Happily Never After

 Ritz takes a look at what’s going on in the ubiquitous splitsville around the globe.

Heart – the most powerful organ in the human body; the centre of our existence also happens to be the most fragile; prone to getting broken, shattered into smithereens when the one you love also happens to be the one that hurts you the most. What do you do in such scenarios? What do you do when you know you’re in a relationship that makes you feel stifled, remorseful and despondent? Many moons ago, people would stay stuck in the rut pretending all is well due to various reasons but not anymore. With changing social mores, independent personalities and freedom of choice, many youngsters and some not-so-young couples are breaking the vows. The year gone by is a testimony to the fact. It won’t be an exaggeration to say that 2016 has been a year of break ups, some acrimonious and some dignified, some expected and some completely shocking… Does the concept of `Happily Ever After’ exist anymore? Ritz takes a look at what’s going on in the ubiquitous splitsville around the globe.

It’s so strange that couples who stay committed to a relationship for eons, setting an example and sometimes a trend, decide to go their separate ways once they seal it with holy matrimony! Mary Jane “Mae” West, American actress, singer, playwright, screenwriter, comedian, and sex symbol whose entertainment career spanned seven decades, nailed it when she said, “Marriage is a fine institution, but I’m not ready for an institution.” Hmmm… Institution? Is that what it is? Looks like the answer is yes! How else would you explain what happened to the world’s most popular Hollywood icons Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, hailed as a super couple who started the trend of portmanteaus, theirs being Brangelina? Obviously, morphing two names into one didn’t ensure merging of two lives. In fact, nothing seems to guarantee a lifetime of togetherness.  George Clooney, the couple’s good friend was just as shocked as the rest of us by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie‘s split. His reaction pretty much sums up what we all felt. “That’s a sad story and unfortunate for a family. It’s an unfortunate story about a family. I feel very sorry to hear that.”

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Vanderpump Rules star Stassi Schroeder went to the extent of saying, “If Brangelina can’t make it, is there really any purpose or meaning of life?” It does feel that way because their romance lasted 12 years converting every naysayer into a believer but their marriage went kaput in a mere two years and had the entire world mourn at the demise of their faith that this one would last a lifetime! Alas, that was not to be. In the month of September this year, Angelina Jolie filed for divorce citing irreconcilable differences! Really? Didn’t those `differences’ rear their ugly heads during their relationship prior to marriage in which they reared a large brood? Several other Hollywood marriages didn’t survive the test of time this year.

Closer home, two most inspiring marriages that seemed rock solid and long lasting bit the dust in 2016 – Farhan Akhtar – Adhuna Akhtar & Hrithik Roshan – Susanne Khan! They seemed to have it all – looks, success, fame and beautiful kids but obviously, something was missing. Another one on which the curtains were drawn after a brief marriage was that of Amala Paul & AL Vjay. Well, scores of other relationships that hadn’t culminated into marriage vows yet followed suit as well. Ranbir & Katrina, Malaika & Arbaaz, to name two couples who seemed to be walking up to the altar but retraced their steps. Quite a breaker this 2016 has been, huh? Of course, the most shocking of them all has been the news of Kamala Haasan and Gautami splitting up.

So what gives? In the case of celebrities, the dynamics may be different. They have several external pressures to cope that come with the territory. Fame and fortune bring their own set of challenges in close relationships. And of course there is a constant threat looming large from the proximity to attractive co-stars that may result in insecurities. However, there has been a surge in break ups amongst the hoi polloi too. Relationship experts state that the current era is witnessing a surge in breakdowns in relationships.

 One of the major reasons for this is a communication breakdown, says Kala Balasubramanian, counselling psychologist at Bengaluru’s Inner Dawn Counselling and Training Services. “When there is a breakdown in communication, even small issues start spiralling out of control. Any relationship, be it a marital or a live-in, is built on the four pillars of social, emotional, legal and sexual commitment, then mutual respect for one another, utmost trust, and on effective communication that helps any conflicts that arise to get managed in a sound manner. These pillars need to be nurtured every single day. I also want to say that the two people in a relationship should set boundaries when it comes to the involvement of others and should make their own decisions as a couple.”

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 Experts emphasise on two individuals in a relationship investing a lot in mutual trust, love and respect for one another.

 Dr. Aloma Lobo, a prominent name in the socio-medical scene in Bengaluru, points out that couples should communicate with respect, no matter what the problem is. “A relationship implies that you are committed to a lifetime together. My advice is that you need to imbibe that sense of commitment and work towards strengthening your bond every day. Secondly, there needs to be love and understanding. Couples should acknowledge that they are the first priority in a relationship. Work, hobbies and even kids come later. It is first them and then the others.”

 It is also highly important for couples to set aside their egos. Radhika Sharma, who underwent a bitter divorce a few years ago and today helps guide youngsters in a relationship, says that very often, a bloated ego is the cause for turmoil and friction. “It’s absolutely fine and in fact often necessary to be the first one to say ‘sorry’. Do not hold onto your ego or fear bending slightly backwards when you love someone. In a relationship, two people are equal; therefore there is no scope for one-upmanship. Both partners should realise this and should be ready to sacrifice for the other when the situation necessitates. Also, it is crucial to make time for your partner, no matter what your work or lifestyle demands. Let your partner know that you have time for him or her.”

“In this DINK (Double Income No Kids) era, people seem to getting a lot more individualistic. The `I’ has become omnipresent in the place of `we’. There lies the problem,” says Amrita Khan, popular Dakhni writer, “I have been married to a man of different faith for the last 18 years. But we are far more compatible than most couples belonging to the same religion. That’s because we are more into `we’ than `I’ and `me’. We have an amazing daughter who just turned 15 this year. We named her Hera which happens to be a Greek Goddess’ name and can also mean a `diamond’ in Urdu. We had decided even before she was born that we will opt for names with no religious inclination regardless of the gender. Had I or he felt differently, we could have had issues. But we never leave any room for ambiguity and mistrust. We ensure that we speak and spell out everything without expecting the other person to second guess our intentions.”

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But that’s neither easy to do nor follow. Take the case of Siddharth and Amita, who were married for 2 decades and got involved in an acrimonious custody battle over their 12 year old daughter this year. “We got married in 1986. We were introduced by our parents but we also fell in love with each other which made it easier for all of us,” recollects Amita, “In our case it was excess of everything. We communicated all the time including who we found attractive, fought like it was a war, loved each other like crazy, too much of everything. When our daughter was born, we went ballistic over rearing her. More so because she came after 8 years of our marriage. His parenting style and mine were poles apart. And then differences started cropping up over my work. I was asked to choose between my marriage and career. I chose the latter. Because I know for sure that my daughter will have a great example to follow when she has a working mother as opposed to a home maker. I won the custody battle and I am sure my ex husband and I will find a common ground too. Right now, there is zero communication between us except when he comes to fetch her on the weekends or drop her.”

Her ex husband Siddharth’s perspective is somewhat different. “I had no issues with Amita pursuing a career after motherhood. All I wanted was her to take a break till our daughter went to school. But she was adamant that she would lose precious years of her work and would lag behind if she took a break.”

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When you ask him why that rule doesn’t apply to him, he retorts angrily, “Don’t make this into a woman’s lib issue!” Okay siree, we will not but it does seem unfair, doesn’t it?

Fair or unfair is debatable but what remains is the truth that it takes two to tango and one partner without ego to make a relationship last. Now, do we have it in us to hold on to our partner in sickness and health, poverty and wealth? Your guess is as good as ours. In marriage and in gamble, there are no guarantees. Enter at your own risk.