“If we were given a chance to write our life stories things would be so different. There would always be a forever in our stories. Forever happiness, forever relationships, and forever love. Unfortunately, life doesn’t come with “Forevers.” Everything is temporary. So, why do we get into relationships thinking they are till death-do-us-apart. We fall in love, we commit, we get hurt, but sometimes we still stay because we believe in forever. Love can be very addictive, and more than love, the idea of love is addictive. At times, when a relationship becomes sour, it takes more courage to walk away than to stay.
I was born in Kenya, in a small town. I was one of the five daughters. My father was a businessman and had a very traditional approach towards our upbringing, more so because of our gender. A real disciplinarian, we were expected to follow stringent rules at home. We were not allowed to go out on our own or bring friends home. We were also expected to follow a specific dress code. My mother was a traditional woman who believed in supporting her husband. Despite all this, it was a happy household, with lots of love and laughter where we respected each other. My grandmother, a fiercely independent woman, was the backbone of our family who cared for us tremendously.
Education was an essential part of our upbringing. As there was no college in our small town, after finishing school, I was sent to a college in Nairobi. Striding out of my home’s confines gave me a sense of freedom, which I had never experienced before. It was liberating and overwhelming at the same time. I could talk to anyone and go out on my accord. Before long, I fell in love with a boy from our social group. It was only a matter of time; my parents got to know about it. They couldn’t trust me anymore and decided to bring me back home. My parents wanted me to part ways with this boy and focus on my studies. For the first time, I had made my own decision, and there was no way I could retreat. After a lot of disagreements and meltdowns, my parents conceded. I was only 21 when I got married.
I quickly realized that just to prove a point, I had made a grave error and that my knight in shining armour was not real. After marriage, I moved into a joint family, and there was a lot of interference. There were no clear boundaries defined for any member of the family. And to my horror, a male member used it to harass me incessantly. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore as it was taking a toll on my mental health. Reluctantly I decided to go back to my parents. I moved to my parents’ house. After some time, it became increasingly difficult to stay there; hence, I decided to move to Nairobi where my husband was. Realizing that no concrete efforts were made from the other side, I decided to file for a divorce. In those days divorce was not even heard of in the Asian Community. Hence, it was quite tough for me, yet it was the only way I could have protected my dignity and mental sanity.
I moved to the UK soon after and started living with my aunty. I was still quite scared and reluctant to get into any relationship. On my aunty’s insistence, I met a few men, and since I didn’t feel very confident, I declined politely. But as they say, love happens when you are not looking for it. I met someone through family at a party; we clicked and started dating each other. I was still cautious, yet, could tell that he was quite smitten with me. Finally, when he asked me for marriage, after giving it a lot of thought, I decided to say yes. However, some loose ends still troubled me, and his drinking habit was one of them. He promised to take care of most of the issues and cut down on his drinking. We got married in a small ceremony and moved into a rented apartment with much of anything. We worked tirelessly and were very happy in our little world. As assured, he had negotiated most of the issues I had before marriage and even cut back on his drinking. He was everything I had hoped to find in a partner. We had similar interests. We loved going out together, do DIY projects, and even cooking. And then we realized I was expecting. I had a good pregnancy and soon after Anisha entered our lives. She was everything we had hoped her to be. When I held her in my arms, I felt like the luckiest woman in the world.
Surprisingly, when I got busy with the childcare, my husband started feeling ignored. Earlier, we did everything together, but somehow, he was not able to cope up very well with the new dynamics post-arrival of a baby in the family. He turned to Alcohol. It started with few drinks, and as the days went by, it aggravated. We started having arguments about his drinking, finances, and his responsibilities. It became better for a while, or that’s what I thought. Then we had our second girl, Tianna. I was thrilled. My family seemed complete. She was diagnosed with Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia, a condition that affects the immune system, metabolism, blood pressure, and stress responses. A child with this condition needs lifelong hormone replacement, especially during illness, injury, or anxiety. Suddenly, my life became busy with hospital visits, taking care of a four-year-old and a newborn. As I was occupied with child-care, my husband’s drinking and smoking habit spiraled out of control. He was either drinking or sleeping. Our house reeked of Alcohol and tobacco all the time. Our communication with each other had utterly broken down, and if ever we talked, we continuously fought with each other. It was taking a toll on my elder daughter’s mental health.
