“For your Marriage ………………………….”

Dr. Pradnya Ajinkya

MS Counselling and Psychotherapy, PhD, PG Journalism

I am a Mumbai-based psychological counsellor and family therapist. I have seen fair share of dysfunctional marriages. Here, I recount the case of Subeesh and Suprabha.

Subeesh and Suprabha were married for 6 years. Subeesh was a recovering alcoholic and drug addict years before he met Suprabha. She was a successful professional and Subeesh was in the top management in a multinational. After several years, the couple started a business of their own which they hoped would help grow their savings and allow them to travel and enjoy life more. Things did not go as smoothly as expected, but they kept working on it and trying to deal with the stresses of a new business together.

After about a year, Suprabha found Subeesh weeping. She asked him what was wrong and he said he had to move out and "see what he wanted in life". Devastated, but left with no choice she let him go. After a week, he came back to pack up his belongings. In the meantime, Suprabha worked the business on her own. About a month later she received a call from the bank that her business account was overdrawn. She discovered that Subeesh had been funneling money out of their business account for some months before he left. When Suprabha finally reached him, he minimized the theft, but said that he would reimburse the account. A couple of weeks later, she found out from friends that Subeesh was dating another woman. Later, he stopped reimbursing the account.

What we have to analyse is whether there is much hope for this relationship. With a history of addictive behavior in the past, he could have been secretive about his feelings for some time. By the time he decided to talk, he was ready to leave. Now who was the codependent in this relationship? Who takes the lead in trying to help? Why did Subeesh betray his loyal wife? Did he make an attempt to be honest, apologise or take responsibility for his actions?

Probably there is a very strong chance he had started drinking, drugging, or gambling. This was the point where he was in a complete relapse, and it was only a matter of time before he would be found out. Subeesh bailed out with more lies before he had to face that consequence.

A postscript: She can take some steps to stay out of the codependency role by being completely honest about Subeesh’s behavior to family and friends. To do otherwise would be a continuation of caretaking, "protecting" him from having to face the consequences of his actions. By the same token, Suprabha will be extremely vulnerable to Subeesh’s "charming" side should he try to reconcile with her. Chances are also strong that he will attempt a reconciliation because addicts are very dependent on their codependent partners.

Another postscript: I don't want to give the impression that recovering addicts are bad partners. Recovering addicts who are actively working a programme can be very good partners because they have been forced to look at themselves closely, are used to talking about and listening to feelings.

Here is another case study of a woman I started working with three years ago. She's a 46-year old woman. Her father's first wife died when his older two children were tiny, so he remarried. She remained the only child of the second wife. She was totally over protected from the first wife’s relations and her children. The bottom line is that the woman never developed any coping methods. Whenever she was in a stressful situation - with school, friends, relationships - she was bailed out. Few years ago, she married her childhood sweetheart even though they had split up many times. There were huge conflicts between her and him about their relatives, whose family is better and whose mother is better. A year ago, they had a baby girl. It exacerbated all of the problems in the relationship and between the two families. And it always comes back to the mothers, the families, the differences, and which is better.

She can't get her mother-in-law out of her mind, and has an inability to concentrate on work because she's so obsessed with the problems she has with her family. Her coping strategy is to talk, talk, talk, while her husband's is to withdraw. That creates a problem. She seems to be fully aware of the issues involved, but she also believes that she has no power to control it. Because she didn't learn any coping skills when you need to learn them and integrate them, she can't maintain any self-discipline. There's no firm foundation for her, so you're trying to build on sand instead of rocks. She's quite addicted to the sand, to the feeling of not being comfortable. She likes the anxiety, and it kind of initiates her tractor.

