The dark side of close relationships

Expert Speak | | , Founder, Author & Editor
Updated On: May 27, 2024
Unhappy couple

“I fell in love with his chilled-out attitude, you know. He never lost his cool. I could get away with murder,” Akanksha reminisced about her dating days over a bottle of Barolo. “I could be an hour late for our dates, throw tantrums over the silliest things, and make him skip important family occasions just because ‘I was in the mood.’ Even during our wild drinking parties, he was the one escorting everyone home safely. Even the girls in our group stood a better chance of going to parties if Rakesh spoke to their parents—that’s how much of a gentleman he was,” she said with pride. “And I was his priority, which kind of made me feel like a princess. People were nice to me just to stay in his good books! This attitude was so charming back then,” she said with a sigh. “But now, I could smack him in the face for this in-control demeanor. It drives me nuts, I tell you!” She gulped down the remaining wine in one angry swig.

Contrasting Personalities

I have known Akanksha and Rakesh for about seven years now. I helped plan their big 15th-anniversary celebration a couple of months back. To me, the two are as different as pani-puri and pasta. She is impulsive and breezy, while he has the patience of an elephant. She has an opinion on everything, which she doesn’t budge from; he is as pliable as Maggi noodles, giving in easily unless it involves work or family. She drinks to get drunk; he never goes beyond the second glass. While she can drown herself in the lyrics of Mehdi Hassan and lose all sense of time, Rakesh can never let go of the clock and can only peek at what these maestros may have felt as they sang.

Related reading: Reasons why Indian men do not communicate their feelings

Changing Perspectives

I could go on and on about how different this couple is, but isn’t that true for most of us? What interests me about this chalk-and-cheese couple is the complete turnaround of what one finds lovable at the beginning of a relationship compared to a few years or decades later. What Akanksha couldn’t stop praising about him back then has become what she can’t stand about him now. What makes this very glaring is how true it is for most of us!

From Appealing to Appalling

“So, what is it about him being a gentleman that bothers you?” I asked, trying to get some sense of the trajectory from ‘appealing’ to ‘appalling.’

“He is so thanda! I mean, he never gets angry! Just agrees to everything, no high-octane exchanges ever! And when he doesn’t want to agree, he just does what he has thought of, still without arguments or a showdown, you know. You have to give your girl her fair share of drama, wouldn’t you agree?” she asked me. “Always so controlled! It’s reptilian cold if you know what I mean?” Her exasperation escalated as the wine level in our Barolo dipped.

But to be fair to Akanksha, I did see her point. Rakesh is the cool dude we all know; no one has ever seen him even high, forget wasted, not once.

“And he never lets go. I mean, never any excesses. How do you even know a person who is always in control, without any extremes, ever? Have I made a mistake?” she ranted almost to herself.

Understanding the Frustration

Having known Akanksha closely for many years, I knew the ‘mistake’ bit was prompted by the wine, and she didn’t really mean the question seriously. But yes, I also saw the source of her frustration and found it to be real, whether justified or not could be debated over.

Welcome to the dark side of close relationships! The very qualities that attract us initially become irritants as time passes. ‘Cute and funny’ turns into ‘stupid and silly,’ ‘innocent and pure’ becomes ‘naïve and impractical,’ ‘powerful’ becomes ‘domineering’…the list is endless.

The Thin Line Between Love and Annoyance

Jane Goldberg, in her book The Dark Side of Love, says,

“The line that separates normal from pathological is, at times, frighteningly thin. Protectiveness can easily turn into possessiveness; concern into control; interest into an obsession.”

I can relate to this in my relationship. What I found charming in my husband—his intensity—has become the annoying habit of ‘taking things too seriously’; my efficient multitasking, I know, has turned into ‘can’t you ever be in the moment?’ for him. His ‘artistic’ eye, which I flaunted unashamedly to all my friends, has turned into a royal pain because I end up spending hours on something that I would otherwise do in minutes. My easiness, which I knew back then was pleasing to him, is now ‘apathetically casual’ and makes him wonder if I care at all!

Related Reading: 5 Brutally Honest Truths About Long-Term Relationships

Virtues and Vices

You get the drift, right?

Think about it, don’t our virtues and vices spring from the same place? Our greatest strength can turn into our biggest weakness. Maybe our strengths are our weaknesses. Maybe they would not exist without their shadowed underbelly.

The Inevitable Repulsion

We must remember—what charms us initially will, in time, repel us. When we are attracted to one quality, like Akanksha who liked Rakesh’s ‘always in control’ attitude, we will, in due time, miss its opposite, perhaps ‘abandon’ or ‘wild.’

The Dynamics of Relationships

Add to that the normal decline, dissatisfaction, and exploitation (of vulnerabilities) that a relationship goes through over time as expectations rise and respect declines due to a myriad of other dynamics. Add the adage “familiarity breeds contempt.” Also, add that in our eyes, the flaws of our partners are almost always exaggerated because ‘we have told them so many times, yet they haven’t worked on those.’

Conclusion

And like my friend here, we ask ourselves, ‘How did we go so wrong in seeing another?’ when the true stock of the situation is that we just didn’t factor in this very real, dark side of close relationships.

Think about it…

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