Sacrifice in Marriage – Give in or Give up?

When I was a young adult, I often asked my mother, who worked only a few years in her otherwise housebound life, why she did not pursue a career as a professor when she was offered the job after she got married to my father. Or I would ask her why she always waited upon my father to start with dinner. Or I would quiz her on why she did not cook things that she liked to eat more often. The answer was always the same – sacrifice; my father liked it that way.

Then there were times when I would wonder why my Father, who’s a businessman, never switched over to riskier but possibly, more rewarding business ventures; or did not take that overseas job when he could have. His answer too would be the same – sacrifice; it would have been hard on my mother and us kids.

Then a few years back, I came to learn that the husband of one of my closest friends had been cheating on her for several years. They were on the brink of a divorce. But in the end, she forgave him and is now trying to build a new life for both of them. When I asked her why she forgave him, she gave me the same answer.

Then when I got married, my parents gave me this piece of advice –

Keep your ego aside in your marriage. Love unconditionally. Adapt, adjust, compromise and sacrifice. But always stand up for what’s right.

With that in mind, I compromised on a lot of things in my married life – a career, a beloved city, changed my habits, my attire, who I hung out with, and many more things. But that doesn’t mean that only I changed. My husband made changes in his life too. He quit some habits I didn’t approve of. He now eats whatever I put on the table, even if he doesn’t like it. He will do things and go to places only because I want to go there. And the biggest adjustments and sacrifices in our marriage came when our daughter was born.

I think you may have understood by now what this article is about – sacrifice in marriage. It sounds scary, the word sacrifice, like one of those words that sound daunting and depressing, like the word death. But mostly, sacrifice in marriage comes from the little changes we make in our lives to keep harmony and love in the marital home. Sacrifices, along with love, trust, forgiveness, friendship and communication, make the foundation of a happy marriage.

It does not matter how small the sacrifice is – giving up your side of the bed to your partner who prefers that side, changing the brand of your tea because it doesn’t suit your allergic partner, giving up a career or a particular job to rear up your children – as long as it’s a change you made by suppressing your personal preference for something that brings peace and happiness in your relationship, it will be a bona fide sacrifice.

Sacrifices, or let’s just call them adjustments to make them sound less daunting, show your partner and your family that you truly love and care for them; to let go of what you like, and make space for them instead. It’s easy to say ‘I love you’, but it’s difficult to prove it. But one way of proving to your partner is to love them unconditionally and change your lifestyle to make things easier for your relationship.

So if you wake up earlier than everyone, to make your husband a fresh meal for the work, it is a sacrifice that shows you love him. And in turn if your husband gives up a few minutes of his time to clean up the kitchen after dinner, that is a sacrifice that shows he loves and cares for you. That’s what families do – make adjustments for each other and love each other unconditionally.

Whether to give in to your spouse’s demands or give up on the marriage depends on the kind of sacrifices or the frequency thereof. For there are good sacrifices and bad sacrifices too. The difference between them is that while the former empowers the marital home as a whole, the latter only empowers the bully in the relationship. I’ll give you an example of both –

The above example of making a fresh meal for the husband while sacrificing your sleep, is an example of a good sacrifice, because it ensures that your husband is taken care of while he works. You do it out of love and concern for him. But even sacrificing your ego and forgiving your spouse for an occasional lapse in sanity or good temper, is also a good sacrifice. Afterall, that’s what spouses do, stick together through thick and thin, good and bad, in health and sickness.

But if these occasional lapses become a usual thing in your family, then it’s time to stop sacrificing and stand up for your rights. It’s not a sacrifice when you stay quiet over a grave matter like child abuse or domestic violence, or constant bickering and being taken for granted. Forgiveness is one thing, but there’s no place for violence and maltreatment in a marriage. Bending to someone’s will for something that is unfair or wrong, more than a few times, is not a sacrifice.

In the end we must remember that all relationships require some sort of adjustments in our behaviours. That’s what living in a society is all about. If we all started to only think for ourselves, we would have anarchy. But the most demanding relationships are those in the immediate family – husband-wife and parents-kids. They require an uncountable number of sacrifices, some of them even downright unfair. It is upto us to decide where we give unconditional support and where we draw the line.

I leave you with this apt quote on what marriage is really about by Darlene Schacht –

Marriage is a thousand little things… It’s giving up your right to be right in the heat of an argument. It’s forgiving another when they let you down. It’s loving someone enough to step down so they can shine. It’s friendship. It’s being a cheerleader & trusted confidant. It’s a place of forgiveness that welcomes one home, and arms they can run to in the midst of a storm. It’s grace.

Pradita Kapahi.

 

CELEBRATING FAILURES

We all celebrate success. We throw a party, call up friends and family or go out for dinner or a date, or if we’re alone, we let our hair down and unwind with a drink or do something we have been wanting to do, that helps us relax. Some pious folks pray for their achievements and do poojas or make an offering to their Gods. While some lucky ones celebrate by going out on a vacation!

