When Amitabh Bacchan said “mere paas maa hai”, it was a resounding statement with far-reaching socio-cultural implications.
No amount of material possessions can overpower our need for human connection. The people that we surround ourselves with, the bonds we choose to water, uniquely add to our lives. From a friend, a partner, a sibling to our family; each bond helps us survive and fulfills us in distinct ways.
Maslow, the American psychologist, himself addresses this need by giving it a prominent spot in his “Hierarchy of Needs”. He calls it “Belongingness and Love Needs”. He explains it as the emotional need for human beings for interpersonal relationships, intimacy and love.
We are basically self-aware monkeys that like to chill!
Think about how last time you were irritated and talking about it with a friend or sibling helped!
Is Romance Dead?
Relationships are important, but one kind of relationship that gets distorted beyond recognition are romantic relationships.
Culture is one of the reasons for this distortion. Therefore, with changing cultures, these distortions can change too.
Romeo poisoned himself thinking Juliet dead; a little extreme, innit? These extreme attitudes are the norm, and dangerous ones at that.
Extreme attitudes in already existing relationships fluctuate between extreme ends of commitment and flippancy:
- One orthodoxly extreme attitude that we see in society is that no matter how appalling the relationship gets to commit to it. Divorce and separation are considered indecent and immoral routes that are to be avoided at all costs. No matter how toxic the relationship gets, leaving it would imply that one is a failure. No, we do not love the way you lie.
- On the flipside is an extreme attitude that stems from a lack or fear of commitment or serial dating to fill a void rather than building meaningful relationships with their partners. In this, individuals find the negotiative aspect of relationships aversive and would rather stay alone than find a meaningful human connection.
These attitudes become problematic when they hamper the physical mental well-being of those that hold them. Depending on the situation, extreme attitudes therefore hold the potential to cause considerable grief to oneself and those that surround.
Extreme attitudes about relationships may simultaneously, or alternatively fluctuate between avoiding relationships and needing them to a point where you can’t function without them.
- Relationship avoidance can take the shape of kids being told to focus just on studies and romance isn’t something to even think about as kids. If one thinks about them then they are labeled as spoilt, bad and other unfair labels. We are asked to even ignore the need for romantic affection. And suddenly, kids are expected to marry and have kids. This sudden reversal comes as a shock and people find it difficult to adjust to their new circumstances as a result of spending the first half of their life ignoring this.
- Needing relationships for leading fulfilling lives is the extreme attitude on the other end of this spectrum. The belief that one cannot live their best, fulfilling life if they’re single and that they are complete only when they are with somebody is problematic. How we are incomplete jigsaw puzzles that can only be completed by somebody else. Seeking relationships not for fulfilling and wholesome human connection, but to avoid being single
Again, these attitudes can become problematic because they skew people’s perception of what healthy romantic relationships can be and instead reduces us to dogs chasing cars.
Moreover, the societal machinery isn’t such that it allows us to change attitudes easily. It is society that thrives on these extreme attitudes.
For some like the Hindustani Bhau and Arnab Goswami, it is their bread and butter. It is the reason reality tv shows like Big Boss and Keeping up with the Kardashians have so much traction.
Any extreme attitude we hold is exploited by capitalism to profit off of us.
For example, Heart-shaped red-colored merchandise to celebrate valentine’s day when in reality it is just an excuse to earn more money, not celebrate the intimacy shared between partners.
Even society manipulates us using our extreme attitudes. Multiple Political tactics allows for this exploitation to win power. Even people around you can reinforce the idea of extreme attitudes by shaming single people, or divorced/separated individuals.
For example, asexual people can be shamed for not adhering to the norm of seeking sexual intimacy in relationships and therefore is something that is incorrect.Since society profits from these extreme attitudes, it won’t make it easy for us to change them.
Consequently, we will face a host of challenges on our journey to self-improvement and attitude change.
Healthy attitudes to cultivate in love
Philosophers have opined about what is called a golden mean, or moderation. To break these extreme attitudes, a healthy middle-ground is to be carved.
One that is flexible so it can appropriately change according to the situation and is also accepting; of oneself and of others.
This would create an atmosphere of acceptance that would then encourage the rest of society to reevaluate their own attitudes. Some examples of helpful attitudes follow:
- “I want a healthy love life, but I do not NEED it to complete me as a worthy person”
- “I know the people around me think I should not even think about romantic relationships, but it does not make me an unworthy person if I acknowledge my desire of wanting them. Wanting romantic connections is human.”
- “If I do not have a healthy love life, it does not make me an unlovable person.”
- “I want a healthy love life, but I can tolerate the discomfort of being alone. It sucks, yes, but I can tolerate it.”
- “If a relationship that I have is not healthy or helpful for me and I wish to leave it, it does not say that I am a weak person for letting it go.”
Relationships are learnt! Unlike the romanticized movie versions, relationships aren’t magically perfect. It is a lot of work!
The only question then remains, are we willing to work on ours?
Consider each relationship a house that you move in with your partner. It is up to both of you to personalize and inhabit it the best way you see fit. Sometimes you bump into their furniture, and sometimes they bump into yours. As long as both of you are happy and willing to work and move furniture around to allow the smooth functioning of the house, the house prospers!
But if any one person decides to move out, life isn’t over! You can make the place your own, and potentially move into another house with somebody, eventually!
Human connection is an important part of all our lives. With a little bit of hope and skill we shall manage to skirt the potholes, temper our attitudes, and prosperity shall find us, irrespective of our relationship status!