Reflections on a conversation with a close friend about life partners and the Dos and Don’ts of it
I turned 27 today.
In the year that has gone by – I learnt some, forgot some, made a whole bunch of mistakes, found some peace and lost some, uncovered some wisdom, stumbled on some hope, and have been working on making my own formula for happiness.
If you’re nearing thirty and are not in a relationship, that surely is one constant topic of conversation with close friends.
And last week, I was talking to a close friend about finding a romantic life partner. After much struggle, she finally found someone she has dearly fallen in love with.
And then the talk turns around to me.
“Are you seeing someone? How did you meet? Is he a nice guy? Does he understand you? Is he emotionally available to you?”, she asks. I tell her what’s going on.
The talk turned to compatibility, the inconstancy of people’s opinions, feminism, and so on, but she said a few things that gave me the chills.
“If a man doesn’t want to get married, he does not value a woman’s sensitivity.”
(Uhmm.. no. That is a super sexist comment to make.)
Upon telling her that I believed that marriage is a sexist tradition and a remnant of the times when women were viewed as property, she went on to say:
“We’re not property anymore. Hard-working, intelligent, smart women are not kept – we do the keeping! Bear that in your mind.”
(Ouch ouch ouch! Sexism and classism alarms going off in my head! At this point, all I can think is – she’s your childhood friend, you love her, please be kind, don’t go all Viking on her!)
So I gently remind her that many of us are still treated as property by so many people and each day I fight to assert my right otherwise.
And she agreed that she did have to go through that. She told me about some of the prospectives who gave her a lot of grief – the guys who didn’t really want to get married, but their parents were forcing them to; the guys who were only there to ‘score’ girls under the pretext of matrimony; the guys who were too egotistic and narcissistic that they cared little for others; and so on.
And then, she says:
To the right man, you will never have to assert these… But now that I have met my man, I will tell you what it feels like to find the right man.
The right man will be your mom. He is an extra mom God sends us. He will fill all those voids and clear all your doubts about your life and men in general.
(Good heavens, no! I DO NOT want another mom. I do not want the person I choose to spend the rest of my life with to be like my mom. I’m not his child. Nor will he be mine. And no. I don’t want somebody ‘to fill all those voids’. I do have voids, but I’ll fill them myself, thank you. I do have doubts about life, but I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to be the one who answers them. And yes, I’ll also admit to having doubts about ‘men in general’. But I’m unlearning them, slowly. I don’t need ‘the right man’ to answer them.)
He will give you support where you need it and will always be available to you, no matter what…
(I will be grateful for any support I receive – but I will certainly not hold him accountable for all my needs and wants. I am a complete person, with or without a life partner. And again, no. I do not expect him to be ‘always available’ to me, ‘no matter what’. I do not believe that is possible or even that it is something to crave. There are a lot of people in my life – they have different relationships with me, and there are different aspects of my life that they enrich, and it is not only foolish but extremely selfish, to ask all that of one person.)
He will earn your respect, never crave it.
(If by ‘never crave it’ you mean he will never go about the easy way to try to earn anyone’s respect, yes, I agree.)
Yeah, I must say, I feel I am blessed beyond my imagination I found a man like this, especially in this generation.
(Well, congratulations! I’m glad you’re happy!)
I sort of believe in miracles now.
(Aww… I’ve always believed in them! 🙂 )
And I will tell you one thing – do not ever lose hope; wait for that one person who will be the right fit for you.
(Hahaha! Thanks, honey… I have no intention of losing hope or of ‘settling’.)
And then, you’d think this was it – it is done.
But you’ll be wrong. Because she went on:
From what you tell me about who you’re seeing now, I’m sorry to say it, but I don’t think it will work out. He should respect all women, not just you. People’s nature doesn’t change, so if he doesn’t naturally respect you or other women, chuck it.
(Well well well! Summoning up the greatest level of compassion I have to say this – I can’t be dating someone without giving them my full attention and my full hope that it will work out. It wouldn’t be fair to go into the game expecting to fail. And what matters is what the two of us think, not what you or anyone else thinks. Secondly, I’m a little hurt that you’re questioning my choice and judgement – would I really not know if someone is respectful towards me and other people around us? Even if I couldn’t tell, it shall be a learning for me – something that I can only learn from experience.)
You should test him – like, not just ask him stuff – because he can say anything, but practically test him. Like, would he just say he is there for you, or would he literally be there for you even in the middle of the night if you needed him? Would he chuck everything aside just to comfort you over the phone because you need someone to be there for you mentally and morally available? At some point, if you were working late – it is dark and you are alone. Would he stay up and talk you home; wait until you get home and then sleep? I’m not saying he literally needs to do that – but just imagine if that scenario played out. Because I’m telling you, in situations like these, only those who truly love us are concerned.
(Did I actually hear you say ‘test’ him? I will pretend I did not hear you say that. Moving on.
I’m not sure I would want him to chuck everything aside and be there for me. I don’t expect him to do any of those things for me. Especially if I’m not willing to give the same in return. Like I said earlier, there are several people in my life and saying that he is the one who should be there for everything diminishes the role of the other people in my life. It not only challenges the idea that I am a complete human being with complex relationships and needs but also reinforces the false idea that I need to be dependent on my partner for everything. I work even now. I get late at work. I don’t need someone to stay up for me or talk to me on the phone while I’m going home. I get what you mean about concern regarding my safety – that can be talked about and sorted out without him having to ‘be there always’.)
In the end, it is important for each of us to remember that we are all different and that we will all have different choices and preferences. Out of all those, the choice of whom we choose to love and live with is not only the most personal but also the one most fraught with doubt – “Did I choose wisely?” Let us not make it any more difficult for each other than it already is.