I remember I was sitting on the bus. It was a hot, humid afternoon. Suddenly, without warning, tears started running down my cheeks. I am almost certain that the bus was filled with passengers. I was in busy, crowded Singapore. But I guess I hadn’t been able to control the eruption of tears. I remember praying fervently. “If there is any way, God, please help me leave this relationship and find true love. Please help me find love, someone who loves me for myself, if it is Your will.”
In the next moment, I felt ashamed. I was a married woman who had taken my marriage vows so seriously and did everything in my power to make it last. I got married in a church and to me, my vows were the most important part of my wedding day. It was integral to my faith.
Yet here I was, tired and broken. I felt so alone.
I was in a very ugly and difficult, traditional Indian arranged marriage. This union with this person was my first real, serious relationship. I had been married off young.
And the family felt I was their personal property, meant to abuse and criticize. My ex-husband physically abused and later on I discovered, cheated on me. My ex-in laws and ex-husband condemned everything I did. I was condemned for my cooking, the way I raised my children and even for the fact that I was not bringing home enough money. I started hating myself.
The worst thing the abuse did to me was to make me an emotionally-confused person. My behavior was erratic, I was moody and impatient, and I was filled with self-loathing. All the while, my abusers had an invisible hold on me, making me believe that I could never escape them. They had spent nearly 15 years feeding me lies. And violence. And manipulation.
This is the nature of abuse. It makes you doubt yourself. You are dependent on your abuser/s and their lies. Your behavior becomes erratic.
I don’t remember every detail about the break-up. I do remember, though, when I finally realized that the marriage was truly over. It was when it dawned on me that my first husband had emotionally left the marriage. He had stopped trying. And I was the only one left. Everything he was doing from that point on was for punishment and control. His actions were meant to break me. To bully me. Because he didn’t have power over me, he felt no one else could. I wasn’t allowed to have power over myself.
Growth and Healing
While battling questions and reproach from other people, about why I had stayed and hadn’t asked for help, I had to survive. I had to provide for my two young children, work and not fall apart all at the same time. The questions only made me ashamed. I felt like a failure.
But things gradually got better with a lot of love and support from my family. I didn’t realize that I had barely smiled in a long time and hadn’t genuinely laughed in a few years. The first time I heard myself genuinely let out a laugh, the sound startled me. I was beginning to find myself again. Then, I began to make new friends. They liked me and enjoyed my company.
However, the true healing began when I was able to name the harm done to me. I started to regain courage. I was able to call out all the things that my ex-husband and his family had done to me. They continued the abuse in the course of the divorce, to try and silence me. I refused to be treated like I had lied or exaggerated the whole thing.
And then, I began to like myself again. I had started the healing journey.
By the time I met my now-husband, I was a much happier person. I liked myself a lot more. See https://sues.life/2021/02/07/acceptance-respect-and-understanding/
I never dreamed, however, that someone with such a different cultural background, from the United States could see things as I saw them. We talked for hours in an effortless, easy way, like we had known each other our whole lives. Both of us had similar beliefs. We believed in the virtues of integrity and respect. We enjoyed each other on a very intellectual level. Most importantly, I found I liked myself more, when I was with him. We complemented each other. And this was key to our wanting to be together and to getting married. More importantly, we have never allowed our disagreements with each other, to be abusive or destructive.
I think back to that prayer all those years ago. The one, on the bus I had said silently, in an almost hopeless way. I believe that before I was blessed with my new relationship, I had to be rescued from abuse. My family had to extract me from destructive, abusive people and I had to start down the path to healing. I had to be returned to an atmosphere of acceptance. There was a need to be liked and nurtured.
I needed to start loving myself again. Then and only then, could I find true romantic love.