Alcoholism is called a family disease because it impacts all the members of the family. People in the family often struggle to create strong emotional bonds resulting in damaged relationships. People abusing alcohol to hide their addiction, lie so much that it builds trust issues among the other family members. It can further lead to a lot of complications in their future relationships with others. There are also development issues in children. As there is a lot of attention given to the person suffering from it, the children get neglected in the process. Not to forget it’s an expensive addiction. The money that can be used to fulfil the basic needs or welfare of the family is used to consume Alcohol and tobacco. It impacts the mental health of the family, leading to stress and anxiety. Demons of alcohol addiction can destroy, once happy families.
After a lot of persuasions, he agreed to go to rehab. Financially it was quite straining, but the hope of a better future kept me going. After the second rehab, I didn’t know what to do. I tried talking to my husband, sometimes pleading him to seek help for the sake of the family. But Alcohol had made him numb; it had built a wall around him through which he could not hear us anymore. Our voice just couldn’t reach him. I realized that his childhood spent in Uganda, going through tough times, and seeing a lot of violence triggered mental health issues. Everyone ignored it, assuming it would resolve itself with time. However, to numb the trauma, he started relying on Alcohol. It was just a matter of time; he lost control entirely and became addicted to it. His reliance on Alcohol was so much that this was the only relationship he cared about. He was not ready to take any help. With him using all the money on Alcohol, we were barely surviving. When I tried to seek financial assistance from social welfare, I was informed since I was not a single mother, and my husband was still bringing money home, I was not entitled to any financial help. People wanted me to divorce him, but I didn’t even have any money to file for a divorce. However, the trauma was more emotional and mental than financial. There was a sense of betrayal.
In every relationship, there is a passive contributor and an active contributor. These roles are flexible. In some aspects of the relationship, a person can be an active contributor, and in others, the same person can be a passive contributor. In good relationships, there is a healthy mix of these two. Issues crop up when these roles become fixed when one person keeps giving, and the other person keeps taking. One day the giver gets tired and stops giving; the taker by that time has completely forgotten how to give any more. And then the relationship dies. Some people like to move around with the corpse of dead relations, but I wanted more from life. I wanted to give my children a normal childhood, a happy home, and a secure atmosphere.
I didn’t have any money, but with some help from others, I filed for divorce. In the middle of the divorce case, my lawyer moved his office to a different town and showed her inability to represent my case. I had no option but to fight my case on my own. My divorce was finalized after a few hearings. It was a significant relief knowing that I would not have to show up in the court again.
Today I live with my two daughters, who are my most significant support. It was not easy for me to come out of this relationship. The acceptance that this relationship is not working came very late to me. It’s quite paradoxical, but more you accept your realities, more natural it becomes to change your circumstances. My advice to people in similar situations is: Stop fooling yourself that things will be ok someday when you are struggling to get through every day. Stop running after a fantasy. Ask yourself what advice you would give to your loved one if he/she is in the same situation. And then listen to your heart, cause it never lies.
Today with my experience, I help other women in the same situations as me. I am not an advocate of divorce; I still believe in fighting for your relationships and the things you love. But you need to love and fight for yourself first.”
“Someday we’ll forget the hurt, the reason we cried and who caused us pain. We will finally realise that the secret of being free is not revenge, but letting things unfold in their own way and own Time. After all, what matters is not the first but the last chapter of our life, which shows how well we ran the race. So, smile, laugh, forgive, believe and love all over again.” Anonymous
Varsha Hathi lives in the UK with her two daughters Anisha and Tianna. A professional Divorce coach, she helps people navigate through their breakup/divorce by building up their confidence. She loves to go on holidays with her two daughters and plans to write a book one day!
Pic Credit: Varsha Hathi https://www.facebook.com/varsha.hathi
Written By: Vibha Kapil https://www.facebook.com/vibha.kapil