Ego issues? Smooth them out! Fights over shopping? So what’s new! Worried about the big bad word - commitment? There are two ways: to break up or to make up! Anusha Surendran talks to five women across generations to understand the changing facets of relationships over the years
Back in the 1950s when relationships translated to marriage, seldom did the groom and the bride get to meet each other, yet most of these relationships survived the full distance. Cut to 2013, when make-ups and break-ups happen on Facebook; when to get to know someone dating is the norm and when introducing your boyfriend to your parents does not raise eyebrows. What has changed over the years... have we as a population become more open to romantic relationships or do we scoff at it? Do we find the same charm in old world romance or have we become too cynical to pause and smell the roses?
“The one thing that makes us stick it out is the resilience and the respect we accord to marriage”
Sinduja, 54 (married to Ramamoorthy, 56)
We have been married for nearly 25 years now. There have been instances where our life was at its romantic best; and then there have been times when we thought of taking the easy way out of the relationship. But I guess the one thing that makes us stick it out is the resilience and the respect we accord to marriage. Whatever happens we know for a fact that walking out is not on the cards. Maybe the kids these days would call us old fashioned. But after going through so much together as a couple – getting a daughter married, going through financial constraints and living through a family feud – I don’t think we can do anything but stay together. However, when we got our daughter married through an arranged match, I could almost telepathically read her thoughts. She was worried about financial security, about common interests and so much more: things that we did not even think about when we got married!
Maybe Ramu and I were lucky enough to be able to sustain the speed breakers. We sit and talk out all our differences. When I wanted to work after my daughter started school, Ramu was initially against it. But we were able to iron out our differences after an honest chat. I think that is missing in relationships these days. The communication is either too stark or totally absent. And there are egos playing the blame game. I am not generalising but many youngsters opt for the easy way out many times in the face of minor troubles. The ability to live through it together is fragile these days.
“What is wrong in getting your professional life sorted out before entering into a commitment?”
Shwetha, 34 (dating Arun, 38)
I think it is narrow-minded to say that the relationships youngsters indulge in these days are shallow. While there are those who get into relationships just for the sake of it there are many others, like us, who got into it almost seamlessly. Arun and I were best friends and at a point, without even realising, we started dating! There are no two ways about the fact that we are committed to each other. But what is wrong in getting your professional life sorted out before entering into a commitment?
As far as compromises go, we both have had our worst fights. I have even neglected speaking to him for weeks because he did not like my line of work (I am in marketing). The usual you-are-a-woman-you-need-to-put-family-before-your-career was going beyond the line. I just would not budge on that issue. Luckily, we were able to talk out our differences. And I have made compromises on my work travel itinerary too. But I don’t think there is anything wrong in dating to test the waters. How else would you come to know about the other person? It is the most practical and safe way while making decisions about your future. But many times, we just let things pass without talking about it. That part irritates me but both of us are procrastinators. And when it all piles up and we are arguing at the top of our voices, sometimes we even forget what we were arguing about! At the end of the day, however, trust is the most important thing. We both have been together for nearly 10 years now and many, including our parents, want us to tie the knot. It is not that we are stalling. It is just that we both want to be professionally and emotionally sure before taking that big step!
“There are good and bad sides to a long distance relationship”
Samaira, 26 (in a LDR with Rihan, 27)
I have been in a long distance relationship for a while now and I think there are good and bad sides to it. The good thing is that when we meet after a long time, the spark is still there, the undercurrent of excitement that surfaces while meeting each other after a long time. The negative part is when you want to be with the person during turbulent times it becomes difficult and you miss them. I understand that distance can test the stability of a relationship and when we fight the tendency to just put the phone down is high. But honest conversations always help. One of us tries to be calm and sort it out. Gifts are always welcome too! It is the gesture that matters not the amount spent on the gift. And he hates it when I speak to my exes (which I think is just due to insecurity). So even if I am harmlessly chitchatting with my ex boyfriend, I just omit to mention it to him. Why rock the boat of romance for no reason at all?
Neither of us believes in arranged marriages unless the couple gets a chance to spend quality time with one another and understand the pros and cons of each other’s personalities. Usually marriages are not just about the couple but about the families too. Then there is the quintessential societal pressure to have kids soon. All these factors, however, take a backseat if you are not compatible with the person. If you sense a lack of compatibility it is best to say no before it is too late and you become resigned to a life sentence of bickering, ego hassles and one-upmanship. My parents are very understanding and they believe that when and if I choose a life partner it will be after I know the guy completely. So it is not that we are commitment-phobic or anti-marriage; it is just that with marriage you need to be fully ready to handle the spouse and the family.
“Without living in with him, how will I know how he reacts to commonplace situations in daily life?”
(Sheniah, 22 contemplating a live-in relationship with boyfriend Rahul, 24)
I am the more compromising one in our relationship. Even while selecting something extremely basic as a movie to watch it is always his pick we end up going to. I am okay with being the one who bends over backwards every time as I know for a fact that there is no point in a fight with our egos being tossed around like ping pong balls. We have been in this relationship for a little over two years now and we are fully committed to each other. My boyfriend is extremely protective of me and sometimes that can be construed as stifling. But I strongly believe that having honest conversations and not losing calm during a fight will help us tide over the issue. I would also love to be in a live-in relationship with him even though it is frowned upon. How else will I know how he reacts to commonplace situations in daily life? And when marriage comes into the picture it is no longer about you and him but also about the entire family. There is absolutely no point in getting married unless we are ready, both financially and emotionally.
In the earlier eras women were okay with getting married at a young age. There was no pressure to have kids immediately, no pressure to abate familial doubts about women working and staying out late. Now that is not the case. While neither of us will compromise on the relationship we both would want to concentrate on our careers too. The costs of living are high and financial independence is a given for women these days. Ego clashes and fights are inevitable in any relationship. But one of us is always calm and understanding.
“Dating can automatically translate into a commitment or we can go separate ways”
(Priyanka, 22 dating Aniket, 22)
The more mature of the two is always the person who compromises more in any relationship and in our case it is surely Aniket (laughs). When we both met we did not think we would hit it off. But when he asked me out on a date, I just was not open to the idea of friends becoming something more. I did not want to miss out on the awesome friendship I shared with him if things did not go our way. But we both decided that there was no point wondering about something without giving it an honest shot. I think this flexibility about relationships is the difference between us and the previous generations. We are open to dating as we firmly believe that it is the only way to get to know the other person. This can automatically translate into a commitment or we can go separate ways.
Moreover, both of us will not compromise on our careers. We are just starting off in our respective professional fields and the angles of commitment should be laid bare right from the beginning. Small things like spending time with each other, prioritising ‘our time’ et al are all taken for granted. But it should end with that. No one has a greater role to play when it comes to a relationship and it is essential to not play the blame game. But sometimes, even all this work goes awry! So it is ok to test the waters before taking a deep plunge.
(All names in the article have been changed to protect identity of interviewees)