The Predictable Cycle Of Divorce: Figuring Out Friendships

19/02/2015 8:15 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:24 AM IST
StephenMcleod - International Man of Mystery/Flickr
A long time indeed. Some time trying to get candids and failing is actually a success after all

Suddenly, my friend is in a state of manic activity on most days. Now that her husband has left the house, I find her constantly being or trying to be busy - brunches every weekend, Ladies Night twice a week, Zumba classes thrice a week for an hour. She's also getting the couches re-upholstered and she's stretching herself at work. Whatever time she has left in between she fills with music and TV. The activity seems good for her. And then after a few days, I see her and realise that there are days when she can't roll out of bed. I don't think she eats properly. She only wants to sleep on those days, to shut out the world. Cry. Drink pots of tea. Wear mismatched clothes. Not take the kajal off before she sleeps. Mourn. Days when the frenzy dies down and she needs to be by herself.

It is an oscillation between mania and depression - it is bordering on a clinical disorder. I know it can't possibly be good for her head or heart. She is a strange combination of exhausted and hopeful, aloof and hurt, needy and strong. It is tough but she has her own way of coming to terms with life. And no matter who says what, it is in her destiny and only in her control to take that path. It is what she has chosen.

In the chaos that surrounds a divorce - the emotional upheaval, the financial assessments, the frenzied populating of the calendar, the sessions with the lawyer, the constant breaking down and picking up of the self, there is always a need for good friends, shoulders to cry on, "fix-it" people, crazies that will pull you back into the real world, time and again.

The modern, more urban, more "self" reliant amongst us need to fall back on friends during a divorce. We feel that burdening family with this madness will be too overwhelming. Also, family doesn't have the option of taking sides. So even if you don't like yours, your family (immediate and extended) will always rally around you - at least when they are in front of you. Friends can choose to pick a side or simply drop off the radar. Some will choose the latter, and it's best that way.

Some of us, sometimes, have the ability to internalise and compartmentalise, which might be a useful skill to have at such times. But none of us are islands even if we believe otherwise. Unfortunately we end up placing validation rights in the hands of our immediate circle of friends - the people you call up and say, "I don't think it is working out between the two of us," or, "He/ She wants to call this off." The ones you meet for dinner or coffee and cry it all out to. The ones you unabashedly spoke to about your sex life or the ones who you planned to match pregnancy timing with, the couples that went on holidays together and the ones you think were part of the universe that your marriage was. We want that set of people to side with us, without question or doubt.

But more often than not, couple friends pick the person with whom they had a stronger or longer (in duration) friendship. Once in a while, a friend who might have known you for a very long time will try telling you what they think you're doing wrong or did wrong. You might hate it, but you know you need it. Others will analyse. Some will give you hope every single time you talk to them. Still others will second guess actions and reactions. The speculation helps. It gives you the false notion that they are helping you understand it all, giving you insight into every possible permutation and combination of pain, anger, hurt, hope, love and trust. But it is what you know is actually going to see you through this time. You know what went wrong and, at the core of it, you know your spouse better than anyone else. Have that faith in your own judgment, as difficult as it might be.

It is also critical that you find a balance in and through the friendships - surround yourself with people who won't let you get drunk (not every evening), who will drive you to the lawyer's and help move your house when the lease runs out or call the plumber when you don't know what to do with the leaky tap, people whose support will extend beyond the "catch up coffees", people who will unabashedly tell you you're making a bigger mess when you are. These people will sometimes be besties you've known for years and sometimes they will show up out of nowhere - it could be a junior colleague of the lawyer you're consulting, an ex-flame, a colleague, a batchmate from school who you thought was a complete flake. And they will suddenly provide the much-needed perspective you need.

But through this, try from time to time, to check yourself from opening your life to everyone you see. You don't need strangers, colleagues and associates to know what you're going through, why, who messed up, how it could have been corrected - even though you might be acutely aware that everyone is curiously making up stories in their head.

Some people will love you and be there for you and some people will judge you, maybe even dislike you. Know that it has nothing to do with you.

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