A very dear friend of mine just walked out of her fifteen-year old marriage. I’ve waited for her to do this from the day she married her imaginary dream man. It was one of those doomed-from-the-start marriages.
The man is your stereotypical insecure, dominating, control-freak who, soon after they were married, resented the very qualities which had attracted him to her in the first place. His own shortcomings made him bitter of his wife’s immense qualities. He believed that that physical (as well as mental) abuse was par for the course in a marriage, or at least in his marriage, because she, in his twisted mind, deserved it. In all the years that I heard her cry over the phone, I never once prayed that he would reform. Why? Because I knew he was beyond it. I only prayed that she found the strength to leave him. Why she stayed this long is something I will never understand. However, what gives me immense joy is that she finally found the strength.
Today, as I write this, as she sits in her tiny one room apartment that is her own, where she does not have to worry about straightening the table mat before her husband gets home, I am not lamenting her past. I am celebrating her courage and her future. Kudos to her for having walked out, knowing very well that she would leave everything behind, every part of the past fifteen years of her life, even her kids. You can imagine what that would feel like, to walk out on your kids, who in their pre-teen minds would not understand but find it easy to blame, goaded, of course, by the father. She feels bereft and they feel abandoned. But, it’s still the best outcome possible.
The man is moneyed, seriously moneyed, and has got top-notch lawyers to make sure the kids stay with him. Also, he’s been extremely devious and anticipated her leaving much before she found the courage to do so. He, thus, has been brainwashing the kids for years, while putting the mother down as someone with half a brain and only good for home chores. So now when she’s actually left, the kids see it as a kind of betrayal. The father, needless to say, is not losing sleep over the impact that his underhanded tactics are having on the kids. All he cares about is how to pay as little alimony as possible, how to frighten the kids into submission and how to paint the mother black. So far, he seems to be succeeding one all three counts.
Divorces are rarely amicable, but some are more acrimonious than others. It does not have to be, but sadly, ego kicks in big time and most turn into messy games of power and one-upmanship. My friend is someone who I knew as smart, funny, extremely confident and well read. In our youth, we never ran out of things to talk about. We’d talk endlessly of books and films, of philosophy and life, of music and dream men. This last topic, one of her favourites, proved also to be her weakness, because she was a die-hard, will-be-swept-off-my-feet romantic. She believed, I guess like most people that age, that there was this special someone waiting in the wings for her (when, in truth, that someone she had, in a moment of bad judgment, left behind years ago and regret had done little to bring him back)
Life never quite turned out the way she’d imagined it to. Her laugh was infectious, one that would ring in your ears long after she’s left the room. When I spoke to her other day, I heard the first faint signs of that laugh, after fifteen years. It made me smile and think that maybe she will rebound from this. The pain cannot go away, that’s true. But she’ll be happier now that there is no constant belittling, every second of the day. She’s liberated and that was what I heard in her voice, freedom, the ability to breathe.
I know the road is long, but she has taken it. It’s all she could do. Hopefully, one day the kids will grow up to realize her worth. Teenage years are tough at the best of times, so when they bring a split in the family, it can be a devastating blow. It’s unfortunate that the father is so caught up in proving himself right that he cares little about how the kids would be coping without a mother, who, until the other day was doing everything physically possible for them – the swimming lessons, the school projects, the Sunday games, the baking of cakes and cookies, the visits to the doc, every single thing. Now she’s gone and are being wooed by their father who has thrown money at the problem and taken them on a holiday – what a dad.
Hang in there, my friend. I know it’s easier said but what can one do right now except lend an ear? I quote Shelly in Ode to the West Wind: “if winter comes, can spring be far behind?”