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Sunday, August 24, 2003

Life Ties

The fidelity factor
Taru Bahl

AT 29, when Arti got seriously involved with Alok, she expected fidelity to be the cornerstone of their relationship. This expectation was more pronounced since both were in professions and environments in which temptations were not easy to resist.

Arti was the ideal representative of the contemporary free-spirited PYT (Pretty Young Thing) set. However, she was conservative when it came to romantic attachments. She was strictly a "one man woman" who believed in being faithful, sincere and fiercely loyal. She liked to "belong completely" to Alok and did not think she was being unreasonable or over demanding if she expected the same from him.

Alok was crazily in love with her. He was 35 with a colourful past. While Arti conditioned herself to be devoted 100 per cent to the current person in her life, happy and satiated in the energies that their loving generated, Alok was a victim of his restlessness which extended to his romantic involvement too. He also had a deep-seated need to be liked by the people he came in contact with. He knew that there had been no girl like Arti in his life and if ever he was to be serious about someone, it would be her. There were times he was gripped with an urgency to make their bond permanent but being commitment phobic he put off the decision to another day.

 


Meanwhile, the intensity of their involvement deepened. They had common interests and they made a genuine effort to participate in the things the other did. Their relationship did not stagnate in the six years they had been seeing each other. It was constantly evolving and growing. In spite of retaining their separateness, their dependence on each other only made them that much more secure, self assured and confident. There was a mutual understanding that if they did think of marriage they would not need to look elsewhere. The bond they both shared at a mental, emotional and other levels was perfectly in tune, so much so that whenever differences arose, they always got sorted out in no time. They had made huge investments in their relationship and they bent backwards to resolve issues so that they did not lose each other.

Arti was aware of the basic difference in the way they perceived total commitment to a loved one. While both strived hard to be there for each other, participating and doing everything to maintain harmony and balance, Alok had compartmentalised some of his relationships, which, to his mind, did not have a direct bearing or conflict with what he shared with Arti.

If there was an old flame with whom he had chosen to maintain sporadic contact since she was now divorced helping her in moments of distress, he did not term this association as one of betrayal. Similarly, if there was an ex-neighbour with whom he went out for movies since Arti was not much of a movie buff, he did not think he was wronging her. There were times when Arti felt insecure or got upset but she psyched herself into believing that as long as she didnít know, it was alright. As a person who had never harboured negative feelings, she hated herself for these occasional but unfamiliar bouts of jealousy, possessiveness and suspicion.

She was not one of those insanely obsessive women who liked to "own" their man. She believed in giving space, respecting the othersí decision and choices and trusting completely. Yet, whenever she got wind of his cozy tete-a-tete or exclusive outings with women he had previously dated, it made her lose her composure. She found her mind wandering, conjuring mental images and piecing together tit-bits to form pictures which were far from palatable. A maze of emotions enveloped her, impairing her sense of logic.

Alok, on his part, was clear that he was true to her and that his these minor dalliances would not interfere with his primary relationship since they were meant to exist only on the periphery. No one could take Artiís place. He felt he was smart enough to keep the various compartments in his life separate without overlaps and clashes. Friends, however, did feel that he was an easy victim for women who were manipulative. But, he derived a lot of personal satisfaction from sorting out othersí problems and when it was a woman in distress the combination was too lethal to resist. For him, the line between casual friendship and romantic involvement was a blurred one. The distinction he did make was in separating his romantic attachments based on the extent of his commitment which remained essentially to Arti.

Whenever the topic came up for discussion, he tried impressing upon her that she was a class apart and that his feelings for her were at a different level. But with the passage of time, Arti realised that this was one divergent view on which hinged the long-term health of their relationship. She did derive complete satisfaction from the man in her life and was unprepared to settle for anything less from him. She was not interested in what had happened in the past or what was likely to transpire in the future. It was the present that she valued and here she expected the fidelity quotient to be the result of the love that existed. She could not live a life of uncertainty and doubt regarding the extent of his involvement with other women. So long as their bond was not permanent, she could somehow put on the blinkers but the moment they became man and wife she would expect not just transparency but also honesty, commitment, loyalty and life-long fidelity. And only if Alok could promise that with conviction and belief, could she think of taking their relationship to the next level.

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