20 Indian women on rediscovering themselves after a divorce
Celebratory photo-shoots, moving cities, rebuilding, and so much more
Once upon a time, in a land where arranged marriages were the norm and love marriages, inter-faith or inter-caste marriages still gave some people acidity, a woman got divorced. People told her that life after divorce would be bleak— stigma, loneliness and constant struggle.
She could be the distant cousin that your parents use as a cautionary tale. The upstairs neighbour, who others in the apartment complex refer to simply as ‘the divorcee’ or a friend trying to navigate the unspoken realities of life after divorce (beyond the paperwork and division of assets).
She could be the one to pull an Uno reverse card like actress Shalini and do a divorce celebration photoshoot. ‘I got 99 problems, and a husband ain’t one’ reads a sign she holds up. “The photos were not taken for publicity, but rather to send a message to other women who may be in similar situations,” she wrote in response to many questioning her unique choice. “While there have been some who have criticised my actions, I understand that unless someone has walked in my shoes, they may not fully understand the struggles and challenges I have faced.”
Shalini’s decision to capture her newfound singlehood with an unconventional photoshoot took social media by storm. A bold move that challenged traditional notions of what life after divorce looks like. Dressed in a stunning red gown with a smile across her face, Shalini embraced a new identity.
Divorce can feel like hitting the reset button on your life. For Grammy-nominated sitar player Anoushka Shankar, wearing a figure-flattering Amit Aggarwal gown to attend an NMACC event finally helped her feel like herself again. “I’ve got my mojo back,” she declared on social media, admitting that she had lost the joy of truly “being in my body” after battling divorce, hysterectomy and other personal struggles.
“She shouldn’t be picky because she has one disadvantage behind her, that she is divorced,” commented matchmaker Sima Taparia about a female client in the latest season of Netflix’s Indian Matchmaking. It was a sentiment that enraged people worldwide because the stigma of being a divorcee is a fear that keeps many people, especially women, stuck in unhappy marriages. It can take years for people to gather the strength to walk away from a life they have invested blood, sweat and tears to build.
When life throws such bricks through your glass windows, it’s hard to feel confident in yourself and your decisions. “You feel the need to keep making these great achievements in your work or personal life so people don’t put you in the box of being a ‘bechaari‘ after divorce,” said one Tweak reader who requested anonymity. “I felt like I’m back to who I was before this all happened when I stopped trying to impress others. It was at a family wedding. I was walking away from a group of relatives and family friends after sharing what I was working on, and I overheard them saying, ‘It’s nice to see that after divorce also, she is managing well. But I worry about the child.’ That’s when it clicked in my head. My son and I don’t need your sympathy or worries. We’re doing very well.”
We took to Instagram and asked Tweak readers when they hit the “I’m back” button. For Snehal Nigam, it was a trip to Disneyland with her son and parents to celebrate a year of being divorced.
Mansi’s was a solo hiking trip into a forest, which she says her former partner wouldn’t “allow” her to do even though it brought her happiness. For Mayuree Kolekar, it was working and not being dependent on someone else for “pampering, gifts and a movie buddy.” Ankita Bohra felt it instantly when she “left my sasural. That moment was very liberating.”
But for most of our readers, it was hard to point to just one instance, with reader Sonali Mahate calling life after divorce a slow journey of rebuilding confidence, self-esteem and a connection with your body, “especially when you consider dating again.”
With courage and conviction, our readers opened up about their experiences, hoping that others find solace in an isolating experience to rebuild and live their best life.
20 women on finding themselves and rebuilding life after divorce
“Divorce was the toughest thing life threw at me, but I have zero regrets two years on. There wasn’t one clear ”I am back” moment. Rather, it was a long process of salvaging and reclaiming a dozen different pieces of myself over four years. Each time I did that, I saw my highest self smiling back at me. To anyone going through it who can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, know that you eventually leave the baggage behind. It gets easier. You will laugh again, and you will live again. Be careful who you choose to open up with and seek comfort from during this time. Treat yourself as gently as you would a baby/kitten/puppy. Every day.” – Sai Raje
“I hit my ‘I am back’ button the day I decided that I truly deserved and should ask for the divorce. That I was not doing anything wrong or against my conscience. From that moment, I started to work for my future. Everyone has their timelines, and it’s always going to be a ”work-in-progress” as far as it concerns healing. It’s completely true that we no longer remain our old selves. But I truly hope and pray that anyone going through a divorce finds the light on the other end and comes out to be stronger and better versions of themselves.” – Niveditha Chandramohan
“It is a long, long journey, and you probably never come back. But, you keep becoming a better version of yourself. Even after five years, I’m still working on myself. But I’ve never been more confident and happier in my life.” – Reema Doshi
“Five years this year. To all the women out there considering a new beginning, my suggestions are:
(a) Get financially independent.
(b) Focus on your physical and mental health daily; this is a non-negotiable.
(c) Consider every option carefully, including alimony, child custody, mutual assets, liabilities etc.
