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Married, divorced, remarried!

When separated spouses get back together, is it because love conquers all? And do they have a better chance at success the second time round? Parul Khanna finds out.

sex-and-relationships Updated: Jun 12, 2010 16:59 IST
Parul Khanna
Parul Khanna
Hindustan Times

CoupleThirty-five-year old computer engineer Navin Gulati and 32-year-old interior designer Neha fell in love and married. But there didn’t appear to be a happy ending in sight. Within two years, the couple filed for a separation. But the divorce was not acrimonious.

Over the next three years, they phoned and reached out to each other regularly. Though they did begin relationships with other people, they knew they missed each other.

So they began dating again. Seriously. Then they got engaged. And they remarried. Both Navin and Neha say they knew their lives lacked something. But it wasn’t till they began to live apart that they knew what their lives lacked was each other.

You don’t often see this kind of marital relationship in India, though it’s common enough in the West. As Dr Nikhil Raheja, psychiatrist, National Institute of Psychiatry, explains, there is a difference in the concept of a marriage in India and the West. There is still a stigma attached to divorces in India, he says, and if a marriage breaks up here, the whole family gets involved.

“It is easier for separated spouses to get back together if the bitterness is limited to just those two people,” says Dr Raheja. “But in India, everybody from mami to chacha gets involved. Also, the divorce laws in India are biased towards the woman. So the man’s family can be subjected to harassment.”

Occasionally, however, separated spouses do get back together. And that, says Dr Rachna K Singh, lifestyle management expert, Artemis Healthcare, Gurgaon, is because they truly love each other. “Only then can they put the trauma and bitterness of divorce behind them,” she says.

But what would make a couple split up and then remarry? Well, says Dr Singh, usually it’s loneliness.

“People get married late nowadays; they try and make their marriages work for another two to three years and then separate,” she explains. “By the time they are able to date again, they are in their 30s. Separated and free, they may have a string of relationships. But if they’re unable to bond with another person, they feel lonely, consider their former spouse and decide that accepting her or his faults is a better option than going through life with a string of failed relationships.”

Age and maturity also matter. When a young couple quarrels, there is a tendency to believe that the spouse has more negative qualities than positive. But when they’re apart – and also somewhat older – they begin to see the picture with greater clarity and realise that the reasons why they separated were perhaps not big or valid enough to justify a divorce.

Also, with age, your expectations from and concept of marriage change. “When you’re young, you look for looks, sex and obedience as parameters of a good relationship,” explains Dr Singh. “But with maturity, you give more importance to stability, comfort level and security. Separated couples look back and realise that they need to revisit the marriage and readjust their expectations.”

Even so, there are dangers in getting back together with your former spouse. In the first place, what your family or community thinks you should do should not matter to you. You need make the decision yourself.

Then, adds Dr Singh, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of remarrying. “If your temperaments are very different and that was a reason for your divorce, then be sure nothing has changed,” she says. “If your partner was a nagger or sarcastic then, she or he will continue to be a nagger or sarcastic even now.”

Where habits are concerned – such as heavy drinking, for instance – people can and do change. But you need to check if the change has actually taken place.

“Remember, your spouse will change 30 per cent, not 100 per cent, so don’t expect much,” warns Dr Singh. “Because, the second time around, you will have to work harder on your relationship.”

Twice upon a time

Learn from the mistakes you made the first time around. The annoying habits and negative patterns of the first marriage should not spill over into the second.

Keep other people out of your decision whether or not to remarry. Consider advice from other people, but ultimately, trust your own self.

Consult a relationship counsellor for impartial advice.

Hark back to the past. Mistakes that were made the first time round should never be referred to again in anger, not even when you’re drunk. Remember the past is done with. You’re in a fresh relationship now.

Brush issues under the carpet. You must communicate well and that means if something is bothering you, you must discuss it calmly with your partner.

Filmmaker Sanjay Gupta and wife Anu were married for seven years. Then they divorced. Six years later, they remarried. Having just celebrated the first anniversary of their marriage, they tell us their story.

Recently, Sanjay Gupta watched a play about a divorced couple whose romance rekindles. It struck a chord with the filmmaker who immediately bought the rights to the play and signed Meghna Gulzar to turn it into a film.

That’s because, after six years of separation, Sanjay Gupta and his wife Anu have remarried. And this time around, the two of them are happy – and working to stay that way.

“For the six years that we were divorced, we weren’t apart too much thanks to our immediate family. So as far as I was concerned, it was just a matter of time before we knew we would be back together,” says Sanjay. “Yes, there was a certain amount of bitterness, but even with that, there was love and respect. That’s why we could get back together.” Why did the marriage fail in the first place? “I was quite young when we got married,” says Anu. “I was 22 and he was 30. We met through a common friend and then dated for two-and-a-half years before we got married. I think I needed a lot of growing up to do.”

But, as Sanjay said, the two of them were always in touch. For one thing, says Anu, there was the question of joint custody of sorts. “We had two pups and I couldn’t take them with me when I moved out because there wasn’t space for them in my flat,” she grins. “So I would often visit them in his house which meant we were never completely out of touch.”

That apart, both of them always had the other on his or her mind. “When we were separated, whenever I’d do something we had always done together, I’d always think of him,” says Anu simply. And Sanjay missed Anu most not in the bad times, but in the good.

“When I moved into my new house, the happiness of buying the place wasn’t complete because she wasn’t there,” he says. “I missed her presence in little things. When we were first married, we weren’t very well off. I only saw success after we’d separated and that’s when I missed her the most. When I bought my favourite motorcycle, even though we weren’t talking then, I wanted to show it to her. I had other relationships, but never achieved that comfort factor with anyone else.”

So what do they expect from each other now? Sanjay believes that having married, separated and married again, thus proving that they are “soulmates”, everything will be perfect. “The first time you marry, you are in a dark area. You don’t know the person because you have still not woken up together everyday. But the second time around, you are more comfortable. And that is why I am enjoying my second marriage with Anu more than the first one.”

Anu is a little more cautious however. “I know what Sanjay thinks, but I think it is not easier the second time,” she says. “You still need to consciously work at the relationship.”

The ‘work’ includes giving each other space and letting some things be, says Anu. Some habits have to change too, says Sanjay. “For instance, when we first married, I never used to drink. But then I started drinking and that can cause problems. Also, we had a lack of communication and pushed issues under the carpet. But, now we do not go to bed without resolving our issues.”

First Published: Jun 12, 2010 15:33 IST

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