How pretty Gul is looking even on her second marriage,” Sara tells her friend Saba. “Yes, she is glowing. Good that she took divorce from Amir. Otherwise, she would’ve had to suffer all her life,” says Saba.
Five years back, Gul was studying at university where she fell in love with the most handsome boy at campus, Amir. They had a steamy affair for two years and finally they tied the knot in October 2018. The first few months were like a fairy tale. “I was over the moon. I thought I found my prince charming as he was not only good looking but well settled too. But I was so naïve. After a year, I was exposed to the real Amir who was cunning and a control freak. He behaved like a perfect man in front of people and made them believe that he loved me like anything. But when we were alone, he misbehaved with me and mentally tortured me. He became worse during the early lockdown days in March 2020. One day he hit me very badly. I was seven months pregnant then and I lost my baby due to his physical abuse. That day I made up my mind that I had to relinquish this marriage,” narrates 26-year-old Gul.
“It wasn’t easy for me to take this step but thank God I have an understanding family who gave me much needed support. I remained depressed for few months but then I started taking an interest in life. In December last year, my cousin Ali proposed to me. He was my secret admirer but when he saw that I loved someone else, he quietly surrendered. When he got to know I took divorce, he approached me and disclosed his feelings. He was never married and wanted me to be his wife. Initially, I was apprehensive but then I decided to take a second chance,” adds Gul.
Gul tied the knot with Ali in January 2001. It’s been eight months now that they have been married and according to Gul, she now realises the true meaning of companionship. “Ali is a balanced guy. He is not that great looking or rich like Amir but he knows how to keep me happy. He respects me which is a crucial factor in a marriage,” states Gul.
In our society, divorce is still considered a taboo. Divorced women are generally looked down upon. As a result, hundreds and thousands of married women are being pressurised to live compromised lives, especially in our lower-middle class families. They are expected to suffer in silence to protect their marriage. But not any longer. Though there are still many women prefer to stay in abusive marriages because of the cultural stigma attached to divorce; there are many courageous women who have taken a plunge and refused to succumb to the traditional norms of the society.
With changing lifestyles, there has been an increase in job opportunities for women giving them economic independence and options to get out of bad marriages. They are no longer prepared to make sacrifices at the cost of their own independence and happiness. “Though we have come a long way, yes divorce is still considered a taboo especially in middle and lower strata of our community. Our younger generation is different and it is relatively easier for them to take the step,” observes Dr Faisal Mamsa, a renowned psychologist and psychiatrist based in Karachi and has been practicing for 15 years. (He can be contacted at www. mamsafaisal.com.)
When asked what factors are responsible for leading a couple on the verge of divorce, he explains, “Majority of the marriages in our society are arranged. One might fall in love with the spouse or one might not. Extramarital affair or affairs, physical and emotional abuse by the partner or his family, lack of emotional connection are some of the few factors that may lead to divorce.” Talking about the common warning signs that one is suffering in one’s marriage, he describes, “The physical abuse is clearly visible, emotional abuse can lead to depression, anxiety, and other psychiatric illnesses that is visible by itself. Victims at times open up and say that they are being abused.”
According to Dr Mamsa the psychological implications of living in a toxic relationship are many. “It can lead to full blown clinical depression, severe anxiety (which will have its own cascade of symptoms), acute stress disorder, PTSD, conversion disorder, low self-esteem and eating disorders. These are a few of the many problems that can develop,” he notices.
Mamsa is of the view that happiness and peace of mind is a basic human need. “If one finds these things by remarrying then yes, they should go for it. I have encountered many women who are living happily with their second husbands.”
“Better to end a miserable marriage than to linger on for the sake of the society,” believes a 32-year-old Fatima. She had an arranged marriage. She was a medical student when her parents decided her fate. She got a proposal from a doctor who was settled in USA with his family. Fatima’s simple parents thought this proposal as a gift from God and married her off within a month. She wanted to complete her MBBS but they did not listen to her. “I was a 22-year-old timid girl then. My husband Jawaid had a big house in Washington where he lived with his parents and two sisters. I was a young bride but Jawaid never took me out. He remained busy with his hospital and hardly gave any time to me. My in-laws turned out to be very nasty people. They made me work all day. After few months, I realised that they did not bring a daughter-in-law but brought an educated maid from Pakistan. After two years I had a baby girl. I thought things would change but I was badly mistaken. They criticised me for giving birth to a girl. I kept on enduring their ill treatment. Three years passed and they did not allow me to go to Pakistan once. Jawaid turned out to be a weak husband. He was under the influence of his parents. Then my father had a heart attack, I desperately wanted to visit him but I was utterly disappointed when Jawaid told me that my first duty was to serve my in-laws and my own family should be secondary to me. That was the time when I finally decided to take divorce from Jawaid as there was no point in lingering the so-called marriage,” elaborates Fatima.
