Keeping the spark alive

MARY OOMMEN –

The idea of marriage and how we define it has seen a gradual change over the years. Young people today view this time-honoured tradition rather differently than their parents did. In the past, marriage was the starting point of life as adults. People got married, established careers, had children and built a wonderful life together. But for young people today, marriage is not a primary concern. They are in fact, led by their desire to get an education, build careers and achieve their goals.

They focus more on ‘me and mine’ and the concept of ‘us and ours’ no longer holds charm. Is this necessarily wrong? Not really. Then what explains the alarming trend of marriages breaking up?
Perhaps the previous generation was more accepting. Couples tolerated unhappy marriages because of the huge social stigma attached to being divorced. Today’s generation is more independent and not bothered much by what others will say. They expect instant gratification and, more often than not, are unwilling to put in the time and effort needed to ensure a happy marriage, and this is a trend that is being witnessed across cultures around the world.
In fact, divorce it seems, is becoming commonplace even in the more traditional Omani society. Data from the National Centre for Statistics and Information indicates that divorce rates have been steadily skyrocketing since the early 2000s, with the numbers touching almost 3,867 in 2017.
So, what then is the secret to making a marriage work? What keeps some couples together through the years, while other unions crack up? We asked people who have been together for decades through thick and thin for the secret to their happy marriage. Here’s what they had to say…..
Start a friendship, say Hamid and Layla who recently celebrated 25 years of a loving union. Theirs was a traditional arranged marriage as per Omani customs. “We chose to spend time getting to know each other and over the years, our love has become a deep-rooted friendship which I believe is the real key to making a marriage work,” shared Hamid. Layla echoed his thoughts when she said, “We became friends first and over the years and our love has only grown stronger.” Build a genuine friendship and find ways to express your fondness for each other not just in the big ways but also through small caring gestures day in and day out.
Marriage requires a huge amount of compromise and understanding from both partners say Adil and Farah. Married now for close to two decades, they both agree that a genuine commitment to each other has been at the root of their lasting love. Like most couples, Adil and Farah admit to having their share of tiffs. “It’s human nature to disagree on things or get angry sometimes,” says Farah, “but we don’t let that break us. We don’t bring up the past or talk mean.” Speak your mind but don’t aim to hurt. Try to walk away from disagreements with a compromise or a solution. Successfully resolving conflicts can actually make your marriage stronger and bring you closer together.
Jude and Sarah agree. “The secret to our marriage is the wit that Jude brings to our relationship,” says Sarah. “I am a more serious person and tend to fly off the handle at the slightest provocation. Jude lightens up the mood with his humour and the situation dissipates before it can grow into something ugly. I thank my husband for teaching me to have fun and not take things too seriously.” If you can look at the ridiculousness of the moment instead of freaking out every time you disagree with each other or something goes wrong, you’ll be a lot less likely to give up on each other.
For Dinesh and Divya, communication and listening to each other has been the bedrock of their marriage. Talking about what keeps a marriage going they said, “we spend time to share our daily experiences and really listen to what the other has to say. We also have ‘family-business’ discussions and talk about our daily schedules, children’s issues, to-do lists and home-budget.” Being open and honest with each other about our feelings set the stage for stability and keeps the marriage running smoothly.
However, as the years roll by, things can quickly get mundane. After the first flush of romance washes away it is often easy for couples to begin taking each other for granted. Instead of getting complacent, spend time together indulging in shared interests. Establish a tech-free zone (or time) when you interact with each other and do real things in the real world: Go watch a sunset. Listen to the bird’s sing. Take a walk. Do things that you enjoy doing together.
This is something that Puneet and Preeti agree on. They shared that both of them make an effort to keep the spark going in their marriage. “We’ve been married close to 17 years now and ensure that we carve time for ourselves as a couple. Even after the birth of our two kids, we religiously set time aside for our movie or date nights. This helps us build happy memories as a couple and helps us overcome difficult times and disagreement more smoothly,” they said. Discover the reasons you fell in love with each other and build on those. Reliving good memories will make you laugh, kindle feelings of contentment and remind you why you like each other in the first place.
Just like being happy in life, being happy in marriage is a choice. We can choose to say unkind words or we can choose to hold our tongue. We can choose to be angry or we can choose to forgive. We can choose to work for a happy, healthy marriage or we can choose not to. The choice lies within each of us.