“Later he would have wondered why she called him absentminded because he could never remember to bring her a gift on her birthday or their anniversary. She’s the one who forgot…..that he once told her he loved her“… reads one of Linda Goodman’s love signs.
Is that what happens to relationships? That we forget that we love our mate? That we forget the reasons why we loved and chose a life with the mate in the first place? That we had made promises to walk with one another through thick and thin? That we would tolerate each other’s weaknesses, as much as we admired one another’s strengths? That we forget to be kind and generous? That we forget their individuality, their needs and have begun to sacrifice one another for our own needs?
These thoughts reverberated in my mind. I had just come to know of R’s marriage breaking up… and he was quite broken-hearted. Couldn’t believe that their 15-year marriage had disintegrated. They had 2 beautiful children.
I don’t know what to think, when I hear of relationships not working out. Whether it is better to let go of a relationship that doesn’t work or whether to wait out the storm, make efforts to make it work. Do what it takes. It is a difficult choice. I don’t always advocate staying together. Especially in an abusive relationship – whether physical, emotional or psychological. But it is important to recognise the difference. I always find it very sad when two people who had embarked on a journey, with enthusiasm, commitment, affection and trust, find it intolerable to continue.
I myself had gone through a very, very close shave, once upon a time. Had walked out of my marriage with 2 small kids. Had thought my world had ended. Was angry as hell with my husband, with the world, with destiny. Never imagined that the relationship could ever be repaired.
But those 6-8 months of separation were an education for me. It gave me the space and time to examine, in depth, myself and my understanding of what that relationship meant, what I wanted out the relationship, what I was willing to put into the relationship. Vital questions.
I think one of the first things I learnt was to recognise the difference between anger and loss of love. I realised I was angry with my husband. Very, very angry. However, that did not mean necessarily mean I had stopped loving him.
The second lesson was that in the 10-12 years of the relationship, we had changed. So slowly that we hadn’t noticed. Our ‘values’ had changed, our priorities had changed. New rules had come into play without consensus and ‘winning’ had become more important that ‘being’.
The third thing was that I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life without him.
In all this reflection I also realised that more important than reflection was self-reflection. That the only person I could change was myself. But before I could do this, I had to first understand myself, know where I was coming from, really get to know the root cause of my anger. That there was no point in putting the entire blame on him. That I was equally responsible for the disintegration. I realised that while I could easily see his faults, where he had caused breakdowns, I could hardly see my own role in the whole thing.
That was the beginning of a never-ending journey for me…
Along the way, I learnt that the most important ingredients in any relationship was communication, space and trust. While it was tempting to control and hold, what was needed was to let go, to let be; to say (more importantly hear) what one felt – honestly; it was very important to trust that he meant me no harm; that while he loved me, he also wanted to live life on his own terms, which often were different from mine; that his bid for ‘freedom’ did not reflect his belief of my ‘adequacy’ or a diminishing in his sense of commitment and responsibility.
I cannot say it was easy. It was an uphill task. Both of us struggled equally to put back the humpty-dumpty of our relationship together again. And we finally did make it.
Till date I live with these 3 principles. Trust. Space. Communication. While romance was the ingredient to spark the relationship, and love the fuel to drive the relationship, these 3 were the oil that kept it running smoothly, that prevented friction and kept it from heating up unduly. And it seems to work for every relationship in my life – whether with children, with friends, with other members of my family, with colleagues, with the world.