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The Myth Of Monogamy & The Promise Of Polyamory

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The Single Married Man says:

Yes, I am back.

So what do we talk about today?

How about the reasons why men cheat? But I am sure there are tonnes of articles and justifications that you can find on the internet (Google informs me there are 4.7 million results when you type that phrase in)

So I thought I’d merely point you to a couple of very interesting articles someone shared online.

One was this review of Stephanie Coontz’s book “Marriage a History” which says:

“Marriage was a way of turning strangers into relatives, of making peace, of making permanent trading connections,” Coontz says. “There are many different languages that call wives the Anglo-Saxon equivalent of the word ‘peace-weaver’.”

The other was a blog post written by Dave Pollard who writes:

Anthropologists have concluded that such settling is unnatural, and that is why the chemistry of love binds us to a single partner only for a brief period sufficient to produce offspring and ensure they are sufficiently provided for until they are weaned.

Personally speaking, I am attracted to people all the time, and I don’t mean it in a sexual way all the time. Today’s generation calls it by new names like “Friends with Benefits” and the needless need to label relationships.

Happiness comes not by defining and putting boundaries around a certain thing, but by expanding it.

In my decade of being married I can count the moments of true happiness and the hours of feeling burdened with expectations and pain and hurt.

Yes marriage is hard work. And while people crib openly about going to work on Mondays and celebrate by saying “Thank God it’s Friday” – no one (at least publicly) says they are sick of marriage.

Commitment. That’s a big word. A word that gets interpreted by different people even if its the same context. Add infidelity to that list.

Women say commitment has to be not just physical but emotional as well. However, every married man doesn’t share everything with his wife. How about bitching about his wife’s habits to the boys? Is that a break of commitment? How about sharing that with female colleagues? Suddenly the lines blur, depending on who the audience is.

“But its the intent” Do I hear you say?

Unfortunately, intent is never visible – no matter how much intuition you go by. What matters is behavior. In offices men and women often end up having “office spouses” – a usually platonic relationship. Would their “real spouses” call that “emotional infidelity”

In the overall analysis, every man and woman has different emotional, intellectual, sexual needs. So why not have different “loves” for each need. And such needs change with time too. People grow apart.

Our parents’ generation did not marry for love – hence they stayed together. If we marry for love at least we should be committed to love itself.

Braveheart

The Beatles sang,

“All you need is love”

and they may well have been right.

In our increasingly urban world of nuclear families and zero work-life balance, the emotional support system of a loving, caring partner becomes even more important. Ironically, it seems like the demand for such a person is going up just as the supply is diminishing. It’s not that our capacity for love and caring has diminished.

But it seems like trust is so much harder in our times. Break-ups and emotional upheavals are as commonplace as economic fluctuations. Leading a person on with no regard for commitment, is a socially approved activity with the disclaimer of ‘String along or be strung along’. An abusive or cheating partner is entirely your problem. While the world clicks its collective tongue at such occurrences, that’s about as much sympathy as you’ll get, and even then, grudgingly.

And after you weather the misadventures of these cruel times, what’s left of your heart to share with another person? Multiply that by two and it makes the fate of love seem very dark, indeed. Love maybe a universal need but relationships are certainly not for the faint of heart.

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A version of this appears on Yahoo! Real Beauty.

Should The Girl Ask The Guy Out?

It’s a question I posed to a mixed group of friends. The women were all united in their belief that it didn’t make sense to do so. Most men (and this is an opinion I share) aren’t used to the concept of someone else taking the romantic initiative. And even if there is the possibility of a relationship, their absolute bewilderment over the way the situation happens could very well ruin it. The male ego just doesn’t permit such a relationship, even if there is interest.

The only trouble is when a woman likes a guy, it’s a real pain in the ass to sit around waiting for him to ask her out. Ask any woman about the frustration of watching a guy eye you all evening, start to walk towards you and then stop and turn back. It’s an ARRRRGGGGGHH situation.

The men on the other hand were largely open to the idea. I was quite surprised to hear the things that some of them said,

“It would be really nice to have the girl take the initiative for a change.”

“Guys like compliments and receiving attention too.”

