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.

Let’s Face It, men like independent, successful women as long as they are not their wives!

Most often, even though single women don’t make a concerted effort, they’re open to giving Mr Right a shot if he happens to come along. The Girl is an established professional, well-travelled and very independent. She is someone who can throw her head back and have a good laugh, believes life is an adventure and there are more things to learn and see than possible in one lifetime.

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Pottsandpan (PP): Marriage has been on the cards for you for a while now, including subtle pressure from family. How do you deal with it?

The Girl (TG): Well, the questions are subtle as well as overt, specially when you are attending any family function. I start with a nice smile, and politely say “I’m still waiting for the right person.” And if that doesn’t cut it, I just counter it with another smile and say, “well seems like no one wants to marry me!” Both work, depending on which generation in the family I’m talking to.

 

PP: What are some of the questions people ask when they’re keen to know your marriage plans?

TG: Well they broadly range between…

  • Why aren’t you getting married, don’t you think it’s time?
  • When will you get married? We won’t be able to do any work during your marriage, we are getting old, so marry fast!
  • Well, have you decided you don’t want to get married?
  • If you want to get married, you should start thinking about it seriously!
  • Who are you waiting for? They are all handsome princes at the start and become Johnny Walker as life progresses (yes! Some of my close friends (and business heads) have actually told me this)
  • You look nice, earn well, you travel the world, how come you have not met anyone yet? (Duh! I think in my head, you asked me a question I haven’t been able to answer myself, maybe you can answer it for me!)

 

PP: What has been the inanest question someone’s asked you about marriage?

TG: I would say the one where someone looked me up from head to toe to determine that I wasn’t a “defective” piece and wondered why I was not married yet. I am sure some people think I am a closet case :-p

 

PP: What are the 3 key qualities you would want to look for in your future partner? Why do you think they’re important?

TG: In my mind it’s a simple ask. I’m looking for someone who is comfortable in his own skin and therefore is willing to let me be comfortable in mine, someone who is kind and humane and has a sense of humour.

One would think the ask is simple, but apparently, it does not come easy.

 

PP: In general, the usual expectations from a marriage have been buying a house together, a car, traveling to exotic locations – now you’ve already accomplished all that by yourself! If and when you do tie the knot what do you think your expectations will be?

TG: The expectation would be to spend the next 30+ years (known as rest of my life) with someone who wants to spend his life with me too. For companionship, for being there when its good and bad, for sharing experiences and actually working together to leave a legacy of sorts, together.

 

PP: Is marriage really needed today? What are your views?

TG: Marriage as it was known in yester years, where it was more for security, both financial and social is less of a requirement today. Marriage for companionship, for being supportive of each other, to share and to give space to each other seems more the necessity. As an institution, I guess it did build the society, but with women being well educated, supported by their parents, financially well off it is less a “need” and more a choice. The institution nevertheless I believe still needs to exist to give society a framework to go by. I think it gives an arena for one to think beyond oneself and for the larger cause called family, which therefore brings forward the good in people. Not saying that not marrying doesn’t make you good, but marriage does make you put others before yourself.

 

PP: There was a meme on a social media site recently where at a wedding, the priest is seen reprimanding the groom saying the answer is “I do” and not “I’ll try!” Do you think it reflects the reality of today’s life?

TG: A commitment is a commitment, which is what you exchange as you say your vows (doesn’t matter in what language or religion). The reality of today’s life is things are so abundant that one has a plethora of choices and can move from one to the other very easily. Relationships, marriage, friendships, family ties need to be nurtured and cared for. It’s not an expectation alone which both parties have to live up to but also somewhere they both need to drop the ego and find the middle path for a larger cause. At times, though one party has to walk all the way to the other instead of meeting in the middle. Often, one has to gulp the ego and move forward. This is easier said than done. However, if you are confident that both of you want the same larger cause it’s easier to do and if the cause isn’t common, then drifting apart and justifications become easier.

 

PP: How long have your parents been married? What do you think has been the secret to their success?

TG: 47 years! I think their ability to respect each other and let go when required was the key. It also underlies love, compassion and understanding each other, which some may call getting used to one another.

 

PP: What is the one advice they gave you for selecting a life partner? Are they in sync with your views?

