“You’re lucky to have a spouse, whose thinking is aligned with yours”, we’re often told. Indeed. We’re lucky to have each other as companions. For both of us, it is difficult to imagine what life would have been if there was someone else.
But I do not agree that many of those who say so are unlucky in this regard. In fact, in very few cases, I sense that one is held back because of his/her spouse. What is lacking is either clarity in thought, honesty of effort or endurance to stay put.
A friend of mine, Sanjay has also been a colleague. We come from quite similar family backgrounds and academic paths. While in office, we spent a lot of time discussing life, gossiping of the irony of people, sharing practices for good health. Career-wise, both of us were quite un-ambitious. We often spoke of our exit from job and life thereafter. Then I quit job to move to a farm life and Sanjay thought that soon he too will move out. We did not have exactly the same vision of an ideal life, but moving off the systemic conveyor belt had to be common starting point.
It’s been three years since I quit. Sanjay has been following our movements. In our latest meeting, I felt a bit uneasy. There was some bitterness in his tone. He said, “Buddy, you’re lucky. Your wife is co-operative. It’s not the same for everyone. Sheetal (his wife) loves city life. She wants the best school and a bright path for Arjun (his 5 yr old son). The weekend eating out, shopping, going on a vacation are very important for her. I can’t even dare to discuss you and your life with her. I’m scared she might stop me from meeting you. As it is, we have loads of arguments about healthy habits, non-essential shopping and all that. But I’m happy for you, man. Make the most of the opportunity.”
“Tell me, when you all go to a restaurant, do you refrain from eating there?”
“No, I too eat.”
“But, you were so particular of not eating out. You know it’s unhealthy and an unnecessary expense. If you let them eat, while you cook for yourself, you’ll at least ensure your health, save some money and may be, some day, make an impression on them.”
“Oh, man! You will not understand. If I create scenes like these, my family life will get finished.”
“Is this your fear, or you have tried?”
“I have lived with her for 12 years now. I’m sane enough to know what to try and what not. I told you, you will not understand.”
“Come on, man. Are you saying that your wife does not give you enough space to do things, which are healthy? She does, right? Does she disagree with the fact that though eating out is unhealthy and expensive, you eat out to relax after a hectic week, have a bit of family time and eat tasty stuff, which is otherwise difficult to have?”
“I guess, she should agree to that.”
“So, if you tell her that you are ok to go out, spend the time and money, but will not eat out, since you anyway don’t particularly enjoy the taste, what will she have to say?”
“Why create so much fuss? Then someone will have to cook separately for me. Besides, it’s not that I don’t enjoy the taste. It’s good, once in a while.”
“So, what you’re saying is that Sheetal enjoys eating out and you don’t mind it once a week, though you can stay without it. You know that it is unhealthy but you also want to avoid confrontation.”
I paused, just in case there was any disagreement. When there was none, I continued, “Is it not sufficiently clear that you are the one, not her, who feels the dissonance? It is your decision to not suggest an alternative. Then why blame her? If I were Sheetal, I would have felt annoyed at the way you think of her. If you are so committed to your health, then take whatever care you feel is necessary. At least suggest an alternative.”
He decided to keep quite. I sensed that he’s trying to avoid confrontation, this time with me.
I dropped the subject and started talking of business, politics, climate change and other world issues. But I could not help feeling sorry for Sheetal.