We marry with the hope that it will last till death do part. But, not all married couples go on to live happily ever after.
Earlier, more couples chose on to live in dysfunctional marriages, as they followed traditional norms to stay trapped in an unhappy marriage. Nowadays, when a marriage doesn’t work despite repeated trials, couples part their ways in the divorce court to start life anew.
Though divorce liberates a woman from a hopeless marriage, it is an unpleasant experience for most. Some resort to self-destructive ways to grapple with it. Others have a mature way of coming to terms with it.
Having trouble coping with divorce? Pallavi Bhattacharya outlines ten tips for Indian women to deal with everything, from difficult ex-husbands to coping with divorce financially.
Dealing with your grief
If it is a divorce in which the husband has left his wife for another woman, it is but natural that the wife will feel angry, hurt and betrayed. A broken heart may be detrimental to health.
The woman may unduly feel low on confidence, thinking that she fell short and is less desirable than the woman her husband deserted her for.
Kakoli Banerjee (name changed), would mournfully confide in people, “I do know that my husband had an affair with another woman because he was very angry with me for a reason which is yet not known to me. One day, out of the blue, my husband showed me the door and told me that I couldn’t use his surname anymore. Had I known how I had peeved him, maybe there would be some consolation, though I’d never get him back.”
In scenarios like this women need to know, that they’re neither undesirable nor at fault. Their husbands didn’t stay true to the wedding vow they took to be faithful to their wives.
Keeping tabs on the new love life of your husband will do more harm than good. Nor will having affairs or rushing into relationships with the sole purpose of showing your ex-husband that you’ve moved on help.
Melissa John (name changed) was resentful that her husband had chosen a much younger woman over her. She splurged her alimony on treatment at salons and pursued men of her son’s age. Most of them played with her feelings and hurt her emotionally.
Women who have initiated the divorce, as they were dissatisfied with the marriage for a very long time, may feel less sad that it had to end. They may embrace their newfound freedom.
The best way to deal with sorrow, post-divorce, is to acknowledge it as a natural phase. Resorting to alcoholism, chain-smoking and drugs thinking that it will numb your pain will simply bring about your ruin.
If you’re trying to move on from a life transition, check out my course, Devi 2 Diva: Become A Fierce & Fearless Force For Change. It will show you how to throw off the shackles of your own limiting beliefs, come into your power and design your destiny.
Take the help of family and friends, who may lend you an empathetic ear and provide you with a shoulder to cry on. Venting your anguish on social media is a bad idea.
Dealing with a difficult ex-husband
Whereas some husbands take the divorce maturely and gradually move on, some exes simply cannot come to terms with the fact that the marriage is over. They may end up stalking you.
Dimpi, an astrologer who currently lives in Delhi says, “I was earning very well as an astrologer, whereas my husband was a clerk at a bank. He would steal my jewels and cash. He’d beat me to get cheques signed so that he could acquire money. To him, I was and still is a hen who can lay golden eggs. I had to pay him alimony, and am still paying him.”
She says that it was her husband who had wanted a divorce so that he could remarry. She narrates how insecure he was and even after the divorce he would send paranoid messages to her professional clients, that she was physically interested in the men she did astrological predictions for.
She informs that her husband didn’t maturely part ways with her, “Post-divorce, he would continue to forcefully stay over at her house.” She, therefore, changed houses a lot. She narrates, “I even shifted to a new city and set up a professional base out there. I purchased land in this new place. He hunted me down in this new city.”
She goes on to narrate how perilous his stayovers are to her safety, “Family members request that he stay with me, especially when he is ill. On visits like these, he beats me, breaks things and misbehaves with domestic helpers.” She says that the police was of no help to her.
She has blocked her husband’s number. She claims to have saved all the abusive messages that her ex-husband sent her. She says that he still comes over to her home and reigns havoc.
As the police are often apathetic towards domestic violence and stalking in India, though they are duty bound to register these cases, it’s better to visit the police station along with women’s rights activists of an NGO.
There are non-profit organisations which help victims of domestic violence and fight court cases for them. But ultimately, it is you who has to deal with abusive people in your life.
If you find it hard to say how you feel, you can learn how to be more assertive and stand up for yourself, comfortably and calmly, so you can escape the anger, depression and anxiety that comes with the inability to set boundaries with people in your life.
Getting a good divorce lawyer
When children and sharing property are involved, and it’s a non-amicable divorce, it’s essential to hire a good divorce lawyer.