TG: It is important for partners to be complimentary in nature, don’t choose someone with the exact same character traits as yourself. Initially I was surprised, but I realized they meant traits and not qualities. I’m strong willed and decision oriented, and need a patient partner to deal with me. Patience isn’t one of my strongest suits, though it may be stronger in comparison to some others.

 

PP: Have you been meeting prospective partners? What has been your experience? How do these men react and respond to a successful and independent woman like you?

TG: Yes, in spurts, I haven’t made a very concerted effort. The experience has been less than desirable, probably why the concerted effort hasn’t happened. Men like independent, successful women as long as they are not their wives.

 

PP: What are your views on financial equality in a marriage? Do you think you will be okay if your husband earns less than you?

TG: When I was starting my career, I wanted someone earning equal or more because of the needs one has, to build the basics in life. But at this stage of my life, my views on this is far more liberal since I’m not looking at anyone to take care of my financial needs. Yes, it is ok for my husband to earn less than me, but the “quantum” of less should be defined. I’m used to a certain lifestyle, giving it up almost entirely will not be easy. The same way I don’t fancy being anyone’s trophy wife nor do I suspect that I will ever choose a trophy husband (please remember, that’s not the same as being a house husband).

 

PP: What is the position that love holds in your life? Between love and respect, which do you think is the most important element in a successful marriage?

TG: I think it is important to have love in your life, to hold someone else dearer to you than yourself. I think love and respect are both equally important in a successful marriage. Respect allows you to be you, otherwise you will be looking for validation or taking out your wrath by being derogatory to others or worse, lose your self-confidence and become a victim. Love is something you feel, you give and you make happen – quite like respect, but a lot more ephemeral. You can see it in simple everyday things which you usually take for granted verses actually appreciating it. That’s because we all “expect” it from our partners, we don’t give them credit for being there all the time, if not physically but emotionally at least.

 

 

 

The fear of I do!

Santosh Desai’s post The Fear of Marriage in City City Bang Bang dated 10 February 2014, explored the social and cultural contexts that often lead to couples being apprehensive about tying the knot.

Why is there this fear of marriage?

It’s an interesting question and even more interesting are the answers that are elicited! The most common ones are of course loss of freedom, less sex, fear of committing and being stuck with one person all your life!

From amongst them all, I think loss of freedom is perhaps the most feared as it’s about the person itself – it touches the core of who we are as individuals. Interestingly the ‘act of togetherness’ in marriage ideally should mean freedom to be ‘oneself’ in the relationship but more often than not, it isn’t as easy. And deep-rooted within this is perhaps the fear of rejection – of being let down, things not working out or our own apprehensions about our inability to be the person our partner deserves.

So what does loss of freedom mean?

Is it the pressure of having to do things together, do what the other partner likes or prefers, having to please, having to accommodate another person, having to let go of personal space and personal identity, having to step back and think about the family and partner first before thinking about one’s self, having to earn for the family and spend money on what is important for the family, the unsaid assumption that one should go for holidays together – the one-off all girls’ or all boys’ outing or just travelling alone can happen but after much “discussion” and having to change the thinking process to acknowledge that ‘we’ is more important than the ‘I’.

Ideally, each of the above reflect the innate qualities of being a couple – that is what relationships are all about – our ability to mould ourselves within norms, expectations and structures that support the definition of marriage. How relevant are these fears today within a generation that is constantly questioning and wanting to assert its individualistic thinking?

In the beginning of a relationship it is but natural to want to spend almost every waking moment together, to get to know each other, to share personal beliefs and innermost fears, hopes, and wants, to be one in our thoughts and outlook. It’s the ‘pleasing’ phase and so consciously or unconsciously we extend ourselves to be what our partner likes or want us to be.

Once we’ve achieved what we set out to achieve – i.e., commit ourselves to them or marry our partner or in other words become comfortable with the knowledge that our partner understands us and accepts us for who we are – at this stage, we allow ourselves to believe that now we can show our true selves to them – one that is individualistic, that wants to be satisfied first, that wants freedom!

This is when most couples tend to look at each other and say, ‘you have changed!’ The assertion that the person you were dating is so different from the one you married is just an outcome of the need to truly want to be ourselves simply knowing that we can! Here’s when the pressure to change the partner or mould them back into what suits us sucks out the fun from the togetherness quotient. Slowly the predominant thought becomes ‘why did I marry?’ and ‘did I marry the right person?’

