Bonobology spoke in depth about relationships and love and marriage to author Preeti Shenoy.
One of your books deals with extramarital affairs. Are long-term extramarital affairs on the rise in India, especially among the middle class and the new generation?
I think extramarital affairs are as old as the institution of marriage itself. The only difference between affairs in the past and affairs of today is that today one can be much more discreet about it, through use of technology. Technology has made it very easy to meet secretly, message secretly and do whatever you please, without other people finding out.
Whether they are on the rise or not – I wouldn’t really know. One would have to conduct a survey across various states to find out. My sample size would be limited to a few couples I know, and to judge based on that would be inaccurate.
Also, I find that the ‘quick-fix’, which you find people suggesting casually in order to fix boredom in a marriage is ‘Have an affair.’ That doesn’t fix anything. It might seem exciting in the short term, but it will only contribute to widening the chasm.
Do men and women cheat differently? Is an affair a part and parcel of open marriages, meant to give emotional and sexual space to both partners – increasingly a trend in urban India?
Again, I wouldn’t know, unless numbers and statistics are studied in depth. Also, how many people are willing to admit that they are in an open marriage? I presume there must be (which is why this question was asked) but I don’t know anyone in my circles that would be comfortable with an open marriage. Why get married at all then?
You are a blogger, a writer, a mother and a wife. How do you manage to strike the perfect balance? Do you feel guilty of neglecting one or the other role?
Whenever someone asks me this question, I always ask them if they would ask the same to a male writer? (How do you manage to strike a balance between being a dad, a husband and a CEO?) I think this is because the ‘onus’ of childcare is viewed primarily as a woman’s concern and responsibility. That mind-set has to change.
To ‘neglect’ a role, would imply that there are some ‘must-do’ things to be ticked off a list, in order to be a good wife or a good mother or a good writer. But that is viewing it very narrowly.
I think any relationship (be it a parent-child, a husband-wife or any other you define) means that you care deeply for each other, you are each other’s greatest well-wishers and cheer-leaders, you have created an environment where you can express things in a kind manner, with utmost honesty and most of all, you are accepted and loved. If you have all of this, then you have succeeded in being a ‘good mother’ or a ‘good wife’.
Now to be a good writer—that is slightly more difficult. (smile)
What is that one element that you would say is a must-have for happy marriages, and why?
Communication and love. If you have this, you can never go wrong, as long as you are coming from a place of deep caring and deep love. Do you really love the person you are married to? We change every day. We are not the person we were yesterday. It’s the same for your partner. What one needs to ask is whether you still love the person you are married to. And it is important to be honest with the answers.
What is the best piece of love advice you have ever been given on marriage?
I’m trying to remember if anyone told me anything about marriage! I don’t think I have ever received any advice. I remember people telling me that you get bored. But I think nobody really can predict that.
There is so much you can discover about a person, even if you have lived with them for years.
It depends on whether you are still in love with them or not.
Can you tell us about the top three long-term relationship killers? What’s your best tip for helping couples overcome them?
When a third person starts creeping into your relationship and you allow that, then you are choking it slowly. You might have hit a dead-end, as you kept trying to talk to your partner about it, but he/she just brushed aside your concerns. At such times, give it space. Allow the other person to miss you.
Also it is so important to do things together, which you both enjoy. The fun element is extremely essential in a relationship.
I would highly recommend The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. It is important to find a common language of love.
During the writing process, did you have any profound moments or epiphanies about your own marriage?
I wish I could say yes. But all I learnt was how to write sex scenes well. (grin)
What relationship advice do you have for men or women who want to give up on their search for love?
Don’t search! If you search you run the risk of ‘projecting what you need’ and fooling yourselves. Let that person be your friend first. Friendship is so essential for a relationship, and it has to be the basis of a relationship.