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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.

Togetherness in a marriage is a combination of many things. In my story, I discovered a key factor in togetherness and it may surprise you.

Three 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 stood 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 and I wouldn’t change any of it. Not one bit.

16 years later,
I just want to say,
I’d get married to 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.

Featured image courtesy: Shutterstock  

Comments

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49 Comments

Uma · May 13, 2017 at 11:20 am

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.

Sid · May 13, 2017 at 11:45 am

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 🙂
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    Shailaja · May 13, 2017 at 9:45 pm

    Thank you, Sid 🙂 I like the ‘in the same place’ wish the most 🙂

Parul Thakur · May 13, 2017 at 1:13 pm

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.
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    Shailaja · May 13, 2017 at 9:40 pm

    Completely agree, Parul. It is in celebrating the differences that we appreciate the closeness even more. 🙂

Roshan Radhakrishnan · May 13, 2017 at 1:43 pm

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.
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    Shailaja · May 13, 2017 at 9:35 pm

    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 🙂 Thank you, Roshan 🙂

Rachna · May 13, 2017 at 5:30 pm

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. ❤️
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    Shailaja · May 13, 2017 at 9:25 pm

    Just being is something I had to learn after many experiences 🙂 Thank you for the warmth and always looking out for me, Rachna 🙂

Shilpa Gupte · May 13, 2017 at 8:04 pm

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!

    Shailaja · May 13, 2017 at 9:25 pm

    Thank you so much, Shilpa , for all the warm words and wishes 🙂

Debbie D. · May 13, 2017 at 9:48 pm

Happy Belated Anniversary, Shailaja! Yours is a beautiful, heartwarming love story. You and your husband overcame many hurdles and emerged triumphantly. Thanks for sharing this!
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    Shailaja · May 13, 2017 at 9:50 pm

    Thank you so much, Debbie 🙂 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 🙂

Priya · May 13, 2017 at 11:40 pm

This is such a beautiful post! Wish you many more years of togetherness.
This year we will also complete 12 years of married life, so I can relate to a number of things you wrote. You can not pretend or try to be somebody you are not, if you want to have a happy life together. Just be yourself and let the other person be.
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    Shailaja · May 13, 2017 at 11:48 pm

    Thank you so much, Priya 🙂 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 🙂

Obsessivemom · May 14, 2017 at 8:37 am

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.
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    Shailaja · May 14, 2017 at 5:45 pm

    Thank you Tulika 🙂 You’re right. It would be darn near impossible to share everything 🙂 Differences are beautiful!

Vinitha · May 14, 2017 at 8:41 am

Okay, so I was trying to write something meaningful but backspacing is all I’m ending up doing. This is such a beautiful warm post, Shailaja. Stay blessed always. Here’s to celebrating many more years of togetherness.
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    Shailaja · May 14, 2017 at 5:42 pm

    Awww thanks Vinitha 🙂 You are really very sweet 🙂

Nabanita · May 14, 2017 at 5:36 pm

Happy Belated Anniversary, Shailaja. The best things in a relationships are the simplest but the most important in life. Stay blessed
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    Shailaja · May 14, 2017 at 5:39 pm

    Thank you so much, Nabanita 🙂

Kala Ravi · May 14, 2017 at 9:57 pm

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.

    Shailaja · May 15, 2017 at 6:32 am

    Thank you so much, Kala. I’m grateful that the love came across. Thank you for all the love. Really.

kalpana solsi · May 14, 2017 at 10:26 pm

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.

    Shailaja · May 15, 2017 at 6:33 am

    Thank you, Kalpana. I’m in agreement with you. We need to count our blessings and learn from the setbacks. It’s how we thrive.

Vidya Sury · May 14, 2017 at 11:22 pm

Happy anniversary to you and V, Shailaja! I am so happy for you! Hugs! A wonderful marriage is a million little things that build up into that space called home, within us and around us.
Vidya Sury recently posted How My Son Taught Me To Be A Better MotherMy Profile

    Shailaja · May 15, 2017 at 6:34 am

    Thank you, Vidya. Indeed it’s exactly what makes a marriage. Hugs!

Rajlakshmi · May 15, 2017 at 8:13 am

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.
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    Shailaja · May 15, 2017 at 10:22 am

    He does balance me out rather well, Raj 🙂 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 🙂

Sreesha · May 15, 2017 at 8:34 am

Happy anniversary, Shai 🙂 I wish you many more years of togetherness and I do hope you’ll invite me when you the two of you renew your vows 🙂
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    Shailaja · May 15, 2017 at 10:23 am

    You have a standing invitation to my vow renewal ceremony 🙂 Always. Thank you, Sreesha 🙂

Shantala · May 15, 2017 at 10:00 am

Shy, I loved reading this post. So much so I have read it several times. Love isn’t always in the grand gestures; in fact, it very rarely is. It’s these small everyday things that makes life truly beautiful.

Wishing you many more years of love and togetherness. 🙂
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    Shailaja · May 15, 2017 at 10:25 am

    Shantala, I am giving you a bear hug right now 🙂 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.

SHALINI BAISIWALA · May 15, 2017 at 11:03 am

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

    Shailaja · May 16, 2017 at 7:51 am

    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 🙂

Soumya · May 15, 2017 at 12:13 pm

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.
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    Shailaja · May 16, 2017 at 7:52 am

    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 🙂

Anamika Agnihotri · May 17, 2017 at 11:00 pm

Belated Happy Anniversary Shailaja. I simply loved reading this post for the simplicity with which you have expressed your gratitude. May the love, both of you have, continue to increase. Stay blessed.
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    Shailaja · May 22, 2017 at 12:12 pm

    Thank you for your kind, warm and genuine wishes,Anamika 🙂

Modern Gypsy · May 18, 2017 at 7:45 pm

You’ve captured the essence of your marriage so beautifully, Shy! It’s so true what you say about not needing to do everything together – you have to be your own person, do the things you love, and know that your love stays strong and grows regardless. I loved this piece, and I wish you both so much happiness and love and togetherness. Big hugs!
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    Shailaja · May 22, 2017 at 12:13 pm

    Thank you, MG 🙂 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 🙂

Sara · May 26, 2017 at 2:27 am

Loved the story of surviving ups and downs to emerge stronger and surer.Happy anniversary Shailaja!

    Shailaja · May 26, 2017 at 6:47 pm

    Thank you, Sara! Welcome to my blog 🙂

Swaloven · May 27, 2017 at 11:01 pm

Hi Shilaja
I visit your blog first time, and found here nice stuff and stories, and this story in very inspirational, i am encourage by this post
Thank you for sharing Shailaja
now i bookmark your blog and hope so read daily
please keep updating
Swaloven 🙂
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Neha · May 29, 2017 at 3:16 pm

Great post

Word of the Year for 2018: A vision for the months ahead · January 1, 2018 at 8:28 pm

[…] it was only this year, after 16 plus years of marriage that I could confidently say I understand my husband well enough. Marriage is a work in progress. […]

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