Human relationships are simultaneously the most frightening and most exhilarating thing ever. There’s always a zenith and a nadir. While on one side there is the ultimate happiness of love, on the other side there is a fear of loss / separation. There are seemingly enough complications that can arise naturally without us having to constantly hold on to the straining end of a rubber band.
But most often than not, this is what actually happens. Relationships that are formed with the intention of turning life meaningful, purposeful and happy are the very reasons why life is anything but. There comes a side so dark and fathomless to someone you thought you knew too well and there is that sudden tide of change that washes over every carefully constructed footprint in the sand.
There comes a need for one-upping the other person and a constant desire to be in control of all aspects of the other person’s life. Be it in a friendship or a romantically inclined relationship, the need to know slowly engorges to become the need to be in control. The tactics used to achieve this state increase in their intensity, while the excuses for the behaviour and the bonding threads start becoming flimsier and more gossamer like with each passing day.
In the disguise of love / friendship or togetherness, or just simply because the relationship had been ‘existing for a long time’ it is given more chances than it deserves and life becomes one prolonged struggle to keep it going despite all the obstacles that are raised by both the people involved. Modern dictionary has termed such parasitic relationships as ‘toxic’, but that term is so vague and encompasses everything from a mere acquaintanceship to something akin to sharing a life.
Maintaining these human bonds takes patience, drains energy at an alarming rate and the mere effort slowly erodes what it once stood for. To maintain a bond based only on its past glory, or worse, a perception of fake perfection is unhealthy and quite unnecessary. But the brain refuses to process the negativity and continues to delude itself into various stages of denial until the last straw breaks the back completely, causing irreparable damage.
What is wrong in accepting whatever your ‘best friend / significant other’ says is good for you? What harm could come in accepting that you have ‘zero fashion sense’ and going with their suggestions though many others have told you that your individuality suited you better? Be it in the little things like dressing or food habits, there is a difference between going for acceptable compromises to achieve a middle ground and a complete alteration of every core trait just to see the smile of satisfaction on their faces.
Genuine affection does not impose strict rules. There is a huge chasm of difference between, “I love it when you wear that, and it’ll look good on you.” And “Don’t go for the hideous thing you bought when I’m telling you to choose this.” The latter is just a modified version of “You must do that because I told you to” and that is in no way an expression of affection / love. Deluding oneself that both are similar is the worst self-betrayal ever.
Saying the magic word, sorry, and meaning it, is what would strengthen bonds. An apology is often seen as the absence of ego. This might send out positive signals and make the other person realise the value you ascertain to the relationship. But if life becomes a constant stream of apologies, most of them not making any sense or serving any purpose other than to convince the other person’s inflated sense of self importance, it becomes draining and pointless.
While it is important to apologise for a mistake, it is equally important to refuse to apologise for what was not a mistake. Apologies are not an expression of love, especially if they are given with the sound knowledge that a mistake had not been committed. There’s nothing magnanimous about tendering an unnecessary apology. And if a relationship is flimsy enough to always be on tenterhooks until the next ‘sorry’ or ‘please’ comes, it has to be discarded before it can twang back like the stretched end of a rubber band and hurt the one who held on.
You can easily make a terrorist out of a demanding toddler by showing them that tantrums get things done. Appeasement is one of the most difficult concepts to handle. Having been made to feel unworthy and in some way a lesser person, there comes a need to keep the relationship secure by appeasing the other person and keeping displeasure at bay. Giving in to crazy demands and altering life habits (to the point of letting go of other relationships) just to appease the other person is the psychological adult equivalent of creating a terrorist out of a toddler.
‘I am there for you. You don’t need that person.’ Is not a cute way to express ‘possessiveness’, (which is in itself a questionable quality in excess) nor is it ‘the only way they know to show love’. Gallantry shall be reserved for war, for the sake of patriotism and the well-being of one’s nation. Wearing a shield and wielding a spear should not be the everyday state of facing a significant person in one’s life. There must be no mental preparation of defences, with the gut screaming otherwise, when you are spending time with a ‘loved one.
The defense and the denial
Defending one’s own actions and those of a loved one are common faults. But defending someone else’s actions to oneself is downright cheating. Stemming out of a denial to face the obvious, the defensive excuses get flimsier and worse until they seem absolutely improbable and bordering on hopelessly, desperately foolish. And when this stage is reached, the trigger might seem an insignificant event compared to everything else that transpired.
If it were someone else, would they have been extended the same courtesy? Is being with one person eating into the ‘alone time’ or quality time spent with other people? Does the receiver of this ‘concession’ act worthy of it? Or is the concession and acceptance single-handed efforts to maintain peace and avoid drama? While it is true that the brain apportions various levels of importance to various people, it must also be carefully taught to receive what it gives, and to feel cherished as much as it pampers. This simple equation can keep life balanced and out of trouble.
‘It wasn’t a problem then, is it a problem now?’
‘You know you cannot move on without me!’
‘You wouldn’t make such a big fuss out of nothing, would you?’
‘You love me too much to mind all these trivial things!’
‘You know I love you. I really do. This is how I always express it.’
‘He/She did it because they loved me.’
‘They had no choice.’
‘The disrespect was probably due to the comfort levels.’
‘They still love me better than how they love others / how some others love me.’
‘This is excusable considering their otherwise faultless behaviour’
If one or more of these sentences ring true, or trigger a particular face in mind, it is time to reconsider where the denial and refusal is getting you. If it is not giving peace, if it is not giving us happiness (even if it once did), if it takes too much effort to just maintain – is it really necessary?
The answer to that question can never be an ambiguous stream of justifications and analysis of pros and cons. Life is not a game of ‘advantages and disadvantages’. Happiness and self-respect are too great to be bartered in games. Life is too short to be spent with 3A 2D 1C, whoever the person on the other end may be!