For many of us working in corporate and corporate-like spaces, end of year means one thing, and one thing only – performance appraisal time. Some companies do it once a year, others twice or quarterly. A few do the appraisal at end of the calendar year, promotions and things at the end of the financial year, and pay hikes at the end of the first quarter – just to keep their people around, like the seasons of How to Get Away with Murder. Whatever the means and ends of it, appraisals are something one cannot escape if you are working in an organization of some sort.
The question we are asking today is quite simply this: If performance appraisals are such a key part of your work life, how come they are not so systematic as far as relationships go? Why wouldn’t you and your partner invest some time and energy in appraising your couplehood to see how you both are doing, what your goals are, where you are doing well and where you need to improve?
Granted, there might not be much of an opportunity for promotion or pay hikes. There is no ladder to climb as such in the relationship and it is certainly not a simple matter of getting a better designation or a pay scale so you can plump up your CV so you can get the more lucrative job at a fancier address. Any such aspirations might in fact work against you and get you a tight rap on your knuckles.
Still, there is a lot to gain from a systematic performance appraisal of the relationship.
The reason why organizations do performance appraisals in a systematic manner is that there tends to be so many dimensions to a job. If we don’t sit down and focus on each dimension, we might get carried away by the latest, or the most obvious, or the largest – and miss out on everything else that makes a person well-suited to the role they perform. Similarly, a relationship is a lot more than just an overall sense of contentment or happiness. There are so many aspects to it – the social, the physical, the fiscal, the sexual, the familial, the personal, the inter-personal, the spiritual, and with each of these having a few key wishes or aspirations. You might find yourself adding more to this list, of course.
If we were to sit down and appraise where we are in our relationship in each of these dimensions, what we might see is something quite different and actionable. It might help you set some real and much-needed #RelationshipGoals for yourself, than a picture of Michelle and Barack Obama sharing a moment together at the Trump inauguration, or an aww-inducing video of an old couple helping each other cross the street on a lazy Sunday morning or any such thing.
So, are you ready to put your relationship up for a performance appraisal? Can you work with each other on a performance improvement plan, if needed?
As written for and published in the New Indian Express
What would you say if someone told you that in any loving relationship, there are always two children who are in love? No, we are not talking of puppy love between cute 4 year olds.
What we are really saying is that each of us as adults have our own inner child within us, and when in a loving relationship, what we are really seeking is for our inner child to be able to relate to the inner child of our beloved. The inner child is not merely a metaphorical child within us, but almost a literal one – it is like a younger version of us is very much there living inside us, carrying with it all the playfulness, the attention-loving, the creativeness of that child.
Often, that child gets socialized out through our growing up years. We strive in growing-up to achieve a very different ideal of the cool, calm, collected adult who can make great decisions, is goal-driven, is purposeful and resourceful. Such adulting is seen as a goal in itself and given tags of ‘maturity’ and ‘objectivity.’
Of course, it is really important that we do become such strong adults, but it is so often at the cost of that inner child, who gets stifled and bottled up, forgotten like so much of the music and dance that we might have learned and enjoyed as a child. Somewhere between senior school and university, the child gets ignored or worse, actively shunned or repressed, or just retires to a corner. The playfulness and competitive joy of games and sports gets relegated to weekend hobbies to make space for the serious business of being an adult.
Now, when two people fall in love, is it really the adults falling in love with each other’s eruditeness and ability to balance their accounts? Or are they falling in love with the undertones of mischief, fun, play and joy that are there if you scratch the surface of the seriousness of their education, jobs and social connectedness?
Chances are that it is the two children within us connecting and falling in love. It happens quite unconsciously. Think of any romcom that you like – be it the When Harry met Sally types, or the Modern Family types, you are very likely to see the romance click through in those cracks when that inner child shines through the cultivated adultness. If you look at your own love, you would see it as well.
When we do find someone that we really connect with and fall in love with, it is more often than not seeking to somehow make that inner child come alive again, but within the safety and security that the adulthood offers. The challenge is that often times, that connection again falls prey to the pressures of adult life and succumbs to the pressures of EMIs, Career progression and the such.
But what if we could be conscious of our inner children? Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could let them live and love forever?
As written for the New Indian Express
One of the lasting images of a really successful, bonded relationship of love is when there seems to be a great degree of synchronicity between the people in it. The image of the two almost dancing their way through their life in perfect harmony, whether they are doing dishes or making love – everything happens without much need for any verbal or other communication.
They just know it. One person is washing the dishes and the other is ready with the dishcloth, exactly when needed. A person leans in for a hug and the other already has their arm out. They go to bed together, kiss exactly right, and know exactly what buttons to press and when. Hardly a word is exchanged, and yet everything happens so very smoothly.
Our movies celebrate it, our stories and poetry do, and there is no denying how much we have set such an image up as an ideal for relationships. The question we are asking today is not even whether this is really true, or whether it is even a possibility, but whether this ideal is a healthy one for love to really deepen and broaden. If we keep looking up to such an ideal, will we really be able to communicate, ask for consent and engage in a respectful and meaningful connection with the person we love?
In the Aww-inducing image of the perfectly in-sync relationship we described above, there is so much consent taken for granted. In a Utopian world, perhaps it might be true for some people. In reality, consent is something people need to engage with over and over in their lives with those they love. Constantly. Starting from the very mundane, “Can I use the loo before you?” or such negotiations over a shared living space, to talking about sex, intimacy and personal space. We are constantly in situations that need consent every living minute, including when we are asleep.
Some days, the kiss you want in the morning before leaving for work might not be forthcoming. Do you then force the kiss anyway? Or demand it? Or sulk about it? Or do you talk about it and figure out what’s happening? Turning the tables, if you don’t feel like a kiss, are you able to say No, or do you give in? Quite often, we end up doing things in relationships without necessarily wanting to or consenting to – and while the one-off exception might seem a necessary thing to keep peace, they often add layers of resentment which do blow up some time or the other.
Can we then resist this cultural pressure to act as if consent is to be taken for granted, and that it need not be re-negotiated every time? Just because someone said “I Do,” it doesn’t mean that they said “I Do now and forever, whenever and wherever and that is never going to change even the slightest.” We know it instinctively, and yet, somehow the ‘ideal relationship’ we look up to denies the need for dialogue. Can we change it?
As written for and published by the New Indian Express
Ajanta, Mahesh and other InnerSight counsellors and guest contributors are happy to share their thoughts here.