The Importance of Self in a Couple Relationship


By Bhargavi Kerur

Love rests on two pillars; surrender and autonomy. Our need for togetherness exists alongside our need for separateness. One does not exist without the other.”
– Esther Perel

Avira blamed herself for starting the fight little knowing the fact that her choice of words had a shadow of past for Anirudh. That morning Avira innocently told Anirudh to “pull up the socks” and complete the planned tasks for their upcoming vacation. He had exploded like a bomb at the mention of the phrase. He sulked for a couple of days which increased her feeling of misery. And she silently cried during the washroom visits.

Three years into married life, conflict between Avira and Anirudh are increasing. Sarcastic and contemptuous remarks and threats have become part of their everyday life. The couple blames each other, their families for the conflict between them.

In the Indian context, marriages are said to happen not only between two individuals but also the families. Many numbers of couple though live in a nuclear family system, bring with them the regional, cultural, communication and behavioural patterns of their family of origin (parents, siblings, grandparents, extended family). Two such families existing in the minds of a man and woman have a significant role in their life as couple. Hence it becomes important to understand how you as a person (with a family living in your mind) behave and influence in the relationship.

The following areas are helpful in understanding your contribution to the relationship:

View of the World: How do you see the world around you, good, bad or ugly? This influences your ability to trust your partner or set expectations from him or her. How do you expect your partner to behave when you are going through a low phase or achieved success? Your expectation from your partner influences your state of mind, your response, his/her state of mind and eventually the relationship.

View of Self: What you believe about your abilities plays a significant role in how you will be in your relationship. When you think you are an intelligent person, capable of making appropriate decisions for self and family, your behaviour reflects it. Are you dependable or dependent or like to share your responsibilities?
Insecurities: What are your fears? Are you afraid that your partner might cheat by getting romantically involved with another person, money matters or is emotionally close to another member in the family which might not be supported by his or her conduct? Identifying your personal fears will help you in understanding your contribution of conflict to the relationship and address them.

Communication and Expression: How do you communicate your worries, fears, sadness or happiness? Do you shout at your partner when you are angry or scared? Do you cry silently for hours and days when you are sad? Or do you speak to your partner calmly about the issues and moments that matter to you? Your pattern of communication will to a large extent determine your partner’s response too.

Culture and norms: Understanding how your family has shaped your beliefs about gender roles, view of spirituality, following social norms will help you understand the differences or the similarities. This in turn would be helpful in adapting to create a new environment as a couple.

Dreams and Aspirations: How important are your dreams and aspirations to you? Understanding the importance would be helpful in negotiating with your partner in fulfilling them and building a positive identity influencing your view of self and the world.

A positive ‘you’ will bring in positivity to the relationship too.