The Balancing Act: ‘I Feel I Should Divorce Him’
Every other week, Sonali Gupta draws on more than 10 years of experience as a clinical psychologist to answer readers’ questions about parenting, family dynamics, relationships, mental health, and more.
Matters Of The Heart: I had an arranged marriage last year and did not know my husband well at the time of our wedding. After living with him these several months, I don’t feel a connection with him. We are always fighting because our thinking doesn’t match: he is very orthodox; I like to live my life on my own terms, and he wants me to change. He has lied to me about a lot of things that are trivial but I feel I can’t trust him anymore. I have given it a lot of thought and I feel I should divorce him but my parents think otherwise. I don’t know what to do. Can you help me decide for myself?
Sonali: It sounds to me that you feel frustrated and trapped in this relationship. The pressure from your parents is making it more difficult for you to take a decision. Sadly, I think this comes from the perspective that in India, we are always married to families rather than to individuals. Having said that, it’s a lifelong decision, and the ball lies in your court about whether you’d like to continue or opt for a divorce.
The first year of marriage can be quite difficult. More so in an arranged marriage as you begin to know your partner intimately, his habits, attitudes and his approach toward accepting you a person. You say your partner and you are very different in terms of your personality and outlook; the degree to which a couple can find a middle ground, learn to understand where their partner comes from, and respect each partner’s needs is what makes a marriage work. Trust is the foundation for marriage and if that’s shaky, it does seem like a red flag.
That you feel stuck in a loveless marriage out of societal pressure worries me. At some level, it will exhaust you and lead to more frustration and disillusionment. I always tell my clients that two good individuals don’t necessarily make for a good couple.
I would really suggest you and your partner go through couples counselling. This process can help both of you understand where your relationship needs work and then, take a well-informed decision. I would also suggest that, with your therapist, you two set up a timeline so that you have a measurable deadline to understand the scope of your relationship.
A lot of marriages that look intact on the outside may not be strong enough to take the blows as the relationship grows over years. Sometimes we need to trust our own instincts around self-care and happiness in long-term relationships.
Whatever you do, I suggest you decide soon. Not making a decision is a decision in itself.
Gone Girl: I met a girl on Twitter. We became very good friends over time. I respected her a lot. At first it was anonymous, but over time, we shared phone numbers and chatted on Whatsapp. We met once, when I went to her city to visit relatives. We shared minutest details about her life—we were best buddies. Then I planned a surprise for her birthday: I went to her town with a gift. When I told her I was there, she was shocked (can’t tell happy or sad). We unfortunately couldn’t meet. I was upset for two days, and my phone was switched off. On the third day I found out she deactivated her Whatsapp. I tried calling, but she switched off her phone. Then she messaged, asking me to leave her alone and saying that no one can be happy around her and that people always leave. I tried talking to her brother, who said she’s out of town temporarily. I don’t know why she did this and I am terribly upset for weeks. What shall I do now?
Sonali: Not having closure or knowing the exact reasons for a drift in friendship or a relationship can make us feel very stuck. From what I understand, you did emotionally connect with each other, and the relationship progressed. Having said that, people approach intimate relationships very differently. Every person has his or her own ideas about the pace at which he or she likes relationships to progress and reacts accordingly. So it would be difficult to judge how she felt about the surprise visit. It’s also difficult to judge how she interpreted the two days when your phone was switched off; when technology breaks down, it can create anxiety and scope for miscommunication.
From her message, it sounds like she might fear abandonment by other people. This may come from her past experiences with intimate relationships. In matters of the heart, sometimes our own personal turmoil can impact how we perceive relationships.
Relationships function in a space of mutuality and reciprocation, so it is important to respect her space. Even if we don’t understand the other person’s reasons or motives, we have to accept that in moments like these, the control is beyond us; whatever alternatives or reasons you contemplate will ultimately remain hypotheses. It is important not to engage in self-blame and to understand that there is a part of the story which you may not be aware of. Be kind to yourself, and if you continue to feel emotionally stuck, seek out a counsellor or the support of friends and family who can help you heal.
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