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Why should a divorce be financially daunting?

As women, we have often been conditioned into giving. We glorify her to be a goddess because she gives unconditionally. This may work well as long as going is good. But when the splits occur in a marriage, it is often a woman who is impacted the most by financial turmoil in addition to emotional, physical and mental suffering. There is only so much you can prepare for what will happen in your life, but is there a way that to make sure that we are financially secure when things take a bad turn in marital relationships? Here is the story of 36-year-old Anaya Kamat, a Chennai-based techie, who suffered during her divorce, but held it together when it came to her money, thanks to her wait-and-watch philosophy.

Anaya grew up in Bangalore, studied and moved to Chennai for work. She was raised by a strong and independent mother. Anaya had seen her parents through their divorce battle and grew up to understand that when it comes to safeguarding rights, it was each to her own. An important lesson that she absorbed during her growing up years.

Anaya’s mother built a house in Bangalore; a two-storey independent house. “My mom did a very practical thing after separation. She built two shops on the ground floor, a two-bedroom flat on the first floor and we lived on the second floor. These shops and the flat gave us a monthly income,” said Anaya,“ This also meant that the months when shops and the flat were vacant, we had to reduce our spending.”

Living as a single woman was difficult for her mother who worked as a teacher in a school and lived in a conservative colony. Anaya grew up absorbing the complex functioning of her immediate surroundings which were deeply rooted in patriarchy.

“I remember my friends’ parents not being very welcoming about me because my mom was divorced, it was a big deal in those days. There were times when I heard people saying, oh she may have a divorce gene,” adds Anaya. This simply meant that Anaya had to be on her own, which taught her valuable life lessons and impacted her money management skills.

When Anaya was 25 years old, her mother passed away. Anaya had moved to Chennai for work by then, and she felt living away from the conservative colony was an advantage because the people who judged her were away. Also, her property could be let out, which meant additional income for herself.

The no-fuss wedding

When Anaya decided to get married, she found her husband through her known circle of friends. Describing the process she says, “I did not do a lot of work to figure out who he was. I did not have great expectations from marriage. I married because I wanted a companion, someone I could talk to when I went back home at the end of the day.” Soon after their court marriage, the newly married couple had lunch together and went to their respective offices.

When we marry, we tend to give it all: to our man, to our family and to our children. We are conditioned not to hold back, not to think twice, and not to evaluate if the whole experience is worth it. But Anaya stood guard. Even though she started the new relationship with optimism, she was mindful of her actions and observed her husband. She guarded her financial interests and kept it separate from whatever the ups and downs of marriage may be.

Reality strikes

Over time, Anaya found that her husband never felt she was family, he didn’t introduce her to his parents. “My husband was a smart person. As a scientist, my husband had a very high skill set, which meant he was in demand. Even though he earned 3x more than what I did he didn’t spend on running the house,” says Anaya.

They did have a joint account to which both contributed, but it soon became meaningless because they never felt like a family together. It was always: you and me. Never “us”. “He was self-centred, prone to physical violence and was not interested in managing our home by helping me in household chores,” she adds.

“I did spend a little on gifts for him, paid for his trips and some other random stuff I bought for him, but I did not spend all my money on him. As a rule, I first made sure, a third of my income went into savings which had a big chunk of ULIPs. There was some spending here and there and I spent a bit on my home: rent, groceries and the likes. When it was evident that our marriage was going nowhere, I pulled back financially first, then the rest followed suit,” explains Anaya.

Legal separation

They were married for four years, of which they lived together for a year. At the time of annulment of marriage with mutual consent, she ensured that her husband paid for legal fees. Although Anaya’s friends advised her to claim alimony on the grounds of harassment, she never did.

“I was financially independent and capable of taking care of myself. As I did not have children, claiming alimony would mean that he could challenge the claim and this would drag that case, which was not ok for me.”

She is important

During all this, she ensured that she focussed on her career. Never letting the emotional turmoil affect her professional life. The result, her career zipped past ahead of her peers, she always got very good reviews during her appraisals. Anaya received a promotion early and went from being a team lead to becoming the team manager.

Today after getting out of the marriage, Anaya is studying further. She is figuring out how best to utilize her property and is also exploring newer investment options. “I would like to learn more, I am used to traditional forms of investments like EPF, FDs, LICs and ULIPs. I am planning to spread my investments more,” she says.

A valuable lesson, that Anaya’s life teaches us is: to look after oneself and that too unapologetically.

“Many things went wrong in my life, but I was able to pull the plug on it early enough,” says a determined Anaya. Today, four years after her divorce, as she puts her life back together and starts afresh she is thankful she has the financial resources to enable it.

Name changed to protect identity.

#Divorce #MarriageEquality #PersonalFinance

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