Love + Sex Love Advice

Sometimes, it’s better to leave a relationship than pretend it’s fine

From a young age, we are told that marriage is the be-all and end-all. That is the final destination where we will find our happily ever after. Marriage has always been shown as the best thing to happen and more importantly, one marriage forever.

Many of us looked to our parents as the first real look at what a marriage looks like. Some of us saw a couple who loved each other and respected each other. Others saw the complete opposite.

Looking at a marriage that is failing really hard when you’re growing up is tough because you’re taught that marriage is supposed to be filled with love and affection. It’s confusing because you see what it is supposed to be, what the couple pretends it is and then you see the reality.

In Asian cultures, it’s not as common to find divorced parents. That’s not because the Asian community has somehow cracked the secret to a happy and successful marriage; but because the idea of divorce and separation is so unthinkable that it’s better to pretend the problems don’t exist.

It’s a romanticization of ‘we know how to make things work’ and turning your nose up to other cultures where divorce has become less taboo.

But in these pretenses, everyone forgets to look at the children who are being raised in this toxic environment. It is really telling when children say that they wish their parents have split up. Kids see everything, they are there when the doors are closed, and the problems come bubbling to the surface.

They are a part of every argument and fight, and this has long term impacts on their mental health and how they view romantic relationships.

Some parents see the problems in their relationship and endeavor to work on them. Be it through therapy or other means it’s a healthy decision that’s made in the best interest of the people involved.

Staying in a marriage because it’s ‘the right thing to do’ or ‘staying for the kids’ does nothing but teach kids that long-term relationships are filled with arguments and violence.

It’s not easy to leave a relationship. It’s even harder when everyone and their dog is telling you that it’s the wrong decision to leave. That as a woman and a mother you have to stay. I promise you, pretending it’s fine and your marriage is perfect is even worse.

I have seen couples who have been abusive to each other one day professing their love on their anniversary the next and it honestly makes me sick. It pretends to show the world how lucky you are whereas, in reality, it’s completely different.

We need to change the way we see relationships and marriage. It’s not courageous to stay in a relationship that is broken and pretend it’s fine; especially when younger people are involved.

Sometimes, you need to be selfish and put yourself and your happiness and well-being first.

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These are the trending, political debates ending relationships everywhere

 “We can disagree and still be friends – Yeah, about pizza toppings, not racism. Gtfo my face”. I’ve seen this meme circulating lately, taken from William Vercetti’s Twitter Status, and it’s just so apt. There are some things on which you can agree to disagree – but if your partner tries to debate and justify any form of oppression, how is that not the ultimate deal breaker for you?

Read on for the biggest political reasons ending relationships world-wide:

Debates over Donald Trump:

The domestic disputes over Donald Trump are so huge, that it even has its own term: “The Trump Effect” – Coming to a Marriage Near You. Okay so I made the tagline up, but you must agree – it fits. A year into Trump;s service, a 2017 poll showed that 11% of Americans ended a serious relationships due to political differences.  Because voting for Trump means voting for sexism, anti-abortion, racism, white supremacists, police brutality, xenophobia, the list goes on.


Ever heard of wokefishing? It’s a term writer Serena Smith coined to describe people (usually men) pretending they’re feminists, or into social justice, because it helps them score more with the ladies.

I’m not even American and Trump’s beliefs set me into a blind rage, so I can’t fathom waking up happily next to someone who’s marked a blasphemous, black X next to Donald Trump’s name.

Whilst catfishing may be a huge fear for men, womxn are more fearful of being wokefished and then waking up one day to realize their partner voted for Trump. I’m not even American and Trump’s beliefs set me into a blind rage, so I can’t fathom waking up happily next to someone who’s marked a blasphemous, black X next to Donald Trump’s name. “But honey, I did it for the economy!” he cries, as I set fire to all his belongings. Whilst non-Americans can’t end a relationship with someone for actually voting for Trump, it’s certainly a political debate rearing its ugly head and causing relationship unrest in many other countries, too. 

Debates over BLM:

It still blows my mind that people try and argue against this ongoing protest. There are the well-known “buts” and “all lives matter!” which was met with “um that’s what we’re saying, yo!?”

If you ever hear someone advocating for equality and your first word in response is “but..”, I hate to break it to you, but you’re the problem.

Another classic but awful “but” is “Black people kill Black people too!” That’s like saying – hey I’m dying of cancer and someone pipes in that pneumonia can kill you too. 

If you ever hear someone advocating for equality and your first word in response is “but..”, I hate to break it to you, but you’re the problem. If it’s your parent, colleague, or sister arguing with you, I get that maybe it’s tougher to end these bonds over what to them may be considered trivial (which it shouldn’t be). But if it’s who you thought you chose as your life partner; someone you’re about to make every life decision together with, it’s much more important to call it quits. 

Debates over #MeToo:

What is it about society that doesn’t want to believe sexual abuse victims? Is it perhaps too traumatic for us to deal with that our brain just shuts down and yells too. much. to compute. Heck, I don’t want to believe a president, or priest, or policeman is capable of rape and murder, either.

But let’s leave it up to the facts, shall we: Out of all the sexual violence offenses reported in Europe , UK and the US, only 2-6% are found or suspected to be false. Of course that doesn’t include the millions of cases left unreported, or reported too late because of the ridiculous stigma attached to the victim and the high cost of legal bills.

I’ve had to unlearn and relearn a million things about my gender that I was once brainwashed to believe.

It’s like, why would someone lie about an experience like that? If your partner doesn’t believe rape survivors, or adds anything to the discussion with a “why do women wear revealing outfits”, or if they spit with wild ferocity: “not all men!”, then please, do yourself a favor and dump their ass. 

