Mark Groves has riled me up, revved my engines, and stirred the pot. (Not like that, you guys.) He wrote this, a blog titled, Maybe Instead of Shaming the Divorced, We Should Be Learning From Them. The title really says it all, but as a woman of Indian descent who’s separated and going through a divorce, I have my own two cents to throw into the conversation pot. After all, our Indian community can be pretty harsh when it comes to divorce—and that’s putting it mildly. While times are changing (hooray!), the mindset around divorce needs to shift on the whole.
I’m sure you’ve heard it all before, just like I have. Make it work no matter what. We don’t believe in divorce in our culture. You’ll never get married again after they find out you’re divorced already. Stay for the kids. (Stay for the kids? Are you bleeping KIDDING ME?!)
To be totally transparent, I still cringe when I tell people I’m separated and almost divorced. I’m certainly not ashamed of it. (It’s the opposite, in fact.) But thanks to years of cultural and societal brainwashing, I automatically make myself small. I think it takes a metric crapload of courage to step up, face the music, and accept the end of a relationship that started with the best intentions and biggest dreams. Divorce isn’t for the faint of heart, and instead of being viewed as a failure, I know the strength, grit, and courage it takes to get to a place where it feels like the best decision.
Of all the marriages you know, how many are actually healthy? I ask because I see people all the time who stay in marriage for icky reasons, and even though they’re visibly and constantly unhappy, they’re too afraid to leave—they’re too afraid of the unknown. (And sometimes rightfully so; there isn’t a lot of support out there unless you hunt for it.) That said, the alternative is feeling alone and alienated…forever. Thanks, but I’ll pass.
Obviously, no one gets married with the expectation of getting divorced. But when life throws you those wicked, complicated curve balls, we all do the best we can with the tools we have. While our culture might not always believe in divorce, I believe in us.
Choosing divorce was a gruesome process, and I really can’t emphasize that enough. The guilt! (Wow, that guilt.) A slice of my brain during it all: How dare I subject my children to this? How can I do this to my parents? His parents? I made it about everyone else while I felt like I was dying a slow, mournful, painful death. No one was caring for me—I wasn’t even caring for myself—and I spent most of my time soothing everyone else in order to deal with the end of my 16-year marriage. While divorce is okay, neglecting yourself isn’t.
And let’s not forget about everyone else. Society, friends, friends of friends, colleagues, and the real killer: people who don’t even know you. The thing is that everyone has an opinion about your life, and I have to tell you that the judgements and hypocrisy have been bruuuutaaaaaaal. This one particularly: “She’s a broken woman”. Genuinely, I can’t believe that “broken woman” is a term that even exists, and when we dissect it a bit more, it becomes clear—apparently a “broken woman” is someone who shows up, opens up fully, and faces adversity head on. (I’ll take those labels.)
It’s time our culture accepts that sometimes divorce is the healthiest, happiest choice. It doesn’t serve anyone in our community to encourage couples who’re miserable to stay together. It’s a whole lot of poor modeling that doesn’t help the generations to come.
My decision to get a divorce didn’t stem from self care (even though it totally should have!). It came from realizing that I don’t want my boys growing up with the impression that marriage is a mean, toxic beast. I know love is beautiful, and relationships can fill our bellies, lives, and souls. But I also know that I wasn’t about to ruin their future, and as a result, they’ve learned a thing or two or seven about resilience. Obviously, it’s not ideal, but there’s always a gem of a life lesson in hardships—you just have to shift your mindset.
Really, Groves says it beautifully:
A lot of people who chose to leave their relationship, not just those who divorce, made being their authentic selves their priority. Not to mention that they’ve put what is true for them (needing to leave a relationship), ahead of their ego and their desire to please society, culture and religion. Now that’s a quality that I would love in a partner.
Regardless of where you’re at in your love life, I think we can all agree that the divorced don’t deserve to be judged, especially when someone hasn’t spent a day in a divorcées drool-worthy stilettos. (I couldn’t resist.) Shaming only feeds the broken system that societies before us have created. Instead, let’s view the divorced as teachers. (They’ve got a few lessons of value to share.) Adversity helps us find ourselves, and in return, we can then share ourselves with the world.
So if and when it boils down to being miserable or choosing my own happiness, I’ll choose myself—and my sons—every single day of the week. <3