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Can you live with each other’s imperfections?

People don’t change. Period.

We can only alter and change ourselves….alter our expectations. Adjust. Make space, give space and fit ourselves in the space we are given.

Yeah yeah….we have heard that a thousand times already.

Yet, humans will be humans. And what makes us human is that even the brightest of us have these convenient strains of naivety and stupidity when it comes to wishful thinking. Specially when it comes to intimate relationships.

“He will ‘change’ when we get married”. “She will no longer be manipulative when I give her enough love and security”. “She will adjust in my surroundings, with my family”. “His temper will cool down once we have children, specially if it’s a daughter”. “We will develop a mind-boggling soul-matish understanding”. “Chemistry will come…”. “Fidelity will be his new mantra”. “He will develop a love for books”. “He will leave smoking”. “We will laugh on each other’s jokes”. “She will be more emotionally available”. “He will be more communicative”. “She will become this awesome juggler….she will be pretty and thin and bright and work and manage home and learn to cook like my mom and be fun and adjust with my friends…..her passive aggressive streaks will go away…She will develop class….I will be a family man…..”.

The fairytale dreams go beyond the Karan Johar movie wedding…..married or not.

I am not implying that we don’t evolve….we don’t improve. We even may change.

But it is a mistake to assume, with happy idealism, that anyone’s inherent nature or qualities or the inherent combination of two people and what they bring out in each other will change. We may learn to adjust and “handle” situations better. But basics are basics. If you can live with those basics, also bearing in mind your own basics and how they will interact with her/his basics, go ahead. Then it’s worth it. If not, what one will be left with is resentment as the mouldy residue that eventually takes the spark out of relationships.

Disappointment. Disillusionment. Sadness.

And that horrid “C” word: Compromise.

You see, with the word “compromise” comes a sense of something being coerced….forced.

But if it is an informed decision you make of working on a relationship, and take ownership of this choice, you are not angry at that person for not meeting up to unrealistic standards.

It is important, then, to not say “I am living with a compromise”. Instead, say to yourself “It is my choice to work on this because this is worth it”.

Do people really ever change? I doubt.

They may improve….adjust….modify….morph. Two people may just learn to synergize beautifully, despite inherent differences.

But making a choice to be with someone long-term should be realistic – based on “What if this person doesn’t change at all? Can I live with the irritating habits or whatever puts me off?’ If not, best to be honest to one’s self and your significant other. But if the overall package is worth it, one must go for it.

holding_hands_tracks-1

Even if imperfect, some people and relationships are worth hanging onto and fighting for.

Why should we settles for less than perfect? Simply because perfection is for God alone.

The careful choice, then, is to know whether you can and want to live with the imperfections of this person or not.

Know the deal-breakers, all you bright people. And if they are not there, then make it work.

It’s very worth it in the end to have someone who validates you and believes in you, especially if this person knows your short-comings, and still loves you.

Only fools let that go.

How to Win Men, Control them and Keep them

A few years back, a book called “Why men Love Bitches” became a best-seller. It was a smart read. I suspect the smart title was one reason why it was such a big hit.

But the biggest reason was this: Every woman wants to be loved. She wants to progress from being a doormat to a dream girl. And she wants to be loved in a way that she has some autonomy or control over her life, if not his. And what the heck, she deserves it, if she is sincere and devoted. In short, she wants to know how she can win men, control them (without them knowing it, if she is smart) and keep them.

Is this a woman who is assertive and aggressive? One who openly questions patriarchy? One who threatens men?  One who may be seen as a belligerent?

Or is this a woman who intuitively just knows what to do to achieve this objective?

Who is a woman who can successfully control and keep her man?

And if she does want to win, control and keep her man, what is her best bet? How can she do this?

Dale Carnegie was too general for women’s taste buds. She needs to know specifics when it comes to being the boss with men.

This is what this blog is about.

But to get to the gist, read it till the end. Otherwise you might be pelting stones at me for causing rifts between families or spreading hate-speech.