Debates over Sexism:

Whilst I am a strong advocate for all the above, I’m gladly not under Trump’s reign. I am white, and I am thankfully not a victim of sexual violence. But as a woman, sexism is something I know everything about.

Because I promise you – that sexist “joke” is not funny, no matter how many times you are gaslit into believing it is.

I’ve had to unlearn and relearn a million things about my gender that I was once brainwashed to believe. Arguing with my father, my male friends, my colleagues, on issues I have formally studied as if they were just mere opinions of mine, makes my blood boil. While a lot of the time I bite my tongue and think, “choose your battles”, other times my beating heart tells me that I have chosen.

If you’re anything like me, you won’t be able to stand even a sexist meme circling your boyfriend’s group chats.  (And rightfully so!) So if your partner, friend, or family member is being sexist, you need to call them out and you need to have that discussion with them. And if you still don’t get through, it’s over boo. Because I promise you – that sexist “joke” is not funny, no matter how many times you are gaslit into believing it is.

You’re entitled to your opinion, of course. You and your partner can have debates on all sorts of things, from ice cream flavors to Netflix series; but basic human rights is not one of them. So watch out for those red flags everybody! Especially ones that read Make America Great Again”.  

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History Poetry Forgotten History Lost in History

You probably don’t know about Hettie Jones, a crusading Beat poet

You’ve heard of a Jack Kerouac, but have you ever heard of a Hettie Jones?

The Beat Literary Movement of the 1950s is coined for its explicit subject matter and bohemian lifestyle. Americans in the 1950’s lived in largely suburban towns and felt threatened by things like communism. Men went to work in suits and women stayed home to cook, clean, and tend to the children.

The rebel, beatnik, group of authors that made up the Beat Generation were iconoclastic. Much of their work explored and influenced American culture and politics in the post-war era. They experimented with form and structure while writing about sex, drugs, and religion. Traditional literary houses rejected them and looked down on them as a group as being defiant, untalented, and unprofessional. 

I think that their being unconventional was the whole point, though.

They were the antithesis of mainstream American life.

They wanted to publish anything that was deemed inappropriate by society. These people were tired of the routine, and frankly, felt beaten down by the conservative lifestyle that they were stuck in. They were highly controversial in that they were the antithesis of mainstream American life and writing. Many of their works of poetry and prose focused on shifts of consciousness and escaping “squareness.” The stereotype around the Beats is that they were not in favor of what they considered to be straight jobs. Instead, they lived together, packed into small and dirty apartments, sold drugs, had sex with each other, and committed crimes. They are also known for exploring homosexuality, which was a highly taboo topic in 1950’s America.

Though they set many precedents together, the Beats still succumbed to the blatant sexism of the time. Most, if not all, of the women involved in the Beat literary movement were overshadowed by their male counterparts for no particular reason other than gender. These women were just as intelligent and qualified to question society as the beatnik men who have become well-known poets and activists.

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One of the most iconic, and downplayed, female poets of that time who deserves righted acknowledgment is Hettie Jones. 

Hettie Jones published 23 books- and yet, we forgot her

Hettie Jones is most known for her marriage to the famous Beat Poet Amiri Baraka (formerly LeRoi Jones). Few people know that Hettie helped run Totem Press, one of the more important beat publishers, along with her husband. She went on to publish about 23 books, one being a memoir of her time spent with Amiri and the rest of the Beats titled, How I Became Hettie Jones (1990). She has also written for many prestigious journals, lectured writing across America, and began the literary magazine “Yugen.”

Hettie is one of my favorite poets, so I think that her writing deserved to be at the forefront of the Beat movement, right there with the boys who got so much praise for their work. 

Hettie’s writing is rooted in practical idealism. She left her family home in Long Island to go to college and to fully discover herself. When she graduated in 1955, she never turned back, and moved to New York City. She met Amiri while working at The Record Changer, a jazz magazine. He was a young, black poet with just as much intelligence and intensity as Hettie. They quickly fell in love and moved in together. They would go to poetry readings at cafes and bohemian bars, where they met many of the other Beat poets.

Hettie deserved to be at the forefront of the Beat movement.

When the pair founded their own magazine, they published the writings of many of the iconic beat players who could not find a home for their writing in the traditional sphere. Hettie was in charge of editing the works that were to be published in the magazine. It was here that she honed her craft and found power in the refined writing that makes her work stand out from the rest. 

By 1960, Hettie and Amiri had two children, were married, and lived in New York City. Being a biracial family, though, countless bigoted remarks were directed towards them regardless of the Beat scene. Hettie was on the receiving end of most of these cold stares and was able to see the world through the eyes of her husband and children. This affected her incredibly and eventually became a recurring theme in her writing.  

When Amiri became tightly involved with the Black Power movement, he was criticized for having a white wife. They divorced in 1968. Hettie thrived on her own though and made a living with her children while teaching and editing. Her separation from her husband also gave Hettie an outlet to speak up and finally publish works of her own. She has been quoted to say, “Without a him in the house, there was more space/time for her, and I tried to redefine the way a woman might use it.” 

To this day, Hettie’s writing is compassionate. She writes about her own experiences in a compelling manner while weaving in the issues that she cares about. Currently, Hettie lives in New York City, and is a writer and lecturer. In addition, she runs a writing workshop at the New York State Correctional Facility for Women where she recently published a volume of writing by incarcerated women.

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Love Life Stories Advice Weddings

PSA: Getting married shouldn’t be your only goal in life

“Mom, I am a rich man,” replied pop icon Cher, when her mother suggested she should settle down and marry a rich man. I’ve rewatched Cher’s interview in which she shares this anecdote many times. It resonates with me, although I can’t say the same for myself.

