Let us understand the roots of marital stress
(For other articles by Dr. Swatantra Jain, please check this webpage)
‘Sandeep is literally a book worm; I just fail to realize what he achieves from books and papers!’; ‘Oh my lord! Syra only loves outings, shopping, parties and eating outside; and she behaves so awkwardly if she does not get all this to do’; ‘I hate her being always clinging to her mobile or laptop so much so that she rarely bothers to eat dinner together’; ‘I do not understand why Meera usually thinks from her heart. Why can’t she use her brain?’; ‘And look at my Dolly, I am so sick of her talking about her intuitions about one thing or the other, because every other day, she eats my head by her silly talks like, ‘some-thing bad is going to happen’ or ‘She had a good omen’. And she never listens to me; it is you alone who can make her realize her folly’; ‘Raju hardly bothers about cleanliness. I feel too irritated to tolerate clumsy and disorganized home after coming back from office’ etc.
While counselling on marital problems, we psychotherapists, generally have to entertain such psychological problems between spouses along with certain general, social and worldly problems. Among psychological problems, the spouses come mostly with a sea difference between their personality traits, so much so to say that if one is facing north, the other seems to face south. It also implies that they both are poles apart. In the face of such huge differences in the personality, lifestyle, ambitions, values, attitudes and habits between the two, It is but natural to inflate the stress, bickering and conflicts and also the instances of fault finding between them.
It is for all of us to figure out and appreciate that worldly type of problems are sort of general problems whose solution, if not easy, is never difficult to arrive at. But, in these mismatched marital relations, it becomes almost difficult, if not impossible, to solve their problems if they relate to some huge differences and estrangement in the personality traits and other psychological aspects of the spouses. It is wise to consult a good psychotherapist in the case of mismatched relations.
There can be many types of these mismatched relations. But here, we shall only delve on the problems and alienation between spouses caused due to differences in their personality. Famous Psychoanalyst Carl Jung (1971) has stated three areas of preferences as dichotomies (i.e. bipolar dimensions where each pole represents a different preference). He categorized all the human beings according to below mentioned dimensions or criterion:
1. Extraversion – Introversion (E-I): According to Jung’s theory of psychological types, people can be characterized by their preference of general attitude. According to him, we all differ on the dimension of Extraversion-Introversion, which signifies the source & direction of a person’s energy expression. In his view, ‘an extravert’s source and direction of energy expression is mainly in the external world, while an introvert has a source of energy mainly in his own internal world’. In simple words we can say that while Extraverts derive joy and energy from outer sources, Introverts derive the same from their inner sources or their own self.
Thus, on one end of this dimension, we have extreme Extraverts (E), while on the other end; we have extreme introverts (I). However, there are very few persons who are extreme Extraverts or extreme Introverts, as most of us lie somewhere in between these two extremes. To explain it still further, many amongst us are outgoing and look for the source of our energy and joy in the outer means like, people, picnics, outings, parties, big gatherings etc. Rather than feeling irritated or exhausted, they derive joy and energy from meeting more and more people.
On the other hand, there are some others (Introverts) who look for their energy and pleasure from within. Such introverts rather hate going to shopping malls, restaurants, parties, picnics etc. They neither have any urge to meet people and make friends nor any interest in outings etc. You can find them in park, library, labs, or somewhere else reflecting on some deep secret of life. They are quite satisfied, contented and happy with themselves.
Now, see for yourself and try to consider if one of the spouses is extreme Extravert (E) and the other an extreme Introvert (I), how their bonding can last successfully? How their life can move on smoothly? How both of them can go together without bickering, hurting and constantly fighting with each other and ultimately making each other’s life a complete hell. If at all they try to compromise, how long they can go together? If not impossible, it would be at least very hard for such couples to live together without constant stress and strife. In order to live happily, they both not only have to understand and accept each other’s individuality but also appreciate and accommodate each other’s differences in their personality. If at all, they can lead their lives with such a spirit, they can add up to their happiness by complementing each other. But, to imagine and expect such an understanding on the part of both would be just a talk of utopian ideal which can be possible only in dream state. Oh yeah! They can surely learn the art of accommodating and adjusting with each other with the help of a good psychotherapist (for this refer to my article here)
According to Jung, people can be further characterized by their preference of one of the two functions of perception:-
1. Sensing – Intuition: This dimension represents the method by which someone perceives information. Both the extraverts as well as introverts can differ significantly with respect to the way they receive their knowledge, experience or sensations of the outer world. Some people receive the outer information through their five senses while some others react more to their internal sensations. This dimension represents how we receive any knowledge. While Sensing (S) dominated person mainly believes and depends on the information he or she receives directly from the external world (what he sees from his eyes, hears through his ears, tastes with his tongue and feels through his skin etc); the Intuition (N) dominated person believes and trusts mainly the information he or she receives from his internal or imaginary world. It is just like one of the spouses says, ‘it seems some very wrong is going to happen’ and is stressed only due to her intuition. Contrary to this, the other partner/spouse, ruling out her senseless talk, retorts, ‘Nothing is going to happen, it is only your brain which bothers you. So please sleep and let me also sleep’.
Despite the fact that both of them are right and true from their own perspectives, they both are incompetent of understanding and accepting each other’s perception or point of view because they both are quite opposite to each other in their way of receiving the stimuli (external/internal) . Now, only a psychotherapist can be in a position to make this evident to the couple, otherwise both these husband and wife would be forced to struggle all through their lives. Because, one would talk in terms of her intuition while the other tries to prove her wrong and even mad.
2. ‘Thinking – Feeling’: This dimension represents how a person processes the information received through his senses or intuitions. According to Jung, both the extraverts & introverts can also be characterized on the bases of their preference of one of the two functions of judging i.e. while some people rely more on their brains and reach certain conclusions on the bases of their logics and reasoning; there are also some others who think with their heart or feelings’. While ‘thinking’ (T) person makes a decision mainly through logic, ‘feeling’ (F) person, as a rule, makes a decision based on his/her emotions, i.e. what he feels he should do. Now just try to visualize, if one of the spouses always or mostly thinks with his brain and the other mostly with her heart, how they both can lead their lives smoothly? Both of them, while being right from their own perspectives, would continue making fun of each other or cursing and fighting with each other.
3. ‘Judging – Perceiving’: In addition to above three functions, Jung also proposed that one of the four functions above is dominant in a person – either a function of perception or that of judging. Isabel Briggs Myers (1980), a researcher and practitioner of Jung’s theory, proposed to see the judging (J) Vs Perceiving (P) relationship as a fourth dichotomy influencing personality type. It reflects how a person implements the information processed by him/her. In Jung’s view, a ‘Judging’ person implements the processed information on the bases of all of his life events and, as a rule, sticks to his plans; while the ‘Perceiving’ person is quite open and inclined to improvise and explore alternative options.
Now, if one of the spouses always or mostly takes the decision on the bases of his earlier judgments while the other generally wants to explore and improvise new alternatives, how they both can pull together and how long they can walk together? It is for the readers to decide for themselves.
Further still, all possible permutations of preferences in the 4 dichotomies above yield 16 different combinations, or personality types, representing which of the two poles in each of the four dichotomies dominates in a person, thus defining 16 different personality types and making it very difficult for a layman to understand all these permutations.
But do not be dismayed. How so ever be the differences in personality traits between the spouses, they can always have a good bondage provided they understand, accept and respect their own individuality as well as that of each other’s, accommodate the differences and make them their strength instead of weakness and help each other to explore more positive ways of minimizing their differences. Of course a good n experienced psychotherapist can surely assist them in doing so.