I remember crying uncontrollably when Allie finally ended up with Noah. I couldn’t see how she could ever be with anybody else. What is it, if not true love, when two high school sweethearts remain in love years on end? If Allie were a swan, Noah would be her lake. If she were rain, he’d be her cloud. If she were a poem, he’d be her verse. Their intense love and never-abating passion easily grabbed my teenage heart and mind.
And then, I grew up. Suddenly, the love portrayed in The Notebook no longer seemed realistic. Real life couples rarely manage to stay in love for decades. More often than not, they end up together, try to make it work, and move on when they can’t. Don’t they? Well. Yes and no. Yes, because many couples do experience it. No, because it’s neither as simple nor as morose as that.
Love–when it is young and fresh–probably feels like morning dew trickling down a tendril. Or perhaps, like a spark of fire on dry wood waiting to be ignited. With time though, the dew evaporates and the fire dies down. Personal differences apart, there are several reasons a couple can find it hard to stay in love, especially if they started out very young. Family circumstances could be one. If a partner has to move to a different city or country, it could mean the end of the relationship. Of course, I’ve heard of long distance relationships, though I’ve never been convinced they can work.
But marketing professional Siddhartha Bhattacharjee and his wife are proof enough to rethink my scepticism. They didn’t just fall in love while in their early 20s. They managed to stay in love and cherish one another for 29 years thereafter. This, despite having to stay apart every other week as Siddhartha was often out of town on work. “We could tackle all changes and challenges together,” he says, “because we believed that it is best to take decisions based on the current situations, and not have anything pre-determined.”
It’s dangerous to put the onus on the partner in attaining growth. If we can fulfil ourselves, we’ll leave no room for unhealthy expectations from our partners.
That’s something. Couples sure could take a leaf out of Siddhartha’s book. Not many can tackle life’s ups and downs well, let alone maintain their relationships through it all. After all, it’s too easy to resent the partner when things go sour. According to clinical psychologist Shivangi Dhaundiyal, young couples often face repeated disagreements, loss of respect for each other, and communication gaps as they grow older together. After all, change is the only constant in life and relationships aren’t spared from it.
Shifts in priorities are among the common culprits that cause couples to lose love along the way. Turning into parents is, perhaps, the biggest change a couple can undergo. Naturally, both partners prioritise the needs and comforts of their children over their own. And as time passes, the couple gradually drifts apart, even if they still value each other. As a mother of two, homemaker Ananya Mukherjee can relate to this. She and her husband underwent many changes in the 15 years they’ve been together, particularly after they had children. “It’s hard being a mother,” she shares. “You get exhausted beyond measure. And when your husband’s at work, unable to help you with the kids and chores, you might get resentful and bitter. Naturally, it affects the relationship to a great extent,” she says.
Yet, Ananya and her husband managed to find it within themselves to try and work out their problems. Both put themselves in one another’s shoes to be more understanding. It was this conscious effort, according to Ananya, that saved their relationship from falling apart entirely. With consistent efforts, they established a newfound respect for each other and made their relationship work.
As Ananya points out, resentments increase bitterness and damage the love a couple shares. Often, resentments stem from assuming that romantic partners can complete one another by contributing to each other’s progress. Dhaundiyal explains, “When people fall in love, they look for personal growth and fulfilment in the union. But over a period of time, they might feel stagnated and think that their partner hasn’t contributed much towards the other’s growth. That’s when a couple tends to outgrow the relationship.”
Of course, sometimes, we can’t help but move on. It’s natural for any individual to seek personal growth, even within a relationship. However, it’s dangerous to put the onus on the partner in attaining that growth. If we can fulfil ourselves, we’ll leave no room for unhealthy expectations from our partners. Or, at the very least, if we understand that it’s not our partner’s job to help us grow, we might just be able to salvage a deteriorating relationship.
They say love makes the world go round. I say love makes people mature. It’s not always dewy or fiery, but it’s a lesson in itself for sure. As for the lucky few who manage to stick together, I suppose their foundation is built on companionship, minimal expectations, and a personal responsibility towards self-growth. Perhaps, they’ve learnt that every morning brings the dew back and that if they’re solid as wood, it’s not so hard to rekindle the spark.
*A few names have been changed