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A recent Punjab and Haryana High Court verdict says that an extramarital affair cannot be a reason to decide a woman won’t be a good mother and deny her child custody.
Trigger Warning: This has graphic description of domestic violence and emotional abuse and may be triggering for survivors.
The Punjab & Haryana High Court has delivered a verdict today that comes a couple of decades too late for me. Because I had a couple of ‘affairs’ before I got married, and went and met my ex boyfriend all of ONE times after I got married, he has always threatened to “throw me out of the house” every time there was a major fight, and to “tell everyone about my ‘affairs’ and make sure I am separated from my kids.”
This has, effectively kept me inside the circle of abuse, and as I was too frightened to do anything about it if he indeed did that (remember this was the early 2000s). I was too frightened to even approach anyone for help.
Let me explain.
Relationships as a single, unmarried woman aren’t unheard of in today’s society. Also, while mostly an urban phenomenon, women don’t try and hide these, and while they are sometimes slut shamed for their relationships, they aren’t considered a ‘sin’ or a terrible thing to have done. Their more woke contemporaries also don’t consider virginity very important.
Yet, I know most of this is a privilege even today.
A couple of decades ago, my husband came to know of my pre-marital relationships a few years after marriage, and an already abusive, patriarchal, and emotionally unavailable man became even more so, stonewalling me most of the time if I so much as did anything contrary to what he ‘wished’.
In this abusive marriage of close to 3 decades, my husband has done it all – hit me (though for sneaky reasons best known to him, it wasn’t the kind of physical violence that would need any kind of medical attention), gaslighted me all through until I have forgotten what it was like to be a confident go getter – the woman I was before marriage.
But the point I want to make is that he would call me names like “whore, prostitute, slut, rand…” you get the drift – if I so much as made any attempt to defend myself, even verbally.
My kids are now much older, and the custody thing doesn’t scare me anymore. And if anyone thinks I ‘deserved’ all this (something I hear all the time as even small disagreements turn into a huge fight) let me say that even in my generation, his behaviour could be a bit extreme, as I have friends who speak openly of their ‘relationships’.
Now of course, I know better. But as a homemaker (yes, you’re right – not ‘allowed’ to work) I don’t feel I have any option now after so many years of this, and I feel defeated by all these years. But I have now learnt not to let all that he says upset me as much as earlier, and make the best of my circumstances.
I requested that I be published anonymously, as it is not important who I am. But it is important that this ‘need’ of Indian men like my husband to be the ‘only man’ in their wife’s life be called out for the nonsense it is. Women, after all, are only human beings. Not the ‘Sati Savitri’ they are expected to be. Enough of that.
So I am really happy that even the law has begun to recognise this foolishness of our patriarchal, abusive society.
Image source: a still from the film Kya Kool Hain Hum 3
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