I had to sit for a solid one hour before starting this article, not because I didn't know what to write, but because I just couldn't, for the love of God, figure out how to pull off a solid start.
I started writing as soon as I gave up on trying to find an impressive one-liner - something on the lines of a fancy prologue if it were a novel instead of an article (which was my original plan, let me just admit, unabashedly so). I have decided to continue with this frankness because even if I were the best writer on the planet, I couldn't have managed to pen down something that would impress you enough to not close the window or press back - simply because of the sheer complexity of the topic we're discussing here.
Before we start off, I want to put it out there that I'm not here to preach, nor do I claim to have figured out anything substantial about 'love' in general. What I do intend to do, however, is talk about some extremely touchy and controversial topics related to relationships, and 'love' in general, that no one seems to want to talk about openly. These are things that are extremely personal, and honestly, I don't blame people who aren't quite comfortable discussing them.
Before we go further, a little disclaimer: I am a gay man, and the relationship I am going to put under the spotlight here, is my own, with another gay man.
Does this fact change things, and make it a relationship that is completely different from a quintessential heterosexual relationship? No. (And yes too, perhaps, a little bit.) To keep it concise, I have decided to divide the discussion into 7 parts - 7 topics that together weave the fabric of any relationship under the sun, and the truths associated with them, as I have perceived in my own relationship.1. Conflict Is Healthy
We fight. We fight like cats and dogs at times. But hey, what couple doesn't fight? Even when two people share the same womb and grow up with the same socio-cultural, economic, and cultural background (I mean twins), they have different thought processes, different ideologies, and an altogether different way of processing things.
How can you expect to just find a person one fine day, who processes information in exactly the same way that you do, hoping for that to be the basis of your relationship? It can only happen under one circumstance - when one of you are, for the lack of a better word, 'sucking it up' to avoid conflict. But this 'peace' is superficial, until one fine day the bubble finally bursts - to the absolute shock of your partner.
Also, be scared if there is no conflict - because your partner either doesn't care enough, or lacks a thought process of their own, or is scared of being their true self in front of you - which honestly, is a bigger issue.
Conflict is bound to be there, there isn't an alternative. How you deal with conflict decides how long your relationship will last. If both of you have found out a way to resolve issues without causing damage to the base of understanding and mutual respect you have created together, then congratulations, my friend, for you have 'found the one' - a concept which essentially has been hyped up and grossly misrepresented in popular culture.
You don't 'find' the one, you nurture your relationship carefully, to a point where your partner becomes 'the one'.2. Love And Lust Are Different
A lot of people are not going to agree with me on this point here, but hear me out anyway? Love, to me, is when you want to be with a person, or wish their well-being, because of who they are. Love is unconditional. When you are in love with someone, you don't care about how they look, or the physical aspect of their being.
Lust, on the other hand, is governed by desire. Sometimes, they overlap. In fact, it's just human nature to get them mixed. But at the root of it all, they are distinctly different entities. How, then, do you differentiate between them? It's not easy, but it can be done. In fact, not learning how to differentiate between love and lust gives rise to relationships that are weak, dishonest at their very base, and are extremely vulnerable.
A lot of you might have started becoming uneasy by now, and are probably vehemently shaking your heads in protest, preparing your 'Monogamy FTW' signs. But, but, hear me out.
What do you consider as 'cheating'? Does it count only when your partner gets intimate with someone else, physically? Or does it also count when they think of someone else while pleasuring themselves? An uncomfortable question, I know. If you're not okay with either of them, I have a bad news for you, my friend. You already have been cheated on.
Do you think your partner has never watched porn after they have been with you? Or fantasized about someone else? They have. Actually, let's hit it closer to home - YOU have. Does it count as cheating? The answer, if you ask me, is a firm 'NO'. But, it counts as cheating if we stick to the standard definition of a monogamous relationship.
Let's look at it objectively. You were feeling horny and you watched porn. Does it mean you cheated on your partner? Let's predict the standard response - 99% of you feel you haven't. Think about why you feel that way. Because there was no real physical contact. But you thought about it, right? You thought about it hard enough to erupt. Does it still not count as cheating? If your answer is still 'No', I agree with you. You didn't cheat. I will also tell you why.
You didn't cheat on your partner because at that moment, your body wasn't being governed by your heart or your mind. The following excerpt from Psychology Today can help you understand it better: "Love and sexual desire activate different areas of the striatum. The area activated by sexual desire is usually activated by things that are inherently pleasurable, such as *** or food. The area activated by love is involved in the process of conditioning, by which things paired with reward or pleasure are given inherent value. That is, as feelings of sexual desire develop into love, they are processed in a different place in the striatum."
In conclusion, you were being ruled by a biological need - just like hunger. Your body needs *** just like it needs food, and you have no control over what attracts you. You don't decide who turns you on. So, based on that, why would you end your relationship with someone only because they couldn't overpower their own body - in other words, had *** with someone else? You don't consider it cheating when you think about it and wish for it to happen, but why do you consider it cheating when you actually do it? Why does the actual action count so much, and the intent doesn't count at all? Dig deep, if that doesn't count as 'double standards', I don't know what does.
Coming to my own relationship, my partner and I have realized it, painstakingly keeping our emotions and biases aside, and have finally refused to give our bodies and our biological needs the right to decide the course of our relationship. Honestly, that is one of the best decisions we have ever taken.3. Privacy Isn't Overrated
I come from a quintessential Indian household. I also come from a village. Until I grew up and started living away from my family, I honestly failed to even grasp the concept of 'privacy'. The fact that a person needs space, and ideally should be in complete charge of what part of their personal life they want to share, and with whom, was an alien concept to me - till I finally understood it.