“I’m hopeless at setting up the whole romantic scenario. It would be so great if she’d take charge of that.”

And finally the clinching deal for their side was a male friend who had just announced that he was getting engaged.

“My fiancé proposed to me.”

Now honestly, I think it’s wise to try something out before passing a judgement on it. So yes, I have asked a guy out as well. Not once, several times. It was an enlightening experience.

For starters, it’s horribly nerve-tangling. The worrying about how to ask, where to go, what to do and what the other person will think of you. I felt a rush of sympathy for all the men who had summoned up the nerve to ever express an interest in me. It does take a lot of courage and planning.

The one thing that surprised me was how the entire effort consumed me. Like I told a friend,

“The thrill of the chase is something I could get used to. The not-knowing, even the slight panic…there’s a heady high attached to it.”

I must also add that being in the driving seat, so to speak, being the one bringing together the whole production somehow automatically switched me into a place of only thinking about the absolutely necessary. A friend of mine was goading me into taking things to a more serious level. I thought about it and I surprised myself by saying,

“When you ask someone for a commitment, you are also saying that you’re ready to commit yourself. I’m not sure yet if that’s the case. I just want to see where this goes for now.”

As I said it, I knew I sounded exactly like a guy. And yet, I wasn’t being commitment-phobic, I wasn’t planning on two-timing and I wasn’t ‘in it for the ride’. I really, honestly didn’t know where things were going and having taken up the responsibility to take it somewhere, I just wanted to take it slowly.

The one thing that stands out is that the person who takes the initiative is definitely setting himself (or herself) up for the possibility of rejection…but even more subtly he or she is saying yes to being in a place of uncertainty for at least some time.

Since I started telling a story, I should tell you the end. The man in question is involved with someone else, a fact that I discovered several weeks later and then too only on pushing him. That can happen. He says he wasn’t sure if it was dates or just friendly meetings. What the truth is, is anyone’s guess. Should one take the risk of being stood up or humiliated? There’s no answer to that, except that guys do it all the time (take the risk I mean, not just what this guy did).

As I see it, being the woman taking charge means one is playing an unusual role and there’s ample scope to be misunderstood. If the guy is a jerk, he could easily use the situation for maximum benefit and get a lot out of the girl without giving her anything back. But then again, falling in love is always a risk, every time, in every single situation. Besides the reverse is probably equally true, especially in today’s day and age. A woman can just as easily free-ride on a guy’s attentions and then walk away without a second thought.

So at the end I’m inclined to say that if you have the nerve for it, don’t let social norms stop you. If you’re a guy who agrees with what my male friends said, try not to be an ass or a jerk about it. In the long run, it’ll encourage more women to take the initiative and things will only get easier and pleasanter for you. If like me, you’re a woman who can’t stand to sit around looking pretty and waiting to be asked out, go right into the chase. Just keep your band-aids and chocolates and close friends about. Just in case.

The Advocate For Cheating & Other Married Men

In my 10-year-dating life, I’ve seen a number of different kinds of relationships and dates, which have given rise to the Character Sketches. Now I come up against yet another one – The Married Man.

First and foremost, I’d like to say that I have a lot of respect for the institution of marriage, and indeed, no less for arranged marriages. My parents had an arranged marriage and they celebrated their 31st wedding anniversary this year. If you ask then, why I’m not married, well it is simply because I haven’t found anyone I can have that kind of a relationship with, yet.

It is a fact that the social environment is very different today than the one that my parents met and and started their relationship in. Neither mum nor dad really have independent friend circles, let alone know too many single people of their generation. I belong to several social circuits that include couples, some where I’m friends with the guy, some with the girl.

Friendships themselves have changed. While my parents would never even consider introducing a flirtatious note into their discussions with their social groups, my generation itself seems to be a flirty one. Sex, attraction, relationship are all a little too ‘out there’ if you ask me. Romance, privacy and intimacy have been sacrificed to free expression, enhanced comfort zones and devil-may-carishness. Okay, I’m getting preachy. I enjoy being a part of this world, it works for me. But I think in an attempt to get it all out there, we’ve meandered so far into the grey that we may have lost sight of black and white.

