Many men and women are stuck in unhappy marriages and in our society, it would not be wrong to say that marriage is a dead-end of sorts and symbolises a relationship that is destined to last as long as one is alive. They are stuck or unable to leave because of multiple factors like children, finances, lack of support from family, the social stigma attached to divorce, and perhaps the fear of being single, which is again perceived as an inferior position in life and being married glorified as an achievement and an icon of arriving in life.

These social factors do vary for a man and woman, for example, a woman is financially dependent on her spouse in most cases in Pakistan at least and very rarely would she be supported by her family if she chooses to step away. For men, I think family pressure is again a factor which acts as a driving force to shy away from even exploring the option of a divorce which is seen as a shameful act with catastrophic repercussions.

I also believe that at times, despite being in difficult relationships and wanting to escape, there is a difference between the intention and desire to and the ground reality that might make it almost impossible for some.

It’s easier to make tall claims and say things like, oh you can if you want to, but how does a woman survive especially in a Pakistani society if she perhaps has minimal education and has children and cannot earn enough to sustain herself economically? Unlike the western world, where there are state-supported programmes that facilitate such scenarios to some extent, here women are literally on their own if there is no family support.

We learn to see ourselves or define ourselves through our relationships and they are given the power to define our journey. It’s fortunate if that loved one can be a trusted companion and participates in the process of our self-growth or unfortunate if that person acts as an opposing force and holds us back from life. Many of us are unable to see ourselves as an individual in marriages or adult relationships.

So, what do we do then? Do we continue to drag our feet through life feeling trapped and being unhappy day in and out? That’s one choice, which isn’t a choice but a way to cope with the circumstances that we are stuck in and we learn to adapt to them to the best of our abilities. Do we remain hopeless and remain helpless spectators watching life roll by from the bleachers? Or do we make the most of the hand that is dealt to us and try to play without caring to win or lose?

To choose the latter means to look for a little window that exists in everyone’s life. That window presents a possibility, a hope to breathe, an opportunity, and this window has to open up first within us and then will get converted to the outside of us.

What does that window mean? It means that we all have hope, a will to live, to self-actualise within us even when we are not consciously aware of that fire that is always burning. Start believing in that and when you do, look at your life and see where that window is explicitly presented. It can mean dressing up for yourself on a regular day or making a meal for yourself that you like and not your spouse or children prefer. It could be learning a new hobby, going back to college, starting a new career. It could be something as small as going back to reading or as big as starting a small home business.

It’s easy to fall into the traps of, ‘what’s the point?’ The point is you. Love yourself and start a relationship with yourself, which is the most important and trusted relationship you can have. This little window is the proof of your existence and a testimony of the life you are meant to embrace and breathe into. Learn to claim your space in this world through this little window.