Cousin S informed us that he would be in the city for work and would be joining us for dinner that night. Normally, this is a happy occasion, but this time I groaned. This means I would have to break my silence, which I had adopted as non-violent protest in the house, because the spouse and children turn deaf when in front of the television.
I was compelled to break the silence, because house rules state that we will not fight in front of a guest. Just like Sheldon’s roommate/girlfriend-boyfriend agreement in the Bing Bang Theory Series, our household has its own set of agreements. However, we are not as detailed as Sheldon and our agreements are unwritten, verbal and learnt over a period as our marriage grew older and we became wiser.
We have the following tacit commandments.
1. Thou shall give each other space
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Rather, let the other have their own space. It does not mean that there is no love if one wants to spend time alone or do an activity without involving the spouse. Over time, we have become comfortable with silence when each of us is in the zone, engrossed in our tasks yet sharing the same space. I will be in all probability with a book or writing an article and the spouse engrossed in his music or movie. We do not feel compelled to exchange pleasantries or participate in each other’s tasks, because we are okay to do different things. Some days I do my shopping solo or go on a lunch date with a friend without feeling the need to drag the husband along, and likewise he has his circle of friends with whom he hangs out.
2. Thou shall not quarrel in front of guests and children
You can debate, but not to the level of hostile argument. Stop and park the argument which you might want to pick up later. Oh, and we learnt that we must not quarrel in front of the children and neither must we ask them to pick sides. The children once commented, if Daddy and Mamma are friends, why do they fight so much? They did not buy the argument that we are fighting for fun and their solemn verdict that they fight for real made us realise that there are no grey areas in the minds of the children as far as raised voices and intense arguments are concerned.
3. Thou shall support each other in front of others
To be honest, we have our fair share of good-natured teasing; however, we are never disrespectful of the other. We do not bring up private issues or money matters when in company. We tease each other regarding laptop and phone addiction (his) and nagging habit (mine) but in a light-hearted manner.
4. Thou shall never assume that communication was clear
I learnt this the hard way, that no, we are not connected to each other telepathically. We do not finish each other’s sentences and we are not intuitive about each other at all. Hence, we tend to repeat and reconfirm our instructions until we know the other party is certain of what the intended communication was. When the husband sent a text asking a question, I replied with a ‘Y’ thinking he will understand that I meant Yes (Y/N choice). But he thought I asked him ‘Why?’ and he did not perform the task, thinking I sent him the question, “Why do you want to do that?” Enough said.
5. Thou shall share household duties even when not asked, but especially when asked
With time, we have settled into a task allocation system depending upon areas with which we are comfortable. I pay the sundry bills; the husband takes care of the gadgets and the cars. I organise the parties and the husband manages the bar and the guests. For grey areas, I have a well-designed nagging program, which never fails to get the men of the house to complete the tasks assigned to them.
6. Thou shall share children related duties
We have our set areas of competence, which we execute without being asked. The husband is the timekeeper. He gets the children ready for school and takes care of their sports activities, whereas I am the homework and studies in-charge.
7. Thou shall lower expectations when it comes to each other
We have agreed upon an extremely lucrative no gift policy, so we have no expectations from each other. We do not believe that gifts are a measure of love. In fact, we believe in un-birthday presents, as per Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Simply put, one gets birthday presents only once a year, whereas the un-birthday present can be received several times a year.
8. Thou shall not think less of the other person because of their weak points
We are comfortable in front of the other when displaying our limitations, lack of knowledge or understanding. We believe that the scope of learning is infinite and we often use each other as a quick source of knowledge, rather than pretending to know everything.
9. Thou shall honour a commitment made by the spouse even if it is unexciting
We usually check with each other before making a commitment, but in the event we have not, we try as much as possible to honour it. Of course, there are occasions when it is not possible to fall in line and therefore it calls for negotiation.
10. Thou shall respect each other’s choices
The spouse is the religious one and I question everything that is not logical. However, I have learnt to not question his faith and he has learnt to not push me into following his footsteps to the several temples he visits. Over time, we have learnt to respect each other’s choices in the big and small stuff, including food preferences, diet plans, music choices and leisure activities.