The Myth of Mutuality

The seesaw of ups and downs in relationships blinds one to the intrinsic power struggles when still in the present tense.

Published: 26th July 2020 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 25th July 2020 05:23 PM   |  A+A-


For representational purposes

The seesaw of ups and downs in relationships blinds one to the intrinsic power struggles when still in the present tense. A long time later, in the tranquillity of nothing to do and nowhere to go, every compromise and adjustment returns as trauma.In life we march on like soldiers do, putting one foot after the other.

Any personal deviation or emotional outbursts are judged by the crowds around us, and it is their reactions and eye-rolls that matter in the there and then. We are so steeped in our situations that we automatically accept the inherent subjectivity, the lack of sanity on our part to label our own emotions, the distrust in one’s own gut feeling and the aversion to appearing egoistic.  

But later, much later, when we take a deep breath, then self-regard is an eventual possibility. Suddenly former teachers and bosses and spouses and uncles and mothers and neighbours are all suspects. Did everything happen in an atmosphere of mutual consent and maturity, or did we play into their hands? Grooming and being groomed are unconscious reflexes, we go with the flow. We are pawns in someone’s hands and sometimes we are the kingmakers. We are the user and the used.

It is this duality of spaces, of straddling two places, of being the guilty and the perpetrator simultaneously that confuses our thinking. We are most of the time thinking for two, constantly putting ourselves in the other’s shoes in a way that self-harms, but in the grip of a passion that won’t let us look at ourselves with empathy.

The passage of time helps clear the mental fog, cleanly cutting to the bone. The fluff falls off, and there we are. In retrospect revealed as patsies, as suckers, even losers. What we once thought our little victories, our one true love, our deepest self, are now naked parodies of our prejudices and ignorance, our blind need for validation and acceptance, even applause.

We think we are in this together, then we think, were we? Or was it one person’s narrative that we happily, under the umbrella of couplehood or blood ties, aided and abetted as the static stationary truth. Once you tug at a loose thread, you can unravel the whole rug under your feet.

Living in denial is cosy and rosy. It lets us be for the time being. We focus on going to school or turning up on time at work, on bringing up the kids or dealing with a sibling’s cancer. It keeps us chained to our duties and responsibilities. Taking time off is only us having a cup of tea while it is still hot. And then it all changes. Time does its thing, goes by in a whoosh, and you are left with the sediments of what you once felt—really, really felt. And this is the very opposite of what you always thought you felt.

The fear is not of immorality so much as that of being amoral; not of taking the wrong side, but of taking no sides. What we said and did, but also what we did not say, did not do. Did we stand up for ourselves or were we passive bystanders in our own lives?Triggers are around the corner, everything reminds us of something. Life starts to come full circle, not in terms of happy endings, but as visible patterns. Nothing was mutual, only thinking made it so.

(The writer can be contacted at

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