Sunday, August 05, 2007

Respect Thy Partner

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.


dipali said...

Interesting. The friends seem to be living in a time warp insofar as V doing things around the house or helping with The Bhablet are concerned. As for the squabbling, I guess it all depends on how well they know you for them to even comment upon it.
For the record, my husband and I used to feel quite uncomfortable when a favourite nephew and his wife seemed to be squabbling all the time, and would sometimes get really snappy. (They were not old friends, it was an arranged marriage, and we really used to wonder how they'd get on- still do, sometimes!) We didn't really know how to get the conversation back on an even keel. I've learned over many many years that like it or not, one of a wife's important functions is to be the convenient, in-house butt of corny jokes and endless leg-pulling:)

Sue said...

Dipali -- Actually, I have mixed feelings about the squabbling. I know it bothers our parents, so we try it keep it down or at least openly childish (and therefore more acceptable!) around them. And I hated it when my parents frequently crossed the boundaries and squabbling became downright meanness.

But it's also something that is mostly funny. That's why I don't call it either arguing or fighting.

I think the difference between your nephew and us lies in the shared past.

Rimi said...

Dipali, these friends of Sue's do not, as a matter of fact, live in a time wrap, you know? I don't know if you noticed, but there seems to be quite a trend of returning to gendered domesticity. Sometimes I think I'd just blame K-serials and be done with it, but obviously, it's not that easy.

@Sue: I *have* mentioned V reminds me of my dad, haven't I? My mum's never been the butt of his jokes, true, but he IS the Resident Tease, he is. And the three of us have made people stop and consider and pass silent judgment for as long as I can remember. All by just being our (rather monekyish, I must admit) selves. Chonu used to worry at one point, but she's long since given up. The way I see it, we're a somewhat unconventional family and very happy just the way we are. A set of parents who don't tease or bicker to threaten physical harm to each other or to me and smother me with warm affection instead would make me jump off the balcony. The folks who stand in judgment, even if they're relatives or friends of the family, can go jump in to a lake.

This attitude took some time coming, but it's here to stay. It helps to cultivate it (although why would you? You already have truckloads of it) and frankly, once you have it, you'll be able to suffer these fools gladly. Because try as you might, most of them will never quite understand, and not understanding, they will never quite let you be either.

Suki said...

Honey, I thought being in the college you were would teach you that acceptance for our lot is hard to find. Here we are, a UG2 couple, and people are already shocked at how gender roles go utterly haywire. (As in... him telling me how to fix the elastic on my skirt, me informing him about the rules of football, him knowing WAY more about makeup and clothes than me... it goes on)

As for squabbing, I say - go squabble away! Just as long as other people can hear themselves talking. :P. It's hard for a lot of people to realise that a husband and wife can also be friends. Their problem, not yours.

dipali said...

Hi Rimi- I've often hopped onto your blog from Lali's. Actually I know a whole lot of people who are quite comfortable in non-gender specific domesticity. I guess they don't watch K-serials!
Agreed that no one outside the dyad (or triad, or larger family) knows exactly what's going on within, but if perceived hostility/aggression goes beyond a level it can be very uncomfortable for the observer. But that doesn't give him or her the right to comment upon it, either.

Sue said...

Rimi -- I'll go with you on this one. The gender roles our parents' generation fought against seem to be making a comeback in certain circles. I don't have a problem with this -- so long as they don't pass their judgements on us.

I can't help it, it does bother me. I try not to show it, but it keeps me away.

Suki -- I don't think we are very intrusive, really. But you'd have to meet us to know this. I will not accept being compared to a couple from that den of debauchery that you call Uni, though. We are a sober, respectable, married couple. With a child.

Dipali -- See my comment on the generation change in response to Rimi. The bottomline I think would be, have your opinions by all means, but please don't force them on people who just have different ways and are happy the way they are?

First Rain said...

Nahiiiii.... {fast changing cameras with lightning and thunder in the background}! Now those are the K-serials.

Oh, I have seen very good friends fight - and I mean fights that would put ear-biting-tyson to shame. But then they love each other - like anyone can see that - one doesn't fight with aliens, does one? Sigh!

Poppins said...

When DH and I argue, we seem to forget that we are married (now, not so much but in early days) We do get a little too intense though, so it was understandable that our friends got a little psyched :)

I am so with you on giving DH equal share of the work. Often when we meet other couples with kids, DH will be on the floor with the kids, or feeding poppin while I'm relaxing with my feet up. And he'll be the only dad doing that.

He's especially good with taking care of poppin when we are out of the house, makes me think he wants to earn a few brownie points:)

Beq said...

First there was a rolling stone, then there were three
If all the women were El Oh El A Lola
Where would the rest be?

Suki said...

"den of debauchery that you call Uni"???

Don'cha DAREEEE!!!

:sees red:

Is your name, by any chance, MM? (NOT Mad Momma or Moppet's Mom... this is a University thing!!!!)

(PS: When I say "fix the elastic on my skirt, it means I was sitting at his place repairing a skirt of mine - NOT the one I was wearing)

Rimi said...

Dipali, so you ARE that very perceptive Dipali from Lali's blog? Since you don't use your URL there, I used to wonder. Glad to know you drop by at my place :-)

I completely agree with your last paragraph there. They may, perhaps, take one half of the couple aside the half they are closer to?) and ask if they could tone it down, but mostly I find a better option is to keep away from company that one finds disturbing.

Rimi said...

Suki, honey, Sue's name is NOT MM -- where did you get that idea? Her name is her URL. Take a look :-)

Suki said...

Since Rimi will determinedly not get it, I get obvious. :P. I was wondering if Sue was actually our departmental Eminem masquerading as an innocent woman. :evil evil grin:

Rohini said...

I feel your pain. I get this a lot, especially since I am a shrew!

A friend even suggested I take my last post on marriage off because it not entirely positive about the dear husband

Sue said...

First Rain -- But I'm not talking of fighting here. I'm talking of squabbling. Very childish exchanges.

Poppin's Mom -- Makes me think he lurves his baybe and is not looking forward to when he can no longer pick her up and cuddle her silly... That's how I imagine V would see it.

Beq -- In a club downtown where they drink champage and it tastes just like cherry cola (Cee Oh El A Cola).

Suki -- Child, I finished Uni two years ago. One day I will drop in and you can see for yourself who I am, ok?

Rimi -- I really like this couple, and I'm pretty sure they like us too. I guess we'll just have to work out some way wherein our two wildly differing ideas of marriage can co-exist.

Rohini -- Daft, that. You are always honest, but I don't think I have ever read anything disrespectful or unloving about Jai. Angry yes, but are we not entitled to the occasional rant? Do we love any less for that?

Suki said...

:D. Suits me! (psst - look for the bandannas)
and I take you up on the offer to hold the Bhablet.