Don’t be in a relationship if you don’t relate anymore

If you have stopped relating to someone, step out of that relationship!
This is so important in a marriage when both husband and wife have stopped relating to each other – they must stop focussing on what each of them wants and instead look at what the kids need.
A couple we know have reached that point in their marriage where their differences are irreconcilable. Both of them are smart, intelligent and are earning well. They have been married for 17 years. And they have two young children – a boy who’s 12 and a girl who’s 6. Their differences have arisen from their individual definitions of happiness. The husband’s view of happiness is to work hard, earn well (he sure does), save a lot, stay at home as much as possible and immerse himself in his music – he’s a much sought after instrumentalist. The wife’s view of happiness is her career (she’s doing remarkably well too), a very active social Life, good shopping budgets, often dining at fine dining places and frequent, exotic vacations. Both of them have been unable, in all these years, to come to a common ground or definition of happiness. Especially after the birth of their daughter their different outlooks to Life have wrecked the peace between them. They have been sleeping in different rooms and end up having a fight over anything that they begin to talk to each other about. The boy, being at such an impressionable age, has been impacted majorly by their behavior and becomes violent every time his parents argue or fight among themselves.
Clearly the marriage between the couple is over. But they refuse to accept it. And continue to endure each other – while still getting at each other’s throats! This is causing the children to grow up in a very fractious environment at home. In all such unfortunate cases, parents must recognize that they have a huge responsibility towards their children. They have to ensure that the kids don’t grow up seeing strife at home. Even if it means the parents must separate for the kids’ sake!
Zig Ziglar (1926~2012), the great American motivational speaker, said this so well: “The greatest gift you can give your children is a happy marriage with your spouse.” And I believe if you can’t have a happy marriage then you must simply not have an unhappy one saying you are enduring it for the sake of the kids. In fact, if two people have stopped relating to each other – and that is evident when they develop different outlooks to Life or start sparring with each other – there is no point clinging on to labels like marriage or friendship or family. It is best they liberate themselves and each other.
Simply, no one can be happy trying to live Life based on another’s idea. When people come together in Life, as in a marriage, they bring their own individual ideas of Life to form a collective new idea for both of them. If this does not happen for any reason, and only a physical consummation happens, then there is no relating between them and so there’s no meaning in the marriage. In fact, marriage is at best just a label; a religious or legal framework in some cases, a social institution in some others! The word marriage does not make a relationship beautiful or meaningful. Continuing to relate to each other is what counts. Without even being married people can experience great love and companionship between them. And despite being married for years there are those who experience neither.
So, the key to living a full Life with anyone is to keep relating to that person. And when you do realize that you are not relating anymore, it’s best to let go or get out of it. For your sake, for everyone’s sake!

Don’t whitewash Life – See and live (with) the Truth

If you give grief too much space in your Life you are ruining yourself. When things go wrong, there will be grief. But break-free from it after initially comforting yourself in its deceptive bosom. Indeed Grief is comforting – because it feeds your ego. It puts you in the spotlight, at the center of your Universe. But this comfort is at first debilitating and, when there’s too much of it, is fatal. When grief consumes you, it will make you invalid and incapable of enjoying Life, of living fully!
I met someone who is struggling, after a lot of inner turmoil, debate and dialogue, to accept that his 20-year-old marriage is over. He reports that his wife has been seeing someone else for over 10 years now. He also confessed that there was really no compatibility between the two of them from the beginning – they never agreed on anything and found themselves fighting every single day!
“So, what’s the problem? Are you not clear this is not working out? Why are you not moving on?” I asked.
“I am hurting. I am not sure I know why this is happening to me. I am not sure I deserve this,” he replied, fighting his tears.
This friend has been carrying a lot of guilt and grief in him for so many years. Despite the fact that his marriage appears to have been over more than a decade ago, he still refuses to accept it. He’s still asking, in vain, “Why? Why me?”
There’s no point asking “Why” in Life. The whole experience of this lifetime that each of is going through is mysterious, is often bizarre. So, when you ask yourself questions that have no answers you are kidding yourself. And in the hope that you will find some answers, you go on searching. You go on stumbling through Life. You go on grieving. What is, is the only truth in Life. In my friend’s case the truth is that he and his spouse appear to have stopped ‘relating’ to each other long, long ago. What they are presiding over is the corpse of their relationship – their dead marriage! They more he sits around with it, the more grief he will be in. And the more he grieves, the less fully he will live.
This is so true of many of the other situations in Life – wherever we try to analyze Life and find reasons and answers. When people do try to offer us answers, with reasons and justifications, they are only consoling us. But consolations are of no use because they always deal with a “dead” past. Consolations are only an attempt to whitewash Life. Instead if we simply accepted Life for what it is__as it is, as THE Truth__and moved on – we would surely live fuller, richer, happier lives!

