I remember the day it happened very clearly. I was in bed, trying my hardest to fall asleep. But my eyes were still wide open and my mind was racing at full speed. I was looking out through the window, staring blankly at the brightness of the moon. The same question was going over and over in my mind. Is this it? Is this my life? I was in bed with my husband who was fast asleep, in the house we shared with his parents, his older sister, her husband and their kids. Yep, it was the moment I realised that I couldn’t be in this marriage anymore.
I had at that point, been married for two years but we had been together for five years. We met at university in my final year and quickly fell in-love. He was a very generous, kind and caring person. He was grounded, family-orientated and had string values. He was half Sikh and half Hindu, I’m full Sikh but unlike mine, his family were very liberal and didn’t follow Indian culture or tradition too strictly. Mine on the other hand, whilst they were more westernised in comparison to the rest of the community, had a much stronger connection to traditions and expectations.
That was never really a problem and we knew we wanted to get married, and often talked about it. It was never a question of if, but of when. But once my parents found out, the pressure was on to get married – according to my parents there was no point waiting around if we knew what we wanted and I kind of agreed. I was more willing than him to get married quicker – I had been working for almost a year by then and had some savings at least whereas he had only just got a full time job and wanted to have a year or so under his belt to put some kind of savings together. Looking back, maybe I should have really paid attention to his concerns and what he was trying to tell me. Instead, the wedding date was set and it went ahead. We were both really happy, it’s what we wanted. I often talk about regrets and I always say I will never regret my wedding day- I knew the moment I saw him, this was what I wanted. But we were both still so young, I was 24 and he was 25. Thing is, that young, in your most impressionable years as you’re about to embark on a time that defines you the most, you either grow together or you grow apart. And we grew apart. For various reasons.
It still took a couple of years after that fateful night – two in fact – that I packed a suitcase with some of my clothes and asked him to take me to my parents. Now, I have to explain something here. I grew up in a very traditional, strict family. It was a big enough deal that my parents let me marry someone of my own choice. It took me months to find a way of conjuring up the courage of facing my reality – that I was unhappy. To the core of my stomach. And what made it harder was that there was nothing tangible that I could pin against it. I lived in a big house, had a good job, had a kind, caring, understanding husband and all those things that made people think I had everything. But the problem was that he was content. He was content with what he had – with living in his parents home, with his average job that offered no prospect of moving out, with a strict training regime that meant we spent no time together or with his family. I was doing everything without him – because he chose not to be there so many times – that I stopped feeling married, and he stopped feeling like my husband. He was content with making me feel second best. And I wanted more. So, so much more. But let me be clear- I don’t mean materialistic things, but things that nurtured my soul. I wanted to travel, to live in a different country, to experience different cultures, foods, languages. It became a battle in my head between what I wanted to do and what I was expected to do. I couldn’t face the fact that this ‘average’ life was my reality but that made me so angry with myself, why couldn’t I accept average? Why did I even need to label it? Why couldn’t I just accept my life for what it was? To the outside world, I had everything. But inside, I was suffocating. Every night, I went round and round in circles in my mind, trying to make sense of my situation. Was what I was feeling, a good enough reason to leave, or was this just the reality of marriage and the reality of life or was I just expecting too much? How was I going to even approach the subject with my parents? What would they do? It would bring shame on the family, I was letting everyone down. Was I strong enough to do it? I never thought I would become a divorcee. All these thoughts racing in my head took me inches away from turning insane that it made staying seem the easier option. But the thought of me staying made me feel sick. So when I stood in front of him, my packed suitcase in my hand, crying so hard that I couldn’t breathe, I knew exactly what it meant. I knew exactly how big, how terrifying a step it was that I was about to take. I had no idea what lay ahead, how hard or easy it was going to be, if I was being brave or a coward, it was a step into unknown territory. All I knew was that amongst the uncertainty of everything that I didn’t know, my mind was made up on this. I was scared, absolutely terrified about the fact that I was about to walk out on my marriage.
I’m writing this 9 years later after the day I arrived at my parents house. I’m still unmarried but I have never been happier in my life. My life actually started from that day. I’m sure you are all wondering what happened when I went home. There were obviously hours and hours of talking and crying and analysing what had happened and how it could be fixed. But then came the point for all of us where it was clear that I wasn’t going back. But amongst all of that there were some moments that stuck out to me the most. My dad hugging me so tightly and telling me everything is going to be ok; my mum telling me not to worry about what the outside is going to say because they are there with me. I cannot even begin to explain how amazing my parents were at a time when I thought that they would put my happiness second. As hard as it was for me, it was even harder for them to face what I was about to do and I didn’t realise that until then. But they did it. They did it with dignity and with respect and with a unity with me. And for that I will always be truly grateful to them, I only survived the way I did because of their rock solid support. As I say, I’m writing this 9 years on, sat on a tube carriage in London on my way into work. It has been a journey of ups and downs and I never take for granted how things could have worked out so differently.
My parents reacted amazingly. My ex husband, no matter how much it hurt him, didn’t make things difficult on purpose and for that I will always be grateful and wish him every happiness in the future. I hear stories about how some parents react so differently and it really breaks my heart. Things like this really shape your future and happiness. People stay in marriages because the alternative is scary. Yes it is, of course it is. But the people around you may surprise you more than you think and you may flourish as a result more than you think. The point is this. You are stronger and more capable than what you think. Indian culture makes you believe otherwise. I’m not saying divorce is always the option- that’s not what I am saying at all. I’m saying that if you stay true to whatever it is you hold as core to your worth and happiness, everything else will follow and fall into place, whatever that might be.
As the saying goes:
‘What if I fall?’
‘Oh but what if you fly my dear?’