Should you adjust or compromise?

Life is dynamic with changes happening continuously. Unfortunately, no one likes changes. We may make peace with it, react to it with displeasure or cope with it to the best of our abilities. But it always leaves us feeling unsure, perhaps bitter or dissatisfied with an emptiness within of having lost a way of life.

Most relationships allow for two people to entwine their lives with each other while creating a space for themselves within that twosome. This process is facilitated by either adjustment or compromise. The words are used interchangeably and are considered to be the gospel truth (read advice) that most elders pass on.

Adjustment is the adaptation to a particular condition, position, or purpose while compromise is a settlement of differences by mutual concessions and reciprocal modification of demands.

Depending on one’s state of mind, listed below are a few everyday things that might call for an adjustment or compromise. In some instances, the differences aren’t given due importance because it is believed that they’re inconsequential no matter how much they annoy you. But for others they’re game changers leading to a break-up.

New set of parents – from having one set of parents (and your baggage of issues with them), suddenly you inherit another pair. Often your feelings get transferred or you may develop newer issues! Alternatively, if you’re making an effort to be extra nice, your parents might feel offended that you’re paying them more attention. Simultaneously, blinkered thinking like ‘my parents can do no wrong or they truly want what is good for us,’ can also lead to friction.

New House and a new way of living – in most Indian families it is still expected that after marriage, the girl will live with her in-laws. Being the newest member it is commonly believed that she should adjust and compromise. What isn’t acknowledged is that the other family members also find themselves suddenly having to accommodate a new person they may know nothing about. Thus, an instinctual survival mechanism kicks into gear for everyone. The girl believing that this is her new home (the operative word being ‘home’) tries to recreate her parental home while the others try to instil in her the unsaid rules and regulations of their lives. Clashes begin when there is a discrepancy between the two and each tries to manipulate the other into living their way.

Food – the most essential requirement for living and living well. Interestingly, both partners claim that their mother’s cooking is the best. No matter how well you cook, you can never measure up! Potentially the number one reason for discontentment, is it stupidity to even try? It often starts here and gradually moves on to feelings of intrusion in other areas. So, what whets your appetite? Fish head cooked with lentils, spicy food, experimenting with different kinds of meat, eating nearly raw food, too much sugar or bland food, ‘healthy’ eating. Are you irritated with coffee brewed incorrectly, whole garam masala in your food, inconsistency in the thickness of dal, tea not strong enough, or frying onions and potatoes together not separately? Life of course, gets even more interesting in a regional marriage!

Sleeping habitsThe early bird catches the worm or early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise, may ring true for some people but not if you’re a night owl. Do you prefer to sleep hugging a pillow or on your stomach or tend to rotate or slide down the bed? Do you kick in your sleep or dream aloud or simply snore? Is your partner constantly reminding you of how much sleep you require? Do you like to read or surf the net or watch TV before going to bed?

After sex rituals are as stressful as the inability to reach orgasm or making love in certain positions. Do you rush to clean up immediately after? Do you light up a smoke? Do you turn around and start snoring? Does the sex act make you feel alive and awake, so you go watch more TV or read? Do you put a pillow between yourself and your partner after you’re done? Lying spent would you rather sleep in the buff or wear your clothes? Do you like to be hugged and fall asleep in your partner’s arms or would you rather sleep comfortably by yourself?

Bathroom habits – Do you like a clean and dry bathroom before every use? Do you finish reading the paper (physically or online) or play a mind game (perhaps Sudoku) while at it? Do you screw back the toothpaste top after use? Do you mess the entire basin area or mirror splashing water? Do you keep the shampoo and conditioner name facing front after use? Do you always forget to switch off the geyser or your towel before a bath? Do you suffer from constipation or irritable bowel syndrome or anything else ensuring that you’re always in the bathroom? Where do you hang the wet towel?

Shopping evokes different feelings. One might go shopping armed with a checklist while the other loves window shopping or buying whatever fancies them. Do you shop to relax and unwind? Do you love mindless walks through malls? Do you enjoy checking out newest gadgets as soon as they’re launched? Do you shop at full price or during sale season?

Your sense of style can vastly effect your interpersonal relationship. Do you dress for comfort, to be presentable or follow fashion religiously? How often do you groom yourself? Is your wardrobe styled to cater to different occasions or do you look the same wherever you go, no matter the occasion? Does your shoe and belt always match? Do you love bright floral prints while your partner likes subdued colours?