Once again, the fear of marriage and its repercussion’s raises its ugly head – only this time the feeling of helplessness is severe – as the outcome can only lead to unhappiness, separation and loneliness.

Simultaneously another fear takes over – the fear of loss!

One’s ability to cope with this sense of loss defines how couples respond – flight or fight. Of course the other ingredients that impact and determine the couple’s response include their values and morals, social expectations, upbringing, family pressure, children, financial independence amongst others.

Interestingly, amidst this fear of loss lurks the charm of gaining freedom. This little sucker makes decision-making excruciatingly painful.

Those who stay put work out ways to survive while those who step out apparently are known to live a better life – gaining the freedom to truly live life on their own terms. The argument is that they know better, their experience teaches them what not to do. Yet when another love interest arises, they’re willing (read unconsciously) to make the extra effort to reinvent the wheel. I believe that it’s more difficult this time round as having tasted both the loss and gain of freedom one has to continuously battle trying to justify which is more lucrative.

Marriage will make one regret their decision at some point in time so perhaps it is advisable that couples willingly accept that nothing is forever. The intention to always be there for one another is a promise but the reality is that no one has seen the future or what it holds. There is no forever – except the present and marriage is just an amalgamation of these present moments.

Don’t marry the person you love!

I don’t remember the context but still remember a conversation with my mother, a long time ago. She had said, ‘never marry the man you fall in love with.’

I had ignored her, not only because I was madly in love but more importantly I didn’t believe her!

Marrying the man you love is not only a natural progression for a relationship but also the obvious best case scenario! Love is key to building a life together, being committed to the relationship. Then what did she mean?

expectToday, after being married for 12 years it’s finally dawned on me what she had actually tried to say. I still love my husband but our love has gone through myriad changes over the years. In turn it’s changed us as individuals, as a couple and also as parents.

Love means different things to different people at different points in time. And each of these definitions depends on the person’s present state of mind. That presumably is the biggest quality or defining factor of love – its dynamic! It is capable of changing and adapting as we live our everyday realities.

And of course, love is just one of the binding factors but definitely not the only one that sustains a relationship. Perhaps, that’s why they say, ‘love is unconditional, and relationships are not!’

In a recent episode of CSI, David Hodges asks Morgan Brody ‘am I making a mistake by marrying her?’ She responds quoting a wedding vow she had once heard, ‘never marry the one you think you can live with. Marry the one you know you can’t live without!’

Strangely true but why? Is it because of the comfort factor that is bound to set in if you know you’ll be great together? Does it mean that you won’t tend to work as hard at the relationship? Does it become easier to take your partner for granted then?

Or is the concept of the unrequitedness of love that makes the man or woman you love but unable to marry that much more desirable? Such relationships are exciting as they challenge every view we’ve ever had. The charm of the relationship continues unimpeded as no harsh realities make a dent on our expectations? And of course, no expectation mismatch means that you don’t get hurt?

It’s easy to say, to each his own but how do you respond if someone genuinely wants to know how to find the right person? If someone is really confused and needs to understand as this they rightly believe, is a decision of a lifetime.

One could be philosophical and say stop trying to find the ‘right person’, instead be the ‘right person!’

Many a times parents help to search for the right partner – they do so keeping in mind their own understanding and views of relationships, their social standing, their financial positioning and their understanding of what their child (in this case either the bride or groom) ‘needs’ to be happy. Sometimes it all works out well, sometimes they fail miserably and sometimes their children refuse to accept their decision.

Does this positioning help to bring a semblance of equality to the relationship – i.e., no stark differences in social backgrounds mean similar expectations from life? Or do children sometimes rebel as they fear that accepting their parent’s choice would mould them to ‘become their parents’ later in life?

Most single people enjoy being happily single till they have to attend social gatherings, family dos, festivities. That’s when a keen sense of failure arises – failure to find true love and happiness! At such times peer pressure can be killing.

To alleviate such pressures there are numerous apps available in the market today like Tinder, Lulu, How about we, Moonit, OkCupid, Grindr, Grouper, Plenty of Fish etc. amongst a host of others to help with dating, find true love or search for a life partner. Can they truly help to decide? Is it right to assume that the net savvy generation prefer these instead of looking around at real relationships to decide? How scary is the thought that this dependence on an app is more appealing and comforting?

