The nature of romantic relationships is confusing. Even if one can categorize certain relationship behaviour patterns, how that manifests in each relationship is different. The most common relationship-related refrains from singles: the man is not committing, the girl is friend-zoning you, he seems to not care enough, or she is just stringing you along. With all the emotional upheaval and overthinking this leads to, it becomes very hard to see things clearly. That’s when people gravitate towards external sources. For most of us this is a network of well-meaning friends and family.
K had been dating V for four months, things were just starting to get serious. K was overjoyed when V asked her to accompany him for the weekend to his alumni get together at a resort not too far from the city they’re based. It was a big step for both. Come Saturday evening, K was partying merrily with V’s friends and their partners. Things went south when she woke the next morning with a bad bout of food poisoning. V did what he could, but she needed medical help. V requested a friend to drive K to the nearest hospital. He said he had to stay back to organise the rest of the day for the alumni meet.
This was indeed a hurtful situation for anyone to be in. It is natural to expect that you’ll be taken care of by someone you are falling in love with. K questioned their relationship and rightly so. That evening V tried calling her many times, but K just didn’t want to talk to him. He then sent apology messages. He admitted that he should have been there with her instead of staying back for something that could have been handled by anybody else. As most of us would, K reached out to her girlfriends who always had her back. Both her friends warned her saying “if this is how he is behaving at the start of the relationship, when one is so into each other, imagine what he will be like as things start to ebb over time.” A fair argument. K took the advice of her friends and sent him a message saying things were over between them.
Over the next few days V tried reaching out to K regularly but she ignored his messages. When asked if she thought she got good advice from her friends, K says that she often feels like she acted too hastily on their advice. A month has gone by and she is still in love with V, despite his uncaring behavior that day. She can’t help but think of how he V accepted his mistake without her pointing it out to him, took responsibility and apologised — all of which might make him a fantastic partner. We talked about reaching out to him even though they haven’t connected at all for over a month. K is gathering courage to do that.
There is advice for serious situations and then there is the kind of advice that has no merit.
My client B is searching for a partner. I guide her on how to navigate the world of dating apps and matrimonial sites. As we pare down how to shortlist potential gentlemen to chat and meet with, B says that any man who has a sister should not make it to the list. The reason for this unusual prejudice is the advice she got from an aunt she is very close to. This aunt always reminds her to stay away from men with sisters. The aunt believes sisters make the lives of their brothers’ wives miserable. She speaks from personal experience of course. B’s brother is married, and I ask her if in keeping with her aunt’s apparent observations, she also made her sister-in-law’s life miserable. I didn’t have to say much else to B for her to figure that this advice was laced with biases and was full of holes.
It’s natural to reach out to friends and family for advice. However, we need to take an independent and considered 360-degree view before arriving at any decisions. We must keep in mind that most people come with their own experiences and biases that can colour even the most well-meaning advice. It could be an isolated personal experience like B’s aunt or it could be friends who feel your pain and seem to be in your corner, as it was for K. They are unable to see beyond your hurt and don’t consider the efforts the other person is making, to give you a more balanced opinion.
Often, talking things out is helpful. You can hear what others have to say, but what is most critical is that you listen to your own gut and act accordingly. Reach out to loved ones when you need to, but do spend time with yourself to let your own instincts guide you. When it comes to relationships, each one of us has a unique approach on how we handle things. The decisions one takes might be hard, but the right ones, are followed by a sense of peace.
This is a limited series by Simran Mangharam, a dating and relationship coach, who can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org