The 'D' word is still one that elicits reactions of shock and horror
How Desi parents react to their children’s divorce is a topic of much interest.
Reactions can often leave offspring hurt and abandoned. On the odd occasion, reactions may be positive with parents offering words of wisdom and support.
The nature of the relationship between the couple and the events leading up to the divorce will often influence the parent’s reactions.
The ‘D’ word is still one that elicits reactions of shock and horror as well as the predetermined gossip and pointing fingers.
Rather than considering the overall picture and events in a couple’s relationship, it is easier to attach the blame to one person.
Statistics suggest that divorce is at a higher rate amongst British Asians than ever before which should make the ‘D’ word easier to accept.
India Today reports that a “disturbing trend in marriage patterns among Asian immigrants in Britain is coming to light”. It also indicates that Britain has the highest divorce rate in Europe.
However, emotions will run high in the break-up of any marriage in any culture so it is not surprising that parents react in so many different ways.
DESIblitz takes a closer look at some parents’ reactions to the news that their beloved son or daughter is about to be single again.
We talked to some of our British Asian audience and bring you five stories of divorce and how it affected them.
This 32-year-old man is a British Indian who divorced after just three years of being married to a girl he fell in love with.
“It was a mutual separation. No hard feelings. We just had different ideas about everything and didn’t see eye-to-eye anymore”.
He goes on to explain that they married young and at the time were quite naive about married life. Talking about his parent’s reactions to his divorce, he tells us that:
“Now my parents are very set in their ways. I’m not saying they’re backward in their thinking but they do refuse to accept change.
“They move in similar circles of friends and often this is not a good choice. It’s not for me to say who my parents should befriend but it has its drawbacks.
“If all they talk about is rishtas and tut-tut about our girls who should know better than to go drinking and partying then perhaps it is not such a healthy gathering.
“They gave me a hard time. Basically, their reactions to my divorce were mostly negative and they told me I should have made it work”.
Gurdeep says his dad was very concerned about having to tell his friends at the Punjabi Centre where they all congregated.
He made it all about him and his reputation and didn’t give any thought to how Gurdeep was feeling. Gurdeep says:
“Mum was no better either. She stopped going out to meet her friends so she wouldn’t have to explain anything to them.
“Like it really mattered. I mean who cares what other people think. It was our decision to make and concerns no-one else”.
He does acknowledge, however, that despite what his own opinions are, it makes no difference to how other people will react – even his own parents.
Diya is 29 years of age and lives in Birmingham. She has divorced her husband after being married for four years.
She explains that she had an arranged marriage to a young man who had not long been a citizen of the UK.
“I met my husband through family. It wasn’t forced on us although we were introduced to each other. It’s funny because I didn’t really like him to begin with.
“We then went out on a few dates and I thought, ‘he’s not that bad’. He made me laugh a lot which is half the battle. He said he didn’t drink or smoke at all and hated it.
“Now, I don’t smoke either but I do like to have a drink on the odd occasion. It’s not the middle ages so didn’t think this would be a problem”.
Diya tells us that she didn’t make a habit of drinking and only had a drink when she was out with her friends or at a party. This, it appeared, was not how her husband saw it.
He began to be abusive and call her names which she said hurt more than the physical abuse. Things went from bad to worse.
“This went on for a good three years on and off. He would be nice and sweet when he wanted and then suddenly turn on me again.
“At first it was just that he resented me having a drink but after a while, it was any excuse.
“I asked him to leave if he was so unhappy but he wouldn’t. So one day I packed my stuff and went home to mum and dad”.
Diya says that:
“I am one very lucky girl. My parents were brilliant and I had their full support. Mum is pretty laid back and likes going out and having a drink herself.
“Dad just said something like, ‘don’t worry beti, we just want you to be happy’. Don’t you just love them? They are the best parents ever”.
Diya is indeed one of the lucky ones. There are not many desi parents who react to divorce so well.
Shivani lives in London with her two children. Her marriage was not a happy one and she divorced when it became unbearable.
She is 35-years-old and says:
“My marriage was a sham. He was never home and we never spent any time together. I don’t know how we have these two children – we were like ships passing in the night!
“My kids are the only good that came out of our marriage. He was a total prick and never did anything to help out.
“All he wanted to do was go out all the time. Purely by chance, I found out about the other woman in his life.
“There it is, the excuse I need to bolt. I told my parents and waited for two days before they responded”.
Shivani says that she was stunned by their reaction to her decision to divorce:
“They were like, ‘nahi beti, you have to make it work. a wife should respect her husband no matter what’. They didn’t give a crap about me”.
