What does a broken family appear like?
Is a family broken for having two parents happily separated but united in the upbringing of their children? Or, is it a misfit couple leaving trails of anger and resentment with each step they take in opposite directions?
What does a happy marriage feel like?
Is it, two people consensually growing and evolving with the course of time? Or is it, consistent or sporadic beratement of one another till one or both chip around the corners until they’ve carved sharp edges to hurt, to defend?
I am not an expert. I am not certified to advice on what or how struggling couples should approach their differences. This article is not about glorifying divorce for the millennials and pointing them in the direction of reckless bachelorhood. This is about opening a dialogue for those who think that divorce/separation equates to societal outlaw.
It is about how we are raised to firmly believe in the ‘picture-perfect’ family where you have a mother, a father, and two (or eleven whatever the accepted child bar is in each family) children all in matching outfits smiling cheek to cheek.
In a society where lifelong commitments begin by striking off sections of Sharia Rights/Sharai Haqq of women without consultation, it isn’t surprising how the taboo of divorce still stands erect and victorious.
The word itself lingers on the tongue with distaste. A word so feared, a label so abhorred, that it is rather socially acceptable for two people to suffer till death does them apart.
Religion is one of the cards played in shaming men, and especially women, into pulling the cart with one broken wheel. Yes, Islam percieves divorce as one of the vilest permissible act people can commit but, Allah SWT is fair and merciful. HE wouldn’t have presented this as an option if there wasn’t a human justice to it.
Our people still choose to point an accusing finger at the woman in such cases. If a woman decides to separate from her husband for whatever reason she deems relevant, she is instantly bombarded with questions and assumptions. Because, how dare she stand up for herself?
If they have children-
How can she possibly raise her children without a husband? Even if she can, why would she? Does she not care about the children? She must be selfish and desire too much ‘freedom’ to be unable to compromise.
If the marriage is relatively young (2+ years)-
What can she possibly have to complain about? She probably just wants control over her husband. Women who want to make a marriage work learn to keep their tongues tied and compromise.
But. let’s not get feminist about this (eye rolls approved).
To most women, the fear of being ousted by society is greater than the thought of creating means to secure themselves. ‘Log kya kahenge’ is the trendiest form of abuse every – I repeat- every brown woman faces on daily basis.
Most traditionalists diagree to my point of view in this matter. I am accused of being a misogamist/anti-marriage for favoring separation as the absolute last resort. Trust me when I say this isn’t a matter of pro-choice or something to opiniate. It’s about the lack thereof for those who should have the freedom to exercise their rights if need be without societal and familial humiliation. The freedom to mental and emotional space.
No man or woman willingly enters a commitment with the intention of cutting loose in XYZ number of years. A woman won’t put herself or her children through agony if she didn’t think it was in everyone’s best interest. If she has her own interest in mind, that too is a strong reason for her and her partner to separate if reconciliation isn’t an option anymore.
According to Maryam Bibi, a Consultant Clinical Psychologist, lack of emotional support is the primary reason in most unhappy couples. In brown/desi families emotional health is considered an inconvenience or downright irrelevant. As long as the woman plays her domestic part, and the man is putting food on the table, the rest is moot.
Ask yourselves, would you want to live an emotionally captive life? Is it fair for us to burden those in trouble with judgement instead of providing the right kind of support? Can anyone but the two people involved in a marriage truly know what anguish is shared between them?
So, how are these “log/people” allowed autocracy in a relationship they haven’t personally lived in?
Maryam Bibi, in her professional experience, says divorce is an alien term because of the external pressures influencing fear mainly in women. The fear of survival, and acceptance. She believes therapy, and an effort to build a healthy line of communication is key in rebuilding compatibility. Divorce or separation shouldn’t be considered unless all efforts have failed, and one or both partners decide against a reconcile. She also states that children raised in a toxic marriage have a greater long term negative impact than those with divorced parents.
To those reading, grow out of this stigma. Build an environment where women and men alike are allowed to address their problems without fear of falling prey to hungry eyed gossips.
Separation and/or divorce is tragic, devastating, and painful. What it shouldn’t be is shameful.
Maryam Bibi is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist. She is the founder of Pakistans first ever Mental Health Support Forum and is an active motivational speaker. She provides couple and marital counseling for those in need. She operates a FB page Mental Health Support Pakistan and a Group for the same cause. You can also follow her on Instagram here.
Disclaimer: The above article is not intended to influence or encourage divorce. Any professional opinion has been appropriately quoted. The writer does not claim responsibility for any misinterpretation.