What is your image of a sharp, in-control woman?

We love stereo-typing. And so when presented with this question, we have a certain image in mind. Outspoken. In your face. Telling off everyone. Brash confidence. Yelling on top of her voice….a voice that turns a man into a timid mouse.

Of course, the answers depended on where the person being questioned is coming from. Simple theory of relativity. So the people from a more traditional background think this woman is almost always dressed in without-sleeves, is an economically empowered woman who does not cook, probably smokes and has more male friends than female.

But if the person asked came from a modern set-up and is anything like the above described person, she will think that this is a woman who is smart in a subtle conniving way. She knows how to manipulate her man through her cooking and silaai karhaai (sewing) skills. She has an M Phil in family politics and is a Ph D candidate in “Mard ko qaabu karnay kay chaaless tareeqay” (40 ways to control and subdue a man). She has grown up in a joint family system and is really chalaak (shrewd) behind the miss goody two shoes demeanour.

I am not big on stereo-typing. So to me, this woman can be from any back ground. If we are looking for the word “controlling”, basically it is the same techniques. Just the way it’s done will change according to the context.

 Tried and Tested Techniques to Control Your Man – Are These Myths?

It could be a seedhi saadhi in a lawn ka 3 piece shalwaar kameez who just put the biryani on dum or a woman in a palazzo and a tee stepping out of a coffee meet. End of the day, the same predictable techniques are used. And men fall for them every time. Even those men who have seen the evil Parveen Mumaani adopting the same techniques and have sworn to themselves they will never be manipulated. Men will be men. And in certain instances, one has to say “thank God for that”!

Technique 1:

Go Passive Aggressive. If anything he does or doesn’t do upsets you or you find it irritating, go a little quiet. The desi aurat is usually very good at this stuff. But even the modern women can master the skill. In such a situation, a woman can do any or all of the following: She can bang utensils in the kitchen. She can cook and clean as usual but not sit with him during meals. She can (and this is the ultimate) stop talking to him – the tried and tested “chup kee maar”. He usually may not be interested in or listen to a word of what you rant about on a daily basis, but when you are upset his radars will pop up and he will either ask “kya hua” (what’s wrong) or go out of his way with a guilty look on his face as if he is responsible for destroying world peace.

The important thing here is never, I repeat, NEVER tell him what actually is wrong. Just keep saying “nothing’s wrong” which basically means “everything you ever did is wrong, dude”. The thrill will stay alive. He will rack his brain over what is actually wrong and in the process may actually redeem himself by fixing not one but many of his faults.

Technique 2:

Withhold Affection. Don’t be as lovey dovey as normal. Men don’t notice when it’s all ok, but they are quick to notice when it’s not. So you could eat your meal before him and not wait for him, pretend to be either disinterested or asleep when he attempts to make conversation, or pretend to be busy. Do not ask him “kaisee lag rahee hoon mein” (how do I look?) when you doll up and don’t cook his fav food. And refuse to go to that daawat with him.

Technique 3:

In course of talk, ill-talk about other women and re-iterate how you are the best thing that ever happened to him. And the other women could be celebrities, his exes, his sisters, cousins, friends or even your saasu maa. Start a sentence with “I don’t know how women can do this” and very subtly praise yourself. Or more loudly if he can take it. Brain-wash!!!! Make him feel you are innocent, naïve and kindness personified.

Technique 4:

Always Have a Trump Card Ready. In more olden or desi contexts, the fear of her brothers or the fear that she will go to her mom’s house (or maika as we call it) can be a good threat. You can also bring up your son to be your knight in shining armour, make the dad a bad guy, and make him the “abba agar aap ne ammi ko kuch kaha to….” type son. He will come in handy.

If you are an educated, defiant, emancipated and self-reliant woman, once in a while you should give him the dose of “I can leave you” or start spending more time at work jub tak seedha na ho jaye.

