If Earning Money Would Bring Her Self-Respect, Then Why Wasn’t She Doing It?

As the door slammed shut, Arti slumped on the floor. Feeling defeated, she wept bitterly. Moksh’s voice echoed in her ears.

“Buying a flat now is out of the question! How can you even think of it? Who will pay the down payment and EMI? It’s not like you’re working and contributing anything!”

4 years ago when Pakhi was born, they unanimously decided that Arti would be a stay at home mom. His parents lived with them and were happy to help, but it wasn’t a good idea to depend on them to care for such a young child. Arti was keen to care for her child and readily agreed to quit her well-paying job.

When Pakhi was a year old, Arti started art & craft classes at home. She also went back to oil painting and making decorative items for friends and family. She sold some but most often, she would give them away.

She loved the feeling of getting her old life back. Even while in college, she sold her paintings and craft items to earn pocket money. She felt like she was going back in time. Life was good.

About a year back, Moksh’s company went through a major reshuffle. They offered to retain him in a different role. He wasn’t happy but with no option in sight, he accepted. Simultaneously, he began job hunting. That’s when he spoke to her daily about going back to work. Pakhi had started pre-school, was becoming independent and between his parents and Arti, was well looked after.

But every time this conversation came up, Arti would feel cornered and they would argue. She wasn’t ready and felt that she would find something suitable when Pakhi began secondary school.

Moksh was the sole breadwinner and although Arti had investments, most of her savings had almost depleted. Apart from monthly expenses, Moksh paid her extra for her personal expenses. She managed everything within that including buying stuff for her painting and art classes. While working, money didn’t really matter to her. She earned well and spent without a thought. Money was a means to an end only. Now when she was nowhere close to earning like before, the value and importance of money became pronounced.

She became prudent about spending – she budgeted her monthly expenses, stopped spending money on herself (unless absolutely necessary), began exercising at home instead of gymming etc.

She understood that Moksh needed reassurance that if anything untoward happened then she would be there to support the family. Sometimes she sorely regretted quitting her job after childbirth! Yet, she kept resisting and began to hustle like crazy, doing odd jobs that paid her meagerly but made her feel good about herself. She paid for some expenses but it wasn’t enough and she continued to dip into her savings. She would think of breaking her investments but feared that Moksh would find out and it would make matters worse.

She was torn between doing the right thing and doing what was right for her.

Every time they fought, Arti would decide to give up painting, the side hustles and find a job. Job satisfaction or career growth wasn’t the objective. She just needed a regular income. Yet, immediately after, the work she did from home would feel more appealing and empowering.

She felt guilty about understanding Moksh’s position but not doing anything about it!

A nearby apartment was up for sale. She wanted to tell Moksh because they were looking to invest. This morning when she did, he was livid. For the umpteenth time when he ridiculed her for not thinking about their wellbeing and making an effort to find a job, she was heartbroken. Her confidence took a beating and she felt gripped with self-doubt. Being dependent felt humiliating. She realized that earning money wasn’t only about money. It earned you respect and self-worth. But if she felt so strongly about it, then why wasn’t she taking up a regular job? Why was she unwilling to share his financial burden?

Then the penny dropped. In the past, professionally she had faced two huge losses. One time, she was doing extremely well and was being promoted. It meant a great deal to her yet her happiness was short lived because simultaneously, Moksh was offered an overseas posting. She quit and moved with him. Another time, after she’d rebuilt her reputation and credibility, Moksh changed his job and had to relocate. Again, she quit. Both times, his jobs were financially more beneficial than hers were.

Now when she felt alive doing something she loved, she was again being asked to quit. Standing at the crossroad having to choose between her happiness and the family’s happiness, she stubbornly refused to give it all up.

Was she punishing him?

(If Earning Money Would Bring Her Self-Respect, Then Why Wasn’t She Doing It? was first published on Women’s Web on March 7, 2018 / Images source: pixabay)

Beyond love, what is necessary to make a house a home?

One of the biggest challenges of a relationship is transforming a house into a home. Home is defined as the place where one lives, especially as a member of a family or household. But a home is much more than just a place to live in! It’s where you run to in your hour of need, fear and anxiety. It provides solace and peace of mind. It protects you from the harshness of the world. It allows you to be yourself and takes care of you. It also provides a sense of belongingness and identity.

 

As the relationship progresses, how does the home change?

