Of Cupcakes, Lethargy & That Distance That Grows Longer

You close your eyes. You take a deep breath. You turn your thoughts to cupcakes, the countryside and other good things of life. You wish the real world would magically disappear from in front of your eyes.

Or at least your exam results would.

Or that email full of “feedback” from your boss.

You know the feeling, don’t you? That moment when you keep avoiding reality believing it’s somehow less disastrous if you don’t know it exists?

Me too.

Yeah … The Shameful Silence

This is how it happened. I stopped checking my stats. I stopped logging in to WordPress. I even stopped opening this website altogether, in case I catch a glimpse of the last date I posted! I don’t know how long it has been. Two months? Three months?? Six months???

And Alexa rank? What’s that?

The SilencePhoto by HiCe

Sure, I wanted to post.

Or so I told myself.

I planned to “write more” …

“When I’ve “settled down” in the new job.” (Did I tell you I switched jobs in between? :P)

“When I’m a little less busy”.

“When I’m “feeling like”, ’cause with weeks this crazy, weekends are meant for “relaxing”.”

You see the problem? These were my real challenges bulls**t excuses.

If that sounds familiar, you’re like the 99.999…9% of us “normal” people.

You see, that’s what we do. We like easy. We like escape-routes. We hate looking problems in the eye. We like to hope and dream and fantasize about solutions falling on our heads from somewhere “when the time comes”.  

That Phone Call …

Could you be doing the same? Like … right now? With your career, your new weight-loss program, or your relationship with your girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse/parents/children?

The DistancePhoto by phantomswife

“I’ll make that call tomorrow. Today I have a lot of work piled up.”

“I will apologize to him/her. Just not now. Some other time.”

“May be we can work through our distance if we try. But I just don’t have the courage to get my hopes high again.”

“I need to tell him … what I feel like, but every time he calls we just talk about how’re-you-how’s-life-what’s-up-at-work. I just don’t have the energy to bring up all that stuff… What’s the problem if we can get along just like this?”

Some relationship issues are deep. The kind of deep that makes you try to avoid them forever.

Doesn’t matter if it’s with your significant other or a parent or a friend or anyone else. Whatever it is, postponing dealing with it won’t make it go away. Distances don’t reduce over time. They only increase. If you’re hoping a really big disaster will bring you together like in the movies – yes it might happen. But if you’re like the 99.99% of us, it won’t.

Make that phone call now. Write that email now.

Yes, it’s not easy. But it’s necessary. 

Q&A: My Mother Feels Hurt by my Girlfriend’s Family. How to Make Things Work?


I don’t know how to start this story, but let me just start by saying I love my mother. I never had a great relationship with my father and it’s her hard work, dedication, parental love – whatever you call it – that makes me stand where I stand today.

Lion cub in mum's jawsPhoto by klehmkuhl

I now live and work in the US. Four years back I met my girlfriend (let’s call her AK), a half North Indian-half Bengali born and brought up in the US. Her parents ran away from home and married against their parents’ wishes, though later reconciled and now share good relations with their families. I’m glad to have them in my life – they’ve accepted our relationship fully and are very supportive of me.

Recently we started thinking of marriage. I arranged a meeting between my mother and sister and AK’s parents back in India. Neither AK nor I was present in this meeting.

Unfortunately the meeting didn’t last for even 5 min.  My mother was apparently outraged by the way AK’s mother treated her, and also by her attire which my mother deemed inappropriate for a public place.

Later I started hearing different accounts of the event from my mother, sister and AK’s mother. My mother is very angry at the moment and has gone to the extent of telling me to maintain a distance from AK and her family, suggesting they’re the “clever”, “bling-bling” type and not suitable for a guy like me. 

I really love AK and both of us have given a lot to this relationship. But on the other hand I have no clue as to how to placate my mother and start talking to her meaningfully about it.

I don’t want to hurt my mother by going against her wishes. Understandably, AK doesn’t want to force her way into an unwelcoming family either.

I can’t let either of the two people I love the most in this world become the biggest source of sorrow to the other. Please help me.

–          BG, North Carolina


Hi BG, 

Thank you for writing in. 

There are two important questions here:

  1. Should you get married to your current girlfriend?
  2. If yes, how should you proceed?

Let’s look at #1.