But What Do You Actually Want? To Win and Keep him? Or to Control him?

The above techniques are, sadly, used in societies across the globe in different ways. And if the purpose for these is the almost evil manipulation of the men in our lives, something is wrong with us…..and the us could be the men or the women. Seriously.

Women – If he gives you respect, space and love, why would you want to control him in the first place? Winning his heart, yes, is a good goal, but one should not have to try too hard for it and resort to insidious ways. Otherwise is it really worth it? And keeping him – well, for that you need faith in yourself. And if you have given a 100 % to your relationship and he still decides to walk away or walk apart, maybe you should rethink whether he is that important or not.

And Men – After you have had your last laugh at the above evil techniques or rediscovered that your woman has used some of them on you, think carefully. If she is passive aggressive, may be you don’t allow her to communicate enough. May be you are not open to working out issues. May be she is afraid of your anger and hence has no option but to go passive aggressive or to use the trump cards. May be she praises herself and demeans other women indirectly because she wants appreciation she doesn’t get from you. Maybe withholding affection is her way of making you realize what that feels like when you are cold.

But if either of us attempt to control in the sense of bullying, something is wrong somewhere.

The winning of hearts is an entirely different story. It may require a separate blog altogether.

What ACTUALLY Works

What actually works is an attitude of mutual respect. Of equality. Of understanding. Of compromise. No one should be the controller, neither the controlled. And for that, no one has to walk ahead. You have to walk hand in hand. Side by side.

For that, honesty works. It does not mean saying any and everything that runs through your mind. It does not mean you don’t use wiser and more intelligent responses. But it does mean that you are inherently sincere to the man or woman in your life. You are not consciously out to control them or to change them or to rob them of a sense of self. You both are there to bring out the best in each other. Complement. Complete. And love each other. In more ways than one.

Would it not be great that instead of controlling him, you could be his wings to fly with? But so beautiful is what you have together that after every flight, he comes back to his nest, which is you?

Of course by flights I do not mean infidelities. And letting each other be does not mean everything is allowed because you are not “controlling”. There are always some basic values in a relationship. And there are adjustments to be made. And those should not be seen as curtailment of freedom.

But if we are having to resort to the Star Plus methods of dominance, something is wrong somewhere. Unconsciously sometimes we may go a little quiet. We may have to make our voice heard through firm behaviour. We may have to make our “person” understand certain things. But the purpose is to win and keep. Not control.

Loving Your Man To Death?

The day starts by observing his mood. The night falls by making sure that he has a smug and satisfied look on his face. His bout of sneezing is more important than her osteoporosis. The daily menu revolves around his and the children’s likes and dislikes.

He is the centre of her universe. She circumambulates around him. And to keep him happy and satisfied, she will not only do what it takes but she will grossly overdo it. She makes herself the last priority, in every way. And, strangely, in all of this, she gets a sense of being wanted, and perverse pleasure when she says, “he can’t do without me.”

This is every other woman’s story. And this seems almost universal, albeit a bit more in certain parts of the world like ours. We live in a society where a woman making herself a priority almost translates into selfishness. Women let their goals and ambitions take a back seat and lose their sense of self. By ambition or goal, I do not necessarily mean being ruthlessly career-oriented. The goal could simply be weight loss, raising a targeted amount of money for a charity, reading a new book, or, more simply, to be happy. But when compared to HIS goals and ambitions, a woman’s seem inconsequential and secondary.

Are the men to be blamed for that? Not always, I believe, for we, the women, allow for this to happen. Men are not always patriarchal, selfish and chauvinistic. They have to be taught and reminded of both their rights and duties in a relationship, just like women. Then why do women allow this to happen, when they also simultaneously crib about it?

Psychotherapist Anees Fatima Hakeem, analysing this phenomenon from a psychological viewpoint, calls it “co-dependence.

