One of the shows on Netflix I was binge watching last week, had this line: "It is better to ask for forgiveness than asking for permission." The way the story worked out in that particular TV series was quite a roller coaster. Nothing worked quite well, there were all sorts of confusion, hurt feelings all around and yet, finally it all worked out well enough, albeit with a couple of characters killed off and some heavy price that was paid.
It left me thinking if this particular line held true in real life, especially for people in relationships.
It is one thing for the rebellious teenager looking to jump out of the window of a first floor home to go out to a party late at night when the legal guardians are quite asleep to indulge in some not quite legal activities, and hope they won't be found out and in the rare circumstances of someone ratting them out, to trust that their hapless and yet loving guardians will forgive them yet another trespass, perhaps with nothing more than a week of being grounded without their mobile. It might seem like the very nature of adolescence is to stretch boundaries without quite asking for permission, question the need for such permission in the first place and count on forgiveness as a given in their relationship with people at home.
Is that the same for people in a loving adult relationship? Can people take their boundaries as a flexible entity that they could play with? Should they take permission from each other for any transgressions?
Relationships are a contract of sorts, even if they aren't always written and rarely registered as an agreement. All the people in a relationship have needs and desires, and while one expects that much of these will be fulfilled in the relationship, they may not always be satisfied. It could be as simple as a wish for a nice ghee-roast chicken with neer dosa, or a late night box of chicken kebabs, to more complicated ones like wanting to quit a high-paying corporate job to start a baking course with dreams of setting up a small home catering business, or a lot more complicated situation with complex desires and needs.
Forgiveness might be easy enough for the smaller boundary violations, just as much as permissions might be for those and yet how we negotiate where we choose to ask for permission and where we hope there will be forgiveness seem so oddly correlated. Some play around it, asking for permission for smaller things, hoping the bigger ones don't get noticed, but that doesn't work too well either. It is often the really big ones that we just go ahead and do, hoping for forgiveness, and that forgiveness is too difficult to get.
What if there was an alternative? What if instead of permission or forgiveness, there was a more open space to talk about desires, including those that are not easily spoken out? If we worked towards that, would it be better?
As written for The New Indian Express
So, you walk into a party and notice this old friend of yours with a particularly attractive, charming new person. You can see everyone’s eyes on this new person and there is a buzz around. What would you do? Quite likely, you’d either ask the host of the party or other friends who are already there, or if you are particularly risk-friendly, ask the friend themselves – “Who is the arm candy?”
Maybe they are in a deep and meaningful relationship. Maybe it is something new they are trying out. Or maybe it is a one-night thing – just for fun. One never knows, but you and probably much of the party has asked this question. Maybe you have been someone’s arm candy yourself or had your own arm candy for a while.Now,imagine that this person persists in bringing someone new, attractive and charming every once in a while. A new arm candy, so to say,very often. Just stay with that image for a second. Imagine what it feels to be the person bringing someone new to a party, and imagine what everyone else feels and what the new person goes through. Pause for a second with that memory and ask yourself this: Who is experiencing what for whom in that scenario?
If I were a betting person, I would bet that there are all sorts of feelings floating around in the room. At the first instance, one imagines there is envy, lust, jealousy, admiration and disbelief. Emotions that might reflect how the person with the ‘arm candy’ wants to be seen by their peer group and a lot lesser about how they feel about the person they are bringing in. Really then, this is them interacting with the group, trying to position themselves as somehow more powerful, attractive and sought-after.
This is them in love with themselves and maybe in love with the group as a whole – not necessarily with the persons they are with. Again, as the pattern continues, if there is a new person often, those feelings of envy, jealousy and admiration, might either solidify into a thinly cloaked hate, or it might mellow into an amused tolerance – mostly depending on where each person in the group is with their own lives.
If someone has been struggling to even meet people let alone form relationships , they might react differently from others who have their own steady relationships. If you are the arm candy though, watch out if your new found love interest is asking you to meet friends at a large party. Have your guard up if anyone refers to you as someone’s arm candy. It just might be a signal that perhaps the relationship is not between you two. You may end up getting hurt if you go in without knowing that you are only an object in someone else’s love games with their group. Of course, being arm candy can just be fun as well.
As written for and published in The New Indian Express
Ajanta, Mahesh and other InnerSight counsellors and guest contributors are happy to share their thoughts here.