I used to think that divorce was an easy escape from marriage; it allowed people to rush into commitment and then hire an attorney to finalise the demise of something that was just not perfect enough. It seemed like a golden ticket in every Willy Wonka chocolate bar.
At the time, my experience with divorce consisted of a cousin who divorced his wife after three weeks; friends who were the offspring of divorcees; and a multitude of young, divorced co-workers trying to raise their children with no help from their ex-spouses and an almost negligible bank balance. My belief in the happily-ever-after and sacred institution of marriage had paled into insignificance, especially when a friend divulged the heartbreak of finding out that her ex-boyfriend only proposed to her so that she would agree to have sexual intercourse with him. I kept asking myself: ‘Where are the Romeo and Juliet, Paris and Helena, Cleopatra and Mark Anthony, and Odysseus and Penelope stories of contemporary society?’
Then I met a 63-year-old woman who told me that obtaining a divorce was the best decision that she had ever made and that, while she still loved her ex-husband, they just couldn’t make it work. Having waited for her children to grow up and settle down, she filed for a divorce at the age of 61. I didn’t understand why she chose to divorce her husband at such a mature age after a myriad of shared life experiences and ‘happy days’. She simply told me that sometimes love is not enough to make a marriage work and that her ex-husband was simply impossible to live with. There was no hatred in her eyes, nor any sense of regret. She was happy. It made me think that divorce is not only the tragic end of, supposedly, the strongest bond but also the beginning of something new; maybe even the chance to reach for dreams that were stored away in order to fulfill the responsibilities of marriage.
It’s easy to become a cynic. Divorce rates are high and perfect companions are few. I, myself, have a commitment phobia and have never actually been involved in a romantic relationship. I once went as far as insisting, according to old Indian practices, that my parents should find a suitable boy and arrange the marriage. It seemed like the only way of avoiding a tumultuous heartbreak and subsequent divorce. However, it also made marriage seem inconsequential: marriage for the sake of it. Today, life is a whole new ballgame: words such as ‘commitment’, ‘unconditional love’ and ‘forever’ are difficult to believe in. Furthermore, there are no marriage leashes that you can use to keep your spouse from straying, no moulds to measure and contain your spouse’s personal transformation and no guarantees that ‘forever’ is as long as you think it will be. Many of my friends, who have divorced parents, often share this view and find it hard to trust both themselves and their relationships. At the same time, many of them who have been hurt by their parent’s divorce still have hope in one day finding a relationship that surpasses all obstacles.
Hope, even if it comes in the form of denial, is what keeps us moving forward. We can choose to be stuck or we can choose to take a leap of faith. Marriage is a leap of faith. There are no guarantees that things will work out and, when they don’t, the least you can do is attempt to repair the damage. There is nothing easy or quick about divorce; however, a divorce can also be a leap of faith, it also has the ability to propel one forward much like marriage does. While knowing this does not make me the ever-keen romantic, it does instill a sense of hope within me. Divorce is like the window that opens when all doors close – it allows taking the risk of marriage while knowing that all mistakes can be rectified. For without the option of divorce, there would be a colossal amount of abused, stifled or simply unhappy spouses.