Let’s face it ... the shelf life for marriages isn’t what it used to be. What with values and intentions behind getting married changing as fast as we change our shoes, it’s no wonder there are more divorces and separations these days than there were in the past. We’ve gone from marriages of convenience to marriages of love. Some of the latest trends seem to revolve around expectations and beliefs about what an ideal marriage should be once we tie the knot. But who’s to say what’s “ideal” these days? In the coming months, I will be addressing some of the more common issues newlyweds face within their first year of marriage, in an effort to alleviate some anxieties one might have when taking the next big step.
We all know there is a period of adjustment when moving from your parents’ house into a home of your own with your beloved. Unfortunately, there is no manual on how to settle in and feel at home once the honeymoon is over. It is one thing to adjust your things in a shared space – when to use the “his & hers” and when to use the “ours”. It’s something completely different to adjust yourself in a new home, a new town, a new living situation, a new role in your life.
To adjust comfortably, it’s important to have several things: time, patience, open-mindedness, tolerance, an ability to be accommodating, and a sense of humility. It is also important to be aware of the strengths you possess, as well as your unique weaknesses. It may be essential to be able to communicate these positives and negatives to your spouse in an open and honest fashion. Being aware of your own limitations will help both you and your partner alleviate the anxieties and expectations that might increase as you start getting more comfortable with each other, and ultimately adjust to your “real” selves.
Another thing that might make adjusting to being a new wife difficult is “role-confusion”. According to your own values and beliefs, when is it ok to be dominant, and when is it ok to be submissive? Our behavior is often a quick portrayal of who we are and what we believe. As South Asians, we have been reared to behave appropriately according to our role in the situation. So, how do we differentiate between being a daughter, and being a daughter-in-law? Should there be a difference between how we speak to our parents, and how we speak to our parents-in-law? If we are to behave in manners that bring our best selves out, it can be pretty overwhelming to remember formalities with certain family members, and informalities with those who’ve helped us grow into the women we are now.
As modern women, most of us will continue to work and establish professional careers after marriage. Again, how we present ourselves at work differs from how we may present ourselves with our mates. There is a line that we dare not cross when speaking to our supervisors, but where is that line when speaking to our husbands? In a seemingly healthy relationship, the rules that apply to the office do not apply in the home. It is important to be aware and recognize that you may be the head of the department in the office, delegating responsibilities to those below you. But at home, focus on your marriage as an equal partnership, where you and your husband have the same amount of power and authority in making decisions, and you are both responsible for reaching your goals together.
Remember that adjusting to any new situation is a process. To reach a comfortable level in the first few years of marriage takes hard work and dedication. If we were all well-versed in reading each others’ minds, changes would occur overnight. Unfortunately, the human race has not come so far, so we have to rely on what’s within us. Ask yourself – and be honest: what do you value? Once you are able to recognize your personal values and beliefs, sharing them with your partner will allow you to spark the beginning process of change, leading to a happy, healthy marital adjustment.
Kanchan Sakhrani, M.S.Ed is a recent graduate from the University of Miami, with a Master’s of Science in Education, specializing in Marriage and Family Therapy. She currently resides in Miami, where she is working as a Data Specialist with the Center for Family Studies at the University of Miami/Miller School of Medicine.