My husband lost his job and is at home because of the pandemic. He is extremely critical about me, my homemaking, and verbally abuses me the entire day in front of our daughter. I am stitching masks for an NGO and generating some income for the family while I also do the home chores. The abuse is keeping me away from him and I do not respond to his sexual overtures at night. He gets even angrier and abusive and I then withdraw more. Sometimes I give in at night only to stop him from creating a scene, but I hate myself for it and get depressed. Please guide me.
Ans: When bullied by a spouse, there are two options available. The first option involves accepting the abuse as part of your life and feeling slighted and miserable about the situation and the second option involves standing up for yourself and not accepting such poor treatment. Think about all the ways in which your husband has leverage over you.
Does he make more money than you? Does he give you a certain lifestyle without which you’d feel lost? Often in marriages, one needs to come to an agreement after a heartfelt and honest negotiation takes place. This requires you to have clarity of thought and bargaining power that would help empower the point you’re trying to make to him about being treated as an equal with regard, kindness and fairness.
All suffering may seem inevitable at first but it’s always a choice made by the sufferer to either grin and bear it or pick oneself up from the dust and take matters seriously in their own hands. Vigilante-ism and drama isn’t necessary to make a clear and consistent point to one’s partner.
You could probably start with not letting him touch you since you feel commodified and condemned by him. You’ll have to let him know how you feel about the current situation — as described by you. You’ll also have to let him know that you are uncomfortable around him and are feeling threatened by his behaviour. You’ll have to invite outside intervention in order to address his temperamental quirks so that he may be seen how his terse and sharp pitch may be eroding any warmth you feel towards him.
Just because he threatens you with anger doesn’t mean you have to give in to him. You may look at options where you can temporarily move out to escape this abuse. In extreme situations, it’s not unheard of to involve a woman’s NGO and the police as well. Domestic abuse and marital rape are serious crimes and should be treated as such. But no matter how offended and depressed you feel, it is important for you to assess before you invite the scrutiny and judgement of others whom you’d like to seek protection from. If your husband realises that you’re willing to fight back and not accept the poor treatment, he may be forced to reflect upon his behaviour that galvanised you and made you want to take what he may very well see as an ‘extreme step’ to get him to hold his horses.
Hating yourself won’t solve the problem. It’ll merely distract you from your core goal of teaching him to treat you respectfully. Self-directed hate is one of the number one causes of depression. People are often critical of what they have done without contextualizing the fact that bad decisions are often made in the absence of good intel and due to being held hostage to worse habits.
The fact that he lost his job may also indicate that he’s feeling irritable or perhaps even like ‘less of a man’ and all this rage may be an outlet for grief too. It's important for him to come to terms with his feelings and it’s pivotal for you to come to terms with how you want to navigate this relationship forward if you’re feeling abused.
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