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.


Comfortably bored

After a tiring day at work as Mahi began packing to leave, her colleague asked, ‘so, what exciting plans for the weekend?’

‘Nothing much, the in-laws are dropping by, need to do some marketing and then probably just laze around,’ Mahi said with a smile. She was slightly taken aback by the deadpan expression on her colleague’s face.

It made her uncomfortable so she quickly added, ‘how about you?’

Her colleague’s face broke into a smile and she replied, ‘I have a hot date. We’re going to the new Sushi restaurant in Bandra. He might pop the question today so I’m really excited.’

On the train ride back home, the deadpan look kept haunting Mahi. She couldn’t shake it off. She was sharing her plans only because she was asked, she wasn’t volunteering information. Why couldn’t her colleague leave her alone? If she wasn’t interested in her life, why bother with the pretence?

Forcing herself to think about something else she began wondering what she would cook for her in-laws this week. Should she cook baigan bharta, both her mother-in-law and husband loved it. No, she had made that only two weeks ago…hmmm…her mind wandered off.

Suddenly she gasped as the realisation dawned – that deadpan expression – it was boredom!

Her colleague had looked bored hearing about her weekend plans. Wait! What plans? Weren’t these things, she did almost every other weekend. Either her in-laws came over from Pune or they visited them. So paying bills, watching tv, shopping for vegetables & groceries or getting some work done at home, screaming at the maid – were just part of her everyday life. Had she even remotely sounded excited when she spoke to her colleague? So perhaps boredom wasn’t just a random expression. Damn! Had she seen it right or was she reading too much into it?

Manoj worked as hard as she did – he was travelling more than ever now but then so was she – they were both making good money – they recently bought a flat – had enjoyed a lovely relaxing holiday in Phuket. They had a good thing going, and she knew it. They had been married for five years. People spoke about the 7 year itch, she wasn’t even close! Suddenly she hated her colleague more than ever!

Why was Mahi worried? Could it mean that unconsciously she saw the exact expression on her colleague’s face that she herself was troubled with at times but didn’t want to acknowledge? And therefore she feared the sinking feeling that she might actually be bored with their relationship or their life together!

Another couple I know are outwardly happy with their usual share of nitpicking! For some time now I noticed a deluge of smiling and happy twosome pictures or family photographs on her social networking page. Initially I didn’t think too much about it but when almost every other news feed had a new picture, I wondered. Could it simply mean that she was making full use of her new tablet or was this her way of telling the world how exciting her life was or perhaps an attempt to cover up for her otherwise mundane life? The more people liked and commented on her pictures the more it fed into the need to keep up the pretence.

In both instances, it wasn’t so much about how their lives were panning out as outwardly none of them had much to complain. It was just the regularity of their everyday lives which was the pressing issue.

Ideally everyone looks for comfort – in their relationships, life, work, pleasure. Yet there is a thin line between being comfortable and getting bored with doing the same things over and over again. So it’s essential to find something new to take our minds off the usual humdrum on a regular basis. The simple act of having friends, family and acquaintances comment on photographs means there is always something new happening. So it isn’t only a reaffirmation that every thing is alright but there is also a feel good factor associated with it – which makes one look forward to it. Just like some people take to exercising to lose weight. There, the need isn’t so much about looking good but to feel good.

How one responds to these moments of boredom varies from person to person but finding something different to do (or doing something we wouldn’t normally do) means less time to worry (about being bored amongst other things) and feeling excited about life again. Travelling, finding a new hobby, starting a side business, visiting old friends, learning a new skill are all interesting options.

The crucial motivating factor here, is to do anything that is novel, refocuses our attention and also provides mental stimulation and excitement to make us feel in control of our lives again!

You, me and friends!

When we were dating, my boyfriend was my good friend with whom I shared everything. I could say anything and knew that it would be accepted at face value. It wouldn’t be flung back at me during a fight or shared with others. Here was someone who truly listened and knew me – the vulnerable me who was scared of the world and had insecurities that stretched a mile. A friend who finished my sentences and could read me like a book – knew how I would react or what I would say in certain situations. A friend who made my day complete, whose presence protected my sanity and in turn, I depended on him completely.

I didn’t feel the need to invest time and myself to nurture any other friendship. At this point it didn’t matter since his friendship was more than enough to make my world a happy place. I let all other relationships, friendships slip through, happy and content being a twosome.

Then we got married!

Our friendship continued but its status subtly changed. The husband-wife relationship we now shared suddenly meant that we could no longer say the things we wanted to tell each other just like we wanted to say them. They had to be worded differently and their rippling effects impacted other areas of our everyday lives and relations. My one and only friend was still my close friend but not a friend anymore!

