Cheers, not tears!

By Mahlaqa Saeed
Tue, 12, 23

Divorce can be a positive and empowering choice and many divorced women find happiness and personal growth post-divorce. Sometimes, it can be a way to escape an abusive or unhealthy relationship, and it can allow both people to move on with their lives. Read on…

Cheers, not tears!

Every now and then, two people fall in love and get married. For many, this is the beginning of a happily ever after. While for some people, this is the end of the fairy-tale and the beginning of a bitter reality hitting hard. No amount of fictional romantic novels or movies prepare you for the other side of a romantic fairy-tale because, they too, end at the happily ever after. This is when you start visiting the self-help section of a bookstore to come to terms with the reality of your real-life marriage versus how you had expected it to be.

In the case of love marriage, there are a series of self-assessment sessions and internal debates with your own self in which you try to convince yourself that things are not as bad as you may be imagining and how you can strive to make the marriage work.

Depending on the collective effort of both parties involved, the marriage works out or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t and you find yourself signing a legal document, life is definitely about to change and you will be going from ‘till death do us part’ to ‘I will survive’.

Surviving the end of a marriage is subject to many factors; both internal and external but something that may not have crossed your mind in terms of priorities becomes the most recurring incident for a woman; that is conversations like these:

Cheers, not tears!

Someone you just met: Hi, I’m (name). Pleased to meet you.

Divorced woman: Hi, I’m (name). Likewise.

(brief random talk about the weather or the place they’re in)

Someone you just met: So, what does your husband do?

Divorced woman: I’m divorced.

Someone you just met: Oh, I’m so sorry! That must be so hard. But you’re so pretty. What happened? How do you support yourself? Does he meet the child/children? Poor child/children!

Divorced woman: Everything’s fine.

Now, in her head, the woman probably wants to scream “Stop feeling sorry for me!” and “None of your business” or “Please shut up!”; whether she says it or not is circumstantial.

So here I am, speaking on behalf of women who are divorced or choose to divorce, please stop feeling sorry for us. Divorce is not the end of our story; in fact, it may just be the beginning of it. It’s definitely the end of the fairy-tale but we have come a long way to prioritise reality over books and movies and we are okay with it; that is, if you remove people who are prying into our personal lives.

Interestingly, this is not where the conversations end and suddenly, complete strangers decide to become life coaches who advise you to get married again, find a partner because life is too long to be spent alone or consider your child living without a father and needing a father figure or you needing the protection of a man in this bad, bad world.

While I am pro second marriage for divorced women, expecting someone else to fill in an absent father’s shoes is just not fair; to him and definitely not to your children. Also, some of us truly enjoy our own company, independence and the selfish moments of not having to cook biryani when you want to have spaghetti or watch ‘Fast and the Furious’ when you would rather catch up on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’. In fact, we might value our ‘me time’ much more than a lot of people since we have been constantly sacrificing it in the name of love and saving a marriage.

This does not mean that I am pro divorce. I am just pro happily ever after; whether it is with a partner, child, pet cat or the pleasure of your own company. The toll of constantly giving in to a marriage and not getting what you need in return with expectations of continuing to give more is like being in a mosquito infested rainforest.

Cheers, not tears!

On top of that, the amount of emotional and mental effort exerted during a destructive marriage can leave a person with mental and physical health problems; during and after their ordeal. Research suggests that staying in a bad marriage not only puts you at a higher risk of depression, high blood pressure and heart disease but also reduces your immunity and ability to heal after an injury or illness.

So, if you have managed to emerge on the other side of those legal documents, you need a break, support, freedom to make choices, maybe even counselling, but definitely not people who make you feel sorry for saving yourself.

While divorce might be a three-month process; it is generally followed by a much longer aftermath of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and experts would agree that you cannot wave a magic wand to kick yourself out of your trauma. So, while someone is trying to re-align themselves, the last thing they need is being felt sorry for or free, unsolicited life lessons; especially from self-proclaimed relationship advisors who have no clue about being in the shoes of someone who is exhaling with a sense of relief after the end of a claustrophobic situation.

Myths about divorced women

Irrespective of which part of the world divorced women may belong to, most of them are surrounded by similar myths. Here are the top five ones:

Myth #1: Divorced women are unhappy and bitter

Reality: Divorce can be a positive and empowering choice and many divorced women find happiness and personal growth post-divorce. Kingston University in London conducted a study of 10,000 individuals aged 16 to 60 in the UK in which participants were tasked with assessing their happiness levels before and after undergoing a divorce. Over a span of 20 years, the study revealed that women experienced increased happiness and greater life satisfaction post-divorce.

