If you are lonely in each other’s presence, it’s probably best to separate!

Loneliness is a virtue if you are alone, a learning if you are in a crowd and a curse if you experience it in a relationship – particularly in a marriage!
Someone who read my recent blogpost on Bajirao Mastani (http://avisviswanathan.blogspot.in/2015/12/what-we-can-learn-from-kashibai-about.html) shared her perspective: “I don’t think Kashibai deserves to be deified for her choice of separating from Bajirao. Perhaps, she was uninteresting and very traditional, housewife-ish? Perhaps Bajirao found Mastani very refreshing, vibrant, oozing mohabbat from every pore…perhaps the trappings of being a Peshwa and being bound to tradition – wife, kingdom, mother, army – shackled Bajirao and he just wanted to break free? And Mastani’s offer to be his companion gave him that exit route?”
Hmmm….! In the absence of the real Bajirao, the real Kashibai and the real Mastani, you can’t entirely disagree with this reader’s point of view. Besides, if that is what drove Bajirao go with Mastani, nothing wrong with it at all. It is definitely a better choice than being lonely in a marriage – which, interestingly, leaves your spouse lonely too! In the movie The Lunchbox(Ritesh Batra, 2013), Lillete Dubey, who plays Illa’s (Nimrat Kaur) mother, poignantly alludes to how lonely – and dreary and traumatic – her Life has been until her husband’s passing away. In fact, she confesses, not in a grief-stricken state of stupor, but in a moment of absolute clarity, that all she really wants to do, to perhaps celebrate her new freedom, is to eat parathas! The reference to parathas is purely figurative. It could be anything that you love doing – anything except feeling lonely in a relationship, anything except suffering alone, anything except being shackled!

A marriage is nothing but an arrangement, equivalent of a business contract. If, for whatever reason, it doesn’t work out, the arrangement must be dissolved. There’s nothing to grieve about, feel sorry for or berate when a marriage fails. A marriage fails because the two people in it have stopped looking forward to each other. They can’t relate to each other anymore. They are lonely in each other’s presence. How much more banal and painful can it get? When you put up with loneliness of this kind in a relationship the entire responsibility of your suffering is yours. Remember: you have a choice. And that choice is to opt out.


I am not trying to suggest that all of us must break away from our marriages. All I am saying is that if you are unhappy, lonely and suffering in a marriage – or any relationship – exercise your choice to break free. The brutal truth is none of us has too much time left here. This Life has to be lived – each moment is to be celebrated and you must be happy every step of the way! When something or someone pins you down and makes you lonely, sad or unhappy, either get it or them out of the way or you get out of the way yourself! Simple!!


Of friends in the family

The key to happiness in a family is the friendship between the parents!
Last week we were invited to tea at a friend’s place. Our friend, his wife and their daughter sat with us.  As we sipped some exotic Kashmiri Kahva tea, the conversation meandered to the subject of marriage. We all shared our thoughts on how companionship is more important than just being held hostage in the social framework of a marriage – where two people are trapped, unhappy with each other, trying to please the whole world! It was an interesting discussion that examined how marriage, as a socially-acceptable label, was perhaps losing relevance as a long-term engagement proposition.
Our friend’s daughter talked about the live-in relationship she had when she lived in Europe some years ago. She told us that because her partner could not make the move to India they decided to pursue their careers independently even if it meant separating from each other. But she added that despite their living on different continents their friendship has thrived. She looked at her parents and thanked them for supporting her choices all through – to live in with Mark, to choose to return to Chennai without him, and to continue to be friends with him. Our friend said, “We feel like Mark is one of our own.” And his wife exclaimed, “We will always love Mark. He’s a great guy!”
I found the entire conversation mature, honest and beautiful. For a couple of reasons. One, marriage as an institution indeed requires deconstruction and reengineering. Clearly the happiness of the people involved must be focused on more than the relationship. And that can happen only when two people are relating, in a present continuous sense, with each other. Often times – look around you and you will find so many examples of this – people are just clinging on to the social definition of the relationship although it has long been dead in a truly, deeply, personal sense! The other reason this conversation interested me was that this family inspires us and show us why we must respect the choices and preferences of our children. It beats me why some parents still want to control their children and force them to make choices for their (parents’) sake!

