Advice for Couples — Be like the Cashew Nut and not like the Walnut
It is almost a half century since I graduated with an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad. Technically it was a diploma, but everybody recognized it as an MBA including Columbia Business School which gave me full course credit as I entered the Ph.D. program there.
Kishore Asthana was one of my classmates and he had a distinguished career with blue chip Indian firms and, later, as a senior adviser to a progressive ruling family in the Gulf.
His musings on married life and advice for couples struck a chord with me, so I am reproducing it below.
Please email me with your reactions.
By Kishore Asthana
As I wait for our 50th marriage anniversary in a few month’s time, I look back at the past with nostalgia, revel in the present with wonder and look forward to the future with anticipation.
What advice can I give those couples who are looking forward to their own 50th anniversary in, maybe, 49 years? Or even in one year?
Based on my experience, I would like to tell all couples living together — married or not — that, if you want a fulfilling life, be like the Cashew nut and not the Walnut.
Let me explain.
The Walnut comprises two halves, separated by a gap called the shell seal. In this gap there is a thin but strong membrane, keeping the two halves from touching each other.
The two halves are connected at just one point. For couples who live as Walnuts, this point of connection can be sex, children, the perceived sanctity of wedding vows, family pressure or something else. Their interests join at this point. At all other places, they are separated by this membrane occupying the shell seal. Thus there is no connection at other points and the two live their separate inner — and often, outer — lives without meaningful interaction with each other except at the connection point.
The connection point can make living together last long but such a union is an unhappy one and is usually full of silent, but sometimes, voluble, desperation. The couple is together and not yet together. Sometimes this kind of unhappy existence is not acceptable and the union ends in separation with the connecting point broken. Where children or property are involved, this broken connection point can become a contentious issue.
The two halves of the Cashew nut, on the other hand, stay close together at all points, harmoniously nestling against each other. Their connection at one point is stronger than at other points but the other points are not ignored and there is communication between them at diverse places on the surfaces where they meet.
Despite extensive communication with each other, we must remember that the two halves of a Cashew nut do not merge in each other. In ideal togetherness, they remain their own selves and continue to keep their individual identities intact.
I urge you to review your interaction with your other half. If you find that it is more Walnut-like, it is never too late to change it. Unlike in the case of the actual Walnut and the Cashew nut, sincere effort on both sides can change the reality from one to the other in the case of relationships.
A sincere wish for making things better, an open heart combined with mutual kindness and consideration can work wonders. A recognition that good relationships are more about giving than receiving make the transition smoother. For some this may also require asking their ego to shut up and take a back seat.
Sadly, sometimes this works the other way around, too. A Cashew nut like union metamorphoses into Walnut mode. A shell space develops between the couple, separating the two. This could be formed by interference by other relatives or friends, over-preoccupation with children, extra-marital interests or just plain boredom with each other. Sometimes this could be illness, depression or other psychological issues. A partnership that was going well earlier thus becomes Walnut like.
This fate can be avoided if close attention is paid to the shell seal membrane as it develops. If checked at the correct time, it can be dissolved and the togetherness that was there earlier can be reinstated. Unfortunately, this separating membrane develops insidiously and is usually taken for granted during the initial stages. It then acquires thickness and strength before the couple realizes what is happening and gradually they segue into the Walnut mode.
When this happens, sometimes, in introspective moments, one or the other fruitlessly wonders what happened to their paradise-that-was.
One last point — remember, both the Cashew nut and the Walnut are seeds. Their progeny will grow as per their own nature. Their children will tend to remember and emulate what they have seen at home. The progeny of a Walnut is more likely to become a Walnut and the progeny of a Cashew nut more likely to become a Cashew nut. This is not always true though. Much also depends upon their other halves but if both halves come from similar seeds, it won’t be surprising if they grow into similar fruit.
In conclusion, I would like to reiterate — watch closely what your relationship with your other half resembles. If it is more like a Walnut, try to change it akin to a Cashew nut. If it is like a Cashew nut, guard it with all your mental and physical resources for there can be nothing more precious, in terms of relationships, than a fulfilling togetherness.
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