 

The concept of home changes under certain circumstances. Namely, you could be newly married and have to move in to live with your in-laws. It’s their house and you’ll have to fit in. To begin with, perhaps the only place you can truly call your own will be your bedroom. Only there, you’ll have the freedom to add in elements that reflect your style and personality.

 

Another scenario involves you or your partner moving to another city for a new job or posting. It means finding a house that not only suits your basic needs but also your budget. Or you might be in a live-in relationship and although you’re madly in love with your partner, you don’t particularly like his or her taste in home décor.

 

Then again, you might be a couple who moves to a new city every 3-4 years to fulfil their need for travel, meeting new people and keeping their life and relationship exciting. You might believe in living life in style and love entertaining. That could entail a spruced up home that constantly goes through a makeover every few months to keep it new, fresh and trendy.

 

Whatever your relationship status, your bond of togetherness is strengthened by your ability to create a home.

 

Beyond the need for understanding, love and acceptance that a successful home life requires, there is also a more practical aspect to consider!

 

Often specific items of furniture, knickknacks, appliances, or décor ascertain the identity of a home. Some people might have a favourite corner of the house to call their own or a favourite piece of furniture. They derive a feeling of safety and warmth from these. In fact, it’s interesting to see how upset and disturbed they feel when these are moved, something else is put in their place, or they’re given away.

 

Within these parameters, recreating a living space with furniture that uniquely reflects your personalities is often hard. Sometimes, after purchasing a piece of furniture you realize that it doesn’t suit the space or match with the rest of the decor. When living in a rented apartment, spending too much money on furniture can seem unnecessary. In addition, you’ll have to forcibly tag them along no matter where you go or whatever you achieve in terms of income and position in life. It can be extrapolated to reflect your old mindset and standard of living.

 

Generally, furniture is considered to be big-ticket items and the buying experience can lead to arguing about size, shape, style and personal preference. Then there are budgetary considerations especially if both of you have divergent views on financial matters. Often one partner might only look for utility while the other needs to feel house proud. For the less vocal partner, forcibly having to adjust to living arrangements can make them feel unhappy and discontented which in turn can impact their personal interactions.

 

How to make a house your home?

 

Therefore, the way forward would be to find alternatives or solutions that address both partner’s needs and wants. Sometimes just the effort put in to find a solution helps make compromising easier. Another quick solution includes renting furniture and home appliances from a tried and tested online rental company with a wide geographical presence like Cityfurish. It’s a win from many aspects including comfort, elegance, quality product, great service post delivery and value for money. When you tire of a particular look, without too much effort and investment you can easily look at renting a newer look for your home. Or you can buy off any piece of furniture you fall in love with.

 

Making a home requires both partners working jointly to create a safe haven for themselves. More importantly, taking care of the necessities frees up that much more time and mental space for you to strengthen other aspects of your lives.

 

That Elusive Hug

Often, there are moments in life when all you really need is a ‘hug,’ not diamond earrings or the latest smartphone or a holiday or birthday bash. That tight hug which says “I love you…I won’t let you go…you matter…you’re the best thing to happen to me…I’m lost without you… you make me complete…I need you…”

She missed that hug and it made her feel so alone, helpless and unwanted. Quintessential housewife married into a well-to-do family, she had everything going for her. Yet she was carrying on with life running on emptiness.

Some days she felt emotionally bereft and had nothing more to give yet the expectation remained that she would because of the different roles she played. Often, she justified to herself, ‘they need you, your child needs you, without you the house would fall apart. You have to stand strong to make everything alright.’ But how? Where could she go for that dose of love and affection which was given without any expectation, a dose that was only meant for her well-being and sustenance, that which could keep the fire burning in her heart?

She knew he loved her. He was a good man, a good provider, father and husband. Yet often, he took out his frustrations on her saying things which made her feel as if she didn’t exist. He belittled her, spoke rudely or brushed her off without a thought. Sometimes she yelled back, she stood up for herself and yet there were times she stoically took it all in. In those moments, it wasn’t like she didn’t have anything to say but kept quiet because she cared too much and didn’t want to break their bond any further.

Her child was her lifeline and she did everything to make her comfortable. She knew her child loved her as much but even then, there were times she felt used and tired. Her in-laws were really nice which overwhelmed her, inadvertently forcing her to bend over backwards for them.

She was at a crossroads where everything seemed good yet there was something missing. Was she looking for an acknowledgement for all her hard work when in actuality she was simply playing her role as expected? If life seemed so balanced between the good and the bad, then why did she feel unsatisfied? And amidst it all, she was still surviving, wasn’t she, even though it was a day at a time? How?

