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AuthorThe Making of a successful Marriage
Nasim Hassan - Hockessin, DE. USA

The institution of marriage has undergone great stresses in the Western society. High divorce rate and the trend of living together has resulted in broken families and troubled children. The human society developed and refined the institution of marriage over a long period of time. Although scientific achievements have provided the World with all kinds of amenities, the human beings have not changed at a basic level. The human instincts such as joy, jealousy, love, hate, fear, pride and prejudice have not changed over the millenniums. The people still need stable family environments and friends to share life experiences. Being a first generation immigrant, I am always amazed when I read about the divorce rate in the USA. Looking within the South Asian community here, I find the divorce rate negligible. This diametrically opposite situation has prompted me to analyze the roots of a successful marriage. These statistics have led me to believe that unsuccessful marriage is a unique American phenomenon. This problem has started to manifest in the second generation of immigrants who are born and brought up in this country. Since this causes a major disruption in the lives of children who are the future custodians of this great nation, it is worthwhile to study the factors that contribute to a stable family and marriage.
The successful marriages require support systems, common values, and shared aspirations in addition to love and mutual understanding. These aspects are discussed in detail in this article.

Cultural Uniformity

General observation shows that the couples in a successful marriage belong to a similar cultural group. By cultural group in American context refers to refers to Italian, Cuban, Mexican and Irish American groups. The other groups include Chinese, West European and Hispanic American. The culture is a broad term that includes language, music and literature among other things. These divisions may not mean much to European immigrants but they are in fact considered important in India and Pakistan. A cursory look at ethnic newspapers reveals that people or parents are looking within the same group for marriage relationship.
The first generation immigrants generally marry within their cultural background and most of them have stable marriages. It is not suggested here that people should only marry within their own ethnic group. The successful marriages between people of diverse backgrounds require broad vision, maturity and freedom from all kinds of prejudices. As the marriages between diverse cultural groups have started to occur in the second generation of immigrants, so have the divorce rates started to approach American norms. In the USA, marriages are intermixed among people from European origins. There are no considerations for family or cultural background. The differences start to manifest soon after the honeymoon.
A better communication between people of similar background could be the reason for fewer instances of misunderstanding. The people of similar cultural background instinctively understand the likes and dislikes of their partners. For example, some people love dogs or other pets because they always had a dog or cat in their homes while growing up. There are other people who consider dogs and cats as a nuisance that must be avoided at all costs. Some people like to congregate in-groups while others are brought up alone in a calm and quiet home. The differences are obvious if a person goes from England or Sweden to any place close to the Mediterranean Sea.

Role of Religion
It has been observed that religious people have successful marriages. This refers to both partners. If one of partner is religious and other does not share same ideas, it becomes a difficult relationship. The immigrants are more religious than their counterparts in the native country. The people back home in India, Pakistan and Mid East believe that if a person lives in America then he or she must be modern and liberal in outlook. A lot of marriages fail because of this particular misconception. The humanity in various parts of the World developed marriage as an institution and religion sanctified the relationship. The religion provides a code of ethics and standards of behavior that need to be followed. For example, the religious edict saying, " Thou shall not commit adultery" lays the foundation of relationship in marriage for both partners. This factor alone can reduce strain in a relationship as it gives certain level of assurance of commitment to the marriage.

Recognition of mistakes
It is never easy to accept and own the mistakes and saying sorry. The ego gets hurt and people tend to think that after saying sorry the other partner will gain an upper hand. Just by simply acknowledging the error or a mistake can resolve fifty percent of the conflicts. Most of the people who have a stable and successful marriage are very up-front in their relationship and never hesitate to say sorry.
On the contrary, small misunderstandings can resultin irreconcilable differences. The common response is to find equal and similar fault in the partner and reminding that he or she is even a bigger culprit. The preeminent reason in many of such instances is that both partners are not giving up any ground and differences continue to grow. This approach if avoided can result in a harmonious relationship. Forgiving and accepting apology leads to better understanding.

