Love, Law and Divorce

A marriage with love needs neither law nor divorce

happy coupleWe have seen more unhappy than happy married couples. Even behind the mask of happiness and marital bliss, we have seen spouses seeking extra-marital relationships. If marriage is indeed a sacred institution, then why this hypocrisy?

A casanova has no moral obligations with respect to faithfulness and commitment. And the betrayed spouse is left asking, "How could he?", "Why me?".she is left with empty vows and broken promises in her hand.

Living together for the sake of convenience or for children when there is an emotional and physical divorce, is a facade. It takes a toll on the couple as well as the children who grow up twisted due to the toxic environment.

Marriage is a mirror

Marriage is a tender relationship, formed on the bedrock of emotions. It is a sharing of feelings and life with each other; anything less than that is not marriage in the truest sense of the word.

The Christian marriage vows go: "To love and honour, in sickness and in health, for better or for worse, in joy and in sorrow, forsaking all others, till death do us part."

The Upanishads talk of marriage as a beautiful relating in which, while the needs of both partners are fulfilled, an ideal atmosphere is created for personal growth, where both evolve and grow towards their own higher selves. This happens because intimate relating makes us vulnerable and brings to the surface our true selves, which we otherwise hide under social masks.

The partner, in turn, mirrors this face, and creates an ideal opportunity for us to honestly introspect and grow as a human being.

Personal growth is possible only by being mirrored in the face of relationships, and the more intimate the relating, the more accurate the mirroring. One who chooses to escape such mirroring has chosen to escape personal growth and maturity.

Osho explains this beautifully in Tao: The Golden Gate: Learn something from marriage. He says, "Marriage represents the whole world in a miniature form: it teaches you many things. It is only the mediocre ones who learn nothing. Otherwise, it will teach you that you don't know what love is, that you don't know how to relate, that you don't know how to communicate, that you don't know how to commune, that you don't know how to live with another. It is a mirror: it shows your face to you in all its different aspects. And it is all needed for your maturity."

Making matured choices

Maturity means the ability to make choices that lead to fulfilment and happiness. One has to 'behave' one's way to happiness. Here, it is important to recognise the difference between short-term pleasure and lasting happiness. A mature family member, a wise friend or a good counsellor helps clarify this difference to one who is about to impulsively make the wrong choice.

The right choice, however, could be different for different couples. Divorce may be wrong for one couple but right for another.

Take the example of Gauri. Gauri's spouse is selfish and insensitive. Whenever she has tried to even weakly assert herself he gets either physically or verbally abusive or sinks into severe depression. She feels humiliated by her spouse, who has a severe personality disorder and is unwilling to submit to the counselling process.

This is taking a toll on her, and she has made several suicide attempts, the last being almost successful. She believes in 'till death do us part' and that marriages is for keeps. She also lacks courage to make a life on her own.

Unfortunately, many marriages do end in the morgue with literally death doing them apart. Does this have to be the end? When a couple is struggling in a relationship with one or both of them feeling trapped, is it not better to part ways?

Different rights

Let us look at Sonia's case. She has two children and her husband of 10 years is seeking a divorce because he has fallen 'out of love' with her. He has read the book, Who moved my cheese? by Dr Spencer Johnson and has conveniently misinterpreted it to mean that he needs to move out of the relationship if it does not work for him. When he mentioned the book to us in therapy sessions, he was explained that "The old behaviour was the old cheese and not the relationship, and that if he had to let anything go, it was to the old patterns and behaviour that caused a bad relationship.

Because entering any other relationship with his patterns intact would get him the same results". We quoted from the book: "The New Cheese is a new relationship with the same person."

In Gauri's case, the couple had to be helped to part while in Sonia's case, the couple was helped to identify and transcend their patterns, and work towards a meaningful relationship with each other. In both cases the 'right choice' was different.

Law can't enforce love

Do you think having stricter divorce laws can strengthen bonds? Our answer is NO and YES. Being forced to stay together with both feeling hurt, angry and trapped in the marriage with one or both having deep personality disorders is nothing but a living hell for both. It could end in serious illness, suicide, homicide, or both. Nothing can strengthen such a couple's bond. Here, only an easy separation can reduce the stress in their lives.