Earlier, when the closeness was strong and the brief moments of togetherness aplenty, she could run a mile because she felt his love in her veins. Today, she missed them so badly. Instead she searched for those moments in every chick flick, television serial or book. She loved to read about people falling in love. She relived moments of attraction and bittersweet separation in the lives of star-crossed lovers. She would watch serials only till the lovers openly professed their love. After they did she would automatically lose interest. Sometimes she stopped watching the serials if the protagonists got married, simply because then their lives became dangerously close to her own. She didn’t want to deal with theirs when she was unable to find solace in her own.

Unfortunately, she felt alive only till she was engrossed in watching those movies or serials. Once they ended, the feelings slipped away and she could no longer find them. Soon they became her source of sustenance to continue living.

Sometimes she felt attracted to other men, both young and old. These were not good looking men (the typical Mills & Boons version of tall, dark and handsome that she had grown up reading) but most often they would have strong arms, or they towered over her making her feel protected. She would imagine being kissed, or making passionate love and then sometimes she could also see herself being pulled into their arms for that elusive hug!

Of course, she never acted upon any of these emotions. Did she lack the gumption to exhibit these feelings openly? Sometimes, she did feel similar vibes coming from them too. Was she just being naïve or had she imagined them? Or perhaps that wasn’t the point, at all. These were feelings to be felt not acted upon. They were not meant to be. She wanted those things done to her because she wanted to feel wanted and longed for. Perhaps that was all there was to it.

Suddenly she longed for that feeling of closeness, of being held, of feeling safe within the confines of strong arms. The longing slowly grew so strong that she quickly switched on an episode of a serial that she had seen a thousand times before. Her face broke into a smile as she watched the look of love and desire on their faces, and the momentary lapse of reason when he reached out to her and pulled her close, holding her tight and she reciprocated clinging on to him for dear life.

(That Elusive Hug was first published on Women’s Web on 16 November 2017 / Image source: Flickr, for representational purposes only)

The simplicity of basic etiquette

Marriage creates a bond or rather fusion of individual identities. In a way, the “we” becomes more important than the “I”, as it should be. It’s a crucial element that strengthens the foundation of the relationship. But by force of habit we tend to take things for granted. I agree, it’s human nature but one that can be rewired every now and then.

Having an open line of communication is a must in the marital relationship. It’s the only relationship that allows you to be your true self without any inhibition or judgement. It’s up to each partner therefore to build that level of trust and create a space of comfort. It requires control, understanding, maturity and commitment.

The fallout is losing the basic glue that is essential for any relationship – an acknowledgement and acceptance of the other person as an individual and a recognition of their value in our lives. Within this, the simple expressions of “thank you…please…sorry…can I help…I understand” have the power to re-instil confidence in each other, and maintain and/or restore the sanctity of the relationship.

These words hold an infinitesimal amount of value in terms of making the partner feel loved, important and taken care of. It makes them want to do more, so much more. It raises the bar for the relationship. Simultaneously not using them often enough (or not meaning it when you say them!) makes the partner feel used, worthless, unappreciated and insecure.

Often it is said, you can’t pour from an empty cup. Roles within the marriage can be defined but that doesn’t mean one partner’s contribution is anything less than the other. A lack thereof makes them feel lost. They’re unable to understand their position and importance within the relationship. It’s debilitating. They might continue to contribute but there’s no feelings attached leading to disappointment and unhappiness. Soon the feeling that there’s something missing in the relationship raises its ugly head.

Expectations of these basic tenets of etiquette can vary in degree and differ from person to person. When they are met, the level of expectation is lower. We tend to add value (mostly negative value) to our expectations when they’re not met. They can also get blown out of proportion! Often partners are heard saying, ‘s/he’s like that only.’ This isn’t just an acceptance that they will not reciprocate or acknowledge the meaning and impact of these simple words. It basically ensures that love is lost in the process thereby widening the small cracks within the marriage.

For example, ‘sorry’ doesn’t only mean you’re apologising for hurting the other. Most importantly, it means that you think your partner is worthy of your respect and in turn they believe that you’re worthy of being forgiven. Such is the power of the word.

If these are such ‘simple’ words, then why is it so hard to practice? When we fail to acknowledge our partner’s efforts, is it because we feel it’s our due and so there’s no point in asking politely? Do we view them as a sign of weakness? Does it make us question why everything our partner does needs to be appreciated? Or do we assume that the partner should know they’re important so it’s just a bother having to tell them that?

