“Lying to ourselves is more deeply ingrained than lying to others,” wrote Fyodor Dostoevsky. And how true is this! Self-deception is far more common than one might think, but it becomes quite dangerous when you’re in a relationship. The lies you tell yourself are not sustainable.
This is exactly what we’re talking about today with Nandini Krishnan. Author, playwright, and translator, Nandini is here to give us a fresh perspective on marriages, happiness, and everything that lies between them. In the process, we’ll also get to know more about her popular book, Hitched: The Modern Woman and Arranged Marriage. Shall we begin?
Let’s answer the question of the hour: Why do we lie to ourselves and create a relationship based on lies?
Lying And Deception In Relationships: In Conversation With Nandini Krishnan
When getting out of a relationship is difficult, lying to yourself about loving someone becomes the norm. Many women practice this art of self-deception and build a relationship based on lies. The nature of arranged marriages is such that divorce and separation are not considered viable options. Consequently, there are many lies you tell yourself.
He isn’t THAT bad, others have it much worse, it will get better eventually, and so on. I bet you’re thinking, “This looks familiar…am I lying to myself too?” Keep reading to find out if you are.
Nandini Krishnan was fascinated by the workings of the arranged marriage system, and the modern women of India within them. She sought out these women and interviewed them. Turning the tables on this brilliant author, we’re interviewing her instead. She has a few sparkling insights up her sleeve as she dives deep into the lies you tell yourself.
1. For Hitched, you have interviewed women (and their families) who have had arranged marriages. So tell us, what is the most endearing aspect of an arranged marriage in India?
That’s an interesting word, ‘endearing’. I don’t know if there is any particular aspect I find ‘endearing’ about arranged marriage. There are times when I feel the way a marriage is arranged is the very opposite of endearing. The idea for the book started with a conversation with my editor at Random House about how arranged marriage is great fodder for comedy of manners.
There are so many aspects on which generations clash, where people of an older generation unintentionally say things that are politically incorrect. There was a time when I used to find it hilarious, even endearing. But in an India that is becoming so much more casteist and communal, I find a lot of this abhorrent now.
2. You also say that everything in an arranged marriage is a shade different from a love marriage. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
I think it partly has to do with the speed at which things move and partly has to do with other factors like family, mind-space, perspective, and societal norms. The way we behave in romantic relationships is very different from the way we behave in an arranged engagement. A first date with someone to whom one is physically attracted is very different from a first meeting with someone to whose matrimonial eligibility one is attracted.
When one is in a relationship, one has days and weeks and months and years of privacy to mull over one’s chemistry with one’s partner; the only pressure comes from oneself, one’s partner, and occasionally, unsolicited advice from people in the know.
In an arranged marriage, the pressures are multiplied. Families feel responsible when a marriage is not going well, and try to “save” the marriage, especially when the marriage has produced children. Sometimes, the only way to salvage the lives of two people is to let them gauge where the relationship is headed; breaking up a marriage is better than living in a broken home.
3. What insights did interviewing all those couples give you about relationships in general?
Most of those insights are in the book. In the three years since I completed it, I’ve been wondering about the gaps in truth, especially in the relationships whose statuses have changed. How much do we lie to ourselves about how happy we are, especially when we are telling our stories to the world?
I’ve also been thinking about how spontaneous our relationships are. Do we truly fall, helplessly, in love, or are all relationships a hybrid between logic and emotion, instinct and circumspection? We often speak about how we should stop playing games, but we hesitate before we allow ourselves to be vulnerable.
We wouldn’t think twice before telling someone he or she is a wonderful friend or that we are glad we met him or her. We think several times, over several days, before saying the very same thing to a partner.
Maybe our lives would be a lot less complicated if we were unapologetically ourselves, instead of trying to constantly put our best feet forward, constantly seeking to please someone else, constantly altering our personalities and tastes to suit partners. Someone who is perfect for you will like you for being yourself; you shouldn’t worry that anything you do will scare him or her off.
Related Reading: 7 Benefits Of Love Marriage Over Arranged Marriage
4. You discuss a lot of finer nuances about marriages – living with in-laws, changing the surname, sharing passwords, deciding when to have children… Tell us about one incident/experience that a couple shared with you on these matters – something that has stayed with you ever since.
The word “hope”. It was a one-word answer to a question I asked a divorcee whom I interviewed. She had been through a lot of trauma, from living with controlling in-laws to opening a joint bank account which was eventually emptied by her husband. She told me she had known the marriage was over six months into it. But it took her years to file for a divorce. Why? Hope.
To me, that word defines our interactions with the world, not just our romantic or sexual relationships. However cynical or pessimistic we may claim to be, or believe we are, we all hope for something every day.
5. What are the relationship rules you swear by?
Honesty, fidelity, gentleness, and unconditional love. If you’re not inclined to be honest or faithful or kind, or if your love turns conditional, you should probably say goodbye before you hurt your partner irreparably.
I emphasize gentleness and kindness because honesty can often be brutal. It is important to ensure that your thoughts are filtered through considerate words. I think the test of how committed one is to a relationship is the answer to this question: Would you want your partner to raise your dogs with you?
Related Reading: Healthy vs. Unhealthy Relationships – 10 Characteristics
Our key takeaways on lies people tell themselves
We first acknowledge the difference between an arranged and organic setup. An arranged marriage is leaps and bounds away from a usual relationship. The involvement of the family plays a crucial role in the short and long-term in the lies we believe about ourselves.
Second, comes the hope that things will get better. They have to, right? We are inclined to believe in a better future despite already knowing the improbability of it. This unrealistic optimism is how relationships based on lies sustain themselves.
If any of Nandini’s words have struck a chord with you, be sure to do some introspection. Ask, why am I lying to myself? In a world where there is much lying and deception in relationships, be the exception.
There could be two main reasons why being honest with yourself in a relationship is difficult for you. Firstly, you know that leaving the relationship or marriage is not a practical option. Because you have to stay, there are many lies you tell yourself. And secondly, you’re hoping for things to get better. Maybe this optimistic outlook is making you self-deceive.
Nine times out of ten, lying and deception in relationships is an indicator that you need to reevaluate where you stand. Maybe your relationship isn’t making you happy, or you need a break ( or breakup). This is usually why we lie to ourselves.