Marital separation does not seem to carry the stigma it used to many years earlier
They’re young and divorced. But they’re also successful; they pay their kid’s school fees, for their pricey mobile phones, their own cars and exotic holidays. “The stigma surrounding divorce is definitely reducing,” says advocate Poongkhulali B. The matrimonial expert says, “It’s definitely not as bad a word as it used to be say 20 or even 10 years ago.” This is good news, given that Tamil Nadu had the highest percentage of widowed / divorced or separated (WDS) individuals in India in a 2010 survey (8.8 per cent). “In our experience, women who are financially independent are more prepared to leave an unhappy marriage,” says Poongkhulali. “That, and children are the biggest factors that they consider.”
But ask divorcees why they left despite social conditioning and the discord it may cause, and they are very clear.
“There is nothing wrong with the institution of marriage. It was the individual I could not live with,” cites 31-year-old photographer Vijay Anand (name changed on request).
Chick-lit writer Judy Balan (31), who has a five-year-old daughter, and interior design consultant Bhargavii Mani (33) both agree that staying in an unhappy situation is not an option. “I left my marriage because of both physical and emotional abuse,” says Judy Balan. “When I got divorced, a lot of well-meaning people told me that I ‘should have thought of the child’. That’s another thing that people never get — sometimes we divorce precisely because we’re thinking of our children.”
Bhargavii’s story begins differently, but has the same ending. “I married a nice guy at 20. But there was a lot of pressure from his family! All I wanted was for our individual roles and opinions to be given priority. Eventually, I ran out of patience.”
Vijay Anand, Judy Balan and Bhargavii Mani have all weathered the storm and are happier, healthier and wiser for it. But societal accord and acceptance still seem to be the major deterrent for people in bad marriages. Family counsellor Priya Ramesh believes, “Marriage is an institution, an accepted way. So going against a socially-accepted norm may prove too daunting. Fear of an unknown future can be crippling. It requires a lot of courage to travel the unknown. Hence couples would rather continue to go through the motions of marriage. In cases where children are involved, financial and emotional security play a great role.”
But there are many options these days, and educated, working girls count on their economic independence.
“Our society is going through a wave of change in every sense of the word. The work culture and its demands are changing, family units are evolving, as are the financial status of couples and its ensuing expectations,” says Priya Ramesh. “People say young couples today are less tolerant and incapable of adjusting, but I don’t know if that’s true,” lawyer Poongkhulali says and adds staying or leaving remains a deeply personal decision.
So are they happier for leaving? Yes, seems to be the consensus. Vijay is considering marriage again. Judy and Bhargavii are reaping professional rewards, and say they owe much of this to their parents. Judy says, “I'm all for marrying later. I realise that it may be a gamble, but marriage is a partnership unlike any.” Bhargavii sums up the case of successful singledom, “We always have a choice in life. No one can hurt you without your consent. Support system is very important, so invest in building one. Surround yourself with good people, keep off negative ones.”