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.


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.




Let’s face it, love is incidental to the whole story!

Marriage is ideally for a life time, it’s an experience where everyone has their own set of rules. Let’s Face It! is an attempt to unravel some of those rules and share interesting people’s opinion, views and attitudes towards this institution.

Excerpts from an interview with Anubha Kakroo, Director: Design & Cultural Insight at Futurebrands India Ltd**

Pottsandpan (PP): In present times, how would you define love in marriage?

Anubha Kakroo (AK): You know, Romeo actually went to the Ball to impress the beautiful Rosaline but when she steals away, Juliet enters. She notices Romeo first and their attraction is immediate! This clearly epitomizes the fickle mindedness of youth. I’d call it passion-ate love, the sensual energy that overrides all emotions during adolescence. In marriage, love is almost incidental to the whole story! Its passion that drives you to want to spend your life with someone. Love is nuanced, complex and comes much later.

PP: Growing up years and even today love is compared to that shared by Laila-Majnu or Romeo-Juliet. Why aren’t there any contemporary icons?

AK: I believe that’s because it’s the ‘unrequitedness’ of their love that is ‘romantic’ and upheld otherwise love becomes boring and domestic! Imagine Romeo and Juliet running a house and raising a family together! How utterly ordinary would that be!!  Passion is the primordial emotion that holds true even today and in every society. It’s become crystallised in that frame and these characters are the metaphorical symbols of that passion-ate love.

PP: How would you define marriage? How has it changed over the years?

AK: The basic premise for marriage has always been sex and procreation although today, sex and procreation can happen outside of marriage too. Marriage is this whole issue of structuring child-raising essentially and maintaining a community /society as it’d be difficult to operate as lone rangers.

Today it has more to do with the ‘individual,’ which is perhaps more primordial than marriage is! When the individual takes centre stage over and above the system, there is stress. In most urban centres the changing nature of marriage has settled down a bit and there is more subtlety and rhythm. The change is more apparent in tier II cities. I know of a woman who enjoys going out with her father-in-law to watch movies as her mother-in-law is not interested and her husband has no time. This is an interesting dynamic. Similarly another interesting concept is that of the family disco. In this case, the entire family would occasionally hire a discotheque in the afternoon and go dancing together. Beginning with the grandfather, down to the youngest child, everyone would troop down to a discotheque and groove to the latest Bollywood songs. This reflects the need for the older generation to sample what the youngsters enjoy while the new bride is able to enjoy the freedom to dance within the confines of the system. Both these observations indicate the changes slowly unfolding in the concept of marriage.

PP: What are your views on LAT – living apart together? Do you think it can lead to marriage becoming redundant?

AK: I know LAT came into prominence sometime in 2009-2010. It’s a great concept where both parties get their space but I think it works well with grown up children or divorced parents. Then this concept of you-me-us becomes less tricky. A couple friends of mine had parted ways amicably but were not legally divorced. When the wife had a medical emergency, she was able to avail of her ex’s medical insurance as they weren’t separated legally. The institution of marriage has been in existence for far too long. It involves societal, psychological, emotional as well as legal factors. It’s become imprinted in our DNA and erasing it is tough. If you’re attracted to someone then marriage is one platform to formalise that relationship.

PP: The 2013 Indian Wedding Survey by Femina found that although most women preferred to find their own partners only 20% found their match through matrimonial websites while 5% had assistance from their families.

AK: Let me give you examples of some interesting case scenarios. One of my friends is well-educated and financially independent. When she couldn’t find Mr Right she went to her parents and laid down certain conditions for them to find a match for her. The guy had to be her equal – an MBA with good income. Another friend, after being heartbroken a few times is still unable to find Mr Right. But instead of opting for marriage she prefers to live a solitary life in London. Both instances reflect a different response to the notions of pragmatism versus the romanticism, the real versus the ideal. There are trade-offs in each case and one has to live by the choices made. A young cousin although keen to get hitched found the idea of looking for a girl so intensely pressurizing that he’s opting for an arranged marriage. The idea of arranged marriage is like a safety net for many people, including internationally now as the stress of ‘landing’ a long-term partner screws the happiness out of most relationships anyways!

While growing up we’d generally see matrimonial ads talking about fair complexion and good looks. But today the premium matrimonial markers like in the Economic Times matrimonial are requests for graduates from Harvard, ISB etc. Today matrimonial websites have formalised the process of hunting for a mate. In fact there are societies where there is the hybridisation of the two systems – “arranged love marriage” within the same caste and community. Interestingly, there is also so much pressure within certain young people today for the need to have love marriages that they shy away from telling their friends that theirs is arranged, preferring to call it ‘love’ marriage even if it is not!

PP: Women today are looking to find their equal – partners who not only earn as much as them but are similarly educated and believe in equality in marriage. What do you think?

