I was recently working with someone who wasted years in acrimonious divorce proceedings, only to end up marrying the same person, two years later. Replying to my question on what prompted him to give the relationship another chance especially since he had fought hard for an out, he answered, primly, that it was for his children. It’s not like the kids escaped unscathed while their parents were battling in court. The damage had already been done which no reconciliation could erase. When I asked if it was not simpler a second time around to just live together, this gentleman gave me an emphatic no and said he had to go the whole hog: a ring, a commitment, a real marriage with all its metaphorical trappings.
The irrepressible author and playwright Oscar Wilde said that marriage is a triumph of imagination over intelligence, a second, is the triumph of hope over experience. Even he would have been at a loss for words to explain the baffling optimism of people who endure the agony of divorce but choose the same situation again. Clearly, they are suckers for punishment who don’t deserve any sympathy. Though most of the divorcees I know recoil in horror at the suggestion of considering their exes again, yet, it appears this is not all that uncommon. If the rumor mills are to be believed, there may be a patch up between actor Hrithik Roshan and his ex-wife, Susanne Khan. This is not restricted to movie stars who operate from a rarefied stratosphere and for whom the regular rules don’t apply. Everyone seems to know somebody who married an ex-partner. The logical explanation is that a long marriage becomes a standard for romance and human beings have a tendency to gravitate towards familiar experiences. Or as the saying goes, better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.
There is something adorably romantic about stories of people magically casting aside serious differences and living happily ever after. In the movie The Parent Trap, twin sisters come up with an intricate plot to reunite their parents. It’s a really complicated route to finding your peace but as Shakespeare said, the path to true love is paved with stones. There are no statistics on the quality of marriages of people who remarry the same person. I have often noticed that people in second marriages are more considerate, and consciously steer clear of repeating old mistakes. However, I am of the opinion that marital history, at least with the same person, repeats itself. It’s easy to give in to fantastical notions of destiny, but generally, a divorce means it was not meant to be. Problems don’t go away. And unless some cataclysmic event has occurred — nothing short of enlightenment — people don’t change. Most of humanity is committed to making the same self-defeating errors over and over again, our personalities obstinately set against our better interests.
When people make a valiant attempt at resurrecting a dead relationship, it is worth considering that perhaps there is something in the half profound idea that you have to have exited a marriage completely, to grasp its true value. Then again, perhaps there isn’t, or it would have worked the first time. No doubt, distance brings perspective. It’s also a sign of the disturbing extent to which memory can be delusional, that someone is able to gloss over a deeply unhappy spell and be persuaded to try again. May the fact (or fiction) serve the greater purpose of clarity because while a shared past has a comforting lure, a bitter history is far more deadly.