I’m certainly not a rich man, and, “Mom, I’m a starving artist,” doesn’t have the same defiant ring to it. But, money isn’t the only thing that buys you freedom, and there are many reasons that marriage is not a priority of mine.

1. “Mom, I’m a child of divorce.” 

This is my primary reason. Watching a marriage crumble from the inside is not alluring.

It’s difficult to watch two people who, presumed to love each other, appear to hate each other for more than a decade and then part ways. What worries me is the “forever and always” nature of marriage.

As many girls do, I grew up reading fairytales, and yearning for happily ever afters. And although I believe many people have happy marriages, I’ve learned that “happily ever after” is a myth.

Fairytales end at the start of a relationship. They chronicle two people falling in love, and end as they have their first kiss or get married.

They seldom show the nitty-gritty of the relationships they represent. The disintegration of my parents’ marriage shattered this illusion for me at a fairly young age.

Since then, I’ve never really placed much importance on getting married or finding somebody to marry.

2. “Mom, I’m young and my career is my focus.”

In my early twenties, I dated a boy who stifled me.

I’ve since described the experience as, “dating a handbrake.”

Once he was out of my life I excelled – my grades went up, I ran my first half marathon, my freelance career took off. I recently rewatched The Devil Wears Prada – a classic in my eyes. Shocked by how Andy, played by Anne Hathaway, has friends who guilt-trip her for prioritizing her career over her boyfriend.

When I first watched it as a teenager, I remember thinking that Andy was selfish for putting her work before her boyfriend. The narrative is often skewed to make us feel this way. In this common film trope, women become villains for putting their work first, whereas men are often glorified for the same thing.

While striking a balance between one’s personal life and work life is important, I don’t ever want to feel held back by another “handbrake” relationship.

3. “Mom, I’m a feminist.”

Don’t get me wrong – there is an overlap of people who love marriage and people who identify as feminists. There are many marriages that are equal partnerships, and if I ever do get married, mine would be that way. But, the idea of marriage, as well as the values upheld by marriage originated from patriarchal value systems.

I don’t like the idea of being “given away” by a man to another man, as if I were ever anybody’s property.

At wedding receptions, typically, only men speak, while the bride is silent. The bride sits, looking beautiful, wearing white – white, of course, being the color of purity. What I will look like on my wedding day is the least exciting thing about me. 

Wearing white as a marker of my purity speaks to a time I’m glad I was not born into.

4. “Mom, if it happens, it happens.”

Perhaps, someday I’ll meet somebody who makes me so happy that I push these reasons aside.

That would be a welcome surprise.

But until then, marriage won’t be a priority of mine, and my life will continue to be full, and exciting regardless.

Editor's Picks Culture Love + Sex Love Life Stories

Will getting married really make my life complete?

I love, love. I just don’t love marriage. The married people in my life have always adored each other, but something was definitely missing. Something was always wrong. Someone was always upset, one way or another.

This constant irritation gets old after awhile.

It’s the fights over bill payments, disputes over the most trivial matters, mistakes from 20 years ago that are brought up again and again, and just plain stagnancy. I can tell that some of my family members feel stuck in their marriage even if they are too embarrassed or terrified to say it. This is not love, or at least it is not the love that I’ve always dreamed about. Marriage might be too co-dependent, and too predictable for me.

Many people marry to fill the void that society tells us our lives would not be complete without. For some reason, our relationships struggle to be considered valid if there is not a diamond ring to be accounted for. When love is real and meaningful it is also eternal, so why do we feel like we need to march declaratively down the aisle to prove its validity?

Marriage might be too co-dependent, and too predictable for me.

For me, it seems that marriage has become an economic institution in which you are given nothing more than social status and succession. It is so easy to become blinded by the conceptions surrounding traditions like marriage that there appears to be no other choice than to join in.

At this point though, most of the romance and novelty has already been sucked out of the tradition. Perhaps this is because when you get married, your relationship becomes a need rather than a want. This is not to say that true love can’t fuel a marriage, but that factors other than love are increasingly becoming a reason to get, and to remain, married. Not to mention that those reasons have the potential to diminish whatever love already existed. 

I am afraid to get married because I don’t want to make a mistake.

Marriage is meant to be a fairytale, or so we are told. Yet so many people are in unhappy, even toxic, marriages. There are marriages that have strong power dynamics which make it nearly impossible to leave. Once married, couples are viewed as parts of a whole, rather than as whole themselves. I don’t need my “other half,” I can stand on my own.

Reluctant to divorce because of societal pressure, many people know that the love that they had for their partner was far more profound before marriage put a label on it and boxed it up. Genuine love is built with patience and tenderness. Love should be natural, compassionate, and without barriers. 

I am afraid to get married because I don’t want to make a mistake. I don’t want things other than love to get in the way of my relationship, but I also know that from the moment I say “I do” it is inevitable. There is a tiny, and very exclusive, narrative of marriage that all people are supposed to fall into when they take that leap into tradition. I am not saying people shouldn’t get married, but I am saying that I don’t think genuine and ageless love requires such an archaic label.

What I want is love, not a marriageI think that is the main difference.

The problem here is that if I don’t get married, I know that I will be making someone disappointedmaybe even myself. When I think about these life-defining moments, I often remind myself that love will live forever, whether you are married or not. What I want is love, not a marriageI think that is the main difference.

The couples that fall out of bounds, though, are sometimes the ones that put so much effort into focusing on what their relationship “should” look like, rather than its reality. The ones that do not get married are often viewed as being abnormally strange, and in some societies as having lost their way.

Marriage is apparently that guidance.

But, when we get married, we are so willing to accept that not everyone is the exception and can have a miraculous, long-lasting, and passionate love story.

