My sibling and I grew up in the midst of talks of the rising political party, a progressive nation, and socio-political discussions. My parents have always had different ideologies than the ones that I have. Even through all of that, whenever we had our own opinions, we were assured and reassured that we could be our own selves, and we could talk to them about everything, voice them out. Afterall, we are family, right?
So we talked about respect, love, raising voices, love marriages and women’s rights. We debated on why Indian ideologies are so messed up and why girls should be given martial art training to protect themselves. We discussed sex, marriages, honour killings and dowries. I was very sure I could talk to my parents about everything.
Till I realised that we might have ‘progressive’ viewpoints, but we were not on the same page at all. Smoking, drinking, socialising (with the opposite sex), and premarital sex is a mistake for them, but for me, it was a choice I have to make for myself…and that’s where my heartbreak story begins.
My parents “got to know” (read: were told by a sneaky person) I did something that was labelled a mistake from their end and a choice from mine. We got stuck between conversations, had massive arguments, but never completely talked about the problem. We discussed it a few times only to leave the Pandora’s Box open, free floating, with no closure.
I felt confused and lost. My major support system, something I held onto all this time, was suddenly null and void, an empty space I could never fill up again. Now that I think of it, I was grieving. I kept going back to what it felt like when I talked to them before they found out and after. I was regretting and resenting so many things! I was angry, and I would keep questioning what was true and what wasn't. Afterall, they reassured me that I could confide in them, and I grew up thinking they were cool, progressive and would accept me regardless of my choices. Was I not supposed to trust them? Was I being lied to? What was the point of this kind of support system anyway?
I’ve broken up with friends and partners before, but this heartbreak felt irreparable. I cannot avoid them because they still provide for me, and what do I tell everyone around me - I broke up with my parents so please don’t talk about them?
My parents tried asking me questions about my sexuality, my partners, my personal life, that I felt was none of their business. They thought I tainted the family’s name, brought shame, and that they didn’t raise me well. I was tired of the suspicious looks, the sudden bouts of anxiety, and the emotional blackmailing. But I couldn’t just pack my bags and leave. I still had to see them, talk to them, make space for and around them, while I didn’t have any support from them, and that’s what hurt the most.
If you are wondering how I got over this heartbreak, I don’t think I ever will. There are instances where it still comes back to me. During random discussions, outings, or days where I’m reflecting a lot. Is it easy? Meh. Not really. But I did learn a lot. I learnt that we will always have different opinions on different things, what’s important is to learn to co-exist. I learnt that we give different meanings to different things, and words like ‘progressive’ should be based more on what we act on rather than what we speak about.
My biggest lesson here was that it might seem easier to change people’s ideologies because you think differently, but after a point it will tire you out. And at that point, you have to choose and preserve yourself and your health. Just because others - however close they might be to you - think you’re wrong, doesn’t have to mean you are. You can stand your ground (as long as it doesn’t invalidate someone else's rights).
I know they still think they are right and that angers me sometimes. It feels unfair. But after therapy and lots of reflection, I realised that in their context, maybe they are right in what they said and how they reacted. (This was heartbreak 2.0 because I really did believe I could change their mindset.) They followed certain value systems and didn't question it because they didn’t know they could, and now they won’t question it because they’ve been living with those values for so long.
With that being said, I realised I question because I have the privilege of questioning (also something they’ve given me). The internet and my chosen support systems (online & offline) have been my saving grace. But I cannot send my parents articles to unlearn & learn, because well, they won't. They have agency over their opinions and us over ours. The reality is that’s the way it’s always been and will be.
So I broke up with my parents, lost a lot, learnt a lot, and ended up finding my own sense of self that I’d forgotten somewhere in the midst of this all.