Togetherness: A decade and a half later

Togetherness: A decade and a half later

Stretching to try and get the stiffness out of my neck, I peer at the wall clock that chimes 9.30 p.m. I should be winding up work, getting to sleep, maybe reading a book but I am working late.

Fingers tap almost mechanically on the keyboard and I pause for a second. He is standing by my table with a raised eyebrow in enquiry. ‘Making tea. Want some?’Gratefully, I nod. A part of my brain says caffeine after 6 pm is not a great idea but I shush it. Five minutes later, a steaming mug of tea stands on the table.

My eyes see the mug, then travel up to see the smile on his face and I find myself smiling back.

***

If you’d asked me a few years ago to talk about what makes a good relationship, I’d have waxed eloquent on a number of things- compatibility, interests that align with one another, loving the same books or films- but it would all have rung hollow.

For one thing, it isn’t true. For another, each relationship is different. What works for me will not work for you. Why? Because, we’re very distinct people.

Earlier this week, V and I celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary. We’ve been together for over a decade and a half and just saying that out loud makes me glad.

Do you know why? Because on our very first wedding anniversary, we couldn’t be together. I was recovering from bipolar disorder at the time and was away from him. To my 24-year-old self, it was heartbreaking. It was our anniversary, after all.

But, we survived. It would take me 13 years to tell the world about that period in my life and now when I look back, it seems like a distant memory.

We’ve had our ups and downs, like any other couple. It’s probably par for the course. One of the earliest mistakes I made was assuming that we had to do things together all the time to stay together. I’d find myself trying to read a book which he enjoyed but not understanding it. I tried watching an entire cricket match but would lose interest mid-way. He’d just look at me in amusement and say, ‘Do what makes you happy.’

You may have read the story about how we met. I blogged about it last year. But what you may not know is how we’ve survived one of the biggest challenges of togetherness: Not being together.

ThreeΒ times, I’ve lived away from him. The first was for a year when I was diagnosed with depression. The second was during a 9-month stint he spent abroad on a consulting assignment. The third time was a recent two-year period within the same city. He worked on the other side of town, 35 kilometres away, and since the commute was a killer, we decided he’d take an apartment there.

Now I know this isn’t anything new for most couples, especially those who have spouses in the army or the merchant navy. I’ve always admired the way they make it work. But it was very very tough on me, personally.

Parenting a strong-willed child who is very attached to her father can be enormously taxing. Some of my worst meltdowns happened when he was away.

But everything happens for a reason and the best reason for all of this was that it brought us closer together. We started understanding one another’s challenges, giving the other one space when we needed it and not making mountains out of molehills.

All of this came with time, trials and stormy waters. Smooth sailing is not how I’d describe a marriage. And we survived. What’s more important though, is that we have learnt to thrive on the differences that brought us together.

At the height of my mental illness, one incident stands out in memory. I’d just vented loudly and angrily about something and stoodΒ in the middle of the room, shaking and crying. Seething, I yelled, ‘Who do you want me to be?’

Quietly, he met my eyes and said, ‘You. I want you to be you. That’s whom I married.’

In a recent group conversation on Whatsapp with my cousins, we were talking about weddings attended and events missed. One of them asked us if we’d renew our vows any time soon, since he’d missed our wedding. V responded with, ‘We will, when we’re 60.’ In that one simple, frank statement, he’d conveyed what this relationship meant to him.

We’ve been through a lot andΒ I wouldn’t change any of it. Not one bit.

16 years later,
I just want to say,
I’d get married toΒ this guy
All over again.

***

As these thoughts swirl through my head, I feel gratitude. Shutting the laptop, I pick up the cup of tea. Pushing my chair back, I go over to the couch where he’s seated. Tucking my legs under me, I sink into the cushions, simultaneously savouring the warmth in my hands and the warmth in the room. We look at each other, smile and sip quietly on our tea.

This is our togetherness.
***

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Linking up with Shantala Nayak at #ChattyBlogs for May. Check it out.

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48 thoughts on “Togetherness: A decade and a half later

  1. Indeed, it’s nothing about having common points to connect but about how well you compliment each other. Loved reading about your journey. May you enjoy many more years of blessed togetherness.

