The very wise J.K. Rowling once quoted, “Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure, but the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it.” Now we don’t know the context in which she may have said these enlightened words, but they seem to hold true in the context of divorce. Especially when it’s in India.
Divorce is painful but is it the same as a failed marriage? In our country, we most certainly seem to think so. The baggage of the failure is so heavy that it can paralyze a person from ever taking a chance on love again. With the stigma of society and the engulfing bitterness of the experience, most people would rather safeguard their mending heart than risk the chance of getting it broken again.
But is that true for all? Or are there people who never give up on love. MRM spoke to two wonderful women, both of whom have been divorced but have taken a different path from there on. Here are the stories of Michelle and Reena.
Michelle, 34, who presently lives alone in Ahmedabad, experienced two marriages that ended in separation. She highlights the importance of being financially independent, especially for women. She mentions how her first husband has a special place in her heart, how she raised her now teenage son as a single mother, and how even today, she looks for a partner who believes in the sacredness of the beautiful institution of marriage.
“With my first husband, it was love at first sight. At 18, things are rosy, and I thought we would be able to pull it off in spite of my family’s strong disapproval of our marriage. The disapproval came from the fact that we were too young, and that he was already married once before. Nonetheless, we got married, and we lived with my husband’s family in a one-room kitchen apartment. There were adjustment issues, and I was asked to say sorry even when I was not at fault, but I happily agreed for my husband’s sake. Things got better when I got pregnant. My not so supportive in-laws and sister-in-law took excellent care of me.” Things seemed to settle down for Michelle, until one fine day, her husband told her the most bizarre thing.
“My husband told me that he had a love affair at his new workplace, in Baroda. This was when I was 6 months pregnant! Eventually, he got married to that woman. But, I wasn’t ready to divorce him, for the sake of our unborn child. On my husband’s insistence, I agreed to file the divorce by mutual consent, but never physically appeared in the court.”
Michelle had just moved out of her first marriage, but her family and friends wanted her to settle down again. After some deliberation, she got married for the second time but walked out of it in 3 years.
“I got married within 2 years of the divorce and had to move out of the country with my second husband. It was the start of a new life, and unfortunately, I had to leave back my son with my first husband. It was a fresh start. I was anxious and excited. We moved to New Zealand, but my husband, who I met through social media, was a nightmare. I was sexually and emotionally tortured for about 2.5 years. Fortunately for me, my health started deteriorating, and my visa never got extended. Luckily, I had to return to India, and since then I have never looked back.”
On being probed about her plans for life and she very bluntly said, “I haven’t seen my husband in about 4.5 years now, and I intend filing for a divorce and legally getting out of this mess.” She is a woman of strength, and we applaud her undying mettle. “I raised my son independently. My in-laws were are a great support in raising him, and we are on good terms even today. No one wants to break a marriage, but it is important to walk out of a bad one. As women, we tend to sacrifice a lot, but it is particularly important to be financially independent and to build your own special support system.”
Today she is independent and has gifted herself a house out of her own savings. The EMIs are killing, but it is peaceful. Her teenage son, who continues to live with her first husband and his family, visits her every weekend, and that for her, is the best time of the week. She may have had two marital separations but is optimistic and open to the idea of finding a companion even today.
Reena, 53, who lives in Mumbai independently after a separation from her husband, says: “The social stigma attached with a divorced woman is far larger than faced by a man. We live in a so-called modern urban city, but some men tend to lurk at women who are divorced, or widowed, and consider her to be ‘available’. And a woman decides to remarry, she is expected to ‘compromise’ on her choice of her partner.
A woman needs to remain strong headed and be very clear with what she wants for herself. Of course, there will be people whirling around and giving advice which may or may not be necessary.” About remarriage, she says: “As far as remarriage is concerned, it is a very personal choice. It is hard to say if I will remarry or not, let’s see what the future holds for me.”
Remarriage indeed is a very personal choice, and whatever choice one makes, it’s absolutely all right; as long as it makes them happy! However, if you do find yourself craving for companionship, then we hope you will be able to muster the courage to go from ‘never again’ to ‘once again’.