Strive for harmony within

Don’t avoid conflict__whenever you strongly disagree__for the sake of feigning courtesy or harmony. At the same time, never make the conflict personal. Focus on the issue. Never on the person.
There are often times, when you will not want to accept what is being said or proposed or done. Yet you will not want to wave a red flag or raise an objection or even make a point because you fear that the “harmony” in the relationship or environment will be lost. And that you will be accused of disturbing it. So, you will choose to swallow your sentiments, submit to being popular than being authentic, and simply go on. Now, clearly, whenever you allow something to happen, with which you don’t agree principally, remember you are maintaining decorum externally but within you there is a violent churn. You are grieving, for, within you, there is chaos, turbulence, sorrow. And therefore your justification that you are choosing to ‘give in’ or remain ‘mum’ for the sake of ‘harmony’ falls flat on its face. This is not an intelligent way to live!
But this is the way we ‘adjust’, ‘accommodate’ and claim we ‘adapt’ in Life – all the time. This is true in all our relationships: boss-subordinate, parent-child, husband-wife, between lovers, neighbors and siblings. Every time we choose not to disagree, in order to prevent a debate for whatever reason, we are allowing a part of us, in the context of that given relationship, at that point in time, to die.
I am not saying that you take up cudgels on every issue, with everyone under the sun, and become combative. It is totally pointless to keep fighting people all the time. In fact, I am not even saying fight over an issue. All I am saying is please express yourself. Allow your sentiments to flow – in the context of the issue, irrespective of who you are dealing with. It is unlikely that the other person may agree with your sentiments. But at least the other person will know what__and how__you are thinking. When you express yourself, you are in harmony, you are free, you are traveling light! On the other hand, when you keep things bottled up, within you, you are simmering within, under the pretext of maintaining dignity and decorum outside.
An intelligent conflict, an intellectual debate, is far more harmonious than a pretentious peace when your insides are boiling over. Now, there will be times when your effort to debate is received immaturely. And you are dealt with a personal, often below-the-belt, response. When that happens, your awareness should help you not to get provoked, not to retaliate, but to stay with the issue – without getting personal. If you find that any effort is not worth it in this context, simply move on. Just don’t grieve. And, at all times, please don’t try to be a martyr. Self-martyrdom is very bad for your self-esteem and inner peace.
This is the way of the Tao that champions ‘effortless action’. The import here is that as long as you do what comes naturally to you, without having to make an effort, you will be at peace with yourself. So, if you must disagree while expressing yourself, please do so, even if it means being in an issue-based conflict. Except that such expression must be effortless. On the other hand, if refraining from expressing your sentiments requires a huge effort – which, in turn, affects your inner peace – drop that effort. Harmony begins with you. Unless you are at peace with yourself, in any context, you cannot live fully. And if you are not living fully, you may well be alive, but you were dead long, long ago!

Someone to walk into the sunset with…..

A marriage can be continuously exciting and romantic if the couple in it are relating to each other than merely being obsessed with ‘maintaining’ the relationship.
Yesterday I was watching this beautiful Hindi movie ‘English Vinglish’ (2012, Gauri Shinde, starring Sri Devi). At the end of the movie, Shashi, the housewife played so admirably by Sri Devi, talks about marriage and how it can be nurtured and kept relevant despite the pulls and pressures of everyday Life. I can’t agree with her more.
When you strip away all the frills and the individual or societal expectations, what you are left with is the friendship of two people who come together and decide to live, learn and walk together through Life. True friendship is really about being yourself and allowing the other person to simple be too. Actually you don’t need the label of a marriage to certify or consummate a friendship. We don’t do it in the normal course, with other friendships we may have struck with people from either sex. So, why does it become so complicated, ever so often, in a marriage? The answer lies in the contractual nature of the relationship itself – as defined and practised by society today. While no scripture or tradition prescribes this contractual arrangement, society, over centuries and generations, has ended up, in the garb of pronouncing marriage to be a ‘sacred institution’, turning marriage into a business contract. You give me this. And I give you this in return. If you are this way, then I promise to be this way. A marriage, in its simplest definition, has ended up being nothing but a conditional acceptance of their affairs between two people. Great friendships, however, are never conditional – they thrive on mutual understanding, respect, brutal honesty and compassion. As long as two people can be this way, relating to each other, despite the circumstances, their friendship will survive, grow and glow. Truly, in such cases, you don’t need a certificate, a label or any protection or safety net – legal or social. Of course, it is quite possible that sometimes, friendships grow through a marriage. So, it is not to be concluded that the institution is itself losing credibility.
I guess the moot point then is – how can two people try to continue to relate to each other without really worrying about the relationship?
This, from my own personal experience, and what I have learned observing couples over the years, is possible when the ‘relating’ is continuous. Life is a long journey. Couples experience at least 35+ years of togetherness in a normal lifespan. Now this togetherness can be a beautiful friendship or just a ‘co-existential’ drama enacted for both self and society. That is they “legally live-in together” but don’t connect, don’t relate at all. When relating is continuous – there are no terms, no conditions, no impositions. There’s an expectant air about everything. Pretty much like the early weeks of two people getting to know each other. Waiting for the appointed meeting hour. Letting go. Giving space to each other. Disagreeing at times. But agreeing to disagree. There’s nothing predictable nor taken-for-granted. Then, when everything’s fresh, despite the years of being together, then, the relating is continuous. Conversely, when the relating is continuous, the romance is still new and fresh.
Of course, Life’s design will challenge the greatest friendships. But only those that are built on the foundations of mutual respect and compassion__what I call relating__survive these challenges. Whatever label we give this friendship, I for one believe that walking hand-in-hand with someone you can relate to is the greatest gift you can have in Life. If you have that gift, celebrate and be grateful. If you don’t then stop kidding yourself. Have the courage to accept that while you may be in relationship called marriage, there’s no relating in it anymore. At least stop grieving, stop wishing your Life were different and stop complaining about your spouse. You are as much responsible for the non-relating in your relationship as your spouse is. And remember, you still have an option – if you still want to, you can go find that friend who’s out there waiting for you, and who can walk with you into the sunset!