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FRIENDS?! - Prashanto Banerji, Features Editor, The Sunday Indian - The Sunday Indian
 
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FRIENDS?!

 

PRASHANTO BANERJI, FEATURES EDITOR, THE SUNDAY INDIAN | Issue Dated: June 17, 2012, New Delhi
Tags : Barbara and Allan Pease | friendship |
 

If you want to believe in love and happy endings, don’t read this book you see in my hands. Relationship gurus Barbara and Allan Pease are fun to read but in their international best seller, ‘Why men want sex and Women need love’, most of the pages seem to break love down to a reaction to a chemical cocktail triggered by evolutionary impulses.  Well, the bad news is that that loving feeling owes more than you know to those tall ones served up by that bar-tender called evolution, but evidently, there’s far more to it than just that…

The Peases say that all you, dear sir, look for in women is their hip to waist ratio. (really, sir..tut tut) And ma’am, is this really true that for a man to be a better lover he needs to have a large…. Er…. Ahem… bank balance?? What about all those songs that said a big heart was all we needed or those magazines that said a big… Well, never mind the magazines. The fact of the matter is that scientific studies of the kind quoted by the Peases insist that under that designer dress called romance and that fine tux called love lives a hairy truth called procreation. All the laws of attraction (more of that in a later issue) and love are but mere tools for ‘life’ to manipulate us into giving her what she wants – babies! 

Thanks to hevea brasiliensis (the humble rubber tree) andJulius  Fromm (the Pole who showed the world there’s more than one way to wearing rubber), ‘life’s grand design has been thwarted, but the rules of the game still seem to be pushing us in the same direction. Love, they seem to say, isn’t this divine cosmic bond that unites two, (or more, subject to culture and geography) half souls with a family being the incidental by-product but the ultimate goal instead, with everything else in between a mere charade to get us there.

Take for instance this ‘scientific’  assertion that says that when you feel like you are ‘crazy’ about someone because you’re in love, it’s because the brain is juggling the hormones in your head and stirring up  a chemical concoction that mimics the pattern of an OCD. And why does the brain play such tricks? Because it tries to trick us into forming a pair bond so that a slow growing human infant gets a good start in life... ! And in about a couple of years since you first ‘fell in love’, this cocktail in your head starts evaporating.. And omigosh, by extension, so does love...

Now, here’s the good news. Firstly, genetically advantaged people fall in love with and marry the ugly and the sickly, the queer and the poor and even the wimp and the limp all the time and in every culture. Love therefore has to go beyond the cold logic of evolutionary biology. But more of the why’s of that later.

Secondly, I’ve been married for about a decade and half and I’m more in love than I’ve ever been. So this chemical high, if that’s all that love is, can’t be a one time thing and nor is it merely a ‘splash about’ in the chosen gene pool.
Having said that, there are times in every relationship when passion ebbs just as much as it flows, when physical desire waxes and wanes, and that might have something to do with that whole oxytocin serotonin withdrawal business. It’s nature’s way of pushing a healthy individual towards new potential mates to ensure greater genetic diversity. This is the point where couples start doubting their love for each other, spend more time with the television and get disillusioned with their own dreams and give up on their expectations from love. ‘It’s different now! We’re married!’ they tell themselves, and the fabric of love comes undone as the hands of the clock meet and the grand wagon becomes a pumpkin again. I have seen umpteen marriages lose colour and flavour and descend into ordinariness when couples accept the waning of that rush to be the new nature of their old relationship.

And if your relationship feels a lot like the previous paragraph, it’s time to swallow the bitter pill! And that is that you were never in love in the first place because you broke the third rule of love – assumed you were in love when you weren’t even friends! Yes, rule three says you cant be in love unless you are friends,  the best of friends! Between a parent and child, maybe love can exist without friendship ever having much of a say, but between two adults, the foundation of a romantic relationship has to be a deep honest friendship. If you don’t wait to bake that friendship in the heat of time and shared experiences, and mistake that rush of passion and excitement that shadows every new liaison to be love, you would have fallen in nature’s trap. And if you act on that feeling and get hitched or make commitments too soon, then when time and nature restores balance to the chemical equation in your head, you suddenly wake up next to a stranger and wonder why… Some of you would find comfort in the tales of your friends who will assure you that marriage does this to the best of them while others would squabble and fight their way to separation and disillusionment. But in either case, you really are barking up the wrong tree. The fault lies neither with marriage nor love, but squarely and entirely at your door for you mistook mere hormones for love and broke rule three.

So how does one know if what one has is true blue friendship, the foundation of love or mere affection, or even just raw lust?

For starters, if you’ve been together for a while, a good way to check if you guys got into the game for love or lust is to ask yourself if in the evenings you’d be happier watching television and talking office gossip or would you rather go out for a drive and sing along with the car stereo for the other’s benefit or/and cook the other a barbecue dinner under the stars and talk of dreams old and new? When it’s time for a vacation, are you happier dragging your friends along because the thought of that quiet intimate weekend with just each other bores or worse, scares you or do you look forward to long walks by the coast, or along the edge of a cliff, hand in hand, bathed in the pink light of a beautiful new dawn?

Secondly, do you look forward to doing things together? Do you go in search of those shared experiences that are to be the glue that will keep you together (refer to issue dated 27th May 2012).

Thirdly, are you comfortable discussing awkward, even intimate topics, about the past, about each other’s dreams, even fantasies, likes and dislikes? Friends discuss such things all the time, and yet lovers who are supposed to be the best of friends often don’t… Insecurity, fear of judgment and the like often dissuade couples from such discussions, but really if you’re friends first, why should you stop chatting like friends just because you are also lovers and partners today.

And last but not the least, are you best-friends enough to be honest with each other and also love the other enough to accept honesty in the other, without conditions or judgment. Do you have enough compassion to say, “I love you and you can tell me anything at all. I’m not promising I will agree with you but I will understand. And I promise I will not walk away from you… because I know you, love you, understand you and because you are my best friend”?
You make sure you say that to your best friend, and honesty will flow both ways, from then and from there.
Please forgive me if I got more than a little preachy but we, the love and the light of my life and I, have and will go through these tunnels of love too, for they keep coming back and these words are as much a reiteration for us as they are a message for you. If this page goes even a little way in helping you, and us, take an honest and tender new look at the one(s) we love, I would have earned my keep for the week.

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017