Today’s relationships: you can touch each other but not each others’ phones.
Can’t help it ma’am’... is how Suvir describes his behaviour to me in an email. In reference to how he can’t help but doubt his girlfriend’s loyalty, every now and then. It wasn’t Suvir, by the way, who got in touch with me to begin with. It was his girlfriend who’s a regular reader of the column, and wrote to me asking for calmness tips on overcoming a bitter breakup.
Breakups don’t catch my attention, as you know, but the reason here did. ‘I found him checking my phone when I was in the loo,’ she wrote. ‘I’m sick and tired of telling him that I’m not cheating on him. He still gets these pangs of suspicion. It was suffocating to be spied upon like this,’ she wrote, marking a copy of the email to Suvir. Fair enough, girl. It is indeed suffocating to be mistrusted by your partner or spouse. But curious as I was to know why someone would risk jeopardising a good relationship by being overly suspicious, I wrote back to them. Here’s what Suvir had to say. ‘I know I’m behaving crazy but I’m paranoid. The thought that she may be seeing someone else when she’s not with me drives me mad. What makes it worse is her reluctance to reveal her phone or email password to me. I won’t go around reading her mails, but the thought that she refuses, puts one hell of a doubt in my head. When I’m ready to share my passwords with her, why can’t she do the same to put me at ease? I feel so terribly stressed.’
Sad, isn’t it? No, I’m not talking about his girlfriend’s situation. It’s of course unfortunate to be stuck with a partner who doubts your loyalty, but imagine how traumatic it must also be for the person who’s constantly agonised by suspicious thoughts, the ones that are known to eat you from inside. So while there’ll be several shoulders for Suvir’s girlfriend to cry on, since her perspective is obviously in the clear, I want to extend mine to Suvir today, and analyse his stress. Let’s look at how to come to terms with the incessant urge to suspect your partner...
1. Accept the problem: This may make me sound arrogant, but I refuse to advise people who are not ready to believe that they have a problem. Bahot time waste hota hai, with people who don’t listen with an open mind and think that their viewpoint is always the valid one. Maybe it is so sometimes, but at least open up to the possibility that it isn’t. If you are constantly jealous and suspicious of your partner, irrespective of the gender, and always try to justify it by saying that you do it only because you love them, YOU HAVE A PROBLEM. Admit it. There’s a difference between pretending to be playfully possessive of your partner in front of friends, and creating fake Facebook accounts and sending a friend request to your boyfriend. If most of your free time goes in thinking about why he/she was online on WhatsApp late at night, and those thoughts become the cause of a majority of your fights, you, my dear, need to do something about it sooner than you think.
2. Take the suspicion test: Ask yourself these questions each time you suffer from an uncontrollable bout of jealousy or doubt about your partner and are unsure if it is the right thing to do...
a) Am I being guided by the present or the past?: In a surprising majority of cases, people doubt their current partners because they are scarred by a previous relationship where someone cheated on them. It’s natural. It’s still not justified. A lingering pain from the past can keep you from objectively looking at your partner’s completely harmless action. Do remember that if someone broke your trust in the past, it’s precisely why you aren’t with them today. The matter ended there. It wasn’t the doing of your present partner. Do not make them suffer for someone else’s faults. Stop living in the past... God’s already made the correction here, hasn’t He?
b) Am I reacting or responding? : There’s a big difference between the two. You react to emotions, you respond to facts. Getting into a heated argument with your husband on seeing a girl’s SMS on his phone is a reaction. A knee-jerk at that. Try asking him first — politely — on what it’s all about. And be open to trusting his answer. If you still find him evasive, maybe it’s justified arguing it any further. Otherwise you would have just wasted a few moments you and your partner could have spent in saying, or doing, something nice!
c) Am I insecure? : In most cases, it is a deep sense of insecurity that makes people throw a suspicious fit. Stop thinking that you aren’t good enough for your partner. People are smarter than you think. We may keep talking about love at first sight and some such blah but deep inside, everyone analyses a potential partner before diving into a relationship. Your partner hasn’t got into it blindfolded. He or she found you good enough, and if at some point they don’t, your jealousy is not gonna make them stay. So stop this self-bashing and feel good about yourself. Only then someone else will.
3. Is it worth it? : One of the easiest but the worst thing we often do in a relationship is shove the obvious signs that something’s wrong, under the carpet. We prefer to live in denial, only because we aren’t brave enough to face the repercussions. If you find yourself in a relationship where your partner’s actions are leading to a fight almost everyday, be it an affair or marriage, think about whether it’s worth being in it. I know, I know, you are itching to give me gyaan on how it’s easier said than done, how it’s practically not feasible etc. But being miserable yourself and making another person miserable in the name of practical feasibility is no genius act either. Base your decision to stay in a relationship on facts, not suspicion. On evidence, not instincts. On happiness, not fear. And then if the logical thing is to move away, so be it.
Sonal Kalra showed this writeup to a colleague and he called it useless. Instead, give practical tips to hack into your girlfriend’s phone without getting caught, he said. Sigh. Mail what you think, at sonal.kalra@ hindustantimes.com or on Facebook at facebook.com/sonalkalra13. Follow on twitter: @sonalkalra