Now here’s the thing. Being as I am, a single woman who’s also friendly and approachable, I find my social circuit quite expansive and complex. The Married Man is only one of those many dark alleys in this complex terrain. How do I treat him? If he has been a friend before he acquired the tag, then the situation is relatively simpler. I take heed of how his wife feels about his women friends and our friendship accordingly moves along or away. That’s how much I respect marriage…enough to think that a spouse does have the right to deliberately or inadvertently alter the nature of one’s other relationships.

How about if the Married Man is someone I’ve met later? Do I treat him like I treat all the other guys? The flirtatious tone does need to be dropped, not everyone gets that it’s part of my personality and has little to do with the person I speak to. But what about when the guy is flirting with me? And before you jump to the defense of poor mankind and how they’re all just misunderstood souls and not every man is like that, let me just say I’ve been propositioned, flirted with and pursued by a sizeable number of married men too.

It’s not the fact that they’re married and flirting with me that shocks me so much. It is the cool rationale that they feed into it. There’s the occasional ‘my wife and I don’t seem to be in love really’ bugger who hasn’t figured out that I never fall for the crybaby sop types. Then there’s the blatant ‘So?’ which at least I can counter with an equally blatant ‘So I’m not interested.’ with zero fear of hurting the guy’s seemingly non-existant sensitivity. And then there is the last one, the Advocate. I call him thus not on account of his profession (he could be a doctor or a mechanic for as much as it matters). He’s the best advocate ever, for cheating and he has his facts and evidence on hand. The jury may very well be his..it’s tempting to say the least.

This guy may be a Male Slut, he may be a charmer or he may not. The point is he has an almost breakproof logic about why it is perfectly legitimate, reasonable and valid to commit what I cannot think of as anything but adultery. There is the elaborately constructed dialogue over today’s moving social order liberally spiced with statistics about divorce rates, paternity suits and pre-nuptial agreements. There are references to Freud, Darwin and Einstein in a discussion about people’s relationships. There is the sweeping confidence that makes you alternately wonder whether you’re being old-fashioned and how he can be so cold and hot at the same time.

I’ve been flattered, appalled and insulted by offers of this type. And finally I come out of the fire of sin and temptation, I believe, unsullied. The last time I was made to endure one of these conversations, I finally said,

I don’t want to hear about whether the institution of marriage is valid anymore or not. It has sanctity for me because I say it does.

The thing that really bothers me is the fact that I seem to be carrying the onus of fulfilment of committment, of the guy to his wife. There is of course no denying that if I say no, he’ll just take his interest elsewhere. And what’s more, if I were to say yes, it would just fall on my lot to be branded that horrible name – the other woman, the one that messes with married men. And finally, it is the knowledge that it isn’t so much fear of social stigma that makes me say no, I say no because it doesn’t feel right.

It’s not my fault he got hitched too early or to the wrong person or for the wrong reasons. It’s not my problem that he has made a commitment that he doesn’t want to honor. And it’s never going to be ‘just sex’ for me. Or even if it is, ‘just sex’ doesn’t happen with someone who has made a public vow to not have sex with anyone other than the person he married.

Now let’s pull back a few steps. The above is when it reaches that critical point of deciding which way a friendship is going to go – platonic or otherwise. But how about that vast, grey area before that? Is it okay to watch a movie with a guy friend who just happens to be married? Is it okay to meet him for dinner? Coffee at midnight? Don’t these smack of dating?

The old ‘it is the intention that matters’ doesn’t hold. That’s not what real life is about. Real life is about human beings who experience attraction and relationship in fluctuating, varying tones every minute. And in a gray world, sometimes you have nothing but your own stubbornness to carry you through the tide (even if you’re all by yourself at the end of it).

I don’t have any answers and truth be told, I’m not looking for any. But I am certainly wondering if any of you has experienced what I’m talking about, from within the marriage or from the outside, like I have. And what do you have to say about it?

ssp of August 1, 2009

Why Committment Starts To Look Attractive

Ever since I’ve put up this slightly controversial (and I’ll admit biased and brash) post…actually even before that, I’ve been hit with the question of why I do want committment at all then if it’s such a terrible thing. My reasons may not be all deeply soulful or romantic or even honorable. As I see it, committment (read marriage) is a solution to a number of niggling, nuisance-ey problems.

