Metroplus

Does love endure?

It takes two to tango: There's a lot of effort behind a happy marriage

It takes two to tango: There's a lot of effort behind a happy marriage  

After the high wears off, what happens to that much-hallowed ‘love’ everyone celebrates on Valentine’s Day? Nothing like talking to a divorce lawyer for a reality check

There is a flurry of monochrome against deep red sandstone that hits you once you step inside the Indo-Saracenic style building of the Madras High Court. Walking through crowded corridors of the largest judicial complex in Asia, I follow an intern to the office of Geeta Ramaseshan, a senior lawyer with over 30 years of experience in dealing with cases of divorce, to talk to her about that lesser-known aspect of love — the falling out of it.

 Taking time off between cases, she meets me in her office, surrounded by mountains of paper, bustling interns and paralegals. “How old are you?” she asks, peering over her thick black-rimmed glasses, which she later takes off as she settles into a chair next to me. She has been working on divorce cases longer than I have existed, we both realise.

 “In a year, we see more than 5,000 cases of divorce in Chennai alone, but if you compare it to the average population in the city, I’d say the institution of marriage is alive and kicking,” she says, dismissing the statistic that the rate of divorce in India has almost doubled in the last decade.

  “When I started working, 33 years ago, there was definitely a stigma attached to divorce but today, everyone knows someone who is divorced. In some sections of urban society, people are emancipated and divorce is not a big deal. Thirty years ago, the cases that came to us were mostly because of domestic violence. Not because other issues didn’t exist but because families were less supportive, unless the issue was as dire as abuse.

Today, the reasons for seeking divorce are even simple lifestyle issues. Many times, it’s simply about being unable to adjust to another person’s expectations. There are even those whose reasons for falling apart sound callous, like the wife who decided she couldn't stay with her husband after he allowed their child to walk barefoot on the terrace! 

 “The people coming to us are both young and old,” she says.

“Older women often wait for their children to grow up before seeking legal separation.

So we have women in their fifties and sixties coming to us, looking for a way out of various situations — usually neglect, violence, adjustment issues, sexual incompatibility or extra marital affairs. There should be zero tolerance to violence,” says Ramaseshan, going on to add, “but for the other cases, I think the legal process needs to address them with more counselling. There is a vacuum in this area,” she admits.

There is no data-wise segregation of divorce cases on the basis of gender, says Geeta, but when the woman has a degree of economic independence, she is more likely to ask for it.

There have been cases of women from the lower income groups, she recalls, who after years of supporting alcoholic, abusive husbands, have sought legal help because they were not dependent on them for a livelihood.

 In a time where relationships are open, and everything from gender to sexual preferences considered fluid, Geeta believes there is still hope for the institution of marriage.  “Social norms dictate that marriage and love should last forever, but what you realise eventually is that you can fall in or out of love, yet still care deeply for your better half,” she muses. “Marriage can change your perceptions.”  

 When asked for advice to the love-struck and lovelorn, she recommends that oft-ignored habit of reading. “People confuse three essential things — love, romance and lust. It’s easy to be blinded by the last two and assume it is love.

Love has more to do with sacrifice and adjustment than the props that accompany it. The only thing to do, I suppose, is read.”

Read about these things, so you can understand the subtleties and the differences between each, she concludes.

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Printable version | Apr 9, 2020 12:23:15 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/does-love-endure/article6891486.ece

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