You’d be surprised at how many people ask what took me so long to move out of my marriage. The reason’s pretty simple.
I am a hopeful person by nature which is not a good thing to be in a bad situation. I could say there are two kinds of hopes – one good, the other bad – and that’s true. Good hope is the kind that keeps me writing. Publisher’s aren’t sending an oh yes, we are accepting your book mail, and you hang on to hope and you keep writing, and you keep sending these off because you have a goal, a meaningful goal I’ll say. It keeps you going when it doesn’t look like things are going to happen.
Now, let’s dwell on the bad situation for a bit. When the spouse is drunk each night and then each day and in that drunken state, there’s venom and bile and the hand lashes out and it lashes out with anything that’s at hand so that you keep yourself out of the kitchen – there are knives and forks and scissors and many such things in there that can slice through your skin, muscle and vein without second thought – and you keep the table tops clear of anything that can be thrown, that’s a bad situation. I hope you agree with me on that.
I hope you also agree with me that nobody, man or woman, should have to put up with that situation. It isn’t always women who face this rot, although their numbers are overwhelmingly high in comparison.
Now, when you hold on to hope in that situation, that’s the bad kind of hope, the meaningless one.
The reason behind the bad kind of hope is lethargy, two kinds of fear and sometimes, a sense of responsibility – we’ll talk of the last one another time because it will take us in a different direction. You are familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy, aren’t you? The one that says food, clothing and shelter needs must be satisfied before we begin to aspire to the next level of things. We ought to add marriage to that list in our society because of the utter feeling of inadequacy that comes upon us when we miss that bus. We don’t stop to think if that bus is really for us, but that’s another discussion.
We don’t talk of one thing though with Maslow’s hierarchy. When food, clothing and shelter – and I’ll add marriage to that – are taken care of, lethargy sets in for many. A satiation that whispers that all’s well as long as status quo is maintained. Sure, we aspire for more and more of some things, but the aspiration to move boulders for a good goal – we lose that.
Life’s going on just fine, isn’t it? The marriage is on too, isn’t it? The certificate’s in the cupboard to prove it, the spouse and you are in the same house, forget what happens within. Even when Maslow’s food-clothing-shelter are courtesy father, mother, siblings, in-laws, or friends, so long as the spouse has not actively driven you out, nor has the spouse left you, so long as these things stay intact, we sink into a lethargy that tethers us to the marriage.
Strangely enough, one of these food-clothing-shelter things must go missing to force us to step out and then we see that there is a better world out there, a saner, more stable world.
Fear often feeds the lethargy. It’s illogical, but there it is. Fear for ourselves is one. The other is fear of the neighbours’, family’s, colleagues’ response – whatever is our biggest neurotic jinx, that fear grabs hold of us. Although staying put is the far more fearsome thing, as they say, a known evil is better than the unknown one. Some have this lethargy turned to low, some have it high. It’s our nature. It’s the way we respond to situations. That’s what took me so long to move out of the marriage – lethargy and the fear that fed it, the inability to see that many times an unmarried life’s far better than a married one.
I should have asked myself the question, is my living in this marriage the right thing? And if I still can’t see reason, then to ask the question, should anyone have to live such a life as this? What would I advise another person?
Then come the rules of society by which we live. Within the same extended family, each nuclear family responds with a different set of interpretations and cultural rules. These are often the shackles that all the people known and unknown place upon us. Most religions teach us that we come alone and we leave alone. Really speaking, we live alone too – even when we are with people. Yet, we live as though staying together with another as if we are one is forever.
Millions of permutations are possible within these three elements – your nature, expectation from society and the terribleness of the situation – and yours is one. In terrible, harmful situations, and not all are merely physical, they are verbal and snide with many versions in there – I sincerely believe that your decision must be based on the situation. It must without question beat your nature and cultural norms.
This post had first appeared on Women’s Web.
Images: Yashasvi Agrawal