He tells me he never wanted to, in his entire life, be labeled as that man. The man who loves but knows not consent, the man who sees beyond the body but knows not expression, the man who wants more from relationships and yet is caged by the shackles of duty, callous responsibility and façades of his gender. It is only in being accused does he realize the mold that was cast out for him when he was born.
What does love look like for him? It looks like rescuing the damsel. It looks like being present in ways that are quiet and unassuming, where toil is present in the work you do to bring money home, without complains of pain and the enormous burden he is taught to carry as if it were the only right. And violence as the answer to assert this pain, is perfunctory.
I refuse this love. I reject it. I see shared power taken away from my hands. I see the damsel in the making within me thus. I am not asked what I love, I am taken for granted as consenting by the silence on my lips. What does he know of consent and silence? What does he know of my body that has been rankled by abuse? What does he know of labor seen as unequal? The mold he was cast in defined mine, all love seems scary if not given.
Couples are shackled by the molds they were created in, molds that the society has carved out for us to live within. We live in a mold of a cis/hetero monogamous world, which is patriarchal with ableist timelines and casteist morals to say the least. How do we see from outside this bubble-of-a-world we are made to fit in? These goddamn boxes, like I’d like to call them.
How do we salvage relationships where, all we end up doing after a point is throw mud at each other?
How do we restore humanity without losing accountability to ourselves and those that we love?
How do we do this as partners together, and as individuals who yearn for love that feels right, inside? Here are some reflections:
1. Love: As trite as it may sound, love is the answer. It is important for us to look at what we call love and what we call fear. How we are when we feel love and how we are when we feel fear within our relationships.
What do we want from love? How does care look like? Are our ideas coming from a place of love or fear of loneliness? What are we willing to hold on to? What are we willing to let go of?
Creating an intention to connect with what you really want can be an exercise you come back to again and again.
2. Look at your molds: You are a social and political being. You have a race, class, caste, gender identity, sexual identity, ability, education, religion, trauma, and more that you are born and raised into.
Your privilege is the first experience you will unsee if you experience lack of privilege in one area of your life or the other. For instance, as a cis-man from a lower caste, your experience of disadvantage colors your view of the world and others more than the fact that you are a cis-man in a predominately male-dominated (aka patriarchal) world. This way of viewing your experience of oppression over privilege may interact in your relationship with your cis-woman upper caste wife/partner.
You may believe that you have no responsibility of looking at this mold of a cis man in a partnership, but this may cause painful interactions to occur in your relationship with your partner.
It is our responsibility as people who know love, to show love from a place of gentle holding, from a place of awareness than oppression. The table below provides a look at who holds power and privilege. Your relationship is a microcosm of the society you live in, do you not think this plays out in your relationship? If you answered, no, talk to your partner.
3. Speaking from your truth: Conversations are one of the most difficult yet gratifying aspects of human evolution. I believe that individuals are islands on their own, connected by the bridge of conversations.
What do you believe about conversations? What do you believe about honest yet difficult conversations? What do difficult yet kind conversations look like? What do consistent coming back to difficult conversations look like?
Just the slew of questions around conversations can cause anxiety for a few and happiness for others. It is, however, impossible to build a relationship of safety, transparency, love and togetherness without one.
What do you talk about? Start with these molds through which you look at life. Start breaking away at what the world tells you your relationship should look like and start creating one that works for you and your partner(s).
Relationships are not easy but at the same time they can be enormously gratifying if we are able to connect with what we really want for ourselves and those we love/want to love.
This article was written by our therapist Aarathi Selvan