8 years of womensweb

Abusive Husbands & Male Egos

Posted: June 28, 2012

Aamir Khan’s program Satyameva Jayate dealing with domestic violence set me thinking. We’ve heard about wife beaters and abusers who may or may not be under the influence of alcohol and condemn them from the core of our hearts. Nagging husbands who find fault with everything a wife does and blame her for everything that goes wrong……….. well the list is long.

Rarely do we find a truly compatible relationship. Adjustments are made and a working relationship is established. Peace prevails most of the time. These are cases where abuse is evident. How about those where it is not? Let me explain.

X married Y who was a committed family man and she ought to have been happily married. But was she? Y did not beat her up or yell at her. But he had unrealistic expectations from her. He was the planner and she had to abide by his decision. The world around them changed and every household in their neighborhood had purchased a washing machine. He insisted that lack of physical work would make her lazy and refused to buy her one. She was a home maker and what would she do other than cooking and washing clothes, eh? Okay washing machine was perhaps not essential but one could certainly be allowed to pluck curry leaves from a neighbour’s garden with her permission? But no! The neighbour’s permission was easy to obtain but her own husband’s inquiry commission was more difficult to tackle-

“You plucked a handful last week, didn’t you? Did you eat them raw”?
Or-
You cannot cover up your poor culinary skills by adding curry leaves to every item. It would taste just as bad”.

The house needed a whitewash but he would not decide whether to assign the job to a contractor or hire laborers to do the job and supervise their work. If the 5 year old kitchen tap leaked it was her fault. She did not deserve a tap in the kitchen and ought to fetch water from a common tap the way his mother did. A five rupee washer would be all it took to fix the tap and in due course he would do it but not before he threatened to seal the connection. She wanted to install a water purifier in the kitchen. He questioned her as to whether their parents had fallen ill after drinking tap water. An aqua guard was out of question even a steel water filter was not purchased. He would invest in purchases that he decided essential and if she wanted something she learned to appear disinterested in the item. He would then purchase it outright and sing paeans on its utility.

These aspects of their married life could not be shared with or explained to any one. He loved her in his own way but he would be good as long as she listened to him. The day she expressed her opinion on a matter he would feel insecure.

Was she trying to say that he was wrong?

Did she question his authority as lord and master of the household?

After all he had the best interest of his family in mind.

It sometimes became suffocating. Constantly being treated like a teenager she felt like revolting and she did and that too over a non issue. Or was it?

He bought her an expensive silver anklet on her birthday instead of a story book she had asked for. Books could be borrowed from the local library he said. She accepted his gift with a smile and placed in front of the idol of Lord Krishna in her puja room prostrating before the deities arranged in the altar. She then picked up the anklets and kept them in the locker of her almirah.

“Thank you very much. But I would have preferred the book that I had asked for”.

He was shocked. He had spent a cool 4000/- rupees on the anklet and she was rejecting his gift and expressing her preference for a worthless book.

Ungrateful wretch – she could have worn the anklet and asked for the book – He thought.

She went about her chores as if nothing had happened. For all the insult he had constantly heaped on her over the years she had the last laugh. He could not ever muster courage to ask her to wear the anklet or insult her again.

When I think of this couple I wonder if it is the inflated male ego that makes men abusive. Unfortunately I too belonged to the group of people who thought that X was over reacting and making a mountain of a molehill. For those of us who haven’t been through a suffocating relationship may not understand her perspective.

Pic credit: Crystal Artwork (Used under a Creative Commons license)

The Hip Grandma lives in a small industrial town called Jamshedpur and despite all its

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Comments

8 Comments


  1. Hit the nail on the head.
    To many of us Indians – abusive relationship means physical abuse. We simply cannot understand verbal abuse, psychological abuse, financial abuse etc. In the above example – the man is a control freak who derives egoistical pleasure by undermining his wife.More so since she is financially dependent on him.

    I know some marriages that are excatly like the above.