We are so willing to accept that the love dust has settled and that since every marriage is built on the same foundation, we have made it to the peak. That the wedding day is the best day of a young couple’s life and the rest is downhill from there.

I think we all deserve a better narrative.

I think every single one of us deserves to be swept off of our feet every day for as long as we loveand true love, while it may ache, never dies.

Editor's Picks Health Care Love

Best of The Tempest 2019: Love edition. Here’s what we loved, felt, breathed for

It’s been one hell of a year. A year filled with love, pain, hope, anxiety, new beginnings, endings, and everything else folding itself into the spaces between them. It was the year of Instagram relationships, lonely millennials, standing up for yourself, confronting your mental health, experiencing new things and we have all these narratives that screamed for breaking boundaries and barriers.

We had a whole lot of love, some breakdowns, growth and trying to accept ourselves for who we really are. There was an inherent connection to self love, working through relationships, redefining and inspiring ourselves. This was the year of us.

These are some of the stories that filled us with love, expanded our hearts, and pierced through our beings:

1. “Love in the time of Instagram” by Iman Saleem

Love in the time of Instagram

Relationships are constantly being redefined and Iman writes about trying to be in a millennial relationship – the ups and downs – the spark – the miscommunication. It’s all here, and it’s yours for the taking.

2. “Even with social media, millennials are officially the loneliest generation” by Anonymous

Even with social media, millennials are officially the loneliest generation

Why is it that we seem to live in a world that thrives on connection and yet making real connections is so seemingly difficult? Anon writes about their inherent loneliness, connecting it to genetic makeup, state of mind, social media and varying types of interaction.

3. “I’m so happy my parents got divorced” by Alice Draper

I’m so happy my parents got divorced

Every family culminates in different types of relationships. We have our family of origin, the family that we find along the way, and then the family we choose. Alice pens her experience of a child of divorce and how it helped her grow closer to certain family members.

4. “10 amazing disabled leaders and activists you absolutely need to follow on Twitter” by Julia Metraux

10 amazing disabled leaders and activists you absolutely need to follow on Twitter

Julia writes about some disabled activists that were doing some badass things – read this article to find out more.

5. “It took years to go on my first date – I still don’t know why” by Karis Rogerson

It took years to go on my first date – I still don’t know why

Let’s be real, dating in 2019 has not been easy. Missed connections, weird signals, social media taking over – can a girl just get asked out on a nice date? Is that too much to ask? Karis talks about the first time she was asked out on a date, and you need to read her story now!

This was the year of us.

6. “I slept with a guy who thought he knew me better than myself” by Hannah Adler

I slept with a guy who thought he knew me better than myself

In 2020, let’s vow to stop listening to others’ opinions about OUR bodies. Hannah recounts an experience where her partner claimed he knew her orgasms better than she did. The AUDACITY.

7. “This is how it felt to live with severe anxiety – and how I finally won” by Anonymous

This is how it felt to live with severe anxiety – and how I finally won

I’m proud of this year for finally being the one that allowed so many of us to begin speaking about our mental health openly. Anon talks about their battle with anxiety – the rise, the climax, and finally – the confrontation.

It was a ridiculous wish. The more I let my anxiety rule my life, the bigger it grew.

8. “It’s time we stop romanticizing all forms of suffering” by Sana Panjwani

It’s time we stop romanticizing all forms of suffering

There almost seems to be this creepy glorification of having depression or anxiety that has been sprouting around social media. Sana fiercely tackles the subject with her narrative about online trends and their effect on our mental wellbeing.

9. “Just because I haven’t been with a woman doesn’t mean I’m not bi” by Anonymous

Just because I haven’t been with a woman doesn’t mean I’m not bi

Anonymous delves into their story of trying to figure out their sexuality – it’s real, relatable and powerful.

I never want to be the reason someone ends up getting hurt because I selfishly decide to explore my needs. I never want to treat someone as my ‘bi-curious experiment’.

10. “To the mothers who chose to wait” by

To the mothers who chose to wait

At the end of the day – the power of choice is everything, Katherine’s personal narrative brings us close to her as she recounts her experience of finding out she was pregnant and having the right to choose.

11.  “I was abused by my Quran teacher and I’m not the only one” by Mehvish Irshad

I was abused by my Quran teacher and I’m not the only one

In the wake of #MeToo, so many powerful women have come out with their stories. Mehvish opens up about her personal experience in this piece.

12. “How taking naked selfies made me love every one of my curves” by

How taking naked selfies made me love every one of my curves

Empowerment is what you take from it and for Beatriz – it came from naked selfies.

Seeing curvy girl selfies on Instagram only fueled my need to express myself. Embracing every step of my self-love journey — for the past year, it’s a constant rollercoaster of abundance and scarcity with very little room for anything in between.

13. “Everything finally made sense when I accepted my asexuality”  by Anonymous

Everything finally made sense when I accepted my asexuality

​Acceptance is our 2020 motto – we hope to grow into the new year – accepting all the pieces of ourselves that we’ve been told not to. Anonymous writes about feeling different as a child, and how romantic connection is something they crave but when it comes to physical connection – masturbation is the best it gets.

But once the climax is achieved, and I’ve had the orgasm I need, I would have got all the sexual satisfaction I want, and I have never wanted anything more than that.

14. “Choosing to be a traditional wife isn’t a threat to my feminism” by Bisma Parvez

Choosing to be a traditional wife isn’t a threat to my feminism

Feminism has so many different definitions – and Bisma speaks about how being a traditional wife is a part of her definition of it.

15. “Your self-worth is not defined by your relationship status” by Maheen Humayun

Your self-worth is not defined by your relationship status

The world around us is always trying to put us into boxes, to define us according to some type of formula. Maheen writes about accepting your relationship status, and giving society a fuck you when they try to define you for your singledom.

