In the twelfth interview of the Desi Divorce Discussion series, I finally get to talk to Anu, a reader from California who sent me a heartfelt “Your book was a sign” message on Facebook right after reading my book. We stayed in touch as she went through a particularly difficult divorce journey and fortunately, we were able to meet in person in Singapore.
Today’s episode is really special because I have had several deep conversations with Anu and we were waiting for her divorce to be legally finalised before recording the podcast. Like my previous guest, Laila, Anu did not grow up in India, in fact, her life trajectory took her from Australia to the US without passing through India. Yet, as you listen to her story, you will know how Indian culture and upbringing impacts life’s most important decision, marriage and of course, the fall out when it leads to divorce.
Anu’s credentials include an MBA from Harvard and an extremely successful career, but her belief that if you study hard and work hard, you will succeed was severely tested when it came to her unhappy marriage. The same rules of putting more effort to get ahead at work didn’t seem to apply when it came to mending a dysfunctional relationship. In many ways, it wasn’t fear of family or society that keep her stuck in a bad marriage, it was her own belief that she was not a quitter. It took many years and unpleasant events for Anu to learn that it was OK to quit.
“In Indian marriages, longevity is celebrated, not quality. There is a huge push to adjust/compromise. Plus the burden of a successful marriage is always on the woman” says Anu. Her observations are spot on because these are things we have seen in our parents’ marriage or in the comments made by people in our communities. Instead of congratulating a woman for her accomplishments in all areas, women get praised for their cooking abilities or their immaculate homes, further linking personal happiness to family life.
Despite being a single mother, with her parents stuck in faraway Australia during the pandemic, Anu managed her separation and divorce procedures with the help of a supportive group of friends and by taking her strength and her cues from her young daughter. We spoke about the grief of ending a long relationship and the reluctance to ask for help as well as the frustration and isolation of daily life as a single woman but also of the surprising joys that arise from strong bonds of friendship.
Here are some of the excellent points that Anu made for anyone considering divorce:
- Staying in a bad marriage is not a badge of honour. It’s OK to quit
- The hardest day is when you finally decide to get a divorce. There will be times when you will feel sadness, anger, hopeless, grief and hopeful – it’s all part of your divorce journey
- Don’t hesitate to ask for help. Like being a new parent, you will not know everything at the beginning but you will figure it out and people will support you, you will know who your friends are
- There is no judgment for getting a divorce or for choosing to stay in your marriage.
- Take charge of your life and live it fully. Be the author and the hero of your life
Whether you are thinking about divorce, have left an unhappy marriage or are curious about how women fare after divorce, do listen and let me know your thoughts.
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