My mom once told me that when she and my father got divorced, one of my late grandmother’s biggest concerns was that no one would want to marry me.
I scoffed at the notion. Sure, I could see why people might discriminate against someone who was divorced, but there’s no way people would actually think differently of me because of my parent’s divorce?
Now that I’m engaged it’s not an issue, and quite frankly, I think I dodged a bullet by getting engaged relatively early. Finding someone to settle down with is brutal, especially when you’re a South Asian woman whose worth is being determined by your ability to settle down.
But I am highly aware of the fact that there were skeptics in my fiancé’s family. (Because, you know, marriage is everyone’s business.) By the time he decided to put a ring on it, there had been a couple more divorces within my extended family. And without even knowing a thing about our friendship, my life goals, my beliefs, or even my own outlook on relationships, people questioned my ability to be a wife simply because of other people’s divorces.
They weren’t statisticians either. I can assure you that the desis who frown upon us haven’t a clue about the studies that show that children of divorce are statistically more likely to get a divorce themselves. Even if they do cite those, correlation does not mean causation. Yes, children of divorce are statistically more likely to have a negative attitude towards marriage. Yes, they statistically have more commitment issues, and yes, they’re statistically more likely to have poor conflict management skills.
But I am not a statistic.
More likely doesn’t mean definitely. And if they got to know me before rushing to judgment, they’d learn that the divorces in my family make me less likely to get a divorce.
Ask any child of divorce. We’re all terrified of marriage to some extent. However, it’s often not a hesitation about commitment, but rather a fear of getting divorced ourselves. As a result, many of us are extremely cautious about who we marry and unsure if we want to get married at all. It took me years to be sure that my fiancé was the one. I didn’t say yes until I was.
There’s also the fact that growing up around contentious marriages is often a crash-course in What Not To Do In A Relationship 101. It’s true that we may have some learned and/or unhealthy habits when it comes to relationships, but so do people from “intact” homes. As a child of divorce, I am hyper-aware of what hurts a relationship, why it does, and exactly what the damage looks like.
If my parents had stayed together, I’m not sure I would have realized that an unhappy relationship isn’t normal. That’s one of the many reasons why, for example, people with children who are in abusive relationships are often encouraged to leave. If they stay, their children may think that this is what a “normal” relationship looks like.
And I’ve seen that attitude perpetuated in other families. I’ve had two different friends tell me about how their mothers were pressuring them to marry someone. In both cases, the friend refused, stating that they wouldn’t be happy with the potential suitor. In both cases, their mothers responded: “There’s no need to be happy in a marriage.”
Because there has been divorce in my family, I am aware that unhappy relationships are not normal. Because there has been divorce in my family, I know that unhappy relationships can lead to broken marriages. Because there has been divorce in my family, I know how a broken marriage can hurt everyone within proximity to it. And because I know that, I’m that much more determined to not end up with one.
Someone having divorced parents, aunts, uncles, or siblings will affect them, yes. But it doesn’t define them. Like other hardships, divorces are capable of strengthening a person just as much as they are of harming them. The divorces in my family have made me the loving and loyal partner that I am today.
And my fiancé’s damn lucky for it.