Do you still remember how you explained to me what a divorce means when I was a kid?
You said that it is the break-up of a husband and his wife, and it is up to the local court to decide whom the children live with after their parents painfully part their ways.
You emphasized that a divorce is an agonizing end to a bond that is meant to be eternal, leaving the couple psychologically damaging and their children pitiable. A child needs to be enveloped by full paternal love in order to grow up wholesomely. You even told me that a divorce should be the last thing on my mind once I getmarried.
But, please forgive me for insisting that you get divorced. You are no longer yourself since the day you married my dad. That a woman has to remain married to be happy is divorced from reality.
By Vietnamese traditional standard, you and dad are a well-matched couple. Both are equally good-looking, come from working-class background and were the first in your respective families to ever graduate from college. Both are hard-working and honest. Long-term friendship deepened into abiding love and a modest wedding took place after both had landed a decent job. You were seen by my paternal grandmother as a docile and diligent wife. It was a typicalpatriarchal and patrilocal marriage in Vietnam, in which you were under the same roof with not only your husband, but also your parents-in-law and your brothers-in- law, leaving you with little space for yourself. You accepted this challenge-ridden life as you were genuinely in love with dad.
But is that love worth endless suffering and irrational sacrifice?
Does love mean that you are the only one in this big family to get up at the crack of dawn to buy affordably fresh food while the rest of the family can stay longer in bed?
Does love also mean that dad, who barely eked out a living at first, could beat you when you were unwilling to give your hard-earned money to his mother who would fritter away all on compulsive gambling? Did you deserve to be slapped by the peremptory husband as you did not fulfill the so-called filial duty towards your thoughtless mother-in-law?
Does love mean willingly giving up your demanding dream job as a consultant of a dynamiccompany to be a lethargic civil servant at dad’s insistence because you, a woman, were supposed to spend more time with kids more than he would?
Does love mean that you had to peg away both at home and at work while dad, out of dole, can spend the whole day idling around?
Does love mean your sluggish husband could watch tennis matches one after another on the sole TV at home, refusing to let his exhausted wife enjoy her favorite music program after finishing all kind of housework at 9pm?
Does love also mean that you, struggling to make ends meet for the whole family, taking care of a later jobless husband, sending two kids to school, have to feed also my wastrel uncle for decades, who laze around even in his 50s?
Does love also mean that you skip your breakfast and toil away for 8 hours at work, save every single penny while dad could squander inconsiderately on his cigarettes, and you grudgingly defend him that “he needs them because he is stressed”?
Does love mean obeying our overbearing dadunquestioningly?
Is “Dad is by nature kind-hearted” or “you need a father” a valid excuse for your miserable marriage?
Both me and your brother have grown up. I am glad that our independencemeans a weight off your shoulders. On the surface, we seem to have a harmonious family as you are never at odds with dad. Neither do you dare to whine about him. You would rather remain silent than let your children know that dad was unreasonably shouting at you. You would rather suffer than sadden your children.
I have not been married, but I am sure that marriage is not only about loving, it is also about sharing.
Please think for yourself and live for yourself. Please not be cowed and contorted by the so-called ever-lasting matrimony. Sometimes, selflessness is susceptible to substantial suffering. If dad can be exceedingly selfish, why can’t you be just a little?
Now please be beautiful, bake,bike and buy novels to your heart ‘s content.
Please not dither anymore and dare to be delightfully divorced! We staunchly support you.
Please do not hem and haw in your 50s!!!!.
Written by Elisa* from Vietnam, former SAFIGIAN activist.
*Not real name.
SAFIGI Outreach Foundation Ltd is a not for profit organization based in Zambia with a vision to raise a generation where girls are empowered, equipped and fulfilled in every aspect of their life, for the development of the entire world. To know more about SAFIGI’s goals and activities, visit: http://www.safetyfirstforgirls.org