The dark side of close relationships

July 19, 2023 |
Unhappy couple
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“I fell in love with the chilled-out attitude, you know.  He never lost his cool. I could get away with murder”, Akanksha reminisced her dating days over a bottle of Borolo. “I could be an hour late for my date, throw tantrums for silliest things, make him skip important family occasions just because ‘I was in the mood’. Even during our wild drinking parties, he was the one escorting both genders home, safely. Even the girls in our group stood a better chance to go 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 the princess. People were nice to me to be in his good books! This attitude was so charming then,” she said with a sigh. “But now, I could smack him on the face for this in-control demeanour, it drives me nuts, I tell you!” She gulped down the remaining wine in one angry swig.

I have known Akanksha and Rakesh for about seven years now. I had helped plan their big 15thanniversary 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 Maggie, gives-in easily unless it is 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.

Close relationship

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

I can go on and on about how different this couple is but then is that not true for most of us? What interests me about this chalk and cheese couple is the complete turnaround of what one thinks of lovable during the beginning of the relationships stage vis-à-vis a few years or decades later. What Akanksha could not stop praising about him back then, became what she can’t stand about him now. What makes this very glaring is how true it is for most of us!

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

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

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

Welcome to the dark side of close relationships! Where the very qualities that attract us initially become the 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.

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 so many in my relationship. What I found charming in my husband – intensity – has become the annoying habit of ‘taking things too seriously’; my efficient multi-tasking, I know for him, has turned into ‘can’t you ever be in the moment’. His ‘artistic’ eye which I flaunted unashamedly to all my friends, has turned into a royal pain you know where! For, I end up spending hours over 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!

You get the drift, right.

Think about it, don’t our virtues and vice 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 the shadowed underbelly?

We must remember – what we get charmed by, will, in time repel us. Besides, when we get attracted to one quality, let’s say for instance as in the case of Akanksha who liked the ‘always in control’ attitude of Rakesh, we will, in due time miss its opposing pole, perhaps ‘abandon’ or ‘wild’.

Add to that the normal decline, dissatisfaction and exploitation (of vulnerabilities) etc. that a relationship goes through overtime as expectations rise and respect declines because of a myriad other dynamics; add the adage familiarity breeds contempt; also add that in our eyes, somehow the flaws of our partners are almost always exaggerated because ‘we have told them so, so many times and yet they have not worked upon those etc.’

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 did not factor in this very real, dark side of close relationships.

Think about it…

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