The wife was listening with rapt attention to the tales of woe of her friend facing a host of marital problems. The clown ego too was listening with equal attention. With an innate flair for drama, the clown ego of the wife made it known to his host that she was in no way ‘inferior’ to her friend. It conveniently brought to light distorted images of an unhappy marriage, a picture which until then had seemed filled with more roses than thorns. The wife succumbed to these surrealistic images confiding to her friend – ‘my marriage is in a worse condition than yours’. Elaborate details from some unknown past painted a portrait of extreme forbearance. Not to lose the battle, the clown ego of the friend coined new ‘facts’ from her life too with equally devastating images. The two clowns had completely taken over their hosts.
Neither of the two women basically had a ‘bad marriage’. In fact, on retrospection, the friend began to believe that the wife had greater problems than her. Her instinctual habits to be a ‘good Samaritan’ prompted the friend to ‘advice’ the wife’s husband and help in improving their marriage. With bonafide intentions, the friend briefed the husband about his wife’s emotional needs and urged him to correct himself. The husband, poor chap, had been totally unaware of his wife’s ‘problems’. A loving husband, he would have gone all out to eliminate his wife’s discomforts. But then again, our hero, the clown ego, was waiting for just this opportunity. With pomp and splendor it donned its advocate coat and argued a case that would have put even the greatest of barristers to shame. ‘You can better anything she can’ is a favorite phrase of the clown. It twists this statement to fit any situation – even one as uncomplimentary as this. ‘If she has problems with me, my problems with her are greater’ – the husband began and the clown ego took charge from then on. The friend, whose intentions can never be questioned, began to play the courier feeding ammunitions to the clown egos of the husband and wife. Ultimately, listening to the portraits of pain and disgust, disrespect and anger, the friend began to conclude – “Neither of you deserve this unhappiness. Why prolong it?” The seeds of separation were sown in the fertile soil tilled by the clown ego. If it had been allowed to nurture, that thought of severance could have grown within a matter of seconds to become an ugly huge tree with deep-rooted hatred incapable of being uprooted. However, luckily for us, the mercy called ‘love’ concluded this game between the clown egos providing a fairy tale ending to our story with the husband and wife living ‘happily ever after’.
This is a situation present not just in marriages but in every relationship worth its salt. The well-meaning advice of friends on how to deal with other associations almost always manages to foster only the clown ego and never helps to arrive at genuine solutions. The well-intentioned advice of a third person acts as a trigger to activate the clown ego magnifying the minor differences between partners to proportions that can shake up the very foundations of the relationship. Two is company but the third (who ever it may be) shall make it a crowd. That includes the common best friend in a group of trio, the love child of a couple or the devoted parent elevated to the status of ‘in-law’. As much as a mother can never fully appreciate the intimacy shared between her child and his/her spouse, the child can never understand what makes the relationship between the parents tick for so many years. It would be an absolute blunder to take sides in a relationship fight. However honorable and stable the judge might be, the relationship under question will remain outside his jurisdiction. However much the adulations of the entire country elevated a person to the status of ‘father of the nation’, it remains the prerogative of his children to appreciate his role as their father. However great a person’s accomplishments may be, it remains the prerogative of the spouse to attest the success of their marriage.
Clown ego is a common resident in all of us and he constantly bids to takeover. It takes special care in the form of self-awareness to thwart his attempts each and every time. The only common remedy available to prevent us from dancing to his tunes is to recognize his status in this circus called life. The ego is the clown provided to entertain and when we learn to laugh at all his antics, life becomes a game. As long as we remember that he isn’t the boss, and his advice most certainly need not be acted upon, his pranks and jokes add color to our experiences. But the show can never be handed over to this clown called ego!
If you truly understand the message of these lines, accept now and always – ‘A relationship is always only between two people – the third is an unwanted audience.’ Lend that ear or that shoulder to help unburden another’s dissatisfaction in any relationship. But never assume you can ever become a part of that union. The greatest service you can do to a relationship from the outside is leaving it alone! The greatest service you can do to a relationship from the inside is never admitting a third into that relationship – neither a physical entity nor any clown called ego!
Written by Gita Krishna Raj | Published in infinithoughts in July 2004