01/22/2014 12:10 EST | Updated 03/24/2014 05:59 EDT

I Couldn't Stay in a Loveless Marriage

I am 32 but people tell me I look 18 or 20. Does that mean time is on my side? No, this piece is not about how kind time has been to my face. On the contrary, people tell me I need to "loosen up," I think too much, I am too mature and that I need to laugh more often. People gave me these nuggets of pure wisdom after my recent divorce.

After living with someone who never let go of the opportunity to insult or debase me, honestly I had started finding it hard to laugh or grin for that matter. My so called "better half" questioned my existence throughout my marriage and so along the way I started questioning myself. Where did this insecurity come from?

The first two years were attempts to make it work, despite the tears, the angst, the self flagellation and shame. Physical, emotional and spiritual emptiness. I was 29 when I got married, and I wanted to 'stay' married because somehow you are just supposed to make it work. And because I wanted to believe I had made the right decision. Don't we all? But no, I couldn't survive or breathe in the loveless and disrespectful marriage.

I am without a husband and a job. I do have a half baked graduate degree that I left for marriage. Where am I headed? I have absolutely no idea.

Does it sound scary? Yes it does. At least I was horrified initially, especially during the first few months of the divorce process. It felt as if I had no road map, I felt used, discarded and broken. Wouldn't you feel cheated if your husband repeatedly posts extremely private pictures of you online? The pictures that were "only" for him, according to him. What had happened to the sanctity of our intimacy, our marriage, our relationship? I would love to ask him, if only I can bear to see his face. Today life feels like a disjointed poem. The lines are there I just need to add some rhythm.

After the separation, as the days turned to nights, I felt a change in myself. I was sleeping better, I was able to eat again, I wasn't feeling ashamed all the time, I was a woman, I was a dreamer, I was a person who had the right to exist, live, breathe, sleep and walk as she wanted to. Every night, I didn't have to sleep next to someone who was slowly eating away at my soul and my body. I could dress up without being judged, I could smile without being labeled as a flirt, I could be spiritual without being called names, and I could read books again, without being taunted and condemned for "wasting my time." After he left the house I remember I tried very hard to recall who I had once been. Had he mistaken my sensitivity for weakness? Had he mistaken my femininity for submissiveness?

Maybe I wasn't as strong as I thought I was. If I was, he wouldn't have walked over me, leaving trails of debasement, he wouldn't have treated my body as candy, only to be enjoyed, and nothing to be treasured. I remember asking myself questions (I still do) if I respected myself before he walked into my life? Did I believe in my dreams? Did I have confidence in my body? Maybe if I nurtured my confidence before tying the knot, he could have seen it in my eyes, in my body language, in my words. Or maybe it was the empty confidence I carried on my face he felt he could smash. And he did. After he pulled off the mask, he could see I was vulnerable inside.

Today when I ask myself these questions, I unearth what lies behind them. It is an exercise I do religiously to get to my core, to see the face of that young girl who hides in me. The 18-year-old people see who lives in a 32-year-old body and an old soul that tries to reignite a spark, a fire, everyday. I still yearn for love, yes I do. After a tough relationship that left me with the inability to trust, I still yearn for butterflies in my stomach, for the lopsided smile that lingers around the mouth, for a fire that fuels life not the one that burns everything to ashes and finally for an embrace that accepts me mind, body and soul.

I am not my friend who has a husband and two adorable children; I am not that acquaintance who has a senior position in a firm and a condo in downtown; I am not a beautiful face whose boyfriend loves her to bits.

I am a girl and I am a woman who is broken. Beautifully broken.

By Zareen Muzaffar

The Purple Fig is a community where women share personal and relatable stories; no ego, no shame, no judgement. We're about life, love and all of the stuff that makes us yearn, squirm, and giggle. These stories make up the authentic and intriguing journey of a woman.

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