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  Discourse   24 Feb 2019  Relationship matters: Looks not the clincher

Relationship matters: Looks not the clincher

Published : Feb 24, 2019, 7:15 am IST
Updated : Feb 24, 2019, 7:16 am IST

When a relationship doesn’t have issues, people inflate small problems. You can be your own worst enemy without realising it.

The continuous pursuit of perfection could be fine for a car, but in a relationship it may result in failing to recognise a great relationship in front of you. Impossibly high standards can make an excellent relationship seem average.
 The continuous pursuit of perfection could be fine for a car, but in a relationship it may result in failing to recognise a great relationship in front of you. Impossibly high standards can make an excellent relationship seem average.

The thrust of your article in The Conversation is about salvaging relationships, notably by tying a knot as one reaches the end of the rope and hangs on. Is that possible when partners find themselves incompatible?
Relationships aren’t perfect, and they certainly aren’t easy. In other words, relationships take work. If partners are feeling incompatible, they can focus on areas of similarity, shared interests and common hobbies to help reconnect.

How can one justify a partner’s decision to leave against proven case of marital infidelity?
Two major foundational pieces for relationships are trust and monogamy. Infidelity undermines both and not surprisingly is one of the most common reasons for break-up and divorce. That said, relationships can weather sexual infidelity. The reason is that when you look at everything that goes into a relationship, the sexual element is only one facet, so assuming the other areas are strong it’s possible for couples to work through one partner being sexually unfaithful.


Do you think the “taken for granted” approach by partners leads to gradual alienation, leading to hopeless situations?
I think this is related to the first question a bit. Relationships take effort and a willingness to nurture them. Couples need to keep dating and looking for ways to enjoy each other’s company. It is very easy to let life get in the way and take the relationship for granted. But, without proper care and attention partners can drift apart. The sneaky part about it is that the drift is often gradual, which makes it harder to notice. By the time it is noticeable, it can often feel hopeless.

What can partners do to keep the relationship as they encounter more negatives between them when in fact their relationship should apparently mature over the years?
One thing that is important to realise is that every relationship will inevitably have negatives. Relationships aren’t perfect, your partner isn’t perfect, and you aren’t either. It seems obvious but sometimes having too lofty expectations can make the presence of any negative seem much more dire than it should be. When you do encounter negatives, I think a key realisation is that you should address them as they arise. You should be willing to have tough conversations and share differences of opinions. By having these little bits of conflict, you can move past them and ultimately enjoy a stronger relationship. People should also be careful to not lose site of the positives. There are plenty there, otherwise you would have never gotten into this relationship. Look for them and celebrate them.


In India, match-making is done more by parents/ elders than by those intending to get married, though the trend is changing. Do you see any merit in the old system?
I think there is one facet where the old system has a clear advantage: it isn’t based on appearance. That’s important because physical attractiveness and feelings of passion, though what typically gets people into a relationship in the “new system”, aren’t what keep marriages successful long-term. Rather, it is a couple's ability to establish a compatible partnership and ideally a best friendship based on companionate love, shared interests, and enjoying each other's company.


(Prof. Gary W. Lewandowski Jr is a professor of psychology in the USA, author of over 150 articles in mass media outlets which have been enjoyed by over 3 million readers, accomplished speaker, co-creator of the award-winning www.ScienceOfRelationships.com, and author of a highly innovative textbook, Discovering the Scientist Within.)

Tags: infidelity, relationships