Coping with Divorce
this page we feature articles on coping with Divorce. You may also be interested in our list of books on Divorce.
the Knot: Despite the social stigma attached to it,
divorce is not uncommon among Indian-Americans. The
tough decision and coping with the trauma -
When 27-year-old Vineeta Singh (all names have been
changed to protect privacy) received a marriage proposal
from a groom in the United States, she saw it as the
perfect escape from her life in Bombay. She agreed to
marry this almost-stranger that she had met through
a marriage bureau. The first sign of trouble came on
the wedding night itself. Raj, her husband, turned out
to be impotent. At first Vineeta was shocked, but she
decided to deal with it..... Every year hundreds of
Indian men come to the United States, hoping to find
pots of money and lots of success: the American Dream.
Every year, hundreds of Indian women hunt for husbands
among those men, hoping to achieve a lifetime of prosperity
and freedom in the United States: the Indian Dream?-
Marriage Is Forever
is a breakdown that has been under way among Hindus for some
time all over the world. Complaints as well as suggestions
come in daily to my publisher's desk. These are some of the
typical problems: mothers are no longer teaching righteousness,
Vedic Dharma, worship and puja to their children, for fear
their little ones won't fit into the alien cultures in which
they are living. That's one. Fathers are no longer taking
their sons into the family business or profession, but giving
them choices of their own, for fear of being regarded as the
"dominant" parent figure and not fitting in with
the society in which they are living. That's another. There
are orphaned in their own homes because the minds of both
mother and father are in the work-a-day world in which the
children play no part. Kids content themselves within the
asuric realms of video arcades and TV. Families have given
up dharma and even the hope of moksha, liberation from rebirth.
Instead, they are immersed in the insatiable search for artha
(wealth) and kama (enjoyment) and the many other magnetic
pulls, so that they, too, are able to blend into modern society.
people, we are told in many e-mails, have almost all become
passive followers, with few active leaders among them. No
one wants to stand out over another, lest he be harshly criticized
and put down. Many moderners fear openly affirming the dharma
if it conflicts with modern society. Society as we know it
today is the doctrine of materialism governed by anarchy.
Lay down a rule, and someone will break it, no matter what
it is. Are we in the Kali Yuga?
is one institution that there is still hope in saving. It
has been cherished in scripture, in living cultures, in all
the major religions for thousands of years. It is the precious
institution of marriage. It is the binding, contractual agreement
between a man and woman who have come together to take on
the responsibility of birthing, raising and educating a new
generation. How are we going to have a brave new world, a
new world order, a new age, based on anarchy within the family
too, Hindus are taking their examples from those who do not
understand or observe dharma; they are seeing divorce as a
solution instead of a problem.
institution of marriage breaks down, everyone suffers. We
see this happening all around us. A husband and wife bound
by holy sacraments are psychically attached to each other.
To separate for a month, a week or even for a day can be painful
on the part of one or both. They reach out to one another
during the time of physical absence in dreams and longing.
How painful then is their permanent separation? How much anguish
does it bring to their beloved children, whose wounds never
really heal? And how is it that only the priest, a person
who invokes God and the Gods, can sanctify a marriage, and
that a court judge, a man of the world, can cancel that divine
contractual agreement? Impossible. Only in the Kali Yuga.
and joyous life is theirs who remain firmly on the faultless
path of the control of the five senses. There are still a
few elders left today who speak out, whether listened to or
not. Their fire of righteous indignation, their love for dharma,
is making an impression upon the younger generation and their
parents alike. We appeal to these elders to take courage and
proclaim the ancient values, whether their children and grandchildren
listen to them or not. Some part of them will be hearing.
Preach the dharma. There is little to lose and much to gain.
