Monday, August 07, 2006

Divorce- the common desi denominator

Growing up I did not know a single divorced desi. I remember when the topic of marriage came up in one of my psychology classes I kept waiting for the professor to discuss the anamoly that was the desi marriage. We stayed together- forever! When he did not do so I, in self righteous vigor, approached him after class demanding to know why he did not discuss the longevity of desi marriages. Turned out he wasn't focused on the quantity (i.e. duration) of marriage but its quality.

If they made enduring a bad marriage an olympic sport a desi national would surely take home the gold each time. The discussion with the professor made me tune into the marriages of aunties around me. They spoke of staying together for the sake of the children. And then staying together because they knew nothing else. Of being cheated on and doing nothing. Of being abused and doing nothing. Of being ignored and unloved and doing nothing. What must it be like to spend an entire life with someone who will never be your confidante. Who will never be a soft place to fall.

But nowadays desis are not putting up with what they used to and divorcing at alarming rates. Some wave it away saying new couples have too many expectations and not enough tolerance. That they don't try hard enough. Interestingly those who divorce inevitably speak of one major problem in their marriage: inlaws. Mothers demanding too much from sons overwhelmed with too much guilt from the emotional blackmail to refuse them (after all my mamma raised me). She will berate the daughter in law, bring her to tears but the son will wringe his hands on what to do (after all his mamma raised him). The inlaws in many of the (now) divorced couples demand and do not expect "no" for answer. "Have children. Give us money. Do X, Y, or Z. Tell your wife to do X, Y, Z" The wife asks the husband to intervene to tell his parents this is not right to ask his parents to let them live their lives.... but he points out he can't! After all, his mamma raised him!

You should respect your mother. She did feed you as a child. bathe you as a baby. love you. Mothers are important but so are wives. Marriage is important. And you have to be rational enough to see when someone (even if its your mamma) is killing your marriage. Isn't the woman you agreed to marry going to be the mother of your children? Wouldn't you have appreciated it if your father stood up for your mother when you were growing up and respected her needs?

I know that the demise of all marriages are not always the inlaws fault. But its sad that the generation that probably endured the worst inlaw issues themselves are passing on the cycle in the way they treat their children's spouses. But unlike our parents generation who suffered through awful inlaws but felt they had no choice, our generation does have a choice. Sadly many sons/husbands feel the only choice they have is divorce. This is not true. To maintain the status quo leaves no one happy but changing it and finding joy does not mean you must leave your wife in the process.


mystic-soul said...

This is a very complex thing as always divorce is !!

In divorce no one wins. Naturally, if kids are there - they are the biggest scapegoats, pawns and losers.

The best thing is to live in 2 different houses and if situation require to live together, everyone should respects others' privacy and right to live.

Its not right that always in-laws/parents are wrong. I have seen immensely outspoken (munpaht), immature and unrespectful girls.

There is always 2 sides to story.

And .. road to boys' heart travel through his mom's heart..unfortunate but a truth !!

roora said...

i think divorce is one of the worst things..but sometimes it solves problems, if people can't live happily together and their kids are living in a very stressful atmosphere. But yet it should be the LAST last resort , people should give it a try and be more patient till things are sorted out and God is the helper.

there is a verse in quran regarding divorce that i like very much , that is a man/woman hated the other, maybe we would hate something and God would put so many good things in it , i can't recall now but i will as soon as i check isa.

Bee Amma said...

this whole issue totally depresses me, i should email you about it some time :(

Muslim Wife said...

Assalaamu Alaikum,

the ayat you may be referring to :

"Fighting is prescribed for you, and ye dislike it. But it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good for you, and that ye love a thing which is bad for you. But Allah knoweth, and ye know not." [Al Baqarah:216]

"O ye who believe! Ye are forbidden to inherit women against their will. Nor should ye treat them with harshness, that ye may Take away part of the dower ye have given them,-except where they have been guilty of open lewdness; on the contrary live with them on a footing of kindness and equity. If ye take a dislike to them it may be that ye dislike a thing, and Allah brings about through it a great deal of good." [An-Nisa"19]

Though the first one is in regards to jihad, we still see the same theme that Allah may will something good to come out of something we ourselves may consider bad. This is where tawakkul comes in.

True, divorce is permitted in Islam, but it is completely a last resort only after every means of reconciliation has been exhausted. Often times these issues arise because the husband and/or wife (or inlaws, for that matter) are ignorant of the rights each has on the other. May Allah guide us all back to His deen, ameen.

(Aisha, I emailed you!)

boba said...

around here, ive heard so many things causing divorce, besides the pressure a wife puts on her husbad, or vice versa, such as affairs etc. when it comes down to it, its ignorace really.

Tee said...

Due to the problems with my MIL I have already advised my little sister (who is still unmarried) to seek a partner whose mother is dead. It will make her life easier.

