Disclaimer: This story mentions suicidal thoughts and may be triggering for some.
“Growing up in a traditional Indian family in America was overwhelming at times. There was a lot of pressure to follow certain cultural and societal rules and live by a specific timeline so you can be seen as successful in the eyes of the community. Reputation is everything. Graduate from college, go to grad school, get married, buy a big house, have kids, make sure they followed the timeline that you did, retire, and die. Make sure not to do anything which might cause people to speak negatively about you. Don’t rock the boat.
Well, most of my life I tried to follow this timeline to the T. It was all I knew and I so badly wanted to be called perfect. I wanted to be praised and loved for achieving each of the life’s accomplishments. I finished grad school, worked full time in the medical field, married an Indian/Christian man, bought a big house, and even started my own business as a makeup artist. During this time, I battled with bouts of depression I had most of the time. I often imagined slitting my wrist. I would sob uncontrollably because I knew all of this felt wrong. My life felt like a sham. I had lived my life trying to make everyone else happy I didn’t even know who I was. I was playing a role- perfect wife, perfect daughter, perfect Indian woman who could be respected and loved by others. I had no idea who I was, but I knew it wasn’t the person I showed the world. There were two versions of myself. The perfect Indian woman and the depressed, confused, deeply hurt girl who absolutely hated herself and the life she lived. From the outside, I had the perfect life, why should I complain? What was there to be unhappy about? Maybe I sound ungrateful or spoiled but there was always something deep down gnawing at me, telling me that this was all wrong.
It all came crashing down on top of me. I could no longer carry the weight. I could no longer fake it til I made it. In my hidden life, I became a person I could not even recognize anymore- a liar and a cheater. I knew something had to change and it had to be me. This period in my life was full of internal conflict and turmoil. I knew I had to leave my marriage and start all over again, but I did not want to hurt my ex, my family, or be spoken about negatively by the community. It would be revealed I was not perfect, my family was not perfect. Since childhood, I was trained to be gravely afraid of it.
Therapy changed my life. My therapist taught me how to save myself. This is where I learned my culture and family taught me coloring outside of the lines is one of the worst things someone can do. I had to unlearn a lot. Deciding to get a divorce was one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make and it was truly one of the biggest blessings. It was the catalyst of my own healing and growth.
After my divorce, I moved to LA to start life away from the expectations of my family and my community. I traveled the world. I learned how to date as an adult. I had sex and lots of it. I made friends who loved me for me. I learned to find my voice. This was a period of immense growth, but I was still struggling with learning how to love and accept myself. There was still a part of me who wanted to play small so I wouldn’t rock the boat and disappoint my family or my community even further. People had said some of the most horrible things about me. Those words cut me deeply at that time but I knew I still wanted to go on living life for me. There were times when I thought it would be easier to go back. I was still seeing my ex from time to time. I wasn’t ready to let go of my past, the safety, the comfort of what I knew. I often thought maybe everyone else is right… maybe I had gone crazy. Then, I would think about how I loved my freedom and who I was away from my old life and family.
About 10 months after my divorce, this beautiful man with the kindest smile walked through the door of a bar, said hi to me, and changed my life forever. If you told me then we were going to fall madly in love and get married, I would have fallen over in laughter. The dating scene in LA was a joke, lots of immature ‘men’ who didn’t want relationships. I assumed Isaac was one of them. There was no way I was going to date a boy who was 8 years younger and who was about to be stationed in South Korea for over a year. I never believed that I could do long distance. I was expecting merely a fun fling. We ended up spending a few magical days together before he had to leave. It felt as if we’d been friends for years. I was devastated that day he left. I sobbed all weekend long. This reaction was a shock to me.
We kept in touch, spoke for hours every day. It was tough with the time difference and having separate lives, but we were both willing to do it. A month or so into whatever this was, Isaac ended up hooking up with someone else. Once he told me, it was as if someone had punched me in the gut and I couldn’t breathe. After some time to reflect, I concluded I was clearly in love. I told him I wanted more than a friendship, but if he does not want that at this time I will respect his decision, but we would have to stop talking. I knew I was looking for something more at this point in my life and I had to stand up for it. He realized he wanted the same, but was falling back into unhealthy patterns of behavior. I’ve learned that being in a healthy relationship, also means you have someone who holds you to high standards and will keep you accountable when you fall below.
We set expectations for our relationship. We discussed our values, future goals, and dreams. The physical distance between us taught how to build a relationship on trust, effective communication, and emotional intimacy. Sex and physical affection was completely taken out for months at a time. I went to visit him twice in South Korea, which is when we attempted to make up for lost time and months without sex. Besides that, the foundation of our relationship is a close friendship. We are best friends first, before anything else.
10 months after we met, we decided to elope on a whim. It was about 3 weeks before Isaac was scheduled for leave. A trip up the coast of California was in the works for his visit back to the states. I said it would be a great place to get married and all he said was, ‘Let’s do it.’ I was shocked, but it totally felt natural and right. We had been talking about marriage probably a month or so into our relationship. We knew that’s where we were headed. There were times when I was afraid of the age difference, what people would think about me getting married so quickly, and about me being a military wife. Early on in our relationship, I also struggled with constantly comparing him to my ex. I still had not taken down the walls which protected me for most of life.
Isaac taught me that those walls needed to come down if we were to create a strong relationship. He wanted to see all of me- the good, the bad, the hurt. I will have to say, I’ve done the most self-healing, and inner work with him by my side. This is the strongest and bravest I have ever been. One of the biggest hurdles we had was family approval. My family was not happy because I decided to marry a man who they had never met. They were still hurt by my divorce. They also did not trust that I could make the best decisions for myself. They went as far as having a family intervention to stop me from marrying him. I knew I had to do what I believed to be was right for myself.
Our elopement was absolutely out of a dream. We were married by our best friends in Big Sur, CA, on a bluff overlooking the ocean. There were tears, laughter, and a lot of love. We were surrounded by people who made the day extra special for us and that is exactly what we wanted. It was about us and our love. It was perfect. Since then, life has gotten exponentially better. It’s almost as if everything began to fall into place. Everything just feels right. I finally feel like I am living the life I was meant to, the life I kept dreaming of. I no longer see marriage as dreadful. Our marriage is one where we are allowed to be ourselves, to pursue dreams, to talk about everything on our minds. Our marriage is our safe space. I find someone who I connect with on so many levels. We’ve sold everything to travel the world, started a business together, exploring new interests as a team. Now, we are sharing our travels, our life lessons, our relationship on social media to also help others on their journeys.
I have learned from everything that went wrong in my last marriage and I bring the lessons to this marriage. My first marriage and my ex were one of my greatest teachers. I will never have regrets. I have everything I have today because of it.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Shilpa Cacho. Follow her on Instagram and TikTok. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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