It has been a long interval of quiescence since I last published an article. Work from home may look all glitter and gold in the beginning, but stuck in the same environment and distractions abound, it is easy to go stir crazy, get bored, and succumb to feelings of loneliness which by and by hampers the creative cerebration. Anyhow, a few days back while I was striving for some inspiration for an article, I received a text message from one of my friends-
“Divorced Finally!!!! To celebrate the denouement of an unhappy marriage, I’m throwing a divorce party for all my friends who stood by me during the hard times. So, join me on zoom tonight at 7.”
And I was utterly perplexed. Obviously not about the “Zoom Party” thing, for we humans are social animals and as we come to terms with COVID-19 reality, the open-ended lockdowns, social distancing, etc., it is no surprise that video parties have exploded in popularity and zoom seems best equipped to fill this primal need. But certainly, “Throwing a Divorce party?” I mean, for a person like me, to whom google search engine suggested, “Send a consoling message to a friend after divorce”, and I spent good 30 minutes framing a consoling text message; It actually came as a surprise and did put me into a one hundred per cent state of bewilderment. So, I texted him-
“Party? A Divorce Party? Ssly?”
“Yes. I had a fabulous engagement party, grand wedding functions and a spectacular reception. It is only fair to drink a toast to the end of a marriage that did not work out. I want the divorce to look good, too” was something that completely blew my mind.
I mean in a country like ours, where marriage is often considered sacred and quintessential for both a man and a woman, being divorced in the 20s is “too young to be divorced” and looked at as a sign of failure. Moreover, to top it all off, he was going against the tide by celebrating his separation.
“Woah! You’re definitely ahead of the curve, man. See you at 7!”
I texted back and resumed my work, thinking if nothing at all, at least a zoom party would be a nice change of pace.
The Party was all about PJs (Poor Jokes), PJs (Pyjamas) and DJs (each one of us got a chance to play our favourite songs from the ’90s). It turned out to be the perfect evening with some light-hearted conversations and the ‘remember when’ moments. But above all, it did give us a sense of accomplishment, that if not an Online Wedding, at least we were invited to an Online Divorce Party in the time of pandemic- which in itself would be quite a story to tell our grandkids.
“All right Guys, society tells us that we are supposed to spend our carefree 20s looking for that special someone- but what’s it like to find ‘that special someone' only to discover they weren’t so special after all? It’s time for what we’ve been waiting for, ‘Destigmatizing the Divorce Speech’. Everybody, let’s give it up for the man of the hour, none other than the Best Literary Performer and now the official ‘ROSS’ of our group.”
And once again, we all friends were cheering and rooting just like the olden college days when our friend with his excellent oratory skills used to knock the socks off everyone in the Inter College competitions.
“Thanks, Adi for conferring the ‘Ross of the Group’ title on behalf of everyone, but seriously guys if you have to call me a name, I’d prefer Ross- The Divorcer; it’s just cooler!” my friend remarked with expressions so on point, that it actually made us all visualize that scene from FRIENDS and everyone had a belly laugh.
“So, everyone’s been expecting a Divorce Speech haan, how it all started with a dream of living a life together, an ideal partner, a beautiful home, maybe children, a dog- the perfect life envisioned. Well, it was a crushing feeling to realize that reality felt like a prison. Contemplating ending a marriage was like giving up not only the reality of the relationship but the picture of what I thought my life would become.
Like horrible, embarrassing snowflakes, every divorce is unique; however, no one plans to get divorced in the first place.
I certainly did not.
We got married during fall, and surprisingly by the end of winter, it was our marriage that was falling apart. Divorce though seems to be a common occurrence now but to be divorced in your 20s, maybe still not be so common. Going through the trouble of separating your lives is not so enviable or straightforward task. But, coasting along in an unfulfilled, uninspired relationship is indeed not better than a good divorce.
Moreover, one should surely not give up valuable parts of themselves to make a relationship work. Healthy relationships are the foundation of our physical health, mental well-being and overall growth as an individual. When you are already in a downward spiral, things can get ugly- psychologically as well as physically. So, rather than giving a speech on destigmatizing divorce in the early 20s or whenever, I think I should share with you people the lessons that I learnt from my failed marriage.”
So here are the Five lessons that he shared with us that day-
As per society, the foremost rule is to get married before you’re too old- and “too old” varies from 18-28, depending on where you live. The rule should be “whatever you do, do not marry the wrong person,” but unfortunately, society frowns so much more upon a 30-year-old single person than it does on an unhappily married 30-year-old with two children. It is absolutely absurd- the former is just one step away from a happy marriage, whereas the latter must either settle for indefinite unhappiness or endure a messy divorce to catch up to where the single person is.
From a broader perspective, a great marriage is a sweeping love story, like a tale of two birds who are completely and madly in love, just as described in a romantic novel or a movie. And that is indeed a lovely, poetic way to look at marriage as a whole.
But human happiness does not function in sweeping strokes because we do not live in broad summations- we are stuck in the tiny unglamorous folds of the fabric of life, and that is where our happiness is determined. So, if we want to ensure a happy marriage, we need to think small- we need to have a microscopic view at marriage and see that it is built not out of anything poetic, but out of thousands of mundane Thursdays.
Marriage is not the honeymoon in the Maldives- it is day five of vacation #36 that you take together. It’s also not about celebrating the closing of the deal on the first house- it is having dinner together in that house for the 3,674th time. And it’s certainly not Valentine’s Day.
