Monday, November 30, 2009

On A Taut Leash

Recently I got some interesting relationship advice from a pretty unlikely source. H and I went to grade school together and he is among the few childhood friends that I am still in touch with. When I decided to marry R (my ex), H's reaction was one of honest puzzlement - WTF more likely. However, he held his peace figuring that things that don't in the normal course of life make any sense do in marriage. He was at time in a "quasi-serious relationship" but not quite "ready for prime-time" as in for the responsibilities that go with marriage. It was not a situation I found particularly easy to comprehend but as an old buddy, I wished him well with whatever he had going on.

A few years later when H was good and ready and had finally found the woman he wanted to marry, I had a reaction
very similar to his would-be bride and just like him, said nothing about it. He seemed genuinely happy to be with her and I hated to be the one to dampen his enthusiasm. Maybe he has changed over the years, maybe he likes this kind of woman now I reasoned.

So here we are many years later. I have been divorced for a while. H was deeply disappointed but not particularly shocked when it happened given his initial reaction to R. His marriage in his own words is a "mutually beneficial and largely peaceful co-existence". They have both decided to tough it out in the best interest of the children and their families - live under the same roof in two different universes that rarely if ever intersect.

H will often exhort me to find a man and get my life back on track and I have to tell him to get off my case and stop being my mother. Recently, I asked him what advice he had for me given the state of his own marriage, my failed one and his long acquaintance with me.

The question was "How do I know someone will work out for me ?". What H had to say on the subject over the course of a few emails was very interesting.

"Sadly, there is no magic formula that I can hand out. In hindsight, I seemed to have gone into a state of trance when I decided to marry the woman who is now my wife. If I was thinking rationally, I would have not done what I did. I have come to believe that connections between people such as in marriage are pre-ordained and every defense mechanism we build to keep us out of harm's way will come undone and push us in the path of this person. Thereafter, we are merely puppets in the hand of Fate.Sometimes we end up okay, sometimes we don't. You just have to take your chances and hope for the best."

"How absolutely encouraging, H !" I wrote back.

"But I do have some advice for women who want to marry. Unless she is able to reel the man in (before marriage) and keep him on a taut (do note the use of the word taut as opposed to tight) leash thereafter, there is little hope for her to marry or remain married well. In my own example, my wife was able to reel me in (and hence we got married) but she has failed to do the rest.

So while we are "technically" married, it is not the kind of relationship either of us had in mind when we exchanged our vows. A woman is always ill-served to lose control in a relationship or marriage and let the man call the shots - that always ends badly. I have to say here that very few women are adept at the fine art of keeping their men on a taut leash."

"So you are saying that I need to be a more equal partner in the relationship ?" I wrote

"Absolutely. There is no other way for you or any other woman. When my daughter comes of age, that is exactly what I will tell her too. Of course, you don't want to come across as a Virago - but you must set the rules of engagement and make sure he plays by them at all times. You concede an inch and he will take a mile and what is worse it will set a bad precedent for all time to come. You would have a set forces in motion that then cannot be controlled. Women are always tempted to concede in order to make quick gains - they end up winning the battle and losing the war.

Getting married is the easy part, making it really work out is much harder. Now, my mother is a woman who knows how to keep the reins in her own hands without chipping away my father's self-worth. I wish my wife had the good sense to learn a few things from her."

I have known H's folks since I was a kid. His father was a serious somewhat dour-faced man. He worked very long hours and said very little to us(H's friends) on the rare occassions that he actually met us. We for our part, did our best to stay out of his way. His mother, a housewife, always looked happy and upbeat - there was a certain peacefulness about her that was hard to miss. Despite the very different temperaments, they looked very comfortable and content together. Maybe H has a point about the taut leash and maybe he should get his mother to write up a how-to book on the subject.


ssstoryteller said...

very interesting
woman taking the reins makes a lot of sense!!


WoW! I'm amazed that people talk of relationship as if it is some sort of corporate battle / turf wars.
I'm no expert in such matters, but let me pose what I believe to be a rather naive hypothesis/query whichever way you wish to look at it. Why cant the trick to a healthy relationship be just just ensuring that a healthy mix of 'trust and love' between the couple. Married or otherwise.
Why does this require some serious and strategic plotting, rule making, formula churning(i know i'm contradicting myself having said the formula of trust and love) taut leash,strong chains and other stuff?

Heartcrossings said...

ssstoryteller - Yeah, interesting concept. If only H's mother would write up the how-to :)

life refactored - We all go into marriage or relationships hoping love and trust (the two key ingredients) is enough to make it work. For some lucky folks that's all it takes - they get it right the very first time. If you've been through the wringer, then relationship advice starts reading like Sun Tzu's Art of War..

This comment has been removed by the author.

hmm... I can imagine. At times I wonder if men and a women are so different, what makes them want to be together apart from the obvious?
Anyway, let me finish this off on a lighter note. here is an interesting link I found. Hope you enjoy this folks

Anonymous said...

A successful marriage is bloody hard work and application, just like a successful career. The love and trust are vital foundations, like a good degree. The amount of work, compromises, eye for opportunity, ambition, imagination, inventiveness, values and fidelity to core principles you are willing to invest in your career could be invested in a marriage. And just like the rewards of a career make all of that seem so worthwhile and affirmative, the rewards of a hard-won successful marriage may be well worth it.

I fail to see why men who are willing to invest so much in a career seem less keen to do so in a marriage. The best piece of advice I ever recieved when I was dating the Lady was from a colleague who had married for love. He said "You have to be at your best always and not expect anything in return. If you are with a reasonably intelligent and sensible woman, this is enough to make it work". I thought he was barking at the time, but now, 5 yrs into marriage to the same person, I see the point. Clearer than I have ever seen anything else in my whole life.

You get what you give. Period.


Heartcrossings said...

Life Refactored - Thanks for sharing that link :)

Nevermind - That is great advise. Wish both men and women would know to "be at your best always and not expect anything in return." Just doing that much would make everything else fall in place. I am assuming here it does not feel like chore to be at one's best - it should come spontaneously for someone you love.


Nevermind - Thats some heavy duty stuff, but truth albeit. We men are quite different aren't we? That feeling is mutual. Thanks for sharing the advice.