It's real, guys.
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Looking Past The 'Happily Ever After' Dream
By Amal Ghazali
There are three main things that I realised are real as I approached the age of thirty – permanent eye bags, the fact that nobody really knows exactly how taxes work, and divorce.
Yes, divorce is real guys. And it’s not just something you see happening a lot on E! News. It’s one of those occurrences that you don’t think will ever happen to yourself or your loved ones when you were younger, and now you realise it can actually happen to anyone.
It was just a usual day at my office when I heard the news that a couple I knew, both of whom were my friends, were filing for divorce after four years of marriage. The idea of divorcing wasn’t exactly a shock to me anymore by then. I am in the stage of my life where most of my friends have been married for a few years, and this means that the honeymoon phase has passed and the whole candied idea of marriage being a field of flowers filled with rainbows and passions askew are now shattered by the truth – that relationships are hard work and is not always easy.
The emergence of this truth affected people I knew in many ways. Some grew stronger, while the rest, unfortunately, dissolved into painful separations. Financial hiccups, baby vomit, loss of affection, his-pants-are-always-on-the-floor, a third person – I began to learn that there are so many reasons why marriages end up in flames.
But when I heard about this specific couple calling it quits, I was flabbergasted. I travelled with them once and from what I could tell they were fun, kind and happy people. Wasn’t that enough?
The Myth And Truth About Divorce
This is the part where I first and foremost tell you that my wisdom on marriages is about the size of a green pea. I have never been married and I would not claim to have a first-hand idea of what life is like on that other side. What I can narrate to you is what I have learned from neutral observations, and how my views on it have changed from my early twenties to current time.
I came from a relatively stable background and divorce was almost unheard of within my extended family or friends. I learned a lot about them through watching Western TV, where separations always seem to occur on the characters that deserve it. I’m talking abusive husbands, the mafia, people having affairs galore or any other of those extreme reasons. It seemed like a foreign concept, a different world if you will, that I couldn’t relate to at all. My naivety at the time also assured me that divorce would only happen to bad people. Normal, regular people like us? We’ll find someone, fall in love and be happy forever. Right?
Feeling distressed about the news I’ve just heard, I talked to a colleague to try and resolve my confusion over it all. I mean, if even good people don’t stand a chance, aren’t we all doomed? As a girl yet to step into the world of marital union, all of these news of people getting divorced or even people complaining that they are in unhappy relationships spooked me. I want the chase-you-at-the-airport happiness I see in movies! I don’t want to hear stories about you leaving your wife for a younger model because she ‘let herself go’, sir.
As we discussed it through, my married colleague and I concluded that marriage, like a lot of other things in life, doesn’t always surpass our expectations on how we want them to be, especially if these expectations were designed by our younger, less-wise selves. Some people work so hard to keep their marriage together but to no avail. Some people had known each other for years before tying the knot, but only lasted a while in the union. Some people get married without knowing each other at all, and theirs last a lifetime. Some people fall apart and then fall back together.
Be A Positive Drive
Like life itself, each relationship is different, and therefore what works and what doesn’t is unique in their own special ways. Unfortunately, as a society I would easily note that we are sometimes harsh and judgemental towards people going through these difficult times. It is true that the breakup of a family isn’t something we should normalise or encourage, but it is also true that some of us prefer the sizzling gossips and surficial judgement rather than lending a helping hand or providing the right support. Like my friends who were going their separate ways, it was easy to establish the difference between the group who was just there to join the back talks and the group who was genuinely concerned about them coping through as peacefully as possible.
I suppose that in the end, divorce truly is real and a harsh reality at that. We take risks in life, including risks in loving others, and sometimes despite our hopes they end up in the sad end of the stick. Part of growing up for me is learning that essentially, we all want to be happy, and through the process of discovering new things and making mistakes, some bumps along the road of relationships are bound to happen. However, what we can always do as a community is channel productive support to our loved ones who are going through these painful dissolutions, and abstain from indulging in abrasive judgment and taboo generalisation. Hopefully, we can all make a good difference in each other’s lives and eventually assist in harnessing better, more positive relationships.
I had a strange dream last week. I dreamt that I woke up from my sleep to find that the city had faced an apocalypse and everyone had turned into zombies. I wanted to run but I live in an apartment at the 10th floor, and the stairs and elevators were infested with zombies. Then I tried to climb out the window and do the whole ‘Spiderman’ thing. I almost made it but then I woke up.
For the rest of the morning I wondered by myself, “what if everybody does turn into zombies?” I have no strong life skills. I don’t know how to use a gun. I’m too small to fight off a Nigerian zombie (this thought occurred as I stood next to a Nigerian man in the train). I have bad reflexes. My arms are like a little girl’s arms so I doubt that I’ll be able to punch too many of them for long. And what if I run and save myself? How on earth would I survive? I don’t know how to make fire. Well I’ve watched Cast Away a million times and I think I’ve memorized how Tom Hanks did it with two pieces of wood, but I have a sinking feeling that it’s not really as easy as it looks. I certainly can’t hunt animals. The last time I watched my Grandad slaughter a chicken I almost gagged (and it wasn’t even a cute-looking chicken).
Then I slowly came to a realization… my college professor was right! During an environmental geology class, he mentioned that humans are the weakest animals ever to exist. If it wasn’t for our brains we’d be long dead. We have no physical upper-hand. And by ‘we’, I meant myself. I don’t think I have many survival or defense skills. I suppose I could read a map and find other human survivors in other parts of the country… but damn it, if the only cars left with fuel are the ones with a sticks, then I’m screwed. I can’t shift gears on a manual.
Well, if the increasing crime rates in the city aren’t really making me think about learning some basic survival and defense skills, at least a bad nightmare of the zombie apocalypse does.