Why does marriage equal compromise in Pakistan?
I’m a 24-year-old woman and I am divorced. Yes, you heard right; I’m a 24-year-old divorced woman in a Pakistani society.
I got divorced because my husband was suffering from depression, was taking pills without any proper prescription due to which he also had erectile dysfunction. He insisted that his pride and ego were more important than getting treatment and ensuring a healthy marriage. When I tried explaining the benefits of acquiring treatment he became abusive, leaving me with no option but separation.
Our society, however, does not believe I made the right decision. Yes, it is easy to sit behind a computer screen, in the comfort of your own house and say society has progressed and we are more open to divorced women, but the reality is that we are not. Our society, whether we like to believe it or not, judges a woman for leaving her husband; no matter how ill or abusive he may have been. It believes that in order for a marriage to work a woman must consistently compromise on her life, her ideals, her aspirations and that’s okay. It is more than okay; in fact, it is the foundation upon which marriages in this part of the world seem to evolve and not being able to forge this level of ‘commitment’ (read compromise) is considered a sin.
The unfortunate bit is, despite the circumstances in which I left my husband and even though I had spent a large amount of time trying to make it work, asking him to get treatment and taking care of him, the blame for the failure of the marriage, for society at large, rested squarely on my shoulders. I was not informed about my ex-husband’s illness before marriage; neither him nor his family thought it important enough to be mentioned, yet I should have compromised? Yes, I understand that his parents could have been trying to protect him, but would they have done the same thing had their daughter been in my position? Did my parents not have the right to know? Do I not have the right to know what I am getting into? Why am I to be blamed?
Husbands’ have certain duties towards their wives too; marrying someone is not the equivalent to having a maid or personal assistant in the house. It is the ability to have, respect and love a friend who will now live with you forever. A person with whom you can share all your secrets, share your burdens, your happiness and sadness, and to know that this person, the one you chose to marry is your equal and will help you through life so long as you help them too. So then why does marriage equal compromise in Pakistan? Husbands are not ‘supposed’ to sit back and bark orders at their wives, they are not ‘supposed’ to use her body as a baby-making machine, they are not ‘supposed’ to tame her. She is a person too. And please do not tell me Islam has anything to do with our culturally-distorted version of marriage. Islam, on the contrary, teaches men to be respectful towards their wives, in every situation and circumstance.
He told me about his depression a week after we got married. I remember the way he had said it, he blurted it out in an extremely nonchalant, matter-of-fact kind of way, not realising the impact his words were having on me.
“I have had depression since the past eight years and I have been taking pills due to which I might not be able to consummate the marriage.”
When I asked him, with tears streaming down my face, why he didn’t tell me this before the marriage took place, all I got out of him was,
“I thought you would get angry at me.”
Angry at him? That is the reason I was given for not being told about something as big as this.
Throughout the short time that we were together, however betrayed I felt, I tried to get him to go to a psychiatrist. I tried everything, love, hate, anger, and I prayed to God all night to make my husband understand that I was not his enemy and that it is all for his own good, but every time I tried, I got only one answer,
“If you want to live with me, deal with me as I am, otherwise I can give you a divorce, and I will tell the world it is my fault.”
And it shocked me to my core every single time, because he talked about divorce like it was a walk in the park, like our bond didn’t matter, like he didn’t care if it did.
If this wasn’t bad enough, his mother obviously supported him and in an attempt to justify their silence stated, ignorantly, that ‘it really is no big deal’ and that ‘80% of the population is depressed anyway’. When I argued, I was blamed for not being a supportive wife and even ‘aggravating’ his condition. Since the conclusion of our marriage, my ex-mother-in-law hasn’t spared a single person from hearing the ‘heartbreaking tale of her son’s marriage to an unsupportive selfish girl, who was only after his money’.
Although, my family and close friends have been exceedingly supportive, there are still times that I’ll hear people whispering about me and my life; arguments about whether I did the right thing or not, and then harsh statements about how anyone ‘in their right minds would get separated over such a petty issue’. But I believe I speak for all women out there when I say it is not easy to be a divorced woman in a Pakistani society. It takes a lot of courage, strength and determination to stand up for your own rights, especially when it comes to marriage. A divorcee is not someone with a lot of ‘attitude’. She is not any ‘kind of person’ she is just a woman who is fed-up of being a door-mat. A divorce is not an easy process, emotionally, mentally or physically; don’t burden her with societal pressure too.
To all the people pointing fingers at divorced women, I say this, think about what would happen if your husband was abusive, if he made an unforgivable mistake or if he never cared for you. Would you spend the rest of your life in misery or would you demand that your mind and heart deserve happiness?
I believe they do. And I believe that no women should ever suffer, even the tiniest bit, for a man who does not care about her.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.