Entertaining patterns can be a bone of contention. Do you entertain regularly or only on weekends? Do you always entertain at home leaving you responsible for cleaning up? Or does your partner prefer the newest eateries in town? How often do you catch up with mutual friends, or office colleagues or family? Does it irk you to constantly spend time and money entertaining the same people?

Choice of relaxation – differs between partners. What’s your ideal holiday? Are you an indoor or outdoor person? Do you like adventurous sports or relaxing on a beach? Do you like a scheduled itinerary when travelling? Closer to home, do you like to laze with a book on weekends or catch up on the latest release? Does it bother your partner that you’re most happy ‘doing nothing?!’ Must you meet up with family and friends together or do you like to do your own thing?

Money matters and your attitude towards it impacts your financial health. The belief that your money is my money and my money is my money can be equally problematic as your money is your money, my money is my money. Some couples agree to mutually break up home and living expenses while some crib that they contribute more than the other. Money gives a sense of power, position, control and stability. Couples can hold differing opinions about how money is earned, what its spent on, the concept of saving and what it offers.

Religious rituals – Each family has its own way of praying, celebrating or making an offering. How tolerant are you of your partner’s religion? Do you have an altar or prayer room at home? Do you take a bath before praying? How often do you visit your place of worship?

A life of togetherness can be lots of fun when you see eye to eye on these matters or else, it becomes a constant battle. Sometimes humour helps dispel these differences. Instead of compromising or adjusting you may simply want your partner to stop or change the annoying behaviour.

The irony is that however you choose to handle the above or react to the problems arising from them determines the longevity and health of your relationship.


I depend on…ME!

As relationships form and grow, various kinds of relational dependencies develop. These could be emotional, financial, social, and sexual amongst many others. How partners respond and react to such dependencies and the balance they are able to create, are predictors of how mutually satisfying their relationship will be.

In emotional terms, sometimes, it’s simply the knowledge that someone is there for you or the belief that your partner will stand by you, always and forever, no matter the situation. When you’re in need, your partner might lend support while at other times, you might be the strength for your partner to lean on. Or it could also mean that you’re depending solely on your partner for your own happiness and fulfilment of your needs. Therefore, trouble arises whenever there is a mismatch in this underlying belief or expectation between partners.

Leena grew up in a nuclear family – happy but a lonely child. Her hard working parents were mostly busy and with no extended family or siblings for company and support, she always had to depend on herself for most of her needs. She made friends in school and later on had a group of close girlfriends with whom she had fun, shared her life and knew she could depend on them to cheer her up when need be. From her side too, she was always there to support them and stand by them, but her need to be strong for herself was so deeply ingrained within, it ensured that she could never truly be herself, even amongst ‘close friends.’

She was opinionated but not overtly insensitive. She only followed the rules she made for herself. If a situation bothered her, or she didn’t like someone, she simply walked away. At work she was committed, hard working and meticulous. Things had to be done her way. She rarely allowed others to change the way she operated since she felt that it was not only the right way to work but the only way to get things done correctly. In reality, it meant that she was in control!

But she wasn’t angry with life and her circumstances. She simply believed that when life threw a curveball, the only one who could help was she, herself. So she came first and most of her life decisions were based on what was important to her, what mattered to her and how the situation was going to make her feel and impact her life.

Many of her relationships with the opposite sex often led to the men running away from her. According to them, either she came on too strong and they couldn’t handle it while others felt that she was too demanding. She did try to act coy at times but failed miserably! For some others though, it was easier to walk away than deal with her forever vacillating stance – ‘I need you but I don’t or I don’t need you but I do!’

Only Mahesh, one of her many boyfriends stood by her – he made every effort to try and understand her insecurities and accept her as she truly was. He could read her like a book and managed her and her different moods with ease. He adapted and adjusted himself so well within her life and world, that she became comfortable being herself. Every one of her friends knew that he was for keeps.

Yet after a three year relationship he decided to walk away from her. He loved her but didn’t want to continue feeling like he was pushing her to commit simply because he needed her in his life.

Why? He knew her so well, understood her insecurities and also knew exactly how to handle her. Then why did he want to walk away? Was he getting tired of continuously trying? On the other hand, she was most comfortable in his presence then why was she pushing him away?

I wondered.

