Once upon a time, there was a woman who was frustrated with her husband because he wouldn't take her suggestions, and worse, when she tried to get emotionally close to him, he'd push her away. It was a classic case of ‘she nagged, he withdrew'. One day, while he was making biryani, she repeatedly suggested he use the electric cooker.

He finally snapped: “Don't be so pushy! Leave me alone.” Minor detail — he threw the biryani out of the balcony on to the street below.

“Does it bother you when I suggest things that may make life a bit easier?” she retorts, stomping off in a huff. End of story?

Rewind. Let's change things a little bit. What if she had said something like “Sweetheart, it's hard for me to hear you say I'm pushy; I know you're right. I really love you, and want to hear more about how you're feeling. But, you just asked me to leave you alone, and I understand if you're not in the mood to talk right now.”

The simple — and courageous — act of finding the truth in what her husband was saying suddenly makes the wife appear neither bossy nor annoying. This truth-seeking skill is central to improving relationships. It's really difficult to see things through the eyes of the other person, but when you do, it's like seeing the beauty of the Egmore Museum for the first time. You wonder how you could have been missing it all these years.

Such powerful insights are available to everyone. If you are willing to change yourself, you can both be reborn. During a fight, try wholeheartedly taking the responsibility on yourself with no hint of guilt-tripping. Nine times out of 10, the other person will open up because you've taken the blame and let him or her off the hook. Turn criticism on its head.

For example, if your husband says you're a control freak, instead of taking the bait, respond — “You're right; I may have a tendency to be overly controlling”, and use it as an opening for discussion. It takes huge will and placing aside of ego to do this. But, the benefits are astounding. No matter how much at fault the other person is, you can't fix him (or her); but in a healthy relationship, once you start changing yourself, your partner will change too. And, you shall live happily ever after!

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(A fortnightly column on relationships)

SUCHITRA KARTHIK KUMAR

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