However, if one of the spouses wants to bail out of the marriage in search of an imagined better life only because s/he is a comfort-seeker and escapist, and wants freedom without responsibility, s/he should be held responsible for the commitment s/he has made.

Compulsory therapy for such a couple could bring to light the patterns of the escapist spouse, who can then be helped to make a mature decision. In this case, making the divorce procedure difficult, and insistence by the court on therapy could open up his eyes to the folly of his decision and thus strengthen the bond, helping him/her to re-enter his marriage with renewed enthusiasm.

The counsellor's intervention

Sustained couple therapy should be made mandatory for all those contemplating separation, with the counsellor helping both to make a mature choice. The counsellor needs to play a major role in clarifying to both partners, the right decision in the couple's case.

The time between the decision of separation and the actual separation should be spent in sincere and meaningful therapy, with the counsellor giving his opinion of the case to the court. Therefore, intervention of the counsellor who examines every case on its merits, and reports to the court, should be inculcated in the divorce laws.

If the counsellor feels that the relationship has the potential to mature into a partnership that is stimulating growth for both, he should ask the court to delay/disallow the divorce. But if he sees that being in the relationship, in fact, stunts the growth of the partners, he should strongly recommend a divorce. Based on these suggestions, the court should either speed up, or delay divorce with a ruling of sustained therapy.

A fulfilling and meaningful life

A meaningful life can result only from the experience of 'love' in our life. This implies commitment and dedication to another. Love does not ask the question, "What am I getting out of this?" to find fulfilment.

Love understands by direct experience that "it is in giving that we receive". Love takes time, demands a history of giving and receiving, laughing and crying, living and dying; it never promises instant gratification, only ultimate fulfilment.

Love supposes a willingness to struggle, to work, to suffer and to join in the rejoicing. There has not been even one recorded case of deep and lasting fulfilment by a person whose basic mind-set and only question was, "What am I getting out of this?"

Satisfaction and fulfilment are the by-products of committed and dedicated love. They belong only to those who can reach beyond themselves, and to whom giving is more important than receiving.

When we make marriage vows, when we commit ourselves to each other 'till death do us part', with a promise that nothing will ever come between us, we certainly know what this will involve. There maybe days when your decision of fidelity will be tested, days when the warm feelings for each other seem like distant memories, when the rewards of loving seem out of reach.

These are those blessed moments when your love and commitment is tested and your heart is exhorted to extend itself in unconditional love.

Having said all that, we would like to conclude that no law can make you love one another, and without love, there is no meaningful relationship. The real question to be asked is—Do you love 'Love' enough to work to save the relationship? Then no other law is needed, because 'love' is the only law that can truly strengthen bonds.

Unless you make a commitment...

If you love a person and live the whole life with him or with her, a great intimacy will grow and love will have deeper and deeper revelations to make to you. It is not possible if you go on changing partners very often. It is as if you go on changing a tree from one place to another, then another; then it never grows roots anywhere.

To grow roots, a tree needs to remain in one place. Then it goes deeper; then it becomes stronger. Intimacy is good, and to remain in one commitment is beautiful, but the basic necessity is love.

Clever people never want to be committed, but is there any life without commitment? But clever people think commitment is a bondage. But is there any freedom without bondage? First you have to move in a deep commitment, depth to depth, heart to heart, and only then you can transcend it. There is no other way.

Unless you make a commitment, love remains casual: two surfaces meet, or in fact pretend to meet. Two persons remain two: two circles with just their peripheries meeting, there is no overlapping.

— Osho from the book, Yoga: The Alpha and The Omega

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Minnu Bhonsle
Minnu R Bhonsle, PhD, is a Mumbai-based consulting psychotherapist and counsellor. She conducts training programmes in Personal Counselling [Client-centred Therapy] and Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy, and also workshops in Stress Management, Art of Listening, Couple Therapy, and Communication Skills. Minnu has co-authored the book, The Ultimate Sex Education Guide along with Dr Rajan Bhonsle.
Rajan Bhonsle
Rajan Bhonsle, MD, is a consultant in sexual medicine and counsellor. Along with his wife Minnu R Bhonsle, PhD, who is a consulting psychotherapist and counsellor, he runs a unique therapy centre

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