For 2020, your self worth should be defined by you – how much you’ve grown, you’ve inspired, you’ve tried. Even if it’s one small step, you should applaud yourself for it. Every journey towards moving and changing and growing is inspiring – and we’re here to share those stories with you.

We hope you found some love and healing along the way.

We sure did.

Culture Gender & Identity Life

I thought my husband was perfect – until he turned into a nightmare

“Prince Charming and Cinderella lived happily ever after.

Until the moment when the prince realized that Cinderella, despite her undeniably pretty face, wasn’t fit for the role of a princess. She spent days sweeping marble floors, washing porcelain dishes and dusting golden-framed portraits.

She wasn’t interested much in state affairs and her manners were far from perfect, so she had to stay away from the receptions attended by ambassadors and other distinguished guests.

She didn’t know how to dress with elegance, since the Fairy Godmother, who had done her make-up and lent her a ball gown to marry her off never came back again. Besides, she was so boring and faint-hearted. She would never talk back or express her opinion.

The worst part was that Cinderella didn’t even want to be a princess. After a couple of years, things turned really sour…”

This is the story I made up for myself after the divorce. Realistic enough not to mislead young minds and naïve hearts.

It all started with fairy tales.

I have always been an avid reader, so after the fairy tales, I moved on to the novels by Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters and other books with similar happy endings. I was so brainwashed, so when I grew up and got married myself, I decided that the “Cinderella-Prince” relationship could work both ways.

I mean, in the tale about Puss in Boots, a poor shabby guy eventually married a princess, didn’t he? So can’t a low-born, honest, hardworking young man borrow a nice suit and a high-end car to win the heart of a beautiful girl and make her happy? Don’t we live in a prejudice-free society? Didn’t we have peasants or servants as our great-great-grandfathers? How can we speak against marriages out of our own social categories?

I guess it was the voice of the Soviet legacy taken in with my mother’s milk.

When I got married for the first time, I was naïve enough to think that if the person had good morals, was religious and hardworking (at that time I didn’t see the difference between “being” and “seeming”) it didn’t matter if he hadn’t finished secondary school. I justified this by the fact that his family was struggling and he had to work — doesn’t it prove he cared about his family? His spelling skills were horrible, but he promised he would enroll in a course, so doesn’t it mean he was striving for self-improvement?

The problem is that, at that time, I didn’t know what a class-based difference was and how it could affect our mindset. I thought it was mostly about the lack of education, which, in my opinion, could be balanced with self-development and willingness to learn.

Unfortunately, that was just the tip of the iceberg.

I realized that education not only equips us with knowledge but also helps train important skills and qualities,  such as punctuality, diligence, the ability to analyze and to defend your opinion, to think critically, to express your thoughts and so on. All these skills can be obtained through other ways too, but in that case, it would require an exceptionally strong will, as well as patient and persistent parents able to knock certain principles into a rebel teenager, so that he/she could apply them later.

It is not just about education.

The person I married had spent his life in a specific environment that had formed his values and his perception of the world, defined his habits, communication style, manners, his way of solving conflicts.

If the partner of such a person adheres to different moral principles and values, how is it possible to bring this marriage into accordance? In order to live in peace and harmony, a couple should have common reference points, otherwise one of the partners will have to go through a painful transformation. But most importantly, the couple should have a desire to grow together and become better humans in all aspects.

My ex-husband tried to mold me to fit his lifestyle by restraining my self-improvement, my desire to learn, and imposing his way of thinking through abuse and accusations.

He tried to force me to accept his viewpoints based on the fact that I was a woman.

To him, I was inferior, and he used a warped view of religion to justify his actions.

When I was looking to improve my linguistic skills, I was not allowed to join language courses or a library, without any explanation. In order to develop my “business sense,” I was told to bargain for every purchase, including supermarkets, although it is not customary in my country and sometimes can even be considered rude. The absurdness of these attempts reached its peak when he demanded to hang a yellow cloth on the cot to treat the baby’s jaundice, ignoring my explanations about bilirubin.  Taking into account the fact I am a daughter of two doctors, this was utterly ridiculous.

By that time, this marriage was already on its last legs. The divorce brought nothing but relief.

During all these years, I was blamed for not wanting to change.

Don’t get me wrong, change is good, so long as it is directed towards self-improvement and is fostered by the thirst to become better, to learn more and to make a difference in the world.

Now, I am married to a person who is also a foreigner, but, despite the fact that we grew in different countries and cultures, we share common values and principles, appreciate similar qualities in people, and have common objectives. Neither of us is trying to remold the other one.

My husband is happy that, despite having kids, I keep working and try to make my humble contribution to the family budget. He is proud of my achievements and I am grateful for everything he does for our family. Both of us grow and develop, even though in different fields and at different paces, but in one direction — towards becoming better humans, bringing benefits to each other and society.

When my daughter grows up and has to make her marriage decision, I would like her to stay away from all that Cinderella nonsense and to say “yes” only to the person with whom she can grow and flourish.

Gender & Identity Life

Filling notebooks with plans for my future was my favorite thing, until all of those plans changed

Some women don’t go out without lipstick in their bag. Some of them always take their perfume, a photo, a trinket, or whatever else makes them feel confident. When I was a teenager, I couldn’t care less about lipsticks and perfumes, but I would never go out without a notebook.

I used to choose the most beautiful notebooks — with dainty designs, ribbons, pockets, or gold edges. Overall, I spent more time choosing notebooks than I did on my wedding dress. It seemed to me that my “profound” thoughts and “ambitious” plans deserved something special, like diamonds that deserve the best setting. I used to write to-do lists and tasks for upcoming weeks and months; noted down books to read and films to watch. I even drafted plans for phone calls, since chattiness wasn’t my strong point.

