Does the Snakes-and-Ladder Game Creep into Relationships?

I have always heard that there is no status in close relationships. I believed it in the beginning.

Now I feel that it is impossible. What is status? Status is the relative position each member has in a hierarchy based on what the participant brings to the relationship. If the relationship is alive, growing, or simply bringing to the participants what they value, each participant must – consciously or otherwise, intuitively or otherwise – bring something to the table.

Sounds mechanistic or mundane, but is it not how things are?

While in healthy and valuable relationships everyone brings something of value, the form of contribution differs. While both partners might bring care, concern, protection, reliability and freshness, the areas in which these are brought and the manner in which they are brought, the frequency at which it occurs, the combination with other elements in which this contribution occurs … there is a world of difference. So, there is always a hierarchy, because I am I, and simply cannot replicate the patterns, intensity and frequency of someone else. No point.

So, if I am different from my partner, there are obviously contributions from both that are more/less than the other.

So, why do people begin to judge one to be better than the other? How is the dependability that there would always be warm dinner with relished, matched-to-season preparations on the table inferior to dependability that someone will just be around and will lend a name and reputation? How is cautiousness and calculated risk better than spontaneity? How is convergent thinking and synthesis better than analytical thinking? How is withholding superior to giving away? How is a specialist better than a generalist? How is a focused person better than not focused one?

There is no ‘always’ attachable to any of the apparently contrasting pairs of states of being.

These are better treated as the givens and enjoyed as per the beat, tempo or rhythm (set by so many factors) to which a pair dances. Or, like kayaking when sometimes someone else is behind you and telling you, and some other times you are in the driver’s seat – take turns, recognize when it is time for you to follow and lead when you are in charge, because after all,  a relationship needs the stocked refrigerator as much as (at times at least, say when 5 unannounced guests are coming over and when this is frequent) cash in the pocket- because, while at the time of shopping, cash is more important, but cooking emergency breakfasts and elaborate dinners requires more than just money and grocery.

But then, why do people believe that they should be forever in control? Why do people not like the other to question, differ, be different? Why can’t relationship function in the face of contrasts whatever the relationship is – love, friendship, work??

Yesterday suddenly the Game of Snakes and Ladders came to my mind. Isn’t that the game in which climbing is always better than sliding? Isn’t it the game where if you are not winning, you are stuck or losing? That is where you need to climb and outclimb the other. While sliding in inevitable, it slows down your winning and completing the game. So it kind of disappoints, and irritates..

So – just checking: are you mentally playing snakes and ladders when functioning in a relationship?

It need not be so. When you acknowledge that a partner’s contribution is more valuable at some time or in some situations, you are not getting swallowed by snakes. And if you have climbed one ladder, that is not the ultimate: someone else has climbed ladders too, and it does not end with one doing it faster than the other, because you do not run in a straight line. It is more like a cycle and what goes around, comes around.


10 thoughts on “Does the Snakes-and-Ladder Game Creep into Relationships?

  1. arpitppanchal says:

    Hello Margie Mam, this was one of the best articles- perfect expression about contribution from both Partners, snack ladder example and running away and towards- was simply superb manifestation of feelings…….


  2. […] Does the Snakes-and-Ladder Game Creep into Relationships? January 2010 7 comments 5 […]


  3. Rita says:

    D ear Margie, we’ll have to make our own mix of old and new!!!
    Glad you feel connected through this exchange, that is special.
    Keep writing!!


  4. margieparikh says:

    Dear Rita,

    How significant that you mentioned the Script! I had never thought of it, but now it makes so much sense!

    May be scripts in relationships are those crumbling pillars on which we are (remember Frodo after he got rid of the ring?? – In Tolkien’s Lord of the Ring?) and we are constantly escaping the ones that are caving in right under our feet when saddled with the burden of reality.

    Since no relationship is totally script free, we are constantly running away from as well as running towards.

    Added dimension: new formats of communication in relating.

    Yes, you are here and I am here, too – you know what I would have done 20 years back? You would have come home, (That also means I would have never met you), become known to my family, we would have eaten together, my mother would have known yours, and you and I would have had long face to face talks together, done chores together and so much of concrete stuff.

    Now, we both are dance partners, but our floors are different, shifts are different, tunes are different and the length is divided into pieces of short ‘text only’ exchanges.

    Where does this relating take us??


    • Rita says:

      Dear Margie, you are absolutely right. Yes, there is an additional dimension these days, the ‘virtual’ relating (the ‘virtual script?), as well as our personal and cultural one. In my culture too, 20 years ago you would have come to my home and I would have come to yours; we would have had long chats and laughed and spent time together chatting, helping each other with chores or homework, perhaps met in town for a coffee. Our families would have known each other and given their silent approval; I would talk to your mother on the phone if I called you and you weren’t around.
      Now this template still exists in my mind and sometimes conflicts with the culture I am in today and the technological one. The relating is affected and sometimes confused, sometimes clarified. As you say, we would not have met 20 years ago.
      I love your expression of running away as well as towards. It has a lot of power.


      • margieparikh says:

        Dear Rita,

        I am doing now what I should have done after your very first comment: THANK YOU for being!! Not exclusively because you are the only commenter here 🙂 But, for sharing with me the depths of your feelings, thoughts and perspective. Your comments make me feel acknowledged and strangely, validated though there is no need for you or me to do so.. That is such a wonderful gift of this virtual platform! It allows me to extend even when I am entwined with my “Local” context..

        I would like to know from you how we can retain some of the old world practices… They are so charming, and so beautiful in themselves! How can we revive and integrate some of those into our modern modes, which are here to stay??


  5. Rita says:

    Dear Margie,
    you just gave me more to think about, and a big truth – I look around and I find you. Yes, I do think that people really relate. You are communicating with me, and I am responding; we are real and alive in the same world and not a figment of each other’s imagination. Yet we might feel differently; we might feel that we are from 2 different snake and ladders boards; that we recognise in each other signs of familiarity or dangerousness where there is none, or in a different place. And as we know each other better we may cling on to that idea of board game (our script) and/or get closer to who we are on this earth. I think that the knowledge of each other is always an approximation influenced by our mind and reality, in variable percentages.
    I think that perhaps it is impossible not to relate at all or be impermeable to external influences but we may feel differently for various reasons, mainly protective of our individuality, or scripty.
    I hope this makes sense! Let me know what you think 🙂


  6. Rita says:

    Dear margie,
    I was fascinated by your metaphor of the snakes and ladders applied to relationships. It made me wonder how the two partners may be in competition and somehow at the merci of the dice. And that is if they play on the same board, and not on two different ones, with different snakes, ladders, pitfalls, end lines and other participants! Oh my head is spinning.
    Relationships are complex and rich. Thank you for your reflections.


    • margieparikh says:

      I swear!! Rita, you said it!!

      Must admit I was a bit slow to realize this full-blown proportion of it, but when I wrote the ‘Communication” blog post, I kind of lamented in the same tone – do two people really relate? PLEASE let me have your comment on that one, too! You are not alone in the kingdom of spin-heads .. look around, and you’ll find me 🙂


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