A Marriage that never should have been
By Vaishali Sharda @v4vaishali
South Asian + Teenager + Divorced Parents + 1980s + 1st Generation Americans (South Asian Community + Family in India) = a disastrous equation for any hope of a normal childhood.
This in short, sums up my teenage years. My parents should have never married each other. That’s the conclusion my almost 40-year-old self has come to. Two polar opposites in likes, dislikes, personalities, goals and passions that were bound to this lifelong institution by cultural conforms, community, familial obligation, respect and pride of days long gone circa 1970’s.
I‘m not writing this with the intent to disrespect my parents’ marriage. Rather it’s an acknowledgment that these two people deserve the happiness that they should have always had. Whether found alone, or with someone else.
Experiencing my own parents’ divorce at the age of 15 wasn’t so much a surprise as it was an emotional shock. Shock because of how my mother was all of a sudden perceived to be some untouchable outcast – by the people and community that we considered to be her friends and support circle. Party and dinner invitations all of a sudden stopped coming. Mom was left to deal with the remnants of this new concept of divorce on her own.
Breaking the news to family in India, in the late 80’s, was a feat on its own. Although everyone agreed that the divorce was a long time coming, (and in theory much needed), there was always the, “But we don’t do that. We don’t divorce in our family”. It was easy for them to sweep the black sheep of the family under the proverbial carpet as they were in India and we were in America. Nobody needed to know any of this.
This led to a very unrealistic perception of what I wanted in my own life, in my own family and in my own marriage when I got older. I vowed to not repeat the mistakes my parents had made. I promised myself that I would make it work no matter what. I promised myself that I would not allow my children to have to choose between going to their dad’s or their mom’s for the weekend or the summer. A dream, a delusional fantasy that contributed to yet another marriage that never should have been.
I struggled over the years on taking action, to eventually leaving an abusive marriage, but I was pulled back every time with the thoughts and fantasies that I had made myself believe as a teenager.
Dating, as little as I did pre-marriage, was a challenge to say the least. I had only “crushed” on the ex-husband. Somewhere along the way, I convinced myself that this crush was love. I tolerated the mood swings. I accepted the obsessive behavior.
I made excuses and justified the ever so subtle ways he isolated me from my friends, and eventually my family. Why? Because I was determined to not be a failure – a failure at love, a failure at a relationship, a failure at marriage. I wanted…needed…to show my parents that when you marry for love, you live happily ever after; unlike their arranged marriage.
Am I wrong to say that isn’t true now that I myself am in the same boat as them? I often wonder if I had been allowed to date, would my outlook on relationships be different. It seems I went from the pan into a flame with these grandeur delusions and ideas of having a perfect and happy marriage.
Falling off of the fantasy of cloud nine and being slapped with reality, has now made me a realist when it comes to relationships. Don’t get me wrong, I still believe in love and a happily ever after. The difference is that now, I know that attaining that happily ever after does not include compromising my self-worth and the core values that are the foundation of a solid and happy marriage.
What have you learned from your own parents’ marriage? Are there things that you do differently? Things that you do the same?
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