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Monday, April 30, 2018

Relationship restrictions?

I’ve never been a fan on restrictions within relationships. Even when it comes to exes. Oddly while I’ve never been comfortable staying friends with any of my exes, I’ve fought for the rights of people to stay friends with their exes. I truly believe you should only be in a relationship with someone you trust — if you cringe everytime they mention or meet an ex what does that say about your relationship?

So with that out of the way — let me come to something I learned over the last few years. While I still maintain that thou shalt not police your partner — I’ve now come to the conclusion that you should not be in a relationship with a partner who doesn’t police himself/herself and who doesn’t know when things are starting to go wrong.

Let’s talk about “R”. “R” and I have been friends for decades. (yes I’m that old) and last time we met (some years ago) he was happily married to a sweet lady. Or so I thought. I met him last year and a very strange tale emerged…

This is what he told me

R and his wife… let’s call her “A” were quite happy and had a child. “R” was a workaholic.
 (As the family business and responsibilities for a large joint family were on him I can’t blame him).
 Some time in 2014 or 2015 his wife got pregnant with a second child. She actually asked him if they should go for an abortion because as she put it, they got so little time to spend together as it was and if she had another child she could foresee that they would have no time at all. He told her she was being silly and they went ahead and had a lovely little boy. "R" was happy, but as he put it, he didn’t realise how lonely he was.

He’d been gregarious in college and had a large number of friends in Bombay where he lived and worked for many many years. But once he went home and took on the family business, he had no time for friends. And even if he made time there was no one he could connect with. His life was one long regime of hard work from dawn to late into the night.

Enter “B”. “B” was the wife of one of his friends. "R" met her a couple of times while in meetings with her husband. She was friendly and “R” — always a charmer — was super friendly as always.
They became friends on FB. On her b’day they both happened to be in Delhi. He wished her on FB and when he realised she was in the city on work and had no one to celebrate with, he bought her dinner. All pure and above board. He was always very cosmopolitan and has had many many female friends over the years without ever crossing any lines.

She was grateful for the dinner and insisted on repaying the favour once they were back home. She took him for coffee. He happened to mention that since he’s out of home all day and the home was a bit distant, he always eats soup at his desk.

(They are very well off and he could easily afford to get driver with food from home but he’d always felt it was easier to just order from a nearby restaurant.)

A few days later a delivery boy turned up at his office with a tiffin “B” had sent — with home cooked food — as her office was quite close by. He was touched and told her so and she started sending him a tiffin every day.

(Now this is where I turned to him and said that crossed the line.  He laughed and said oddly that’s when his wife got uncomfortable with the friendship too. But he didn’t see the danger at all.)

“R” had never kept any of these interactions secret from his wife, so when he got home and mentioned “B” had sent food, his wife just said, ‘something feels wrong. Maybe you shouldn’t get too close to her’. He pish poshed her concerns and laughed, cos he was so sure about himself and was so glad he had finally found a friend.

Time passed, B shared her sorrows with him. Said her husband was abusive. He consoled her, friendship blossomed into love. He realised he’d fallen in love with his ‘friend’ and went to his wife and told her he wanted a divorce. All she sadly said was, “I’d told you not to get close to her”…

“B” went to her husband and asked for a divorce too.

(Here where things didn’t follow the normal script…)

His wife, one of the sweetest women ever, said she didn’t want their children and family to know he was leaving her for another woman. It would make him look bad. She said they’d both take responsibility and say they were splitting because of mutual differences. He was relieved and told “B” to give him some months to settle all his affairs. Divorce is never simple when children are involved. He wanted to make sure his wife got a good job and make good provision for her and the children.
“B”, who had no children to worry about, moved back home with her parents.
Months passed and his respect and admiration for his wife kept increasing because of the way she behaved during the whole crisis. Meanwhile “B” got more and more annoyed that everything was taking so much time. She did not like the fact that he spoke to well of his wife too and turned into a shrew who harassed him.

To cut the long story short, "R" realised he was making the biggest mistake of his life. He managed to extricate himself from B who went back to her husband (surprising given the ‘abuse’ she claimed). He asked his wife to give him another chance. She pointed out that even if he didn’t love “B” it didn’t mean that he loved her, And she didn’t want to be with a man who didn’t truly love her. He asked her to give him a year to prove to himself and her that his renewed feelings were real.

Today, he and his wife are happier than ever before because they agree about some things: The affair wasn’t the cause of the end of the marriage. It resulted because the marriage hadn’t been working well and he was lonely and he overestimated his ability to stay loyal. Like he now says, “Just because women have thrown themselves at you all your life and you’ve never faltered, doesn’t mean it can’t happen to you.” Both “R” and “A” have realised that they need to work more on their marriage and making each other happy. The business is suffering a bit – but they now know there are worse things in life.

Why has this stuck in my head?
  •           I realised the importance of a man who is in a relationship knowing when a friendship may cross a line. I don’t want to police anyone, so hopefully I find someone capable of self-policing
  •           I realised the importance of a person’s sixth sense — sometimes we’re too close to a situation to judge accurately. It doesn’t hurt to listen to the people closest to us, whose interests coincide with ours
  •           I realised the importance of handling situations with love and grace. If “A” had reacted like a typical wronged wife, “R” and “B” would have been unhappily together somewhere. (Cause I don’t think “B” had the capacity to make anyone happy. She was unhappy no matter where she was.) But because A truly believed that you cannot force love she was willing to set him free even though she still loved him.
  •           I’m not saying this is the right way for everyone. If B had been a nicer woman I think “S” would have gone head with the divorce no matter how nice “A” was being. But I do think that “A”’s behaviour shows that she’s a woman who will find happiness anywhere.