“Those who have gone through divorce know the pain and special challenges of raising a child under such circumstances.” ~Mike Macgavick
My divorce hit me hard, it sure did. It is after all a life-changing event in more ways than one can imagine. But what hit me harder was the way our society is conditioned to perceive divorce. People have strange ways of reacting and looking at divorcees, especially divorced women.
We divorced women have a lot on our plate, we can surely do without more stressors. As we deal with our situation and with our difficult feelings, these are some of the things we would like to tell people:
- We are not victims: Whether we have chosen to end our marriage or our spouse has, we do not want to be seen as victims. Life is not meant to be fair and everyone has their share of challenges. Just like any other relationship, a marriage too can end for several reasons. Do not stare at us with pitiful eyes or call us ‘poor her’. We do not ask for sympathy.
- Do not gossip: Divorce tends to become a topic of juicy gossip in our society, be it in private gatherings or social functions. Both husband and wife are analysed and people love to indulge in finding faults. Do recognise that divorce is agonising for the families concerned. We have too many perplexing emotions to deal with, we do not require any mud slinging. Kindly do not add more negative energy into the situation.
- Divorce is not a sign of weakness: On the contrary divorced women are strong enough to recognise that staying in a bad marriage can be hazardous – for us as well as our kids. We would have put up with a lot of trauma and suffering before our separation. It would probably have been the hardest choice to arrive at the inevitable decision. But going through the painful process of divorce and its aftermath only makes us more resilient than one can fathom.
- Do not judge us: The society tends to put the onus usually on the women to save a marriage. It is assumed that the wife has to work harder to adjust and make the husband and in-laws happy. Yes, marriages are sacred for us and we would have mightily strived to save it. We do not marry to get divorced especially when we have children. But do not think of men as a superior sex who can be excused for their misogyny. Shake out of the long imbibed patriarchal conditioning. Stop expecting us to bend over backwards all the time. Our husbands are not our Gods.
You alone cannot save your marriage
- We don’t necessarily have to remarry: Marriage is not the be all and end all for a woman. Break free from old thinking that a woman cannot remain single forever. Or that she needs someone to support her. Whether we choose to date anyone or live in with someone or decide to remain single or even remarry, it is completely our choice. If we have male friends, do not jump to conclusions or malign our character. Our relationships are our choice and we do not seek outside advice.
- Spare our kids: Kids from a divorced family go through too much stress. Do not label them or make their parents’ divorce their identity. They don’t need to hear any insensitive chatter or blather from others. Nor do they need to hear any bad-mouthing of either of their parents. It is not their fault, they have absolutely no control over the situation. So please do not ask them anything that is difficult or embarrassing to answer.
How children see their family
- We have our own identity: Our identity does not stem from being someone’s wife or daughter-in-law only. We are complete in our own ways. Just ‘cos we are single also does not make us easy prey for men to flirt with. We are okay to go out alone be it the movies or dining or shopping. We do not always need a shoulder to lean on. Being alone does not necessarily mean being lonely.
What we really need is for people to be sensitive. To understand and to give us our space and privacy. We need time to rediscover ourselves, renew our confidence and our self-esteem. What the society can do is to let us be and not decide for us. What we truly want is to heal from the trauma and build our lives back together.
Image courtesy: Pexels
“Some of us think holding on makes us strong, but sometimes it is letting go.” ~ Hermaan Hesse
What you see in these images is a small cliff and me jumping into the water. What you do not see here is what preceded this jump!
The adventurous side of me decided to do something I had never done before – cliff jumping in the cold waters of Rishikesh. With all enthusiasm I climbed up to the top of the cliff with friends who had done it earlier and swore by the fun. “Its an experience you must have!” they had said. It was only once I reached up and looked down at the water that all my gusto was taken over by nervousness. Was I insane – how could I possibly jump from this height! I wanted to turn back and go down the hill but it was too late. Scores of people had queued up behind me to take their turn, patiently waiting for me to jump in. And I simply couldn’t let go! I was scared and landed up creating a scene for about 10 minutes, when normally people take only seconds to jump in. Until finally I couldn’t do it on my own and had to ask the person behind me to push me!
But that’s me. I have always had difficulties in letting go or have a strong habit of holding on – whichever way you look at. How I treasure my precious collectibles for years – the books that I loved reading and revisiting; my innumerable photo albums, both in print and digital; cannot let go of my favourite outfits until they are shamefully tattered; holding on to the colourful stationery and art supplies from college days; saving those heartfelt letters and cards from childhood days. Speaking of which, it was hard to even let go of the cards from my ex, despite all the bitterness post divorce.
How then was I supposed to leave my marital home, whose every nook and corner I had tendered to (the Bollywood fan in me was reminded of the scene from the Hindi movie ‘Astitva’ when actress Tabu was hugging the floor of her home for the last time before she was leaving her husband). Familiarity brings comfort and I wanted to hold on to my comfort zone. The people associated with me in the neighbourhood – the librarian, the girls in the salon next door, and the smiling lady at the grocers. My favourite walking parks by the sea and the shops down the road that I frequented. My yoga class in the vicinity, my friends, and all that I was attached to.
How was I supposed to let go of everything that was built with so much love, dedication and trust in marriage. Of a bond whose foundation began with vows around the sacred fire. How could I let go of all those memories built over days and months and years!
Life surely has its ways that are sometimes beyond our comprehension. When it gets you to the point where its best to leave behind everything and move on, then you gotta let go. Even if it means being pushed into letting go!
“Marriage is not a noun, it’s a verb; it isn’t something you get, its something you do; its the way you love your partner everyday.” ~Barbara De Angelis
Our well-meaning elders teach us Indian girls that marriage is sacred. We are taught right from the time we enter teens that no matter what you study and whether you pursue your career or not, it is important to marry a ‘right’ man at the ‘right’ age. The seeds of conditioning are planted early on that women have to adjust in a marriage in their new home with the husband, in-laws, extended family, friends, servants, all their whims and fancies. We grow up perceiving marriage as a be-all institution that is meant to be kept standing tall on our little shoulders. Its sanctity has to be preserved and the onus mainly lies on the female spouse. Thus becomes our mission to hold upright the nuptial vows in all sacrosanct.
But what happens when the fairy tale beginning meets a grim ending, and down comes the holy marital establishment?
The woman takes it upon herself to swim against the tide and bring along the family safely to the shore. She gives it all that she has in making the marriage work, even if it means bending backwards. Even if it means for her to lose certain amount of self-respect and face the brunt. Even though she is not at fault, she drowns in a pool of guilt and self-doubt. Surely there must be something wrong with her to land up in the dismal situation. She holds on to hope akin to holding on to a rock in the floods. After all, the years she has spent on building this edifice of love with her dedication and enthusiasm, she will not let it fall. Surely not when there are children born out of the wedlock. So she keeps giving and giving until she loses herself in the process and has nothing more left to give.
On recognising that my marriage was crumbling, I opted to seek professional help and started seeing a marriage counsellor – albeit, alone. After several hours of conversations and my relentless efforts of saving a dying marriage, it finally took the counsellor’s advice to bring things into perspective. Amidst one emotional session of sharing and pouring my heart out, she told me blatantly, “You alone cannot save your marriage!” That did it. The fog was lifted. The truth was out there in the open. Plain and as a matter-of-fact for me to see and absorb. I was the only one interested in making it work. My ex was not up for any form of communication to resolve our issues. There seemed no hope for reconciliation. He had drifted…that was the last straw…yes, it seemed to be over….
It takes two people to get married, but does it take one or both to get divorced…….?