DIVORCE IS NOT A TRAGEDY!
Divorce in most South Asian communities, even those in more
liberal countries, is still considered taboo. Many South Asians, like other traditional ethnic groups, stay in toxic marriages for the sake of finances, duty, children, fear or pride. Getting divorced seems impossible and often couples stay together to avoid the label of a failed marriage.
Still, a growing number of South Asian women and men are choosing to leave hopelessly unstable marriages dissolved by everything from incompatibility to domestic violence. From Hindu and Sikh Indians to Muslim Pakistanis, South Asians who have essentially been trapped by culture or family pressure are disrupting traditional roles of husbands and wives, and are choosing to take risks for the sake of their own happiness.
In our culture, I think we have been socialised to believe that we give up if we get divorced. That it’s our duty to stay in a relationship that is not good for us any longer. It’s about time we change this stigma!
Today I am collaborating with a fellow Asian divorcee but just one difference, my guest is a man. I wanted us to talk about the difference in how Asian men divorcees get treated in comparison to women. So we hope this gives you a different perspective of what divorcees like us face in the community. Hopefully this will change some minds and if you can relate then I want you to know, you are not alone.
Just to give you a background although my guest will remain anonymous, he is British Indian and someone who I have followed for a while now on social media and have found his experience intriguing and inspiring.
So here it is my Interview with Mr. British India, I have decided to leave his answers raw and unedited because when I read through it, I could feel what he wrote, I could relate and I am sure so many of you will.
When you made the decision to walk away from your relationship what were you most scared of?
My biggest fears were initially what would people say. My family’s very well known within our community and my thoughts were predominantly around what people would say about us and me. It’s definitely what held me back from walking away sooner than I actually did.
How long did it take you to make the decision?
The final decision that it was over was instantaneous. Our relationship was over long before we actually separated but for fear of family and community I worked and worked at trying to keep it together. Over time I fell out of love with her. She didn’t trust me, didn’t like my friends, and we argued incessantly about the tiniest of things. The final straw for me was an incident that broke me, after what was a petty argument. In that one moment, that one action it was over for me. I couldn’t carry on.
How did your family feel?
My parents were naturally upset. I mean, hearing your 30+ yr old son break down in tears saying he can’t take it anymore can’t be easy. But they supported my decision. As did my dad’s family who I am very close to. Every single one of them said they stood by whatever call I made and that they would be there for me come what may.
Did you have a support system?
My biggest support system was my friends. My very best mate and his wife were there for both me and my parents. I’d hidden so much of what was going on from friends and family that it was quite a shock when I told them it was over. My two best mates reacted differently. One gave me an absolute mouthful first for not going to him sooner and then said he was there for me regardless. And the other was Mr. Practical – got his uni mate who’s a solicitor to call me for initial advice and then got his family’s solicitors in touch with me in order to instruct divorce proceedings and help through the whole process.
How did your extended family, friends and community feel?
My dad’s brothers were pretty much all supportive. One of them took the stance of I should be working at the relationship because how would we feel if the shoe was on the other foot with one of my cousin sisters. But all in all my family were behind me.
My closest friends rallied around me. They were just there for whatever I needed them for. As word spread amongst the wider group of friends I got messages of support and some things coming out of the woodwork about issues my ex had created with some of them that I knew nothing about.
Community wise – it was a surprise to everyone. People assumed we were happily married. People saw that we’d moved and bought our own place and thought everything was hunky dory. Just after we separated there was a death in the family and as people came to pay their respects etc, the first question was always ‘where was my wife?’ I told my family not to hide it and just tell people that we’d separated. It was going to come out sooner or later so why not now? There was initially a sense of disbelief with most people.
Did you ever feel judged? Isolated? Or ever get treated differently because of your situation?
I absolutely felt and still do feel judged, more so the dating front than anything else. I knew dating would be hard after my divorce but never thought it would be as hard as I’ve found it. I’ve had women my age who have been in relationships , lived with guys etc tell me they couldn’t take me home to their parents because I’ve been divorced. I mean it could just be an excuse because they don’t fancy me but it was hard to take. Isolated yes, because I don’t think I could and still don’t think I can talk to anyone that would understand where I’m coming from – hence the blog and anonymous twitter account.
How did it make you feel and what did you do to get through it?
From a dating perspective it was really hard to take, especially with one girl who I actually began to quite like after a couple of dates. I was angry, hurt and upset. I couldn’t really turn to anyone as there wasn’t anyone that had been in my position. I’ve cried into my pillow a few times not that anyone knows that.
When you are dating do you make it known straight away? How do they react?
When I was on dating sites and apps, I had it on there that I was divorced. It basically meant any woman I messaged that had never been married would never respond to any messages from me. To be fair the ones that had been divorced didn’t reply either so maybe it’s just me and nothing to do with my divorce!
When I’ve been to dating events (speed dating, date masi etc) I never say there and then that I’m divorced. But if it ever makes it to conversation after the event then yes it is something I prefer to tell the lady straight away. I think it’s only fair that they know especially as so many women see it as issue. Its part of my past, I can’t change it but it has changed me as a person. I’m not the guy I was when I got married. In the most part, the reaction has always been “I don’t think I can continue with this”. Only twice have I been on dates with someone after they knew I was divorced and they’d never been married before.
What advice would you give to guys or girls that can relate to your experience?
It’s not easy. I wouldn’t wish anyone to go through a divorce, especially an acrimonious one. As hard as it is, keep your head up and do what makes you happy. Learn from the experience. Learn about yourself. What do you want to be? What do you want to stand for? What makes you happy? Get to a point in your life where you’re happy and that your happiness isn’t dependent on another individual. And when that individual comes along they’ll compliment your life NOT complete it. As for what other people say – it’s none of your business. Let them say it. Live your life because it’s yours and not theirs to live. You pay your bills and make you happy not them.
What would you want to say to all those people that judged you and made your experience that much more negative?
Not a lot to be honest but if anything it would be much of what I said above really. I got to the stage a few years ago where I don’t bother myself with other people’s opinions. They hurt once upon a time but I’ve moved on. It’s my life; my journey; my reality. It’s been a journey to get to this point but it’s made me stronger. It’s made me realise what I do want in my life and what I don’t want in a partner. As for the girls that judged me, I guess it wasn’t meant to be and I hope they’re happy in whatever came next in their lives.
So there you have it, So many south Asian men and women fear rejection from family, friends and community after divorce but just remember Divorce is not a tragedy, staying in an unhappy marriage is!
A huge thank you to my guest for opening up about what he went through and for letting me share it, I know that this will reach so many people who can relate. You truly are an inspiration to me and I am sure many others.
Follow my Journey on Social Media
Thankyou to Farrah Lewis my amazing editor for never letting me down!