Thursday, April 14, 2011


Every time two human beings interact with each other, a notion of relationship is created. This is a universal phenomenon. However, many such interactions do not necessarily have either a potential or many a time even a need / requirement to blossom into a long lasting and wholesome relationship. Let’s take an example, you go into one grocery store for the first time and you meet a very helpful and willing sales person behind the counter, who provides you prompt service with a smile. A notion, or shall we say an illusion of a relationship gets created there. And if you never go to that shop again ever, the relationship starts and ends at that one particular transaction. Now let’s extend this example further: consider that the above interaction arose out of your buying a house for your permanent stay in the area where the store is located. During your first ever visit to the store you got a pleasant experience as above and that led to many more such visits. As you started shopping there frequently, you tended to go to the same sales person again and again, this culminated into a slightly deeper and more long lasting relationship.

We, in this complex world of relationships, easily work our way through without consciously realizing how many relationships we manage every day! In a way, that is a good state to be in. Because if we were to consciously reflect on every relationship, we would not have any time left to do anything meaningfully! At the same time, continually living almost at such an involuntary level will take away the developmental opportunities that the periodic reflections will provide us from time to time. Hence, these thoughts!

For the scope of this article let us focus on non-casual relationships with a perspective of sizeable time span. Two words are critical here: ‘non-casual’ and ‘sizeable time span’. By this definition, long lasting relationship with the grocery vendor is not ‘in scope’ given that it is still a casual relationship. Similarly, a contractual relationship which is non casual but is created for a specific task and limited time is also not ‘in scope.’

Boss- subordinate, husband-wife, brother-sister, mother-son etc… are the kinds of relationships that are in reference. Without touching any behavioral theory or relying on any research material I give below what I have learnt as the fundamental tenets of relationships:

1: Relationship is a mutually explorative (mutual exploitation included!!) process that doesn’t have a ‘point of arrival’ state.

I would like to take one of the most long lasting relationships here for illustrating the point. Husband and wife! Starting from the ‘point of departure’ i.e. say, wedding the relationship begins. However, never ever does it become so stagnant that the mutual exploration stops. And if indeed, it does stop, then the deterioration begins—sometimes leading to a divorce and many a time to painful co-existence! The most important point here is that relationships are so dynamic that their constituents have to constantly work on them to keep them relevant for themselves.

2: Every transaction takes the relationship either forward or backward.

We often times don’t notice it, but it’s a fact that the fabric of relationships is woven by the multiple threads of transactions between the constituents of particular relationships. It is for this precise reason why individual transactions are so critical. Depending upon their severity they can significantly impact the relationship maturation process.

Here, the example is very easy to pick from our daily life. Quite often we observe that when heated words are exchanged between the two individuals, it leads to hurt feelings that last for a very long time clearly affecting the relationships or to take a positive example: when a child does something praiseworthy, an instant praise/pat goes a long way in strengthening the child-parent relationship. Every transaction has an influence over the relationship.

3: It is erroneous to assume eternal stability in any relationship.

Given that there are built-in destabilizing factors within the relationship coupled with many external factors, makes it incumbent on the constituents to make efforts to retain vibrancy in the association.

Timely admirations, giving required time/energy/attention to the partner, being there for each other when required are some of the ways to retain vitality. Taking anything for granted is a sure recipe for failure.

While I am a great proponent of the belief that the relationships last only to the extent of their strength, I equally believe that no relationship can merely and automatically last unless parties thereto continue to make investments.

4: Every transaction is necessarily preceded by earlier experiences and every transaction induces feelings and beliefs.

It is therefore necessary for the relationship to prosper that the individuals concerned should be aware of each others’ contexts. These contexts provide insights on ‘whys’ of certain behaviours and as such help the constituents to respond ‘with awareness’.

Let’s consider a newly wedded girl enters her new home and observes that her husband behaves in an unusually dry and distant manner with his father. The girl, without having any clue about the background, holds a grudge against her husband for such indifferent behaviour with the father and even comes to some conclusions about his ‘nature’ being insensitive. This persists for a long time till one day she decides to speak to her husband about it. And that day happens to be the day of revelation for her, when her husband explains to her about many childhood experiences where his father always discriminated him and favoured his elder brother and that he was so deeply hurt about it that it was impossible for him to get those feelings out of his system. That day saw husband-wife relationship moving many miles ahead!

5: The relationship superway is connected by the emotional bridges.

It might sound like a big and bold statement, but I do believe that if there is one factor that the relationship can survive without, then that is ‘intellectual connect.’ I don’t mean to subvert the role of intellectual affiliation here. All I want to emphasize is that such connect does not form the foundation of a relationship. Important point here is that the ‘emotional affiliation’ is at the core of any relationship.

One may have a very big gap in IQ with one’s mother but does that really hamper the relationship? Or consider this: two scientists at a very high and same/similar intellectual level may have a very bad relationship due to the emotional disconnect!

I feel this point is of great importance, when one looks at the official relationships. We often times ignore/underplay emotional aspects in official transactions and try and treat issues impersonally, with curtness and rationality alone. This never works. Because when two humans interact, emotions come into action and then trying to turn a blind eye to those becomes not only counterproductive but it actually leads us to unreal/untenable solutions that frustrate the entire effort.

