For the longest time, whenever someone asked me my relationship status I would quip with an indifferent ‘divorced’. This changed over time and I learned to say “I’m single”. Not because I was ashamed. But for others. So that they can be saved from their approximately 20-second bout of depression which made me feel as if I’d just conveyed news about being diagnosed with some terminal illness. And also because, I wanted to skip the whole “But what happened?” part of the conversation.
I’ve been advised not to mention that I am divorced. That it’s nobody’s business.
Related reading: Why is a divorced women looked upon as a curse in India?
Do you say you are single when you are married or in a committed relationship, because it’s nobody’s business? No. So why should a divorcee be oh-so-very careful?
Till now, I absolutely have no idea why this is such a taboo topic. Relationships fail, marriages fail. Is it that bad a thing? More than staying in an unhappy marriage and pretending to be happy because you are in a ‘safe’ and ‘secure’ little cocoon? A friend once told me that his girlfriend initially hid the fact that she was divorced because she was afraid she would lose him. That fear of being shunned by society is so deeply engrained in us, we hold back and find it traumatising to even fully acknowledge or be open about our current situation. That’s the power society has on us. We are so used to following the protocol laid down to us: study and get high grades, work for an MNC, then marry and have children, that if someone diverts from it a little then the person is classified as a failure. What exactly is failure? Being happy in the life that you choose cannot exactly be termed as one in my opinion.
A divorcee also has to go through a myriad of reactions and expressions once she reveals her status. Arguably, the most overused one is “I am sorry to hear that”. This phrase is great… if you are using it to convey your grief over the loss of a near and dear one. But for someone who feels as if she has got a chance to feel happy and alive again, you want to scream ‘WTF’ from the top of Burj Khalifa whenever you hear it. Being observant to a fault, I have seen expressions varying from surprise to hidden happiness to total indifference. Apathy is a huge relief in this case. The “Yeah, you screwed up, but hey, big deal!” people are my favourite kind.
Related reading: Divorce is about letting go, not holding on
Then there are some who are hell bent on proving why an unhappy marriage is better than staying single. “Society will ask questions”, “You’ll be burden on your parents” are some of the dialogues I came across when I mentioned divorce.
If the society asks questions, you are not obligated to answer. It is your life after all.
In this day and age, there is no such thing as being a burden to parents when you are financially independent and perfectly capable of taking care of yourself AND your parents. The only burden for them will be to see you being unhappy in your life.
In the midst of all these dilemmas, the one valuable lesson I took away from my divorce was this: you should never ever compromise on your self-respect while trying to reconcile, even if the whole world pressures you into doing so. The only thing I regret till date is trying to reconcile due to pressure and feeling like a doormat in the process. Anything else can be compromised upon. But if you lose your self-respect, it’s a feeling close to death.