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When going separate ways helps a couple grow

Finding the balance between individuality and a time to bond as a couple is key to a healthy relationship

Respecting each other’s individuality is important in relationships.
Respecting each other’s individuality is important in relationships. (iStockphoto)

"It is singles who visit us more than the married folks. Most married men and women say they do not have the time to pursue their hobbies or interests,” says Mansee Shah, co-founder of Lahe Lahe, an alternative arts space for the community in Bengaluru. It hosts events ranging from pottery workshops and poetry evenings to stand-up comedy and kokedama (the Japanese art of growing plants in a ball of moss) classes. “People either stop pursuing their interests post marriage or give it less time, unless both partners are passionate about the same art form,” she says adding that most people visiting Lahe Lahe are between 23 and 35. 

Don’t forget to love yourself, we are told. Don’t forget your individuality. And yet, work, familial responsibilities and social ties make it tough for married folks to spare time for interests that they once loved. 

Aarti C. Rajaratnam, an author and a psychologist based in Salem, Tamil Nadu, says married couples need to realise the importance of pursuing independent hobbies. “Respecting each other’s individuality is important in intimate relations. We cannot expect our partners to have the same hobbies as us, or meet all our needs,” she adds. “In a healthy relationship, it is important that each individual first finds himself or herself before finding common areas to explore with one another. If you lose yourself, the bond has very little chance of surviving.” 

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And when children come into the picture, pursuing those personal interests gets even more challenging. That is where healthy discussions with the partner on dividing parental responsibilities so that the sense of self does not wither away become important. 

INDIVIDUAL INTERESTS 

Bengaluru-based Madhuri K. is a single mom and a manager at a technology company. She loves dancing and had pursued classical dance as a child. However, the passion took a backseat to everyday responsibilities after marriage. It is only now at the age of 50, when her child has grown up, that she has managed to return to dance and is now learning Kathak. 

Shah feels that having an encouraging partner goes a long way in helping people pursue their passion. “We have a family of three coming in from 15km away. While the parents attend salsa and bachata classes, the teenaged daughter learns pottery and painting. Interestingly, dancing was just the husband’s hobby initially and the rest of the family tagged along to be supportive. But now they all enjoy this ‘me-time’ for creative pursuits,” she adds. If anything, this has brought them closer. 

Hyderabad-based Ashok Dayalan, director at Advanced Micro Devices, a semiconductor multinational company, and his wife, Archana Suresh, both in their 40s, encourage each other’s passions, even if they seem to be at opposite ends of a spectrum. “My wife is into quizzing and that doesn’t excite me much. I, on the other hand, am into biking,” he says. “Pursuing our individual interests puts our relationship in a better space,” he adds. 

Dayalan never misses hitting the road every Sunday.

Suresh, who works with the Telangana government, was initially deterred by relatives from pursuing her individual interests post marriage. “A relative from the extended family described the fact that I travel without my spouse as ‘abnormal’,” she says. This did not dissuade her. 

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Suresh pursues her love for solo travel and quizzing. So, where do the twain meet? “We have been bonding over movies and food in 16 years of married life,” she laughs. 

FIND COMMON GOALS 

Suresh does realise that she speaks from a place of privilege. The women that she works with at the grassroots level don’t have this luxury of pursuing independent hobbies due to the lack of a support system. However, for those who have the benefit of time and money, finding the balance between individuality and a time to bond as a couple is key. 

Rajaratnam has seen that many tend to take the superficial route of date nights and travel to bond, instead of figuring out what works for them. “I advise them to get in touch with themselves first and then find common goals,” she adds. 

Studies have shown that hobbies are linked to better emotional and mental well-being. The joys that these individual pursuits bring make the challenges of a marriage worth the while. As the Lebanese-American writer, poet and visual artist Kahlil Gibran said, “No human relation gives one possession in another—every two souls are absolutely different.”

Barkha Shah is a Bengaluru-based independent writer. 

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