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When three is a crowd!
Kanchana Banerjee
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June 04, 2007

What happens when a third person becomes a permanent obstacle as far as spending quality time with your partner is concerned? It could be a pesky friend, a dependent in-law, or even one of your own parents. Read on to find out how such similar third party situations affected three different couples.

Twenty four-year-old Ritika Vohra* is a Mumbai housewife whose husband, a marine engineer, is away from home for months on end. Sunita Mehra*, her best friend from college, recently moved into her neighbourhood after marriage. The two friends met often, going shopping and to the movies, and everything was hunky dory until Ritika began expecting to be included in every plan that Sunita and her husband made.

"She would expect to be taken along for every movie, every dinner, every outing that we planned. I just couldn't make any plan without including her, and it became irritating -- because her husband was away at sea and I was her college buddy, she expected to be asked all the time."

Sunita's husband also began to dislike Ritika's continuous presence. And since they lived in the same building, it became very difficult to go out unnoticed. "There were times when I had to sneak out separately only to avoid being caught by Ritika. I began lying and saying that I was visiting relatives, as she would sulk if I told her that we had gone out for a movie or dinner without her." Unable to cope with Ritika's clingy attitude, Sunita finally confronted her. A bitter fight ensued, and the two friends parted ways on a bad note.

Ritika didn't understand and accept the fact that they weren't in college anymore. Owing to the fact that her husband was away for much of the year, she sought constant companionship from Sunita, not realising that the latter was married and wanted to spend time alone with her husband. She soon wore out her welcome, and her unreasonable behaviour led not only to the loss of a good friend, but of the company she could keep while her husband was away on the ship.

Akash* (27) and Anita* (25) Krishnani, an IT professional and his wife, were married for two years when they relocated to Delhi, where Anita's parents lived. Anita was ecstatic to be in the same city as her parents, but little did she realise that this would soon become a source of contention between Akash and herself. Being a housewife, she began spending most of her time either chatting with her mother on the phone, or visiting her. She was always at her parents' house. Even on weekends when Akash was home from work, she wanted to go over to see them. She even asked Akash to come over to her parents' place after work every so often, and would then pester him to spend the night there.

Says Akash, "I began to feel left out. All she wanted was to spend time with her mother. And we just didn't have any time as a couple. I began to feel like we weren't married." To show his resentment Akash began travelling on work assignments, but this only gave Anita more of an excuse to prolong her stay at her mother's.

On returning from a particularly long trip, Akash came home to find that Anita was once again at her mother's place. The house hadn't been cleaned for days; there was no food to be found anywhere, not even bread and milk. "She was just not bothered about her own house, or me. The fact that I was returning after a fortnight meant nothing to her. I thought distance would make her long for me, as I missed being away from her, but she was too busy with her mother."

On her part, Anita believes that if they had relocated to the city where Akash's parents lived, it would be normal to visit his parents often and Akash would never object. "He was getting upset that I was spending time with my parents. And if he was going off on long trips so regularly, why couldn't I stay with my parents? If my in-laws lived nearby, Akash would ask me to stay with them while he was away."

Bitter accusations were flung back and forth, and the relationship soured. Anita's mother didn't try to placate the matter, but instead added fuel to the fire, asking her daughter to walk out of the marriage!

What they didn't realise was that Akash loved his wife and wanted personal time and space with her. He didn't like being at her parents' place all the time, and not having any quality time with her. "On returning from the trip, the messy house wouldn't have bothered me, if Anita had only been there to welcome me back. But she had gone shopping with her mother, and had forgotten that I was returning despite my having texted her to that effect several times. I just didn't exist for her anymore." The two are now separated, with little chance of reconciliation.

In the case of Akash and Anita, it would seem that she was to blame for her utter lack of attention towards her husband. It can have a doubly straining effect on a relationship when one partner is in favour of constant companionship from a third party, and this is often, but not always the case. Take for instance, the case of Kanika* and Abhijeet* Hinduja.

Kanika, a 23-year-old freelance designer and Abhijit, a 26-year-old chartered accountant, got married a while ago, and moved to Pune. Soon after, Abhijit's 20-year-old younger brother Amar* got admission to an educational institute in Pune.

"At first there was a hue and cry as to why Amar should stay in a hostel when his elder brother and sister-in-law live in the same city. We are a young couple with limited finances, and own a small one-bedroom flat. What would happen to our privacy if Amar lived with us? Abhijit himself has grown up in a hostel, but his parents were treating Amar as though he were a child," says Kanika.

So after spending the first couple of months with them, Amar finally moved to a hostel. But that wasn't the end of it. Every weekend he landed up at Kanika and Abhijeet's house, wanting to spend time with them. If the couple made any weekend getaway plans, he wanted to accompany them.

Soon Abhijit's parents started visiting Pune, living at Abhijeet's house for months at a time so they could take care of Amar. "It drove me mad to see how they behaved with their 20-year-old son. Food was cooked every day and sent to the hostel! My husband and I had no space or time for each other," says Kanika.

Luckily, good sense prevailed and Kanika spoke her heart out to Abhijit. "I realised that he too resented the continuous intrusion by his brother and parents. I told him how much I missed being with him without the constant presence of a third party. He agreed that something had to be done," said Kanika.

Abhijit resolved the matter by sitting down his parents and younger brother, and telling them that they would have to cut the apron strings and allow Amar to mature. He explained to his parents that he needed privacy with his wife, and also told Amar that while he was still welcome, he should bond with his hostel buddies instead of tagging along with them all the time. "It wasn't easy, but Abhijit did it, and the situation is much better now," says Kanika.

Relationships are seldom easy. Along with roses come the occasional thorns, and  one needs love and understanding to make it through trying times. If Sunita had explained her need to be alone with her husband to Ritika early on, instead of waiting till things reached boiling point, they would have remained friends. If Anita could only understand Akash's desire to spend alone-time with his wife, they would have been together. Sometimes those we love -- parents, in-laws, siblings, friends -- make a habit of taking up time meant to be spent alone with your partner, but the trick is not to let matters get out of hand. Address the situation and explain to the interfering person that you need space. That is what Abhijit did, and it paid off in the end.

*All names have been changed to protect privacy.

Have you ever been in a similar situation? Has a nosey mother-in-law, a clingy friend, or an overly-attached sibling ever ruined your alone-time with your partner? Tell us your story! Mail it to

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