By the age of 18, notebooks became an integral part of my life (and my bag). I filled them with homework tasks, schedules, grocery lists and quotes. My life was steady and normal, so I started to believe that I all I ever needed to do was stick to my plans.

Too bad life doesn’t work that way.

Planning didn’t make me smarter and didn’t help me take off my rose-colored glasses. I got married at the age of 19 and I thought (i.e. planned) that it would last forever. I thought that we would buy a house, travel, have a cat and a cute baby with plump cheeks. My plans included working abroad, hiking together, exploring other countries and sharing dreams over a cup of tea. In my notebook, there were no ticks next to the words “scandals,” “violence” or “frustration.” It didn’t contain the line “divorce and become a single mother” either.

However, life went on. I got another notebook, not as pretty as the previous ones, and scaled back my ambitions. I started to keep a diary, but I was too scared to plan,  so instead, I expressed my dreams with the words like “it would be so nice if this or that happened.” As strange as it seems, this turned out to be more efficient. When I looked through my notes a few years later, I realized that almost all of my timid wishes had come true.

Since long-term planning didn’t live up to my expectations, I limited myself to grocery and to-do lists, household chores and other insignificant things. My notebooks started to look plain and boring. Besides, since I considered myself a believing person, I forced myself to rely on God when thinking about the distant future. Some people call it “living from day to day,” without implying the spiritual or religious element, but the core idea remains the same. In the beginning, I was scared asking myself: how can I rely on Him without knowing what will happen tomorrow? How will I earn my living? How will I have a family? How will I cope with this uncertainty that knocked the bottom out of my life and threw me into a panic? Slowly, step by step, I learned to think less about tomorrow and to be grateful for what I have today.

Was it easy? Of course not. Sometimes I felt like banging my head against a wall in despair and hopelessness when the future seemed like a grey, gloomy fog without a single glimpse of hope. Sometimes I felt indifferent about my future because it was impossible to control. Sometimes I had outbursts of hope and believed that everything would change for the better soon. It was a very unpleasant process, but is self-perfection possible without heartache and distress?

Now, in hindsight, I see why all my planning failed. My system was based on my own view of an ideal future and didn’t take into account other scenarios, perhaps more painful, but at the same time more favorable. After the divorce, I accidentally met some people with whom I started to work from home with for the next few years (although I say “accidentally,” now I tend to think it was all planned and calculated, only not by me). This income allowed me not only to spend time with my child but also to start traveling and to open new horizons. I found friends who became my pillars of support in hard times. I acquired new skills that turned out to be useful in my current work. Now, I live in a country that was never on my list – I never saw myself living in Saudi Arabia – but this is proof that sometimes things happen not according to the plan but in the best possible way.

As for my personal life, it took me a few years after the divorce to be able to say, “O God, please ignore my silly plans, high expectations and unreasonable hopes. Just send me the person who will be better for me in this life and hereafter.” Now, I am as happy as can be.

Love + Sex Love Life Stories

Sometimes, divorce is actually better than marriage

People get married for many different reasons.

It could be two people in love and choosing to commit to one another, it could be an arranged marriage, to gain citizenship, religious reasons, because everyone is doing it, or because society tells us we should. But no matter the reason, we praise and give so much attention to these beginnings or these reset buttons you could say. More often than not, when divorce comes into play, it is seen as a grave dark tragedy.

When in reality, people get divorced for numerous reasons as well. Maybe they fell out of love, they changed and so did their marriage, someone cheated, and trust couldn’t be regained. Maybe they were in an abusive marriage and finally got out, or their sexual needs were very different. Maybe therapy still wasn’t working after three years, or they found out they had very different parenting values.

Maybe they were never in love, to begin with.

I recently read an Instagram post that sparked my own personal dialogue around this weight and power we allow divorce to hold. Ericka Hart is a sex educator, speaker, writer, breast cancer survivor and model. 

In this post, Ericka talks about the day she got married then later touches on the aftermath of it, the divorce. She highlights this concept of honoring the endings of our relationships. Even with all the pain and hardship, we can still show up and honor those memories.

Don’t get me wrong; I am in no way focused on delegitimizing the struggle or hardship people have gone through or are going through right now with their divorce, everyone’s pain is valid.

I merely want to challenge how we define a successful and failed marriage. What would it look like if we decided to honor our endings the same way we do with our beginnings?

For the most part, I was fortunate with how both my parents dealt with their separation. I know I was the child in this situation, so I saw a different side of things.

But I did see that they were civil with each other. They communicated well with one another and didn’t have problems sharing time with my sister and me. Through high school I always leaned towards the anti-marriage side of things, questioning the point of it. I would dwell over the idea that marriage is only important and valuable if it lasts.

When I started experiencing my relationships, I noticed how this view was steering me away from commitment.

I had this all or nothing mindset. But as I grew older and more observant, I started looking at the efforts to define success. I learned how my parents worked hard on their relationship. They also worked hard to make a joint decision to part ways, and they worked hard to continue raising their two daughters. This was when I started realizing that my parents’ marriage was actually a successful one, even though it had come to an end.

Our culture doesn’t often go past the event of divorce, we see divorce, and we automatically see failure. But why is it considered a failure?

Instead, why isn’t it something you tried really hard at, put in the most you could have at the time and decided to let go when it wasn’t working anymore? If we measured the success of a marriage based on how we go about the entire process and how we move forward, then maybe we would create more space to honor it later on.

These days, I go into my relationships differently. I know that I’m going to work hard and do my best with the expectation of getting that same effort in return. I go into relationships knowing that love is strong, but it may not always be enough. I believe that if my best effort does not make it last, then I still have the power to honor and celebrate it for what it was.

