Smriti Sawhney Joshi is one of the first certified telemental health providers in India. She’s a clinical psychologist with 15+ years of experience in the field of mental health in diverse settings ranging from NGOs to schools to hospitals and attending to corporate clients. She answers a reader’s question here.
I had an arranged marriage 11 years ago when I was 19 and moved from Patna to Delhi. I have two children. My businessman husband and his parents were very indifferent and uncaring with me in those early years and I fell in love with a much younger man who is my husband’s cousin. In the last year, our secret relationship has developed into deep love and friendship. Last month, I told my husband about it and asked for a divorce. I thought he would be furious and would end the marriage, but instead he pretended not to hear it and changed the subject. I am caught in a trap. Divorce means becoming social outcasts. But I don’t want to live an empty life any more. I am wracked by a sense of doom, propelled only by the wishes of my heart. What can I do?
I appreciate your strength in sharing your concerns as it does take a lot of courage to speak about a loveless marriage or an extramarital relationship or seeking divorce. I feel your pain. A marriage is often considered a lifelong bond to be fulfilled under all circumstances, even if the emotional or companionship needs are unmet for either partner. There’s also a lot to be considered when seeking divorce – financial security post-divorce; children, if you have; the stigma associated with a divorcee, especially if it’s a woman.
Since you’ve been married 11 years, it would be difficult for your husband to believe that you wish for a separation. It’s often seen in such scenarios, especially where there’s a lack of companionship felt by one partner, the other partner may not even realise something’s amiss or wrong with the marriage since more tangible needs like food, clothing, jewellery, travel, et cetera, may be taken care of. Often, people feel that this is an adequate expression of their concern and affection for their partner.
You may need to make him sit with you when he’s not distracted by other things and speak with him about how you feel about your relationship with him, what’s missing and that you are looking at parting ways now. Is there any scope of giving him another chance if he wishes to work on the marriage? I leave that question for you to reflect on.
You know both the men in your life. If it helps, make a list of pros and cons in this marriage or outside it. Give the list a score; the total of this score should be 100 and the scores can’t be 50-50; for example the pros could be 30 and cons 70 of staying in this marriage. This way you could make sure it’s not an irrational decision but something well thought out. And if this still doesn’t help, consider seeking a professional marriage counsellor’s assistance to help you sort your life.
Photo credit: Alejandra Quiroz on Unsplash. First published in the August 2017 issue of eShe magazine