A heated, almost vitriolic, conversation (with me being harsher than I like to be) with someone recently got me thinking about some of the same issues again. Issues, beliefs, I hold very dear, feel very strongly about, and often get taken to task for. Things like my definition of love, trust, boundaries.
Given our cultural bias against relationships (affairs as we call them), love, and love matches, and the dismal, abysmal way bollywood handles, and has always handled, the issue of finding and falling in love, it is not a wonder that my views seem strange and alien and so impossible to so many. This person who I was talking to, on the other hand could be the poster child for the Indian concept of love/relationships, (apart from a few minor matters) in a culture where Devdas is considered a great example of a lover.
Being mistreated, cursed out, emotionally and even physically abused, having no self respect, no boundaries and no rules … this is love to most. This friend, and her spouse, are both textbook examples of this type of true love. He, for more than a decade and a half, has accepted everything that she has done to him, including but not limited to having one relationship after another (and often asking him for advice on how to handle them). Before anyone jumps in and starts screaming about different families and open relationships, let me put that ghost to rest. This is not a balanced, open, loving relationship.
Much as one partner makes constant public statements (almost obsessively) about how much they love the other, and much as another partner (also obsessively) captures the other (in myriad moods and every which outfit) on paper, the relationship is of the kind I have often deplored as a result of arranged marriages. This one though, was a love match, required a fight against social norms on more than one level, and was expected (I certainly expected it) to be the kind of strong, emotionally invested, mutually fulfilling relationship I love to see.
Instead, over the years, I have seen emotional attachment dwindle to lip service in the matter of “are you home safe” and “I love my partner so much!”, conversations are nonexistent, each is totally disconnected from the other and has a separate life, and “home” is a physical space they just happen to share. The relationship is a dead, empty space each fills in their own way. What’s keeping them together seems to be more inertia and apathy than any genuine desire to belong together.
One great lover has begun this process. Over the years I have seen acceptance upon acceptance of the partner of every transgression, every crossing of boundaries, every infringement of every precept of decency, almost. I believe in love. Been in love quite madly, (more than once, which is also a problem for most Indians with their “true love can only happen once in your life” mentality), but I recognize a few facts. And one of the most basic of those facts is that I cannot, and WILL not give up my self-respect, my identity, and my basic dignity, for anyone, no matter how much I love them.
I firmly believe relationships need boundaries. Just because one is in love, and in a relationship, is no excuse to mistreat or hurt the other, or to tolerate being mistreated and hurt. There have to be some things the partners will not do to each other, some hurts they will not inflict, some lines neither will cross. And if they do, it is not OK or tolerable or forgivable; especially not if it is a repeat offence.
The other partner, in the outside relationships, and increasingly so as they got older, seems to take the same kind of shit from the partners/lovers, as they dish out at home. Probably more, come to think of it. They keep saying they hate it, that the other person is treating them so badly, so cruelly, and that they feel terrible about it; angry, hurt, disgusted, self loathing. But, and this is the big issue, they not only don’t walk out of those poisonous relationships, they keep taking the crap not just from that partner, going back for more even after being kicked to the curb like a stray dog, but they keep choosing the same kind of partners over and over again (or alternatively keep driving whoever they choose to be that person with their needy, clinging, weirdness, or something). In short, every relationship ends up exactly the same, where they have to keep taking a daily dose of really bad treatment, verbally, emotionally (most often), but keep going back for more, pushing and pushing and pushing.
I don’t get this. If someone had dared say half of those things to me… I would have walked out then and there. Even my partner of 13 years, (with a mutual history of 27 years) father of my child, doesn’t have that right. And if they did, if they said some things, handed me some crap (not that he ever would), I would be gone. And once I have shut someone down…. They stay shut down. I’ve done it with friends who crossed the line, relatives, as well as exes.
No one, absolutely No One is worth more than my self-respect, my dignity. I learnt, the very hard way, to respect, value, and love myself, and I won’t let anyone … no matter how madly I may love them … trample on that or take that away from me. And if they love me, and are worthy of being loved in return, they wouldn't dream of acting that way. When someone does, and another agrees to tolerate, and goes back for more, that is not love…it is slavery.