Dr Vijay Nagaswami speaking at the ThinkEdu Conclave| Pic: Jawahar P
Dr Vijay Nagaswami speaking at the ThinkEdu Conclave| Pic: Jawahar P

How much space is too much: Dr Vijay Nagaswami busts myths about millennial relationships 

We speak to psychotherapist and popular couples counsellor Dr Vijay Nagaswami about personal space, how to make relationships work in the world today and much more

As millennials, we tend to struggle with relationships — be it spending ample time with our partners or making it work given the rat race we're all a part of in this fast-paced world. Youngsters these days would rather be single or give up on relationships for various reasons, oftentimes because they are unable to deal with issues. A lot of them also love the concept of ‘me’ time and personal space but don’t know how much is too much. Dr Vijay Nagaswami, a Chennai-based psychotherapist known for his work with couples and famously known as the ‘Relationship Doctor’, talks to us about all of these issues youngsters face in their relationships and tells us why it’s important to get into a relationship only when we want to and not when we need to. Excerpts from an enlightening conversation:

1. Putting yourself first, is that good for a relationship? A lot of youngsters today believe in self-satisfaction more than investing in their relationships. Is that healthy?

You can’t be in a relationship without being dependent, otherwise it is just a friends-with-benefits kind of set-up or a hook-up. I do respect the fact that one might not want to become completely dependent, like in an undetachable manner, to a point where their partner dictates whatever they do or say, but that one still wants to maintain their independence which is actually helpful and a great thing. Because finally, you get into a relationship not because you need to but because you want to — that’s what it should be ideally. In that, you are always first. That doesn’t mean your partner’s needs aren’t important or you don’t prioritise your relationship. If at any point you feel your needs are not being met, you should express it, negotiate and discuss how to resolve it and how it works out for the both of you.

2. Does this collide with personal space?

Some people need more space but we need to have a balance. We function in different spaces — the personal space, the relationship space, the primary family space, the secondary family friends space, work space, community space. We need to distribute emotional energy among all these spaces; if too much is spent on the personal space, then one will feel tiny and not nurtured enough in the relationship space. So, each of these needs to be given time. We need to determine how much time we want for ourselves and then how much we want to commit to the relationship. It’s quite difficult to determine that but it depends on certain things. If you find that your partner always feels that you are not giving enough time but you feel you are, then maybe you aren’t ready for a relationship yet. Eventually, you will find that balance when you feel that you want to be with someone.

3. When a child is involved, is it healthy for feuding parents to stay in a relationship just because of that? How will it affect the relationship as well as the child?

A child can never make an already disturbed or bitter relationship better in any way. It can strengthen a well-bonded relationship. Work on the bond then have a child. The level of acrimony is important, the child needs two happy parents who are constantly fighting. Otherwise, the child will learn to be in a toxic relationship. Staying on in an unhappy relationship just for the sake of the child will have an effect on the child and it also won’t make it any better for the parents. 

4. In a scenario where parents pressurise one to get married, but it’s a family versus girlfriend thing, then what does one do? 

It depends on how much you love the other person. Are you willing to give your partner up for reasons you feel don’t make sense like caste, community, social standing? If you don’t and have been in a long-term relationship, then you need to take the call based on what you feel is right for you and your partner. Also, if your parents had had an evident amount of influence on you about who you should date, then it is unlikely you would have been in a long-term relationship.