A good long day being folded and put away for the night suddenly flares up with an unexpected argument.

I forget what the disagreement was about but I remember how we went about it. A casual remark sparked a more vehement assertion from one of us. My tone became sharp. His voice grew louder. It felt like he was yelling at me. I stopped yelling back, but by now he was on a roll.

I looked at the child who was watching us. I hoped that he would see that both our child and I were distraught. I held her in my arms and lay down with her to sleep. I wanted to reassure her that it’s just a temporary fight, that arguments are a part of life. We’ll sort it out tomorrow.

I slept through the night instead of lying awake like a younger me might have done. It is a milestone in our relationship that I can turn away from an unfinished fight and just fall asleep.

The next morning demanded its own rhythm. Children get ready for school. There is a bus-stop and breakfast routine. He appears. He is sorry but he won’t say sorry. He sits around looking sorry. Some tears flow down my cheeks. We distract each other with conversations about logistics. We talk about other people. Future plans are made. Then we replay the “sorry scene" one more time. He won’t say sorry.

It might be faster to do that. But we are not efficient. Love is not efficient. It slows us down. Marriage chugs along, getting the work done. It has deadlines to meet.

We used to be the annoying couple who never seemed to disagree with each other. Friends would mock us for being so well behaved.

Last year when my husband and I exchanged gifts on our 10th wedding anniversary, I asked him for a few good arguments. I want to let go of the silences, I said. I realized that our “differences" scared us. Afzal would get angry and give up too easily. I would be fearful and try to cover up and deny them. One reason we seemed to get along so well was our fear that we had very little in common.

In the 11th year, we learned to fight. This month we complete 11 years of being married and to celebrate I am going to blow the lid off our marriage.

I am really good at making money and Afzal is really good at spending it.

“You are not supposed to keep money," he reminds me, “you are supposed to spend it on what you want."

I don’t get his logic at all. What are banks for? What are accounts for? What are envelopes stashed between saris for? Before I had children I was saving for their school fees. Now I must save for their higher education, no?

Apparently not. Well, I am learning to spend money after I have earned it and he is learning to earn money before he spends it.

I spent most of my growing-up years living in big city apartments. His home is a sprawling haveli in his village. He opens doors and windows and lets fresh air circulate in the house. I am learning to live with dust everywhere.

I grow indoor plants in cracked coffee mugs. He plants tree saplings. He is beginning to share my joy at the tight fist of a new leaf on the windowsill. I pretend to be interested when he gushes about the trees that will surround us 10 years from now. We live on the edge between my city and his village.

When setting food on the table, I use the words practical and logic a lot. He talks of adaab-e-dastarkhwan. I get impressed and accept his version of table etiquette. Besides, he’s in charge of the rules he sets.

We have the compulsive habit of showing each other the mirror. There was a time I would come home enamoured of this CEO I worked with, and narrate anecdotes in awe.

“The property dealers I meet are better than these corporate honchos," he said. “Whatever they are, they are on the outside. They are honest that way."

I am worse. I hit out at what he calls family. I show him what his mother endures. Propound theories about his father’s patience. The games other people play.

Outsiders in each other’s worlds, we are blind to hierarchies and unwritten rules. We make each other very uncomfortable in what used to be our comfort zones. Sometimes it is too much and we fight. Stripped of our security blankets, we find ourselves forced to redefine and articulate our choices again and again.

Marriage is the bad cop who keeps us on our toes. Love is the good cop who announces the tea break. The time to look out at the setting sun.

“Stop analysing everything, Natasha," he interrupts me. “Life is not for analysing, it is for living. Live it."

“Okay," I say.

“Why are you so quiet?" he asks me after a long pause.

“You said, no analysis," I say, “so I am being obedient."

His face crinkles up in amusement.

Don’t be afraid to love. It is a terrible thing, but it keeps you alive. Be an adventure hunter, determined to keep some part of your innocence alive. I’m still new at this, jotting down notes on the side as we go along.

Natasha Badhwar is a film-maker, media trainer and mother of three. She writes a fortnightly column on family and relationships.

Also Read | Natasha’s previous Lounge column

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