The Bubbling Tea: On Accountability and the Politics of "Keeping the Peace" in a Relationship
The Tone Up

The Bubbling Tea: On Accountability and the Politics of “Keeping the Peace” in a Relationship

Maybe it’s high time women also raised the bar on what peace means to them in a relationship.

A few days ago, while scrolling through my Twitter feed, I came across a conversation that caught my eye. Someone had posed the question, “What exactly does it mean when people say that marriage is hard work?” Isn’t love itself supposed to be the easiest, most natural thing in the world? One answer that I could resonate with, was from a tweet that said “if marriage is a pleasant effortless dream, you may be taking advantage of your partner, and if it’s a ceaseless unforgiving toil, maybe your partner’s taking advantage of you. ‘Work’ in marriage is the eustress of calling each other on your bullshit and growing better together“.

This definition put things in perspective for me, because if marriage is a bed of roses, then it is a bed of roses with thorns. The constant arguments or conflicts aren’t usually because the couples don’t love each other. It’s because they want to see each other become better for the collective good.

Just yesterday, someone sent me a Twitter screenshot with a quote that said “men will rather settle where they find peace than settle where they find beauty, money or status”. This got me reflecting on what it really means to be a man’s peace. Seeing as the conversations around “peace” in marriage are a bit one-sided, one cannot but wonder what being peaceful means. Does it mean a woman who is always agreeable? Does it mean a woman who never complains? someone who smiles every time and never has a reason to be hurt? A woman who will always tolerate what she can’t dish out? There appears to be a long list of things that make women “unpeaceful” and I’ll have to break it down.

Calling for Accountability

Men view themselves as the prize in every woman’s life. Society raised them to think of themselves in that way; to act without accountability. Thus, when a woman calls for accountability, she is indeed calling for war. She is threatening their sense of security. The alarm bells in their heads give out a red signal, “How dare she complain?” “How dare she question me?”. Because they usually get away with everything they do, they interpret any call for accountability as an act of war.

On the other hand, society taught women that “men will always be men”, and what this means is that women should always excuse the actions of men as just “men being men”. This act of waiving such misdeeds and not holding them to a higher standard is the act of being peaceful.

Countering Oppression

Keeping the peace” in marriage appears to be part of a woman’s many duties. This involves breaking her back for the comfort of her spouse, not getting angry when she is wronged and not calling for a change in areas where he doesn’t meet her needs. Women are expected to put their spouses above themselves, endure every act of annoyance and act cheerful all the time.

When a woman calls out unacceptable behaviour or stands up to a man’s oppression, she ceases to become a “good woman”. She becomes troublesome, rebellious and a threat to a man’s peace. She is expected to bend, to be accommodating to a man’s excesses, to be “humble”. And when she acts otherwise, then she has failed in keeping the peace.

Expressing Needs

Because men are taught to view marriage as a transaction where women are responsible for catering to all their needs, the concept of meeting women’s physical, emotional and psychological needs is foreign to them. Men will find “peace” in women who ask for little or nothing. But when a woman constantly talks about her needs in a relationship, she becomes unpeaceful. How often have we heard the phrase “a woman who asks for nothing deserves everything”? Yet, how often have women who ask for nothing been given everything?

In short, marrying a peaceful woman means marrying a woman who gives them the licence to do as they please. The politics of “keeping the peace” in a relationship implies that the burden of making a marriage work lies solely on the woman, with little to no accountability on the part of men. It really helps to discuss what the concept of peace means with a potential partner before heading into a committed relationship with them. Or maybe it’s high time women also raised the bar on what peace means to them in a relationship.

Aqilah-Layla Bashir

Aqilah-Layla Bashir is a skincare entrepreneur and social justice activist.

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