It’s a blind spot for many women, even confident and successful ones. It happens when one partner feeds off the needs of the other. It’s really just a huge manipulation or game with payoffs for both partners. The payoff could be negative or positive.”

Sometimes, the payoff is the joy of self-pity we get out of being walked all over and over doing it. Or it simply becomes a habit. It is similar to how we sometimes keep peeling the skin of our lips or the sides of our nails. It’s cruel. It’s painful. But it becomes a habit.

“An example of standing on her head to please him could be that she spends hours making dinner but at the last minute he tells her that he is eating out with friends. The wife feels resentful and goes into her victim mode. Becoming a victim is a payoff for her in order to manage her anger and resentment. This could become a pattern for her,” says Hakeem, explaining how being a victim and indulging in self-pity becomes a habit.

What, then, ends up happening as a result of this behaviour? “The woman doesn’t know what her feelings are any more. She loses her ‘self’. She doesn’t know where ‘he’ ends and ‘she’ begins. You can notice a change in her choice of words. Instead of saying, ‘I like biryani’, she’ll say ‘it’s great to eat biryani’. Instead of saying, ‘I feel angry’, she’ll say ‘you make me feel angry’ or ‘I have PMS and that is why I am angry’. Worse yet, she’ll even stop being angry because she is too busy cooking, and will take a sleeping pill to handle her insomnia,” says Hakeem, sharing her observations about how, in the victim mode, we stop taking responsibility for our actions.

Naghmana Khan, an economist, feels that religious misinformation and cultural bias force women to overdo and go out of their way to the point of losing their self-esteem in the process. Men are kept on a high pedestal, which conditions women to start believing that their purpose of life is to please him. “Suppose her husband is stressed out about work. Wrongfully conditioned to believe that she is the antagonist, she bends over backwards to please him,” says Khan, pointing out that any and everything that may go wrong with the man, from his health to his career, is supposed to be the wife’s fault. A typical scenario, then, is when the mother-in-law finds out that the son has high cholesterol, and instead of talking to the son about how he can have a healthier lifestyle, she will inquire why the daughter-in-law is not taking care of his diet.

Educationist Afshan Zahoor Jahania feels that realistically “The woman has to be the one to compromise and make a house a home. The man can create a balance by appreciating and helping the woman do this, but he cannot do the balancing act as fairly as a woman does.” In Jahania’s opinion, the solution lies here: “The conservative lot has to identify limits of ‘giving’ and ‘compromising’ , whereas the modern educated liberal woman has to jog her memories and appreciate what her mother did to make the house a home.”

Zoha Anees, finance professional, shares how she used to “go out of my way. Then he chose to step away all together, and I didn’t follow. Now, I have learnt to keep myself happy with or without him. I am the centre of my universe, as are the people I love.”

In essence, someone will treat you the way you allow them and train them to treat you. If you play victim, the person in front of you will play the persecutor. The answer, then lies in balance. Love him, but not to death. Do what you have to do to keep your man happy, but not at the cost of stifling your own soul, or else the hidden resentment will come out in the form of a woman becoming exploitative and manipulating. Love him, but also love yourself. Therein lies the key to a happy partnership.

Published in Dawn: 

http://dawn.com/2012/05/27/analysis-loving-your-man-to-death/

Before marriage, she was a fun-read novel. Now, she’s a text book!

Before......

.....And After!

This blog is inspired by a quotation of my eldest aunt, Khala Jaan (may Allah grant her a high rank in Paradise).

Khala Jaan was an epitome in wisdom. Experience and innate wisdom were etched on her face. And so, her famous “quotes” were passed on in generations as family heirlooms.

And one of these famous quotes was: “Beta, mard ke liye shaadi se pehle aurat aik rangeen khoobsurat novel hoti hai jise woh ghour se, shouq se, baar baar parhna chaahta hai. Magar shaadi ke baad biwi textbook bun jaati hai. Roz parhna parhta hai.” (For a man, before marriage, the woman is like a colourful novel which he wants to read intently, passionately, repeatedly. But after marriage, she becomes a must-read textbook. He HAS to read it everyday.”