  2. Congratulations and Happy Anniversary, once again, Shailaja.
    Although I haven’t met V yet, I am certain you comple(and i)ment each other very well.
    Here’s to many more years of togetherness, and hopefully in the same place πŸ™‚
    Sid recently posted Parenting: I confess!My Profile

  3. Happy 16th to V and you! This was a lovely write up and straight from the heart.
    After knowing VT for 11 and being married for 6+, I too believe that relationships thrive when spouses let each other be who they are. Being happy in our identity and finding acceptance in the partner is the secret to a happy relationship.
    Parul Thakur recently posted #ThursdayTreeLove – 8My Profile

  4. This is such a lovely post. And yes, I always felt that living together should be a part of married life – in Kerala, invariably every third family has the husband settled in the Gulf and the wife looking after the children alone in India. It always struck me as the wrong choice even if I understand the reasons.
    Looking forward to being there for the renewal of vows.
    Roshan Radhakrishnan recently posted Are you God-fearing… or God-loving?My Profile

    1. It’s quite tough to manage and I know many couples who do this even now. I understand why they do it though, so no judgment. Sometimes, we have to make tough choices.

      You have a standing invitation to my 60th πŸ™‚ Thank you, Roshan πŸ™‚

  5. My heart fills with so much joy for you, Shy. God bless you and V. Marriage is different things to different people. I completely agree that we don’t need to do things with each other or pursue each other’s interests to be happy. We need to be! You guys make a beautiful real couple. Wish you many more anniversaries and a lifetime of happiness together. ❀️
    Rachna recently posted Being a MotherMy Profile

  6. Such a lovely post! I could feel every emotion that went into making it so beautiful, Shy!
    God bless you both with loads of love and happiness and many many more years of togetherness!

    1. Thank you so much, Debbie πŸ™‚ I’d like to think we’ve been really blessed to have the love and support of so many good friends and family. Thank you for reading πŸ™‚

    1. Thank you so much, Priya πŸ™‚ You’re absolutely right. Being yourself is the easiest thing because you don’t have to keep up a facade as time goes by. Happiness comes from within. When it’s shared it doubles. So true. Congrats on the almost-12 years to you and your husband πŸ™‚

  7. A beautiful post Shailaja. I love how sorted you two are. A marriage works when two people give each other space to be themselves. It’s not only exhausting but also impossible to share all of each other’s interests, I’d find it claustrophobic.
    Obsessivemom recently posted The room on the roofMy Profile

  8. I am moved by the simplicity and poignance of your words Shy. You’ve expressed a loving relationship so beautifully. Here’s wishing you both a rather belated anniversary and many more years of meaningful togetherness.

  9. Belated wedding anniversary to you and V.
    Every marriage has its ups and downs and lessons learnt from downs are precious and pat your back with the ups.

  10. Happyyy Anniversary I loved the raw honesty in your post… Relationships require a lot of work and in the end it all depends on how much we are willing to invest that much energy. Your husband is so understanding and I believe has a milder temperament than yours God bless you two and hope you spends many amazing moments together… And few tennis matches too.
    Rajlakshmi recently posted Beginner, once moreMy Profile

    1. He does balance me out rather well, Raj πŸ™‚ He’s the yin to my yang, honestly. Where I flare up, he stays calm. Where I am all rant and rave, he is cool and collected. I have a lot I can learn from him and perhaps teach him a few things too in the process. Thank you for the wishes πŸ™‚

    1. Shantala, I am giving you a bear hug right now πŸ™‚ What can make a person happier than to know someone reads their work multiple times? You’re so right about the everyday things. They make a world of difference.

      Thank you so very much for your love and wishes, now and always.

  11. Thank for sharing this- its mad eme glow with happiness to read a happy story which was not perfect; which had its ups and downs – yet it all worked out and how!! I am taking strength from this for my life and wish you loads of love and happiness for years and moments to come by to enrich you with so so so much more!!!! Hugs Shy

    1. Thank you so much for the wishes and kind words, Shalini. It’s been a very interesting journey and I look forward to learning and growing as I continue to move forward πŸ™‚

  12. Wishing you and V a very happy anniversary Shy! You guys are so good together and that makes me smile. I love it how he takes care of you in small ways and I know that you cherish that the most. I cannot stay away from Cal even for a day, so I can imagine how difficult the separation might have been.

    Wishing you both many many years of togetherness. May you guys never have to be away from each other.

    Lots of love.
    Soumya recently posted Monday Musings #14My Profile

    1. Thank the Soumya. You’re so right. It’s very difficult to be away from him. The one thing though that the separation taught me is how I look forward to growing old with him, when it’s just the two of us for each other. I now know we’ll be good together πŸ™‚

    1. Thank you, MG πŸ™‚ It’s taken me a long while to get here to this space of contentment and I intend to stay here for as long as I can. Your wishes mean a lot to me πŸ™‚

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