Marriage is forgettable Thursdays. Together.
Of course, love is a key ingredient in a happy marriage; the butterfly feelings, the kisses in the rain and twice-a-day sex are inevitable parts of a relationship, but more than that it is about trying to figure out the best way to make forgettable Thursdays as happy as possible. To endure some 20,000 days with another human being and do so happily, is what keeps the marriage afloat.
The selection of a life partner is profoundly personal, intensely complicated, and a diverse process for everyone. Thus, it is absolutely impossible to understand the needs of a person from the outside, in spite of how well you know someone. At times, it can happen that factors like society (and parents, and friends) influence you to break up with a person whom you believed would have been the right life partner because of external disapproval or it could be the other way around- where everyone is thrilled about your relationship because it looks great from the outside, though it may not actually, be that great from the inside.
Moreover, fear is one of the worst possible decision-makers when it comes to picking the right life partner. Fear of being judged or talked about, fear of being an older parent, and sometimes just fear of being the last single friend- are the types that lead us to settle for a not-so-great partnership. The irony is that the only rational fear we should feel is the fear of spending the latter two-thirds of life unhappily, with the wrong person.
A study on what governs our life partner choices more, our preferences or our current opportunities, opportunities win hands down- our life partner choices are “98% a response… to market conditions and just 2% immutable desires. Proposals to marry tall, short, fat, thin, affluent, educated, clerical, professional, etc., people are all more than nine-tenths governed by what is on the offer that day. Simply put, people end up picking from whatever pool of choices they have, no matter how abysmally matched, they might be to those candidates.
Everyone has a set of requirements, but problems arise when the requirements like- she’s tall, he’s intelligent, she cooks for me, he’s rich, she’ll make a great wife, he’ll be a great father, she keeps me organized, he’s great in bed etc.- become the very basis for choosing someone as a life partner. These things are all great perks, but that’s all they are- perks. It is absolutely normal to have certain on-paper boxes that you’d like checked, but a strongly ego-driven person prioritizes appearances and perks above even the quality of their connection with their potential life partner when weighing things. Because once the honeymoon phase is over when the needs-driven person is totally accustomed to having the needs met, there better be a lot more good parts of the relationship they’ve chosen, or both are in for a dull ride.
Remember, a relationship is not just a bunch of boxes that need to be checked; it is much more than that. So think outside the box.
An Epic Friendship-
It’s always fun spending time with your friends- however, with a selected few (best friends), the time is so high quality, so exciting, and so fun that you find yourself rooting for the time to stop. You are so lost in the interactions and invigorated by them that you’re the complete opposite of getting bored.
Therefore, while choosing a life partner, find someone with whom you can share an epic friendship bond. When you already have people in your life who do make you root for the time to stop, what a whopping shame it would be to spend 90% of the rest of your life with someone who does not.
Look for someone who has a decent number of common interests, activities, and people preferences and a great sense of humour click, for no one wants to spend 50 years fake laughing. Someone who can extract fun out of the unfun situations like airport delays, long drives, errands etc. Bear in mind that a life partner doubles as a career/life therapist, and if you don’t respect the way someone thinks, you won’t be able to share anything interesting that pops into your head because you won’t care that much about what they have to say about it.
A feeling of home-
If someone told you to sit in a chair for 12 straight hours, instead of wondering “why the hell are they making me do this,” your first thought would be, “I better get in the most comfortable chair”-to avoid even the slightest bit of discomfort. So, when it comes to marriage, look for a partner you can be comfortable with. Feeling “at home” means feeling safe, cosy, natural, and utterly yourself. It comes from trust and security- as no one wants to spend 50 years lying or worrying about hiding something.
Acceptance of human flaws- This isn’t to say people should not work on self-improvement, but when looking for a life partner, the healthy attitude is- that every person comes with a set of flaws, these are my partner’s, and they are a part of the package I knowingly chose to spend my life with.
Also, the person you choose to be with, their vibe is going to be a part of you, forever. It’s really not acceptable for it to be a negative one, nor is it sustainable.
A determination to hold on to each other-
Relationships are hard. Expecting a healthy relationship without treating it as a rigorous part-time job is like expecting to have a great career without putting in any effort. Therefore, Communicate-for communication to a relationship is what oxygen is to life.
Relationships can slip into an unequal power dynamic quickly if one person’s mood dictates the mood in the room all the time, or when one person’s needs or opinion consistently prevail over the other’s, when one person treats the other in the way they would never stand for being treated themselves- it is time to balance things out.
Having an argument is an inevitable part of a relationship. However, it is better to approach things with humour, defuse tension, and genuinely listen to the other side while avoiding getting nasty, personal or defensive.
Honestly, the way he explained the lessons that he learnt from his failed marriage, made us hang on to every single word. There is a saying, that nothing is given so freely as advice, but this was an absolute sage’s advice to my single friends and me.
The Party concluded on a note-
“I don’t like to harp on my divorce like it’s the only thing that defines me. But it was a turning point in my life, and I think it was a great experience to learn from and a great story to tell for some other time. Nothing lasts forever. So, however bad you might feel right now, it won’t be exactly the same way in a month. Or a year. Look to the future. You cannot change what has happened. Love is not fair, and it is not easy, and as far as I can tell, it doesn’t come with a guarantee. But in hope for the moments when it’ll work, love still feels worth trying for.”
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