Saturday, June 03, 2006

Comfort Zones

Reading a query in an agony aunt column got me thinking about work, hobbies, marriage and infidelity and some parallels. The woman in question has been married ten years, has two kids and a hectic life. That this is a desi first generation immigrant family is an interesting side note. Her problem is she was in an affair and was quite ok with her situation until her husband found out. Now she realizes her transgression is reprehensible and is repentant. The husband is naturally upset and does not trust her any more. She wants to know how she can remedemiate things so they can go back to being the couple they were before her affair.

The quandary is fairly universal but being desi throws the fear of having earned bad karma into the boiling cauldron of guilt, shame, helplessness, regret and anger. Her marriage like many marriages had become a chore quite a bit like many jobs become after a while. When you are younger, you are driven by ambition to make a "career" out of your job. Your efforts pay off and you find yourself in a position of comfort.

Over time even comfort turns boring - you realize your career has plateaued, that you have gone about as far as you have potential to go. So you look forward to any time you find to indulge in that one hobby that you feel passionate about. Infact keeping this passion alive helps you endure the daily grind. It would not be fair to ask that you abandon the hobby that gave you so much pleasure so you concentrated on your "real" job.

Similarly in the first few years of marriage,many couples invest a lot of their energy to build the foundation of their relationship. Ten years and a couple of kids later they are in the same comfort zone as a career plateau. There is always room for growth for those who try but it is also common to slack off when you get comfortable.

An extra marital relationship could provide the same value to an old marriage as a weekend of white water rafting could give someone to face a week of cubicle bound drone work. No wonder the woman in question did not think much of her affair until her husband found out. Very likely her marriage felt like it was in better health because of her relationship. This is not to say that infidelity is no worse than having a hobby and as such perfectly legitimate and acceptable.

While being in a career plateau forever maybe quite ok, a marriage needs to be treated differently. Growing too comfortable should probably treated as a warning sign, a time to shake things up until both spouses take each other as seriously as they first did.

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