S O C I E T Y – B A N G L A D E S H
Love doesn’t always last. If you grew up with books and movies which convince people that one must find love, and love is supposed to be steadfast and eternal; chances are, you built notions about the eternity of love in your head.
In Bangladesh, arranged marriage is still the common type of marital union. And apparently, a lot of them last. We see couples dating back decades inviting us to meals, grandmas and grandpas eating lunch together, etc. These displays can easily convince us that we are expected to be with one person for the entire life, and if a person happened to have a bad marriage that ended in divorce, that individual is to be condemned.
This mentality is problematic in and of itself. There could be multiple unsolvable issues which could make marriage a struggle between two people. By any means, we shouldn’t expect two people to be together if they don’t have love and fondness for each other. Lots of arranged marriages last because they carry the promise of a financially stable future and end up giving the children in the family emotional stability (although argumentative parents have a bad effect as well, but that’s a whole different story). This is not to say that arranged marriages don’t end up with love, just that not many do. Love marriages aren’t perfect either, and these too can suffer from marriage breakdowns.
We cannot expect other people to live their lives for us. To look down upon people for being divorcees, especially when they faced mental and physical abuse, is not only nonsensical but also cruel. It points to what is objectively wrong in Bangladeshi society. We shouldn’t condemn others’ lives, especially when we don’t live perfect lives ourselves. Abuse on children is common, as physical abuse is considered normal in a country like ours to discipline kids. Abuse in marriages is also common, and women are mostly the victims of domestic abuse. However, escaping a toxic marriage is harder for women as divorce is stigmatised. Lack of gender equity in the job market and our patriarchal culture in general make women financially dependent on their partners. Thus they continue to suffer under the hands of abusive partners, as they don’t want to “bring shame upon their family” — an idea that is blatantly inaccurate, but cherished firmly in our households.
We don’t condemn the prevalent domestic abuse in our country – one of the main causes of divorces, but we do condemn the divorcees if they left their marriage due to the abuse they faced. People here are great at making assumptions and poking their noses in others’ businesses. Marriages can break down for a variety of reasons, and our society shames these already grieving people until they remarry to escape the taunts and stigma. However, it gets difficult to find brides and grooms for a divorcee, as the stereotypes surrounding divorce suggest that divorcees are “bad people in general, or else they wouldn’t have divorced”. Even though this assumption has no basis, many people would suggest it if someone plans to get married with a divorcee.
Female divorcees are mostly affected by this, although the effect on men isn’t negligible either. Ever since we were young, we were shown and taught double standards when it came to women. Women are supposed to be “virgin creatures” – a strange idea that suggests the purity and worth of a woman is affected by how many partners she had before. This leads to the idea that a woman who has come out of a bad marriage is no longer “worthy” of a second one. Not only is this notion wrong, but it is also rooted upon much harsher and sexist ideals that our society happily cultivates.
A lasting marriage is not necessarily a perfect marriage. Many marriages continue despite being loveless. Many marriages continue even though the partners are infidel and abusive. These people in toxic bonding are afraid of the ‘scandal’ it would cause if they divorced, and the effect it would have on their child(ren). And, this fear stems from the stigma society has created surrounding divorce. We must end the social stigma surrounding divorce. Otherwise, if we end up in such situations, we may face the same stigma as well.
Mahira Taj is a psychology and chocolate enthusiast who likes to cry over cute marine animals for fun.