When a subordinate says ‘he can’t work,’ each time it is not an insubordination situation! Sometimes it may be, but most of the times it is either a demonstration of the subordinate’s lack of confidence, or the boss’s unforgiving style, or a plain statement of subordinate’s incapability of handling that particular work! It is up to the boss in such situations to decipher actual emotional meaning out of such seeming ‘insubordination.’

There can’t be a pure play intellectual transaction in a relationship unless there are subtle or explorative emotions at play. But the converse is not true, i.e. there can be a series of emotional transactions to a complete exclusion of any intellectual give and take.

As I said right at the beginning, what I have tried to briefly capture here are some thoughts of mine on relationships that are exclusively based on my experience. I can’t claim their universality nor can I say that they are consistent/ inconsistent with what the experts have said. I felt the need to write and share my views, and invite my readers to share theirs!


Shailesh Chirputkar said...


Very nuce article. Lot of subtle observations!!!



Abhay Valsangkar said...

Hi Shailesh...Thanks for your response..Cheers...Mama

Abhay Valsangkar said...

Dear Buck,

As always, your response is prompt and insightful. I truly appreciate it--and you know it!


From: Buck Kulkarni []
Sent: Thursday, April 14, 2011 8:40 PM
To: Valsangkar, Abhay (Abhay)
Subject: RE: Post
Absoutely A class!!!!

Second point about a relationship either moving forward or backward, not in a steady state is excellent. I always recall a few things in this connection. We see cosmologists and physicists saying that Universe is perpetually expanding and the day it stops expanding, it will start shrinking. And at the other end, we had Dheerubhai Ambani, the so-called uneducated person who chose the tagline 'Where growth is a way of life' for his company. He understood the essence of cosmic physics more than anyone else, and perhaps intuitively. Your point alludes to the same phenomenon.

Fourth point about improvement in husband wife relationship when the issue is brought out in the open and discussed is very valid and I may suggest that this may even improve the son-father relationship as this open discussion may encourage the son to realize that it is perhaps time to drop the baggage and move on.

Keep it coming


Abhay Valsangkar said...

Dear Ruta...I'm glad you liked it--and more importantly, found it relevant. May be, some day I'll write about what you have indicated--although I'm no expert on the subject,as you know it!!Love, Mama

From: R C []
Sent: Friday, April 15, 2011 1:08 AM
To: Valsangkar, Abhay (Abhay)
Subject: RE: Post

Dear Abhaymama - This one hit a spot for me.
From my own selfish perspective, hoping some time you will share and write on a topic related to early childhood development, upbringing and how it dictates your personality as grown-ups.

Unknown said...

Thanks Abhay, I enjoyed reading your article. I wish to add on to the fourth point about 'context'. There is a story I read about passengers in an airline lounge, waiting for their flight to be announced. Its peaceful, till a lady enters, accompanied by six very noisy children. Rude, running around, disturbing the set up. Passengers are all so disturbed that the mother is not checking the kids, until a staff from the airline enters to hand the lady her boarding pass and in low voice tells her that he is sorry to hear of the lady's husband's death that morning ..... she is travelling to attend the funeral. The atmosphere in the lounge is still same but the passengers are most understanding now. As managers, if we could understand our colleague's value systems or context of why they behave the way they do, it would assist in defusing situations or settling ruffled feathers.

Bombaiya said...

Why I felt that what i wanted express you wrote it. Excellent insight. you can feel it, if you read it early morning rather than at the end of the long day.

Keep writing .



reina khadilkar said...

Hi Abhay,
As always I thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog. Especially since relations form a very important part of my life and i have consciously striven hard to maintain them , nurture them and of course enjoy them. I just wanted to share my experience with you about human psyche regarding relationships & how it can affect your very existence. When we shifted from Aurangabad to Pune, I was in that stage of life when one tends to believe that one has reached a point where life revolves round the relations one has nurtured over the years, be it your parents, siblings, friends or the people who form the infrastructure of your daily existence, be it the laundry fellow or the bhajiwala or the man at the store next develop an identity around all these seemingly insignificant people When I restarted my life in Pune I suddenly realised that except for the people connected to me by family, I had lost my entire infrastructure of relations formed by people I come across on a daily basis. Trying to establish a bond with the grocer or the laundry fellow or the numerous people one needs to go through the day was a daunting task, one that had taken me decadesto develop. I was now starting over all again. This gave me an acute identity crisis, I suddenly felt lost and was struggling to keep myself known to the world around me. I had to build my name around the many many people who form the rich tapestry of my life. It took some time and plenty of effort to reform my world but resilient as we are, I have done it again. Just thought I should share this peculiar experience with you. Small things matter so much. and yes , I fervently believe in give and take, in saying thanks and sorry to someone you ordinarily take granted for. there is no bigger truth than this Take care.

Abhay Valsangkar said...

Dear Mahendra...I like your angle of reading it early morning!..Cheers

Abhay Valsangkar said...

Dear Anantji...Received your detailed response.Thanks for your contribution in taking the discussion forward on this important subject of relationships that touches all of us..Cheers...Abhay

Abhay Valsangkar said...

Hi Reina,

What an insightful and lucid reaction! Thanks a ton.

I particularly appreciate your thoughts around 'temporary loss and re-gain of identity.' What you have rightly described as the infrastructure of daily existence, I call it 'an eco-system of relationships.' It's really unnerving to lose it and be in a situation where one is almost'identity-less'--albeit for a short period of time. I felt it very acutely during my stay abroad.

Keep sending your comments, as always.