With the scary numbers of couples failing relationships, the idea of a healthy relation grew pretty much unfeasible. Given that, in our Arab culture, couples don’t really talk about the happy parts of their lives, and only share the bad stuff. They pretty much made most of their single friends wary of the idea of marriage or long-term relationships in general.
Let’s be blunt here. We are short of education and experience. We don’t get much help ‘cause the idea of couple counseling isn’t that acceptable in our culture. Things were quite different back in our parents’ days. They led easier lives. Which is kinda unfamiliar to us. We’re exposed to other cultures. We’re openly invited to raise our expectations. And as a result we confuse reality with fantasies. At the same time, we still are confined inside the circle of traditions and taboos. And we’re striving to find a balance.
John Gottman, the author of The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work referred to two types of couples; ‘The Disasters’ and ‘The Masters’. And here we highlight The Masters, who knew how to define their relationship success, and who created their own recipes while they blended.
Without further ado, I interviewed 4 married peers about their real-life secret recipes when it comes to keeping the relationship healthy. Let’s start by introducing them: Nada (married for 2 years), Mona (married for almost 4 years), Omar (married for 5 years) and Sally (married for 5 years)
Here is how they answered…
Sally said that It took her a while to figure that recipe out, but the best thing she learned is to let go of things that don’t really matter and to focus on important issues. She thinks her husband, too, has learned to let go of the little annoyances. It took them a while to get there, so it is not an easy process.
She said “He doesn’t talk about politics and I don’t talk about him throwing his dirty socks on the floor.”
Keywords: Acceptance, tolerance and patience
Mona said that they both acknowledged their personality flaws. “Let’s say I’m not in a very good mood and he’s being annoying, I say “Honey, it’s that time of the month and I’m trying to avoid getting angry so please stop teasing me” and he understands. If I’m pushing him with so many questions and he’s on the verge of losing it, he says “I don’t have answers, I need some time to think and get back to you” and I stop asking.”
Mona said that it’s important to consider the in-laws, that you have to get to know them very carefully. Chances are your partner will eventually turn into one of them.
Omar revealed his magic trick “I understand how important it is for a woman to get gifts and surprises. It doesn’t have to be something fancy. It’s just about the gesture.”
Keywords: Maneuvering the differences
Nada said that time they share together is important. Like sharing tasks, cooking, shopping, or a vacation together. “Try to find a common ground where you can share and achieve things together.” She said. That’s why her choice before marriage was based on common interests and values and respect.
Omar said that his secret recipe is sharing with his wife common interests like movies, music, sports, outings and friends. He said that some of these things he initially liked and some she initially liked before they got married, but they ended up adapting. He added that their mutual interests created many subjects to talk about because ceasing to talk kills any human relationship.
At the same time their alone time is respected. He said that it’s important managing both alone and together times..
As Aline Zoldbrod, the Sex Therapist, stated about healthy relationship tips “The four Ts. That’s time, trust, talk and touch. Because time spent with each other is probably the most bonding thing you could do”, Nada thinks that the main recipe is sharing. She said “Sharing everything; thoughts, preferences, likes/dislikes, any info about yourself should always be revealed and discussed. And I think it is best to share before marriage. It’s important not to be afraid of having differences or of any problems that might take place, because it is much better all is known and discussed before marriage.” She said that during engagement time, there is more space to think, consider and act. There is more caring and love and less stress before facing real-life challenges. She thinks that it is much easier to know your partner inside out before marriage. So instead of focusing on clashing, you will be able to face the new life with its challenges together.
Mona stressed on the notion of being one’s self. “Never, ever try to sugar-coat your flaws. Pretending to be something for a couple of hours during your date is one thing, keeping up the act for the rest of your life is a totally different story.”
Omar said that when it comes to conflicts, he tries to be reasonable when they talk and he makes an effort to understand her point of view. They try to find a middle ground to agree on. Also he tries to make it clear to her that he appreciates her views and values her reasons. So basically it’s about being empathic. That’s why when he chose his wife he made sure she’d be caring and understanding, because he believed this would keep the relationship active and intact.
He also said that he keeps work problems at the door. In case he can’t, he tries his best to separate both worlds ‘cause he doesn’t want his work to affect his family (like with most men!)
“The very important thing is caring, being truthful and meaning it. And it should come from love and respect for her and for the family as a whole.” He said.
Mona on the other hand, said that when it comes to occasional fights; when each of them unleashes their demons, it gets ugly. Although they both become very stubborn and uptight, she thinks it’s healthy to let everything out, or not talk for a couple of days for the storm to pass before having a long conversation about their worries and frustrations. It somehow gets them closer at the end, that’s how they flourish in differences. She said their strict rules are to avoid bad-mouthing in public and being rude to each other’s parents.
Nada said she avoids big useless discussions. During angry arguments, she steps back, takes some time to think and then discusses the roots of the problem and finds a way to fix things. She also said they try to avoid loud voices at home.
Keywords: Handling conflicts
|According to John Gottman in ‘The Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work’, there is a magic 5 to 1 ratio for marriage success: all it takes for your partner is to make you feel good 5 times more than they make you feel bad. And vice versa, if you do 1 negative thing that hurt your partner’s feelings, you’re gonna need to compensate for it with 5 positive things. He explained in one of his books that couples with no conflict tend to separate, just like the ones who have too many conflicts.|
Nada stressed on the sharing part after marriage as well, she said that communication is the key. When you’re bothered about something, you should share it. Only make sure it’s the right time.
She reasoned in two ways: First, communication saves energy and time. Because sometimes a person would silently do good things that eventually have negative impacts. Second, it’s important to talk about the little things, instead of going on with life in denial. The piling up can lead to explosions later on in life, because people get fed up with keeping things to themselves.
“Shortly, Sharing is Caring :)” She said.
Experts say that it’s important to renew your marriage goals. It’s important to take a stand every now and then to evaluate your milestones. They urge couples to think about something like a mission statement, and to write down their list of expectations. All is because -let’s be realistic- things change, perspectives change, and people change. That trick lessens the chances of being taken for granted.
There is no rule here, but if you take a deeper look, you’re gonna find one thing that all those stories have in common. They’re working together as a team, ‘cause it does take two to tango..
By Marwa Hasan