Dear Nadine Khan,
I am a mother of three kids and I am 34 years of age. A month after completing my studies, I got married. I wanted to do MBA, but my parents felt simple graduation was enough for me, as they did not want me to work. My father felt that girls should not have a professional degree, and their education should be enough to make them good mothers and wives only because professional women are not homemakers. So, I knew I would be dependent on my husband for my needs. My husband is a very dominating man, just like my father. His sisters are also cruel, and always say hurtful things to me. To my husband, I am just a woman who looks after his house, his mother and children. My mother-in-law is very authoritative, and I can’t do anything without her permission. She treats me badly and talks to me in a very abusive way because she has my husband’s full backing. My husband has told me many times, in front of his mother, that if I make his mother angry, he would beat me. He hits me whenever he is angry, and my mother-in-law encourages him to do that. My husband is highly educated and has done his masters from Australia, but his opinion about the place of a wife is no different from any uncivilised, uneducated brute. Since I got married 15 years back, I have lost my self-esteem completely. My married life is disturbed because there is no bonding between me and my husband. He is a very aggressive person and suspicious by nature. He is rude with my parents and siblings, and he loves being harsh with me in their presence. His purpose is to make me defenceless. He considers me a burden, a liability, a commodity and a slave who should never ever say no. On the flip side, he is very intelligent and works at a good post in a multinational. He loves our children and does everything in his power to ensure he keeps them happy. I am sort of confused about my feelings for my husband. His behaviour with me is so bad that I think I should hate him, but I don’t know why, I love him. I have also had good days with him when he is in good mood and becomes friendly with me, and sometimes takes me out. But whenever that happens, my mother-in-law finds some fault with me, and makes him scold me. My mother-in-law does that because she is scared that if my husband becomes good with me, she would lose control over him. My father is now old and sick. He regrets not letting me do MBA. He told me that if I decide to get a divorce, he would settle enough money on me to make me financially secure. He loves me a lot, and becomes very sad when my husband is abusive towards me even in front of other family members. It’s only because of my children that I continue to take physical, verbal and emotional abuse from my husband and his mother. On some level I want to stay with my husband, because I know he also loves me. I know I should not say this, but I think once my mother-in-law passes away, he will become better, as she is the one who keeps on brainwashing him against me.
I have considered separation, too, but I don’t want it; instead, I want to live a happy life with him, but it is not happening. I simply don’t know what to do. Am I clinging to a marriage that is not working? I need help.
Dear Unhappy Wife,
For girls, it is extremely important to get a good education even if they don’t need to work. No one can know beforehand what future has in store for them, and a good degree comes in handy in case things go south in a marriage. Your father had your best interest at heart, but he made a mistake in not enabling you to stand on your own feet. Any marriage, without love, in which a woman is forced to bear aggressive and abusive behaviour of her husband and in-laws, is a compromise. Your case is a bit complicated because you love your husband and despite his rude behaviour, you want to stay married. Of course, your children are a very important consideration, and you have borne a lot for them. But, if you think your husband will turn over a new leaf after his mother’s demise, think again! Aggressiveness is in his nature; he may become a bit moderate, but he probably won’t outgrow his tendency to abuse. It is good of your father to offer financial support, but he doesn’t have to wait to give it till you get a divorce. If he settles money on you now, your husband will no longer be able to make you feel that you are dependent on him. It might even change his attitude, too. You have spent 15 long years married to him, and by now your children are probably in their teens. In a couple of years, they will become young adults. For their sake, you should talk to your husband seriously about the impact of his abusive behaviour on their minds. Since he loves them, their emotional well-being should concern him. You should also stop letting him walk all over you. Be blunt and tell him you will not take abuse anymore. You say that your husband loves you, so you should also tell him that you love him and want to start afresh. Give him a chance to change, but if he doesn’t, you now have options. Good luck!