Should you hold on to a relationship just for the label of being married? “What does an ideal marriage look like? What am I missing here?” asked J, a 32-year-old client of mine, who has been married for the last three years to her ‘best friend’, M, whom she met at work. They’ve been together for a total of five years. When J met her husband, they instantly hit it off. Soon after, they fell in love and getting married was a no-brainer. Both families supported their decision and things couldn’t have been smoother.
The first year went by in setting up a home together, and a career change for both followed. It was in the second year that J started noticing a few patterns that set off alarm bells. M rarely contributed towards the household expenses unless she specifically asked him to do so. When he decided to go on a sabbatical, and subsequently quit his job to figure out what he wanted to do professionally, his lifestyle remained the same. Extravagant in his taste and spending habits, he started dipping into J’s accounts unabashedly. At some point she brought up the topic about his financial situation in terms of savings and investments only to discover that he had none.
J, an only child, hailed from a wealthy family, and her inheritance, perhaps, will ensure that she and her family could lead a life of luxury, even if they don’t work for a day for the rest of their lives. Yet she was determined to make a mark of her own and be financially independent. This became the first point of contention between J and M.
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The second one came up soon after when M was reluctant to talk about starting their own family. He avoided the topic of having a child for months, and it was only when J refused to have sex that they agreed on at least discussing the timelines. It wasn’t just reluctance; M genuinely did not want to have children. It was something they had never discussed before they got married. J is still struggling to come to terms with this but neither of them brings it up anymore.
The next bone of contention is his health, from drinking every day to no form of exercise and with leading to M's health metrics being concerning at the young age of 34. No amount of effort, including holding back her purse strings has helped. M has simply taken a loan and continued on this downhill path. They’ve been for couple’s counselling, it worked for a few months and then things got back to where they used to be. J feels like she is the only one trying to make this marriage work. After a year of being married M seemed to have gone back to leading a life of a bachelor. If you’re wondering why J is putting up with all this, it’s for two reasons. One that she still considers M her best friend and has the most exhilarating conversations with him. When they are not in their home, they have a great time together. The second is that she likes the idea of being a married woman. She is trying to find solace in the age-old statement of how M is a “known devil”.
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So, does that mean the big issue about her being the sole partner, who is doing the heavy lifting of making this relationship work, go away at some point? Most likely not. A colleague of mine, R, is in a similar marriage. In fact, the similarity is uncanny when it comes to financial issues and unhealthy lifestyle. In R’s case though there is also lack of sex. My colleague, R, like J, also likes the tag of being a married woman. She fears being alone. Yet as things stand, she is lonely in this marriage. In R’s case, it seems like she is at the brink though. She has given an ultimatum to her husband that things need to change, and he needs to share the effort of making this relationship work. The verdict is still open on the effect this ultimate will have on R’s husband.
The fact is that marriage is like any partnership. An imbalance of responsibility, love, affection, care and even attraction/intimacy, will create dissonance. The partner who makes the effort to pull through the challenges arising because of this imbalance, will eventually tire of it. And that’s only natural. An ideal marriage is one where both partners are equal contributors, they are equally invested in making the relationship work. Be it emotionally, physically, compassionately and in cases where both partners work – financially too. If you find yourself in a situation like J and R, as hard as it may seem, know that you will have to take some tough calls sooner or later.
This is a limited series by by Simran Mangharam, a dating and relationship coach, who can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org