Mrunalini Deshmukh, Mumbai’s top divorce lawyer, lists out what it takes to keep a marriage out of divorce courts
Only one per cent of couples who come for a divorce, actually reconcile, observes Mrunalini Deshmukh, Mumbai’s leading matrimonial lawyer. “Simply because they come to me after exhausting all options – counselling, working on their marriage, giving space, etc,” she says. Mrunalini has handled some of the city’s most highprofile divorces, which has given her an insight into what really makes a marriage work.
“A couple approached me once and I thought they had come for a divorce, like all others,” she says. “But they were thinking of getting married and decided that I’d be the best person to tell them what the red signals are in a relationship that they should heed,” says Mrunalini as she begins…
Think true love is all it takes to make a marriage successful? Far from it, feels Mrunalini. The time-tested edifice of marriage – trust, understanding and respect come first. Love ranks way down the pecking order – “it grows unheeded as long as you have these three things,” she says.
TRUST IS MOST IMPORTANT
Trust is not just the ‘he/she won’t cheat on me kind’. “Believe that your spouse has your best interests at heart,” says Mrunalini. “Especially, when you fight and say things that you don’t mean.” Extend trust to the families and be certain that your spouse wishes them well.
Understanding breeds companionship and love and equips you to handle each other’s behaviour even during difficult times. “Things such as giving each other space, communication, taking time out for oneself or one’s friends, etc, all stem from understanding.”
Respect can’t be a power game. “Command, don’t demand respect,” says the advocate who’s been happily married for 30 years. Extend it to each other’s family, job, time, friends and feelings. Remember: there are no demands, only requests – be it on time, favours or sex. “Once there is a demand and one spouse gives in,” says Mrunalini, “it forms a power equation.”
WORK YOUR EGO
There is no place for ego in a happy marriage. And it’s not as difficult to shed yours, if you have basic trust.
SHARE THE RESPONSIBILITIES
Sharing household responsibilities makes the marriage stronger. “If both spouses are earning,” says Mrunalini, “they should contribute in proportion to their incomes. It’s not fair to expect the husband to take care of all expenses just because he earns more.” Finances are often a point of contention, and it’s best if couples manage investments and money separately, while pooling in for joint expenses. “Each spouse must be responsible of their expenses to balance the power equation.”
“Partnership is all about ‘us’ and less of ‘me’, says Mrunalini. “The more you think of yourself as a unit, the more you act like one.”
Love alone can’t see you through a relationship. “I’ve seen couples who have had a love marriage, scream and abuse each other. Where has the love gone? Love must be nurtured with trust and understanding else it evaporates,” says Mrunalini. “Love also builds false expectations when it starts with romantic love. Couples in arranged marriages, on the other hand, learn to love each other with growing trust and understanding.” Love also changes with age.
An important component, even when things go wrong. It’s important to bring back physical intimacy, if a couple has lost it. Sex dissipates tension, releases negativity and brings the couple together. They may solve their problems better after coming close physically.
STAYING IN A JOINT FAMILY
Staying in a joint family is very conducive to a happy marriage. “When living alone, a couple may get selfish and say whatever they want to release their anger,” she says. “An elder gives you perspective – to say, ‘Hey, why are you fighting about something so small’ or point out how it affects your children. The wisdom and maturity is always a bonus.”
Also, never have children to save your marriage or stay together for them, says Mrunalini. “Stay together because you want to. A child needs stability and you can give him or her that even by divorcing. Sometimes that’s healthier for the child rather than seeing parents fight bitterly,” she says.