Sure I enjoy the liberatedness of being liberated, the freedom to decide my own social life, the no-responsibilities carefree lifestyle that my committed friends seem to envy me for. I have written about the virtues of being single.

But there are plenty of things that I don’t like about being single. Being single means a whole lot of things to a whole lot of people (many of whom in my esteemed two-bit opinion shouldn’t poke their nose into my life at all). Here are some reasons I would like to be in a committed relationship.

  • Wives of guy friends do not view you with immediate suspicion assuming that you’re just scheming to steal their man away, never mind that fact that you’ve probably had a chance to do that if you wished much before they even set foot in the man’s life.
  • You are not required to be a last-minute escort (if you’re female) or chauffeur (if you’re male) for out-of-town single friends of friends/family.
  • You don’t get mysteriously dropped out of movie/dinner plans with friends who are all now part of twosomes each.
  • Other women (even your friends) don’t make direct or indirect references to your supposedly exciting, fast-moving sex/dating life.
  • Eyebrows don’t shoot up when you pick up a baby or coo to a child. Who says single women can’t be maternal?
  • You are not automatically put into one of two buckets – repulsive/sick/defective or flightly/fast/sluttish .
  • You aren’t the target of unwanted and embarassing attention from married men of the neighbors/schoolmates/husbands of colleagues/ex-boyfriends variety.
  • You are allowed to have problems too and no one shuts you up with “What do you know? You don’t have to run a household/adjust to a man/kids to look after.”
  • You don’t have to leave parties and social engagements early so as to avoid imposing on friends to drop you home.
  • Your family is willing to let you live your own life.
  • Your personal life and social calendar doesn’t become everyone’s personal property for value judgement – relatives, colleagues, acquaintances, neighbors, co-passangers.

Obviously these are not ALL the reasons to get into a relationship. If anything these are the ‘fringe benefits’ of a relationship that have started to become so important that I’m inclined to think a good number of women would want to commit just so they can enjoy all of these. I’m really tired of having to fight a battle each time I want to do something, simply because I’m single. The same thing seems to move so much faster for women who have an ‘attached’ tag on. Granted social engagements and lifestyle options aren’t the most important things in the world. But that’s precisely why it seems like such a waste to have to go to so much effort for something so minor – or go without.

A relationship has its uses and I’m unabashed in saying that I intend to enjoy all of them fully when I get into one.

Settle For To Settle Down

I’m reading a book called Rubbish Boyfriends. But hang on, that’s not all that’s responsible for this mood o’ mine. I’ve been talking (and talking and talking) to the following women:

A has been steadily (as opposed to happily) married to a ‘Who says we get it right the first time?’ pedigree-carrier.

B is married to the man described by Barmaid as the ‘Good On Paper Indian Guy’ a.k.a. GOPIG (also M.C.Pig). She’s also momma to a 3-year-old and a useless daughter-in-law in the eyes of the matriarch who stays with them.

C has been hitched for four years and has to show for it the following:
– 3-year-old adorable coochie-boo
– 4 home addresses
– Career chart resembling a diagram of the universe (spotty) rather than a straight graph.

A says she stops short of being murderous at the sight of her husband, especially on certain days of the month. So she’s gotten herself a dog. Dog answers to ‘Gabbar’ (despite fancy names conceived by A, on account of pesky husband getting there first) but Gabbar loves her every day of the month, PMS regardless. Arre O Sambha, ek hi aadmi tha par chodo…they’re all the same!

B, juggling phone on neck-shoulder, scrambling about for change and yelling at the taxiwalla, bemoans being called a bad mother for working till 2 am. Then she adds that papa dearest sleeps in late right through baby’s sports day preparations. Her tired tirade ends with,

So long as he isn’t alcoholic, abusive or cheating on you, assume he’s Mr.Perfect. That’s as good as it is ever going to get.

I want to wail about committment-phobias, male insensitivity and thoughtlessness. I want to talk about my non-conversations about my non-relationship with my non-boyfriend. But I can see she’s not quite in the state for it so I take my woes elsewhere.