There are a couple of issues at play here.

First of all, AK’s family is settled abroad. Her parents are very liberal people, given the fact that they’re an interracial couple who ran away from home, one generation ago. Going by your description, your family seems to be quite traditional. Hence there’s a huge cultural gap between your family and AK’s. One of the reasons for your mother’s outrage is this.

While you may be settling abroad after marriage and your wife may not have to interact much with your mother, are you sure your traditional upbringing and her liberal upbringing will not lead to clashes at some point?

You might consider yourself liberalized. But we can never fully overcome the influences of our childhood even if we want, and deep inside you might hold traditional beliefs, attitudes and worldviews which neither you nor AK are aware of today. Your long relationship would of course have helped you understand each other to a great extent. But you need to do some soul-searching to find out such possible points of disconnect between the two of you (Why not start with listing down the things about AK’s family that you don’t like?). And she needs to do the same. Also discuss this with her parents openly, if you think they can help. Marriage is a BIG decision, and being uncomfortable now is better than making a mistake.

If after the exercise you’re still convinced you’re made for each other, we can move to Question #2.

We know your mother’s reaction to the whole situation.

I understand your parents are either separated or not very close to each other. Your mother loves her son (you) more than anything else. All her life she’s struggled to make sure he reaches where he is today. Naturally, he’s the core of her life.

In such a situation it’s most natural to feel paranoid – at least subconsciously – about someone else (AK) assuming importance in his life.

Inside, your mother is feeling insecure. She’s afraid she’d cease to hold as much importance to you as she holds today, if you marry someone you’ve fallen in love with (as opposed to someone chosen by her and/or the rest of your family). Add to that the fact that the girl’s family is very modern, enlightened, etc. This is intimidating to your mother. She’s afraid you’ll get so enamoured by their sophistication, progressive attitude etc. that you’ll draw closer and closer to them, forgetting her. Of course she also has the real fears of you experiencing a culture shock if you marry into this family (the concern I mentioned earlier).

Saas bahuPhoto by Shrihari

Let me tell you first off that arranging a meeting between the two mothers as a starter to this relationship was a mistake. You should’ve told her four years ago that there’s someone you like. You should have gone on to talk about her with your mother over all of your calls over the next one year. Eventually you should have let AK and your mother interact telephonically over the next couple of years before you let the girl’s parents meet her. Check this: How to Impress your Girlfriend/Boyfriend’s Parents

However what’s past is past. Now your job is to allay your mother’s fears. You can try the following:

  1. Empathize: Do not mention anything about AK to your mother for a few days now. She’s hurt (quite understandably). Right now your responsibility is to be by her side. For the next few days call her more often than usual. Talk to her very lovingly. No need to bring up the girl’s mother incident (that will lead to more negative emotions on the part of both of you) but ask her often how she’s feeling, how her day was etc. She must feel her pain is as much yours as hers.
  2. Explain: Whenever you think your mother has recovered from this incident, apologize profusely for it. Subsequently tell her gently that she’s totally justified in her reaction given the impression of the girl’s family that she got, but you’ve interacted with them for years and they’re very good people (I hope that’s what you believe ;)). Give her a few instances of the care for you that they’ve shown over the years (may be you have dinner with them often, or they help you with your settling down challenges in a new country… ). In the end repeat to your mother that you’re very disappointed by the way things turned out in their very short meeting and you’re trying to understand why the girl’s family acted in the way they did (even if you’re not doing this ;) ). The objective here is to make your mother believe that you understand her pain and are not suffering from the “son is a son until he takes a wife” syndrome.
  3. Help them become friends: Your mother will not react favourably to the above approach the first time. Keep trying it from time to time (Don’t do it in every conversation – you’ll lose her trust). In the meantime keep mentioning AK casually every now and then. (AK topped her class… AK makes such delicious cakes… AK gave me a beautiful sweater, I’ll send you photos of it… ). Also get AK to say hi to your mother sometime. One very important word of caution – do not make up nice stuff about her to impress your mother, highlight only the real positive aspects of her. Otherwise there will be expectation mismatches and severe strains within the family later. On the same note, encourage AK to be herself – instead of going out of her way to be impressive – while she’s on call with your mother.
  4. Don’t overdo it: Always remember, half of your battle is already won. Your mother, at the end of the day, wants your happiness more than anything else. The very fact that she’d agreed to meet the girl’s family in spite of the fact that they’re settled abroad and are – well – very different from your own is a sign that she’s at least OK with the marriage in principle. So just make sure you take it very carefully from here on. There is no need to put in unnecessary extra efforts – just let things flow naturally while ensuring no further damage occurs.

