Book review: Roadmap to Managing Divorce gives an emotional blueprint for new beginnings

The book, authored by Dr Suchitra, acknowledges how complicated divorce or separation can be, while reminding the reader to be kind to themselves.
Roadmap to Managing Divorce book
Roadmap to Managing Divorce book
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“No one has a marriage exactly like yours. Therefore, no one will have a divorce exactly like yours. Despite (sic), there are some common paths that we must all walk … ,” Dr Suchitra writes in the author's note of her book Roadmap to Managing Divorce. A guide for women going through a separation or divorce, the book is divided into daily rituals spanning over six weeks, with the end goal of negotiating the divorce/separation from a position of courage, power, and grace. It attempts to facilitate emotional balance, objectivity, and healing, throughout the journey.

Dr Suchitra is a practising gynaecologist with rich experience in women’s health and reproductive rights. She is also a certified Conscious Uncoupling Coach, trained by author and licensed marriage therapist Katherine Woodward Thomas. In the book spanning 276 pages, she takes the reader through the personal experiences of the women she has interacted with over the last two decades of her practice, both as a gynaecologist and an activist. 

Though not meant to replace legal or medical intervention, Roadmap to Managing Divorce tries to find commonalities in the lived experiences of women within marriages and unpacks the hurdles they face when they decide to get a divorce. “The focus [of the book] is mainly on women and divorce because even if some men might be oppressed, they still have the male privilege and more power. It is always the women who suffer more in our social and cultural context,” she elaborates in her author’s note.

The book attempts to address divorce with all its routine complexities. It does not sugarcoat separation or grief, but offers pointers on coping in the form of anecdotes, quotes from literature and philosophy, as well as tips from practical experience. In a particular chapter, the book mentions: "Keep in mind that a peaceful divorce is not the same thing as a happy divorce. Most people have mixed feelings - loss, relief, fear, sadness, anger. And these feelings don’t disappear the day you finalise the paperwork."

Citing instances such as not celebrating the first wedding anniversary together or the ex-spouse moving onto a new relationship as examples, the book points out that there are many things that can trigger waves of unsettling emotions. It urges the reader to be kind to themselves and allow feelings to pour, but also cautions against drowning in them for too long.

Memories from even the most difficult marriages may invoke pockets of tenderness in a person, even after they have decided to separate. The book acknowledges such nuances while reminding the individual that they must move ahead through learning to be ‘emotionally divorced’. “Divorce isn’t the tragedy. The tragedy is staying in an unhappy marriage and teaching children the wrong things about love,” the book says.

Considering that divorce is a very complicated life choice to make for individuals, especially women, and even more so for those in India, the book tries to speak about staying in control of the divorce narrative. Though ideas like maintaining a journal or tracking sleep patterns may all seem trite or even make one skeptical about outcomes, the book gently insists on them, assuring that small changes in routine can help in the long run, when followed consistently. “Every small step you take will help you move away from this,” the book says. 

Dr Suchitra also draws from her medical practice and fills most chapters with explanations on how hormones, health conditions, and mental health are crucial factors to be considered as one tries to process their emotions about a divorce. “Your reason may not be something that others can understand, but that does not mean that your reason is any less worthy or legitimate … ,” the book affirms.

It highlights how to build a safe space by sticking to friends, family, and others who will prioritise the person’s safety and maintain confidentiality. Roadmap to Managing Divorce tries to inform not just the ones going through a separation, but also the people around them, by explaining concepts like gaslighting, internalisation of abuse, and emotional dependency. To help separate emotions from objective questions like managing money after the divorce, the book lays down a checklist of future expenses and possible ways to finance them, so that life after separation can be sustainable. 

Toward the end, the book has five annexures – while some are explanatory briefs on the relevant laws on marriage, divorce, and domestic violence in India, the others include a list of documents required while filing for a divorce, ways to safeguard children from domestic violence, book recommendations, and emergency helpline numbers.

Explaining how draining divorce can be, the book says that we as human beings, source comfort, safety, and identity from our relationships. This is why a divorce ranks high among the most traumatic events in our lives. “You need to mourn it. … Every step in this book may not apply exactly to your situation. … But take action every single day, no matter how small, because there is power in doing so …,” the book suggests.

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