A childhood friend who got married before any of us friends within our school batch, seemed to be having some marital problems fairly early on in her relationship. Her parents urged the couple to go in for marriage counselling. Teething problems we all thought. And yet somewhere some instinct had told me it ran deeper. They patched it up- to the relief of the parents -who were very keen not to cut a sorry figure in their ‘community’. A brood of kids followed and all seemed okay until recently many years down the line I received a cryptic message about ‘being treated like a maid’ and verbal and mental abuse. I was shocked. Nothing had changed? She was the passive suffering victim of violence through all these precious years?
Often the woman in a marriage is ridden rough shod upon because she is not the bread winner and the contribution she makes in terms of cooking, cleaning and generally being the ‘fall guy’ for kids, in-laws and family is taken very much for granted. There is no value for the sacrifices she has made and her husband is oblivious to her needs and desires. He feels that any kindness ‘bestowed’ upon her is a favor.
I recognized this from the experiences of many friends from school and college who got married to dominating men that wanted a ‘housewife’ to keep home and hearth. The statistic is higher when women give themselves up headlong into the chores of marriage -giving up all financial independence and cutting down drastically on personal pursuits of happiness.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am definitely not advocating a ‘burn the bra’ feminism and aggression of ‘I, me, myself’. Nor am I saying that sacrifices are wrong and marriage is a write-off. All I’m saying is get a life. A life with some personal space, diversions and hobbies with friends and preferably some financial independence that gives you a feeling of liberation and self-reliance.
Coming back to my friend, a man who is mentally abusive and controlling may not change easily, especially if he hasn't in a long time. I realized that the ‘patch-up’ compromise orchestrated back then was all about her giving up her voice, her dreams, her space and towing the line all the way. Writing off her life and saying her kids will be the passage to existence. Now is this not the exact formula for frustration, anger, bitterness and then much pain when your son goes and gets himself a life and a wife (which may not necessarily include you)? And even if it does, it will not be a twenty-four-seven thing?
There is a quote that makes much sense to me, about life being the real thing, not a rehearsal. You are not in a waiting room, in an endless wait to live your dreams and reality. The time is now. When you are miserable and unhappy, no one gives you an award you for your pain.
Don’t keep expecting that one day a miracle will change your husband, and don’t live in denial of the relationship that leaves you un-empowered, because that is an escapist attitude. Better to get out and find happiness, with or without a spouse- better late than never. If something hasn’t worked for twenty odd years, despite all that you've done to work it, then chances are it won’t take off now. Clinging on to a comfort zone is just a way of procrastinating life. Why not just make the tough choice of living alone than living in subjugated misery where your rights as an individual are violated and you are always at a disadvantage? Excessive financial dependency is not a good enough reason, because the courts of law can give you your rights and respite after many years of mothering children and going through a marriage of mental stress.
Now don’t get me wrong, you know that I am one who advocates working it out and working it through communication, calm and compassion. Having said that, when something is just giving you unending pain, lacks mutual respect and is not about healthy enjoyable love that gives you pleasure both mental and physical- then compromise is not getting you anywhere. And no, you cannot live through your kids, or their wives for that matter? Rumors suggest that Aishwarya Rai seems to be bucking against the said controlling interfering behavior of her mother-in-law Jaya Bachchan. Yukta Mukhey has walked out of a marriage where she felt exploited and is feeling greatly relieved alone than with a man whom she felt ill treated by . I could cite many examples of women who chose a harder single existence than a miserable married life of material comfort.
Nisha JamVwal is a celebrity columnist & prolific writer, apart from being a luxury brand consultant & designer.