‘The Art of Walking Away’

Decades ago, it was given that dating was strictly prohibited in India. Our elders and their families were never open to love marriages. The matches were arranged and most of the time, the bride was never asked for an opinion about the bride-groom. The bride agreed to everything her parents said and was taught to get adjusted to the new family despite the problems and pain. I was surprised to know that my mother did not know my father’s name until she got married to him. It was believed that when a woman gets married, she was no more considered a member of the family she was born. Over the years, this dynamic has changed. Women are given a voice today and asked for opinions in marriage. Relationships and love marriages have become more common. Despite the changes, there is one thing that hasn’t been taught in society even today. Confused? Let me explain. It’s no new thing to know that separation, divorce in relationships are still taboo in India. It is treated as a mark of reputation in many families. A few months ago, I asked people on my Instagram page that what would they do if they realize their partner is toxic. Would they like to change them or leave? And 90% answered they would try to change them. Despite being aware that their relationship is toxic, why do a couple still like to stay together? Is it because of reputation? No. Is it love? No. To answer this question first we need to know why are relationships toxic?

Image source: Google.

Why are Relationships Toxic?

People are different. Every person has a different personality, thoughts, opinions, likes, and dislikes. No two persons can exactly match in everything. When two people fall in love and have a great understanding of each other, we all know that it did not happen overnight. It takes a couple of months or years, several discussions, fights, and a lot of effort to understand the person. Having said that, not all relationships need effort. Few relationships are toxic, to begin with, and few become toxic over time. When a couple starts dating, it is because of the attraction they have towards each other. The relationship is new and everything in it seems wonderful. The rush to see each other and the excitement to spend time with each other feels amazing but no couple can maintain the same excitement for life. After a couple of months, the newness and excitement slowly fade away and the relationship becomes a normal part of daily life and this is where the struggle or the fights usually starts. During the months of newness and excitement, the partner becomes the world and a couple usually spends more time in the relationship than with family or work. They are always on calls, holidays, dates and they share every tiny bit of their day. Once this newness fades away, they don’t spend the same amount of time they did in the beginning. They start concentrating on work, family and things get back to normal. Although this pattern can be seen in every relationship and with every couple, two people in the relationship might not come to this stage at the same time. In simpler words, the couple might not be on the same page. This can happen in many stages of a relationship. I know many couples who are in a relationship and struggle every day because they are not on the same page but this doesn’t make the relationship entirely toxic. A relationship becomes toxic when the person starts involving their partner in every aspect of their life. Relationships are important and should be a priority in life but they should not be a person’s whole world. Many couples today don’t seem to have a life outside their relationships. I have a couple of friends who have the same pattern in their relationships. They involve their partner in their work, when they go out with friends, and they don’t have anything to talk about other than their partner. It’s also frustrating to see couples like this because, in the end, you will know nothing about the person’s likes, dislikes, or personality except about their relationship. Couples in such relationships also try to control each other. They have opinions on every aspect of their partner’s life and they get hurt if the partner does the opposite to what they have been told. The toxic partner does not maintain boundaries and the other ends up pleasing and explaining over and over again. Eventually, the other partner also develops the same patterns and becomes equally toxic. Relationships like this become addictive and feel impossible to break the patterns.

Why is it hard to walk away?

As said, toxic relationships are addictive. They are mentally exhausting. When a partner tries to break the pattern or leave the relationship, the toxic partner apologizes or gives hope that they would change so that the other holds on. Adding to this, Indian culture conditioned people to work on their relationship and stay together despite the problems. Our culture doesn’t teach us the right to walk away or choose ourselves when things don’t work. A man is always expected to look after the family and a woman is always expected to put her family’s needs before hers. A year ago, I heard about a domestic violence case in my city. The wife who has two daughters endured years of domestic violence finally came out of the house and filed a case in court. In an interview when asked why didn’t she come out sooner, she said she hoped for her husband to change. There are many such examples like this and are many more who are still enduring hoping that their partner would change one day. 

When to walk away?

A couple needs to be aware of their relationship, how they affect each other and whether if they are on the same page. It’s important to know your partners’ goals, ambitions, and ideologies about life because even if a couple wants to stay together it gets impossible if the ideologies do not match. For instance, a man who wants to settle abroad might not match with a woman who likes to settle in India or a man who expects his wife to be independent might not get adjusted with a woman who chooses to be a housewife or vice versa. Having differences in a relationship does not make it toxic but having no boundaries does. One needs to realize that it’s okay to walk away if things in a relationship do not work and get mentally exhausting. There is no such thing called ‘matches made in heaven’ or ‘a couple is destined to be together’. A couple is only happy when they practically work and are in love. Remember..

‘A relationship is not successful when a couple gets married and stay together, rather they are successful when a couple is contended, satisfied and in a healthy relationship’

By

Sravani Mangalampalli.