Was she actually scared that he was truly for keeps (like her friends’ kept telling her) and therefore would stick around? Did that make her uncomfortable? Was she afraid that it meant she would have to make the extra effort to unlearn her usual responses? She would have to learn to depend on him (sometimes) more than herself. Or perhaps more importantly she would have to learn to trust someone other than herself! She would have to let go. Sometimes, she would need to allow someone else to take control. Her decision making would now need to be made not only for her own good but their collective good. She would have to stop protecting herself and let herself be open to hurt. Was she feeling threatened by how vulnerable this new arrangement would make her feel? Was pushing him away therefore easier as she could then go back to being who she was, comfortable in her own skin?

She was angry and hurt that Mahesh wanted to call it quits. No matter how much her friends pleaded on his behalf, his wanting to walk away was a reaffirmation that one could never depend on anyone else but one’s own self. Unfortunately, she was equally afraid to fight for him to stay as breaking the boundary of her deeply ingrained comfort zone was as pressurising. Simultaneously, knowing that he was always the one to compromise, understand, accept, and adjust to suit her needs was making her feel miserable. But she just didn’t know how to show e6edcf14481980d983fe14c4a9d73f5eor let him know that she cared enough to want him to stay. She could emote her affection and dependency only to a certain extent as beyond that, it bordered on making her vulnerable and anxious. And she was terrified of letting anyone get a glimpse of this weakness.

Their situation also made me wonder if walking away was actually a stance for Mahesh to make her experience life without him and then perhaps feel the need – the strong need that she needed him as much in her life to want him to stay. Perhaps this was the only way he knew how to make her react, to make her want to take that step, to get her attention.

Maybe, for him, a part of loving her was to learn to let go. For her, though, it was a struggle between wanting him to stay and protecting her own self.

Love that wasn’t meant to be…

Everyone has a story to tell, rub the surface and out tumbles that hidden someone who made a world of a difference to our lives. Yet each of us has accepted the inevitable, that you can’t have it all or have buried the love stories deep below, only to relive them during those lonely moments.

Tom was diligent, hard-working but painfully shy. He met a girl on a flight and for the first time gathered his courage to approach her. She reciprocated and so began a friendship that changed him forever. He enjoyed her company, did things he’d normally never do and slowly transformed from a shy introvert to a confident young man. When their friendship blossomed into love, he proposed. For the first time he was willing to assert his feelings rather than do his parents’ bidding. Unfortunately the girl got cold feet and was incommunicado for the entire duration his parents came visiting to meet her.  A day before leaving, his father confronted him to say that since his choice couldn’t be trusted, he had to agree to marry the girl they had selected. In anger and frustration he agreed. A month after the wedding, his girlfriend got back in touch to apologise and meet his parents. But it was too late. Today he has a good marriage, he respects his wife and is a dutiful husband and father.

Dick is a successful young businessman. He had a live in relationship with his long time girlfriend for 6 years. They even adopted a dog to share their every day lives. When they broke up he was devastated yet 3 years hence he still writes to her every day. He connects with her at a level which he hasn’t been able to break free from. It’s just something he does, he needs to do.

Mary, married with two children recently reconnected with her erstwhile boyfriend. He was her first love and although their relationship had only lasted a year, they had shared some great moments together. Today she is happily married while his marriage is going through a rough patch. It had felt good to reconnect but soon their conversations became intimate leaving her completely confused about her life.

Jane is successful, charming and an extrovert who can chat up any person and make them open up to her. She fell in love for the first time 13 years after her marriage with someone who groomed her into the person she is today. He made her see herself in a new light, made her love herself, gave her the confidence to fly and explore the world. As much as they loved each other, they fought bitterly. Somewhere they wanted different things from the relationship and they broke up. Years later, she still yearns to make him see what they could have had together. Somewhere in her sane mind, difficult as it is, she has accepted that the relationship is long over yet during moments of weakness the strong pull he still holds on her heart plays havoc with her life.

Love is such a strange emotion. It can make us or break us, it gives us strength to face life yet can be equally debilitating and make us miserable. Love makes it all worthwhile. Love makes everything alright. And love is the only reason why it is so difficult to forget someone or what they did for us. No matter how much one hurts, somewhere it gives us the ability to always be there for the person when they reach out. Tom did just that when years later his girlfriend reconnected. She needed help and he was there for her.

