From ‘We’ To ‘I’

Turning single AGAIN in THE late 30s and 40s may come as a shock to many. And unlike what it may seem like from a distance, a midlife split involves much more than refurbishing your colourful Instagram wall. But again, it is certainly not the end of the world. Priya Chaphekar unveils the true realities of a late divorce.

You know what is really hard? It’s the whole getting to know each other from scratch,” says 38-year-old Recruitment Manager Namrata Singh. Namrata was only 21 when she had an arranged marriage. “I moved to Gurugram after marriage because Sam, my husband, was working there. I can’t say we had a killer chemistry, but we learnt to cope with each other over time. Whether it was about clothes, art or food, we knew each others’ taste well. But somehow, we drifted apart. I thought it was just a phase, but my illusion was shattered when I saw Sam hand-in-hand with a laudable lass half his age at the mall. Call me a cow; I tried to salvage the marriage, but the damage was already done. My life came apart, unwinding with great speed, like a kite string on a windy day. Shattered beyond repair,
I returned to Mumbai with a whopping alimony.

Why things fall apart

The thought of being single can be daunting especially when you enter wedlock with ‘the one’. We all want to mend things than just give up and move on, so we try to revive the relationship in every possible manner. However, there are some attributes that are core to our personality. These attributes, all the more, make us do things that are detrimental to the marital relationship, and we continue to project these attributes strongly when confronted. The relationship soon becomes like a block of ice—rigid but together. And when the underlying purpose of being together gets defeated, you finally let go, to seek peace with your partner.
Ask your friends who have been through a separation, and most of them will say, “It’s a long story. There were too many issues.” To put it in simple words, people usually get out of relationships when they turn toxic. “In most cases people get married because of family pressure, because they think the time is right and also because everyone else is getting married. It’s only when the novelty wears off that they realise how different their personalities are. Marriages fail because people are either inherently different or evolve into different people and don’t often focus on communicating their needs to each other,” points out Breakthrough Life Coach Ritnika Nayan.
According to Counselling Psychologist Kashish A Chhabria, a marital split has nothing to do with age. “Some of the reasons include lack of communication, intimacy and value systems such as incompatibility, loss of interest in partner, commitment and behavioural issues, infertility, addictions, abuse, virtual cheating and infidelity,” she lists.

Survival instinct

When you go through a break-up in your 20s, people say things such as “don’t worry, there are plenty more fish in the sea” or, “I never liked him anyway, let’s get drunk.” You are fresh out of college, meeting new people and have an interesting job. You know you are going to be fine and someone better will certainly come along, and until they do, you party. But a separation in your 30s or 40s comes with an anxious gritting of teeth.
“Setting up my life once again in the maximum city was exciting and traumatising at the same time. On one hand, I had my married friends going green with jealousy about my new-found freedom, and on the other, I did not know what to do with the huge spider in the bath. The boozy night-out with the girls did drown my sorrows, but it also came with an unpleasant hangover I do not want to be reminded of,” quips Namrata.
Post separation, women tend to take two different routes. “Some build a wall around to protect themselves from getting hurt in the future. Others spend time reflecting on what they want next. They begin to re-discover their needs and exude a feeling of self-empowerment,” states Ritnika. Men, on the other hand, mostly retreat into their shell.
“Marital separation comes with countless emotions. While the entire thought of being liberated from the continuous agony makes you feel better, deep within, a sense of failure sets in,” shares 40-year-old IT professional Anish Venugopal. Anish coped with the separation by focusing his energies on himself. “People who I hadn’t spoken to in years kept saying ‘sorry’, in much the same tone they use when someone’s close-one has just died and tried to probe. But I shielded myself from being a part of the gossip by telling them that I wasn’t comfortable talking about it. I worked hard at the gym and harder at my workplace. I did think of moving away from the locality to a new place where I wouldn’t run into my ex. I wanted to be away from everyone and everything that made me think of her. But as time passed by, and with the financial limitations, this thought withered away. With continuous travel and increased engagement at work, I was able to sail through this phase with minimum impact,” he adds.
Travel blogger Dolly Gala, who got divorced at the age of 35 took to trekking like a duck takes to water. “My husband left me because I could not conceive after a decade of being together. After my separation, I was free but didn’t know what to do with all the freedom. I didn’t have a mother-in-law hovering on me, telling me to wash the clothes or do the dishes. I didn’t have a man coming home and demanding me to undress when I was dead tired. It was, indeed, a liberating feeling, the equivalent of slipping into a hot bubble bath after a long day. Having said that, I needed a dream to pursue. So I decided to drag myself up to Roopkund—a high altitude glacial lake in Uttarakhand. And so I did. And how I cried! There could not have been a better catharsis,” she recounts.

For the sake of society

So many couples decide to stay in an unhappy marriage to save themselves from the social stigma or for the sake of their children. Unlike a man, a woman is often looked at as ‘up in the market’ or ‘back in stock’. She is thingified and taken undue advantage of. “I’ve known women who’ve been lent a ‘shoulder to cry on’ by men with hideous intentions. After the divorce, I moved into a separate apartment along with my daughter. With no man around, we were harassed by everyone—from the landlord to the broker. But I dealt with all of it with my head held high. The only sad part is that this society has hardened me in a wrong manner,” says pet shop owner Yogini M.
Speaking of a woman who walked out of a 25-year-long marriage, remarried and is in a happy space for over 12 years now, Kashish concludes, “It’s all in the mind and the space we think we deserve to be in. If you choose to stay in the wedlock for the sake of your kids, remember that they are going to grow up and have a life of their own, too. Whatever choice you make, take your time and make sure to weigh up the pros and cons wisely.”

Rajendra .

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Rajendra .

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