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One of the most famous love triangles in the annals of celebrity history is that of rockstars George Harrison and Eric Clapton and the woman they were both married to at some point in their lives: British model Pattie Boyd, who inspired both musicians to write a few of their best songs (Something by Harrison and Layla and Wonderful Tonight by Clapton). Boyd, who was first married to Harrison, married Clapton in 1979. Not only did Harrison play at their wedding party (in what became a famous almost-reunion of the Beatles;John Lennon didn't attend), the two men remained friends too, jokingly calling each other husbands-in-law.
While that kind of camaraderie may be too much to hope for, it is not unusual to hear of couples who have managed to put the hurt and resentment behind them and stay on cordial terms. They may not be spending weekends together in Thailand, but some exes do enjoy the occasional cup of coffee together, go shopping for the kids or even give relationship advice to the ex.
Anita Gracias, a Bangalore-based counselor with the Sahai helpline, recalls one such couple: "The ex-wife was initially bitter and refused to talk to her ex-husband or his new wife, whom he had left her for, but she slowly reconciled to the fact that her daughter needed her father. Also, and I know this sounds terrible, her ex-husband left his second wife too and married a third time. By that time she had accepted him, warts and all, and was actually friendly with him and his third wife. " In fact, says Gracias, she stood by the couple when her ex was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
A crisis often brings an estranged couple together. For 36-year-old Shahana Roychowdhury, her father's illness and subsequent death, during which her exhusband rallied around, providing emotional and logistical support and taking care of their seven-yearold daughter, proved to be the point at which she let go of resentments and accepted her ex-husband as part of their lives. "I wouldn't say we are great friends now or that I've completely forgiven him for cheating on me, but we are calmer in each other's company today and can actually have a conversation about things other than our personal lives... about books, films, music, " says Rowchowdhury.
Typically, the years immediately following a divorce are fraught with tension, says Gracias. But as the two aggrieved parties get some emotional distance, they tend to become objective about the problems in the marriage and are more likely to accept responsibility for their own mistakes. Ashok Rangarajan, 37, who has been separated from his wife for almost four years though their formal divorce is yet to come through, feels time and distance have definitely helped in mellowing his wife's anger towards him. This has allowed the two to share a better relationship today - as least as far as their 10-year-old son is concerned. "It took time for us to get here. Initially my wife had taken a restraining order against me and I wasn't even allowed to meet my son, " says Rangarajan. "I believe the fact that I stayed strong and firm while remaining fair and fighting clean helped. I willingly shared the money from selling joint assets and walked away from many fights, and I think this made my wife realise that while I was no pushover, I wasn't an outright villain either. "
Rangarajan is a deeply religious person who believes in the power of rituals - his wife and he recently came together to mark their son's upanayanam or thread ceremony despite potential awkwardness - and says he often wishes there was a ritual for divorce, a sanctified process that would signify an ending and bring closure.
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