Compartmentalization is the one thing that goes out of the window when you get into a relationship. I think that’s what most of us struggle the most with. We’ve spent most of our adolescent and adult lives learning to organize the world around us in a certain way. Then someone comes along with their own set of rules and structure. Merging these two is never going to be an easy prospect.

Relationships to me, are like the baby plants in my window garden. They need nurturing, a lot of daily incremental effort. At some point of time, they can be left to their own devices but really, that takes a long, long time to come. Also you can’t grow a plant overnight by pouring twenty buckets of water on it and then forgetting about it for the next month or so. Every drop must be measured, every word pondered.

In a single state, every new person is like a seed and it is up to each of us to decide how and where we’re going to fit that person into the structure of our lives. But when you’re in a relationship, all of a sudden, you’re handed down a legacy of people. Friends, classmates, family, ex-es, colleagues, all kinds of people. You don’t have a personal history with them but you’re given an encapsulated bulletin of their background, which is really only a recap of your partner’s history with them. You don’t often have a choice of where to fit them into your lives. In some cases, you may not even have a place in your life for such a person.

For example, I’m an only child. I’m completely unfamiliar with the concept of siblinghood, having only seen it from the outside as it were. The finer nuances of brother-sister, twins, older-younger, same-sex-siblings etc are things I strain to discern from what I see of my friends. I’m completely unsure about how to behave with the siblings of my partner. The casualness of friendship may not be taken for granted with them but the strictures of family must be in place. It’s not as formal as a parental relationship, not as markedly opposed as an ex- and not as casual as a friendship. Respect, trust and liking all need to be established, proven and earned. And there’s no roadmap for this.

Then there is the manifold nature of friendships. Same-sex friendships are close in a way the opposite sex can never quite fathom. The relationship is inherited to some extent (I pity the person who doesn’t get along with the best friend of their partner). On the other hand, it isn’t a same sex friendship any more which brings in a new level of uncertainty. Should one treat the best friend of the beloved on par with one’s friends of the opposite sex? But the joking flirtatious tone needs to be dropped as it seems inappropriate with friend-of-beloved. Can one trust them as much, considering their loyalties necessarily must be to your partner first and foremost?

Opposite sex friendships take on an entirely different sense of diabolical. Should I like her simply because he likes her too? In fact, is that possible? Can he ever like my buddy knowing that the man was around for me at a time when we didn’t know each other? Even after you get past the jealousy bit, how do you recreate the friendship when clearly you are not the same person as your other half? Opposite sex friendships are very different from same sex friendships. I’m going to shoot down the theory that two women cannot be friends, on the premise that I have a number of close women friends. But can two women who care for the same man (albeit in different ways) form a friendship? Extend that question to two men who care about the same woman too. It should be possible, in theory. And yet, do we really see it happening?

As if being in a relationship isn’t complicated enough, dealing with the inheritance of people just makes life a helluva lot more complex.


A version is posted on Yahoo! Real Beauty.

9 thoughts on “Inherited Relationships”
  1. Dealing with the inheritance of people just makes life a helluva lot more complex. True ..but if we continue to be ourself and let the person accept us as we are is much more easy then being the person what the new set of people expect us to be..

    Nice write-up Smith….waiting for more on thought: relationships….

  2. @Pushpee:
    I don’t think it’s that easy… for us to be what we are. Somewhere people do expect us to be good enough (as per their ‘taste’) for them to like us. And we fall in trap in order to maintain the main relationship.

    Nice write-up Smithy. Keep writing. 🙂

  3. Inheritance of relationships so much depends on the person whom you are inheriting these relations from and his/her expectations, The fact that a person is a close friend/relative of my partner shouldn’t mean my partner expects me to be as close to them right?, I am sure it becomes tricky when the equations are extreme on either ends, however in-between must be fine.
    Again I am a little businessman when it comes to situations like this, Its more like a barter, I don’t worry about your inheritance of my relationships, so please don’t take my inheritance too seriously.

    “Then there is the manifold nature of friendships. Same-sex friendships are close in a way the opposite sex can never quite fathom.”

    Considering how we hate generalizing things, Unfortunately I don’t agree with the above statement, I agree there are some limitations when it comes to opposite sex friendship, but then it also adds a great angle which same sex friendships can never provide.

    1. @Rambler: Your comment surprised me. The boy has a similar attitude but he’s rather unlike you (or what I think you’re like). You seemed to me to be a more perceptive, new-age, sensitive man (and I still think you are). Perhaps it’s just a difference in the way each gender looks at friendship? My female friends, nature irrespective all seem to see things my way but the men would probably agree with you (and the boy’s) perspective. I can’t imagine being so chilled out or blase about people who matter – either to me or to my partner. But he seems able to detach himself from my world and people who matter to me.

      I didn’t mean to say that same sex friendships are closer than opposite sex ones. I said they are close in a way the other cannot fathom. It works both ways. I don’t think a female friend would truly understand the nature of my close friendship with a guy (unless she had an identical one in her life as well). Similarly I don’t think men truly understand women’s friendships and vice versa.

      1. Interesting tone in your reply “But he seems able to detach himself from my world and people who matter to me.”, is this more out of expectation, rather than observation?. May be women compartmentalize people into those who can detach, and those cannot. If a person can detach from people who are so close to me, if need arises he can do the same with me too?
        “Understanding the nature of a friendship” is a topic for a long night of fun discussion [ I am so tempted to use ‘argument’ and not ‘discussion’

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