How I Went Against My Culture and Left My Marriage
Photo Credit: SOHAM BANERJEE/Pexels
Deciding to leave a marriage is an incredibly difficult decision, whether you’ve been married for six months, six years, or what feels like forever and then some.
There’s discomfort in leaving, but the discomfort in staying is far more unbearable. That was the situation I found myself in when deciding to leave my marriage of three and a half years — with a 14-month-old son in tow. Add in South Asian cultural and religious barriers, and leaving felt impossible.
A Divorce Could Impact My Entire Family
I grew up learning and believing that marriage was forever and leaving would not only mean I was a failure (because my marriage failed), but there were many social implications for my parents, siblings, and son, as well.
I was raised to believe that it meant:
* I would bring immense shame to the family name, and my parents would lose their footing in their social circle.
* People would be talking about our family in the community and I’d be the talk of the town — and not in a good way.
* It would hurt my sisters’ chances of getting good rishtas (marriage proposals) from eligible bachelors in the South Asian community.
* My son would come from a broken home and I would pretty much ruin his life forever.
* I would probably die alone because nobody wants to be married to a divorced woman.
* I would become the black sheep of the family that ruined everything.
These were just some of the mental, emotional, and cultural roadblocks I was up against. I tried leaving several times. I had packed my bags and moved out, but my parents would find me and convince me to go back, or my ex-husband at the time promised things would change. But nothing changed.
Staying in my marriage put me in a really dark place, and the thought of not living seemed easier than being alive.
Except for one thing: me. I changed, and when I asked for a divorce for the fourth time, things took.
And here’s why. Staying in my marriage put me in a really dark place, and the thought of not living seemed easier than being alive. But in my moment of deep despair, I also had a moment of incredible clarity: My son needed me, and the best thing I could do for him was to provide him with an upbringing that was healthy, which meant that I needed to start putting my mental and emotional health first. I couldn’t give him a happy life if I wasn’t around, and I also needed to model what a happy life looked like.
No Longer Appeasing My Parents
So, what came next? Decisions and follow-through. I decided that I could no longer appease my parents or an entire culture for the sake of my son’s life. His health and happiness were my No. 1 priority, and in order to give him the best chance at life, it required me leaving his biological father. Every time my parents begged me to stay married, I reminded them that the divorce was the best thing for my son, and that was one job I was not going to mess up. I would do anything for my son and always will.
I decided that my parents' choices didn’t have to be my choices. Since we only have one life, I wanted to start living it on my terms. And that didn’t mean I didn’t love or respect my parents. It just meant that I mattered, too. So I hired a mediator and my ex and I went through the separation and divorce process as amicably as possible.
I decided that my happiness mattered.
I decided that my happiness mattered, and so did my ex-husband’s. The truth of it is, my ex and I got married really young. I met him when I was 18, we got married when I was 22, and we divorced when I was 27. We grew out of love and we were both unhappy. And even though at the time he wanted to work things out, I knew that neither one of us should change enough where we could make the other person happy but sacrifice our own happiness.
Fast-forward 10 years, and so much has changed. I found love again and am remarried to the most wonderful Irishman. My ex found love again and is remarried to his ideal partner. We are both successfully co-parenting our son, who’s now 12 years old. Some days, we are even friends.
So, what comes next? I’d like to think more love and happiness for our son as we continue to teach him what healthy relationships look like and that his parents' divorce was truly the best thing for him as we create more co-parenting memories.
For more co-parenting support, check out my article on raising a blended and interfaith family here. And if you’d like to get more divorce inspiration and support, check out my Instagram account, @sythedivorcecoach for all the love.