Title Credits @Krishnateja Reddy

‘Our First Relationship’

The first thing we see when we open our eyes after we were born was our parents. Their first touch makes us stop crying. We instantly know we can trust them and from the day on, our parents work every day to make us smile, laugh, and give us a bright future. As kids, our parents are our world and we are theirs. They teach us every little thing by holding our hands. ‘learning alphabets’, ‘our first bicycle ride’, ‘our birthday parties’ all make us feel very special that we know we are their little prince/princess. I still remember one evening I casually asked my father to buy me an ice cream, the next minute I know was that he filled our freezer with ice creams. It was like he bought me an ice cream parlor and I instantly knew I am special and I am his little princess. As we slowly grow up, we go to school and then to college and university. We start observing the world around us. We watch our friends, their parents, and families. All of a sudden, we realize that our family isn’t perfect and our little world has its problems. The thoughts that our parents are perfect might slowly get shattered and we start seeing the other side of our family that we never thought of as kids. While some kids continue to respect and follow their parents, few kids feel resentment towards them especially during adolescence or in young adulthood. It’s always questionable that ‘why do kids resent their parents?’ is it kids’ fault? Parent’s fault? Or both?

Why do kids resent their parents?

There is one super hit movie about the father-son relationship in my native language. The father loves his son so much, provides everything the son could ever imagine, and also plans to offer his son the company he raised for the son’s future. Despite everything, the son feels he is locked up in a prison and resents his father till the end of the movie. Why? Because every time the father buys something for his son, a shirt or a bike he only thinks about how good it looks and how much he liked it instead of how much his son liked and wanted it. There is this one scene where the father and son both go shopping, the son picks up fancy shirts that make him feel young but the father picks up formal shirts and convinces his son to try them out. Before the son explains that he didn’t like it, the father happily buys them for his son. Although it looks very simple and petty, little things like this have a greater impact on the kid than we think we do. Fortunately, the movie has a happy ending where the father ends up understanding everything he did and apologizes to his son but how many of the kids in real life end up having a happy ending with their parents?

Such kind of parenting can precisely be seen in Indian culture. Indian parents get to choose what kind of toys their children should play with, what color they need to wear, what subjects to take to university, to when and who to get married to. An interesting article in Times of India elaborated the results of an HSBC Study on the hopes and expectations of the parents on their children’s education in which almost a dozen countries have participated. According to the study, when parents asked to rank the three important goals that they want their children to achieve, 51% of Indian parents choose successful careers, 49% choose happiness in life, 33% choose a healthy lifestyle, 22% wanted their children to earn enough for a comfortable life and only 17% choose for their children to reach their highest potential. In the contrast, more than a dozen countries ranging from Indonesia (56%), Hong Kong (58%), UAE (60%), UK (77%), Canada (78%), and France (86%) choose happiness in life as their ultimate goal while successful careers were only 17% in UK and Australia. The survey also showed 91% of the Indian parents wanted their children to have at least an under graduation and more than 88% of parents wanted masters and even higher degree and when inquired about the subjects most of the Indian parents choose engineering (23%), followed by business management and finance (22%), computer and information sciences (16%), medicine (14%) and law (2%).  While it’s great to know that Indian parents want their kids to have successful careers, this does pose an interesting question about how many parents will consider their kids’ opinion if they wish to have a life opposite to their parents’ expectations?

This brings me back to the day when I had to choose my subjects in my college. I was interested in taking up Biology but my father insisted on taking Mathematics and Physics so I can pursue Engineering. Fortunately, I ended up taking the subject I like but I do know many kids who are forced to take up careers that their parents wish to. When I talked to my mother and too many parents about this, everyone had a common answer “We do it for our kids and their happiness. These decisions will make them happy and secure in the future”. Now, it’s understandable but questionable. “Will the happiness of both parents and kids confined to the same decisions? Will things that made parents happy also make their kids happy? Will the kids have the same ideologies and goals in life as their parents?” and the answer is NO! A BIG NO!! Kids are different from their parents, their tastes, likes, interests including color, fashion to career are different. No kid turns out to be an exact copy of their parents. Many factors including environment, peers, schooling, etc. influences their choices in life and it’s okay for them to choose the opposite of their parents’ expectations. It’s their life and they have complete right to do so. One of the reasons that make a person happy and satisfied in life is when they do not live with regrets and that can only be achieved when they are given the “freedom of choice”. Turning back at their life, a person should not feel that their life would have been different if they had taken up decisions on their own. After all, it’s not a crime to choose on their own, and doing so they become more independent, confident, and ultimately satisfied and contented in life. They learn their mistakes by experience and in the end, every kid only expects their parents to understand and be their backbone irrespective of what they choose.

So, the next time your kid chooses something opposite to your expectation, remember that “They are not wrong, they are just different”.

By

Sravani Mangalampalli

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