Sex&theCity: Love, actually

Happily-ever-afters happen only in films. Real life begins when the credits roll in...

Most fairytales and romantic movies end with a happily- ever-after, where the guy gets the girl and they walk off into the sunset, hand in hand. In real life, however, this is where the story begins.

The happily-ever-afters are peppered liberally with hard-hitting realities and ‘adjustments’ to get a relationship from an ‘up-in-the-air’ zone to a more grounded ‘love-actually’ kind, where each partner carries the baggage of the past, perching happily atop it, hoping the differences will decompose like organic waste, with love and passion being the super catalysts, resulting in a bloom of beautiful red roses, or a burst of pink magnolias, depending on what you have sown.

The thing about long term relationships is that they need a lot of hard work, commitment and turning a blind eye to many irritating things that glare so much that they blind you to a point, where even over-sized sun glasses with ultra-violet protection do not help. There is no escape as you have committed to the I-do and so you do whatever it takes to keep the wheels rolling smooth, trying to silence the squeaks with generous portions of gritted teeth and understanding, in equal measures.

So, what does it take to keep a relationship going smoothly? Is love alone enough?

According to Terri Orbuch, a clinical psychologist and author of 5 Simple Steps To Take Your Marriage From Good To Great, there are many myths about relationships and if these myths are persistent enough, they can erode the happiness in a relationship.

One of the biggest myths is about communication in a relationship, which is extremely important if the relationship has to survive the hard knocks of daily life. Most couples expect the other one to know what they like and dislike, especially if they have been together for a couple of years or more.

Men and women equate love with being able to know what partner wants, even when not told. In an extensive study of examination of gender differences, the scientists concluded that women express a greater range of emotions, such as sadness, fear, love, happiness and anger, compared to men. Women were also more inclined than men to share personal information such as how many members are in their family, what each one does and even personal opinions on a variety of matters. Men were more guarded. Compared to men, women were also more likely to engage in manipulative behaviour and power strategies, indicating that they may have an upper hand in non-confrontational behaviour of the passive aggressive type.

Personally, I think it is because every study done so far has found that even in dual career couples, across the world, women tend to do the lion’s share of the chores relating to housework as well as child-rearing duties. Thus a woman learns to ‘manage’ a guy and get him to do what she wants him to, with minimum words. She simply doesn’t have the time for cajoling.

If a woman is angry and her partner asks her what is wrong and she replies ‘nothing’, then a guy who is a new induct into a relationship, will believe her and probably switch on his X-box or his football game, ignoring her completely, till she either explodes in indignation or dumps the bowl of pop-corn that he is having on his head, whichever is earlier. The puzzled man will then exclaim that he did ask her what was wrong and she said there was nothing and in case if there was something bothering her, he would expect her to explain it.

In the same scenario, an experienced man will try and recap the day’s events, step-by-step, replay it inside his head and sometimes discover what it was that he did which ‘wasn’t right’. He would switch off the television, not touch the remote of his X-box, and maybe quietly slink into the kitchen, asking her if anything needs to be done.

A more experienced man will get her flowers, and perhaps a bottle of wine, offer to give her a back-rub and tell her that he wants to make it up to her. And nine times out of 10, he would get a hug, forgiveness and a tag of being ‘the best guy in the world’.

After all, everyone knows that a little love goes a much longer way than many long winded explanations.

(Preeti Shenoy is the author of five bestselling novels, the latest being The One You Cannot Have)

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