A research enthusiast who likes to dwell deep into the mysteries of the human mind, emotions, and relationships.
Divorced and Judged
I got divorced around 10 years back.
I was the first divorcee in my immediate and extended family. Needless to say, fingers were pointed at me for not trying enough.
In a conservative place like India, where divorce is treated as the end of a healthy relationship, and not a toxic one, being a divorcee can be tricky. More so if you are a woman. The entire blame for an unsuccessful relationship lies on the shoulder of a woman – maybe she didn't compromise enough, maybe she's too modern, maybe she's too outspoken. Men are seldom blamed.
I was told to compromise a lot too. One of my relatives told me, "There's not a single marriage where problems do not arise, whether physical or mental, but we do not leave our partners because of such issues." I was flabbergasted. Is this what companionship is all about? To tolerate things that can suck the soul out of you?
Things Are Slowly Changing in India
Women are becoming less tolerant. You hear old people saying smugly, "In the bygone days, marriages lasted longer." But no one cites the reason for this. Women in India were confined to their homes in the past. They were not allowed to work. This made them dependent on their spouses. Any form of abuse was tolerated because they had no other option.
Parents slowly started realizing the only way to protect their daughters was to educate them. They hoped this would enable them to stand up on their own two feet and be independent. The modern woman has thoughts of her own, will not tolerate nonsense, and is ready to leave toxic relationships. Is this a boon or a bane? You decide.
In my 10 years as a divorcee, what did I learn? How has been my life so far? Why didn't I escape from an orthodox place like India to someplace that is more open-minded towards divorcees? I hope to answer these questions on this page. I am not going to focus on what drove my marriage into divorce, rather what you can expect afterward as a divorcee in India.
Lesson 1: Society Is Least Concerned About Your Happiness
Before you give any sort of importance to what society says, let it be known that society does not care much about you. This "society" includes, unfortunately, many of our relatives and friends. You are on your own here. It does not matter if you are going through any physical or emotional abuse in your relationship, society's prime goal is to stop you from leaving a toxic relationship. You might give in after listening to a relative's or friend's advice. That is fine, but are you really sure this is the best step for you?
Lesson 2: People Will Gossip but Ignoring Is Key
People will gossip. Society is naturally attracted to juicy stories. What is more gossip-friendly than a marriage breaking? People around you may appear all concerned while asking you for details. But the truth is, they are just looking for things to blame or judge you. You might share your version of the story sincerely, but in their mind, you are the culprit. As far as possible, avoid sharing your story with anyone except your closest ones who are genuinely concerned about you. Ignoring is key. It is important to understand that anyone gossiping about your life story and finding joy in doing so is the one who is broken. Wish them well, ignore and move on.
Lesson 3: You Need to Stand Up for Yourself
I see many divorcees running away from India saying it is impossible to live here. Well, I am still here. I am living a happy life. The truth is, happiness does not come easy. You have to fight for your happiness. When people take it upon themselves to belittle you, push back. Make your displeasure known. If they find that you are someone who will tolerate taunts in silence, it can only increase. I do not get taunted nowadays because the ones around me know I will speak out and voice my opinions. An opinion is not equivalent to passing judgment. Do not confuse the two. Giving your opinion means voicing your thoughts openly, unabashedly. Even when I say this, I am giving an opinion. Do not stifle your opinions when someone is rude. Some people need to be taught what to say and what not to.
Lesson 4: At First It Hurts..
Divorce isn't peaceful. It is said that after the death of a loved one, divorce is the second most physically and emotionally stressful event in a person's life. You will go through all 7 stages of grief – shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, reflection, and acceptance. I felt very guilty about going through something that none in my family had to before. I hid from relatives, friends to avoid answering questions.
The one thing that helped me through this entire process was asking myself, "Would I have been happy if I continued living with the person I am despairing about?" Each time it has been a "No." Each time it strengthened my belief that the relationship wasn't meant to be. Instead of thinking about others and how they feel about you getting a divorce, it is vital to think about what you feel about the situation. Others are not going to live your life for you.
Another thing that helped was reading the posts and blogs of people who were going through the same phase in life.
Once you get through this phase, you will be amazed at your increasing confidence and the surety you have about yourself and your beliefs.
Lesson 5: People Will Incessantly Ask You to Remarry
After you are in a good zone, society will start asking you their favorite question again – "When are you going to marry?" Personally, this was a very irritating phase in my life. But then, I followed my Lesson No 3 – that to retort when someone is getting too annoying. They would tell me the benefits of marriage, I would respond with the demerits of marriage. This annoyed them as well and they eventually stopped.
Lesson 6: Leaving India Was Not An Option or Solution
I like India. I want to stay here, so why should I run away because of a few people who are judgmental? Running away from my problems is not a solution. I want to be close to my family and friends. I want to enjoy every festival out there in my homeland. I could have left India, but then eventually I would have had to face the same issues when I came back. So I decided I would fight it out and claim my space, the way I want it to be.
How Is My Life Now as a Divorcee in India?
I have not experienced this kind of freedom before.
After the hurdles, I am now in a state of peace. No one lectures me. My parents seem to realize my happiness is of utmost importance. They have left it to me whether I want to get married again or not. Relatives do not ask any unnecessary questions. I have trained them well.
I have all the time in the world to pursue my interests. And I wonder, why isn't this a thing in India?
I am sure no Indian woman who's single and who's never been married would get to experience this type of freedom. She might get advised countless times to get married. But with me, I have already tried it and did not like it. When I tell them marriage is not for me, they believe me, because hey, I have a divorce to prove it!
Jokes apart, I am not against marriage. But I do think everyone should get the freedom to live the life they want.
It is high time society realizes that not every Indian woman's ultimate goal is marriage.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Kalpana Iyer