We appeal to elders to speak against divorce, to patiently
work to harmonize matrimonial tensions and diffuse difficult
Drawbacks Of Divorce
only begins new problems. Is a divorce similar to going out
of business? Or bankruptcy? Yes, because in both cases everyone
is the loser. The employees are losers, the children are losers,
the suppliers are losers; everyone is a loser, and everyone
takes sides. In the case of the failing business, the employees
take sides, the partnership breaks up, the partners take sides,
and their friends take sides. In case of a marriage, the friends
of a husband take his side, the friends of a wife take her
side, and there is a permanent division. Sometimes the courts
take the side of the children, and the children are divided.
It is the breakdown of the community, it is the breakdown
of society, and it is the creation of a lot of kukarma that
has to be worked out in this or probably in a future life.
There's another great loss in the case of a marriage that
breaks up or a business that breaks up, and the loss is trust
in the individuals concerned. They lose their ability to trust
each other, to trust themselves; and, of course, no one trusts
have been taught to look to psychiatrists, psychologists,
family counselors and attorneys for solutions to marital problems.
But who can give better solutions than our qualified elders
who know the karmas, who know the adharma involved in divorce?
Their experience has great value. Find a swami, sadhu, guru,
a jyotisha shastri, someone who can help tighten the bonds
of family love and trust and make this person an integral
part of your family. Every family needs its spiritual preceptor
to strengthen the support group, who in turn hold the family
together when hard times come. The plea is to hang on to one
thing: the family life. Marriage is forever.
culture has within it all the solutions to maintain proper
relationships of a man being manly and a woman being womanly.
Today men are confronted by women who have, often out of necessity,
nurtured their masculine qualities. Naturally, such couples
will fight, compete and suffer. In my life-long ministry,
those who are not getting along well in marriage come occasionally
for advice. We work it out according to ancient shastric principles
that transcend the immediate problems. Marriage is like a
voyage by ship. Sometimes the going is easy and sunny, and
sometimes there is bad weather to endure. But at all times
it's advisable to stay with the ship and not jump overboard.
My experience is that the bad karmas, or kukarmas, as well
as harsh astrology and difficult attitudes, are always finally
overcome, so long as no one gives up the hope and the effort.
The marriage continues. The word divorce is never uttered
or seen as a solution in the hundreds of extended families
who look to me as preceptor.
who don't take such advice are overwhelmed by the tugs and
pulls of pranic forces between them stimulated by hatred and
confusion, tears, remorse, unresolvable misunderstandings
which have gone on unattended for fifteen or twenty years.
Couples who did not listen to my advice to not end their marriage
ten years ago still speak to me today of their separation
as though it all happened a week ago. They admit that divorce
was no solution, only a postponement of problems that still
linger, which could have been solved and still have to be.
Those who have gone through the experience know that divorce
and remarriage is just trading one set of problems for another.
We have seen that divorcees remarry others with the same traits,
temperament, faults, failings and even looks as their previous
spouse. No one, however clever they may be, can run away from
their birth karmas. No, divorce is no solution. Separation,
though better, is still not the solution. Both are only the
beginning of new problems.
marriage is still highly respected, and so divorce is a sign
of failure, because life is a spiritual journey and failing
to fulfill that journey is a weakness. In a sense, it is a
crime against one's own karma and dharma in this life. It
is like saying, "I can't do what I came here to do."
Divorce brings loss of social position and respect in the
community. By getting divorced, one betrays a sacred covenant,
a betrayal that weakens the whole of society.
is divorce, and there is divorce. I have observed through
the years that a modern form of Hindu divorce has become a
part of Indian culture. It is a clever way to not hurt the
feelings of elders, parents and relatives, or to avoid incurring
the community stigma of divorce. A modern form of Hindu divorce,
it seems, has cleverly been conceived in the following way.
The husband is under great stress, a stress that is not natural
for a human being, a stress based on living up to materialistic
expectations. He comes home psychically wounded, tired, worried.
