerated next time. Avoid hitting back because then it usually gets very ugly. So stop it the first time it happens. Many partners allow themselves to be abused for a long time but later wake up. If it repeats, take steps like withdrawing into self and no communication till he/she realises. Watch for your behaviour also to know what you did to trigger this kind of adverse reaction and resolve to be more patient & tolerant next time. If your spouse does not apologize genuinely after hitting/slapping you, then there is a 99% chance that he may do it again in future without any feeling of regret. Talk to your spouse and set clear expectation.
- Multiple instances: Slapping or physical abuse is absolutely not acceptable no matter what the issue is. Let your spouse clearly know what the limits are. Don't immediately think of ending your relationship. Take a break of a few days by staying at a friend/relative's place to convey that violent behaviour is not acceptable or just stop talking until your spouse apologizes. If you have been hit more than once or are scared and feel that your life is in danger, then leave and file for divorce using a lawyer's services. If the slapping incident happened while he was drunk, it may be an isolated case provided you make your spouse apologize and get a promise not to touch alcohol again.
- Money dependencies: Financial constraints usually force a spouse to continue staying with the partner and bear the physical abuses multiple times. And you shouldn't say "He hits me sometimes but is a nice guy'... that is senseless unless you enjoy being hit. Be firm, get sufficient education/skills and inculcate some hobbies which you can use to generate some income if required. There are many ladies who have come out stronger by staying alone, living much happier by avoiding physical & mental assaults... even with financial constraints. Many times it is 'Fear of instability' that makes one spouse cling to the other and tolerate abuse. Release that fear knowing that you will be supported in the path and a solution will emerge. Be ready to let go of the relationship or dependency if situation arises as your self respect is much more important.
- Children: Violent behaviour and fights have a negative impact on a child's mind and children should not be staying with the violent partner. Share the incident with your extremely close friend or relative to seek advice/support. If the violent behaviour triggered due to issues in a joint family, discuss with elderly and explore staying separately as an option if the situation does not improve.
- Physically hurt/painful marks on body: Reach out for professional help. Click here for emergency contact numbers. You may also file a police report but that brings your homely tension out in public. Don't be afraid to explore that option especially if your life is being threatened.
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Surprise your spouse: Some surprises that help build a long lasting relationship
- Convey your love by sticking a note inside your spouse's cupboard.
- Replicate a gesture from your dating times: Relive the good times you had together and laugh over it.
- Plan a surprise movie/dinner outing just with your spouse (no friends/kids). Be on time.
- Convey your feelings or 3 magical words by putting a note under/on her pillow just before she goes to bed.
- Show concern: Call from office to ask your partner if everything is going well and offer to help.
- Lighter surprise moments: Use humor that is appreciated by your partner or organize watching a comedy movie.
- Key dates: Remember birth/anniversary dates and ensure you spend quality time with your spouse.
- Share household chores: If weekdays are busy, surprise by making a breakfast or just a cup of coffee/tea.
- Give a warm smile and a nice hug after your spouse returns home from work.
- Bring a nice gift without any occasion. For Unique Gift Ideas for him and her: Click here.