I work with a lot of couples and have discovered that disharmony can sneak up on couples. The kind of disharmony that most commonly catches couples by surprise is created by values. It is easy to forget that we each have our own cultural values, which may differ from our partner’s even if we share a country of origin. When we talk about culture and marriage, what we are really talking about is how we view our role and our partner’s role. How traditionally gendered are our views? What did we imagine our role to be? How much do we expect our partner to do financially, emotionally, and domestically? These are all important things to figure out, and many of us enter the relationship assuming that our partner shares our views. Sadly, this is not always the case.
Discovering that our partner’s views are not quite what we imagined can feel like a betrayal. This feeling of betrayal is often due to the sense that our partner deceived us. This is almost never the case. What I encounter most often is that people commit to each other without explicitly stating their expectations. To complicate matters, our expectations change as our situation changes. The change we perceive in our partner’s values may be caused by a change in living situation. Sometimes we need to feel safe to be our authentic selves. What we say we want in the beginning might be a reflection of what we think we “should” want. It may be that the creation of a safe place allows us to express what we view as our less acceptable desires, views, and expectations.
Our ability to be emotionally expressive also impacts our ability to express our expectations. Those who find expressing themselves to be difficult may be expressing dissatisfaction in less direct ways. This may cause an increase in resentment. Most sterile marriages are a byproduct of resentment, and the best way to avoid resentment is to be honest with ourselves and our partner about our needs. By expressing what it is we expect from ourselves and our partner, we can limit miscommunications and reduce disharmony. Having a harmonious partnership is an amazing experience. When we have a peaceful home, we have more energy and optimism.
Understanding the cultural beliefs that guide our actions and expectations will increase harmony. We all deserve a harmonious and peaceful home. We all deserve to be in harmony with ourselves. Being honest about who we are is the quickest path to living our best lives. When we are living authentically, we are more resilient and less combative. If we embrace who we are, rather than focusing on who we “should” be, we can achieve inner peace. Once we have inner peace, we can create peace in our relationships.
Kisstopher is an American psychologist who has been helping individuals, couples, and families have more good days than bad for over 20 years. In 2009, Kisstopher opened Adjustment Guidance, a mental health and wellbeing therapy practice located in Nagoya city, just 5 minutes from Ozone station. Kisstopher sees clients Tuesday through Saturday between 9am and 8pm.
All communications are confidential and your first appointment is free.
Memberships: American Psychological Association, Japanese Psychological Association, American Chamber of Commerce in Japan