Perhaps, the next time you’re really happy about doing something for your partner or sorry for being difficult and you share this but your partner doesn’t acknowledge your efforts – question yourself about how it makes you feel within, and then about your partner and the relationship. Does it open the floodgate of similar bad memories from the past? This is a simple yet quick way to understand the importance of using these words in our daily lives.

Why are we afraid of risking our hearts?

In an episode of the serial Castle, a friend of the main protagonist NYPD Detective Beckett, tells her, “it’s clear you and Castle have something real and you’re fighting it. But trust me putting the job ahead of your heart is a mistake. Risking our hearts is why we’re alive. The last thing you want is to look back on your life and wonder if only...”

As evident, most often one of the toughest choices that couples have to make is between a lucrative career opportunity and their life partner. An easy solution is to say, ‘you can’t have it all!’ But the want to have them both, most often leads to much anxiety.

Does it help to break down each opportunity in terms of – loss and gain, or what works and what doesn’t or what’s feasible and what isn’t – to make a choice? Or does that option sound too practical and harsh? Furthermore, perhaps it’s easier to leave out the pressure of having to make the ‘right choice.’ In life, there are no right or wrong choices – you simply make a decision based on your current reality and your interpretation of what your future would be like.

What factors determine our outlook towards our careers? Career opportunities are not always about money (although that does play an important role). Most often, it’s about the opportunity, role, our skillsets and the doors it opens up for us in the future (read scaling up). It’s about our contribution towards making something happen. And it’s about how it makes us feel within – worthy, important, respected, useful, indispensable and proud.

It’s also a question of identity – how people view us and how we view ourselves. Our standing in society, the intangible value to our family, the power to make decisions that can have far reaching impact both within the family and at work. People begin to look up to us for our expertise and value our judgement and views.

With every little success and subsequent self-motivation, our attitude towards work and ourselves change. At this juncture, listening to our hearts for the sake of love and affection seems futile. It takes a certain amount of persistence to make us even consider thinking about a future that is inclusive of our partner.

The deep-seated fear that creates the maximum anxiety is that suddenly we feel we are bound to lose much more than we would stand to gain if we chose our love life instead. Is it only a fear of the unknown? A life wherein we have to invest so much of ourselves without the certainty that it will work? It makes us question how well we know our partner? What if they change or more importantly expect us to change to suit their requirements? Will I lose my freedom to live my life my way? How much would I have to compromise? How difficult would it be to deal with the loss of a bigger role (or promotion) and thereby financial stability? Is it worth the risk of giving up all that we’ve worked so hard for? Will being with the life partner provide us the same sense of fulfilment?

If both partners are well-established professionally and financially then ideally each believe that their job is more important. Neither feel ready to take a step back. Sometimes just the need to first and foremost achieve the basics like owning a house, buying a car, traveling, saving money feel important enough to put the love life on hold. Sometimes it’s also about certain family commitments (caring for older parents, educating or perhaps marrying younger siblings) that strongly influence this decision.

When a career opportunity includes relocation, it raises even more stressful questions. What are the partner’s expectations? Does it align with our own expectations from them? Will they readily relocate? Will they be okay to leave the known and agree to start afresh in a new place (and jobless if they’re unable to relocate within their company)? Would they feel abandoned and insecure? Or would they feel like the relationship isn’t a priority and thus they are being relegated to second place?

Navigating through this stressful situation some feel that they’re not willing to choose any one, since their love life is as important as their careers. They’re able to find ways to meet half-way and make an effort to seek happiness using any means possible. Today technology is a useful tool to help couples stay together and create a stronger bond. Such an initiative calls for maturity, positive outlook and a strong belief in the relationship. There are many couples today who are in a stable relationship but for various reasons don’t live together. Living apart together (or LAT) describes such couples who remain committed to each other, share an emotional connection and a sexual relationship but at the same time have created a space of their own.

If you’re unable to remove the doubts and believe in your partner then this definitely isn’t a workable solution. Forcing your partner to leave their careers or make adjustments leave them feeling dissatisfied, angry and frustrated. It can also make them feel devalued and worthless. In turn the relationship becomes unstable and bitter. Thus, the attempt should always be to be open about expressing and fulfilling one’s aspirations, being supportive and a willingness to continuously work at the relationship.