If things do not go well at home, he may verbally or even
physically abuse his wife and family, blaming her for everything
bad that happens to him. Sensing his failure to cope with
all of this, he secretly wishes he did not have to face his
from compatriots that the Big Solution to the marriage problem
is to get away from the wife and the kids. He is advised to
accept a job in another part of the world, knowing that his
association with his family will become distant and tenuous,
and he will no longer have to confront his wife, who has become
his conscience. He knows he will hardly have to speak with
her, rarely visit her and will be able to avoid, most of the
time, the challenges the marriage has brought to him which
he is unwittingly unable or unwilling to resolve. He knows,
too, that he won't have to face the community's disdain that
a formal divorce would bring, and that he can avoid the financial
pains of alimony.
reorganizing his professional life, the husband takes a job
in a far-off land. He returns home for brief periods and only
occasionally, thus effecting a separation without the expensive
inconvenience and social stigma of formal divorce proceedings.
He assures everyone, mostly himself, that this is the right
thing to do, since he is making more money. Of course, money
will never make up for his absence, never buy the children
their childhood back. Lacking in fatherly guidance, the children,
are running wild, turning promiscuous, later to repeat the
example of neglect that dad is teaching them. No one wins.
and wife should always be together. If there is an unavoidable
separation, he should call her daily, ask how her day was,
inquire about the children. After all, it is the harmonizing
of their pranas that will create through their children a
brave new world, a new world order and a new age.
Whom to Hold Responsible?
TODAY ran a quiz about divorce on the women's page. The subject
struck a nerve among readers. Here's a question that a young
Hindu asked about coping with divorce.
My mother and father got a divorce, and I really resent it.
It happened seven years ago when I was sixteen, and almost
every day I regret what I missed by not having my mom and
dad together in a loving home. How can I deal with the resentment,
It's not easy experiencing the separation and divorce of one's
mom and dad, at any age -- six, sixteen or thirty-one. There
is a feeling of emptiness; something is lost, never to be
regained. The feelings and thoughts of blame grow, they do
not diminish, as the years go by. But look at it this way.
Any marriage, yours maybe, needs a loving, strong support
group that wants to help the young couple, or the older couple,
work out their problems rather than avoid them through separation
and finally divorce. Basically, when there are children involved
as a result of a marriage, there really is no divorce -- only
separation. Every marriage is truly irrevocable, carved in
the akashic records when the first child's umbilical cord
is cut. Thereafter, there can be no separation without a great
deal of pain and unforeseen karmic repercussions.
should the children put the blame? Put it where it truly belongs.
Put it on the support groups -- the mothers, the grandmothers,
the grandfathers, the aunts, the uncles, the cousins, the
next-door neighbors, the business partners and friends of
the family. Everyone in the community shares the tragedy of
the home's breaking up -- the members of the temple society,
the marriage counselor, psychiatrist, psychologist, the hairdresser,
the gym instructor and the attorney were all responsible to
become part of the solution rather than part of the dissolution
of the marriage. Put the blame on them, not on your mom and
family that loves one another and looks out for the good of
all, a religious group of loving souls who pride themselves
on low percentage of divorce in their community or congregation
-- these and more are all the people who can or should see
the tension growing between husband and wife and who have
the ability to diffuse it at the early stages. Don't blame
your mother and father. If blame is to be cast, blame all
those people that surrounded your family who were not alert
enough, good souls that they may be, to help diffuse the tension
between your parents.
the support group has failed their marriage. You must admit
that failure, lest it drag you down to its own depth. Be part
of the solution. Don't perpetuate the problem. Don't make
them feel guilty. For your own peace of mind, transfer the
blame, the hurt feelings, the pain and resentment over to
the relatives, the community and national value system. Become
an agent of goodwill. Have kind words to say about dad to
mom and kind words to say about mom to dad. Resist the impulse
to criticize one to the other and cause an even greater separation
within the family. They are not to blame. Society is.
take sides, you are creating bad karma, kukarma, for yourself,
to be faced later. So treat each one the same. Don't make
deals, don't deceive them or keep secrets from them, lest
you psychically alienate yourself from the home. Maybe, just
maybe, you can help them to understand and reconcile their
differences if you follow this advice. Maybe, just maybe,
time and the forces of nature will all come to your aid, and
your parents will remarry and you will all become a family
again. Don't perpetuate the problem. Be part of the solution.