At this juncture, realization dawned that I had no other close friends! Slowly the need to find someone with whom I could let my guard down began to resurface. Growing up, no one tells you that as couples we must accept that one person cannot fulfil all our needs. Idealistic insistence that your husband or wife is your best friend (which definitely can be true in some rare cases) puts tremendous pressure not only on the self but the other partner and the relationship too.

flirtWithin my friends’ circle, I’ve seen numerous instances where either the husband or wife has reached out to someone else to fulfil the need for a close friend – someone who made them come alive, feel young and attractive again. These friendships are an outlet or release from the boring mundane existence. They come with no strings attached yet are beneficial to the self without any of the marital complications. One feels compelled to keep such friends and friendship secret – which in turn adds to its mystery and feels even more satisfying. Simply put, their presence keeps life exciting, there’s a reason to wake up in the morning and look forward to the day. Some blossom as office romances since more time is spent at work than at home. In many others, these serve only as friends with benefits or can potentially lead to other complications as many couples have found their soul mates in people other than their spouses.

I suppose one way of dealing with this scenario is that even when openly discussing about this friend and friendship you don’t give this relationship a name. I feel when you try naming it, you tend to box it into one of life’s many nuances and that not only takes away the charm of the relationship but also certain expectations start automatically building around it.

Unfortunately here is when slowly yet steadily a conflict of interest begins to arise – the conflict could be within us or a perceptive better half picks up the subtle changes in the marital relationship and most often can correctly point out the ‘friendship’ responsible for the change.

A good friend’s husband is the kind of person who takes his friendships a bit too seriously – he always bends over backwards to help others, especially if it is a woman who comes across as vulnerable. Outwardly there is no malice in his behaviour and he openly informs his wife about what he’s doing. He doesn’t get sexually involved with any of these women but his ego gets a huge boost every time he extends support. Also he’s accessible to them whenever they reach out to him, day or night. This feeling of helpless dependence on him and his ability to fulfil those needs gives him a high. It’s possible that there is a deep-seated insecurity here which only gets addressed or fulfilled when he’s made to feel important or when he comes across as the ‘only’ person who can truly help.

It really bothers his wife and after many such incidences she’s refusing to accept this behaviour any longer. He’s tried to explain that he does this from the goodness of his heart and believes that god blesses him every time he’s attentive, helpful and nice. So she’s given him an ultimatum – it was time he decided if god’s blessings were more important to him or his wife and the family! They’re now at a crossroad trying to figure out how best to deal with the situation.

Yet another kind of friendship exists which without the need for any sexual connotation can hold us together – keep our sanity intact in this crazy fast paced world we live in, these days!

drinkWhile we were in Mumbai and Gurgaon, there were a few of my husband’s friends whom we met almost every weekend – and in most occasions it meant eating and drinking with them. They were the ‘drinking buddies!’ We took turns to host the evenings and although sometimes it did bother us (especially the wives) we soon realised that although there was way too much drinking happening (which definitely wasn’t good for the health!) their discussions ranged from religion to politics to work to office politics to photography to life to music to films…an endless list. In other words, what really mattered about the evenings were the conversations. It was their ability to connect at such different levels that the drinking lost importance. No, they didn’t stop drinking nor did they drink any less but it didn’t matter. The other two important aspects were that in most cases they sat at home drinking and at times when they did drink in a restaurant or in public I’ve rarely seen them misbehave or become rowdy. Most of the ‘boys’ would drive back and once behind the wheel their love for their vehicles (perhaps not as much love of their wives and family) took control of their senses!

Friendships are extremely important in our lives. They have the ability to free us from life’s unending pressures, they spark faith in us to keep pushing ahead, and they are our anchors that keep us grounded. Every time there arises the need to redefine these friendships, I think the question one needs to address is how does the friendship impact the marital relationship? Simultaneously, it is essential to take a step back, look within and really try to understand why the friendship is so important to the partner. This acknowledgement not only means you’re accepting its importance in your partner’s life (which in turn makes them feel like you understand) but helps to identify the crux of the issue which is truly bothering us (sometimes it’s just a manifestation of something deeper) and also invariably provides a direction forward.

Love Changes

You married him because he was such a ‘strong’ man.
You divorced him because he was so ‘dominating’.

You married her because she was so ‘fragile and cute’.
You divorced her because she was so ‘weak and helpless’.

You married him because he is a ‘good provider’.
You divorced him because ‘all he thinks about is business’.

You married her because she ‘reminds me of my mother’.
You divorced her because she’s ‘getting more like my mother every day’.

You married him because he was the ‘life of the party’.
You divorced him because he’s ‘a party boy’.