Hmm…now I’m even more confused. My husband and I live a pretty hectic life…full-time jobs, part-time masters programs. We’ve been married for nearly 3 years- 3 very rough years I’d say where both of us experienced the knee-jerking effects of married life at it’s bitterest start. It was a love marriage, believe it or not, but things faded right away after that knot was tied. My in-laws are not here, but of course, all the effects of long distance communication and manipulation discussed in the other posts are naturally present. We’ve managed to finally acknowledge, understand, solve and get over many hurdles during this short time, but like any marriage, there are little things that urk me…like when my husband is excited to go out with his friends as a group but all of a sudden, we don’t have the time to do something with just the two of us. I feel as if I am left with the entire responsibility of taking care of things at home, and he doesn’t contribute much. If I do ask him to help, the task sits around for days, sometimes weeks, until I do it myself. When I confront him about these things, he always bursts out saying how I make him feel that he is worthless and undependable. I, on the other hand, I feel that I am the one who is emotionally abused in one way or another and yet I am the one who ends up saying “sorry”. While reading this post, I’ve realized that maybe I am inflicting reverse emotional abuse towards him in the process when my loneliness, anger and sadness are building up. I’ve caught myself holding back love from him (I don’t know if he realizes that) but it sure does hurt me. How do these problems get solved?
This page is a response to a comment made by Khamoshi on Emotional Abuse page. Desi girl thought it will be useful to all other Khamoshis out there. We have to break the silence and let each other know that they are not alone.
Khamoshi, Khamoshi todo (Silent, Break the Silence). I am glad you wrote this is the first step. Believe me you are not alone. Numerous of us have sailed in this boat called love marriage. Love or arranged marriage the life of both partners do changes but it changes more for a woman as there are some cultural expectations, like a woman holds the family together, it is a woman’s job to make the home. The home should look neat and clean and the food should taste good. She should keep everyone happy. It is her job to make her husband feel important and worthy. It is heard every where woman is the one who has to make the adjustments because she has come in to the husband’s family. The logic is she is the one who came in so why all others have to change according to her needs or thinking. So our culture is expecting us to be family/man serving machines with very little or no needs of our own. As soon as we ask for changes in these expectations we are branded bad and sometime even we accept this label we start feeling guilty that may be we are asking too much.
Let us dissect the anatomy of emotional abuse. In the above mentioned situation we feel abused because we have lost focus from our self and have given away our power to the other person, initially we think it is love, like we run to get him/her a glass of water every time he coughs a little, we want to do as much we can for them because we love them and think by doing something for them we are expressing our love for them. Gradually the other person starts thinking they are entitled to our services, our mind, and our souls; finally they start taking us for granted. We in turn feel hurt and used because we feel the other person is not considerate and is taking us for granted. We have actually taught them how treat us. To them our services matter not our feelings and emotions because we have not told them how we feel and they are not mind readers. Gradually we become angry at ourselves for letting this happen and withhold affection to punish our tormentor but we are basically tormenting ourselves because we want to love the other person (humans were created to love one another, so we are going against our grain) but we also want to the other person to know that we are hurt and want them to stop what they are doing to us or else we’ll punish them in what ever way we can. Thus we are doomed either way by loving them because we are still angry and things are not changing; by not loving them we are further hurting ourselves.
All this said; now let us address each issue you mentioned:
1. Let us check your work load job, school, followed by marriage (relationship is a full time job in itself) and self. You and your marriage appear to be the last in your priority list. Yes, job comes first to pay the bills so do school to better the life prospects. Think will these be of any use if you fall sick or hurt yourself due to excessive stress? This reminds me of Mohsin Naqvi’s verses “Har Zarra Chamaktaa Hai Anwar-e-Ilaahi Se, Har Saans Ye Kehati Hai Hum Hai To Khuda Bhi Hai.” If you are not alive nothing matters and if your heart is not in the home no matter how clean it is it won’t matter an iota. You cannot give something you do not have. From your comment anyone can make out you are not happy, so how can you give happiness to your relationship? Happiness is your birth right and no one can give it to you, you have to create your own happiness by being kind to your self. If you are happy with your self you’ll see others and their actions in a different light. Make your self a priority; is it possible to reduce some work load or takeout time for yourself?