A good marriage is one where there’s a great friendship between two people. And a good family is one where parents and children respect each other for who they are – this means individual choices, opinions and decisions are not just welcome, they are encouraged; and everyone is free to live their Life, their way, without the fear of being judged. Simply, the friendship between parents impacts the destiny of the family – often determining how their children find love, meaning and happiness in Life! 

Go through a separation with focus, compassion and a win-win attitude

When you can’t relate to someone, just move on. There’s no point in clinging on to the relationship when there’s no relating between you and the other person.
A friend has filed for divorce. She’s taken this decision after realizing that she can’t make the marriage work. She says she gave it time and a few chances. But she only found herself growing more distant and disengaged with her husband.
I feel she has done the right thing. Her’s is a classic situation where the relating is missing in the relationship. But everyone, from her family to her close friends, is blaming her for moving too fast to ‘end the relationship’. They want her to give it some more time. Now, this is where people wanting to separate must be clear – society, family, even courts cannot be, and must not be, allowed to decide for you. To be sure, a matter goes beyond a couple and requires reconciliation by a third party only because the two people in question have stopped relating to each other and therefore find it impossible to have a meaningful conversation. So, if someone has decided to move on, they must be allowed to.
It is far more important that you are happy and peaceful within yourself than trying to sustain a relationship, for society’s or family’s sake, that has been dead for a long, long time.
When people with children are separating, they must realize and respect the fact that each of them has a right over the child’s development and welfare. You cannot let your individual differences with your erstwhile spouse drive you to deny that person visiting or parenting rights. So, when children are involved, exercise maturity. Look at the whole situation very practically. Very matter of factly. Here’s a crisp set of thoughts that you must visit: You cannot live with your spouse any more. So separate. But give your child’s other parent as much right as you would seek over your child. Agree on a workable plan involving your child with your estranged spouse. Both of you go tell the court what the arrangement is and get your divorce decree. It is as simple as that.
I guess most couples complicate the process of separation and divorce because they are still hurting over what happened. Maybe they feel rejected. Maybe they feel cheated. Or simply let down. And they want to get even. They want to avenge. Or they want the money – part of the estate or alimony. There’s nothing wrong in feeling angry and sorry with the situation. But can anger or grief help you in any way? There’s no harm also in working on the financial framework for the separation. But why fight over arriving at such a framework. Why be emotional? If you have decided to move on, let the process be shorn of anger, grief, scorn and blame. In fact, take a few weeks off. Don’t do anything. Don’t mediate. Don’t counter argue. Don’t berate. Just let things be. After a few weeks if you still wish to proceed with the separation and/or divorce process, just do it clinically, unemotionally. Consider this: isn’t it better you end a relationship that has drained you than fight over it? Isn’t it better that you and the other person give each other space and dignity – after all you spent quality time knowing each other and living with each other?
Simply, to separate from someone you can’t relate too is the most sensible thing to do. Just don’t make the separation acrimonious and miserable for everyone – especially for the children. Do it with focus, with compassion and with a win-win attitude. The best gift you can give your child is a happy marriage with your spouse. Now, if you can’t give that gift, for whatever reason, make sure you don’t take away your child’s happiness!  