I didn't make a formal diagnosis. I would rather focus on what's going on than look at the DSM5 and say "she has this." While in the sessions for counselling and after a period of three weeks she manages better day to day, and she's calmer. She didn't do well with the (CBT), because she was not committed to the therapeutic process. If you looked at her file and her comings and goings, you would think she was very committed. She makes notes and keeps a journal. She works hard but she doesn't integrate it. There's still no platform for this, there's nothing for it to grow on. I feel more like a coach who's helping her to maintain. And that might be the best we can do so things are a little better for her. I think she will stay in the extremely dysfunctional marriage and that the child will grow up with the same issues she has: a sense of entitlement and a lot of anxiety. When I try to point this out to her, she's full of grief about doing this to her child. But it's not enough to make her change her ways or resolve the marital issues or leave the marriage. So, for her it is necessary to stay connected with a professional help to work out or maintain the marriage.

One wonders: what has happened to the venerable institution of marriage? In some cases, the marriage was doomed from the outset, because it was based on nothing more than animal magnetism. In others cases, it was ruined by external forces, such as financial hardships or infidelity. The real tragedy is that in most cases, marital problems are due to the accumulation of many small things, such as bad habits or mindless criticisms. These annoyances were tolerated during courtship but became increasingly unbearable when the magic of romance died.

It's a good marriage that makes you happy!
Is marriage good for you? Before you answer, consider this: Marriage, like everything else in the world, gets stale, worn out or even broken with the passage of time, unless special care is taken to protect it and rejuvenate it. Marital love can be a magic source of strength and comfort. “It’s not marriage that makes you happy; it’s a happy marriage that makes you happy”

Perish the thought that marriage is about romance and happiness! Banish the idea that marriage guarantees you a safe heaven! Even pre-marital counselling seldom prepares couples for the realities of marriage – the hard work, conflicts and trials and tribulations ahead.

All the pledges of never ending love, all the happy memories of passionate love cannot withstand the unrelenting onslaught of change.

Timely, it is important to keep away the common enemies of a marriage. Checklist on the mutuality of purpose in the marriage.

However, there are happy marriages. Couples remain best friends and partners in managing their charitable organizations. You can say that such marriages are made in heaven, but they also entail hard work based on sound psychological principles. The most important factor for a successful marriage is that the couple shares the same life goals and values. It is difficult for couples to plan a future together if they have different priorities and ambitions. Irregular marriages or inter-faith marriages demand greater effort for adjustment because different value systems make it more difficult for two people to share life at its deepest level.

Understanding is the frame and pillars that keep the marital house together. Responsible action represents all the works necessary to repair and rejuvenate the marital house. Acceptance, belief and commitment will help us to discover the true self in the marital house. This will help us to enjoy the benefits of a marriage. However, this doesn’t mean that we’ll be happy all the time – nobody can be happy all the time. There will always be rough patches to go through and problems to be resolved.

If the problems persist, then you might need to revisit the basic rules or checklist or seek marital counselling.

For a troubled marriage it is best to meet an experienced marriage therapist. The counsellor will help couples discover, actualize and make use of the meaning potentials in intimate life. The activities during the therapy include reflection, evaluation, and termination. Marriage therapy is not easy. It takes time and effort to learn how to communicate in a rational and healthy way to resolve issues and build relationships. The important take home message is that true love is sacrificial and self-transcending. There is the need to change one’s mindset from self-serving to that of caring for another whatever the costs. I would like to leave with you a gem of wisdom “self-actualization is possible only as a side-effect of self-transcendence.”
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Author's Bio: 

Name Dr. Pradnya Jayant Ajinkya, M.S. Counselling and Psychotherapy, Ph.D
Occupation: Psychological counsellor and writer
Highlights: Have held careers that require significant leadership, accountability,and optimistic thinking.
Area of expertise: Individual Counselling, Pre-marital and Marital Counselling, Family Counselling, Psycho-Social Assessment, Anger Management, Anxiety, Depression, grief, incest, etc
I have successfully helped numerous couples, families and students work through resolving relationships, improve communication skills, bringing new insight and awareness to their personal lives.
Education level: PG in journalism, Masters in Counselling and Psychotherapy, Doctorate