You may ask others who have gone through a divorce for recommendations for efficient divorce lawyers. You may test the lawyer’s knowledge on divorce proceedings before hiring her/ him.
There are NGOs which can help you hire divorce lawyers at nominal costs. Poor women who don’t have these skills often end up in a separation that neither involves a proper divorce nor alimony.
Radharani Ghosh, who works as a household cook, narrates the ordeal she underwent, “As a legal divorce didn’t come through, I got no alimony. Nevertheless, my husband ‘remarried’.”
Warding off inquisitive queries and nasty comments
In India, when you are dealing with a personal issue, whether it is a death in your family or divorce, your phone will go on ringing relentlessly and so-called well-wishers will drop in at your home unannounced with annoying questions.
No divorcee I interviewed has been immune to nasty jibes. This is indeed unfortunate as during this time a woman hopes that she’s given respite from intrusive inquiries and harsh comments. One would rather prefer empathy and compassion.
Dimpi says, “After my divorce, people often quizzed me as to how I had got a divorce despite being an astrologer. I found their so-called accusation totally baseless. It’s like expecting that a doctor can never fall ill.”
In a myopic Indian society which thinks that a woman is powerless without a man, she was irked with questions as to how she was managing everything all by herself, instead of people appreciating the fact that she was a strong and independent woman.
She elaborates, “Some would ask me as to how I was living on in Hindu society without a husband. Pandits would ask me as to how I was carrying out rituals without a man’s presence. Some would express surprise as to how I was applying a bindi despite being a divorced lady.”
Riya Chakraborty (name changed) was naturally peeved by the way her inquisitive colleagues reacted to her divorce.
She says, “Though it should have been none of their business, they would discuss my divorce amongst them. They despite being educated and financially independent, had a regressive mindset when it came to accepting a divorced woman. They would pass comments like I was the person who was unable to adjust in a marriage, and as a result, was incapable of enjoying a happy married life with kids.”
Fed up of the environment at work, she changed jobs. Though the work environment in the new school she teaches at is better, there is still an undercurrent of gossiping about her divorce.
She says, “There are women in my peer group who are divorced or separated. Yet, they backbite about me. They say that at least they have a child, but I am without one.”
The best way to deal with gossip is to stop taking things personally and begin to enjoy life more. Break the habit of believing it’s your fault.
Also, practices like self-acceptance can help you stop knee-jerk reactions to people and events so you can transform difficult emotions into sources of strength.
Making new friends
Especially in a scenario where your old friends are more likely to hinder than help, you may need to make new friends. Visit places where you may meet people of common interests.
You may also be able to make friends at parties and professional networking events. Matchmaking apps like Truly Madly, Ok Cupid, Woo, Coffee Meets Bagel and Tinder are certain forums where you can make new friends and maybe even find a partner.
Making friends via apps, however, need to be approached with precaution. You may have to meet many weird people in the process but may also make really nice friends.
Take precautions to protect your privacy and learn how to stay safe online. Get to know people over chat before deciding to meet them in person, and never divulge your address or personal details until you know someone well.
If you ever have a bad feeling about anyone you have chatted with online, trust your instincts and avoid meeting them in person.
Developing new hobbies
Indian women are often forced to suppress their talents while married. We hear countless stories of women being forced to give up careers or their hobbies after marriage.
Post-divorce, you have the chance to discover the talents within you. You can leap out of your safety zone (which is another word for prison!) and try new things confidently to infinitely extend the sense of who you are.
If you’re a talented dancer who hasn’t been able to hit the stage ever since you got married or an actor who has been compelled to stifle her acting skills, this is the time to nurture your talents again.
You can develop new hobbies as well. You could search on Google to access a wide range of hobbies people around the world follow. If it’s a hobby which needs training, you can join a hobby training class near your residence.
Riya says, “Ever since I got separated, I started reading books and going on trips with my widowed mother. I never ever felt bored because I was single.”
You could also take up a cause close to your heart if finances aren’t an issue. Kakoli’s son and daughter-in-law who earned very well were already providing for her. However, she made the wise decision to move out of her son’s home where her former husband also lived. In fact, she changed cities.
A talented doctor, she started practising medicine again. She chose to relocate to a remote village of India where she could help patients who wouldn’t be able to avail of a good doctor. She charges them very nominally and states that she has found peace of mind since then.
Coping with divorce financially
Post-divorce, many women are financially free and already have savings. Divorce doesn’t throw them into a financial crisis. Then there are women who have to get a job and earn for themselves as well as their children.