Increase in the pace of our daily lives due to various technological advances could be one explanation for our collective sense of urgency which in turn informs our time perception – too much valuable time lost trying to find someone, biological clock is furiously ticking away; opportunities and potential partners have been missed as expectations were too high.

expect3So then, how do you decide?

Keeping in mind that relationships are dynamic and require commitment and hard work, is it better to just go with the flow? If the person matters to you at the present point in time, you think they make you happy and the thought of being away from them tears you up inside then don’t think too much. Tomorrow is another day and you can deal with the situation “together” later on. For now, this is the person you would want to live your life with.

Or am I being too naïve?

Honeymoon’s Over!

When planning a wedding, most couples with equal gusto plan for the honeymoon too. It’s as important as the wedding itself – deciding on the uniqueness of the location, the most romantic way to travel, things to do together to make it exciting – these are just some of the considerations to think about. Then, of course, there are the numerous options for honeymoon packages to choose from, shopping exclusively for honeymoon wear, following a strict regime of exercise and diet to look sexy and desirable. It’s truly a thoroughly enjoyable phase.

After the most beautiful wedding and fun-filled honeymoon, one returns to start living together, this time without the frills.  And that’s when the realities of marriage hit with a vengeance – as the said / unsaid expectations from each other become pronounced, settling in with in-laws becomes tedious and tiring, and amidst role-playing the responsible husband / wife instead of the happy-go-lucky charmer and lover – couples realise that something is amiss and perhaps all is not right with their marriage. Simultaneously one starts questioning their decision – did I do the right thing? Was s/he the right one for me? Did I make a mistake?

The good thing is that ‘most’ couples suffer such serious disappointments within the first few months of marriage. They feel let down due to the marked discrepancy between the person they fell in love with and married and the person that they now have to live with! This is the point where actual adjustments and compromises begin. How one deals with this phase is crucial as it determines the importance couple places on their marriage and their commitment to making it successful.

When you marry the person you love the biggest expectation that needs to be dealt with is the notion of living ‘happily ever after!’ Romantic novels, fairy tale romances on television or movies, conversation amongst friends and family, societal and cultural views all point towards marriage being the ultimate goal, one in which couples continue to share unending love for one another, cherish each other and live in harmony.

This “disillusionment” leads to disappointment as there is a big difference between the realities of marriage and romantic ideals. Romantic love before marriage is based on physical attraction and emotional longing and desire. Unfortunately romantic love remains strong only till those desires are filled. Once done, it slowly fades or becomes less intense.

When courting, there is always pressure to put your best self forward – you’re always caring, acutely aware of every nuance in body language or inflexion in voice, being prompt to respond or return a call, making an extra effort to do something nice even after a busy long day, being extra sensitive about likes and dislikes – the list is endless and somewhere within this role-play one inadvertently attributes qualities to loved ones which harbour on the verge of being unrealistic and idealistic.

Marriage and living together 24×7 leads to re-examining these qualities and comparing them with everyday reality. Soon couples begin accusing each other of completely changing after marriage or perhaps pressurising each other to change. This change is actually nothing but finally seeing each other as they truly are!

Not easy

Stronger Marriage reaffirms that once couples accept one another as they reallare, they are able to develop a bond that is durable, secure, and rewarding but it requires work. Here are a few important points as stated by them –

1. Look at this period as a transition all couples go through, not as a sign of a bad marriage.

2. Concentrate on adapting yourself rather than trying to change the other person. In doing so, you’ll find attitude may be responsible for a good share of the problem and the best way to change someone else’s behaviour is to change your own. People are more likely to change when they feel accepted.

3. Share your feelings about the adjustment with your spouse. This can, of course, be destructive if it is not done with consideration. Don’t attack, accuse, or name call. It will probably be reassuring to both to realize that the spouse has also had feelings of disappointment and the need for adjustment.

4. Strengthen the marital commitment. Rather than using energy to wish for someone else (with whom there will be just as many or even more adjustments), invest effort in being a good partner and doing all you can to be considerate of your partner.

5. One of the simplest, but most significant things couples can do is to ignore the negative and lavish each other with positive appreciation, praise, and affection.