B S Raghavan

Leaving space in relationships

B.S.RAGHAVAN | Updated on February 03, 2013

To get away from it all is a common human urge which almost every one of us has experienced some time or other. Especially is this so when one has been engaged in the same kind of occupation or avocation, buffeted by pressures and demands, day after day.

We crave to break out of any mental condition in which we begin getting the feeling of being in the unremitting grip of an obligation, leaving us no manoeuvrability, and constraining us to report to someone else, either out of duty or loyalty, and account for whatever we do or intend to do.

The very thought of getting caught up in a drudgery, making bonded slaves of us, exhausts us. Even what once was an alluring prospect, in terms of a job or a partner, can become an intolerable weight to be shaken off somehow.

Thus, a situation soon develops when workplace colleagues or life partners seem like being ‘too much with us’, breathing down our necks. As regards workplaces, the built-in provision for a certain number of days of annual leave provides a safety valve.

It helps the employees to relax with family and friends without a thought of their daily chores, and to ‘recharge their batteries’.

Some business enterprises even compel employees to take a holiday, while some others more imaginatively arrange for retreats at their cost for both the employees and their spouses.


Parents, children, relatives and friends can all be ‘too much with us’. Even out of boundless love, try holding a two-month old baby too closely and tightly: It will let out a squeal and push you out with its tiny hands. Indeed, anyone can get into our hair, if (s)he constantly hugs and bugs us.

Most of all this applies to couples in home life. However happily married initially, if they do not give enough ‘space’ to each other, they find themselves up against an oppressive emotional condition as if they are perpetually getting into each other’s way.

This is aggravated particularly if the lack of emotional space is compounded by lack of living space leading to members of the family physically bumping into each other most of the time.

I was interested to find the Wall Street Journal considering the problem of working out the right configuration of space between couples important enough to come up with a detailed article in its issue of June 26, 2012.

It quotes from observations of experts to the effect that “having enough space, or privacy, in a relationship is even more important to a couple's happiness than a good sex life… And women tend to be more unhappy with the amount of space in their marriage than men…this is because women often have less time to themselves than men. Even when women have jobs outside the home, they still are typically the primary caregivers (and) often have more social obligations.”


One cannot agree more with the pith of the article which is: “Space gives people time to process thoughts, pursue hobbies and relax without responsibilities to others. And the time apart gives partners something new to talk about. Space brings excitement and novelty,”

The same thing, believe it or not, applies to political space as well. The clamour for greater political space — miscalled regionalism or worse, fissiparous tendencies — in a country of complexity and diversity like India is nothing to be alarmed about, as it arises from the compulsive need for self-expression felt by people speaking a language or belonging to the same cultural identity.

When Master Tara Singh and Santh Fateh Singh demanded a separate Punjab State in the late 1960s, the political establishment was unnerved.

As secretary of the Cabinet Committee to consider the demand, I convinced Indira Gandhi, the chairperson, to accede to it by giving the same mother-and-baby example.

The demand for Mizoram, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand and Chhattisgarh encountered similar resistance, but they are all prospering.

The autonomous council for Gorkhaland was a masterstroke of Jyoti Basu’s statesmanship which went a long way to accommodate the Gorkha aspirations. India is better knit as a result of all these decisions.

The Telangana demand too deserves to be seen in the same light. If the people want space for self-expression, give it graciously and at once for, a thing at once given is twice given.

Published on February 03, 2013

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