In an attempt to make life more satisfying, people tend to put conditions. In business, conditions help to protect self-interest. But when put conditions in relationships, they uncomfortably strangle the growth of the bond. In fact, conditions and satisfaction are inversely proportional to each other. The more conditions you put in a relationship, less satisfying it tends to be. Relationships are like a flowing river; conditions are like restricting walls. When held forcibly, water stagnates. Relationships when held with conditions, deteriorate.
The story of the Mahabharata begins with such conditional love. King Shantanu fell in love with Ganga who put a condition that he should never question her actions no matter what. Desperately addicted to Ganga’s beauty, he agreed to her clause. Only when she began throwing every child born into the river, did Shantanu begin to feel the frustration of that condition. He finally broke the chains by questioning her inhuman acts. Her attachment to her conditions and his need for freedom to express ended that relationship.
Next, King Shantanu fell in love with Satyavati who came with her own set of conditions. She would marry him if he agreed to make her son the next king. Not wanting to repeat history, the King retreated from entering into the bond. But his son through Ganga, intervened and took an oath to fulfill the conditions of Satyavati to ensure happiness for his father. The condition did give happiness to Satyavati initially, but eventually it led to immense dissatisfaction. That very condition became the cause of her helplessness later in life.
However, conditions are not always bad. When seen with the lens of self-interest they tend to take an ugly shape. But when seen with the lens of cooperation they may actually enhance bonding. In the game of love, the question is always, “Do ‘I’ set rules or do ‘we’ set rules?”
In the Mahabharata, we find Draupadi getting married to the five Pandavas. On their wedding day, Narada advised them to mutually set appropriate conditions to make this odd marriage work. Under his guidance, the six of them worked out strict principles that each of them would meticulously follow to ensure harmony in the relationship. Because they had mutually decided this, they strived to adhere to it harmoniously, and managed to make the tricky relationship work wonderfully.
In an attempt to protect their valuables, people tend to use very difficult-to-open locks. When you want to open it desperately, it just doesn’t open. Some locks are so complicated that your valuables remain safely locked forever. Conditions in relationships are like locks. In an attempt to protect a relationship, one may lock it with conditions. If the condition is complicated with self-interest, it may lock the relationship forever. If the condition is in the spirit of cooperation, it may protect the relationship forever.
We will do well to remember that conditions are meant to protect love and not seal love.
The more conditions we put in a relationship, less satisfying it is.
Conditions can be constructive too, if they enhance co-operation. Draupadi’s marriage to the five Pandavas worked because of appropriate conditions of mutual respect and cooperation.
Whether conditions are laced with self – interest or in the spirit of collaboration, ultimately decides the future of the relationship.
(The writer is an author, Tedx speaker, story-teller, corporate trainer and visiting faculty in several premier management schools)