A book I’m reading features a couple. The man supports the woman’s independence, teaching her vital skills that help her break gender shackles. He also cheats, a trauma that dogs the woman for years even as she finds success. Much later, they work together in a war against a brutal foe. The man dies in a blaze of glory while the woman, channeling skills honed over years (including what she learnt from her ex) ends with the victory flag.

It made me think of how our relationships involve exchanges that serve us beyond the duration we stay together. Intimacy with another irrevocably changes our life course. We accumulate traumas. We also gather lessons that are gifts that keep on giving.

Gratitude is an important part of intimacy. But should there be limits to how long & how much we feel grateful? We can’t impose transactionality on connection because it’s not possible to balance debit & credit of emotions neatly. We experience hurt differently. We also learn differently. It’s often impossible to say exactly how a lesson that has come our way will serve us in the future. Learning doesn’t work like that, in clearly defined goals.

In the story, does it serve the woman to feel vindicated by the man’s fate for the wrong done to her? That detracts from the victory that she has collaborated with him to achieve.

Does it help her to stay grateful for his first lessons that set her on the path to victory? That might have kept her subservient to him & trapped in a bad relationship, unable to get out because “he gave me so much” – a dynamic that a lot of abusive relationships carry.

I’m not going to put a name to what makes it possible for a person to say I refuse to tolerate this, no matter what consolation prize or bribe is offered to me. But that magical X quality is also what allows gratitude to stay finite & so unpolluted. It makes growth for each person possible, above the hurt caused each other. Eventually, in this story, it allows them to part (life & death) with respect & even affection.

Let’s think of it as a statute of limitations on gratitude.

IWear: Block print saree from COTTON INDIA + indigo print spaghetti top from FabIndia, silver bangle from FabIndia, pencil, flash cards and Sambar gavel. Occasion: Alphabet Sambar on Instagram Live

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