Let me know how things go. All the best. :)

“Should I Break Up?” The ONE Question You Need to Ask

 My boyfriend and I have been together for three years. Over the last eight months or so we’ve spent more of our time together fighting than doing anything else. Something seems to have changed, but I don’t know what. Sometimes I feel I never understood him to start with and this relationship has been a colossal mistake. Should I break up?

Should I break upPhoto by Love is the key

Pooja from Thane is not alone. All relationships hit lows, and we’re often kept guessing which ones can be worked out and which ones can’t.

“Should I stay and work it out, or should I break up?” If you’ve ever been in a relationship, that question has probably crossed your mind more than once. Today’s post is an exploration of that question.

Fortunately, there’s just ONE question you need to ask yourself to know exactly what to do. That question is:

“Is this relationship giving me what I need from it?” You stay only if the answer is, “Yes.”

But what does it mean to “get what you need from your relationship”? Here are the top four indicators.

#1. Is communication easy? Even during fights?

One of the surefire signs of a fulfilling relationship is ease of communication.

All couples fight.

During fights, do they call you a “&*^%”, “^$$#”, “****”?

Or they catch you completely off-guard every time by throwing your shortcomings – which you confessed to them at a vulnerable moment – back at you in a cruel way?

Do they shout their lungs out?

Or they catch you completely off-guard every time by citing incidents from the past which apparently annoyed them, but they never told you at the time?

Fighting, and making your displeasure clear to the other person is natural. It happens in every relationship. You fight, but even when you fight you don’t have any problem understanding each other (even each other’s displeasure).  

But if you feel manipulated, baffled and accused in completely unexpected ways all the time, there’s a communication gulf between the two of you. Somewhere you don’t understand each other, each other’s language, each other’s thoughts, expectations and needs.

If you don’t understand them, you’re most likely not fulfilling them.

#2.Does their vision of the future look alarmingly different from yours?  

On one of those rare occasions when you’re not fighting and yet talking, they announced their dreams of living and working in different countries throughout their career.

Your heart sank.

You remembered how you whispered into each other’s ears your dreams of settling down back in your quaint little hometown, in the initial days of your relationship.

Should I break upPhoto by Gizo

This isn’t sounding like the old him/her you knew. Somewhere along the way the needs and wants from life have changed – their, or yours.

A relationship is not about one of you fitting into the other’s journey. It’s about figuring out your journey, and finding someone who shares it. More or less. So, if you have very different needs from life as of today, it’s time to re-evaluate the relationship.

#3.Whenever you’re alone with your partner, do you wish other people were around?

Communication has broken down, and you’ve come a long way from each other. Emotionally. The alone-time you both so looked forward to is now something you both dread. Alone-time now looks like nothing more than an opportunity for Apocalypse-time.

You don’t have anything to talk to each other about. If you try, it ends in an argument.

You’re judging each other all the time, waiting for signs in their behaviour which validate your newly formed set of negative expectations.

If you prefer being with others more than with each other, it’s time to assess things very carefully.

#4. Are you always critical of each other?

His mannerisms come across as obnoxious to you. He looks at you and thinks, “I could get a so much more beautiful girl.”

Worse – you compare each other with others. In your mind, of course.

Even worse – you try to change them. You well-meaningly suggest how they should become a better person.

And before you know it this has led to yet another nerve-racking fight.

Forgiveness thy name is love. All of us have flaws. But if you’re in love with someone you’ll look past them – even find them cute. And so, if irrational displeasure at almost everything your partner is and does has crept into the relationship, it’s more a sign of the relationship wilting than some real new shortcomings you both have magically developed.

