Going through a divorce made me a better person. It made me a better, practical parent too. It taught me what really was important to me in life through perspective – appreciating what is still left and what relationships actually meant to me. It however took me a while to come out of my shell. Fear of being judged, a big hit on my self-esteem when I lost most of my Indian friends, and finding my new identity of being a newly single divorced Indian mom were just some of the things that kept running through my head constantly. I was married for 7 long years after all.
The time had come when I had to update my health insurance at work by checking the ‘change in life event status’ box – and tears were just dripping away through my eyes uncontrollably. But of course I had to hide them in public, I did not want anybody to know what I was going through – I had to show I am strong, I can do this, I got this.
To date I have never understood why I have to select ‘marital status’ box every time I went to the doctor’s office – I have my own insurance, then why in the world do they care about my marital status? Why does my status matter so much?
Despite all that, I repeat – divorce made me a better and a stronger person. I somehow started to find happiness slowly in ‘things’, experiences and in people I never knew existed. It made realize a lot of it was simply in my head. Not everyone judges you as much as you judge yourself. I started meeting new people, signed up for every interesting class and tried to pursue every hobby that I thought could be fun, went running/hiking with new groups, joined a gym and pretty much did everything I could think of to keep myself busy and distracted. I started to be more independent and in control of my decisions. Not that I was not an independent person earlier, I very much was – financially, and otherwise plus also spoke my mind out often explicitly as well. But the problem was – I was and still am a little traditional in my thinking.
Let me explain what that means from an Indian cultural perspective. I valued and cared for my husband deeply. Come what may, we are in this together, is how I saw it. I had an arranged marriage at a very young age. I met my ex once before we got engaged, spoke online for 4 months and then got married. Weddings are always a huge affair in India. The slokas a priest repeats during the ceremony – “Mangalyam Thanthunanena mama jeevana hethuna Kante badhnami subhake sanjeeva sarathas satham” meaning – “This is a sacred thread which helps in keeping me alive. I am placing this around your neck so that you can live happily for a hundred years” had a deep meaning in my traditional head, just like wedding vows do mean something in a non-Indian marriage – the promise of togetherness for eternity, the happily ever after, until death do us apart kind.
There were many times during the course of my marriage I realized – I am not actually happy. I had a good job, a house, a yard, plenty of friends, but there was still something missing. I never realized how much I was giving in without getting what I wanted back –which is respect and trust. I started realizing, in reality – Love is never unconditional. There is always an expectation – to receive something back. There is a simple saying I read once that goes along these lines – “Never lie to someone who trusts you, and never trust someone who lies to you”. Being able to trust someone that much is an expectation. It cannot be unconditional. Marriage, they say, is a promise made to each other where you both start out with an empty ‘box’. The more you give, the more you get. Applies to both people equally. And if this isn’t happening, something is wrong. And in my case, I got to realize this only after having my child.
Coming from the eastern society – divorce is not common especially after having a kid. I know no one in my immediate or extended family who went through a divorce. It just doesn’t happen as much. It’s almost like news, where you hear about ‘cases’ here and there. Women are meant to stay and make things work regardless of what they go through.
I had some of my friends tell me to my face – ‘you have to adjust for the sake of your child. Life is not great post-divorce either and unfortunately a woman really doesn’t have great chances to get remarried since most Indian men aren’t that broad minded even today. There is no one out there who will accept you with a child’.
I do have some cousins who are still living in situations where nonsensical patriarchy is very much an everyday thing. Along with finding your own identity if you do decide to go through the divorce route, most Indian women also deal with backlash from their own community and relatives.
There was also a point during that time when I started to question faith and my religious upbringing and if it had any meaning. Divorce was never part of my plan. Our parents had even got our horoscopes matched. We were a perfect match! This was never supposed to happen. Get married young, have kids by 30, own a house, a good job – everything was supposed to be perfect. To help myself find answers, I started going to churches, started reading about Buddhism, started writing and reading a LOT, maintained a journal, spoke to many women who went through similar experiences and started networking hugely. What helped me get through my divorce was talking with other like-minded women, meeting more single parents, getting out of my shell and making friends who were not judgmental and who took the time from their lives to listen, help and simply be there for me. I also owe a lot to my parents and family who stood rock solid by me whenever I needed them for advice or to simply be there to help with my daily tasks. And it’s because of the friends I started making and my family – I still believe in angels and God’s mysterious ways of making things work for us when you least expect it.
A friend of mine told me once, “You are like a pendulum with your mood swings many days”. I was taken aback for quite some time and it sure hit me hard. It however made me realize that I am a human with feelings and there are days when I still very much yearn for a complete family – more kids running around and a full house.
Wedding vows still have an important meaning in my life. And I still believe that my Prince Charming will show up one day. Only that, my version of Prince Charming is now different from what it was when I was in my 20’s. To my son and if tomorrow, I have a girl – I know that I will try and teach them to believe in themselves and be confident from the beginning. It’s okay to make mistakes as well.
To my girl – believe that your Prince Charming does exist, and even dream about him – but take it from me, he is not supposed to only be tall, dark and handsome, there is so much more to a person than that. Never let a boy treat you bad and never wait for someone to rescue you. Don’t be afraid to walk away from something that doesn’t feel right.
And to my boy – Be that sensitive man growing up. Always treat a woman with respect and love. And whether my dreams will come true, only time can tell. I however sincerely hope this new chapter in my life – is not far away!