Economic Conditions
Better economic conditions do not mean that only rich people can have a stable marriage. The people should spend only what they can afford. This is one of the major causes of strain in marriages at all income levels. Some people at a lower income level have much better marriages as compared to the rich and wealthy people. The key is to keep the expenses within limits for both partners. In the USA, the temptations are unlimited. Everyday, people are targeted with advertisements for new cars, better gadgets, and idyllic vacations. The message comes across as if all these things do not cost anything. There are promises of no payment for a number of months. The human beings are psyched up to buy the things that do not need and vacation that they can not afford. After few weeks of bliss, the reality dawns when the payments have to be made and there is hardly any money available for essentials needs. At this point in time the blame game starts. In Europe and Asia, people buy the merchandize whenever there is a need. In the USA, the need is created. There are countless examples. A simple one that comes to mind is the cellular phone. Some people need wireless communication for business or personal reasons. However, the marketing of wireless equipment make us believe that nobody can live in the next millennium without it. All of these small things add up. A large segment of population can not afford all of these modern inventions. The inevitable result is the strain on all relationships. The misunderstanding reaches the peak when the primary bread -winner in the family loses the job. On the other hand, the cost of food, clothing and housing is much cheaper in the USA as compared to Western Europe, Middle East and Asia. The people can live comfortably by controlling expenses and by staying married.

Support System
The availability of a support system is a great contributor to stable marriages. The support system is a network of friends and relatives that can be relied upon in case of any misunderstanding. Both partners can discuss the problem with their respective friends. By discussing the problem alone can put it in a proper perspective. In North America, there is a great emphasis on individual growth and independence. This factor alone prohibits sharing of concerns and aspirations with friends. In the Eastern society, the extended family and friends provide a network that keeps marriages on track. The lack of this support system has started to manifest in the second generation of immigrants. The Americans can at least go to a psychiatrist to identify the problems. The immigrants lose the support system that was readily available in home country. They also abhor to seek in any kind of psychological help and thus face a double jeopardy. I have personally known a number of marriages in stress in the USA, while similar relationship would have been very cordial in their own country.
The solution is to develop a new network and also keep the old network alive by communication. The revolution in communication has brought the whole World very close. Now it has become possible to reach out to anyone at anytime. In the USA, one can find all ethnic groups from all over the World. The social and cultural links can now be very easily maintained. I have seen Korean, Indian, Chinese and Pakistani communities all across America. It is now possible to develop a network of friends within one own community who can understand the background of problems.
In South Asian communities, parents, brothers and sisters play a powerful role. If the parents listen to only one side of the story, then the marriage is doomed. On the other hand if they understand and appreciate the situation of other partner, then the marriage is strengthened. I have seen parents listening only to version of their own kids. It is very difficult to accept that their own kids could be wrong because it reflects their own failure. The key for the parents is to listen to both sides before placing the blame.

American Work Environments
The working environments in the USA are very dynamic as compared to any country in the World. The non- stop restructuring, new technologies have a great impact on the society. In order to keep up with the changes, people have to move in search of jobs. The neighborhoods get transformed in a matter of years. Sometimes it seems as if all America in on the move. When the people move, they get away from friends, relatives and familiar environments. The American born people are perhaps used to this kind of life. Most of the Americans quickly get settled in new environments, make new friends and never look back. However, people from the East come from very stable family systems.
The movement from one place to another uproots people and kids never develop lasting friendships. These relationships are a stabilizing factor in marriage. Whenever, there is a disagreement between the spouses, these are the people who can patch up the differences. The big dilemma is now how to reconcile the demands of career with the needs of a stable marriage. A simple advice for people on the move is to develop new friendships and also maintain old relationships. It has become very easy with the emerging technologies of Internet and communications.
Developing new friends can be easily done. In a new place, telephone directory research to look for places of worship and familiar surnames can be very helpful. Our experience shows that even random calling can result in finding very helpful people from any Asian or Mid Eastern countries.

Conclusion
In spite of great social upheaval in social norms during the past century, I find the institution of marriage still very strong. In the USA, people can live together without marriage and have children. The people in USA do not question the private life styles of other people. However, it is a surprise to see young Hollywood stars getting married who are supposed to be in the forefront of new liberal style. A large number of people get married again after bitter divorce. This indicates that there is something in the human psyche that propels people towards making a commitment to marriage. This fact was recognized long time ago and gradually the institution of marriage evolved over centuries. The challenge for our times is to keep the marriage intact. I believe it can be done and most of the marriages can be successful. The institution of marriage is a foundation for a stable society. We owe it to our future generation to provide them a carefree childhood with pleasant memories.

For comments contact the writer at nhassa@yahoo.com