How to combat the ‘what will people say’ fallacy

I know how hard it is for us to accept that the people who are supposed to keep us safe and protected, like our dear and beloved family and chaddi buddies for example, are the ones who will actually stand in line to sell us to the devil for their own validation and status in ‘society’. 

Don’t believe me?

It’s very simple. 

If you had complete faith in your inner circle, why would you be standing at the doorway to a different life with your knees shaking, terrified of what they will say? Don’t you think that if you had their implicit support, you would be rushing through that door, with them firmly cheering and leading you forward?

Let me illustrate this better with an actual example. 

Jyothi, a real person with feelings, is a woman who lives in the state of Tamil Nadu with her estranged husband and a 2-year-old child. When I asked her what she was afraid of and why she was dilly-dallying around filing for a divorce, she said to me, verbatim, ‘I’m scared that he (the husband) will manipulate me and turn everyone around against me, even my own family.’ 

Tell me, how many levels of trauma, misogyny, and patriarchal bullshit did you sense in that one line?

Her husband, who she literally bought with crores and a car paid in dowry is the one who is calling the shots on how this marriage should play out, by holding her family as the albatross around her neck to make her feel guilty into staying. 

Why? 

How can our own families, our own blood, sell us out? 

Why do we allow the family to mindlessly tell us to stay married even when we are bleeding and dying before their eyes, because ‘what will people say?’

Listen, before you get down into a puddle of tears, start breaking bangles, and begin to curse the day you were born (please, leave such histrionics to Bollywood), understand that this sell-out behaviour is not entirely because they are bad people, or because they don’t love us. 

This is just brown culture and the societal conditioning, which is its grandparent, in its full and glorious display. And this conditioning acts up like adolescent acne when it is provoked by unprecedented behaviour, like a divorce. 

Hear me out. 

I am in no way saying that family and Parents are bad or that they do not love us, but the truth is they just come from a time when marriage meant financial security, protection, tickets to heaven, and lots of things which honestly I don’t understand but now I can empathise with. 

It is because of this conditioning that most brown parents do not have the emotional bandwidth to stand with us and our decision to walk out on a toxic marriage.  

Simply because, they never had the option to walk out of their. 

Imagine, divorce was never an option for our poor parents or their parents before them. 

But it is for us. 

We live in better days, where women are educated and standing up against domestic violence, marital rape, child marriage… and everything that our parents and the generations before them considered normal and situations that one must necessarily adjust to. We have the support of the law, police stations, jobs and our own children.

So how do we combat this stress of dealing with people will say? I’ve noted down a few points which could help, but do let me know if I missed out on any.

Ask yourself if you would do the same to your own children?

I implore you, if you are wavering on your decision based on ‘what will people say’ give yourself some much-needed perspective by asking yourself if you would do this to your own child? Would you ask your children to put themselves on fire so you can keep warm? 

Would you say that it is normal behaviour because your parents did the same to you?

if you can sense the absurdity in that type of conditioning and if you jumped up and almost screamed out no, then you have somewhat managed to catch my drift. 

Accept with whatever it takes, that our own parents simply don’t know any better. 

Accept, however hard it might be, that your parents are just imperfect human beings who are continuing to spew the poison that they were fed.

Accept that instead of fighting with people, and derailing your own life for a society that is committed to misunderstanding us, you will have to choose to walk down your own path. 

Be the example of survival to your own parents and family, show them that you can bring ‘society’ to its knees with your sheer will to thrive and be happy despite your circumstances. 

Move out of your pre-marital home, ASAP!

If you are financially independent and are unable to survive the toxicity in your pre-marital home, make an effort to move out! Move into a safe community, somewhere where you have a friend or trusted people living nearby. Distancing yourself from toxicity is key to your survival in this period of your life.

Use your ‘Call a good friend’ card

If you have even one friend who is a supporter, call them! Surround yourself and your children with people who are willing to take some of the debris coming your way, these people are precious and necessary. We all need a Sooki, a 3-am friend and Single Parents are no different, so nurture your good friendships and let the toxic ones walk.

Keep telling yourself how incredible you are

The next time you look in the mirror, look at the face that is always going to be there. Yours. and give her the biggest smile you can manage. She deserves all the love that you are busy giving to the people that don’t even care. Emulate your inner Geet of Jab we Met and be your own favorite person.

And wasn’t it the father of our nation who said that we have to be the change that we want to see? So there you go, you have the Gandhian approval on those power moves that you are poised to make. 

Go for it, be the superhero that your children need, not the scapegoat that society made of  you. 

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