Women have somehow been subconsciously trained since childhood to think of everyone else before they think of themselves. Before they decide to choose a career path, for instance, they think: Will my parents approve of this? Will society approve? Will I get a good rishta (proposal)? Will my husband let me work in this field? Girl, chances are you will earn far more than that hypothetical husband of yours. Other than this, even when it comes to marrying, they will think a million times before deciding to marry out of love because again: the parents won’t agree; society won’t approve; her character will be questioned, and what not?!
Do you know when women think of everyone else the most? When they’re in an abusive marriage and they think about everyone other than themselves when they are deciding to get out of the relationship or to stay in it. When are we going to stop letting everyone else dictate how our daughters lead their lives?
Case in point: Gaya
Let’s take an example. Gaya comes from a very loving family and is the first of four daughters. She was married very young to an emotionally abusive man but she is staying in the relationship because she has two kids and also three unmarried sisters at home.
How is she abused, you ask? She is reminded every single day how this marriage has been a compromise for him and how he deserved so much better than her. He does not beat her up, but he torments her every single minute he gets, whether he is berating her about the weight she has gained, the food she cooks, or how little her family gave her for dowry. He puts her family down every chance he gets by talking about why her sisters aren’t getting married and how her father has given them too much freedom.
He keeps reminding her of how little she means to him and that he will marry someone else the moment he finds someone worthy of his love. He doesn’t let her go out to meet her friends or work, so she can’t even get out of the suffocating atmosphere to catch a breath of fresh air. Do you think this isn’t abusive behavior because he isn’t hitting her? She doesn’t even have a moment of peace and quiet.
Inside Gaya’s mind
She often thinks about the miserable life she is leading but then stops herself from taking any such decision because of the numerous factors weighing on her mind.
- Her father is a respected man. What will people say if his daughter is divorced? How will he face this society? He will crumble under pressure and get sick.
- Her mother is sick and feeble, and she is living under the impression that her daughter is living the life of her dreams. She will crush under the weight of the sorrow of her daughter’s divorce and probably won’t be able to take it.
- She has two children. How will they live without a father? Won’t this make her selfish? He isn’t the best father but he doesn’t beat them up.
- She has never worked. Having married at the age of 18, she wasn’t even given the chance to graduate. How will she support her kids if she decides to leave?
- What will society say?
- How will her sisters get married? How will they get decent rishtas (proposals) when the world knows there is one divorced sister? How will they be able to survive her divorce?
Do you see the reasons why she can’t leave him? Yes, there may be a reason there about her being irrevocably in love with him. Love is like that. Call it Stockholm syndrome or whatever you want, but most people do tend to get attached even if their partner is an abuser. This is especially the case if the abuser makes you feel like you are nothing without him. They internalize that and start believing it. But she CAN get over it. People have gotten over so much worse. One year of crying, heck five years of crying is better than a lifetime of mental anguish and torture.
What if she prioritized herself?
Let me tell you what would happen if she was taught to prioritize herself and her mental health:
- She comes from a loving family as mentioned before. Her father raised them to be independent women. He will understand if she takes a decision that he does not agree with. Even if he does not understand now, he will later. He will not stop loving her because she decided to get out of a marriage.
- Never paint a rosy picture of your marriage in front of your family because in the circumstance that something goes wrong, it will be difficult for everyone to imagine your perfect husband being the one at fault. Let him remain human. You don’t have to tell your family about every fight you have had, but you don’t have to glorify something that isn’t glorious either. The mother will be fine. She will understand what her daughter is going through and should actually support her. I have seen mothers go through so much worse and survive. To think that your parents won’t be able to survive your divorce is just something that has been fed into women forever.
- The children will survive. They won’t be without a father, he isn’t dead. They will just learn to adjust in a different setup. It’s important for children to grow up in a healthy environment as opposed to a toxic one where they see how unhappy their parents are with each other. However much you try to hide it, children always know, they are living with you. Let them love both of you and not hate relationships in general. They will either hate relationships or believe that this is how they are. The girls will think this is how life is and being abused is natural and the boys will think berating our wives is one of our foremost rights.
- She will get a job. There are so many things one can do and there are so many support groups now. It’s always better to pick the pieces of your life up and start again rather than crushing yourself even more. What can help is if we make sure our daughters graduate before we get them married so that they have something to back on, even if things go awry,
- Who cares about society? Whether it’s relatives, neighbors, or friends, anyone who has your best interest at heart will not “talk”. Anyone who doesn’t have your best interest at heart DOES. NOT. MATTER.
- Gaya didn’t have divorced sisters. Did she get married to an amazing guy? Do you think her sisters should get married to similar guys? The only thing I see coming out of Gaya’s divorce is putting the perfect filter on the rishtas that come in because I wouldn’t want my daughter to marry someone who is so concerned about the stigma of divorce.
Let me make it clear that I’m not writing in “favor” of divorce as I sometimes seem to portray when I talk about it. I am writing in favor of women prioritizing themselves. I am talking about women prioritizing their mental health. I’m talking about fewer unhappy marriages.
What about “Compromise”?
There will always be someone who points out and asks me at this stage: What about compromising? Let me make it extremely clear now that yes, compromise is very very important. It is important though, for both partners, as opposed to what we have been learning all along: Aurat ghar banati hai (a woman makes or breaks a home). This loosely translates to “women should be the ones to compromise”. That’s a flat no.
Compromise is for both parties. In our setup, the woman is already compromising way more than her husband by entering a new setup and learning to live there. It’s unfair if you expect all the compromise from her. They should compromise by not staying angry for long; by letting things go. They should NOT compromise by letting their partner berate them every chance they get.
But God dislikes divorce
He does. God definitely dislikes divorce. But He also says that to tolerate abuse is also a sin. He does not say that marriage is solely the responsibility of a woman. We should definitely try to make it work. But if something is draining you from the inside, then we should remember that it is an option for a reason.
Let’s change the way we raise our children
I say, let’s change the rules. Let’s teach our boys and girls both to compromise, but let’s also teach them that nothing is worth more than their self-respect. Let’s not teach our children to compromise on their self-respect because that should never be compromised. Let’s teach them that they are important and that we would rather have them at peace and happy than have them tagged as married. Let’s raise our daughters to be fierce and independent, and let’s raise them to learn to listen to themselves first and everyone else after, just like we teach our sons.