Saturday, November 6, 2010

Throwing a Divorce Party in Oman: A social faux pas or...something needed to change the system

Do people ever really read the advice written in their wedding cards? I mean, before they are going through them, trying to decide what to get rid of and what to keep because they are now trying to move on from the point of divorce?
Holding one such wedding card right now, they write some PRETTY GOOD advice in there, those folks from Hallmark.

EX 1: “If you treat eachother kindly with compassion and with trust, and always let your tender feelings show… If you understand your differences, respecting who you are, and put eachother first in all you do… Your marriage will be beautiful, a reason to feel proud, a special source of love your whole lives through.”

I just read Victoria’s post on marriage in Oman here http://sultanatesocial.blogspot.com/2010/10/divorce-unfortunate-phenomenon.html and the resultant comments, and rather than comment directly, I decided to use my thoughts on the subject as fuel for a new post.

Andy wrote a comment on Victoria’s post asking the question; “Can’t we condemn divorce but not the divorcee?”
ISLAMIC STANDPOINT ON DIVORCE
This is actually the practice in Islam, because God/Allah states that divorce is the most hated to Him of all the practices legal to mankind. Unlike Biblical Christianity, which states, “what God has joined let no man tear asunder” Islam allows divorce, yet at the same time, it is hated by God, which means it is to be avoided under all circumstances. In Islam, a woman is allowed to divorce a man simply for the reason on never being able to be happy while married to him. [This means, she cannot be happy with him under any circumstances not that she may or may not be happier with another!]. But Islam does not dictate that the divorced man or woman are hated by Allah, as Zayed, one of the first Muslims, was considered one of the best of the Muslims, and Zaenab, Zayed’s ex-wife, after her divorce, became wife to the Prophet Mohamed (peace and blessings be upon him), and thus one of the examples to womankind as to how Muslim women are to behave. Also, Jameelah bint Ubayy (a wife of the Prophet S.A.W) after her divorce from Thaabit ibn Qays Ibn Shammaas, shows us that divorce [hated by God/Allah] does not taint the divorcee should there be a reason for the divorce.

