I was on the MRT train with a new friend the other day, and he asked me what caused my marriage to end.

We were both standing, dangling from different handrail supports. I looked around. We were surrounded by a lot of other commuters. This person is not exactly soft-spoken either.

I replied, “It’s complex. I’ll tell you another day.”

“How complex can it be? It can only be a few things: money… religion… affair…,” he rattled off.

I remained silent.

First of all, I wasn’t ready to dismiss six years of my life (including courtship) with a one-word answer.

Secondly, there were many reasons for the divorce, none of which are convenient, one-word answers I have stashed away for just such an occasion.

Lastly, I wasn’t ready to spill my guts out on a noisy train.

The episode made me recall the many times upon which I have been asked for the reasons which led to my divorce.

The first person who had any inkling of something wrong with my marriage was my work colleague. My eyes were puffy from crying and she asked what was wrong. She was silent for the most part.

The only time she showed any reaction was when I told her how I had spent the previous night packing away my then husband’s things. Uncertain if the things being stored away would ever see light of day, I described how, with tears in my eyes, I had to go through each item – every single one of them triggering memories of a happier time. They were now objects that further pierced and added to the constant dull pain in my heart. I was fearful and unsure of what the future held. At this point, she started tearing up. Being married herself, she knew my pain. It was enough.

I then told my girl friends, many of whom were my ex-colleagues. They empathised yet did not know what to do. Except for one, none of them were married and had difficulties imagining, much less comprehending, what I was going through.

I had to tell my parents. I received their unconditional love and support.

I was married at age 21 and divorced by 26.

Very quickly, I began to resent being repeatedly asked at job interviews, networking events, social functions and all manner of forms, including lucky draws, about my marital status.

“Are you single or married?”

“Actually, I am divorced.”

“What happened?”

In the first place, who are you? I met you less than three seconds ago! What makes you think you are privy to my private life? And isn’t what happened in my private life my own business?

Enquiring about one’s marital status cannot be likened to talking about the weather, chatting about the soccer news or exchanging other pleasantries. Yet unbelievably, it kept happening!

Initially, it was therapeutic to be asked and have the opportunity to talk about what happened with those close to me. Sometimes, I would go into some of the reasons with an empathetic person. Yet many moons later, I still find myself being plagued with insensitive, inappropriate and downright rude questions about my divorce.

Nobody taught me what to say. There is no finishing school for divorcees.

I have learnt to say:

“I know you are concerned about me. This happened a long time ago. I am all right now. I have no problems talking about my divorce, but let’s talk about it at another, more appropriate, time.”

“I will tell you about my divorce when we become closer friends.”

Or simply, “I’d rather not talk about this now.”

I am no longer defensive about my divorce. I have made peace with my past and have no problems talking about it. I also have no issues with declining to talk about it – including when I’m on a packed train.

There have been many times when I have wished for greater sensitivity towards the very personal pain I was going through. I had often wondered why “I’d rather not say” did not suffice. This was, after all, something that has absolutely no bearing on their quality of life, and frankly, was none of their business.

Granted, it is a reflection of the individual person, but since it happened to me so many times, I cannot help but feel it is also telling of how we fare as a society – high on the I.Q. (Intellectual Quotient), low on the E.Q. (Emotional Quotient).

Author's Bio: 

When I was little, all I wanted was to grow up. Grown-ups rule the world – from controlling the television remote and operating all kinds of cool gadgets to being able to choose the time they went to bed. And then there is always the sentence “You will know when you grow up,” that made adulthood all the more alluring.

We all know what happened. I came of age. Now that I am finally ‘there’, I have to admit that there have been times when I wished I could turn back the clock and relive my childhood. This might be a typical case of the grass being greener on the other side.

I look at the little children of today and recognise that, without knowing it, they continually teach us some lessons we adults could benefit from. By children, I refer to the little ones 24 old months old and above. They are usually in kindergarten, old enough to begin to understand and young enough to feel that the world is their oyster.

One day at a time

Unlike adults, you are unlikely to see kids fretting over the loss of time. This has something to do with the fact that some of them are probably not old enough to tell time. Instead kids take each day, possibly even each moment, as it comes. They might have a weekly schedule at school, or a daily routine of things to do, yet you will be hard pressed to find a child worrying about what is to be done the next day. They are present, engaged and living life – one day a time.

Keen to laugh

Kids love fun. They look for the fun in every situation, in everything they do, and in everybody they meet. They do not take themselves or life seriously, and they certainly don’t carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. They love to laugh and they are even quicker in laughing at themselves. They love when you laugh and they enjoy being able to make you or any other person laugh. And since laughter is contagious, they laugh even harder when they see that you are laughing alongside them. Laughing make the world brighter, happier and fun. Have you forgotten your sense of humor and how to laugh?

Quick to forgive

Kids do not going around nursing grudges, plotting revenge or planning how to get even. A simple ‘sorry’ is sufficient. And even if an apology is not forthcoming, they are too plugged into life to worry about it. It is not uncommon to see a child sobbing one moment after being pushed to the floor by another, only to be playing alongside the same child who pushed them the next – as if it had never happened. They simply move on and focus on what is next – be it learning, playing or other ways of having fun.

Unafraid to ask

There is a reason for everything. The only way to find out is to ask. There are no dumb questions. Kids are not afraid to ask questions because they have no concept of fear, rejection or being labelled a failure. They are encouraged to ask questions and they will persist at asking until they understand the subject thoroughly. What would you ask if you knew you could ask anything and have no consequences?

Eager to learn

Kids are eager to make sense of the world around them. They are open to learning about everything put before them. It might take time. Yet you will seldom hear them lamenting about the difficulties of learning or complaining about how much time a task is taking. They try. They ask for help. Them they might try again. They recognise that they have lots to learn and they take the time.

So take the time today. Open your heart and forgive those who have wronged you. Smell the roses. Ask some questions. Learn something new. Laugh.