“I would rather be a cat mom or a dog mom than marry and have kids.”
“I feel I am too independent to have a partner. How do I be helpless, so the person feels I need them when I date them?”
“What does love really look like? Me and my partner seem to be having very different love languages.”
Shared above is the paraphrased version of some of the statements and questions that I’ve listened to from my coaching clients. So, what does love really look like in a partnership? The fourth session of the Rāmāyaṇa Exploration*, where a lot of the conversations were around the partnership of Rāma and Sīta, brought back this question to my mind.
What is the Quality of The Partnerships That I Co-Create?
The group came together online to explore the Rāma – Sīta dynamic with a strong sense of curiosity and anticipation. It was interesting to watch the juxtaposition of the Daśaratha – Kaikéyi partnership where each was trying to snatch happiness from the other with that of Rāma – Sīta where each was trying to serve one another anchored in their dharma. This brought out rich evocations around the quality of partnership that we experience in our own lives. The members of the groups also shared about the price paid in relationship space when power play and control become the focus, and the lightness and love that is experienced when there is space for respect for differences and a dialogue.
Rāmās advice to Sīta on exercising caution while being around Bharata brought out questions around conformity and obedience in relationships. It brought out a reflective space to explore how we experience the need to control when we act out of fear for our loved ones. Some touched the judgements they hold in the close relationships where they experience this control. More importantly, it also enabled the group to acknowledge the fact of human frailties and the need to acknowledge it and act from a space of yukti (discernment) in specific life situations.
How Do I Hold Ideas of Perfection, Authenticity & Vulnerability In My Life?
Rāma’s vulnerability as a human came forth in his engagement with Sīta. There was space for the expression of his despondency, despair, and fears. This part of Rāma brought out a very interesting range of evocations from the group members. Many felt it comforting to see the human vulnerable side of Rāma. Lakshmana’s support to Rāma in fighting Viradha also brought to many in the group the importance of being open to seeking support and help from others when needed. For some in the group, this side of Rāma also brought questions of whether he is being authentic. This led us to reflect on how we hold our own frames of reference in life. When Rāma is calm in a challenging situation, we attribute ideas of perfection on to him. When we see him despondent and vulnerable, we question his authenticity.
I was left feeling how I hold vulnerability and its expression in my own life. When certain role boundaries require me to behave in a certain way, what happens to my emotional space? When I find space for emotional expression, what critical voices come up in me?
How Do I Experience My Agency & Choice-Making Capability?
Being the first instance in Rāmāyaṇa where we get to listen to Sīta’s voice, her entry evoked a sense of awe and inspiration to many in the group. The clarity and assertiveness of Sīta’s articulation of what she wanted when Rāma requested her to stay back in Ayodhya, brought out rich evocations about the importance of having the agency to make one’s own life choices in the most intimate of relationships.
One of the participants also shared how, as a woman it was important, that Sīta had a voice, opinion, and agency in her choice of whether to leave for Dandakāranya forest or stay in the palace in Ayodhya. This was unlike in the Greek epic Odysseus (Ulysses) how it was taken for granted that Penelope stayed back at home for 20 years when Odysseus left Ithaca to fight in the Trojan war.
Rāma – Sīta dialogue around the decision to leave for the forest also stirred questions around whether the choices we make are really our own choices or those that we take upon ourselves in our specific role identities as a wife or son. Sītā’s insistence to be where Rāma is whether it be a luxurious palace or a dangerous forest also evoked what such an expression of love means in today’s times when geographical mobility has also created the added pressure of decisions around where to be physically an important consideration in relationships.
For me, this again brought back the question of what does love look like in such critical life situations? Do I view a loved one’s choice of not moving cities as an indictment and lack of love in the relationship? What assumptions do I hold for others in close relationships? What is its implication on the health of the relationship?
Artist Arun Raman’s visualisation of Viradha capturing Sita.
What is the Dandakāraṇya In My Life?
The scary and vivid descriptions of the Dandakāraṇya brought out many metaphors of what this forest means to each of us. For some, the forest represented the uncertainty that pervades life. Forest also represents a self-sustaining, interconnected, complex system which has its own ways of replenishment and nourishment.
For another participant, personal freedom was non-negotiable in life and the price paid for this freedom is loneliness which the Dandaka forest represented. For her, Rāma represented the soul and Sīta the heart. Loneliness is experienced when the connection with the heart is broken. And one does not experience loneliness when one knows to listen to one’s heart.
If these questions resonate with you, I would love to read what they evoked in you. Feel free to share in the comments or email me at email@example.com.
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