Radharani’s three daughters were mere toddlers when she and her husband parted ways. She says, “My husband who was unemployed, didn’t financially help us after our family split. My mother said that I’d rather adjust and return to my matrimonial home. My parental family didn’t even spend a rupee on our wellbeing.”
Radharani took up professions which men are conventionally known to pursue in an attempt to become financially independent.
She says, “I observed carpenters at work and picked up carpentry from them. I also started working as a building painter. In 2000, I relocated to Mumbai, as the pay scale here was higher compared to West Bengal.” She started working as a cook in households.
Depending on your expertise, you may find jobs which are financially rewarding, especially if you need to provide for your children as well. There are a number of work-from-home options you can consider if you don’t have someone to care for your kids.
Not all jobs come with a high pay package though. In cases like these, you may take professional and academic training to upgrade yourself to a job which pays better.
Chalking out a monthly budget helps one to allocate finances for various purposes and set aside funds for saving as well. The reason why most people cannot save is that they try to save after spending, instead of saving before making expenditures.
One can invest in shares provided one has expert knowledge of the share market, else one may run into serious losses. Avoid chit funds. Invest in reliable organisations instead.
Get life insurance and opt for a good Mediclaim plan. Fixed deposits are a relatively safe investment and you can earn up to 9.00% p.a. when you invest in fixed deposits online.
Handling the responsibility of being a single mother
Many women execute the duties of a single woman even while married. Others may be new to managing children single-handedly after a divorce.
Some ex-husbands are dutiful towards their children and send adequate money so that the kids can have a good upbringing and happy childhood. Not all husbands provide child support. Some may have zero or a negative influence on their children’s lives.
If your ex-husband is a threat to your kids’ safety, with the help of a women’s organisation, you may issue a court order against him so that he maintains a distance from them.
Some women are in a situation wherein they get no family support in child raising. Whereas privileged women can afford crèches, underprivileged women may be in dire straits.
Radharani says, “I got no family support to raise my children. My landlady was the one who took care of my daughters when I was away at work. They have now grown up and are all married.”
Getting into a new relationship again
It is common knowledge that rebounds can bring immense harm to you. It’s best to take some time off relationships before exploring new relationship possibilities. Do some grief work to heal the hurt from your divorce.
One of the best resources to help you do this is John Gray’s book Mars and Venus Starting Over – A Practical Guide for Finding Love Again After a Painful Breakup, Divorce, or the Loss of a Loved One.
Many women who were in abusive relationships will end up marrying an abuser again if they do not do the inner work to heal their own troubled childhood wounds. Learn to move on from the past and develop healthy thought patterns before you get into a new relationship.
Develop independence to improve your skills and strike that fine balance that allows true independence to improve relationships and strengthen the bonds between you and your new partner.
The most natural way of meeting a man is through parties, social gatherings and through work. Dating apps are a platform to find liberal men, though there are many traditional men there as well who will unmatch you immediately after getting to know that you are a divorcee.
Don’t take this personally. You don’t want to date a narrow-minded man who considers divorce a black mark on someone’s character. Such people are nightmares to live with and will likely turn out to be bad partners themselves.
Matrimonial websites are also channels to find a spouse. These websites are however losing out on popularity to the matchmaking apps, as open-minded men who earn well and wish to explore friendship before ascertaining marriage possibilities prefer apps.
You’ve heard of the saying, “Once Bitten, Twice Shy.” The worst mistake that you can make is once again letting your heart take the lead over your brain in choosing a partner.
Radharani narrates how she was duped by her lover, “While in Mumbai, I’d get regular calls from a wrong number. We soon started talking regularly and I fell in love with him. He was separated from his wife. We started living together. One day I discovered that he had absconded with all my gold jewellery and Rs 2 lakh in cash which I had kept at home. The police refused to register my complaint. I had a nervous breakdown and started taking medicines for anxiety. I once again had to start saving from scratch.”
Lack of physical intimacy
The transition from the double bed to a single bed is not an easy one. Some women don’t miss physical intimacy all that much. Others may feel sad and lonely that they can’t hug, kiss or make love.
Some women may be able to overcome the lacunae of physical intimacy by self-stimulation and the use of sex toys. Others may opt for friends with benefits arrangements. When in an intimate relationship with a new man, always use protection (condoms) so that you are safe from STDs and unwanted pregnancy.
If you need help coping with divorce in India, we hope that the tips above will give you a guide to coping with divorce and enjoying life again.
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