Does history have to repeat itself?

There was a time when you got married and walked into an orange sunset. Today you’d have to get his attention away from the neon signs that line the beach.

The peril of marriage is you want it to be forever, but sometimes, “I do” becomes the “I don’t”, and you part with pain, relief and sometimes, with a wistful ‘what could’ve been’.

In this world of Mars missions, Page Three lifestyles, 92 channels to surf, and the all the pressures they bring, marriages, unlike your grandmother’s, don’t necessarily work out, and that’s putting it politely. And sometimes you marry again. For various reasons…you don’t see eye to eye, you simply grow in different directions or your in-laws come to stay.

So everybody to everybody – J Lo, Julia Roberts, Madonna, Kabir Bedi, Alyque Padamsee included, has married again. But the question is not “Hey, so I married again,” but “Hell, did I marry the same woman?”

For most it’s a theory that fits in the same place on the Scary Scale as Commitment. And it gave enough people enough jitters to say “Er, no comment.” But let’s face it, the hypothesis exists. Many times, a man or woman marrying again, tends to choose a spouse who is in most ways a clone of the first. Now, though outwardly, Spouse Two may seem to be the very antithesis of Spouse 1, it turns out that he/she shares the same core values as the first spouse.

In the mission to poke and prod at the truth we checked with a few braves who took that second chance.

“I would say we do tend to choose the same kind of person. We’re human, it’s in our nature to make the same mistakes over and over.” CP Surendran, Editor, Bombay Times, laughs self deprecatingly.

When I point out that if we have that awareness, we shouldn’t be making the mistake, he tells me, “Yes, but growing is hard. We protect ourselves, against experiences that will teach us. We know the world demands a certain kind of response from us. It’s comfortable to provide a typecast response.”

On a hopeful note he adds, “But it doesn’t have to be this way. When we grow, we react differently to the same person. A nuance that once seemed petty to me, I now understand. I wouldn’t compare my spouses, because my lifestyle has changed, the world in which I live in has changed, my perspective has changed. Finally, it all depends on an individual’s own evolution.”

Yatin (name changed), argued “To a certain extent yes, we choose the same person, but then don’t any two individuals have similarities?”

Dolly Thakore, tells me, “Both the men in my life were similar. Both believed in the same things -liberality, globalization, were interested in art and literature. Both were bright, intelligent achievers, one a lawyer, the other in advertising and theatre. The drive, the stimulation appealed to me.” She chuckles as she remembers that both have gone for younger women, and married thrice.

“In my first relationship we were both immature. My second husband, however, was 15 years my senior and so was a lot kinder, mellower. But once the bloom is off the rose, then the bloom is off the rose.”

“Yes, I’d choose a person with the same mental make up again. The emotional gaps? They’ll always be there. You have to fill those gaps yourself.”

Daniel SR, Lecturer, Tata Institute of Social Sciences directs me to look at the pattern we follow in choosing a partner, to the Systemic Thought that explains Complimentary and Symmetrical couples. What you and me know as ‘the Opposites that Attract’ and ‘Think Alike Soul mates’.

People who tend to marry early tend to form complementary couples for the developmental need to complete themselves. Fusing their own quirks, sensibilities to a relationship, learning from and teaching the other. For example, Ms. Social Butterfly would gravitate to Mr. Reclusive author. If these people uncouple, ahem, divorce, they usually form a symmetrical relationship next, in which their basic nature is reconfirmed. They go back to wanting to love and be loved by someone like themselves.

Symmetrical couples tend to be unstable and usually break up, not coupling for a period during which they learn to think of themselves as self-sufficient.

Only when people choose partners solely for their appreciation of who the other person is, rather than a developmental need that’s when a harmonious lasting relationship can be formed.

Classic case: Mira (name changed), artist who married young. Sanjay, her first husband, was a dude, attractive, advertising exec, life of the party, but an emotional amoeba. Ranjit, spouse two is a podgy, soft-spoken, software professional who prefers the company of close friends at a quiet dinner, and yes, cuddles her in public.

“Since we’re so lonely, the first reaction is to immediately look for another person to fill the space. In the gap between the marriages I did a lot of growing up. I realized that looks and “being seen” weren’t important to me anymore. It was my low self- esteem that had made me pick a man who made up for my own lack of confidence,” she says.

Her experience brings up another corollary. That the person we choose is in some way a reflection of our self, and where we are on the growth curve. Chart Madonna’s journey of self that took her from a then violent Sean Penn to calm as a clam Guy Ritchie and you’ll see the point. By evolving, she chose a radically different man.

The suppositions keep flowing in. There’s another one that says that you are wired to choose someone like your mother or your father.

Mostly we got an erudite “What crap?” to that one. “Well, in some ways,” some agreed.

So then, are we doomed to making the same choice by genetics? Course not, the gurus murmur. Like our dress codes,(ha, would it be so simple) we can un-learn our values. 32 is a good time to be 32 (or 26 or 57) and take onus for changing our ideas. Mind you, takes a bit of introspection and hard work. But then as you already know, the ‘happily ever afters’ belong only in fairy tales ma cherie. Now, Liz Taylor of 6 husbands and one Larry Fortensky? Well, that would take a whole different article on therapy.


(Published in Guy Thing (A Times Group mag)

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