I Was 23 When I Got Married, It Was A Mistake And I Didn’t Want My Daughter To Pay For It

Yusra Afshan Yusra Afshan in Single Women Bad Women on 4 March, 2017

I woke up in the middle of the night with an unshakable sense of foreboding. My tired eyes seemed okay but the darkness engulfed me from all sides. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t breathe. I could sense the shadows lunging forward to grab me. I felt cold fingers pressed against my neck. My hands banged frantically against the metal bars of the bed. I fought. I kicked. I screamed. I could not even hear the sound that escaped my throat. I had no voice. I gave up. Almost.

I felt some movement in my stiff limbs. I woke up, completely drenched in sweat. A wave of relief washed over me. "It is only a dream," I tell myself. I try to hush the incessant voices in my mind. I try to focus on the present. Unfortunately, the dream was not very different from my reality.

At the tender age of 23, I found myself in a marital bond, my eyes brimming with all the hopes and dreams that every young girl harbours. As a new bride, I worked hard to please everyone.
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Having grown up in a very liberal family, with a very supportive mother and an open-minded father, the transition into my in-laws family became an even harder struggle. Having raised three sons, my in-laws had absolutely no idea how to deal with a daughter (in law). They believed that only dictatorship could ‘tame’ a girl they took into their household. They expected me to live within the confines of the kitchen, shedding every bit of my individually which my parents had lovingly provided for me by means of an education and thoughtful upbringing. It was a chauvinistic household where women were merely expected to cook, serve and pop out children.

Overtime, it turned into an abusive relationship. I was constantly belittled, humiliated and abused verbally in the filthiest manner possible. Even the news of my pregnancy did not bring any relief to them. Somedays when I looked into the mirror, I could not even recognize myself. The reflection of a tired, hopeless woman stared back at me.

The destruction does not happen all at once. It peels you layer by layer. It breaks you into pieces, one piece at a time, and then there is nothing left of you. I mustered every bit of courage that I could find within my tired, pregnant body and held on dearly to the slightest ray of hope that I could find. The thought of my unborn baby kept me going. Expecting any support or solace from my husband seemed like a futile effort. He was often a mute spectator, watching the show from a distance. Without a job and no financial freedom, he was incapable of fending for his wife and unborn child.

My parents took care of all my medical expenses. Overtime, the only emotion I felt was resentment and despair. I tumbled into the deep well of depression and my life seemed like an endless tunnel with no light on the other end.

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Soon I delivered a healthy baby girl, who I love with all my heart. Having grown up among two loving sisters, the thought of having another girl in our midst, filled my morose heart with joy and hope. Holding the little bundle of joy in my arms, I made a promise, to myself and my baby, that I would do anything to give her the life that she deserves.

Even the birth of the angel did not soften the hardened hearts of my in-laws. The tyranny resumed almost instantly. Overtime, my post-partum body gave way. I developed several complaints due to lack of nutritious food and rest. With no money to take care of my baby, I had to take up freelance jobs to support us. I worked tirelessly and endured the never-ending humiliation for reasons unknown.

Defamation of my character came as the last straw. I knew it would be wrong to myself and to my daughter if I continued to remain in this destructive marriage. I walked out and returned to my parents' home. They accepted me with loving arms and gave me hope to move forward.

Today, over a year and a half later, I am fighting for divorce and custody of my baby. Every morning I wake up with a thankful heart and every cell in my body is brimming with relief. My decision to walk out of this disastrous marriage was strengthened by the desire to give my child a better life. I could not bear the thought of allowing her to grow up among people who cannot treat another human being with kindness and respect.

I refuse to let her grow up to become that person. I refuse to let her think that it is okay to be mistreat or belittled by another human life.
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Undoubtedly, a long journey lies ahead of me. Court battles are never easy and at times take forever to be sorted. Strangely, I feel no regret or pain. This journey from despair to hope did not happen overnight. I plunged deep into the depths of despair, but gradually, I picked myself up and put myself onto the path of recovery.

Currently, I have a full-time job and am able to provide adequately for my daughter. I don’t see myself as a failure. I see myself as a person who has gained valuable experience. Now I know better. I know what I am capable of. The thought of a failed marriage does not upset me. After all, it gave me my biggest strength and joy: my daughter. How can I regret something that gave me such a valuable gift for life? I choose to treat that phase of my life as an experience. I have become a better person now. I am stronger, braver and more equipped to tackle the obstacles that life may throw my way.

I realized that I had to be patient. I had to forgive myself for making a mistake. I had to teach myself to gently nurse my wound if I had any hope of recovering, of surviving. My failed marriage has given me a lesson for life: never let anyone bring you down. 

Never let anyone mistreat you. Never let anyone make you feel like you aren’t enough because you are enough. You have always been enough. Just that the realization of this, comes much later in life.

I strongly vouch for the education of girls. If it hadn’t been for my education, perhaps I would not have had the courage to break free from the shackles of my toxic marriage. That is why we need to equip our girls with an education that gives them a sense of worth and hope. We have to raise our girls to be strong. Stronger than our boys. We have to break free from all the cultural norms and stereotypes that restrict women from becoming independent.

We have to raise our daughters to believe that respect is far more valuable than harmful relationships. We have to let them know that society cannot define them.
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We have to let them know that we will always be there for them, no matter how life turns out. They have to know that they always have a home to come back to. At times, life may seem endless. You may not know where you are heading, but a little faith will always light up your way. Only kindness and love will save us from the horrors of life.

They say that time heals all wounds, but oftentimes the scars remain. Cherish it. Use it as a map to navigate through life. Every time you look at it, it should remind you of your bravery and beauty.
Author's Note:

To mothers of boys, my only request would be to teach them to respect their women and her dreams. To never consider her to be any less than them.

To mother of girls, teach her that it’s okay to move away from toxic people, irrespective of the nature of the relationship. Teach her to love herself, unconditionally, in all of her flawed glory. Teach her to accept her mistakes and failures and use it to move forward in life. Above all, teach her that society’s perception of her, does not define her and neither does it limit her capabilities in life. She is who she thinks she is. She is meant for greater things in life. She is meant for more, lots more.

To my little baby girl, 

The minute I heard your tiny heartbeat, I knew I would love you forever and more. The first time I held you, my heart stirred. You were so tiny and fragile, I wanted to protect you from all that is painful, dark and ugly, be it a missing toy, a scrapped knee, a nightmare or a broken heart. Every time I see you smile, I want to fill your world with all that is bright and beautiful, that would make your tiny heart leap with joy. I want to fill it with sunshine and rainbows, crayons and butterflies, hills and brooks, bedtime stories and fairytales, candies and cookies, chocolates and ice creams, happy days and smiling people, enduring friendships and heartfelt memories. May everyday of your life be filled with good health, hope, love, unfaltering faith in God and his miracles and above all utmost belief in yourself to live the life of your dreams. Because every time I look at you, everything seems just perfect with this world.

To all the women who have given up hope, it is never too late to start over again. All you have to do is try. The best is yet to come. Hold on tight, for the sun will rise again.