Psychology of youngsters
In an interview to BharatMatrimony, Dr Vinaya Prabha V Baligar – Relationship Counsellor and Psychotherapist, unravels the fears and anxieties of youngsters in India who think marriage is a huge responsibility not worth considering.
1. How underprepared are young people of today when it comes to marriage?
Most youngsters of today are not prepared for the adjustments and mature attitude that are required for a satisfactory marriage. Their knowledge and understanding of what marriage entails comes from friends, the internet, from their parents’ marriage. This knowledge is insufficient. They also do not possess sufficient skills and the attitude required to make marriage a success.
2. What are the underlying behavior patterns of their anxieties when talk of marriage comes up?
Marriage is a commitment and those on the verge of marriage may have a fear of committing themselves to a long term, permanent relationship like marriage. This could result in various behavior patterns, some of which are:
• Hesitation and doubts about whether they would like to marry
• Constant indecisiveness about whom to marry
• Making excuses and trying to postpone committing themselves to a particular person
• Finding others, other than who they have chosen, more attractive
• Being under the fear that they may be missing other possibilities if they tie themselves down to one partner
• Having doubts about whether the chosen partner is the “right” one
• Becoming critical, finding fault with prospective partners
• Making mountains out of minor problems
• Starting unnecessary arguments
• Withdrawing emotionally
• Sometimes having an intense desire to leave the situation
• Physical symptoms could include palpitations, trembling, shaking, shortness of breath, stomach distress
• Having a fear of and persistent worries about the future
3. What should they do to manage and overcome their fears?
There are simple solutions to managing their fears. However if they face intense fears which they are unable to overcome, it is important that they consult a therapist.
Some advice about ways in which they can address their fears:
Fear of commitment: First of all they need to accept that they have a fear of commitment. “Live in the present moment and commit to doing the best today” should be their motto. They should not spend too much time worrying about the future. It would help them to be honest with their partner about their fears of commitment. Talking about their feelings openly, would help deepen their commitment and help them to bond better with their partner.
Analyze preconceptions: Examine their preconceived notions about marriage and marriage partner and abandon those notions which are false or unrealistic.
Realistic expectations: Know that there is no perfect spouse. One must have realistic expectations of the marriage partner and make allowances for the partner not matching their expectations perfectly.
No perfect marriages: Give up idealistic expectations about marriage. Marriage is not about having perfect, good times always. Marriage, like our lives, will have ups and downs. They should expect challenges.
Inadequacy: Some people may have a fear that they may not be good enough to handle marriage. Such people should not evaluate or judge themselves on the basis of whether their marriage meets certain perfectionistic criteria that they may have about themselves or their lives.
Don’t feat the past: Past failed relationships may make some of them fearful of trusting another and being committed to a long term relationship. These people need to address their trust issues with a marriage counsellor.
4. Why are youngsters, mostly urban, afraid of marriage?
It is natural that youngsters fear making a long term commitment. Youngsters would also like their marriage to be perfect and fear that it may not be so. However, the truth is that marriage is not about having a perfect partner or being perfectly happy all the time. It’s about finding a partner and developing a partnership capable of weathering the storms life will present. A good nugget of wisdom to remember is that “you shouldn’t marry the person you know you can live with for the rest of your life; marry the one whom you can’t imagine yourself living without”.
The young nowadays are more aware of the problems of marriage, due to media, past relationships, inputs from friends. This may lead them to prefer temporary relationships over a permanent relationship like marriage. They may fear the problems, compromises and adjustments that are required in marriage.
Youngsters have to balance many things – work, career, their individual ambitions and dreams, family aspirations for them etc. In this balancing act, marriage sometimes can take a back seat especially if they already have satisfying relationships with friends, family and colleagues.
The young have lesser tolerance for ambiguity; want to be certain about the future. This certitude is not provided by marriage and could be another cause of their fear of marriage.
For girls, unlike bygone days, marriage is not the only option. They can have a satisfying career of their own. When they marry, they will have added responsibilities of balancing the needs of spouse, in laws, children and their own dreams. Successful career women tend to approach marriage with caution.
There is no formula that can be applied to making a perfect marriage. Like all serious relationships, marriage requires maturity, communication skills, tolerance for each other’s faults, empathy and people skills. These are all developed over a period of time. Many youngsters do not want to invest the required energy and time into making the marriage relationship successful.
5. How should they prepare to succeed in this journey called marriage?
“Success in marriage does not come merely through finding the right mate, but through being the right mate.” – Barnett R. Brickner. To be the “right” mate, “Know your-self” is an important dictum. It is important that the youngsters work at increasing their self-awareness, know their strengths and weaknesses. This will go a long way in not having unrealistic expectations from either oneself or one’s partner.
It is important to remember that “nobody is perfect”. The youngsters need to appreciate the differences between themselves and their partners and should avoid trying to shape the partner according to their own desire. They must avoid falling into the trap of believing that if they could make changes in their partner, their relationship will be perfect. Both partners should remember that they are jointly accountable for the marriage relationship. The youngsters need to develop this maturity and responsibility.
Marriage requires a lot of patience- each partner needs to give enough time to understand each other, develop empathy, and to develop the relationship. The youngsters will need to be prepared to consciously and intentionally set aside time and put in conscious efforts to nurture and develop their relationship.
Youngsters who are ready for marriage will need to develop their interpersonal skills and communication skills. In marriage, partners need to honestly and regularly communicate with each other. They will need to be comfortable in sharing their fears, needs, hopes, dreams, and anxieties with their partner.
The yet to be married youngsters will need to understand that the moment they get married, their status will change from an individualistic “I, me, myself” to a status of “we”. They will have to cease being selfish or committed to only themselves, their hopes and their dreams. Instead they will need to plan for, commit to and bring to fruition the joint dreams they hold with their partners.
The young need to accept the reality that there will be good and bad times in marriage and that there will be no quick solutions or fixes for problems. An important requirement is that the partners remain committed to each other through all the trials of marriage.
The youngsters will have to give up any unrealistic expectations about marriage that they may hold. For instance, they should not make the mistake of expecting marriage to be an unrealistic “happily ever after” fairytale, free of problems, conflicts, disagreements.
An important factor in today’s day is the sexual faithfulness of the partners towards each other. Having an affair, being emotionally unfaithful would erode the trust and very foundation of any marriage. Trust between partners form the bedrock of a marriage. The young should be prepared to build the required trust through self-discipline, a sense of responsibility and deep commitment to the marriage.
The young need to be prepared to plan for various issues. A few of these issues they need to plan with their partners include: where they want to live; how much money they plan to make; how they will budget; how much time they will spend with their extended families; when do they want children; who will stay at home to take care of the children; how will they make room in the relationship for their individual ambitions; plan for holidays etc.
A happy marriage has a lot of positive energy and brings out the best in each other. The youngsters should be prepared to treat their partners with respect and dignity and avoid criticism, a sense of superiority, sarcasm, contempt for the other.
Lastly, the youngsters should be aware that each marriage is different. The partners in a marriage need to do what works for them rather than following some standards they might have read in a book or heard from a well-meaning friend. There is no perfect marriage and the criteria that youngsters need to bring to assessing a marriage is whether it largely meets the needs of both the partners, whether it empowers them and brings out the better qualities of each partner.