Empowering couples to handle marital conflicts

By Dr. Pradnya Jayant Ajinkya

Jeevan and Siya, have been married 10 years. They were initially matched up by their parents.  Jeevan was Mumbai-based engineer and Siya was a chartered accountant when they met.  They were allowed to meet to get  to know each other and decide if a relationship was possible. Siya says that Jeevan met her expectations of an understanding husband, but when he started to avoid telling his parents he was with her, he made her very  uncomfortable. Jeevan says that after the initial meeting, and in between, there were daily phone calls. They would also arrange the next meeting which was continued with the next call. Things kept getting better and better. After a few weeks, parents felt that the relationship was working out. 

They were engaged. Jeevan says he wanted a few months more to know each other. However, in arranged marriages you don't wait long before that decision, the families started planning the wedding. The pair wed in Mumbai. Both agree that it was not love at first sight. But there was something and both met with an open mind and destiny played a major role. Both wanted a partner from a similar background who could be a good friend. They both love travelling and have holidays planned together. They became friends very quickly. There were plenty of job opportunities for Jeevan in India and he always wanted to settle in India. He also knew of other couples who met through college or work, so he has seen both sides. He always knew that he would settle in an arranged marriage.  Jeevan says that marriage for him was coming together of two families, not just two individuals, who suits your families. There was pressure from the families to get married. 

However, he didn't feel pressured to choose Siya. Though the families introduced them, marrying her was his choice, he said. Siya was a happy and fulfilled individual. When the proposal came she agreed to marry him. She liked him. She also would not go against her parents will. She got engaged to Jeevan. Siya was impressed by Jeevan and thought that he was serious of her and also knew that this marriage would make her happy. Since the initial meeting, she was very much in contact with Jeevan since her mother was okay with it. Siya lost her father when she was studying in college. On few occasions Siya realized that Jeevan was not open with his parents about him meeting her during the courtship. She was a little scared. But she knew that she loved him and always knew that Jeevan was a good boy. The problems began on the first day of the marriage. Instead of spending time together doing fun things, they began facing the reality of  life. They confronted with differences that seemed unimportant or non existent. They started to feel unhappy and unfulfilled. The couple rarely had sex -- and when they did it was inefficient. They both were aware what was going to happen each time they came together.

Siya says that over the years, Jeevan started coming to bed very late. He kept himself busy on his laptop. He always explained that he was working. Though Siya acknowledged that they needed to schedule time to have sex more often, but realistically, not much changed, she says. Siya says that her husband did have a history of looking at porn. Some day when she logged into her husband's computer and his Facebook was up there happened to be texts between him and unknown women. She wanted to feel alive in her marriage again and she decided to visit professional therapists to overcome the difficulties faced by her in the marriage. Jeevan claims to not do any sexting or chatting anymore. It was a brief encounter for only a few weeks, he said. Siya's question is if Jeevan can talk to other women and watch porn and gratify his sexual desires by masturbating,  what really happens to his desires when he is with her. So every time he brought up sex or talks to her about something personal, she has an uncomfortable feeling, that he is lying to her face. However, the couple decided to have a child. They are raising an intelligent and beautiful girl child who is four years old now. It took ten years for Jeevan to say I LOVE YOU to his wife. It happened in a therapy session. The couple sleep in the same bed but they don't have sex. They are so estranged. Intimacy has eroded so much and the couple decided to seek professional help again with another therapist. Jeevan is giving her all the comforts and luxuries of life otherwise. Each time they felt sure that frank discussions of their difficulties -- social, sexual, financial, could bridge the gap and they could be happy but they ended up fighting and embarrassed further damaging their relationship. In therapy the couple are showing more physical affection and concern for each other. They have also improved with their touch even if they aren't going to have intercourse. They still need to be more gentle and feel more connected. There is a growing agitation within the couple. It seems that everything has become a row. It has come to a stage where if Jeevan even makes an attempt to say anything, Siya will start snapping at Jeevan. Then they compete in the overworked stakes. Later they make lists of what they have done since 10 years, each insisting they did most. Both are sure that they are right, but selfishly don't think about how it will affect their child. Nagging is the leading cause for the discord. Case: Siya and Jeevan are renovating their new home: Siya urges Jeevan to do some chores at home. Jeevan feels there is plenty of time to do the task. Instead gets engrossed with the television for hours. Siya feels unheard. Siya repeatedly makes requests, Jeevan repeatedly ignores and both become increasingly angry. It  is exactly the type of toxic communication that can eventually sink a relationship. Siya may have a perception that she won't get what she wants from the other person, so she has a need to keep asking in order to get it. Personality contributes to the dynamic. An extremely organized, obsessive or anxious person may not be able to refrain from giving reminders, especially if the partner is laid back.  Jeevan is to blame, too, because he doesn't always give a clear answer. Sure, he might tune his wife out because he is annoyed. Jeevan says  that Siya can get very angry and scold him and he can feel like a little boy being scolded by his mother. Many times he doesn't respond to her questions because he doesn't know the answer yet, or he knows the answer will disappoint her. 

From early in the marriage, the couple reminded each other about their responsibilites and both became more demanding when they were ignored. Case a : Jeevan asking Siya to take care of something like his parents that mattered to him and Siya was blowing him off. That made him feel like it didn't matter to her. Case b: Siya asking Jeevan to care for his marriage that mattered to her and Jeevan was blowing her off. Jeevan would become silent for days, months and years... and his eyes can glaze over a thousand yard stare.  

Both are backed up with a lot of discomfort. They need help. Jeevan feels that as long as Siya is not putting pressure on him, he can respond better. There is no face-to-face interaction. There is no annoying tone of voice. Then everything is in equation. This ticks Siya. She starts fighting about fighting. Jeevan is a strategic planner who gathers facts and organizes in advance. Siya doesn't take it personally when Jeevan does not respond. 

The episodes have made their muscles tense. There is a need to soften their approach. Learn to speak in a non threatening and non offensive manner. They are stuck in a bad pattern. They both experience stress headaches. The psychological stress is repetitive. 

Siya was recently admitted to a hospital. Her blood pressure suddenly shot up. It can also be due to many other conditions?