Ericka Hart posed the question at the end of her post: “What memory do you want to honor?”

My answer is simple: I want to honor them all.

Love + Sex Love Advice

When the honeymoon phase ended, reality hit my marriage hard

The significance of the wedding nuptials or the sheer grandeur of the functions is enough to distract a young couple from wondering about what life will be like once the honeymoon phase ends and all the guests have gone home. Once all the hoo-haa dies down, the young couple is left with each other and reality.

Reality hides in the shadows when we fall in love, it remains hidden when we begin planning and executing our dream wedding. It only rears its ugly head into the doorway a day or two or maybe even a week after we return from the honeymoon. Once the guests have left and the couple can truly start becoming themselves, reality sinks in into our lives to wreak havoc.

I have been married to a wonderful guy coming from an equally wonderful family for over three years.

I got a fairytale wedding and none of the typical predicaments of a desi girl’s married life were present. My in-laws turned out to be exemplary people, just as they were before the wedding. My husband didn’t leave me to rot in Pakistan but he whisked me away to my honeymoon and then to England as promised.

And I was not expected to single-handedly manage the concerns of a bustling house, nor was I to be a maid to the whims and demands of the family.

But after my perfect honeymoon with the perfect man, I came to terms with my not-so-perfect reality: I was utterly incapable of living by myself. You see, all my life I had done just one thing: study for and train to be an accountant. And honestly, that’s all I knew how to do.

I incessantly ignored my mother’s insistence on learning how to be a functional adult. I was very well-looked-after and never needed to iron my own clothes, cook my own food or even make myself a cup of coffee.

And so began the arguments. Doors may or may not have been slammed, dinners may or may not have been left uneaten and many nights have or may not have been sleepless.

Every couple fights, every couple has disagreements, but every couple needs to find a way around it. A marriage is not something you throw away because ‘it isn’t working out’. If it isn’t working out, you make it work out.

That was the mantra our parents had raised us with and accordingly, we set out to fix our ‘flawed reality’.

We had to identify the root cause of the problem, and in our case, it was me. You can rest assured I did not give in to agreeing that I was the problem without a fight. The problem was always my husband’s high expectations and the patriarchy. Most definitely the patriarchy. Of course! What else could be the problem other than a man deciding how a woman should behave and respond to life?

How unreasonable was it of my husband to expect me to carry my own weight. How could he expect me to help out with life and all its miseries?

But when the penny dropped it dawned on me that my husband was not being so unreasonable after all. I (very begrudgingly, might I add) came to terms with my own incapability. It was not pretty, as such realizations often are. But this painful comprehension had to penetrate my impervious mind.

Now came the real challenge. It wasn’t easy and I am nowhere near attaining the targets I have set for myself. My husband, to his credit, gave me ample time to catch up and adult. I (to my credit) began doing what most do when they turn 20: I started learning to be self-sufficient.

The issues we faced might not be the exact issues all newlyweds face.

Nonetheless, everyone has a reality to deal with once the honeymoon phase is over and the marriage begins. My advice to newlywed couples is to compromise. Talk to your spouse as opposed to at them and when it’s your turn, listen to what they are saying; don’t just hear the words. Marriage is hard work, but no one is going to do that work for you.

I am glad the honeymoon phase of my marriage ended when it did. The ensuing phase showed me my own strength and my husband’s compassion. I wear these as my battle armor when I face the world and its adversity. You can’t forever live on an all-paid-for hotel on a remote Maldivian island.

It’s nice, but after a while it gets boring.

Love + Sex Love Weddings

The first time I got married, it was for all the wrong reasons

I remember how the air vibrated with humidity and expectation.

I was standing in a church I’d only been to for the rehearsal, in front of over 200 people, 80% of whom I knew. As my grandfather pronounced the question, “Should anyone have anything to say against this union?”

I reflexively looked over each shoulder without thinking how that might seem.

I wondered with detached curiosity if anyone would speak up. I was 22, and while my heart was in the right place, I was getting married for the wrong reasons, and in the wrong way.

As the reception stretched into the night, I barely remember seeing my new husband, let alone the perfectly coordinated linens we rented, or the carefully handcrafted centerpieces. It was a great night, though – we danced and laughed with our friends until the sun came up. I still hear about what a great party it was.

Six months later, my husband accepted a Fulbright scholarship in Vietnam, and we filed for divorce. We couldn’t imagine a life abroad together, and the first few months of marriage – with the pressure of the wedding off – had shown us that in our hearts we were just friends. Our parting was messy but loving, culminating in a house party celebrating our friendship and the end of our marriage.

Fast forward six years.

After a few months of seeing a great guy, months that felt more like an intensive mutual interview process than casual dating, marriage came up. The aftermath of my early divorce had been riddled with shame and embarrassment, and the idea of another wedding made me skittish. Out of this hesitancy grew the plans for what would become our perfect wedding day, and the foundation for the strong partnership we have today.

I learned from my first wedding, and I wanted to plan my second wedding – and go into my new marriage – in the right way.

We had an exacting guest list qualification that bruised some feelings among our family and friends, but it ensured our day was the intimate and supportive kick-off to our marriage that felt right to us. We had to both personally know every guest before the wedding, except a few far-away relatives. Our wedding was about pledging our lives in partnership and asking our loved ones to pledge in turn to support us in that union. How could people who didn’t know us feel the kind of heartfelt support we were asking for?

We ignored a lot of wedding traditions.

While my first wedding was incredibly stressful, I was determined not to be derailed by inconsequential details this time. We focused on what we knew we would remember about the day; the food, the music, our loved ones, and above all the promises we would make. My mantra as the day approached and logistical issues inevitably sprung up was, “Fuck it, whatever, it’s going to be great.”