(d) Express your feelings and fears to a trusted few only.
(e) Avoid interacting with your ex until your feelings have neutralised.
Divorce is a life-altering, mostly irreversible decision, so the mental trauma could likely show physical symptoms. For me, the migraines got worse, I experienced loss of appetite, exhausting anxiety, social isolation and lack of motivation. You can overcome all of it with the support of your loved ones. Instead of wallowing in self-pity, work on your best tool ever, which is your self-confidence.” – Boski Sharma
“The ‘I am back’ wasn’t a moment, it was a milestone with several micro-moments to the lead up. But the ultimate ‘she’s arrived’ moment for me was when I got headhunted and moved on a whim from the US to Australia. That’s when I wore the big girl pants and had to do a lot of firsts – did my taxes, bought a car, moved into an apartment. My divorce was life altering – physically, mentally and emotionally. And gosh, I’m loving this juicy second innings. I feel grateful to God and very lucky and I wish courage and grit to all the women in shitty marriages. You’ve got this.” – Divya Jumani
“Despite having had a traumatic marriage and expecting a sense of relief and freedom, I found myself overcome with sadness, and a sense of loss. There was some relief too, but mostly, I was overwhelmed and not with joy. I was surprised. Once the noise had died down, I realised over time, how much I had changed. I was still anxious and weighed down and it took about two years to really come out of it and find my strength again, find a part of me again. I do miss a huge part of the old me but I love big parts of the new me.” – Natasha Aman
“I hit the ‘I’m back’ reset button when I got back to my city girl life; painting the town red, looking like my hottest self, taking up a job, looking out for myself in my own ways. I felt free. Everything that once weighted me down became my strength. It wasn’t easy taking the first step. Now, there is no looking back.” – Nidhi A Shah
“There were many moments during my separation and then divorce where I discovered glimpses of the old me. But the major moment was five years after I left my unhappy marriage (and was practically homeless) when I moved into my own apartment in the same city. I wrote a memoir, Rewriting My Happily Ever After to share my journey of life after divorce.” – Ranjani Rao
“It took a really long time, in fact, more than four years, which includes the separation period, too. Though I had the full support of my family and friends, somewhere I lost the confidence to talk to people freely. Even today, when I look back, I feel sad about my emotional condition.” – Rachna Varma
“It took me four years to be courageous enough to speak up for the wrong against me; three years to convince myself that this has to happen. I kept imagining my life without my ex, my in-laws, everyone. And seven months into the separation, I feel more confident, happier, and building my best version of myself. It’s still a work in progress, but soon I will shout out loud that “I am back” with a bang. Life seems to be so beautiful now, more meaningful.” – Namrata Baranwal
“I’ve realised I will never be that person from the past. There are parts of her that are still in me, but stronger parts now. I want to be a combination of the old me and the new me. And like most have said, it takes years. But, the process is worth it.” – love.oakandacorn
“I am going into year two of being divorced, and when I look back, my heart breaks for that girl who took all that emotional and mental torture. The peace I felt as a result of the divorce is unmatchable.” – Unintentionallywedesi
“It’s not one moment or day when you feel ‘I am back’. There are several moments and some years of healing. This journey is also not very linear. You keep going back and forth. But finally, you get to a place where you feel fully happy and at peace with yourself, and that’s the best phase of the life which begins.
This does feel scary initially, but once you have walked that path, you know your strength and what you are capable of. There’s nothing better than this. You truly learn to accept yourself and love yourself with a promise never to compromise again. It took me more than two years to get to this place. Love, strength and hugs to all who are on this journey.” – Sudeshna Chakraborty
“I never felt like myself. I discovered a new me and I love and respect her. It took a few years to find her and evolve, but the time it took was worth it.” – Sukanya Kumar
“I had a long, drawn out separation and eventual court case. I felt free when I signed the papers. A few months later, I got promoted at work. It was liberating.” – Hena Sadiq
“I didn’t take alimony, built myself back brick by brick. While it’s still a work in progress, I finally feel I’m back.” – Jhilmil Bagchi
“You don’t feel like yourself because when you go through divorce, you hit your rock bottom and the only way is to come up and that’s how post divorce has been for me. Every day, I thank ‘the divorce’ that brought me to where I am now. It’s the most life-altering experience, so you don’t come back to yourself. You come back to one of the best version of yourself and you will always be ‘work in progress’.” – Nupur Chandra
“Some days are better than others and whether I like it or not, life moves on. Personally speaking, it’s a constant process having to adjust to a new life, new perspective, a different future than what I would have imagined.” – Isha M
”It took me almost four years. And now when I look back, I am glad I got divorced. The mental, emotional and physical abuse was so toxic.” – Shubhra Rawlins
“It does take a lot of courage to make this decision, but I am proud of myself that I took this decision and prioritised my integrity and mental peace. Big love to all the proud and beautiful people who are coming out of their shell.” – Shatakshi Sohal