Shivani did leave her husband and had no choice but to go home to her parents until she could afford to move out.
She was completely taken aback by their reaction and how they treated her. She says:
“I love my parents unconditionally and thought they loved me the same way too. Oh, how wrong I was. They couldn’t wait to get rid of me.
“I was devastated by their reaction and it hurt me so much. To think that my own mum and dad could treat me like an outsider left me reeling.
“They said I was wrong to leave my husband and I should be ashamed for wanting to live the single life. I told them it wasn’t a choice I made without good reason. They didn’t get it”.
Shivani couldn’t bear living under the same roof anymore so she moved out. Even her two children were not able to soften her parents’ stance or outlook.
She says of this:
“I can’t imagine any grandparent who wouldn’t give their life for their grandchildren. My parents proved how stupid I was to think this. They were completely heartless and cold.
“I will never forgive them. We have no contact with them anymore which is sad but it’s their loss and their choice”.
Arun is a successful businessman who has worked hard to get where he is.
He has one daughter who is five years old and he himself is 33. Arun met his partner when he was 25.
After falling in love almost immediately he proposed and within a year they become husband and wife. Both parents were delighted with the match and there followed an elaborate wedding.
Arun’s parents made no demands for gifts or dowry and the couple moved into their own home quite quickly.
After some time had passed, their daughter was born. His wife became overly protective and possessive about the little girl and wouldn’t leave his parents alone with her.
She seemed to have more trust in her own parents but when it came to the in-laws she would always make up an excuse why they couldn’t see her.
Arun was naturally distraught and says:
“This began to cause a rift in our relationship. I love my wife, or rather did, but couldn’t bear to see the hurt on my mum and dad’s faces when they were rejected by her.
“She did not explain her behaviour but, now she is keeping the baby away from my parents and I am not going to stand for that”.
This is when the arguments started as he tried to reason with his wife but she refused to budge. The only people allowed near her child were herself, Arun and her parents.
In the end, Arun had had enough and filed for divorce. They had joint custody of their daughter and he moved out of the marital home into his own flat.
The events which lead up to the divorce meant that the reactions were good ones. They understood his reasons and glad that they could now see their granddaughter.
Arun tells us:
“My parents were so unhappy. They longed to spend time with our little girl but my wife had massive trust issues. She deprived them and ill never understand why.
“They are such lovely people. They said, ‘don’t worry about us – just save your marriage’.
“Even then they wanted me to stay with her despite how much it was hurting them but I couldn’t bear their misery any longer. my feelings towards my wife changed considerably after that”.
Arun realised that it wouldn’t stop there but would have the same repercussions if they had more children. He wasn’t about to let that happen and put his parents first.
Henna has been through some extremely traumatic times during her long marriage. She found it immensely difficult to leave her husband due to family interference.
Her marriage ended after 15 years and giving birth to two children. Henna has no qualms about talking about it and tells us:
“My friends told me over and over again to get out. I didn’t listen to them. my parents put the pressure on me to stay married. they said they would disown me if I left my husband.
“They are so pig-headed and stubborn. Their status and reputation in society is far more important than my unhappiness. I would have stayed had it not been so bad.
“My ex was a violent alcoholic who saw nothing wrong with lashing out when it suited him.
“He drank all our money away and couldn’t keep down a job. I struggled to keep the family from drowning in debt as I burned the candle at both ends”.
Henna’s parents were insistent she stay with him despite her misery. The decision to end her marriage was not an easy one as the support from family was non-existent.
“My dad said I would never be able to survive on my own and that I was stupid for leaving him. He thinks that daughters should stay married for life.
“His comments did not surprise me but by this point, I thought, ‘I’m past caring’. My children’s safety and happiness were what mattered”.
Henna’s parents turned their backs on their daughter when she left her marital home.
Their absurd views about the ‘pati’ being ‘parmeshwar’ no matter what lost them their daughter’s love and respect.
These stories highlight how desi parents reactions to divorce differ across families. A lot of this depends on their upbringing and willingness to adapt to change.
British Asian society as a whole is not forgiving and this affects desi parents reactions to divorce.
Even though this is a very small sample of stories we can see that females and males suffer in different but similar ways.
It is natural and acceptable to get upset by the break-up of a child’s marriage. However, it is not acceptable for a parent to turn away from their child when they need them most.
We live in a society where divorce is the norm and the new generation of British Asians see nothing wrong or shameful in it.
There is now a wider acceptance of divorce and separation as people understand that it is better to be single and happy than married and miserable.
It is a shame that some parents are not able to acknowledge their child’s unhappiness and be the backbone to help heal the wounds.