Vanita had fallen head over heels in love with a participant from her course. She was married [against her parents’ wishes] to a hard-working, middle-class boy from her medical college. Actually, she wanted to study literature, but ended up becoming a doctor to fulfil her parent’s wishes. After marriage, she had settled down to keep house for her husband and had two children. At the time it provided a refreshing change from the stress of fulfilling her parents’ ambitions. Slowly, her husband got busy as his medical practice flourished. Vanita claimed that he didn’t even have time for romance. She complained that in the little time that he did spend with her, he discussed medical cases or future plans for the family. He was a gentle man, but she did not feel cherished in the relationship. She met us saying, “I love two men, and I don’t want to choose. I am in a moral dilemma. My husband has been a gentle, caring person who works hard for the family. I value that and respect him immensely, but my lover makes me feel cherished as a woman. My body burns with passion for him.”
What went wrong?
Marriage is a package deal, and one needs to accept what comes in it. No partner can be perfect and many marriages fall prey to the ‘utopia syndrome’ of unrealistic expectations of a fairy-tale life. Reading too many romantic novels could make one lose touch with reality. And many marriages have suffered because of such unrealistic expectations based on fiction. Not being able to appreciate what you have in reality is the fallout of comparisons with perfect fairy tales.
Your partner is a gift from God, and you need to appreciate and accept this gift just like you would accept and appreciate God’s gift in nature. When you see a spectacular sunset, you don’t say, “A little more orange around the sun please, and a little pink on the clouds. How about a little deep purple on the waves?” You enjoy the sunset just the way it is. People are just as much gifts of nature as sunsets. So why can’t they be enjoyed as they are?
Another case in point
Raised in an orthodox family, Surabhi was not allowed the freedom every teenager craves. So, she escaped the parental prison by marrying her best friend’s brother. After marriage, she was given every freedom and she revelled in it. Her husband went to great lengths to keep her happy. The rebel child in her found instant gratification in the husband who was like a pampering parent. Now, she sought a more adult relationship, which she found with one of her husband’s friends. This man was always upfront and assertive with her and did not give in to each of her whims and fancies. She was immensely attracted by this quality, and found herself at a crossroads when he proposed marriage. On one hand, she felt grateful to her husband to let her experience life in all its colours and loved her lifestyle with him. On the other hand, she “felt like a woman” with her boyfriend and respected him for not indulging her whims.
Once again, this woman loved two men for different reasons. But is it really love?
What is love really?
Love has various levels, from merely seeking satisfaction for oneself to meeting the needs of others. Human love moves along a continuum, from the pole of self-centredness to the pole of other-centredness. There are many words for love in the Greek language: storge refers to love between a parent and child, eros refers to passionate and sexual love, philia refers to real affection between close friends, and agape refers to unconquerable benevolence and invincible goodwill—the highest and purest form of love.
Often, a woman who finds herself drawn to two men, is one whose certain desires are being satisfied by one man and certain others by another. She wants both of them for what they bring to her life. For her, giving up one man means giving up some of those desires, which she is not prepared to do. More often than not, this problem arises when we look at a relationship, based purely on our own gratification [I-centric], and not as a mutually shared partnership [we-centric], where the relationship, the ‘we’, the ‘us’ is valued and where healthy negotiations take place.
A we-centric person takes the effort to communicate to the partner that certain basic valid relationship needs are not being fulfilled. Through such healthy and open communication, mutual understanding and negotiations take place. The we-centric person also knows the delicate art of when and what to negotiate and when and what to simply let go and ignore.
In giving we receive
A meaningful life can result only from the experience of love in our life, and this implies a commitment and dedication to another. Love does not ask the question, “What am I getting out of this?” as the criterion of fulfilment. Love takes time, demands a history of giving and receiving, laughing and crying, living and dying; it never promises instant gratification, only ultimate fulfilment. Love means believing in someone, in something, it supposes a willingness to struggle, to work, to suffer and to join in the rejoicing. There has not been even one recorded case of deep and lasting fulfilment by a person whose basic mind-set and only question was, “what am I getting out of this?” Satisfaction and fulfilment are the by-products of committed and dedicated love. They belong only to those who can reach beyond themselves, and to whom ‘giving’ is more important than ‘receiving’. Sometimes we are tempted to confuse ‘good times’ with a ‘good life’. A successful pursuit of endless good times is something that can never really exist, and can only result in the inevitable sadness and disappointment of unfulfilled expectations.
You obviously don’t want love, if you don’t want to:
- Break the fixation with self and give up your self-centeredness
- Learn how to care about and be sincerely dedicated to the satisfaction of another
- Become a sensitive listener, who hears what is said and also what is isn’t
- Postpone personal gratification to meet the needs of another
- Get in touch with your deepest feelings and most hidden thoughts
- Share your most vulnerable self as an act of love
- Get honest feedback from someone who really knows you through your own self-disclosure
- Work at the delicate art of communication and shared decision-making.
Man goes through life, selfishly blind to anything and anyone other than himself. ‘Poor me’, ‘I want’, ‘I need’, ‘I feel’, ‘my life’ form the sub-stratum of his life.
If we step out of our self-consumed world, we can understand, for the first time, the true meaning of love. In the words of St Francis of Assisi, “It is in giving that we receive”.
We are transformed by love. What we receive in giving is so much more than we can ever give. It leaves us feeling grateful to those who allow us to love them, eternally grateful for the opportunity to experience the gift of love. Ask yourself, “Have you ever lived for someone more than you live for yourself?” If not, today is your chance.
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