OMANI CULTURAL STANDPOINT ON DIVORCE
I am a divorced woman living in Oman. Divorcees aren’t very highly thought of in Oman, though all my Omani friends who were aware of my marital status were very understanding about it and never treated me any differently, and it actually never DID affect me remarrying (I am relatively young and childless). But those same understanding friends, and some suitors, despite their PERSONAL acceptance of my being a divorcee, issued the following advice upon hearing of my sorry state and elaborating on how great I am despite: “…but don’t tell anybody.”
That’s just it. “Don’t tell anybody.”
My question. “Why not?”
Why should I hide in secret that I was married before, hmmm? Marriage is halal, divorce is even halal. I mean, it wouldn’t EXACTLY be the first thing I’d bring up in a conversation with people, but telling the story of my life, or thinking about getting married again, it would actually be practical to get it out of the way. It would be lying to keep that from a potential husband or even my close friends.
So my Omani girlfriend S was horrified when I told her I was going to throw myself a “Divorce Party” [a common practice in my home country]. She pictured a bunch of women dressed in sweatsuits and/or pajamas dresses angrily playing pin-the-tail on the donkey (or darts) on a blown-up picture of the ex, and burning all the pictures of him and his clothes, then going out shopping maxing out his credit card.
Maybe you want to do this if you ex is a adulterer/cheater, I don’t know, but personally, that really wouldn’t help me get over a cheater if I loved him. And as a Muslim, that’s really not what I’d be ALLOWED TO DO to the worst of men.
And my ex husband wasn’t a cheater or a bad guy at all. In fact, he was and remains a very good man, and great man, just not MY man, and that, not without a lack of trying on both our parts. Sometimes, some things just aren’t meant to be, the situation or what both parties need in life, is not the same, and one cannot compromise their ideals for themselves.
I loved my ex husband. In fact, I still love him. I will ALWAYS love him. I was, at one time, absolutely certain that I would spend the rest of my life with him, and I never pictured that maybe one day we would not be able to speak or see each other and share what touched us in our daily lives.
So there is a little problem with that. #1 being that despite all that love and the good times there is the terrible heart-wrenching pain of not being able to work it out, and #2, well, the fact that I am, well, married now, to someone else.
Someone else. Who I love. Who loves me despite the fact that HE KNOWS I was married before, and am still deeply in love with my ex-husband.
This of course, drove him incredibly insane, him being Omani.
Omani men who ARE okay with marrying a divorced woman often expect the woman they marry to be able to pretend that she never had another life before him. I was unwilling and unable to do this. It lead him to tear up some of my wedding photos in a bit of a rage, unable to understand how I could not let the past go.
‘But the past is part of who I am’… I remember thinking in my defense in the middle of that first fight. ‘I wouldn’t be the same woman in a position to make her marriage work NOW had I not had the experiences of my marriage before.’
A woman really cannot be in love with two men at the same time. It NEVER works out.
THAT is WHY a divorce party.
A divorce party isn’t really a party but a social situation for the man or the woman to deal with everything they need to in order to move on, and to have social support while they do so.
My divorce party did involve comfort foods. It did involve one girlfriend. The plan was to get rid of what would forever hinder any chance of moving on, and to transform anything painful into only good memories, letting the bad ones go.
First up was to transform the wedding album into a divorce album. Thinking of divorce as a chain of events that has now brought me as a woman to a new beginning with new life knowledge, this meant editing a lot of chain events forever commemorated on film. Being married also meant getting rid of pictures of the ex husband and camouflaging the album from being anything “bridal” and “special”.
Weddings photos are special because we generally like the photos of ourselves from this special day. I began by cutting out all the pictures of my first husband that were easy for me to do so, throwing out anything I didn’t want to keep, keeping ones of me with family and friends, and trying to keep all face shots of my first husband to give to him. The goal was to make a new album showing how much my family and friends loved me and were with me and how nice I looked and how happy I was, remembering only happy memories of my first husband remain without his physical presence.
Some photos though, ones with romantic feeling attached to them, I could neither bear to cut nor to throw out. It would also be cruel to give them to husband #1, so I did the next best thing. I gave them as a gift to a mutual friend of ours who regards the day as one with her friends, and not with any pain. I had to get rid of them, but I could not destroy them, nor could I change the feelings conjured by them, so I passed them on to someone who could value them without keeping me in the past at dangerous times in my new relationship.
When I was finished, I felt healed a little, for I had not belittled or disrespected any memories of him, but I had kept only those that were not painful for me (and were appropriate) for me to have.
Now, I understand, a lot of Arab men would not tolerate ANYTHING from their woman’s past, but I explained to H that I kept nothing of a romantic or even friendship related nature, and kept only those of a familial nature.
I thus edited my closet and other processions the same.
I also wrote myself, the way I had my wedding vows, vows for how to love and make a relationship a success in the future, from what I had learned in the past.
Then, having concluded my divorce party, I dressed in a fabulous new dress, and ate a small wedding cake with a group of girlfriends. And my cat had the yummy whipped cream.
I still love my ex-husband. The way that I love him is from everything good in the past and nothing can take that (nor should take that) from my memory but severe blunt trauma to the head, which I DID recommend to H, should he not be able to cope with this fact. I offered him a very solid assa to swing at me. H called me “Majnoonah” as per usual. All I could do was get rid of everything painful that kept me from experiencing everything happy in life, and everything of a romantic nature.
1.) To my first husband, some people will say we married too young. Had we never married though, and we married right now, I believe I’d make the same mistakes, if I had not had the opportunity to learn from the ones I made while trying to be married to you ;)
2.) To my husband H, to erase the past because you think I will have less room in my heart for you, is to change what made me have that heart that you desire so ardently in that first place, and is similar to implying that Allah made a mistake to write things as He writ. Believe ME, I HAVE NO INTENTION of rewriting my past with you, but I don’t believe in book burnings either;) *******
3.) To the people of Oman, and indeed, the world: Divorcees do need recognition and support, not to be hidden and discriminated against. If divorce itself is to be hated, help PEOPLE overcome it, do not keep them in a state OF IT. They were married before. Would you rather they just went about fornicating and never marrying in order to learn the lessons needed to make a successful relationship in society? Really? If they tried, help them to try again anew.
I could summon many of Victoria’s points on how to avoid divorce and reasons not to divorce, things I have learned from BEING PREVIOUSLY MARRIED, but most people learn best from their own mistakes and life experiences, but valuing marriage, and valuing the people in the marriage and their aspirations even BEFORE marriage, are the most important. Realize what a GIFT LOVE IS, and don’t neglect a MOMENT of it from mention and your attention because it can fade the moment we become lazily unaware or ungrateful of its blessed state in our lives.
Of all the gifts bestowed by God/Allah (or how you want to word it, as I am a Muslim, this way is the only one allowable for myself) love is the one we have the least choice in, and it cannot long exist by our individual will as human beings alone, but requires the efforts and desire of two souls and sometimes the aid of communities and families. Love is not at all times 50/50. Sometimes it will be 10/90 [like H when he first met me, giving it his all, and me being kind of hard and cruel] and others it will be opposite [70:30] because people go through things in life. But be aware of what the person you love can take. Love that can last forever, CANNOT take forever, forever.

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