Having met through an arranged set-up, Jatin Kumar, a 33 year old finance professional from Bengaluru and and his wife Preksha, a lawyer, got married for five years ago. They remember how they spent their first year partying, taking impromptu weekend getaways and giving each other expensive gifts. Today, they prefer spending their weekends streaming shows or movies at home and running errands.
But they’re not worried. The couple has realised that this doesn’t spell doom for their relationship. “We don’t need to prove our love to each other with grand, romantic gestures anymore,” says Kumar. “Once in a while we do pamper each other, but getting groceries together is our new love language.”
Things like fancy dinners, gifts, and spending all of one’s time together tend to define the honeymoon phase of a romantic relationship. The phase is filled with the excitement that pop-culture usually tends to show as being representative of all of a romantic relationship. It is true, and okay, however, that doesn’t last forever — the honeymoon phase is not a sustainable way to live or to love. Having the highs of new-romance tempered by the mundanity of daily life doesn’t necessarily mean it’s all downhill from there.
Over time, it’s not just the romantic overtures, but even the way a couple resolves fights changes. In the early days of dating, Mumbai based entrepreneur Alok Mehta, 40, would go through the complete apology-gift-dinner-shopping routine to apologise to his high-school sweetheart and now wife, Nikita, who works at an ad agency. Having been married for more than ten years now, a simple hug and an honest conversation works just as well, or is even better, they agree.
“Our personalities did not change, but with time, we started understanding each other better and learnt the best way to communicate with each other,” says Alok. Nikita adds that they now “don’t need to tread (too carefully) around each other anymore, and can be upfront without ripping each other’s hair out.”
Some younger couples seem to have acquired this wisdom early. For instance, 27-year-old fashion designer Mehek Basu* from Kolkata, who is newly married, believes that the sense of companionship she shares with her husband is more important than the feelings of heady romance. “With time we will have more responsibilities and we will have to work as a team to manage the ups and downs of life,” she says. “Marriage isn’t a 50/50 relationship, both partners need to give 100% individually to make it work,” she adds, highlighting a popular quote on relationships.
Growing with another individual, while also focusing on self-growth is a demanding process. Add to this the life-changing transitions that every couple goes through, like having a child together, that can affect each partner in vastly different ways, and take them down different paths — it can all be scary. For some couples, the activities that they do together also depends on the age of their children. Fourteen years after marriage, the conversation between 39-year-old entrepreneur Ruchira Agarwal from Kolkata and her husband has changed. They have gone from planning romantic vacations together, to planning the vaccination schedules for their children. “After many years of marriage, life partners become parents first, and being a couple becomes secondary,” Agarwal says. “But raising children together has deepened our commitment towards each other,” she adds.
Clinical psychologist, Anshu Rathi, who runs a private practice in Jaipur says that happily ever-afters require constant work. “Continuous investment in a relationship and open communication is key,” she says. According to Rathi, you navigate and embrace this change by appreciating your partner’s growth, sticking up for them, supporting them through difficult times, cheering them on when they’re down in the dumps, and understanding and accepting their flaws.
“On days when my anxiety hits me the hardest, (I have my husband) to lean on,” says 31-year-old Kolkata based fashion designer Sweta Agarwal Nag, who has been married for six years and has a daughter. “That is what makes me go to bed peacefully, not a fancy show of love.” Similarly, Snigdha Jhunjhunwala, a 32-year-old, from Hyderabad who has been married for seven years says she now has only “simple expectations” of her partner: “A phone call or two when we are apart and dates a couple of times a month. The headiness of extravagant love doesn’t matter anymore”.
Aditi Sarawagi is an independent journalist and writes books for children