I wonder if, at some point in the relationship, a woman feels more like a single mother than a girlfriend/wife. I know I certainly do. And I have one of the good ones. He’s not abusive, he doesn’t cheat, he’s not a male chauvinist. And yet, here I am.
I’ve refrained from talking about my relationship, except in very general terms on this blog. It is after all, a source (and showcase) of my work. It doesn’t feel very professional to do that. But then, my profession as a blogger/writer, is to talk about my personal life and what I draw from the events in it.
Here’s me saying, I’m exhausted. I wasn’t prepared for this. I went through my childhood being groomed to be a good wife and even an adarsh daughter-in-law some day. Along the way, education & exposure added their double-edged knives of modern thought and also high expectations of the opposite sex. I signed up to be a modern girlfriend, an equal partner. Nothing was said about the duties of a babysitter/complaint register/personal secretary/housekeeper/nurse.
There is the kind of pressure that’s obvious, that rams at you like a megaton truck, flattening you in its sheer force. That’s what we ‘modern’ types speak out against, the social stigma attached to a woman’s deviation from the norm, the enforced stereotypes and the over harsh punishment to those who stand out.
Then there’s the kind of pressure that the West has labelled passive-aggressiveness. There are only two people in a relationship. If one shies away from issues, it automatically falls to the other person to handle them. If one partner refuses to acknowledge that there is an issue, it still means that the other person has to deal with it, on top of carrying the elephant in the room.
There is more to life and indeed, a relationship, than having a good time. And when it comes to those routine, mundane realities, a relationship is supposed to feel like a team. Chores are nobody’s idea of fun. But lapses in performing them signify a bigger problem than is obvious. There’s the chore itself that has to be performed by the other person, in addition to their own. There’s constantly having to look over one’s shoulder, the niggling back-of-mind concern over whether it gets done. And more often than not, when things are not done when they’re supposed to, they get harder. How is all of this not a problem??
If I have to hear, “I’ve had a hard day at work!” one more time, I swear I’m going to scream. Because my day begins the minute I wake up and doesn’t end till I’m ready to drop dead. Most days, even with that, there are things left undone. I don’t get weekends off from managing the house, monitoring the service staff. There are no sick days off from being the subject of everyone’s scrutiny on my dressing, my life choices, my career, my looks and anything else possible. My family and friends don’t recognize ‘I am tired’ as a valid excuse for not being a daughter & friend. Hell, I can barely get away with that even when I’m flowing blood & the hormones are having a party in my head. I’m a woman and that’s my job. It comes with no perks, no respite, no bonuses and no accolades from anybody at all.
The temptation to chuck career, dreams and everything else that it’s possible to, simply to let up the pressure, is overwhelming. But that’s a lose-lose situation. Quit all these things and I lose the right to a strong opinion, the voice of a ‘Modern Woman’.
There are days when I feel like the only way I can stay sane is to assume that I’m with someone who is less than me. That’s the only way I can justify having to take more responsibility, worry more and do more and still care about someone who is neither touched by the same sense of responsibility nor emphatic to my stress. It’s easiest to believe that I’m dealing with a child.
Imagine that. I’m a single mom without ever having been pregnant.
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One of my golden relationship dictats is to never mix one’s professional and personal lives. I’m going to add one to that –
‘Don’t confuse your partner’s friends for your own.’
This is not a cynical, angry statement (along the lines of “You don’t make friends in b-school, only future colleagues & competitors”). Indeed, I’ve written about the joys of getting along with the partner’s friend. I’ve also detailed the curious picture of a ‘best friend couple’. I stand by those two, based as they are, on real people and situations in my life.
However, I am coming to believe that in order to keep things clean and simpler for everyone in the long run, perhaps some lines (albeit artificial) need to be drawn. I’ve experienced, firsthand, the heartache of a relationship with a friend and one of the most devastating things about it, was the quandary into which it plunged our common friends. Custody battles for friendship are no less ugly than those for children & possessions of an estranged couple.
What happens when you don’t have common friends? There is a normal process of getting to know each other’s circles and finding a place within them. Here’s where my newfound pearl of wisdom comes in. Friction is an integral part of any relationship and the possibility of parting ways is never exactly zero. In addition, the complex process of building a life with another person, doesn’t come naturally to most people, especially those of us in the uber-individual, nuclear-family society of today. At such a time, the urban family of friends and trusted confidantes serve to provide perspective and even wisdom in handling each situation.
All of this just gets complicated beyond control, if the same people (or person) must be called upon to provide perspective to both parties in a relationship. I think, at some level, anyone in this situation would feel that they need to take one side over the other and the choice is almost always (and should) the person they’ve known longer.
What happens when you’ve become friends with your partner’s friends (or think you have) and then discover that they choose your partner over you? Any fair-minded person would agree that this is natural and above reproach. On the other hand, when you trust someone and they take the other person’s side, it feels like they’ve chosen to stand against you; like they reject you. Another mess that only accentuates any natural conflict you may have with your partner.
Let me turn that around. I am always happy when a close friend of mine gets along well with my partner. However, I must admit, I also need to know that when it comes down to it, they have my back. This is irrespective of what situation I face, and tomorrow (or whenever) that situation may be against my partner. I do need to know that my friends are on my side, firmly and without doubt.
I am going to conclude that this is one of the many aspects of the space that is crucial to any relationship. There are things that it is necessary to retain at an individual level, to not share, for the very good of the relationship. Perhaps close friendship is one of them.