Divorce is a reality that most urban Indians contend with. According to a United Nations report, while India’s divorce rates are relatively lower compared to global statistics, the numbers have doubled over the past two decades. As the number of divorcees increases, so will the number of people getting remarried. Society still sits on judgement about divorcees, but there are a fair share of single folks who are open-minded about being with someone who has been married before.
One such person is N, my 36 year-old client. She had never been married before and is now married to a man, V, who was married before, and is now divorced. It’s been four years since V’s divorce, and N has been married to him for a year. According to what he told her, V did not have any clue that his ex-wife was thinking of leaving him. He says his ex-wife woke up one morning and told him that their marriage was over. She said she was in love with another man.
N and V met through common friends and their relationship grew quite organically for over a year before they decided to get married. V was always open about his divorce and shared in great detail with N what he thought went wrong in his previous marriage. Initially, N felt that this sharing helped them connect better, and she obviously felt privileged that V was comfortable enough in their relationship to share these intimate details with her – it made her feel that she was special to him. N goes on to say that this was one of the main reasons she fell in love with V.
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However, soon after they got married, N started noticing how V’s behaviour would change every time she interacted with male friends. V would be insecure, and make it awkward by hovering around her during such interactions. His palpable anxiety would make everyone uncomfortable. Most times, they would end up fighting after such episodes.
When N started her sessions with me, she felt that V did not trust her with other men and she could not understand why—especially since she had been very empathetic when he had shared the turmoil of his previous marriage. If V had trusted her enough to share his insecurities and how it had affected his self-worth and if he had faith in his relationship with N to actually get married again, this seemed inexplicable. Why was V suspicious every time she spoke to another man? Why was he bracketing her with his ex-wife? In N’s mind making a comparison with his previous relationship was not a healthy way to build a new relationship. Did V not understand that N was a different person, and that she was not his ex-wife?
N says that every episode like this would hurt her deeply. V understood that this behaviour from him was uncalled for in their relationship. However, when he finds himself in these situations, it’s as if he gets possessed and has no control over his emotional state. V would promise her he would never do this again but then he would repeat this behaviour on every such occasion.
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This made it clear to N that intervention was required. V absolutely refused to go for counselling. While it is common to resist external help of a counsellor, it was clear in this case that he needed it as he was unable to manage his emotional state by himself or with N’s help. He needed a trained professional to help them get a breakthrough. N is now in therapy and is simultaneously working with me to help V get over the trauma of his past relationship. N loves V deeply and she is making an effort to help them both have a great relationship, sans the baggage of his past.
Everybody deserves a second chance. But what we must first do is heal ourselves from the hurt and trauma of a broken relationship from our past. Going through a divorce is not a pleasant experience for anyone. The emotional turmoil of divorce manifests itself in a myriad of emotions ranging from anger, destruction of self-worth, guilt, helplessness, confusion, insecurity, and perhaps even some harsh truths that are highlighted about our own selves.
Unfortunately, there are many people like V who refuse to seek external help. If your previously-married spouse or partner is unwilling to seek therapy, then what might help is for you to work with a counsellor like N is doing. Trying to do it on your own is hard and often ineffective. The fact is that your spouse needs help to heal and restore their confidence. This will ensure that your relationship does not cave under the weight of the unaddressed baggage of a past relationship.
This is a limited series by Simran Mangharam, a dating and relationship coach, who can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org