2. You are hurt and angry you need to heal before you can start working on your relationship. When we are angry we are overwhelmed and we cannot phrase our needs thus we create more confusion. Start spending some time with your self, may be you can start journaling or pursuing a hobby, do something that gives you happiness and that “you” enjoy doing. I use to go out on a walk, I sang while I walked and if no one was around I would sing aloud to the trees and the road.
3. Start spending time with your creator. You were created to be happy. We become unhappy when we are disconnected with our core. Prayers are a good ritual but developing your spirituality where you marvel the creator and his creations is very beautiful experience. Try meditating, I use to do this but I learned many new things from website www.3ho.org .
4. Do only as much you can. Division of labor within the home is a very common bone of contention between most the spouses. When one spouse especially wife asks the other to do some thing around the home and other person ignores it for days together they are sending out a message both consciously and unconsciously “it doesn’t matter to me what you say, you are not important.” Then days pass by and the house starts looking shabby, the wife ends up doing the task. Now she is sending the message, “I asked you to do something, if you don’t do it I’ll do it any way, my like or dislike is not important.”
You are asking something and your actions are depicting something else. Tell him in a clear confident voice, no display of anger and no accusations “I feel unimportant and neglected when you do not do what you consented to do/ when you do not help around the house…). Focus on your self, how you feel.
Next time if you asked him to pick after himself and he did not, please do not clean the place, I agree it will look bad it may even start reeking don’t care just ignore it until he does it. Let him do the job even if he does a shabby job. He may do a shabby job so that you may not ask him to do it again. Don’t feel tempted do so. Let him do what ever way he does it. Remember we are all just little kids in adult bodies. Once this gets going then you can work on time line. Ask him to do a task and tell him he should pick his time, when ever he wants to do it, in hours, days or weeks then you don’t have to be after him. This is the only way because if you keep picking after him why does he need to do it.
5. Spending time together, ask your self are you fun to be with? If you were to spend time in your own company will you be happy? People avoid us because we make them uncomfortable and sometimes we are not aware of it. Once you becom comfortable and happy with your self you’ll not make much demand on your partner’s time and he’ll realize you are not needy. You can also have a ritual of weekly date night, movie night or after dinner walks. In India it is common for couples to for an after dinner stroll.
The other part to this equation is we grow up learning our spouse will fulfill all our needs. We should expect him/her along with our physical and material needs fulfill all our emotional, material and spiritual needs. This is a fallacy one person cannot do so many things even they have their own needs. We cannot burden our partners with all our emotional baggage, they have their own to carry. Each one of us wants to be strong for our partner but do not want to confess that we are scared and are feeling vulnerable. Also our partners want us to be strong they don’t want to see us feeling weak. Solution is to develop good friendships. I have few friends I discuss my financial worries with and another to discuss relationship issues. This way my one friend is not burdened with all my concerns. Spend some time away from your partner and give them space.
6. Stop going on guilty trips, you know what the truth is. You asked your partner to do something and he did not do it. When you demanded accountability he accuses you of a making him feel “worthless and undependable” and you end up apologizing for his feelings. Stop feeding his ego. “No one can make you feel bad about yourself without your consent.” He knows he is not dependable and contributing towards housekeeping he escapes doing chores by making you feel guilty. My favorite couplet for this is “zindagi kat gayi manate hue, ab iraada hai rooth jane ka” (I am tired of appeasing now I want to be appeased). Stop doing his share of chores and stop apologizing.
7. If things do not improve, suggest going for couple’s counseling. You can look for marriage and family therapist in your area. If you are in India, try looking at the local medical college, you’ll find some leads. If he refuses to go, go by your self. You need to heal and be strong for your self. The chores and spending time together are just symptoms of a bigger problem that needs to be demystified before you can move ahead.
8. It is good that you realize you may be inflicting reverse emotional abuse now you can take steps to fix it. I believe one cannot fix something if they do not consider it being broken in the first place. I guess now you can identify why you are withholding affection, because you are angry and hurt. Work on healing your hurts anger will go away and things will improve for you. You cannot take responsibility for another person’s behavior.
For further help refer:
Forward, Susan, Emotional Blackmail. New York: Harper Collins, 1997.
Mellody, Pia, Andrea Wells and J. Keith Miller. Facing codependence. New York: Harper Collins, 2003.
Richo, David. How to be an Adult in Relationships. Boston: Shambhala, 2002.