One morning, Joseph George (name changed) came to Kochi-based marriage counsellor Dr PM Chacko. Joseph admitted that he would use the word, ‘useless’ at least fifteen times a day at his wife. Chacko asked him, “Do you drink tea?”
Joseph said he drank four cups every day, twice in the morning and the evening. Chacko says, “4 cups a day means 120 a month or 1440 cups a year, and since you are married for 14 years, more than 20,000 cups of tea. And this is just one service she has done for you. There are so many others.”
The shocked Joseph felt remorseful all of a sudden. “Malayali couples do not know how to appreciate each other,” says Chacko. “They receive all sorts of benefits and services, but they never appreciate it. In the West they have one admirable virtue. If they notice something to appreciate, they immediately do so.”
In Kerala, spouses are constantly looking for mistakes. “We have to unlearn the habit of criticism and show appreciation and be grateful,” says Chacko. “Whenever I meet couples, I ask them, ‘Are you thankful to each other?’ They ask, ‘What thanks?’”
Some time ago, Chacko went for the golden jubilee celebrations of a couple, Thomas and Rita Kurian. He was sitting next to Thomas and asked him, “All these fifty years, she has cooked for you.”
Rita said, “Who else will do it? I have been preparing every dish for so many years.”
When Chacko asked Thomas whether he appreciated what she said, Rita immediately replied, “Never. Instead, he has constantly criticised me.”
Thomas had a reason. “I feared that if I praised Rita she will sit on my head and chew off my ears,” he said. Chacko told him that, at 77, he no longer needed to be afraid. All the while Rita had tears rolling down her face.
We lack the civility to appreciate the good events happening in our homes,” says Chacko. “The meals prepared, the clothes washed, the house kept neat and clean. Failing to appreciate the spouse’s services shows a lack of gratitude.”
Instead of showing gratitude, husband and wife are constantly having verbal fights.
They don’t realise that arguments take them nowhere,” says Chacko. “After any verbal duel, the relationship is worse than before.”
Yet, it is important to clear the air. “If you know how to fight well and fair, following rules of decency and courtesy, then a fight is a very good thing,” says Chacko.
The counsellor, a former professor of English at UC College, Aluva, offers a way to deliver criticism. “Find a time convenient to both, sit together, and hold hands,” says Chacko. “This is to indicate your love. You can start by saying, ‘I have something to tell you. I am sad about your recent behaviour towards my mother.’ The delivery style is important. Instead of shouts and abuse, there should be a dialogue. The primary feeling of the husband is sadness, but, in most cases, he expresses the secondary feeling of anger.”
Chacko always tells the couple to remain focused on one subject. For example, if the husband is complaining to the wife about her behaviour towards the children, he should talk about that only.
In case one of the spouses is getting angry, the discussion should be stopped. “Do remember you are fighting with the most important person in your life,” he says. “If you bear that in mind, your fight will be decent and dignified.”
What most people forget is that the most precious people in our lives are those at home, and not in the office. “Our parents, wife, children and siblings and relatives deserve the best of my behaviour and not the people at the office or the social circles that we move around in,” says Chacko.
Warring couples should also be aware that when the marriage breaks down, the maximum impact will be on the children. “They will never forgive their parents,” says Chacko. “And they will do all possible things to attack them. Usually, the child will blame one parent more than the other.”
Chacko remembers a couple who parted ways six years ago. The elder child, Smitha, a girl, who is 23 years old, works as a journalist in Bangalore. When the Kochi-based mother calls Smitha up and asks about her marriage, she says, “Shut up. I have seen your marriage. Enough is enough. Don’t ever mention that word to me.”
The lady told Chacko, “My daughter is taking her revenge on me.”