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The Myth of Perfection Series – The badge of being a divorcee

Two gold rings lying on a page of an open dictionary next to the word Divorce and it's meaning

When contemplating writing this blog, it filled me not only with anxiety but also a feeling of actual dread. The myth of perfection…
For me, a more accurate description would have been ‘The Pressure of Perfection’  and being free of my internal critic. It has been like a dark shadow that’s followed me for most of my life. Some might look at me and presume I’m confident, gregarious and overall a happy and positive person.  On the whole I do fit this description, but at times I feel like an imposter as I wear the badge of being a divorcee.

For me, the breakdown of my marriage was one of the hardest experiences of my life. I married for love, I married for life. I was going to be the best wife, and try to be the best daughter in law I could be.  I was going to make my parents proud, have a loving marriage and live happily ever after.

And among His signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in peace and tranquillity with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts).

Qur’an 30:21

Its only later on in life when I’ve looked back that I realised the pressure I’d put myself under. Working hard and achieving success in my career came relatively easy to me. I wanted to do well, I enjoyed my career and so I found myself excelling in my professional life. However, my marriage was falling to pieces. Living in a toxic environment was taking a real toll on my mental health. I didn’t see my friends and I changed myself to fit in with the ‘ideal’ my in-laws and husband were looking for. I would agonise over ‘that look’ my mother in law gave me…what had I done to make her so unhappy with me? Why did they all stop talking when I walked in the room? It was agonising and exhausting how I would scrutinize my own actions over and over trying to work out where I had went wrong. In reality, I most likely didn’t do anything wrong. I just didn’t fit with their perception of what a daughter in law should be.

 

When the reality of marriage kicked in it was a very rude wake up call. In my naivety, I didn’t realise that not everyone feels the same way about their marital vows. Fast forward to over 10 years later and here I am, divorced with children, the ultimate in failure as far as the South Asian community is concerned.

 

People generally are obsessed with ‘what happened?’ – as if it were one thing that that led to the decision of divorce.  For me, it was a persistent drip of things that chipped away at the love, communication and the union of  our marriage. Post-divorce I found myself living in survival mode.  I had children to raise, provide for and to make sure they were emotionally damaged as little as possible. The noises I heard from people around me were things like ‘Your kids will grow up to be junkies”. “Your kids will end up in prison because they don’t have a dad”. Others would lament about how I was never going to be considered as being marriage material. Who would want to be with a divorced woman, one with children no less?

 

When proposals did come forward, I would hear things such as ‘I can only accept one child’ or ‘Would you consider being a second wife’ and, in one case, a third wife! Not that I oppose polygamy; it’s just not for me.  Overwhelmingly, I felt that as a divorced woman with children I am considered to be at the bottom of the barrel. Therefore, a woman of my status should accept less than what she deserves.  As if we can’t be complete as women without the badge of “marriage”. What most people fail to realize is that most divorced women with children wear multiple hats and play multiple roles. We are providers, care-givers, home-makers, we take care of the bills, shopping, kids’ education, activities. We multi-task effortlessly and many of us do it without the help of others. In my view this is strength and tenacity given to me by above, without the help of the Almighty in every step of my life I could not have endured it all. I am not less than I was before.

 

Presently, I find myself in love with my divorced, single life. I have children that I adore. They are happy, fulfilled and more importantly living in a loving and nurturing environment, as opposed to a toxic and angry one. My children are highly intelligent, well-mannered, funny, well-adjusted kids and are my proudest achievement to date. I still get asked ‘would you re-marry?’ and my answer has always remained consistent; if the right person came along I would always consider it. However, compromising my happiness and the happiness of my children will always be a big fat NO. I’ll happily wear the badge of being a divorcee and I’ve learned to shed the pressure that comes with living up to the impossible expectations that society places upon us.