When Fatima came back to Pakistan in 2015 after a troubled married life of four years, she was mentally and physically exhausted but she was relieved. “My parents were very embarrassed that I took divorce but they also felt guilty as they did not do any investigations about Jawaid and his crazy family. They supported me in every possible way. I completed my MBBS, then I did house job in an established hospital for a year, after that I got a job offer from the same hospital. I was afraid of getting married again but couldn’t refuse a proposal from my childhood friend Bilal, who was a divorcee himself. Since he, himself went through a bad marriage, he understood my feelings completely. He had a little daughter too. Hence, we decided to get married. It was a mutual decision and ideal for our daughters too – one got a father and another one got a mother. We have been married for two years now and I am glad that I took a second chance,” smiles Fatima.
Another emotional story is of Saba, a journalist by profession. “Mine was an arranged marriage but it could be called love at first sight. Zubair, my first husband, saw me at a wedding and he fell for me. Somehow, he found my address and straightaway sent a proposal that I couldn’t resist. I thought I was lucky to have a loving and caring husband like Zubair but little did I know that he was promiscuous and I was just his passing fancy. Our first few months were very romantic, he was crazy about me but then slowly and gradually his passion fizzled out. Zubair used to take care of his father’s established business so he had time on his hands. He was a partygoer. After two years, I became mom of a beautiful son. While I stayed home with my little kid, he went in parties with his friends. Though I was fed up with his callous behaviour, I was adamant to carry on with this relationship. Then I got to know about his extra-marital affair. I was quiet even then and wanted him to come back to me. But when he started bringing his girlfriends to our house openly, then I lost all patience. I felt humiliated and decided to end this terrible marriage,” recounts Saba, now 35 years old.
After taking divorce from Zubair, Saba went back to her parents’ house with her little baby. She resumed her job (she resigned at the time of her marriage) and started her life back on track brick by brick. “I was determined to give my boy a good life. I didn’t want to be a burden on my parents so I re-joined my job. Though I looked okay but I was into deep depression, and then I got to meet a really nice guy Ahmed who changed my views about men. He actually sat with me for hours and patiently listened to me. For the first time it occurred to me that men could be sensitive and soft-hearted. He became my best friend and then he proposed to me which I couldn’t turn down,” tells Saba. “I have been married for a year and a half now. Ahmed’s family has also accepted me along with my son. Ahmed is more like a friend to me. He hasn’t put any restrictions on me. I go to my job and my mom-in-law takes cares of my little son. I must say she is one of the best moms-in-law one can ever imagine to have. After my divorce, I thought I was the most unlucky girl but now I think I am the luckiest one. I am happy that I took a second chance, you never know what Nature has store in for you,” she adds.
Marriage is a beautiful relationship but when it does not work, then divorce is a better option than to live a miserable life. Nobody marries to get divorced. Well, adjustments and compromises are part of a married life, but sometimes circumstances compel one to think about divorce. Nobody can deny the traumatic effects of divorce but then for some it is the best way to end mental distress.
According to Dr Mamsa, “There is no fixed formula of a successful marriage, but respect and trust has to be there in every relationship. Being truthful is imperative. Here I would like to mention that in our society a mentally unstable or a patient of severe mental illness or a person who has drug and alcohol are married off without disclosing the truth. Now that is absolutely wrong. It’s being deceitful.”
He urges parents to teach good values to their sons. “Please teach your sons not to raise hands on wives. Please teach them to be respectful and not go around having extra marital affairs. Please teach them to be truthful and dedicated to their significant others.”
How long women have to put up with bitter marriages, don’t they have a right to stay happy? They always have the option to walk away from an ugly marriage and take charge of their own lives and can start afresh.
These are all real life stories; however, names have been changed to retain privacy.
Erum Noor Muzaffar is the editor of You! magazine. She can be reached at [email protected]