How we adjust to these experiences of unrequited love varies from person to person. Some yearn for it, continue searching perhaps for a clone while some others try not to awaken those feelings lest they interfere with their every day lives. Some live otherwise ‘happy’ lives yet take time off (even if it is for a few days) to do what their heart truly desires – breaking the boundaries – consciously accepting that they do it because they can or perhaps it is what sustains them as they continue to live their otherwise routine lives.

Some unfortunate souls though are unable to break free from the clutches of this emotion and continue to compare their partners. They are either unable to love as unconditionally or resist any behaviour that remotely resembles that of their past lover. Author Elle Newmark in The Book of Unholy Mischief explains, “unrequited love does not die; it’s only beaten down to a secret place where it hides, curled and wounded. For some unfortunates, it turns bitter and mean, and those who come after pay the price for the hurt done by the one who came before.”

Everyone inherently wants to be loved, wants to love another and be happy. Yet it can be elusive and slowly everything simply goes awry. Why?

Is it because most often people are unable to deal with the strength of this feeling? Do they require constant reassurances to ‘feel’ loved? Do they feel compelled by the need for the other person’s love to be happy? Does this in-turn overwhelm the partner putting them on a pedestal they are unable to cope with or makes them feel insecure, inferior and incapable of reciprocating? Is love so fragile that it needs kid gloves to blossom?

The practical mind believes that when we know what impacts relationships we can change our behaviour and thereby our responses. But how often is that even possible? Every person is unique and every one reacts differently. In addition our myriad life experiences too moulds our understanding of similar situations differently and thereby how we respond to them. We might want the same things yet how we express it and our partners’ ability to accept and acknowledge that is what makes all the difference.

fb6491aebf7f60d5ad3257bd0de6a957Unrequited love is unattainable. Then how does pining over it help? Isn’t the sense of loss here over something one never actually had? Yet it continues to be attractive. Perhaps because it is untouched by reality. When things go wrong in real life, the heart tends to attribute certain qualities to the unrequited love, thereby glorifying our perception of the individuals and the experiences we shared with them. As author Shannon L Alder says, “the most confused you will ever get is when you try to convince your heart and spirit of something your mind knows is a lie.” Maybe this explains why Mary feels confused or why Jane still wants to make him see how their lives could have been different had they been together!

Or is it that holding on to the glimmer of hope, helps us make peace with the turmoil within?

After all, as James Patterson in The Angel Experiment explains “what’s worse than knowing you want something, besides knowing you can never have it?”





Let’s Face It, follow your heart but do take your brains with you!

This edition of Let’s Face It features mother of three sons and grandmother of six grandchildren, Sahana Chaudhuri. She was my colleague while we worked together at a diplomatic mission. Old enough to be my mother she was one of my closest friends’ and the mother-in-law I wish I had 🙂

Pottsandpan (PP): You’ve lived and living each day a wonderfully fulfilling life – how would you define ‘happiness’ within this context?

Sahana Chaudhuri (SC): Happiness is within oneself and not external to you. If you decide to be happy, no matter what, no one and no force on earth can keep happiness from you.

When I think of happiness this ditty always comes to mind:-

Life is what you make it
Life is what you will
You’ll find out that wheree’er you go whatever role you play
You’ll always find a piper
And that piper you must pay
So shall we change our parts again
Some other sunny day
Oh no! I’ll still stay me!

completePP: How long were you married before your husband passed away? What are the two things you miss the most about your life with him?

SC: I was married for almost thirty-one years. I miss his care and concern for me. I miss his comforting and protective presence.

Most of all I miss that he always felt I was the best wife he could ever have asked for!

PP: There was a time when you were concerned for your sons and their marriage – what did you fear the most then? Did it make matters easier that you didn’t have daughters?

SC: My fear then was the marriages would end in divorce. As luck would have it, they did end in divorce!

As a matter of fact, it would have been easier had I had daughters. Our marriage laws are slewed to favour girls and there is a stereotypical assumption that the guy is ALWAYS to blame!! The penalty is always paid by the guy and not the girl.

PP: For a long time you’ve lived by yourself, redecorated the house the way you liked and travelled with friends and colleagues – was it liberating to do all this without encumbrances or the need to explain yourself?

SC: Yes, though I wouldn’t say liberated as even in marriage I was never made to feel ‘caged’, if you know what I mean. My husband was liberal and trusting enough never to ask for explanations. Perhaps this was because while he was around I never really felt the need to go out on my own. I’d say, after his demise, I enjoyed going out with friends for the occasional meal and cinema or a weekend out to Digha or Darjeeling.

