The year has seen many celebrity divorces and on the same count, reunions. One of the high profile ones last year was that of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver, just about six years after their much publicised breakup following the discovery of his affair with the family maid, Mildred Baena, and a resulting secret love child, Joseph. But Arnie was quite convinced that he could win his “fantastic” wife back.
It may sound crazy, even to the estranged wife with whom he has four children after a 25 year marriage, but while it comes with many challenges reuniting after divorce is probably not as uncommon as we think.
While it’s an area that is yet to be closely studied, Relationship’s Australia counsellor Mary-Jo Morgan says that couples can successfully revive relationships after a divorce, but stresses the need for professional guidance. “I think it’s considered a lot more than we realised, but it’s one of those things that people don’t talk about,” she says.
Couples that rush into a relationship for the second time may find themselves lured in by the “honeymoon phase” again. Counsellor Leonardo Talpo of leonardotalpo.com calls this the “so-called ‘romantic period’ or phase, where the couple live in ecstasy, in a bubble and most of the time in denial”. Although, this happens to couples who fall in love in the first round, it could potentially happen again when they reunite, after a separation or even a divorce. “Tendentialy, when we fall in love, we don’t want to see or we refuse to see, or even more we give a positive connotation to certain obvious negative traits/behaviours we experience in our partner; we tend to justify everything,” he says.
But for couples that have been together for a long time in the past, the desire to repair a relationship goes beyond chasing that warm and fuzzy “butterflies” feeling.
“What you have with your ex is a history and some important shared memories about a time in your life that was special, and the fact that you made that speaks to the level of intensity and commitment in that relationship,” says Mary-Jo says.
“I advocate caution around that. Those feelings are real, but you need to spend time together, and I would advocate that couples considering reuniting after divorce get counselling,” she advises.
The main need for that counselling, as relationship experts advise, is to work through the reasons for the divorce. “The main struggle is going to be the reason they split up in the first place,” Mary-Jo says. “Whatever the reason is, the likelihood of it raising its head is very strong, and if that hasn’t been dealt with it will be a real hurdle.”
Mary-Jo says that after a period of time, the biggest temptation for divorced couples will be remembering the attraction they initially had to their former partner, and a desire to reclaim that. Instead, experts suggest that couples considering reuniting should start by dating and approach it as a fresh new start.
But experts agree that’s easier said than done. Couples have to approach the second run from a fresh perspective and towards a more longtime goal. Get to know traits of the person, which were possibly the main attraction, until they got clouded by marital conflicts.
When celeb couple: singer Pink and her motocross champion husband, Carey hart reunited, they called it “rebuilding” in an interview with People magazine, adding that “sometimes you have to take a couple of steps back to move forward.” The singing star has admitted to being at a stage when she would hand her husband her wedding ring every time they had a disagreement, but admits that attending couple’s therapy and counselling has taught them the “art of communication.”
The couple reunited because like most others who do get back together, they never feel out of love with each other and are a happy family with their two children Willow and Jameson.
After the initial euphoria of a reunion dies down, it is common for couples to fall back into bad habits – the triggers that proved fatal to their relationship in the first place. So it is important for couples to be aware of situations when they slip into the so-called comfortable routine, says Leonardo. “Shake the boat and go back to fundamentals,” he says, and go back and do the things that brought you together, that made you decide to reunite in the first place. If you can find reasons why it’s worth saving, that’s half the battle won. Like in the case of actors Patrick Dempsey and Jillian Fink. Patrick has mentioned that his unwillingness to let go of what they had and that he felt that they had not explored their magic together to the fullest. It was reason enough for the couple to reunite in just a year after their separation (they called their divorce off) and make another go at their 16-year long marriage.
How will these relationships fare 10 years from now, no one knows, but for now, they are proof that some divorces are worth reconsidering, or could have been avoided. Couples who reunite not only have to match each other’s expectations in case of such reunions, but there’s also the issue of managing other people’s relationships, as friends and family tend to take sides when a couple splits. Arranging a meeting with friends and family that matter and explaining the situation and seeking their understanding is one good way to start, advise counsellors.
There will no doubt be struggles, but Mary-Jo says with support from fellow counsellors, a successful relationship is not entirely off the cards. “It’s not the easiest of paths to take, but it doesn’t mean it’s one that can’t work out,” she says.
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Additional reporting: Bauer / Photos: Instagram: @schwarzenegger, @pink, @patrickdempsey & 123RF.com