Work with it. You, their child, may be their very best hope.
Support at Crucial Times
tensions of the burdens of life begin to build, if friends,
relatives and community begin to pull away rather than come
forward to help, mom and dad are rendered helpless, absolutely
helpless. Certain crises are predictable in the course of
a marriage. When the first child is born, everything changes.
This is the first crisis in their life. He lost his sweetheart
and lover when she gave birth to her first child and became
a mother. She lost her lover, too, when he became a father.
Their roles first began to change during the time of her pregnancy.
He had to watch very closely his thoughts toward other women,
while feeling neglect because she was thinking about their
baby soon to be born more than she was thinking about him.
She used to think only of him.
into another home is another crisis time. It's easy for dad
because he is involved in new employment and new friends,
but hard for mom because she has to adjust to the change of
her entire environment. Is this a time for her to be emotionally
upset? Yes it is.
age, around forty, mom goes through menopause -- another big
crisis. Dad doesn't admit it -- no man ever does -- but he
goes through a corresponding change at that time, too. At
that time they both begin to think how it would have been
if they had married somebody else. Dad, maybe, especially
is ready for one last fling. They both have a desire to return
to the surroundings of their youth. This is another intense
crisis time. If dad reaches fortyish first and mom later,
then they experience two crisis times instead of one. When
their daughter entered puberty, another crisis time occurred
for the family. They didn't know what she was going to do
next, and they often blamed themselves and each other for
her erratic and sometimes erotic behavior. Another crisis
Grandpa, great aunts and uncles, the neighbor next door, even
the deliveryman, can help in times of crisis. The temple community,
the church congregation, the priest, the minister, friends,
Rotary Club members, executive at the office, if they don't
help, are all negligent. We can blame them for the failure.
Don't blame mom and dad. They are helpless. Do we blame somebody
who is sick for being ill? Of course not. Do we blame a person
who is emotionally distraught for being emotional distraught?
Of course not. We try to understand. We try to help. If the
help is offered or is not offered, we blame those who do not
I tell troubled youth, for your own peace of mind, dear child,
love your mother and your father. Keep them as one in your
mind. Don't separate them in your mind. You yourself are the
greatest marriage counselor. It is only you who at this juncture
can become a binding force for the family. Rise above the
accepted standards of the nonculture of today, which advise
divorce to solve the problem. Remember, don't take sides.
The Dreadful First Slap
divorce is not an acceptable solution to family problems according
to Hindu Dharma, there is one regrettable exception to maintaining
a divine union, and that is in the case of domestic violence.
We've encountered much talk lately in Time, Newsweek, Hinduism
Today and on TV about the taboo subjects of wife beating,
date rape and even sexual abuse of children. Things once not
even whispered about behind closed doors are now out in the
open. No more secrets.
domestic violence never was much of a secret, for all those
involved knew: husbands and wives, their friends, the kids,
close relatives and neighbors. Knew but said nothing. If the
neighbors are making too much noise at a party, no one hesitates
to complain. But if that same neighbor is beating his wife
and she is screaming and crying, nothing is done. No knock
on the door. No call to authorities. We never allow a fist
fight in a public place, but we do permit, by our silence,
such heinous violence in the home.
spirit of standing for ahimsa and not permitting violence,
when you see a man slapping his wife or a parent hitting his
child, call the police! Don't protect the wrongdoer. Don't
be a party to the crime by remaining passive. Don't think
that no karma is attached to inaction. It is no longer acceptable
to turn up the TV to drown out the screams and sobs of a wife
the California case of O.J. Simpson released an immense outpouring
of sympathy for abused women. It took a world-famous athlete
to bring forward an infamous worldly behavior. It is an admirable
trait that an uncensored press can come forward to awaken
a nation's conscience. In a way, the images and stories that
are appearing are not unlike Indian epics or Greek stage plays
that seek to establish morals by depicting tragic happenings,
or Italian operas which conceal morals in melodrama. All in
all, the world has not changed that much.