AK: A recent article in the New York Times referred to such equal or peer marriages as ‘egalitarian marriages’. In these marriages both spouses work and take care of the house and their relationship is built on equal power, shared interests and friendship. The same article also talks about studies that show that the very qualities that lead to greater emotional satisfaction in such peer marriages may be having an unexpectedly negative impact on those couples’ sex lives! At the outset this is the kind of marriage many people wish for but the values that make for good social relationship are not necessarily the same ones that drive lust. Psychologist Esther Perel comments that “it’s the first time in history we are trying this experiment of a sexuality that is rooted in equality and that lasts for decades. It’s a tall order for one person to be your partner in Management Inc., your best friend and passionate lover. There’s a certain part of you that with this partner will not be fulfilled. You deal with that loss. It’s a paradox to be lived with, not solved.”

PP: Talk to us about your marriage, how long have you been married? Based on your experience what has been the one thing that has worked for both of you as a couple?

same shitAK: We’ve known each other for 25 years and been married for 21 years now. I was 18 years old when I met my husband so we’ve almost grown up with each other. I think being in the same line of work (design education – architecture) has helped greatly. My husband is a one place person while I’m a multi-place person. This can lead to frustration sometimes but when all else fails we still have one thing in common to talk about – design education! In other words having a common enemy helps. It’s a great unifier.

PP: What would be your advice to couples wanting to commit to each other?

AK: When one is looking for a mate, then consciously or sub-consciously we find someone who tends to have about 70% of the qualities we’re searching for. This tends to override the remaining 30% which don’t match. Unfortunately this remaining 30% is what kicks in later and starts bothering us. We refer to that as differences between couples. Based on this I would advise that couples should accept that one person cannot fulfil all their needs. Insistence on this puts pressure not only on the self but the other person too. Simultaneously there is the need to find a commonality that will help tide them over the difficult phases. It’s foolish to believe in ‘a happily ever after ride with no bumps and breakdowns’ 🙂

PP: If one person cannot satisfy all your needs then doesn’t that go against the meaning of monogamy, marriage itself?

AK: I’m not a staunch believer in monogamy. Men by nature will want to look for multiple partners to literally spread the seed as far and wide as it can go for better chances of survival and dominance of a particular gene-pool while with education, exposure, financial independence women too have begun to question certain stereotypical notions. This idea although more primordial is not too recent. It may have been suppressed over eons and therefore the factors mentioned above may have helped it come to fore again. Even biologically, female of a species tends to expand her ‘mate-bank’ as it were, to have a more varied gene pool and thus have a stronger offspring with better chance of survival. So biologically mono-partnership (monogamy being a social construct) is actually counter-intuitive.

conversationWe meet interesting people from all walks to life every day and will connect with them at different levels. When connecting with a man (other than your husband) there is always a possibility of sexual undercurrent. I think that’s healthy, one should acknowledge that and move on. Sometimes you can be most comfortable discussing certain issues with another man but not your husband. It’s prudent to understand that you’re connecting with a fellow human being not just a man. In fact the dewar-bhabhi (brother-in-law – sister-in-law) relationship is based on this premise. Good natured and good-hearted flirting works for both. At a wedding outside of Indore, a friend was shocked listening to the women talking and singing songs with clear sexual innuendoes. We think we’re modern, educated and liberal. But in fact we’re more prudish and put more checks and balances on relationships. You could say that this understanding that one person cannot satisfy all your needs is a double-edged sword!

**Architect and Industrial Designer, Anubha has specialized in Design Management, specializing in Strategy, Innovation and Branding. Anubha works as a Design Strategist & Thinker. Currently she works as Director: Design & Cultural Insight at the Futurebrands India Ltd. where her work involves using Design as a critical resource for Cultural Mapping and insight to make sense of India. She has taught and has been on various juries of the School of Planning & Architecture, National Institute of Fashion Technology and the National Institute of Design. She is also interested in the intricacies of Art & Aesthetics, English; Language & Literature and Cultural/Anthropological Studies. 

Marriage is Not a 50-50 affair

I was recently reading the guide to intimate relations that Reader’s Digest had published in 1999 and it brought back memories. I was going through a rough patch some years ago – seriously questioning why I had married and what was making me stay in the marriage. That’s when a close friend said, ‘marriage is a 50-50 partnership. Each of you need to be equally involved to make this work – that’s the vow you took when you married and you can’t back out of it now’.

Well his comment at that point in my life made me rethink if I was being selfish, just thinking about myself – addressing only those issues that mattered to me, impacted my life instead of looking at the alternative view – my husband’s? So I took a step back, tried to curb my instinctual reactions and made an effort to re-look at the good things we had going as a couple.