I can't speak on the divorce rate for anyone ethnic group. Everyone knows it's staggering for everyone these days - even outside of the US. Like any American "disease" (McDonalds), it's contagious.

I think people need to be personally responsible. I still think a lot of marriages disolve because of selfishness, failure to compromise, failure to communicate effectively, and unrealistic expectations.

My opinion may not be popular with "modern women" but I think you SHOULD stay in the marriage even if it isn't ideal. Work through it. Any relationship with any man is going to have similar problems. Money, sex, career, raising of children, in-laws, differences in opinion - life only becomes more complicated by divorcing and finding someone else - not only for the adults but especially for the children.

As for the role in-laws play, that is something that hopefully the next generation of women can stop. We have the power to be positive role models. WE have the power to break the cycle. I look forward to being a MIL. I look forward to not being the stereotype. I'm going to be independant. I'm not going to lean on my male children like they're little husbands of mine. I'm going to be kind and respectful to my dauther-in-law. I will not manipulate my grandchildren. I'm going to change the way MILs behave in this family from my generation and onward.

Aisha said...

Mystic- well... the boy has to also realize that when he marries he takes on a new responsibility. If the mother is the only one who can truly have his heart than perhaps he was not meant to marry. He could live with his parents provide for them and their needs and be happy in this way. Why burden a wife? Furthermore, wouldnt the road to a woman's heart be her parents? She has parents afterall but somehow they don't seem to demand of the husband's. (normally). It would be one thing if it were balanced but sadly many times its not. But you are right there are two sides to every story... at the same time, a guy should be careful (and girl) whot hey marry and then not complain later if it doesnt mesh like he envisioned. This is his family too now.

Roora people should be patient and treat it as a last resort. I agree. I do think most prob do see it as the last resort at least subjectively though in raelity they could have tried harder perhaps.

BeeAmma: :( I'm sorry to hear...

Wife: I checked all my accounts. No email?! Can you please email me at the yahoo one? How strange...

Boba very true

Tee so in your opinion what would be a reason that would be okay to divorce? I agree with you though life doesnt get simpler after divorce. If anyone wants to end a marriage for that reason it just isn't going to happen...

Tee said...

Reasons to divorce - you know, I can't really set up a standard that is right for everyone. Some people would leave if they were cheated on but I think that even that, in some situations, can be worked out. It depends on the individuals, their hearts, their ability to communicate, willingness to go to couples counseling, etc.

I tell my husband that if he ever cheated on me - even so much as a kiss - I'd be out of here. I say that just to keep him on his toes. The truth is I would want to stay and work it out no matter how badly I was hurt.

Some say divorce certainly if you're ever physically abused, but you want to know something? I have, in a fit of rage, lashed out at my husband. It's not something I'm proud of but we worked past it.

I just can't see throwing years and years away over the things that couples do. We're human. We make mistakes. We go through hard times, no, not just hard times - we go through excruciatingly painful times. It's part of life.

I'm not trying to say I'm holier than anyone else, or that my marriage is bullet proof. It certainly isn't! My husband and I can be like oil and vinegar. My family is surprised at what a tumultuous relationship we have. We are not the ideal couple. We are nothing close to a perfect match. Had we waited longer to marry we may have discovered that and decided not to!

But, eight years later, here we are and with 2 children. We love each other despite it all, and at the same time, because of it all.

Will we be an elderly couple swinging together on the porch one day? That's what we both hope. But there's no way to see down that path because of all it's twists and turns and up's and downs.

The important thing is to be ready for the hard times and to have the sincere desire to grit your teeth and keep walking. Hopefully your partner will be walking alongside.

So in response to what reasons are right to divorce? I don't think anyone can decide that for anybody else. Each individual and couple is so different from another, as are their circumstances. Something that is intolerable to one person may be something that I could live with, something I could forgive.

I think aside from marriage, all of us as individuals need to become more tolerant in general. If we all actually followed the instructions of our respective religions the world would be a better place. Be slow to anger. Love your neighbor. Turn the other cheek. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you... We all have the tools but we so often don't use them.

By the way, have you seen the movie "The Story of Us" with Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfiffer? This is one of the most touching and honest movies I have seen on marriage.

momyblogR said...

Oh my MY! What a topic. I have the worst MIL ever in the whole world.....straight from the fiery lake!! Well, worst ever, next to Tee!

Before she became my MIL and I was only dating my husband she made my life a living hell. I mean, lied, threatened, down and belittled me endlessly. Me, being the strong and confident 25 year old I was, had her number and let her rant. However, it did cause many rifts between Honey and me but my thought was "I'm crazy in love with her son and she will not dictate what I do!"

I DID however make it very clear to Honey from the beginning, just how much I felt for him and that I was completely committed to our relationship, BUT if he EVER, just one time left me alone to stand against his Mother, that I would do it but that he would never see me again.