as it is to discuss wife abuse and why it happens, people
are discussing it openly and without shame. We see graphic,
real-life pictures of this violence and battered wives speaking
out in magazines and on television. The big question is, will
it ever end? Maybe not, but we can end the cultural sanction
of the sport where father and mother watch their son slap
down his wife and then drag her across the room by her hair.
who strikes his wife in an effort to make her cower, to control
her, actually karmically does the opposite. His brutality
turns against him, becomes his disadvantage. Her love and
dependence weaken, and her psychic bonds to him unravel. After
that, she has the spiritual upper hand, is more free from
him than ever, less under his control than before that first
slap. Yes, it all begins with the first slap.
not matter as much when they fight with words -- the name-calling,
insinuations, insults and arguments. That's all part of the
play of married life and may be fairly intense when their
astrological compatibility is not as perfect as it might be.
But that first slap changes everything! It is that first slap
that brings dire kukarma, that degrades and demeans, that
makes her his enemy and not his friend. This is not acceptable.
Kids cannot accept it. Wives will never forgive it. Families
should not endure it, even to defend beloved sons. It is not
less violent just because it happens behind closed doors,
just because we know the people so well. All who know of this
crime and who do not speak up for dharma, for ahimsa, are
accomplices. Like a thief or rapist, they are enemies of a
What Can Be Done?
can I do about domestic violence?" you may ask. You can
refuse to remain silent. You can object, as I did recently
upon finding in my own community three cases of wife abuse.
Imagine, if devotees performing sadhana can succumb, how easy
it must be for others. There is help available. Peer pressure,
elders, police, counselors and shelters are there, and much
more. It's like the olden days when people first started objecting
to slavery. Everyone knew in their heart it was wrong, but
no one dared go against the conventional wisdom that it was
"necessary." Finally, mankind came to its senses
and stopped it. It was no longer acceptable. In that same
way, we are now coming to our senses about spouse abuse and
the difference between beating a woman and raping her? Not
much, really. Violent harm is done. Her body has been violated,
moved by his body against her will. A sin has been committed,
equally as psychologically serious. Kukarma for the man, bad
consequences, results from that first slap. Prayashchitta,
penance, must be performed to mitigate the backlash of his
actions, lest they seriously affect his next birth.
push, bruised wrist, pinch without mercy, slap or bleeding
lip tells her nerve system that "this is no place for
me to be." Her fear takes over, and the process of breaking
up the family nest begins. His future is jeopardized as she
instinctively withdraws her shakti. Perhaps he struck her
to show that he's the boss and that she cannot control him.
But, in fact, he thereby appointed her as another boss that
may well torment his consciousness the rest of his life and
bring to him sorrows to equal her own, now or in his next
it is the birth dharma of Hindu elders to rule society with
a firm hand and demand of their younger male generation that
they never defile themselves by giving that first slap. When
a domestic situation is brought before me that involves violence,
my immediate response is to advise the wife to run for safety.
Unless counseling, if ever accepted, brings about an actual
change in the offender, and there are actual apologies, remorse
and genuine efforts to mend ways and transform that are acceptable
to relatives and the congregation at large, I know it is my
responsibility to step in and advise separation. Yes, this
may lead to divorce, unless, of course, a deeply sincere correction
has taken place and a new marriage covenant has been written
by the couple. Continued physical violence is the singular
justification for divorce in modern Hindu culture -- a regrettable
exception to the life-long covenant of marriage. This is comparable
to an abortion performed to save the life of the mother, which
is dharmically permissible because it is an even worse kukarma
for a child to kill his mother. All concerned will accept
the wisdom of these exceptions, both of which save the life
of the mother.