The rough patch passed or did it? In some ways it had but then again sometimes I’ve felt that those issues that we’d shoved under the carpet had ways of raising their ugly head once in a while.

Its much later in our lives together, that we both realized and more importantly accepted and acknowledged that marriage is NOT a 50-50 affair.

When my husband took up photography as a hobby, we enjoyed spending time together. I accompanied him on his travels and it was fun. He shared his thoughts on photography with me and wanted my inputs on the images he took. He inherently likes to delve deep into anything that interests him – in this case he researched on cameras, lighting, exposure, Photoshop, lenses etc – he slowly developed his expertise to the extent that his friends looked up to him for his opinion and advice. He would talk to me at length too about the different facets of photography – some of which I enjoyed but realized very soon that I didn’t share the same passion for photography. I didn’t totally understand the concepts behind the making of a photograph although aesthetically they appealed to me. I couldn’t converse with him with the same authority and soon got bored. I truly wanted to share his pleasure but it did take us a long time to realize that some joys are solo activities.

Similarly I loved to read and write, watch crime serials, play word games or Sudoku – none of which required interaction with others. When we’re on a holiday I like to carry a book along and believe in lazing around. My husband on the other hand prefers to check out local spots, take photographs, enjoy the local cuisine, and meet new people. We each looked at a holiday in different ways. It’s taken us some time to accept, accommodate and let go – allowing each other the option to do different things and at other times accommodating the other’s view do something’s together. I still regret the time when my friend offered me the opportunity to travel with her to Hong Kong – I declined as my husband was busy working and couldn’t accompany us. I believed that as a couple; we should always travel together (except when travelling on work). But years later, as I still regret that decision I now know that I should have gone ahead – travelling without him for fun didn’t mean I loved him any less nor did it mean that there were no feelings of ‘togetherness’!

After our daughter was born, we took the joint decision that I would stay home with her and work either part-time or on projects from home. Of course it meant that he was completely responsible for bringing in the moolah – a real pressure especially since we’d lived life king size as DINKS for a long time. The decision felt right for some time, rather most of the time except when I was physically and mentally drained looking after my daughter and desperately needed a break, when people only insisted speaking to me about motherhood and child upbringing, when I felt lost without the work ‘anchor’! On the other hand he too had his own battles to deal with, used to be equally tired after a long day’s work and needed ‘me’ time to unwind and relax. Although tempers flared often, the point was that apart from regular work, he too did a lot of other things around the house, shared many a responsibility. I too had help at home which helped hugely when I was working on projects from home. So our expectations from each other and our new roles in life needed to be revised.

The idea that an equal marriage had to mean identical experiences for us wasn’t true as it ignored our personal preferences. It’s a trap to assume that a marriage can be a 50-50 in all spheres, all the time. It only leads to unrealistic notions as no two people are identical in emotions, interests or responsibilities. Nor can two people divide their skills in some identically ‘fair’ way.

What is important in marriages is the spirit of 50-50, with the flexibility of give and take. Emotional equality where both partners felt equally loved, shared in family decisions and contributed equally to the family’s well-being – that perhaps is the kind of equality that really works.

The Equal Partnership

‘Togetherness’ is what provides the staying power in a marriage. Staying together, thinking together, sharing together, mutual respect, taking decisions together, planning together, saving together, learning together, forgiving each other – togetherness is just what matters.

The word ‘equal’ needs to be defined clearly here – it doesn’t necessarily mean equality in every sense of the word. There will be moments, situations when one will need to take the lead. There just needs to be a sense of comfort and acceptance of that fact.

Two people – with their commonalities and differences come together to create this ‘partnership’. It is therefore necessary to build a sense of marital identity – a sense of ‘we’ – ness in addition to and different from themselves as individuals. There is a fine line between thinking of oneself as an individual with one’s own needs and wants and thinking of the partnership as being together with common needs and wants. As the partnership grows in strength this line sometimes blurs, sometimes becomes more defined – either of which is fine as long as there is mutual acceptance.

The partnership is also a ‘responsibility’ and each partner is accountable for its success. There will definitely be moments or times of pressure when there will be one up-man-ship, manifestation of stress, financial burdens which perhaps one partner needs to take a lead on etc. Ego will play a huge role to either pull one apart or bring you together – as long as its ‘you’ exerting control over the ego instead of letting the ego take the lead – all will work out.

The equal partnership has to be a peer-to-peer relationship. Sometimes you need your better half to be a friend rather than a spouse. This flexibility ensures that you’re open to playing whatever role the marital situations demands of you. This is the best part of marriage.

The partnership is a safety net – a place that feels safe for love, hate, conflict, dependency, play, openness, fun – it should make you want to always go back to the safety net.

An equal partnership therefore is crucial to help make a ‘house’ truly one’s ‘home’.