Good Marriage or Abusive Marriage, We Are All Guilty Of Letting Our Relationships Define Us
It is very common for women to carry the burden of toxic relationships till the very end, in the hope of some miracle. We tend to ignore the abuse that comes along with it. We are always seen as the ‘sacrificing figures’ who should sacrifice everything about our identities and ‘focus on our families’. Why is this the norm? It takes a really long time to identify an abusive marriage and stand up for ourselves.
People find it very easy to say, ‘You should have come out of it when this particular thing happened.’ But is it really that easy, when you are the one who is personally going through hell? I am a feminist, who would never want anyone to suffer in a relationship, yet, I let myself suffer for three years, assuming that it was me who needed to be fixed and not the toxic patriarchal norms.
I didn’t realize what I was getting myself into, four years ago when I happily got married to this techie from an MNC. It had hardly been fifteen days after the marriage when he took me out on an ice-cream date and complained to me about how unhelpful I was to his mother in the household chores.
The First Year
‘Heads-up that you aren’t doing enough‘ are the exact words that he said to me. He said that he was disappointed in me and that I should learn to wake up early. Tears rolled down my cheeks, for I was a perfectionist and this was not how I wanted my marriage to start. I was hurt, and sad but I thought to myself, that if I do everything as they please, they’d one day approve of me and things can go back to normal.
I tried to wake up early, I tried to learn their ways, I tried to please them so much that in the process I lost myself. I realised that no matter how hard I tried, I would never be enough. His mother kept complaining to him that I was still of no help.
Within a month of my marriage, it happened that I fell sick on the day that they had guests over. I still presented myself to them and served them snacks like I was ‘supposed to do’. But then I was really not feeling okay, so I told my ex-husband about this and went to my room to get some rest. Within minutes, the mother-in-law was all angry that I left the guests unattended and oh! how dare I take a rest?
Baby, Why Don’t You Listen To Me?
My ex-husband kept telling me how much he loved me and how much better our life could be if I listened to him, changed myself and learnt how to ‘run a household’. And when he said ‘household’, he meant the chores.
Ever since our wedding, I never really spent any time with him because he worked night shifts and I worked in the day. I was mostly stuck with his parents and their silly complaints. Too often did I hear questions like why I only know to cook a lesser variety of foods, why I felt the need to visit my parents every now and then (It was once in two months) why I decided to keep my toothbrush away from the family’s toothbrush kit (My eyes couldn’t roll more).
I was left alone to fight these monsters. Each time they would just make me sit in the hall and roll out their complaints about me like I was some accused person facing a jury. My ex-husband never really supported me because he said, that he didn’t want to disrespect the elders. And so, he put me through hell every single day.
He strategically destroyed every source of happiness I had. He never really enjoyed spending time with me. For every hour he spent with me, he would feel obliged to spend twice the time with his mother (Was that Oedipus complex? I don’t know). I always felt like a third wheel in my own marriage. His father kept complaining that my parents never taught me the value of money, accusing me of extravagance, even though it was my hard-earned money. The three of them successfully destroyed my self-esteem.
It Was an Abusive Marriage!
It took me a long time to understand that I was actually in an ‘abusive marriage’. Telling your partner to get out of the house just because they wanted to visit their parents is abuse. Putting your partner through hell just because they didn’t agree with your parents’ idea of the ideal wife, is abuse. Going on a holiday for your first anniversary, and whining throughout the holiday about your wife not getting along with your mother is abuse. Would you believe that my ex-husband actually told me that we should get a divorce on my first anniversary? After I planned the holiday and all the surprises that came along?
I always thought he felt a sense of peace watching me suffer because he would yell at me, make me feel like shit, see me cry and still not stop until he felt that I was defeated. Thereafter, he would act as if nothing happened and tell me that I was making a big deal out of nothing.
He never really gave me time to process my emotions after each episode. He would be so happy the next morning after the fight, like someone who was extremely in love. What kind of a psycho does that? It was his habit to take me on a drive or a holiday, which he otherwise would never have done, after a session of abuse. On the outside, it would all look good to everyone who saw us. They always thought we were so much in love. But the truth was only known to me.
The Second Year
I decided to speak up in the second year of my marriage. My ex-husband had always wanted children. Honestly, I wanted to have kids too. But just not in that toxicity.
We both lived in his parents’ home, and I really had no say in any matter. Back then, he made me believe that he also didn’t have any say but I found out later that he didn’t want to. For this reason, I thought getting a place of our own could instil a sense of individuality in us and help improve our marriage. I had never really asked him to move away from his parents. The plan was to bring them along with us. He readily agreed to it and we started looking at housing projects that were ready for move-in.
I was happy that he was trying to make things better for us. That feeling of hope was enough to push through the daily drama that kept happening at home. It was so suffocating to stay around his parents that even when I was ill, I would go to the office to get some rest instead of staying home.
