Divorce, the most dreaded word for a woman to hear and sometimes the most liberating one too. Post divorce, you are made to feel like a social outcast. Suddenly you may not be invited to committee parties, left out of couples dinner plans, and even children’s birthdays. Acquaintances feel they should protect their already shabby, fat and miser looking husbands from you. 

If you are a widow, we are a sympathetic and forgiving society, but God forbid, if you initiated divorce or he left you high and dry for someone else, then you hear the common “taali donoon hathoon say bajtii hay” whispers and the haw-haye aunties begin their vicious cycle of rumours. The biggest fallacy that a woman makes is to assume that her life’s major hurdle is over because she is out of a bad marriage. Often, the woman stays put due to social pressures and her children and considers her emotionally abusive jail like marriage, her safe haven. Just when she musters the courage to walk out, guess what happens? In spite of class privilege, she experiences feelings of loneliness, of weird men approaching her for casual hook-ups, relatives swearing how her husband was ‘such a nice man’ and she must have provoked him to take such a drastic step.

You fight your demons day in and day out and honestly nothing helps for a long time. One thing that can keep you sane is having your own money so you don’t feel like ‘dharti ka bhoj.’ Nobody can give you that Cinderella-ish rescue in turbulent desi waters. You are lucky if you have your platinum credit card, but if you don’t, then you need to have an attitude that reflects strength so you do not become a casualty of social stigmas. Remind yourself that you are going to be okay and that too on your own terms. Seek professional help if needed, it is okay to reach out for counselling.

When I was a teenager, my mother told me “to change everything, simply change your attitude.” As humans, we are all equipped with attitude. It is how we steer it which either makes or breaks us. Like an undertow, tell yourself that your thoughts are a powerful current that can either drag you down or take you higher.

A single mother becomes the epitome of strength for her cubs, no matter how weak she feels within, she puts up that smile to keep her children emotionally safe, but horrors of all horrors - the society makes it impossible to live a normal life. In the thick of it, you get a glimpse behind the curtain and see people’s true colours. The label of being single is hard to shake off in Pakistan and so are the judgments that come with it. The high points in the woman’s life come crashing, days after the divorce. Children, if any, are traumatised.

So, how does one attempt to fix this social problem? Notice how the social media and the television normalise things that were once considered social taboos. There was a time when many things that are now normal, were culturally unacceptable. Elaborate wedding dances, the bride entering her own mehndi reception in a dance move, alcohol consumption, bedroom scenes in our dramas sphere, item songs, homosexuality, extra marital affairs being shown as a norm and so on. All these things are not acceptable in our religion, but we still promote it to increase social immunity.

If a gora wants his children to be okay with gay-marriages, they instil this mindset at school and by the time, a child is a teenager, he or she thinks that it is ‘normal’ to have two mummies or two daddies.

If one can standardise things like infidelity and get people immune to all our ‘new normal,’ even though the new normal is not technically and morally ‘okay’ in most textbooks, then why not try to normalise divorce using the same means? Because it is allowed in whatever religion or textbook you follow, unlike some of the things above. And yet, in spite of its permission in our religion, we still view divorce as a cultural catastrophe, the divorcee as a casualty and the home breaker and seek to interpret children of divorce through the lens of ‘children of a broken home.’ Believe it or not, nobody has divorce on their bucket list. People enter marriages with the intention of staying together and if a marriage ends, it feels catastrophic for the couple.

Why make it worse by making it a cultural sin when it isn’t a religious one? Let’s revise our understanding of divorce, use our energies for social cleansing and reserve our own catastrophic opinions and wagging tongues for something else. It is after all, just a matter of perspective.

-The writer is an Islamabad based Barrister at law and an entrepreneur