He could totally disagree with me and we could fight about it later, but in standing before his Mother we would always have a united front. And that is was we did.

She didn't acknowledge our marriage because we did elope and weren't married in a big Catholic ceremony. Please!! Not until I became pregnant with my son did she consider us, what a dope.

So not only did she miss her second sons wedding, she missed the first one's too because she didn't like his choice....NOT to say that they dated ALL of their lives, she was actually the girl next door.

SO, she didn't get attend either!

When she failed at mine and Honey's relationship she tried killing us girls...the SIL's. But again we talked and vowed to each other that we never let her come between us and that we would always be loving sisters-in laws! And so, for the past 16 years that is what we've done.

Geez, I feel like I didn't marry into a family but like I've married into some secret coded program. All of which are trying to stay away from HER!

I totally agree about honoring our Mothers and Fathers and I have. I have never spoken rudly, disrespectfully or mean to my MIL, because she is still my husbands Mother and for that reason alone I must do that. But man oh man, it is trying! My husband has thanked me for it and so it is all well worth it to me.

Whew!! :)

Aisha said...

Tee: when i saw "story of us" I bawled my eyes out. It is VERY good. It was quite honest and showed how most arguments in a marriage can start off tiny but escelate into things unrelated to how it all began in the first place. It reminds me to keep myself in check :).

I agree, we can't make standards for anyone else. BUT my opinion at least for my own personal stanard is if there is physical or emotional or sexual abuse or severe neglect you should leave. Not a once in a while in a fit of rage. I'm talking about when the bad days outnumber the good. And in P/E/S abuse that is sporadic I would demand counseling to deal with the issues particulalry if its happened more than a handful of times. I guess after seeing the result... of seeing kids who grew up in such homes... its really really sad Tee. I know one lady and her husband who are at eah others throats onstantly. They do not talk to eah other but if they do its screaming and abusive language. The kids are so sad. I've notied that they usually get better and slightly happier as each one graduates HS and goes to college b/c they left the dark home they lvied in. Individually each of the couple are nice people. I adore the mother and the father very much but together they created a life of hell for their children. I bet they don't even know. Its really sad. I guess we are what our experiences make us. This family and others have shown me the sadness that a bad marriage can breed.

In those situations my personal view is you should leave for the sake of your children b/c you don't want to teach them its okay to be treated that way. And they dont deserve to be surrounded by anger and hatred.

There is a poem along those lines I cant seem to find right now but it said of a woman in the olden days seeking divorce and the pastor told them to stay together for the children because they needed both parents to grow and blossom and she asked him how a flower could blossom if it was raised under a rock without sun or water?

Its a complex issue but I guess for me divorce is an option that is available if things are unbearable. Particularly if only one person wants to try to improve things. Life is too short.


Mommyblogr, wow thanks for being so candid!!! Its so wonderful that your hubby agreed to a united front even if the issue may be resolved differently later. It sounds like she would have not acknolwedged your wedding either way if she was equally rude to your other SIL. I think that is asolutely fantastic that you are so close to your SIL. In my culture usually the two are usually fed so much junk about each other they are usually polite and different. At least its what I've seen. I guess MIL says "if i am not happy w/ them they won't be happy with each other!" The most important thing is that your spouse has your back. Can you imagine if he did not??? its more common than not that they won't stick up for their woman. *sigh* Thanks again for your candid comment.

momyblogR said...

I read Tee's comment earlier regarding the reason's for divorce but wasn't able to Motherly duties were calling, lol!!

I'm not at all an advocate of divorce but I'm not opposed to it by any means. I don't think it's the fix all and should ever be the first course of action, unless of course it's a safty issue. But there are a lot of valid reasons to end a marriage. I agree with her about everybody having their own level of tolerance and what things they may be able to forgive.

I suppose infidelity is what comes to most peoples minds when there is a divorce. For most, that is the ultimate and there is not forgiving. For me, well, the little girl in me agrees and thinks "I'll never get past this...I'll never be able to be with him the same again!" Then, the strong adult woman in me thinks I would some how muscle though the ordeal, if there was true remorse and he wanted to save the marriage and I agreed.

The abuse thing....THAT is something I'd have trouble with. Any type towards me whether it be physical, emotional or sexual, I would have to take some action. BUT, God HELP the soul that harms even a hair on the head of either one of my kids!! THAT, THAT.....well, you know what I'm saying. lol!

Some how the importance of marriage has faded like an old fabric. But to me, that very same old fabric is what I will always work to preserve. It's what I treasure. The sharing of my life with the man I married. No, it's not at all perfect, we argue and disagree, I even on days wonder what the heck I was thinking when I said "I do!" But still it's all cherished.

Man, I went from a MIL rant to this, lol. I swear your posts make me wish we were all hangin' in a coffee shop somewhere, much like I do here when time would be great conversation.