Meanwhile, he continued to humiliate me whenever possible before his family but I would brush it off because I was determined to make this work. Truth is, I was exhausted all the time. I used to wake up early and make breakfast and lunch for the family and would run off to the gym so that I wouldn’t have to see any of their disappointed faces. Because no matter how much effort I put, they would always find something to complain about.
The Dream House
My ex-husband and I finally found a property that was within our budget, and he decided to involve my dad. On the day scheduled for us to meet with the person who was going to finalize the sale of the property and take care of all the formalities, I was so close to fulfilling my dream of getting my own space. I was so happy and hopeful for the first time in a very long time. But his parents started throwing tantrums and yelling at both of us, and they did not let us go through with the purchase. We returned home disappointed. My ex-husband was so furious, he was yelling at his parents, telling them really hurtful things. That was, to be frank, quite barbaric. But I was really sad and was close to breaking down. The whole family was just sitting in the living room and yelling at each other. By then, their yelling had already given me an anxiety attack. But I did not say anything. I was quiet.
The quarrel between my ex-husband and his parents lasted three days. I had to exclude myself from the situation for I didn’t have the bandwidth to deal with it. At that time, he had switched to working in the early morning shifts, leaving for work as early as 4 am. On one of those heated days, he sent me a text after leaving for work that read ‘Make sure you prepare breakfast every morning.’
I felt hurt, I felt invalid. I texted him back ‘I can’t take this anymore. I need a break. I am leaving’. His response to this was ‘Ok. Take care. He sounded as if he was never bothered about my emotions. He raised my hopes and then shattered them all. He promised me something and failed to deliver. And why was I supposed to stay patient?
Third and Fourth Years
Alone, I drove to my parents. My parents were worried about me. They tried to speak to him but he didn’t try to fix this. Instead, he gaslighted me into believing that I was the one who was wrong for taking off. So, I went back after two weeks of break. Ever since I went back, I obeyed everything he said, I never complained, I ran back and forth to please all of them. I was exhausted, so much that I had no time left for myself.
I started seeing a therapist because of this constant feeling of exhaustion and mild suicidal tendencies. I don’t know why, but I felt like there was no point in continuing to live like this. So, my therapist tried to help me dissociate a bit from the need to please everyone always.
In the third year of our marriage, my ex-husband took me on a holiday along with his parents. I never really wanted to go. And throughout the holiday, he ignored my existence. I tried to get over it by following the tips my therapist gave me. I buried myself in a book titled ‘Woman last seen in her thirties, which was the only good part of that holiday. No matter how much I tried to keep it off my head, ignoring me and not spending time with me eventually got to my head and I broke down. I broke down after one whole year of exhaustion.
After the plans for getting a new place went down in the previous year, my ex-husband started raising my hopes with the idea that we’ll move out of the country and set up a life of our own. So I started looking for jobs in different countries and I got a few but he wasn’t ready to let me go alone. I then proposed to him that I do an MBA in a different country and he can come with me on a dependent visa. He readily agreed to this, but I was quick to realise that he was not to be trusted when he told me ‘I have asked my parents, and they are okay. So, I conveyed my plan to them too and they never really said anything about it.’
One fine Sunday morning, after I had started preparing for my SATS, my ex-husband summoned me to a meeting with his parents. I went and sat before them and his mother said to me, ‘Go wherever you want to go to, but give us a child before you go to study’. In response, I told her ‘I am not gambling the life of my unborn child to anyone.’ I was shocked at her demand. That was the line that no one should have crossed. But she did and my ex-husband was okay with leaving his kid with her toxic self so that she can make another spineless child who can never stand up for what’s right. That day, I stood up for myself. I told him that I am going to do an MBA, with or without him in my life. I gave him the last chance that day and told him to get me my space or to get out of my life.
After ten months of being separated from him, all he had to say when he came to visit me was ‘What is your decision?’
My decision is to not let him walk all over me. My decision is to be free. My decision is to be happy. My decision is to erase him from my life. My decision is to free myself from the judgements of his family and him. My decision is clear now more than ever. This is the best decision that I took for myself in my life.
The proceedings for divorce are quite painful. But what’s more painful is trying to fit into the places that we already outgrew. After I stepped out of that hell hole, I got an admission for MBA along with huge scholarships, and a pay raise, and recognition for my work and an actual life where I can be myself. It feels like finally, everything is falling into place.
I realize that this isn’t easy for anyone, but to identify emotional abuse and to prove it to your own self is really hard, let alone the whole world. But, we gotta stand up for ourselves, and the world will follow.
Power to all the women who are putting effort and to all the women who are going through the painful process in their lives. And to everyone who stands by and supports people who are going through these wrecking times.
Rohia Munavar is a twenty-something-year-old writer and marketing manager who produces thoughtful content on various topics like feminism, writing tips, daily inspiration, HR, Business Performance