While my first wedding was extremely detail-oriented, my second wedding was simpler. A Christmas tree aglow with white lights, and four giant gold balloons that spelled out LOVE were the only real decorations, save the beautiful moon backdrop my future husband and my dad built together to act as the backdrop to our ceremony.

At my first wedding, both the groom and I had grandfathers who were ministers. We had a very traditional Christian ceremony, despite neither of us being Christian.

The words were not ours, and they didn’t reflect who we were or our relationship.

When my husband and I first started discussing marriage, we sat down and talked about exactly what that meant to us. The conversation lasted months. It’s staggering how many couples get married without finding out if they share an understanding of what they are promising to each other.

As we planned our ceremony, we chose our words carefully to reflect what we wanted to pledge to each other, and we made the decision to say our vows together, a symbol of our equal partnership.

When I think of my wedding to my husband, the memory that springs to mind is always the same: we were standing in front of a small crowd of those we love most, each holding one side of the paper with our vows, our arms around each other’s waists, practically holding one another up, as I try to collect myself through tears to finish reading our vows together. I was overwhelmed that someone would want to stand in front of people and make such powerful promises to me, and I was transformed by the understanding of my husband’s love for me at that moment.

While it’s easy to get caught up in the details of a wedding, as long as those you love most are there with you, and the promises you make move you to your core, your wedding will be perfect. In the years following my divorce, I beat myself up for what had happened, and for the embarrassingly grand celebration we’d had.

What I couldn’t have known then was that the lessons from that ill-fated wedding would shape not only my perfect wedding but also the foundation of the strong and carefully considered marriage I have today.

Gender & Identity Life Stories Advice Life

6 myths you’ll definitely hear if you’re trying to get a divorce

A wise woman once told me, “don’t believe what is said only believe in what you see.”

I spent years locked in an unhappy marriage just because I feared the consequences of divorce.

I was married for more than eight years but after six years of trying very hard to have a successful marriage, I faced the reality that we are not for each other. I was sure that we couldn’t be happy together.

I talked to my family about a divorce, but everyone was against it. They scared me with unreal outcomes that I would face after the divorce. I was told that my reputation would be damaged, no one will ever want to marry me, all men will try to take advantage of me and that I would be rejected by the community.

However, I insisted and got divorced. I was horrified, weak and thought that what I was told would happen. But surprisingly, after I started to live my life normally I discovered that no, life after divorce is not as bad as I was told.

From my experience as a divorced woman, I can say that most of what you read and hear is not true. I think that the consequences of divorce are often exaggerated, so allow me to tell you what I have experienced myself.

1. “You’ll be considered a husband stealer.”

[Gif Description: Jenna Marbles having her hands towards the ceiling and looking in confusion.]

I was told that all my married friends would cut off their relations with me and that they would think I would steal their husbands.

This didn’t happen at all. My friends are still my friends and none of them ever thought like that. I go to my friends’ homes while their husbands are present, and we even travel together. Nothing regarding our friendship changed after getting my new title. Finally, if any divorced woman experienced this, let me tell you clearly that it’s your friends’ problem, not yours. If a friend decided to end it up with you because you are now single, and she is terribly scared that her husband could think of you, so she is probably insecure and it’s her fault, not yours.

2. “Your options are now only limited to losers.”

[Gif Description:  Woman saying “What kinda bullsh*t is that?”]

People say that the next marriage will be to a loser, to someone terrible, because who else would marry a divorce? They told me that I would be lesser to other women because I am no longer a virgin.

No, I am not less than anyone, maybe I am even better than many. What did I do to attract losers and terrible men? What has changed in me? Nothing at all, I am still the same lady I was before getting married, maybe divorce made me wiser and more able to say no to losers.

3. “Everyone will use you.”

[Gif Description: Girl in black hair sticking her hand out and rolling her eyes in annoyance.]

They said, “All men you date will not plan for something serious, and they will just be taking advantage of you financially or sexually.”

Let me stop here and tell you that single ladies are just like divorced ladies. They both face this same issue. Just make sure you set your limits.

4. “You cannot get divorced again.”

[Gif description: Girl rolling her eyes.]

My mum once told me, “If you got married again and it didn’t go well, you will never be able to get divorced once more. You will be doomed in this unhappy marriage forever. You can’t handle the title of twice-divorced.”

Excuse me, why would I not do this again? Why would I stay in another unhappy marriage? I know now how to end it and when to end it if I have to. I handled the title of a divorced woman and I can handle the double too.

5. “You cannot raise your kids alone.”

[Gif Description: Girl looking around in confusion, taken from “The Wendy Show”.]

They said, “Your kids will get negatively affected, kids cannot be raised properly without their biological father.”

No, your kids will not be affected if they are loved and understood. You can easily raise them alone and I think most married women today are taking care of their kids solely. If you got married to a loving person, he can be a great substitute to their biological one. Just make sure to pick the right guy this time.

To conclude, if you are so sure about your decision and you think that divorce is the only solution you have, be certain that there are negatives but life isn’t that bad after getting divorced.

Most of the claims you will be hearing aren’t real. Maybe they were legitimate in the past; I mean like 20 years ago, but they aren’t valid today. Divorce is more acceptable now.

People now know that divorced women are not less than other women. What happened to her is fate and no lady ever planned her marriage to end with divorce.

You can control very well what others think of you with your personality and attitude. Moreover, do not worry about your kids, they will be fine, just love them and they will be great.

6. “So few women actually get divorced.”

[Image Description: Woman chewing gum and saying “Are you serious?”

Finally, as we all know, divorce rates have been going up in the past years, which means every group of friends has two or three divorced friends. People interact with a divorced woman every day.