Sobia said...

Amen to that!

Hasan the Not-So-Great said...

Just Recently I witnessed the 1st divorce in my family. Thankfully my parents got them back together before any damage was done.

Vinayak said...

Well written ..

Your post and the comments, also left me with thoughts on history of India ... thoughts of Indians aboard, the diaspora and in particular Indian American community ... our own brothers who have "..made it .." in America

What distinguishes the community from the rest of the immigrants around the world ?

are there some compelling reasons and singular traits that make them different ?

or... are these Indian Americans slowly merging with the Americans like most economic migrants do ... sooner or later ?

what have they learnt at America ? does it add flavour to the curry ??

more at


Anisa said...

you make some great points. yes, in-laws can be just awful, but of course, there are other reasons for divorce.

yes, divorce is a last option. but i think it should be sought before you decide to live your life in misery.

Mia said...

Wonderful post! I see what you're talking about with my own aunties and it amazes me.

Chic Mommy said...

wow, this is an excellent post. I don't know why some women turn into heartless mils. Don't they want their son to be happy and enjoy his life? What do they think they are getting by making his family life miserable. I could never imagine treating my son and his future wife the way my mil treated me. With my in-laws, everything is a test. I have to constantly prove myself to them, to see if I am worthy of their respect. If my husband ever tried to make me look good in their eyes by saying, "oh she is really good at such and such" their response was always, "We'll see." as in "we'll see for ourselves, we don't believe you, you're blinded by this witch's spell."

I think the best way to earn respect is to give respect, not taunts. I have never heard of anyone giving someone respect because they were barraged by taunts from that person. It's the height of jahalat. This is a great read. I'm going to read it again.

Sonia said...

Excellent Post.

Here are some thoughts on this. Historically marriage was defined in terms of property rights: Man becomes a financial keeper of the woman. The language of the marriage contract (and it is a social and economic contract) was grounded in religion. If it was not a social contract, there would be no need to get state approval in the form of registration and the marriage license.

So the simple question is: Today what is the reason behind marriage itself? Is it individual for each person? *Should* it be individual for each person or should it have standards set by a society? And should these standards be inspired by religion? I think these are important questions to answer in a Western society such as US where marriage can be inspired by non-religious intentions. So confusion is inevitable when things get rocky if we don't really know why we got married in the first place.

But in any case very good read.

Muslim Wife said...

psst...I resent the email, did ya get it?

Aisha said...

Mommyblogr you me and Tee in a coffee shop sounds like a great idea! If only :(

Sobia, why is it "sobiya" now?

Anisa I agree but both parties should be sure they exhausted all options before they resort to it.

Mia yes . its sad. I know you can relate with your own family. very sad.

Chic does your husband stand up for you? Does he get angry with them for treaing you this way??

Sonia wow reading your comment made me want to sit down at Caribou Coffee and have a long discussion. Aww so sad it must be confined to a comment. I dont nkow where to begin answering that. I have a lot of views on this. I think desis have a hadr time with the inlaw balance b/c of our cultural collectivist value placement. I think you are right that many people are not even sure why they are married and how the balance exists. I personally think that marriage is a unique new family with the rest of your family as branches off your new tree. Beautiful branches bearing sweet fruits and flowers and lots of birds :) without which the tree would not be as rich and beautiful. BUT the tree is still the tree and if the branches begin to weigh and the birds make too much mess then if its a choice of destorying the tree or letting go of some of decaying branches the choice is clear. Does that make sense????

Rabia said...

Salaam! I think that our generationi s facing a challenge our parents' generation did not face: living with the in-laws. My parents' in laws living in Pakistan, so my mother never really dealt with her in laws. I know many Auntis who did not deal directly with them. But now with American-born desis getting married, we have to actually deal with our in-laws in person. In my marriage, I know and understand that we'll be taking care of my husband's parents in their old age. They know it and tend to be extra nice to me, too. But, my mother always knew her in-laws were going to stay in Pakistan.

Chic Mommy said...


sometimes he does, sometimes he doesn't. he doesn't know quite how to handle it. the only thing that has made things better is that they live in Pakistan now and don't plan to come back.

Shezalldat said...

aisha salaams! i'm an on-off reader of ur blog and i have to say i always come back for more! i love it.

the topic uve picked is touche' and i cant agree with u more. I work with a women's advocacy group and based myentry research on joint family systems. Boy o boy what a pandora box that was! do u know over 70% of divorces in the west are because of inlaws?its crazy! what most MIL's dont understand is, that while creating stupid issues over what they dont have, they loose what they already have and what they could have had too.

i could write books over the joint family system and my experience in one. But i'm not one to bad mouth my in laws and sometimes sobia's experience with her inlaws really makes mine seem like saints!! so alhamdolillah!

but yes, inlaws can really cause ur marriage to break! il be the first to vouch for it!

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