I have often heard it said that successful relationships are built on shared interests. ‘Like attracts like’, they say, to reinforce the argument. Before proceeding any further, let me clarify that by ‘successful’ all I mean is that the couple living under one roof gets through the day without mortally wounding each other! I will try to make my case with my relationship with the L&M. Read on and be edified and no rolling of the eyes, please!
Where was I now? Ah, shared interests! It is great to do things together and share interests. ‘Balle Balle!’ as the L&M would say, if you do have shared interests too. But it certainly is not mandatory for a successful or enduring relationship. The only activity I can think of, that makes for the most harmonious togetherness is reading, that is, unless you are fighting to read the same book at any given time!
By having separate spheres of activities — even professions — not only does the relationship thrive on a personal level, but also on a professional level where competitiveness might otherwise disturb the harmony. It is easy complimenting or admiring a successful professional from another field, but when you ‘share’ the same profession, chances are, a wee bit (or a big bit) of jealousy or envy at the worst and competitiveness, with its attendant problems, creep in.
Therefore, having the space to pursue one’s own individual activities, professions or hobbies is even more important than sharing the same interests. If nothing else, it will prevent anatomical skirmishes like getting under each other’s foot or on each other’s nerves. It is this space that allows the relationship to breathe. Personally, I would find it immensely claustrophobic to be doing everything with the L&M without having ‘my-space’ and ‘me-time’ or my own set of friends.
Oh, wait! What am I saying? Actually, we do share a lot of interests, the L&M and I. Take, for instance, food. We both love it – me to cook it and him to eat what I cook. To be fair, he eats everything I make, even some of the dishes that are of the extreme jugaad kind! That is because he loves food. Period. So, when even I find my own ‘creations’ weird in the extreme, I find him gamely chomping through them in obvious enjoyment, the sport that he is!
We also love travelling. I, for the whole experience and he for the next thing on the agenda. Like, we start on our journey and I am admiring the sights and sounds and he is already thinking of the destination and the tea/dinner that would follow. And once we reach there it is about the things to do – one after the other, and then the trip back! And no, it is not just because he is tired with all the driving or jittery about the drive back. It is the same story even when we take a driver, the train or other transport. Sometimes I think he must have been a tour operator and conductor in some previous birth! Only those fellows will be hustling one from one destination to another, making that the priority and not lingering to enjoy anything. While the children used to find this annoying as kids, they are positively peeved as adults and sometimes put their foot down to calm him down!
Well, so much for sharing interests. As for sharing activities, that is another story altogether. I told you that we both like food and I cook, right? Well, the L&M loves cooking too. So, on days he offers to cook, I am happy to let him do it. He is not a mean cook and he is one of the natural and instinctive cooks, who knows what to add to any dish and in what quantities.
You see, he wants to share this activity *Rolls eyes* Take the time he announced that he would make kootu, for instance. I would tell him, ‘Oh great!’ adding categorically that he could use his own recipe. ‘You can even add garlic!’ (which he loves and I abhor), I would tell him magnanimously and retreat to my room and pick up my book or sit in front of the computer to browse and he would pop in there.
‘Can you tell me how I should cut the lauki? I don’t want to mess up the size of the pieces. Just show me one piece and I will do the rest.’ I would grit my teeth and follow him into the kitchen.
Once that problem is disposed of, I sigh and pick up from where I left Dorothy (Of the Oz series) and he would call me again. ‘Can you tell me which masalas I have to put? Just this once,’ he would quickly add as if he were feeling guilty for disturbing me. As if I didn’t know his machinations! I would walk back to the kitchen biting my tongue till it bled, lest it runs away with me.
That would not be the end, for, after that, the questions would fly thick and fast, ‘How much salt should I add? I am asking because you keep changing the brand and kind of salt.’ More rolling of eyes from me, but it didn’t make any difference. The next would be, ‘Which tadka pan should I use?’ This time the man would barge into the room holding two pans in both hands as if he were about to knock me down!
Haven’t I said he is an excellent cook and on the days I am unwell, he does a fabulous job of cooking without asking me for a single tip and I can smell the flavours even from behind closed doors! I have not been married to him for decades for nothing if not to understand that he wants me to be around to ‘share’ the activity. Methinks that the media is to be blamed for brainwashing him into taking the ‘sharing’ bit a little too seriously!
And oh, we have these ‘complementary’ interests too. When he is not offering to ‘share’ the cooking, he complements it by shopping for vegetables and fruits. But please don’t get me started on that one! Interested readers would like to read about it here.
I can go on and on about a zillion other ‘shared’ interests we have, but you get the drift, don’t you?
Suffice to say that we have survived four decades in this business of marriage, without sharing the same interests or activities as portrayed in the media. I am sure there are millions of couples like us who are doing famously without breathing down each other’s neck 24×7 in the name of ‘sharing interests’.
So go ahead and do things by yourself once in a while, or more often if you like. Your relationship won’t collapse. If anything, it will remain fresh, believe me. Familiarity doesn’t always breed contempt, you see. It often makes for happy togetherness, as you rush back to the familiar comfort of each other’s quirks and annoying habits after spending time with those you ‘share’ common interests!
A version of this article was first published here.