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?”

 

 

 

 

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?

Does it really matter?

To ‘arrange’ a marriage…or ‘fall in love’ – does it really matter?

We fell in love and then our parents arranged the marriage. It was a fun-filled day – we had a Church wedding in the afternoon, a legal registration in the evening followed by the Hindu wedding at night! Of course, at the end of it all, we decided unanimously that we wouldn’t divorce – it would just be too much hassle getting the marriage nullified at each level! 🙂

For the Church wedding we visited St Patrick’s with my dad to inform the priest. We filled in a lengthy form, with all our details because it required the priest  to inform the wider congregation, over Sunday mass just in case someone had a problem with our union.

One question on the form was ‘is this a love marriage or arranged marriage?’ My  would be husband (who has a good sense of humour) politely turned to my dad (who is generally all prim and proper!) and asked, ‘what should I say?’ For once my dad, not be outdone by his son-in-law replied cheekily, ‘arranged.’ It was really funny then but now when I think about it, did it really matter?

There was so much I knew about my husband when we were dating but I came to know a lot more when I married him. Similarly for him, he must have thought he knew me well but was surprised by the new me after the wedding. On numerous occasions while arguing we’ve used the phrase ‘tumi ei rokom chile na’ (literally translated it means ‘you were not like this’). Did we really change after the wedding? Or were we still the same people but the marital circumstances was adding newer dimensions to our reactions?

While dating we did practically everything together – watching a movie for the first time, visiting a new restaurant, meeting friends, going for an outing. We were regularly in touch with each other, spoke for hours on the phone every night before going to bed, texted each other during the day. It was like we had to keep each other informed of our every move the entire day.

What changed after marriage? My in-laws expected me to visit relatives with them even if my husband wasn’t able to make it. Frequently, we met friends separately – he’d go out drinking with his buddies while I’d meet mine for lunch or a coffee. Frequent travels on work meant we visited new places separately. We talked about our day but it now also included issues I was facing as a daughter-in-law. He began to feel pulled apart between my complaints about his family and his parent’s expectations about me. Added to that were his own expectations of me, the relationship and family.

I grew up in a nuclear family and never had extended family to deal with. For me, only my parents’ views and opinions mattered. I couldn’t be bothered about  what others thought about any aspect of my life. His was a nuclear family too but one which was closely connected to relatives from both his parents’ sides. Here, almost everyone knew about what was happening in everyone else’s lives. My life was suddenly an open book.

I’m an introvert while my husband sits comfortably balanced at the cusp of introversion-extroversion. He can switch very easily depending on the situation and people. I’m not a great conversationalist and prefer to listen instead. This, of course meant that I hardly spoke at home or when with extended family. People assumed I was cold and reserved. Some also felt that since I was a Christian I didn’t have much in common with them.

I can speak, read and write Bengali but unfortunately I’m more comfortable with English. Same with my husband  – we thought in English, argued in English, expressed our concerns better in English! But with relatives it was different. I found it easier to converse in English, mostly making a mish-mash of English & Bengali when I spoke. That too perhaps didn’t go down too well with them.

One doesn’t think about such nuances before marriage. They’re the little things which seem inconsequential but do create an impact, however subtle. At times likes these, the debate about a love versus arranged marriage seems quite unnecessary!

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!