One evening last month V, The Bhablet and I were at a friend's place. V and I were squabbling as we usually do. Now I'm quite used to some people taking this seriously and getting upset. Some others look at us and feel good because they think they have a more 'adult' relationship with their spouses. (Really?) But this evening for the first time we were openly rebuked for the squabbling. And I must admit it made me think.
I would be lying if I said I think it is vital to a marriage. Or that I always enjoy it. Sometimes I do wish V would be as openly affectionate with me as some other men are with their wives. I mean, constant teasing is all very well, but I'm one who likes the petting just as much. And I think the worst effect this squabbling has had on our relationship is that it has to some extent inhibited me from showing affection openly -- something that never did come very naturally to me and which I had to work to learn.
Having said that, it is also true that for the most part V and I are ok with our squabbling. We have a history that goes back some years before we were married, and that does spill into our marriage from time to time. When we hang out with the guys we hung out with back then, and we pull out old stories, it's hard for me not to be rude to V and call him names the way I do the others. Once it was a shock to realise that V was the man I was marrying (because you know, it's K's kid brother, for crying out loud. The nice guy in the next room.) Now I've got mostly used to him as V my husband -- but now and then we almost fall into the old times.
Our squabbling is a remnant from this past. When we were friends but he was contemptuous of the people I hung out with. When I was a brash young college kid and firmly convinced I knew most of what was worth knowing. And I think we do it mainly out of habit now. It would worry me (and it does) if V were to be nice to me for hours on end. It's mainly friendly. I say something sarcy and he tosses it back at me. We're not exactly known for our witty repartee but we do have our moments.
It bothers me when people take this to show a lack of affection between us. Honey, if I don't care for somebody, I don't waste my time (and thought) bandying words with them. And it bothers me quite a lot when people think that because we squabble, I don't respect V. I do, lots and lots. I respect his fathering skills, I have a lot of respect for the way he puts up with a madly run home, and I respect him for the courage he has shown in his career decisions. I happen to think he could do all of these things better than he does already, but that's my opinion and that certainly does not detract from my appreciation of what he does. (My rants to the contrary notwithstanding.)
But I'm not one to wear my heart on my sleeve. If I'm angry you'll know all about it. But when I'm in love you'd never know it to hear me. Unless you really knew me and knew that I curse loudest when I love the strongest. Then again, don't we all?
When V and I keep arguing, it's not too hard to know when we are in earnest and when we are being merely childish. I accept that it might make our friends uncomfortable, and we should behave ourselves if that is the case. But why can't our friends accept us the way we are? His friends are used to me calling him names. They also know I happen to love the man to bits. So when we squabble, they roll their eyes and look amused, but they accept it much as they accept me sitting in his arms while we all chat. (Ok, wait, that hasn't happened for a while now. Our arms have been rather full of Bhablets of late.) My own friends don't know V so well and most of them aren't married or even in committed relationships. I think they view the squabbling with the same awe and respect for the unknown that they show for our married status in the first place. But some friends, like these two, judge us, and I wish they wouldn't. This couple is quite lovey-dovey, but their idea of a marriage is as alien to us as ours is to them. I mean, I would hate having to ask V before I take a decision. I do ask him, but that's because I want to. When I don't feel like it (or when we have fought) I take my own decisions. I don't think V would welcome it either, having to think out all my problems. It's one thing to hear me out and offer advice -- another thing altogether to have to fix my problems for me.
Also, they have this men's role/women's role thing which annoys me. I have no problems helping out with dinner but I fail to understand why the men (including V) get to chat and drink while we do. When I ask him for help with household chores or with Rahul they always look a little surprised. I reason it this way -- I think V is capable of doing a lot of things. I think it would be disrespectful of me to slot him in a restricted role. I should hate to have anybody think I can only work or only keep house or only handle a kid. I can do all these and plenty of other things too. But so can V. He has talents he doesn't bother to hone. He can sketch and sing some and knows a lot about computers and music and movies. He can do some basic mechanical tinkering around the house. (Although, just for the record, he can but he doesn't!) He can certainly handle a baby every bit as well as I do, and with some babies I think he gets along better. So if he is multi-faceted, why should I ask him to stick to a conventional notion of his role in the house?
This has got to be quite a rant. Well, it just annoys me, that's all. I think this is especially annoying because I really like this couple and would like to hang out with them much more than we get the chance to do, but I don't feel comfortable if I think they are judging me for 'making' V change a diaper or carry some plates. I asked him to, it's true, but because I think he can. I'm showing respect for his abilities.