Parenting is a responsibility that must be ‘owned’ and ‘shared’ by both parents

Marriage and parenting are an immense responsibility that always go hand-in-hand. The best gift parents can give their children is a happy marriage between themselves. 
Pocket money cannot, movies cannot, the internet cannot and poor quality schooling cannot ‘corrupt’ any child’s values and behavior as much as poor quality and insufficient parenting can. Parenting is not about breathing down your child’s neck and dictating what’s right and what’s wrong. It is about having qualitative, continuous conversations on what your experiences have been. It is about letting the child discover her or his own way of living and reminding the child that you are there and will be there __ no matter what.
Often times, given the stressed lives that most parents lead, there’s no communication (or it is inadequate) between parents and child. ‘Did you eat?’, ‘Have you done your homework?’, ‘Why are you late?’, ‘Get off facebook, will you?’ are not the conversations that add up to quality communication between parent and child. ‘How are you feeling?’, ‘What about your homework is bugging?, ‘Why are you so uninterested in making your room or doing the dishes?, ‘What was your learning from the movie?’, ‘What’s do you feel about the girls or boys in your class?’, ‘Are you attracted to any of them?’ __ these are good questions that give you an opportunity as a parent to engage with your child’s development. To share. To allow her or him to seek clarifications, to venture an opinion.
Also, if you actually pause and reflect, there are no difficult or scandalous conversations ever with children. Kids see an ad for condom or a sanitary napkin on TV and obviously want to know what it is. Changing the channel immediately is only going to provoke their curiosity. And, in today’s Google era, they are going to find what it is all about__one way or the other. Whether you like it or not. You may instead want to stay with the channel and use it to ‘educate’ your child on sex, safe sex and personal hygiene__all of which are important biological aspects of evolution in any case.
Similarly, when a child performs poorly in a subject it does not mean she or he is a loser. It only means the child is not interested in that subject. And perhaps is interested in something else. So, when a teacher sends a report home saying the child is lagging in studies, the conversation with the child must involve these possible questions: ‘Doing what else would give you joy?’, ‘What about this subject is incomprehensible?’ ‘What about the teacher don’t you like?’ and such.
Money makes people responsible. Not irresponsible. We too have made wrong choices and decisions involving money and learnt from them. If you believe money can ‘corrupt’ your child, I am sorry, that’s a poor view you hold of your own creation. And let’s not try to pontificate if schools can be any better. Let’s review how can our houses can become homes.

Parenting is a twosome responsibility. In the event that you are having a bad marriage, be open about it. Don’t fight. Disagree. Share with your children the reasons for your disagreement and tell them individually how your relationship with them (the kids) does not change despite your relationship with each other changing. Parenting is a great opportunity to build the next generation of global citizens. That’s why it is a responsibility that must be ‘owned’ and ‘shared’ by both parents. Being a parent is being a good gardener or farmer. You always will reap what you sow.

Be in a relationship only if you can love, can relate and are happy

Don’t just cling on to a relationship for the sake of society – learn to focus on loving, relating and yourhappiness!
A friend of mine is going through a messy divorce. He developed an extra-marital relationship which, quite naturally, his wife objected to. My friend’s reasoning was that he had stopped enjoying being with his wife and found that he related better to his friend with whom he “wanted to spend the rest of his Life”. The three people in this story are in their mid-forties and are neither immature nor irresponsible. My friend’s friend, his lover, is divorced, and has a child; but she says she feels “secure and wanted” in my friend’s company. She’s not insisting that he marry her. All she wants is his companionship for the rest of her Life. My friend too sees her the same way. But my friend’s wife sees their relationship as scandalous and as a conspiracy to “rob her of all her wealth”. So, the divorce has gotten messy – my friend says he’s ready to accept a divorce immediately and is also willing to settle the financial aspects amicably but he simply refuses to allow “an extortion” by his wife. Therefore the matter drags on, for all three parties!
If you distill the issue, it all began with an extra-marital relationship. And I guess if you look around, there are so many of them, extra-marital relationships, going around us all the time. Except most don’t turn up in the open. Even so, why is the polygamous tendency of humans subject to so much scrutiny and scandal? Why is it necessary, from a social point of view, that people suffer in bad marriages than be happy in newer, and even multiple, relationships? If you consider history, man has been polygamous. It is society that has imposed monogamy as a preferred code of conduct. Just as you can’t wear round-neck tees, shorts and sneakers in certain old-world clubs, founded by the British, in India, if you have to live in most societies in the world, you have to be monogamous. But that really is suppressing people’s freedom of expression, is holding them hostage to dead relationships and is, quite simply, killing love and happiness.
What happens when two people come together is that they fundamentally enjoy each other’s company. It is their friendship that drives their being together. They may be different, as in most cases, but they can relate to each other. When that relating stops, one of them, or at times both of them, drift apart. When the drifting happens, they are not just seeking sexual satisfaction in a new partner, from a new companion, but they are looking to be happy with that other person. When they enjoy that other person’s company, they “engage” with that person. It is as simple as that. Now, while in some cases, people continue to relate to each other and enjoy each other’s companionship, in most cases, people stop relating to each other because both of them have changed. Or, at least, one of them thinks and believes the other has changed over time. Which is what is causing the lack of relating between them. Osho, the Master, says that marriage has ruined society. He champions a new world where there is no marriage – but where there are only lovers! This may seem like a radical idea, the way society is today – but isn’t it better having a world full of lovers than a world that’s infested with co-sufferers and broken homes arising from broken, or even dead, marriages?

