Whether you are married or living with your partner, everyday living is a challenge. It is nothing like dating or courtship days. Once you start living with a person, you get to see warts and flaws of the other person. 

The morning face is so different from the person you have seen before. Some snore, some need the fan or air conditioning on, and some do not enjoy the extreme cold. Some throw the wet towel onto the bed, some splash water all over the floor in the loo, and some like the toilet floors super dry. Some wake up early, some like to sleep in late, some stay up late, and some sleep early. Some pay more attention to typed messages (they are visual) while some pay attention to voice notes (they are auditory). They may have a partner who does the opposite and then wonder why their messages are not replied to. Some respond to situations calmly and some may blow up in response to situations. 

All these differences look adorable during the courtship days. As the relationship advances, it may not seem as attractive as before. It starts as minor irritations and then turns to “why can’t he/she do it this way? (the way is my kind of way, the way I do best!).

Everyone has grown up with experiences. These make us who we are. No two people have the same experiences. Even twins will have different experiences. Both will experience their mother differently. Therefore, our experiences shape us, our thoughts and our perceptions about life, people and others. So, when two different people from two different households come together, there is bound to be a lot of adjusting to do. The same language, culture, religion and all might make some factors bearable but do not guarantee peace.

In a patriarchal society, the adjustment is done mostly by one person, the girl, which is a lot of burdens. The man and his family, a lot of the time, expect the girl to be well-versed with the culture of the new family and be aware of their habits, needs and expectations. All the while, the in-laws think that it is normal to expect so. Because every family has similar cultures and habits. NO. If a boy expects his wife to cook like his mom, he should remember that she is doing exactly how his mom cooked when she was first married too. The mother’s cooking has become what it is today, with years of experience and can expect his wife’s cooking to be similar in years. And why not get trained under one’s mother and cook with one’s wife?

Now, the wife would also have expectations about the boy and his family, coming from a different background, neighbourhood, education and other experiences. It can be in the way she wants to be treated, the way the house is kept, who takes decisions, communication, earning capacity, spending habits and everything else. So, when two such individuals get together, along with families who are lavish with their input, things can get tough for the couple.

What do we do?

It may look tough but if we can see each other as people who complement each other, life will be simpler, we will be kinder to our partner and there will be a sync. Agreed, at different points in life, new situations and responses will come. One will discover aspects of oneself when one is in the situation. How are we as a spouse, parent of a newborn / toddler/teen, in-law or grandparent? We would not know it till we reach there. So, yes, it is an ever-learning and discovery process.

But in everyday living, the basic reactions to situations, and the basic values will remain the same for most people. If we can discover our differences early on, we won’t be surprised. This might aid in an understanding which can keep the peace.

For example, the toilet is a very personal and delicate matter for everyone. Some may have the habit of very clean dry toilets, some are used to Indian commodes, some may be used to large toilets, some do not like to share the toilet, some take a long time, and some simply ignore cleaning the commode or washbasin after use. So here is a list of things one needs to find about the other person’s habits or life:

  • What time do you wake up and go to sleep?
  • What irritates you while sleeping, light or sound or both?
  • Do you want the fan / ac on?
  • Is your room organised?
  • How do you squeeze your toothpaste, from the end or middle?
  • Do you have a wake-up or sleeping ritual?
  • How dry or wet do you like your bathroom? How do you like your toilet seat kept?
  • Where do you leave your wet towel?
  • When do you make your bed?
  • When do you do your laundry and fold the clothes?
  • What do you do with the hair that falls on the floor and bathroom floor?
  • What kind of a spender are you? How do you save money?
  • How much information do you disclose to your parents? 
  • Who are you close to in your family?
  • Who are your close friends?
  • Do you like to go out often or travel?
  • Do you prefer being at home to going out?
  • What kind of movies and songs do you like? How often do you enjoy them?
  • Do you dress up or do you dress down? What kind of colours do you like?

Etc. This is not a complete list but you get the drift, right? If we know who we are and who the other person is, we can be understanding and come to a mutually functional solution to the differences, a middle path. We will make an effort to do that if we like the other person and want the other person to feel alright. Because we respect them. One person forcing the other to change completely without understanding will trigger bitterness.

And if we observe, most of the differences we have, work well as a family unit. In some situations, one person’s response or way will work and in some other situations, the other person’s response may be better suited. If we can understand the importance of each one’s strengths and where it works, it can be used to the family’s advantage. Instead of insisting that one person respond or act only in one particular way. With better understanding comes peace.

  • Sajitha Rasheed

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