PP: I’ve always known you as someone who has faced life’s challenges with grit, determination and positivity. What would you attribute to this? Is it your innate mental strength or have you garnered this from a role model you’ve admired for how they lived their lives?

SC: I think grit and determination and innate strength is intrinsic in me though my Mum was a huge inspiration to me.

PP: You now spend time living with each of your three sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren – how has life changed (from your perspective) from the time you lived with your in-laws and extended family and now?

SC: First and foremost, I never really lived with my in-laws except when my mother-in-law came visiting on holidays. Of course there has to be a difference between living on your own and living with my sons and their families. The solution I have found is not to expect my DILs (daughters-in-law) to adjust and compromise for me. Rather, I have learnt to adjust and accept to the changes in my lifestyle to ensure an amicable relationship. I NEVER interfere in their personal affairs or disagreements!

PP: How has the mother-in-law in you evolved from the daughter-in-law you’ve been? Do you feel that try as you may; sometimes you’re unable to curb your expectations of being the ‘mother-in-law’ or perhaps having similar expectations like your own mother-in-law?

SC: As I said, I do not have any so-called expectations from my DILS. I see my sons happy in their marriages now and that is all I ask for!

PP: Being a grandparent, what advice would you want to give your grandsons and granddaughters when it came to selecting their partners? Is there something you would want your granddaughters to be aware of more than your grandsons?

SC: My advice to my grandchildren, both grandsons and granddaughters equally, is that it is wise not to rush into anything.

“Follow your heart but take your brain with you!”

There has to be compromise from both partners for a marriage to be successful. However, once you become a mother, you have to give more for the simple reason that there is an invisible umbilical cord connecting child to mother. A mother can never be replaced by anyone! So never be resentful when you need to take more leave when the child is sick or on a rare occasion when you need to give up a day out with your friends.

For the guys, I would say that helping out with housework or taking care of the kids is not demeaning. Share responsibilities and you will see how fulfilling it is to run a happy home.

PP: What do you think is lacking the most in the younger generation when it comes to commitment and marriage? Do you think they respect this institution enough to work hard at their relationships?

SC: I think tolerance levels have dropped to a large extent. The fact that women are also economically independent adds to this. These days it is easy to walk out of a marriage whereas earlier it wasn’t even considered an option. I always say that there is so much joy and fulfilment in a long and lasting marriage. For this both partners have to work hard at it. It doesn’t just happen!

mothersdayPP: You received a beautiful Happy Mother’s Day card. What are the two things you believe every mother should teach their sons about how to treat their wives?

SC: My main advice to them is to always treat their wives with love and respect. She is in no way less than you and has gone through a great deal in bearing your kids! Treat her like a queen for she is no less than one!

Marriage, is much more than a wedding

Marriages are made in heaven they say but one lives the life of a married couple on Earth – so guess that’s where the challenge lies!

Although we knew each other since 1994, we informed parents about our intention to marry only in 2001, by which time we were both working and well settled financially. There were issues because of our background and religious beliefs (more on that later!), but the parents took a year to prepare for the wedding. We were finally married in January 2002.

Ideally you would think the best possible way to approach the institution. We’d known each other for so long – we’d shared experiences, we had the same set of friends, we came to understand and accept each other’s shortcomings. We knew how the other reacted to uncomfortable situations, our opinions and views about people, family, work etc.

Yet after marriage it was a task, a huge one at that to adjust, compromise and settle into a married life.

Perhaps we didn’t count for the fact that we’d be with each other 24×7! Even if we argued it would no longer be switching off the mobile phone and going to bed. He’d be in the same bed with me!

The year we spent (along with our parents) on planning, preparing, buying clothes, jewellery and gifts for family, sending invitations, talking about menu, discussing how many people would attend each ceremony (Ai buro bhaat –  the last meal that the groom/bride eats as a bachelor; church wedding, gaye holud – yellow/turmeric on the body, Hindu wedding, receptions – one for the family and the other for external invitees etc – yes we did it all!), we didn’t give any thoughts to our life after marriage. We definitely didn’t believe in ‘happily ever after’ but we weren’t thinking of our expectations from each other.

It didn’t strike us simply because we didn’t think it necessary to ponder on – after all we’d known each other for so long!

Interestingly, marriage was a steep learning curve for both of us!