We are just over a couple of months into the New Year, and talks of breakups, separations and divorce have already been making far too many headlines. Be it Farhan Akhtar and Adhuna calling it quits after 15 years of marriage or rumours that Hollywood’s power-couple, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, are on the brink of divorce, the news isn’t good. Considering most couples started off on the right foot, is it possible to still be ‘good friends’ eventually? Well, Dr Vijay Nagaswami, the city-based psychiatrist, believes it is and he has even put it down in his book, To D or Not to D: Working Towards an Amicable Divorce. “A few weeks into your divorce, you find yourself thinking that your ex was not such a bad sort after all. Sure, you don’t want to get back together, but maybe the two of you could be friends?” begins Nagaswami. “Actually, you’re not nuts for thinking this. Nor does this mean that you’re still in love with your ex. Paradoxically, what it means is that you’re ready to really move on! You’re no longer feeling messed up and you’re ready to re-invent your life,” he adds. So how can you have a civil relationship (that is, if you haven’t had an acrimonious divorce), maybe even have an occasional drink together? Nagaswami is chairing a discussion at the Madras Book Club next week, but he’s given us a sneak preview, with four basic guidelines you can follow.
◗ Tea for one, not tea for two. You need to remember that you’re not responsible for or to each other, and that neither needs to fulfil the other’s expectations. After all, you are no longer a couple. Many divorced couples have to consciously create new ways to communicate with each other as two single people who were once a couple. Or as Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin famously did, “consciously uncouple” themselves.
◗ Divorce need not always be a breakdown, it can sometimes be a breakthrough. If either or both partners view marriage as a sacrament, then obviously they see divorce as a breakdown; but if they see marriage as a fallible relationship between fallible people, then divorce can be seen as a breakthrough, which certainly helps with the aftermath.
◗ Take a bit of a break. Moving to friendship mode immediately after a divorce can be very hard, and quite disconcerting. Taking a break, and consciously defining fresh boundaries with each other, is probably the way to go.
◗ It’s easier being a co-parent if you’re nice to each other. If you really want to help your children deal with their new reality, both of you need to learn to co-parent them—and not competitively parent them. And believe me, it’s easier to do this if you’re nice to each other.
Dr Vijay Nagaswami