Comfort & Counsel

Home  Articles  Site map

It takes two hands to clap

Jacob Ninan

It's our natural tendency as human beings to be focussed on the faults we see in others, so much so that we forget our own. Also, you may have heard of the psychology teacher who showed the class a sheet of white paper with a black dot on it and asked them what they saw. The students would invariably answer that they saw a black spot. Then the teacher would point out that nobody seemed to be able to notice all the white space around the spot! That is a picture of our tendency to focus on the faults rather than on all the good things we experience from the others. These tendencies can cause a lot of problems in our marriage.

Sometimes it can be that it is a major fault of one spouse that causes all the problems. But in most cases both of them are responsible in one way or another in causing problems, or in adding to the pressure on each other. Think of a husband who is ignorant of his wife's need for attention and show of affection. He thinks that as long as he works hard in the office and earn enough money to provide for her and the family it should be OK. But then she begins to complain to him that he doesn't have any time for her, he doesn't really love her, etc. He tries to defend himself and insist that he does love her. But she doesn't accept that and tries to prove how he has neglected her on many occasions and how he is only occupied with his own pursuits. It turns into a major quarrel! Now what does the husband do? Actually he should realise how she needs his affection and try to show her more. But what he is likely to do is to keep away from her hoping to avoid such quarrels in the future. His reaction now magnifies the problem for her, and she multiplies her complaints, maybe in front of others. We know how this can develop!

Let's say a husband has suddenly been caught up in a situation at the work place and he has to spend more time there. Ideally what the wife needs to do is to think about it and realise that this is an unusual situation and that she needs to bear up with the inconvenience and perhaps support him by showing him special care when he comes home. But suppose she reacts by accusing him by saying that his work is more important to him than her or the family! Suppose the work situation happens again, and she gets more ammunition to fire at him, we know how things can become.

These kind of situations happen very commonly in families. But we know that these are actually very small problems compared to unfaithfulness, abuse, etc. Actually such situations as given above are enough for many people to trigger their thoughts and make them imagine that their marriage is a failure, they can't live together anymore, etc.! Starting from such 'minor' altercations many couples keep adding complaints and counter complaints to each other, and by the time they decide to come for counselling, they have made things very complicated for both of them!

There are two simple truths we can pick up from this type of situation. 1. It is very easy for us to misunderstand our spouse's thoughts and intentions if we don't make the effort to understand them. 2. Whatever our spouse's fault may be, we can aggravate the situation by reacting to it badly from our side.

Table of articles
Marriage column
Home page