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The taboo around a topic only keeps intensifying as the silence around it thickens, as well as the misconceptions. Let's talk about divorce.
Let’s talk about this for a hot minute. It’s almost an instant reflex to say sorry the second you hear the word divorce. We’re all probably guilty of this. Sure, you might be sorry that a relationship ended. I’m not here to dispute anybody’s intentions. A lot of us might have good intentions. But a lot of us also have the wrong words that aren’t in congruence with the good intentions. So, I’m here to tell you, please don’t say you’re sorry without checking if the situation warrants it. The person telling you about their divorce might have gone through years of abuse and has finally found a way to end it. In that case, should you be sorry about the divorce? No. You should be congratulating them.
Every single time someone has said they’re sorry when I’ve mentioned my divorce, I’ve immediately asked them, ‘But why would you be sorry about the best thing that’s happened to me?’ It’s food for thought. Be sorry that the marriage happened but not that the divorce has come through.
As Tisha and I continued to chat, she brought up an important point. She’s completely accepted her divorce, and she has no qualms when it comes to telling others about it. But it usually garners an ‘oh no, I’m so sorry’ reaction. While this might sound harmless, the responsibility of consoling the person hearing this news falls on her. She ends up explaining how it’s a normal process, it’s a good thing that happened to her, and there’s nothing to feel sorry about. It’s exhausting to keep listening to the same reaction almost every time. If we don’t encourage such conversations, we also tend to internalize this stigma and let it fester in our system and mind, subconsciously.
This is what happened in the case of Yagna. It broke my heart listening to her story. She was brought up with the template of an ‘ideal’ wife—cooks every meal, takes care of her in-laws, is always there for her husband, and does as they dictate. This is a fully educated double-degree holder, by the way. I’m mentioning this solely as a reminder that unhappy marriages aren’t prevalent only in some remote part of the country. It’s happening everywhere around us. She did as much as she could, while also trying to balance a career on the side.
Between a husband who didn’t care enough for her and his parents who put her through so much, she started breaking down. Her friend gave her a reality check, asking her to get out of this toxic relationship, but to Yagna, it was a sacred union in eternity. She couldn’t wrap her head around leaving the family. ‘Maybe I’m not good enough,’ she’d convince herself and get back to the grind, suffering in silence.
A sharp slap on her cheek from her father-in-law when she confronted the family about her husband’s extra-marital affair really altered her perspective. An emotional slap followed when he said, ‘You’re so unattractive, why would my son sleep with you?’ It was the prompt she needed to walk out because as long as the issues stayed within her house and family, she could handle it. As soon as her husband strayed and cheated on her, she was no longer willing to deal with his dirty laundry.
However, a few months down the line, she started to feel the dull throb of the same thoughts again. ‘Maybe I wasn’t a good enough wife or a good enough daughter-in-law.’ Eventually, those thoughts got the better of her, and she returned to her husband and begged him to take her back. She promised him she’d lose weight, cook better, take care of his parents, and whatever else he wanted.
‘The best gift I’ve ever received from him is he not taking me back as his wife,’ Yagna beamed. His refusal gave her the new lease of life she needed. While stigma continued to haunt her, she still went ahead and filed for divorce. It felt like the right thing to do. She slipped into a cocoon, unwilling to talk to her friends and family or do anything else. Yagna was always an admirable and accomplished woman who truly didn’t deserve what she went through, but with the help of her mother, she is also happy today.
It’s easy to be a fly on the wall when you hear others talk about such situations. Some might even consider it gossip, but we’re also at a level of awareness where we know these judgemental comments speak volumes about how regressive society still is. Trying to guess the issues between a couple, spreading rumours, always trying to prod and question just to know what happened, is a real headache to the ones going through the actual problems. This is especially true for celebrities, and particularly women who have been on the receiving end of so many assumptions.
More recently, influencers can be seen going through the same traumatic cycle as well. The gossip mills keep on grinding. If you’re divorced, if you’re married, if you’re looking to marry or know someone close to you who’s married, try and start conversations that might educate others around you. After all, the taboo around a topic only keeps intensifying as the silence around it thickens. One conversation could change a thought or stop the hurt passing on to someone who might be in a tough spot. Tomorrow, it could be you needing the same support.
This is something I encourage very vocally on social media. Do not shy away from conversations at home, with family near and dear. Speak openly about divorce and its repercussions. After all, education begins at home.
Published with permission from the publishers, Penguin Random House India.
If you’d like to pick up Divorce is Normal written by Shasvathi Siva, use our affiliate link at Amazon India.
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