  2. Most Indian men have very little knowledge about the humanistic behaviour expected of them as husbands.! There are unrealistic expectations that take the form of an adjustment story for the wife.! She in a typical Indian style strikes the deal with her husband and kills her personality to live happily ever after in a marriage.! (Let’s read this as a choking dead relationship.!) Again the old culprit, patriarchy comes into play.!

  3. “He loved her in his own way”

    I think that is the mistake we all make. We call such behavior love out of our own ignorance. Such people need counselling before they can begin to understand what love/relationship means.

  4. Moreover I time and again fail to understand why women take such a behavior from men OR men from women?

    There are so many cases of domestic violence,like in Satyamev Jayate,the women did step out of the relationships but only after having it hit hard [like literally] so why wait till the end ? Why assume that some day or the other the man would behave and realize his mistake?

    Having said that I realize that our society doesn’t see it appropriate that a women leaves her living husband behind and live with her parents but the same society doesn’t come to rescue when the same living husband behaves like a sadist or a monster and puts the woman’s life on stake and sometimes even children…so why bother? I know this attitude is hard to find but women should realize that lack of this attitude only makes the dominant men in their lives more stronger!

    P.S. I agree with Shail here…this is not love this is something else…

  5. I agree those who have not experienced such suffocating and demeaning relationships will never understand. This is true of all the relationships whether it be mother-daughter,sister-sister or anything.
    And feels worse in husband-wife relationship because that is one relationship that is chosen and not by birth and expectations are greater in that relationship. I have met people who seem very nice from outside but in fact can never understand relationships and are control freaks. These can come from poor sections of society or high functioning individuals who may be in high profile jobs or running their own businesses, Such relationships may be more common in our Indian scenario because of our culture and upbringing where once married lifetime married is the norm. I wonder when will Indian men grow up and indian women understand their rights . I don’t know the statistics but I feel that most of the men are married not because they deserve it but because our society enables them to be married through arranged marriages and girls are subdued right from the childhood, so they seldom understand their own rights within the relationship.

  6. ” I feel that most of the men are married not because they deserve it but because our society enables them to be married through arranged marriages and girls are subdued right from the childhood, so they seldom understand their own rights within the relationship.”

    Bingo, Ashima!

  7. hi all,
    it was nice to go through your inputs. most of us Indians do not include these subtle mental torture in the domestic violence category. To my mind any remark that pricks one’s self respect amounts to mental torture. It is generally a spouse who is insecure and/ or realizes their own inadequacy who tries to cover it up by resorting to sadistic behavior. I’ ve seen it in women too. The problem is that the very person would appear so considerate and concerned that the partner at the receiving end either accepts that it was partly his/her fault or accepts such erratic behavior as part of the partners nature and tries to analyze the seemingly good side of his/her personality. Society including parents also does its bit by refusing to intervene saying that husband/wife issues need to be resolved by the couple concerned. The common advise a person gets is to be patient and take care not to annoy the person. It is this attitude that acts as an incentive for bad behavior.

    As Shail has rightly pointed out this is not love. Constantly demoralizing one’s dependent be it wife, parents or children and claiming to have their welfare in mind is not love. Love is based on mutual respect in a relationship not a master/slave arrangement.

    Unfortunately the psychological impact is such that the tormented person actually misses being tormented since he/she believes that the tormentor’s behavior is justified. There are so many aspects to this subtle form of mental torture that it can only be experienced never conveyed.

    In the case of the couple mentioned there were people who thought that X ought to have accepted the gift since it was worth much more than the book she asked for. no one understood that it was not the price that mattered.

  8. The problem is that the very person would appear so considerate and concerned that the partner at the receiving end either accepts that it was partly his/her fault or accepts such erratic behavior as part of the partners nature and tries to analyze the seemingly good side of his/her personality-

    I meant to say that at times – the very person would appear so considerate and concerned that the partner at the receiving end either accepts that it was partly his/her fault or accepts such erratic behavior as part of the partners nature and tries to analyze the seemingly good side of his/her personality-

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