Divorce with decorum? Yes, they do
- Not everyone can do a graceful 'uncoupling' but more couples are closer now that they're apart
Monday, 31 March 2014: Gwyneth Paltrow's 'conscious uncoupling' from husband Chris Martin brings to mind railway carriages being gently eased apart to go in different directions. That may be too 'Thomas the Tank Engine' for your taste, but think about it (imagining Paltrow as a slim, modern, sharp-nosed and engine of possibly Japanese make and Martin as rugged and steamy). They travel some distance together, friction arises, a couple of doctors tell them humans were not supposed to live as long as they now do and monogamy was not built to last 25-50 year periods, and they decide to gracefully step away rather than go completely off the rails a few years down the line.
And, despite all the column inches Paltrow's too-pretty uncoupling picture has generated, it's not like the couple's actions lack precedence.
One of the most famous love triangles in the annals of celebrity history is that of rockstars George Harrison, Eric Clapton and the woman they were both married to at some point in their lives: British model Pattie Boyd. Boyd inspired both musicians to write a few of their best songs ('Something' by Harrison and 'Layla' and 'Wonderful Tonight' by Clapton). Boyd, who was first married to Harrison, married Clapton in 1979. Not only did Harrison play at their wedding party (in what became a famous almost-reunion of the Beatles; John Lennon didn't attend), the two men remained friends too, jokingly calling each other husbands-in-law.
While that kind of camaraderie may be too much to hope for when it comes to most couples - not many even find it desirable -- it is not unusual to hear of one that has managed to put the hurt and resentment behind and stay on cordial terms. They may not be spending vacationing together in Thailand, but some exes do enjoy the occasional cup of coffee together or go shopping for the kids or even give relationship advice to the ex.
Anita Gracias, a Bangalore-based counselor with the Sahai helpline, recalls one such couple: "The ex-wife was initially bitter and refused to talk to her ex-husband or his new wife, who he had left her for, but she slowly reconciled herself to the fact that her daughter needed her father. Also, and I know this sounds terrible, her ex-husband left his second wife too and married a third time. By that time she had accepted him, warts and all, and was actually friendly with him and his third wife." In fact, says Gracias, she stood by the couple when her ex was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Eminent lawyer and author of 'Breaking Up' Mrunalini Deshmukh says in her recent experience, as many as five to six out of every 10 divorce cases are conducted without acrimony. "If both partners are financially independent, and there are no bitter custody issues, they want to move on as fast as possible. Also, in cases where the two partners realize that they have very different value systems, they may decide to get divorced. It doesn't necessarily mean they hate each other," she adds.
A crisis often brings an estranged couple together. For 36-year-old Shahana Roychowdhury, her father's illness and subsequent death, during which her ex-husband rallied around, providing emotional and logistical support and taking care of their seven-year-old daughter, proved to be the point at which she let go of resentments and accepted her ex-husband as part of their lives. "I wouldn't say we are great friends now or that I've completely forgiven him for cheating on me, but we are calmer in each other's company today and can actually have a conversation about things other than our personal lives," says Rowchowdhury.
Typically, the years immediately following a divorce are fraught with tension, says Gracias. But as the two aggrieved parties get some emotional distance, they tend to become objective about the problems in the marriage and more likely to accept responsibility for their own mistakes. Ashok Rangarajan, 37, who has been separated from his wife for almost four years though their formal divorce is yet to come through, feels time and distance have definitely helped. "It took time for us to get here. Initially my wife had taken a restraining order against me and I wasn't even allowed to meet my son," says Rangarajan. "I believe the fact that I fought clean helped. I willingly shared the money from selling joint assets and walked away from many fights, and I think this made my wife realize that while I was no pushover, I wasn't an outright villain either."
Friends with the ex
In 2002, Aamir Khan and first wife Reena Dutta divorced by mutual consent after two children and 16 years of marriage. She still attends film and family parties, including his son Azad's first birthday. "I think the bond that we share is not going to break with a piece of paper," he told reporters.
Actress Pooja Bedi and Farhan Furniturewallah divorced in 2002 after 12 years and two kids together. They are still friends, and she even attended his wedding to artist Laila Khan. Bedi says her parents, actor Kabir Bedi and late danseuse Protima Bedi, were role models.
Adman Alyque Padamsee's first wife, late theatre personality Pearl Padamsee, remained a creative inspiration after they divorced. She embraced his third wife, singer Sharon Prabhakar, and was godmother to their daughter Shazahn. "We were the new joint family," he has said.
Married seven years, actor Sanjay Dutt and former model Rhea Pillai stayed connected after divorcing in 2005.
Director Anurag Kashyap and film editor Aarti Bajaj divorced in 2009 but still collaborate on work.
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