Celebrating success is a natural outcome of our happiness and achievement. It’s a way of rewarding ourselves for our hard work.  But what about celebrating failures though? Do we ever give a thought to that?

‘Why?’, you ask. ‘What’s to celebrate in failures?’

Good question! I’ll ask you a question in return, “What does failure teach us?”

It teaches us that we need to do better. It teaches us patience, humility. It teaches us the value of hard work and how to wait for the right opportunity. But most importantly, it teaches us not to give up!

With so many good lessons to teach us, how can failure be bad?

You may counter by pointing out that it feels bad when we fail. Sometimes the failure is a huge setback to our attempts. Yes, it does feel bad, specially if it’s happened to you more than once for the same thing. Most of us take failure very seriously. We become depressed, enraged, desolate, hopeless and withdraw into ourselves. It’s normal to feel that way when we fail.

But say, if you were to enjoy your failure, would it do you any harm? Say if you couldn’t pass an important test that you were preparing for, would it be so bad if, after failing, you throw away your sour mood and declare, ‘Oh, so what?! I’ll try again. Harder!’ And then you proceed to call out your friends for dinner, and your friends tell you the same thing, ‘You’ll do better next time”. And you will! Because you have already made up your mind to try harder again. That serves as positive reinforcement for your brain, the party and your own will to try again. It sends your brain the signal that you do not take defeat as a full stop to your attempts.

Positive reinforcement is a Psychology term that roughly means being awarded for a certain kind of behavior. We frequently use this in everyday life to motivate ourselves. Even organisations have long been using this to motivate their employees to aim higher and get better results. An example is how you tell yourself while slogging for your exams, “Just this one week and then I’ll have all the time in the world”, or how a dog is trained by giving it a treat for good behavior. The benefit of positive reinforcement is that we condition ourselves to perform better in order to get that reward, till it becomes our habit to perform better.

This is what celebrating failure does to you. When your brain looks at failure as a reason to celebrate, it conditions itself to not give in to depressing thoughts and instead looks for that rewarding incident/thing that reinforces its will to strive harder, while enjoying the process of trying again.

Celebrating failure need not come only in the form of a reward or a celebration. You could choose the way you want to celebrate differently than the usual connotations of ‘celebrating’. You could meditate, or try a new activity, or try another way of achieving the same goal. You could tell yourself, ‘Regardless of whether I succeed or fail in this attempt, I will do a certain thing to enjoy myself’. Remember, enjoying yourself while you strive to attain something is as important as making the effort itself. Otherwise the task will seem tedious, and you will be inclined to fail more because of mental tiredness than actual lack of capability.

The aim of celebrating failure is NOT the celebration itself;

It is to overcome the depression of failure and the fear of failing again. 

Do the following when you feel you’re becoming depressed over your failure – 

  1. Stop blaming yourself.
  2. Think of things to calm yourself down, like meditation, or a movie you like, or a hangout you like to go to.
  3. Surround yourself with people who support you; don’t drive them away.
  4. Look inwards and identify the reasons why you failed.
  5. After you have identified the causes, decide to either avoid those causes the next time, or try harder to overcome them, or plan another route.
  6. Now go ahead, have a blast. Chances are, by the time you come to this step, you will have already overcome your depression.

Our failures are our means to be a better person. They teach us to strive harder, be smarter about our choices and they teach us that success is not an easily earned thing. Think of all those achievers in history who have had successful lives – M.S. Dhoni, Rafael Nadal, Leonardo DiCaprio, Aishwarya Rai, Gita Phogat... Do you think they never faced failures, flops, being shunned by someone, being called ‘inadequate’? But they didn’t stop at their failures. They treated them as lessons and went on to the next project they had. They did not dwell on their past and their mistakes. If they had given up and succumbed to depression, we wouldn’t know their names today.

If you are still not convinced why celebrating failure is better than mourning them, click on this link and watch this inspirational video by Elizabeth Gilbert, the Author of ‘Eat, Pray, Love‘, who talks about how she overcame the fear of writing a book that wouldn’t match up with the success of Eat, Pray, Love, while also discussing how she overcame recurring failures to become a successful writer. I love it when she says, “I love writing more than I hate failing at writing”. That is why she couldn’t give up on writing in spite of her failures, because writing was ‘home’ for her. That is real passion for your work!

Remember, the most difficult part of overcoming failure is the attempt to overcome it. Celebrating it helps in making it easier for you to overcome that fear.

Let not failure defeat you.

Let it be a stepping stone to your next success.

I’ll leave you with the words of the great leader Winston Churchill,

 

Success consists of going from failure to failure, without loss of enthusiasm.

 

Pradita Kapahi