Now, we can disagree with this quote. And exceptions may always be there. But let’s give it a thought.

Girls, remember “that time”? (let’s go all dreamy-eyed!).

That time when he remembered EVERYTHING you said? When he even remembered your chaachi’s birthday and knew what your mom cooked best. When at the end of every phone call, he would say “acha paanch minute aur na” (ok let’s talk for 5 minutes more). When he found everything you said or did soooooooo interesting. When, to get a glimpse of you, he would easily give up a meeting with his CEO. When the “unlimited texts” package was used to the fullest. When it was important to know what shampoo you used and how you liked your eggs and which books you read and what clothes you wore that day. When on every second sentence you got responses like “how lovely”, “you’re awesome”, “tum kitni achi ho“. When you both couldn’t stop talking. When everyday, you both came up with new terms of endearment for each other. When he felt you were made for him. When the sense of connection was so strong that you thought of him (which was pretty much most of the time) and voila! He’d be there! When you ACTUALLY felt you were on cloud nine. When, as my friend and deputy editor of the first magazine I worked for (name withheld on request) used to say,”even going to your maamu’s house is ecstasy”.

Phir kya hua?

What happened next?

The same drill. You both dive into the scary “C” – Commitment!

Whether your parents do it for you (via the tea trolley rishta routine, or now the coffee on Zamzama routine). Or whether you did it yourself. Samaaj se lar jhagar ke. Convincing the cruel world that you were both soul mates, and fighting to be together.

So now, jumla huqooq mehfooz…..you are his. Sense of ownership sets in. Whether in a commitment, engagement, nikaah or full-fledge shaadi. Dreams come true. Imagination is realized. It is what you both always wanted. Khushiyaan. Khushiyaan. And MORE khushiyaan.

And then what happens? Well, girls, “that time” is over (wipe that dreamy-eyed, goofy look off your face. We’re talking reality check now!!).

The phone calls from office are lesser, your chaachi’s birthday no longer matters, you are “so emotional and impractical, baby. Grow up!”. The compliments are lesser. The conversations are predictable. Yet, you somehow still don’t find him so boring. But he? Well, he already knows everything there is to know about you. You are no longer on cloud nine. You are on ground sub-zero!

Now, don’t get it all wrong (as we women sometimes in our sweeping EMO moods do). It’s not like he doesn’t love you any more. He may in fact, actually, in his weird twisted way, love you more than ever. He can’t do without you now.

But the only thing we need to understand is……..(drums rolling)…….this is the animal kingdom!!

Till you were the hunted and he was the hunter, even if he had to dangle from trees to impress you, he’d do it.

Remember “You Tarzan, Me Jane?”

Remember the phrase “Thrill of the chase?”

That is how he is programmed. Once you are his, you ARE a text book. Not the novel.

But what we need to remember is that the textbook is indispensable. What you gain from the textbook is what the perks and joys of life eventually rely on. The really wise men are those who make the textbook feel like a novel, every day.

Giving the “guys” their due, the problem is not just theirs. We, the women, are also more pleasant and fun in the incipient phase of the relationship. We complain less, we are more fun, we bring out the best in him, we look good and walk good and talk good.

The problem, inherently, is complacency. When we start taking the “ownership” tag as a licence to become boring and become bored.

Relationships are high-maintenance items. They always, I repeat, ALWAYS require the input of creativity, of emotion, of communication, of expression. A single gesture. A smile. A holding of hands. A small gift. A call or text saying “I miss you” or “you’re the most important person in my life”. Taking an avid interest in each other’s work. Making each other feel “wanted”, “needed” and “desired”. It’s not an easy challenge. But it is so worth it in the end.

So all you textbooks out there, worry not. You are the REAL thing. The thing he can’t do without.

And guys, step up your game!!! In the end, faaida (benefit) will be yours. 🙂