Ah, love—that beautiful, wonderful, exciting, and absolutely all-encompassing feeling. And sometimes, not as wonderful as you may have wanted it to be. Now, there’s no denying that experiences vary from couple to couple, and if you find that you’re uncomfortable around your significant other, or can’t speak your mind like you’re used to, you may be experiencing a few common signs. For example, if you feel anxious or worried, or just can’t get yourself to ‘chill’, you may just have a problem.
“I’ve been married for close to four years, and I’ve always found myself having to sugar-coat the truth, especially if it comes to constructive criticism about certain words my husband uses. I work in content, so if his spellings, pronunciations, or overall usage of a word is incorrect, I find myself having to repeat it, or correctly use the word in a sentence to avoid a fight. I had made the mistake of being blunt, and he didn’t speak to me for a week,” says Sonali Mohan*, a Bangalore-based advertising professional.
Of course, situations will vary. Whether you’re not feeling ready to expose the things you think your partner might judge you about—credit card bills, past relationships, or sexual preferences—to not being able to trust them with your deepest, darkest quirks or idiosyncrasies, here are some signs that you can’t talk freely and openly with your partner:
1. You skirt around issues: If you notice that you’re hiding certain things about your day-to-day activities—whether it’s something as insignificant as what you’re watching on Netflix, or as vital as your spending habits and shopping binges, you might be headed down dangerous paths. While in a relationship it is understandable to hide certain aspects, when it comes to marriage and long-term relationships, this could lead to misunderstandings and trust issues. It’s time to revaluate your choices, or, your relationship, especially if you can’t feel you can be honest.
2. You weigh your words: Instead of using brutal honesty and speaking your mind like you would with your parents, sister, or girlfriends, if you find that you’re having to censor certain aspects of yourself when it comes to communicating with your partner or spouse, there’s a fair chance that this will set the tone for all communication moving forward. “I used to freely give my opinions, but now I think twice before I speak. He is easily offended. I’ve tried to address it, but it’s been futile,” admits Mohan.
3. You’re worried about being judged: If one of the more worrisome aspects in your romantic equation, is your fear of being judged, you need to first examine if this fear is warranted. For Mumbai-based makeup artist, Neha Kakkar*, who recently began her own venture, her fear was justified. “My husband went into business for himself two years ago, just before the pandemic hit. I had a steady job with a well-known beauty salon, but the pandemic changed everything. After a while, when things began to ease up, I figured venturing out on my own made more sense as I could earn a higher commission. But when I discussed the same with my husband, I was met with flak from his family, and I was told that I was copying him by going out on my own. He didn’t show me any support either.” Kakkar, however, decided to ignore the negativity and do what felt right to her, and has had a steady stream of happy clients. “I’m now making more than I did when working for a monthly salary,” she says, adding, “His family still hasn’t acknowledged this fact.”
The fact remains, relationships aren’t an exact science. They take hard work, sacrifice, compromise and open communication. More often than not, you lose a bit of yourself in a relationship, but as long as it works for you, and you’re not completely losing who you are, it’s still a healthy equation. But what happens when you cannot be yourself? If history is any indication, something lacking in a relationship—physically, emotionally, or intellectually—can cause a person to cheat. A 2020 study by Dylan Selterman, Justin Garcia, and Irene Tsapelas, titled What do people do, say, and feel when they have affairs?, published in the online edition of the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy found that cheating isn’t just about the sex, but rather there were eight key motivators behind infidelity—one of them being self-esteem.
Of course, prevention is better than cure—in possibly every aspect of life. This is why open and honest communication can go a long way. That said, if you still can’t find that breakthrough, it’s important to recognise the toll it’s taking on you, seek counselling, or set boundaries and stick by them. Ultimately, the only people your relationships should be about, is you and your partner.
*Names changed on request