What baffles me is that people refuse to understand it. Especially, if you're in a relationship (or worse, married), privacy seems to be some sort of an unjust favour you're asking of your significant other - the sort of favour you should be embarrassed to even bring up in a discussion.
This is how the usual retort sounds: "You must be doing something wrong if you have to hide it." The result? Snooping through their messages and call logs and a lot of unpleasantness.
My friend, please snap out of it. If that is the level of trust you have on your SO, please break up. Privacy is healthy, and there should be mutually agreed upon levels of boundary, that you both should abide by - no questions asked. Till you both get familiar with that level of unconditional faithfulness, your relationship will suffer.4. Social Media Is A B*Tch
You're in a happy, fulfilling relationship. Naturally, you have this uncontrollable urge to share this information with the entire world. One advice: Don't. The world is a nice place, but at times it can be a version of hell gone rogue. Anyone who's had a fight based on social media comments will agree.
We all like to believe that we are grown up, mature individuals, but hey, sometimes we aren't that grown up after all, and something as harmless as one 'like' by a person with whom your SO had a history can be enough to push you over the edge on a bad day.
Why create situations you can't deal with? If you're absolutely sure about the fact that the virtual domain can't rob your peace of mind, go ahead and post that selfie. But if you're not equipped to deal with your ex's likes or family members' jibes, please filter what you post. I learnt it the hard way, and so did my partner.5. Misunderstandings Don't End Relationships, Hubris Does
Just like conflicts, misunderstandings are bound to occur. We haven't yet perfected telepathic communication, and there is no way you'll always be able to articulate/communicate flawlessly with your partner. Miscommunication is only human. How to deal with that, though? The only perfect answer to that is - communicate.
You know why breakups happen? Not because of the miscommunication that occurred, but because nothing was done to fix that. What is stopping you from fixing it? Hubris. An actual representation of your train of thought when you're being governed by hubris: "Why should I always initiate the conversation? Why should I always be the one to fix it? Why can't he/she do it for once? If he/she doesn't care, I don't, either. This time, I'll not budge. We both yelled but he yelled first. She started it. He always does it. It wasn't my fault". Sounds familiar, right?
Get over it. Is your childish sense of fulfilment more important than the love of your life? Be the bigger person. Sort it out. Talk. Don't sulk. A little tip: Nothing is more attractive than maturity. Another sneaky personal tip: Once you initiate the conversation, it's ten times easier to get the ball on your court.
My partner is one of the most sensitive people I know, and according to him, I'm one of the most insensitive people he knows. I often end up making him upset involuntarily, and I definitely don't do it willingly. But the good thing is, I don't let my 'stubborn male ego' govern me, and always make it a point to go ahead and start a conversation during a conflict.
All it takes is that one step. Two minutes is what it takes for us to patch up, 90% of the time.6. Your Partner Is Not Your Possession, And They Have Their Own Life
Yes, you both are madly in love, and nothing makes you happier than spending time with each other. But, that doesn't mean that they can't have a life of their own which you're not a part of. It's another human being we're talking about, who has interests, friends, social circles, colleagues, family, and acquaintances of their own - and you don't have to essentially like, or even approve of all of them. In fact, it's healthy to spend some time without each other.
I speak from experience. There was once a time when we both had taken a sabbatical from our respective jobs. We used to stay home, not socialise, and all we saw, all day, for an extremely extended period of time - was just each other. We had the most number of fights, all pointless ones, during that period.
Moral of the story: Allow your partner some alone time and space, and more importantly, allow that to yourself, if you want to be in a fulfilling relationship.7. Don't Let Others Decide What Is Right And Wrong In Your Relationship
This might be a little confusing, but extremely important. Every relationship is unique, and every relationship has a different take on what is right or wrong, what is permissible and what is not, and matters of morality in general.
Don't compare your relationship to another relationship - be it your parents, friends, or someone else you know. No one can decide whether your relationship is 'ideal' or not - and you shouldn't allow them to. Only you and your partner are in a position to decide things for yourself, and that's iron-clad, unless you guys mutually decide to let someone else interfere and sort it out for you during a conflict.
Before you go crying to your friends at the drop of a hat, always try to sort it out between yourselves. One of the primary reasons why we're still together, is this.
My friends and acquaintances think that my partner and I are in the perfect relationship and that we have been extremely lucky to have found each other. While I couldn't be more grateful, I don't agree with that.
Ours isn't the perfect relationship. We have our own issues. We fight. We disagree. We have major misunderstandings. The fact that we are still together, is a direct result of our efforts to make it work - voluntarily, consistently, day in and day out. It is not easy for two individuals to co-exist together in this day and age anyway, let alone two fiercely independent men in the socio-cultural and political (not to mention legal) climate of the country that India is. The reason we didn't give in to the challenges around is simple - we love each other and want to spend the rest of our lives together.
You know what's easy? Walking away. Anyone can do that. But to stick it out- weighing your priorities every day for the rest of your life while not giving in to distractions and hardships, and turning around even if you did give in to that temporarily - is how relationships work.
Having said that, it is essential to walk away too, sometimes. This is not my first relationship, and I have walked out of relationships before, and I am glad I did. Sometimes, walking away is your only option, and you owe it to yourself. Perhaps we can talk about that next, in another article?