There are dozens of signs – small and big – to look for, when it comes to deciding, “Should we think things through once again?” Over to you…

Why Marriages and Relationships are like Apples and Oranges (Part 2)

In my last post I talked about three of the six major changes which couples need to anticipate when they take their long term relationship to the next level, namely marriage. These three are-

  1. Discovering many minute aspects of your partner after marriage, which might be underwhelming to you and which you’ve had no chance to find out earlier
  2. Marriage invariably brings loss of freedom – at least to some extent
  3. Adjusting with expectations which the Indian Extended Families on both sides develop once you get married

Today we’ll look at the other three changes you should be prepared for before tying the knot.

Taking responsibility

One of the most important changes which people struggle to adjust to after marriage, is taking responsibility for yourself and someone else. Marriage means suddenly you’re not a kid anymore. You’re expected to build a life together, from scratch. And that involves everything from remembering to buy your daily groceries to taking joint decisions regarding buying your first home – things you never bothered about when you were on your own, even if you were in a relationship.

Relationship after marriagePhoto by preety1996

There probably aren’t too many easy ways out of this one – apart from being mentally prepared. The more mature you are as an adult, the easier it will be for you to adjust after marriage. Train yourselves up for the change. Discuss it often with your fiancé. Try to form a mental picture of Life After Marriage. The clearer this picture is the better. In order to create this picture, ask each other (mundane and intensely boring but important) questions like –

“Do we need to buy a car? If yes, when? How do we need to plan for it?”

“How many vacations are we going to take every year? How do we decide the locations? What about the finances?”

“How are we going to manage our daily meals? Who’s going to cook? Are we going to need help?”

It’s not necessary to ask each possible question or to have answers to all of them up front. But the more questions you ask before marriage, the easier it will be for both of you to grasp and adjust to the realities after marriage.

Sharing your finances

Do you know that economic tensions or financial disagreements figure among the top five reasons people divorce, all around the world? Money is something most of us take very seriously because of the immense effort we have to put in to earn it. Sharing not only your finances, but also decisions regarding your finances with someone else is a thought which throws most people off balance.

Relationship after marriagePhoto by 61@NO2

My take – get thrown off balance before you’re thrown out of your peace of mind when you reinvent the wheel after marriage. That is to say, like all other major changes, this change should also be handled through discussion before marriage.

Do you want to maintain your separate finances and pay for your own expenses?

Do you want to have a joint account for regular expenses with separate individual accounts for personal expenses?

Do you want all your finances completely shared?

Discuss these and all other questions regarding finances as openly as possible before marriage and try to find solutions both you and your partner are genuinely comfortable with.
If one of you is not earning (enough), the issue can become even more complex – it then becomes one of self-esteem. Even in that case discuss out the financial arrangement between the two of you (things like whether one of you is going to provide a monthly allowance to the other, or share your money completely, etc.) before marriage.

Could you be…taking each other for granted?

Another subtle yet important change which individuals complain of after marriage is a sudden drop in the level of attention they enjoy from their partner.
The reason of course is what I call The “Gotcha!” Syndrome. Even if you have been in a relationship for years and you were always very sure of getting married to each other, let’s face it – people break up. And it’s pretty easy. Compare that with marriages in India which are thought of as quite permanent and rarely break up – India has a mind boggling rate of divorce of ~1% (even though two of the major reasons for that could be the harrowing process of getting a divorce and the social taboo associated with it, if you ask me ;) ). So that means after your marriage, you’re really unlikely to leave your partner. This sometimes translates into a taken-for-granted attitude one’s partner after marriage.

The cure?

Well, the cure is to give yourself and your partner time to adjust to the new realities and to discover the new form of love after marriage. Empathy and communication are vital too. If you’re feeling neglected by your spouse after marriage, let them know. Make sure you’re setting the right expectations for each other. Needless to say, you can’t expect any improvement if you make this issue into a fight. Discussing it in a calm and mature way is key.
Often the solution lies in people realizing the value of true love, over external displays of attention – and that realization takes some experience. Certain behaviours could be natural in the context of a non-live-in relationship where you spend very limited time with each other every day, but impossible in the context of life after marriage. You need to realize that this seldom means loss of love. (That is to say – if you’re feeling neglected because your husband isn’t taking you out to movies every weekend, grow up!)

Did you face any other major change when you moved from being in a relationship to being married? Share your learnings with us through the comments. Have a nice day!