11/01/2015 8:29 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:24 AM IST

The Predictable Cycle Of Divorce

... but life has to go on.
... but life has to go on.

Step 1: Escaping Emotional Entanglement

A friend is getting a divorce. Ten months ago she was holidaying in Cappadocia with her husband/partner of sixteen years including ten years of the perfect marriage. Six months ago we went and watched the finals of the World Cup together and I watched the two of them share a lager and love as Germany won. Four months ago she threw a surprise birthday party for him. Two months ago, he moved out and told her they should file by February 2015.

What happened in the course of these months? Where did it start? What is the trajectory of a divorce? How do you get from Point A to Point Z and how does it happen so quickly? Was most of the marriage pretence? Much speculation (public and private) will ensue.

Divorce always starts rather suddenly. Rudely. Randomly. Brutally.

Even for couples who plan lives meticulously--the joint account after six months of marriage, the kids after five, the joint property after eight. Even for those couples, divorce started unexpectedly because one person opts out--first emotionally, then physically, then financially and finally legally. The blame game starts at some point for everyone. Strangely in this course, there is a point at which you start "talking" about it, when it becomes okay to extend the knowledge to a circle of support. Versions of the same fragmented truth, more often than not. Then comes the heart wrenching 'picking' of a side. Family will turn into 'his' or 'hers', so will friends.

Anyone going through a divorce will vouch for the fact that even the best of us, even those who might have been through it earlier...knows precious little... Little about life, legality, loyalty, losing. Parents and siblings, friends and bosses, counselors and legal councils will try talking you out of the decision. Wikipedia and general updates on social media will tell you how divorce is on the rise in India and speak of 'starter' marriages. Your decision or one that's handed to you--It could be okay, or not! You hope that it will change. You pray you have the strength to see it though. There is chaos and nothing equips you to deal with it and nothing that anyone says will make it easier or the decision a happy one.

When I contested a divorce petition about three years ago, I knew a bunch of people who hated their marriages and despised their partners, but had stuck it out, some for more than thirty years. That was the way it was done, and in many cases continues to be done, in India. In 2012, in my universe of 738 Facebook friends, and over 1000 acquaintances, I knew about eight people who had opted to get a divorce by mutual consent and of those, three were women who stuck to the fact that there simply wasn't a choice. I knew it was doing the strongest and the most stupid thing ever. Maybe the other one would have been an easier choice. I worked on what I knew and believed in, what was right for me and based on what my rights were.

Since then and often in the isolated contexts of those 'failed' marriages or 'successful' divorces, I've often wondered: Where did it all go wrong? Who really faltered? Did one person make this big mess of things and then simply leave it to the other person to throw away or clean up?

I know there are always confusion, fatigue, pain, anger and heartbreak--in a strangely predictable cycle. Going through a divorce is often like having to live with the uninvited guest - the ugly person that comes into the pretty home, drops curry on the white sofa, breaks the crystal wine glass, soils the nice towels and then throws them into the stack of clean clothes.

Emotional distance seems impossible, since you're oscillating being with a person and hating them. Coping with your own emotional over-involvement happens when you are able to somewhat control thoughts that have over time become focused on the other person in ways that are unhealthy for both the individual and the relationship. The first D of the Divorce is 'Disentangling' which can only be done by creating emotional breathing space between yourself and another person so you can see the relationship, objectively and hopefully make healthier choices (even though they will seem detrimental at first). The pain of the detachment will pass. Keep it together. Don't involve too many people with too many opinions on your life. Go through with your own instinct, whatever it is. There will of course be fear of making a decision--especially a life altering one like this... one that will ultimately involve and change the course of family, be judged by society--landlords, bosses, colleagues, friends, et al and maybe even the children you are both fighting for.

But do it, like a chore, clinically, if possible.

I'm not advocate of the practice of marriage or divorce. Strangely, enough, I continue to believe in relationships and emotional dependency. Honestly, I only hate divorce because the last casualty of the process of divorce is the person you were in that marriage--the one that believes in forevermore and happily ever after.

Speaking of Advocates--you will need one--Step 2. More on that in the next post.