Myth #2: Divorced women are a burden on social circles

Reality: Divorced women can bring unique perspectives and strengths to social groups. Assuming they are a burden perpetuates an unfair stereotype and overlooks the valuable contributions they can make to friendships and communities. On the flipside, there is nothing worse than being a divorced woman in a patriarchal society where women continue to seek approval for their existence from both men and women within their social circles.

Myth #3: Divorced women are looking for pity or sympathy

Reality: Divorced women, like anyone else, seek understanding and genuine connections. Assuming they want pity undermines their agency and overlooks the potential for positive and supportive interactions. What they are looking for can range anywhere between space to figure things out on their own to a friendly support group to help in raising their children as normally as possible.

Myth #4: Divorced women are responsible for the end of their marriages

Reality: Relationships are complex, and attributing blame solely to one party is often oversimplified. Divorce is a shared process, and assuming fault without understanding the dynamics can perpetuate unfair judgments. While it may be true that women have begun to initiate divorce much more in the past 20 years (research suggests that two-thirds of divorces are initiated by the wife), it is important to remember that a woman with her mental health intact is any day better than an unstable married one.

Myth #5: Divorced women are uninterested in relationships or remarriage

Reality: Divorced women are not defined by their past relationships. Many are open to new connections and bring valuable lessons and experiences to future partnerships. While the numerical divide on remarriage post-divorce lies at 64 per cent for men and 52 per cent for women, a simple psychological predictor also indicates that men tend to be happier and healthier in relationships after a divorce while women are healthier and happier staying single. That may be the reason why divorced men are quicker to remarry than women.

Why divorced women are happier

While divorce usually leaves women financially worse off and they become the primary custodian of children as they continue to battle emotional challenges, research suggests that most divorced women experience increased happiness and well-being over time; especially if they are the ones to initiate the divorce process in the first place.

To seek an understanding of the reasons for this happiness, I asked some of the women I know and here is a summary of their feedback:

Escape from an unhappy or unhealthy relationship: Divorce often represents the end of a relationship that was marked by conflict, emotional distress, or a lack of fulfillment. For women who have endured these conditions, divorce can provide a sense of relief and liberation, allowing them to pursue a happier and healthier life.

Saving children from unhappy, arguing parents: While children are better off in two parent families, research has proven that children exposed to unhappy marriages between their parents suffer much more than those living with a divorced parent. The ability to save their children from their own marital conflict results in better mental health, improved cognitive performance and a general improvement in their behaviour. Since mothers are usually the primary caregivers after a divorce, the improved well-being of their children serves as a major contributor to their happiness.

Reclaiming personal identity and autonomy: In many marriages, women may feel that their personal identities and goals have been subsumed by the needs and expectations of their partners. Divorce can provide an opportunity for women to rediscover their own passions, pursue their own interests, and make their own decisions without feeling constrained by the dynamics of their marriage.

Strengthened social support networks: While destructive marriages tend to isolate women, especially, if they don’t find the support they need or they choose not to share their marital problems, during and after divorce, women often turn to their friends and family for support and companionship. These supportive relationships can play a crucial role in helping women cope with the emotional challenges of divorce and build a new life for themselves.

Increased self-reliance and personal growth: Divorce can necessitate those women develop new skills and capabilities to manage their finances, care for their children, and navigate life independently. This process of self-discovery and personal growth can foster a sense of empowerment and resilience especially for women who have either never been a breadwinner before or been on a career break due to motherhood.

Move on…

That said, a study conducted by University of Chicago reveals that people who suffer from depression or low esteem before or during their marriage will not suddenly find themselves surrounded by sunshine and rainbows after a divorce. While therapy may help them in dealing with the aftermath of the end of a relationship, there is no magic wand that can bring a sudden change of emotions.

With all its challenges, divorce is often the healthiest option for both partners involved. Sometimes, it can be a way to escape an abusive or unhealthy relationship, and it can allow both people to move on with their lives. Divorced women are not victims defined by their marital status. They should not neither be judged nor felt pity for. They are strong and resilient individuals who have made a difficult decision for the best of themselves.

If you know someone who is going through a divorce, the best thing you can do for them is to be supportive and offer help when needed. If you are someone going through a divorce, know that it will get better, you will be happier and you don’t owe the world an explanation of why you are better off now.

The writer is an O ‘Level teacher and a former PR practitioner. She can be reached at