C, straight-faced as always listens to me and offers this sage advice,

Remember I used to say I’d never leave Mumbai. Do you know all the places I’ve lived in in the past four years? Do you know where I’m going to be six months from now? I don’t, either.

That makes me pause and think. So I watch SATC, drink a bottle of wine, laugh with a friend, read Chick Lit, go shopping and write XX Factor instead. Settle for if you want to settle down seems to be the order of the day. While there’s love (for the uncynical ones), sex, children and stability, no one told them about shrinking expectations (and fading dreams), comfort meshed into indifference, dreams replaced by ‘the best way to end the argument once and for all’. They change, they modify, they sigh a bit, wash their faces and carry on. All of them seem to be echoing that men will be men, at the end of it and there’s just this much you can make them care about things outside themselves.

Resignation appears to be every committed woman’s uniform emotion. And inter-twined with the single girl’s need to find someone special is a sense of relief at not having done so yet.

A Woman’s Best Friend

The Date Doctor says,

A woman’s best friend has to sign off on all big relationship desicions.

– “Hitch”

Now is that true? Let us think.

Meet a nice guy. Tell P about it. And bitch about the asshole who never called her back.

He asked for our number. We think about it and give it to him. And update P on the situation. And issue strict instructions to not call a-hole back.

He’s calling!! Talktalktalktalktalktalk. Guess who’s the first to hear about it? But of course, whose jacket are we going to wear after all? Oh but forget it, we’d rather eat chocolate ice-cream and watch soppy movies with P on the weekend. Not to mention bitch about all men in general.

Uh, he asked us out and we accepted. But P knew that already. There’s a reason she’s our best friend. Just the same as we know that she’s having dinner with Mr.Last Week-but-didn’t-call this week. Wait till late tonight. We’ll both spill.

Should I ask him out? – Haven’t you already…see, I knew it!

Comittment? – Naah..too early. Besides, are you really sure you want to see him for the rest of your life?

Should I say yes? Should I say no? No. Yes. Yes. No.

Is he the one? Is he THE one? Is HE the one? IS HE THE ONE?

P is our safety valve. We are hers.

When we got into an abusive relationship, P is the one that took us by the scruff of our neck and dragged us out, kicking and screaming. We will forever love her for that. Just like we always hate it when she brings that up each time we discuss a new man. But at least it has kept us from ever falling into hell again. We keep hearing her voice in our head when we meet someone potentially ‘bad news’. Its louder than our own voice of reason that seems to get quashed under hormones and wistful dreaminess.

We once threatened to break the bones of the stud-muffin she was dating if he ever, ever, EVER hurt her. Uh…he was a six-footer with muscles to match, by the way. Oh well, we have also warded off several unwanted admirers, had several tussels with one persistantly obsessive one and been her security guard at some social occasions.

So do we sign off on each other’s relationship desicions? Umm…not exactly. We don’t need her permission to date anyone just as she doesn’t need ours. But we always feel a little better if she has a good feeling about the person we’re with. It sort of makes us feel…well, not as vulnerable and at the mercy of our unpredictable emotions and men’s wiles (yes they have them too!)

Who said women weren’t rational? Everyone gets a little wonky in the head when they meet someone they really like. Hormones, fairytales and romantic movies, the feel-good factor….hell, love is a commodity sold at every second shop! Who are we to be able to resist the power of THAT? We is quite capable of making bad desicions (and we’ve proved that over and over again). But we have a safety valve that keeps her head in our crises, blows the whistle loud in our ears, screams us awake when we’re walking into things semi-hypnotised and finally, if despite all that we fall……she picks up the pieces and nurses them back to life. We would do exactly the same.

She’s our best friend. Wouldn’t her opinion count?

A woman’s best friend more often than not, plays devil’s advocate (oh yes, if she’s a true best friend she does!). Looks like the monster mom-in-law has been replaced by the Formidable Best Friend (FBF). Well, we take our best friend very seriously. She’s our bodyguard (heart-guard as well), the voice of our conscience, our sounding board, our therapist and finally…our advocate.

As we likes to say…

Lovers may come and lovers may pass. But a friend is for life.

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