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Divorce is painful. But getting out of an abusive marriage that invalidates you as a human being and normalises abuse, is necessary.
Good or bad, we are all guilty of letting our relationships define us. Especially when we are married women.
It is very common for us women to carry the burden of toxic relationships for as long as we can, in the hope for some miracle. We tend to ignore the abuse that comes along with it. We are always seen as ‘sacrificing figures’ who should sacrifice everything about our identities and ‘focus on our families’.
It takes a really long time to identify abuse in a relationship and stand up for ourselves. Why is this the norm?
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? No.
I am a feminist, who would never want anyone suffer in a relationship, yet, I let myself suffer for three years, assuming that it was I who needed to be ‘fixed’ and not the patriarchal societal 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 how ‘unhelpful’ I was to his mother in the household chores.
‘Heads-up that you aren’t doing enough’ is what he told 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 be. I was hurt and sad, but I thought to myself, that if I do everything like 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 bit by bit. I would never be enough. His mother kept complaining to him that I still was of no help.
Within a month of my marriage, it so 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 this to my husband 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 rest?
He 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 in night shifts and I worked in the day. I was mostly stuck with his parents and their silly complaints like, why I only know to cook a few 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 tell all their complaints about me. Like I was some accused in a court of law. He never really supported me because he said, that he doesn’t want to disrespect elders. And so, he put me through that every single day.
My husband (Now-ex) 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 would keep speaking of how my parents never taught me how to value money and because of that I spent a lot (from my own hard-earned money).
All three of them successfully destroyed my self-esteem.
It took a long time for me to understand that this was actually abuse. 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 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 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 after he felt that I was defeated. After that, he would act like nothing happened at all and tell me that I was making a big deal out of it.
He never really gave me time to process my emotions after the abuse either. He would be so happy the next morning after the fight, like extremely in love (What kind of a psycho does that?). And it was his habit to take me on a drive or a holiday (Which he otherwise would never) 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, only I knew.
Somehow, I decided to speak up in the second year of my marriage and we decided to give it a try. One thing he always wanted from me was, children. I won’t lie, I wanted to have kids too. But no, not in that toxicity.
We stayed in his parents’ home, and I really had no say in any matter and back then he made me believe that even he didn’t (I found out later that he didn’t want to). Which is why I thought getting a place of our own could instil a sense of individuality (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 projects that were ready for moving in.
I was happy that he was trying to make this better for us. That feeling 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 office and rest there instead of staying at 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. But truth be spoken, 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 me.
We finally liked a property that was in our budget, and he decided to involve my dad here. So, this particular day, we were supposed to meet with the person who was going to finalize 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 started yelling at both of us, and they did not let us go through with the buy. We returned home disappointed. My ex was furious and he was yelling at his parents, saying 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.
After a few days the three started quarrelling among themselves. So I just excluded myself from the situation and went to sleep, for I didn’t have the bandwidth to deal with it.
Now he was working in the early morning shifts, so he left for work at 4am. When I woke up, when I checked my mobile, I found his text that said ‘Make sure you prepare breakfast every morning’.
I don’t know what triggered me at that moment, I was hurt, I felt invalidated. I texted him back ‘I can’t take this anymore, I need a break, I am leaving’. To which he replied, ‘OK take care‘. As if he was never bothered about my emotions.
He had raised my hopes and then shattered them all. He promised me something and failed to deliver. And why was I supposed to stay patient?
Alone, I drove to my parents’ place. My parents were worried for 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 a break of two weeks. 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. (Baby steps)
My ex took me on a holiday in the third year along with his parents (Which I really never wanted to go for), and throughout the holiday, he ignored my existence. I tried to get over it by following the tips my therapist told me.
I was reading this book called ‘Woman last seen in her thirties’, the only good time I remember in that holiday was when I was reading. No matter how much I tried to keep it out of my head, his 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 kind of went down in the previous year, he started upping 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. I got a few, but he wasn’t ready to let me go alone. So, I proposed that I do an MBA somewhere and he can come with me on a dependent visa, to which, he readily agreed.
By then I realized that he was not to be trusted when he said ‘I have asked my parents, and they are okay’. So, I conveyed my plan to them too. They never really said anything about it.
I started preparing for my SATS. One Sunday, my ex started forcing me to tell his parents something. So I went and sat before them and his mother told me, ‘Go wherever you want to go to but give us a child and go to study’. To which I responded, ‘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 was okay with leaving his kid with her toxic self, so that she can raise another spineless child who can never stand up for what’s right. That day, I stood up for myself. I told him I am going to do an MBA, with or without him in my life. I gave him a last chance that day and told him to get me my space, or to get out of my life.
It has been ten months that I left his house and came back, and all he had to say when he came to visit me last week was ‘What is your decision?‘
My decision is to not let him walk all over me anymore. 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, yes. 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 efforts 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.
Image source: a still from the movie Thappad
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A twenty-something feminist, who has worked in the digital marketing industry for over 6
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