Q:My wife and I live in Mumbai. We have been married for three years. I’d met her online when I was in college. We had been in an almost purely long distance relationship for five years before our marriage. Currently I’m in quite a drudgery of a corporate job – running 9 to 9 each day. But I’m ambitious and aim to break free of this life of slavery. Hence I’ve taken up a few projects outside of my job which my wife is also involved in.
The reason I write to you is – of late a never-ending ennui seems to have settled down in our relationship. We’re both stressed. Life’s demands stress us more. We tend to fight and find faults a lot. And we make up by going out for a movie, shopping, coffee etc. Then again go through the same cycle.
I remain really busy with my work and other stuff. I know she really wants me to spend quality time with her. I try to do that but sometimes I myself feel like even though I’m physically present with her, mentally I’m somewhere else – worrying about my work, other ventures etc. Most of the time even if I try I can’t relax and be fully available to my near and dear ones. Is there any way of getting out of this rut? Please help.
A: You and your wife are childhood sweethearts – you met at a time when you were both college kids. Full of life. Newly-gained freedom. Young-adulthood. Aimless happiness in your head. Dreams in your eyes.
… And the enigma of distance in the story of your sweet love.
Cut to today.
You rush. From morning to night. Behind the same unexciting things.
You smile at the same boring people.
You don’t like what you do.
You get stressed by it.
Way too much of your life is spent on the sustenance of life itself (which is, earning money and your corporate job), and not on living it. Life feels futile.
This makes you frustrated.
Life is not nearly like you imagined it. And this makes both of you disappointed, confused, even mildly shocked, deep inside.
You both develop coping mechanisms – each your own.
This is where your disconnect starts.
To put it simply:
- Your lives have gone through a huge change between when you fell in love and today.
- Each of you has developed your own individual coping strategy to deal with this change.
- In this process your priorities have diverged.
This is what is giving rise to the apparent distance and lack of understanding between the two of you today.
Add to that the fact that you’ve taken on entrepreneurial projects. This has three implications.
- These demand a major portion of your time and energy, thereby leaving out less time for the two of you to spend together.
- At a mental level you’re highly involved with these projects and you want a lot out of them. She sometimes falls short of your expectations.
- Third, and most importantly – these are very, very close to your heart. Maybe sometimes at an emotional level you’re so involved with these, that you have a little less focus on your family life. You have mentioned even if you’re physically present with your wife, you’re not always mentally available.
LK – the fact that you’re so serious about reviving your relationship shows that you love her really, really a lot. And that’s the reason you will succeed in getting your relationship back on track.
First things first. Let’s start from the roots. As we both know, the root here is – mental stress.
You hit the nail on the head when you said you can’t relax and be fully available to your near and dear ones. You see the root of your problem?
She obviously senses that. Deep connection nurtured by quality time spent together is central to her emotional needs from you. Your constant stress is making you more and more unavailable to her and giving rise to a gap – between her needs from her spouse and what her spouse is able to provide.
You know very well that quick-fixes like gifts, movies and a coffee outside are just that – quick fixes, and not solutions.
The solution obviously is – reducing stress in your life.
How do we go about that?
Here are a few simple steps that you can start with:
- Be more organized with your time. Every night make a list of all your tasks for the next day and make a simple plan of at what time you’ll do which task.
- Meditate and do breathing exercises every day for just five minutes. Not more than that. Just five minutes of your time every day.
- Let go. Choose happiness. Drive your life, don’t be driven by it. The root of stress is feeling drawn in two or more different directions at the same time. Let’s say you’re with your wife. You want to spend quality time with her but you’re also feeling guilty inside for not spending the same time on your entrepreneurial projects. This is being driven by life and its necessities. This gives rise to feelings of not being in control, which is the root cause of stress. But what we often miss is the fact that we’re always in control – if we take the control. In this situation, for example, driving your life instead of being driven by it would entail asking yourself, “I’m spending time away from my work. That constitutes opportunity loss for my business. At the same time I’m spending time with my wife which is deepening our connection. Will it make me happier – either in the short term or in the long term – to work on my business than spend this time together? If yes, I should now go back to work. If no, I should forget about work and make most of our time together.” It’s important to remember that there’s nothing wrong with choosing either of these options. But you need to be conscious of the fact that you have these options; the fact that it’s not like “I have to work and I also have to spend time with my wife!!” It’s like “I have two options and I choose which one to take based on my own happiness.” The second puts you in control of your life rather than putting your life in control of you.
I hope that has helped you think more clearly and consciously about life and relationships.
Go through this discussion. Think about it clearly, and let me know how this works for you.
With the best wishes for your life and happiness,