The bottom-line in Life is to be happy. No matter who is causing you to be unhappy, you must simply move away from them. Suffering someone just to keep your image in an indifferent and couldn’t-care-less society is a grave injustice you will do to yourself. When you move away, or move on – if you will, have the courage to be open about your choice, have the integrity to go through a formal (if necessary, legal) and fair (especially if there are children involved) process of separation and be truthful to all concerned. By following through on your happiness, you may encounter strife in the short term, but in the long run everyone involved will be at peace. At the end of the day, isn’t that what really matters?

True Love is Total Freedom

True love is when two people who are experiencing each other are totally free together!

It seems so weird. People fall in love so easily, get married quickly and yet they struggle as they fall “out of” love and suffer as they go through the pain and agony of a divorce. The principal cause of all this is the flawed notion that love and marriage, or a relationship, are synonymous. A marriage is nothing but a contract. It is the personal version of a business arrangement or relationship. There is often a stated or unstated memorandum of understanding between the two people in the relationship – that subject to certain conditions being fulfilled, or met, one shall love the other. So, in some situations, as is naturally bound to happen, some of those conditions will not be met. In one case, a couple I know broke up because he has been unable to earn an income. Or in another, the spouse felt that there was no physical fulfilment in the marriage. In yet another case, one of the partners complained of betrayal owing to the other’s affair with someone else. If each of these cases is examined, a common factor is that certain agreed upon, or even unstated, parameters have not been met.
But true love is when there are no conditions. When there is complete freedom and harmony between two people.

The very nature of a relationship is that it is restrictive. It ends all freedom. Which is why many men and women like to talk of their marriages as having ended their freedom! Most of such comments are made in jest – yet they reflect sentiments that are representative of the loss of individual freedom of expression. So, just because two people are married or in a relationship it does not have to be that they love each other. They may just be together but may never be there for each other!

A mature experience of two people is when love continues to be the bonding glue between them irrespective of the circumstances in which they find each other. Such love thrives on freedom – of thought and expression. Classification of their mutual experience, per social definitions, is just incidental. If they are married, it is just a data point. If they are living-in together, it is again a data point. If they are living away from each other, geographically separated by distance, that too is a data point. What is important is they are able to relate to each other no matter what name people may give their relationship.

Examine the choice you have made with regard to companionship in your Life. Are you free in the relationship? Do you allow your partner total freedom? If you do, and if you recognize that there are no conditions being imposed by either of you, then, and only then, are you blessed with true love. In the absence of freedom, any relationship is but another contract. Which, as is always true in business, will suffer the moment there is any deviation from a defined or presumed clause.