(Names changed to protect identities)
I always felt that marriage was a final destination. That you arrive and that’s it. Twenty-two years of fairly peaceful married life is not a joke. It takes a lot from both spouses and Rupesh and I have played it quite well. We have known and loved each other since college. We understand each other and are compatible too. That’s why we got married in 1995.
But life is long, even in its seemingly short span. It shows us a lot and changes us in ways we would have never imagined, presents circumstances that are very hard to deal with.
A husband-wife fight is rough. It’s a war zone of insecurity, hurt, ego and jealousy. And this was brewing between me and Rupesh last year. There were so many pent-up issues. Frustration with in-laws, his equation in the family, the responsibilities we were expected to uphold and the complete lack of acknowledgement from them. All of it burdened me.
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And somehow he held me, his companion of two decades, responsible for everything. It started with some innocuous jibes. Sudden attacks about my career, income, my decisions in life – I didn’t know where they were coming from.
He made me feel as though all that I had done for the family was a waste of time and I should have rather done something more ‘meaningful’. It was hurtful, to say the least.
Neither of us is aggressive. We can’t quite get down to screaming sessions. So, this turned into a cold war of sorts, with silence in our interactions. And then fate threw Raj at me at a party.
A general conversation where we connected over a few background commonalities made me acutely aware of his charm and sexuality. I was drawn to him. He said he’d just got out of a relationship and was heartbroken but didn’t miss a chance to flirt with me. I loved the attention, even though it was vaguely discomfiting. I wasn’t used to being wooed and he made me feel wanted.
I debated if it was a good idea to put paradise in jeopardy. When one is married for so long and has two teenaged children they love dearly, it isn’t easy to just throw caution to the wind and jump into an impulsive affair. So I returned home. The only change was knowing that there was a route to instant gratification, and all it required was one call.
This was when Rupesh and I entered the direct conflict. He refused to partake in my plans, to acknowledge my opinions as credible or practical. All kinds of petty arguments turned ugly and all kinds of issues came to the fore. All because I started speaking out against what I didn’t appreciate. I just couldn’t take being quiet anymore. If I didn’t speak up then, maybe there would have been nothing to speak up about ever again.
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Raj was a welcome intruder. His momentary emergence triggered conversations that would have probably never happened, dormant problems that would have embittered our marriage. My ‘mid-life crisis’ demanded answers. And if that mean screaming matches every day, I didn’t mind.
However, things turned really ugly and I finally told Rupesh that he either fixed the gaps or I’d leave.
It’s natural to feel that it’s unfair to impose on your spouse. But there’s always a point where you feel that you too give 100 per cent. And your point of view is equally valid. So you put your foot down.
In our mid-40s, life is fairly settled for both of us. We are established in our careers. Our financial situation is good. There is no other crisis in our lives. If we couldn’t fix it, that would be a great pity.
Finally, we decided on therapy. Rupesh agreed to speak to a family friend in the profession and over a span of six months, he worked his problems out.
By the beginning of this year, I started to feel the difference. His therapy was helping him appreciate my point of view. He became calm and got the courage to deal with the other issues he’d been suppressing for so long. Once those bigger problems were addressed, there seemed to be no need to turn against each other.
As for Raj, I don’t know what happened to him. I never felt like speaking to him again. I didn’t need him. I just needed to mend what was mine. I just wanted Rupesh back in my life the way I’d always known him.
(As told to Neetole Mitra)