There are usually good reasons for couples not to sue for divorce. These include consideration towards their children, the fact that marriage has become a habit (psychologists call it the I’ve-grown-accustomed-to-her-face syndrome), or the feeling that alternatives are just too frightening. No one really wants to apply for a vacant position elsewhere.
What is, however, seldom discussed is the effect of divorce on friends. It is not just children who are traumatised.
And the effect is multiplied when the lady involved is a dear friend of the wife while the man is your buddy from schooldays.
"People have started avoiding me," my friend said, following his divorce, "it is as if I have a disease they don’t want to catch." For a while he contemplated wearing a T-shirt with: I am divorced, but I am safe.
His ex-wife, also a good friend (and a classmate of my wife’s from school) had a similar experience. "No one invites me to parties any more in case my ex-husband is offended."
A divorce is never a single person’s fault (unless that person is revealed to be a serial killer or child poisoner), but that doesn’t stop either my wife or me from arguing about it. Let’s call my friend David (mainly because that’s his name) and his ex-wife Anita (not her name, but it heightens the mystery).
"It was all David’s fault," I will say authoritatively, only for my wife to respond – equally authoritatively, "It was all Anita’s fault." Here we arrive at what the French (and now the English too) call an impasse. And that’s what I mean about divorce affecting the friends of the couple. Had, let’s say, Lindsay Lohan split up with her boyfriend, we wouldn’t have bothered.
So here we are, my wife and I, holding on to our positions, fighting on a daily basis, refusing to see the other’s person’s point of view. It has turned into a "my friend versus your friend" drama that could provide material for a television series (remember, you read it here first).
What is irritating is that David and Anita have remained friends despite the divorce (or maybe because of it) while their act is threatening to split the peace and harmony in our home. And, I learnt, in the homes of many of their other friends too who argue just like we do. For the unwritten rule is: When friends break up, you have to take sides. But this is stressful, taxing, nerve-wracking.
What we need is a sort of witness protection programme for the divorced couple. Change their names, give them a new history, and ensure that friends are not told about the divorce. We can’t take it.
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