I have been thinking a lot about divorce lately. Not as a personal choice for myself, but as a social event. It is starting to scare me a bit. It is not that I disapprove of it, or consider it taboo, as many do in Indian society. I fully support divorces and feel people have the right to start over and choose happiness over a long-forgotten vow. Even if there are kids involved (for that is usually the deal breaker in most cases even now – holding on to a failing marriage for the sake of children), I do not think growing up with divorced parents is any worse than being in the vicinity of a toxic or abusive relationship.
That being said, I worry about getting divorced some day. It is not so much the social pressure that is getting to me, but the idea, the fear, that a day might come when we will come to loathe one another to a point where we no longer want to be in each other’s company. That a day will come when irritation and hatred and bitterness reigns over companionship and memories. Could it be that all marriages inevitably end up being cages whence we dream of flying away and starting afresh? I have grown up watching people being miserable together, stuck in loveless arrangements for the sake of their children, and it instilled a deep fear of commitment in me. So much so that I had cold feet about getting married to my current husband even after years of getting to know each other; even after I was sure I wouldn’t be as happy with anyone else. I would have much preferred to have a live-in relationship, but socially sanctioned legality to sleep together continues to be a necessity where I come from, and wanting to be together meant we needed to prove our love with a government issued certificate.
Spats and gossips around domestic arguments and fights peppered my childhood, but my mother convinced me these were normal, that my ideas of the perfect marriage were unreal as they were dominated by colourful imagery from novels and movies. It does not happen that way, she said. The fights, the adjustment, the sacrifices are a part of it, she said. What would have happened to us if I had left yout father? Now you are doing well in your life, people are proud of you. Wasn’t it a good thing that I chose not to break the family? Leaving a difficult situation is easy, but making is work is the right thing to do.
Is it really, though?
Growing up, I watched every one in my parent’s generation grapple with marital discord and unhappy homes. And now, I see the same repeated in mine. One by one, I see the faultlines forming 5, 7, 10 years into each of my cousins’ happy marriages. Even the one couple who I considered as the gold standard for happiness in our extensive family. I hear they are contemplating divorce, that they cannot take it anymore.
And I cannot help but wonder… is it just a matter of time before I stand alongside them? Where does it start? When? Is it the little things that grow into a giant pile of crumpled emotions with no way out? Does it set in insidiously, through disagreements over household chores or the wrong end of a joke? Or does it happen when a sudden tragedy rips through the family? When life gets too overwhelming for one to handle? When you find someone else more attractive? Will he cheat? Will I? Will it be so horrible if either of us did?
I recently had a glimpse of what it feels like to be torn apart by something out of our control, of being helpless and unable to communicate our grief. And it makes me scared. Will these experiences eventually claw into us, break us? I try to figure it out and scramble for clues to prevent the proverbial wheels from setting into motion. But do what I may, the question still lingers at the back of my mind…
Is it really only a matter of time?