Divorce! What is your first reaction to this word? What image does this word bring to your mind? Whenever I hear this word, my mind instantly takes a turn towards the negative side. Words like ugly, hurtful, bad start playing a tune in my head. But is the word divorce really that negative or is it just us, the way we are brought up?
I somehow always relate the word divorce to divide, which I believed to be its origin but I couldnt have been more wrong. Divorce comes from a Latin word divertere, which means to divert. As surprising as it seems, I believe it is totally appropriate. Divorce doesnt divide you as a person. It diverts you from that marriage you put your heart and soul into, from that life you thought would always be yours and before you know it, you have to start all over again. Everything you know is suddenly no longer true. What could be scarier than having to start all over again after giving up half your life to something that exists no more?
Tania, a woman who like so many others poured her heart and soul into making her marriage work, found herself starting all over again. In her forties, she now neither had the will nor the wish to do it again except for her child whom she now made the purpose of her existence.
I was that bubbly cheerful bride, who wouldnt stop smiling on her wedding day because I was beyond ecstatic to be marrying the guy of my dreams. My husband, Khalid, was idealistic in every way. He was handsome, charming, and polite. In other words, every girls dream. I felt so lucky and my parents were on cloud nine. My mother couldnt stop thanking God to have sent such a great guy her daughters way. But little did I know that my clouds of happiness would soon turn into dark clouds of gloom.
The first few months of marriage were picture perfect. Each beautiful day promised endless bliss. In those joyful moments I forgot that life could change colors in wink of an eye. After the first few happy months, my too good to be true marriage started to fade. Khalid slowly started to ignore me and when I complained, he brushed my fears aside saying it was just my imagination. Slowly his family, who would till then dot on me, started to abuse me. First it was about my simple looks, then my capabilities of doing chores and with time the list just kept getting longer and longer. It felt like life was turning back on me and I was so confused by the turn of events that I didnt know what to do. My mom, whom I confided in, told me I was probably over thinking having always suffered from an active imagination. Marriage is never a smooth journey my child, she said. Following her suggestion, I doubled my efforts to make my marriage work. In my desperation to make things right, I completely ignored all the warning flags that kept popping up. I should have known that the first time he hit me wouldnt be the last, like he promised me. By the time I was pregnant with our first child, Khalid was barely talking to me, let alone accompanying me to the hospital. I delivered our child all alone in the hospital with only my parents by my side. After staying with my parents for 2 months, I returned home thinking things might change now that I was the mother of the son he and his family adored. But I couldnt have been more wrong. The abuse only got worse. Khalid would hit me for no reason at all and his family, they might as well have been blind. The cycle of abuse continued but I stayed put bearing all just to be able to give my son a perfect family.
Ending my marriage never even occurred to me because I had always been taught that marriages were for a lifetime. But my belief that time might change things was crumbling with each passing day. It got to the point where staying became impossible but leaving became even more difficult. I didnt want to break anything or anyone. I just wanted to leave quietly and run till the nightmares of daily abuse could no longer catch me. One night things got so out of control that I had to call my father, who found me lying bleeding on the steps outside my in laws house. That day my father decided that I had suffered enough. The next morning, after I had recovered a bit, he sat me down and told me it was time I got a divorce. It was the hardest decision I had ever made. I was scared, depressed, hurt but in a small way also relieved for a divorce would mean no more abuse. Even then, there were a lot more things to consider like getting my sons custody and facing the unknown all alone.
The thought of starting again was so scary that I even considered not ending my abusive marriage. When my father called Khalid for the divorce, he was beyond himself and so full of rage that had I been anywhere near him, I wouldnt have lived to see another day. He only agreed to the divorce and giving me our sons custody after being threatened that if he resisted, he would be charged with a case of domestic violence which my father had not already filed on my insistence. After the divorce, I felt relieved thinking my troubles had ended. But it was far from being true. I now had to battle the society which practically made it impossible for me to live. Everywhere I went, be it the market or a relatives house, whispers would follow me. People just assumed that I was the one at fault because no respected women would end her marriage. My parents also had to suffer. People looked at them with disgust for supporting their supposedly bad charactered daughter. I would often hear my mother crying in the night. Even my little son wasnt spared. My son, who already held me responsible for the divorce, now hated me even more because someone told him that I was the reason he couldnt live with his father anymore. It was like being plunged from one nightmare into another. For months I refused to go out. It took years of healing just to be able to walk with my head held high and to pretend not to care about the whispers and glances.
There are days even now where I wonder if I did the right thing? Maybe if I had been a little stronger, I would have given my son a perfect home. The society wouldnt have shamed and shunned me. I wouldnt be the outcast I am today. I often day dream about a life where everything is perfect but then I shake myself back to reality. I have a son to raise so there is no place for such thoughts in my mind. Every morning I put on a mask and get ready to face the world. Everyday it is a new struggle for me.
Tania isnt alone in this. Statistics show that in 2012 alone 495 cases of domestic abuse were reported. One can only imagine the unreported numbers. Research physiologist Mohd. Muzamil feels that since men in our society are brought up with a patriarchal mindset, most of them feel uncomfortable with the advancement of women and reduced gender bias. These feelings then translate into abuse. Traditions have conspired to exaggerate about a weaker portrait of women and this has led to men taking them for granted. Our society has never been kind to divorcees especially women which is probably why most women continue to suffer abuse for the fear of being labeled as outcasts.
Divorce may or may not be the best possible solution but I feel no reason is strong enough to put up with a lifetime of abuse. After all we all have but one life to live. If the thought of facing the unknown is less scary than facing your current situation, then getting out is the best solution. It isnt always the person who stays behind that is the bravest. Sometimes it is the one who leaves.
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