Trigger warning: This article contains descriptors of domestic violence.
Divorce sucks. No one gets married thinking they are going to get divorced.
When you are picking out your wedding outfits, and getting frustrated by the annoying WhatsApp back and forth for color swatches, you are thinking about how each part of your wedding is laying down the foundation for your “Happily Ever After.” You know that the shaadi outfits arriving to your house will not be as perfect as you want, but you hope it won’t ruin everything. You absorb that stress – the family drama – the aunties in the corner judging your eyeliner, dupatta, embroidery, shoe, song choice, and then stage left comes the judgey uncles standing in the corner giving you the “That’s haram” feels for no reason.
This is your special day; you waited your whole life to get married to the man who is half your deen. This is the man you connected with at a level you never thought Allah (SWT) could bless you with. He got overwhelmed by the wedding planning, but this felt like any normal wedding situation. You did not want to be the stressed Bridezilla, nor did you expect your mother in law to be a completely different person than she seemed at the engagement. Amidst it all, you absorbed every dua and had hope for the future. You couldn’t have predicted it ending.
You tried everything. It isn’t working. The fights that used to be you both confronting each other with issues turned intense. It was as though you were trying to outshout each other; the words that were said…they cut so deep. But with every new fight about things that seemed so petty in the moment, more words cut even deeper. Words you can never forget. Maybe he hit you, maybe he kept you from leaving rooms – maybe you never realized the verbal disrespect was actual abuse. Your tears and your breakdowns resulted in no affectionate support from him. The more and more it happens, you find yourself becoming someone you don’t even recognize. It affects you at work, at school, with your family and friends. People at the masjid ask you when you are having kids; you quickly say “insha’Allah when He sees fit,” while forcing the biggest smile on your face.
People in our community don’t believe in divorce. As a child, you have been told that “We just don’t do it”. You worry about what the community will say before you think about what you need. You know of those few cases that years later, everyone still gossips about it every time she walks into a room. You feel so disappointed in yourself that you can’t fix it, as if you fell in your faith with Allah (SWT) by contemplating a divorce. You tried everything, but it’s falling apart in every possible way, like water in a basket, and you cannot catch all of it. You finally talk to your parents, and they tell you to keep trying.
“Marriage isn’t easy beta, it’s hard work,” they say.
You go to the imam and he gives you a “surah plan” to reconnect you both to your faith and to the commitment you made to Allah (SWT) and your husband. He tells you that you aren’t the first couple to come to him, and shares his success stories. You won’t be the last couple that comes to him. Therapy is not working.
You have two choices: Stay or leave.
Now, let’s fast forward to the first event without your “husband.” The paperwork has gone through both attorneys; everyone is asking where he is. You are praying he didn’t Snapchat where he is to keep yourself from feeling embarrassed. Somehow, a divorce is always the woman’s fault. The whispers for divorce happen faster than the shaadi announcements. She wasn’t “cultured” enough, “too independent,” “wasn’t a good daughter-in-law,” “worked too much,” “couldn’t cook good nihari,” and the absolute worst: “She couldn’t give him any kids.”
No one gets married thinking they will get divorced. Your parents spent their savings on your wedding. Maybe you were the first one to get married, or the eldest, and the guilt bringing up a divorce can weigh down on you. However, spending the rest of your life with, building a future with, and bringing children into the equation with, a situation that has verbal or physical abuse is not okay.
You don’t need to stay in a toxic situation for the rest of your life for the sake of culture or Islam. Yes, marriage isn’t easy. It is hard work, but if you put all of you in it, and still it isn’t working, then finding the courage to end things is something you may need to do. Your marriage didn’t end because you weren’t a “good” Muslim. It ended because the man you are married to is not the man you first married; the man you loved is not the man in front of you. Let go of the heaviness of the blame and the guilt that shows up in different parts of your life.
Allah (SWT) truly wants His children to be happy and loved. Believe this.
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