Because it was Abuse

{This post is part of the #BearNoMore Campaign by Youth Ki Awaaz to raise awareness on emotional abuse. The events and characters depicted are purely fictitious. Any similarity to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. Click here to find out more about the campaign.}

Dear Sudha

I haven’t written in the past year, because I’m undergoing therapy, a fact that you may already be aware of. My schedule is such that, when I want to think, I am forced to talk about my feelings, and when I want to talk, I have to spend hours staring at the blank walls of this ‘Recreational center’, until, finally exhausted I fall asleep.


 

But I’m lying. The real reason I haven’t written is because I know you won’t reply.

For years I have harbored the belief that it was all your fault. Sometimes I find myself in the grip of a terrible rage, when I think about all that I have been put through because of you. This therapy for instance. Even though I myself sought it out after our divorce. Then I have to remind myself that I was the one who got you into this mess, pursued you and proposed to you. Had you refused, I would have probably manipulated you until you said yes.

You must be so surprised hearing me use that word. Manipulation. Yes. I know what it means. And what’s more, I know that I did it to you during every second of our ill-fated marriage.

I say ill-fated, but perhaps that is unfair, for we never ran into any bad luck. The first house we bought was beautiful, from your savings and mine, very close to your college. The cutlery, the chinaware, the upholstery, the bedspread, the glassware had all been gifted to us as wedding gifts by our exuberant relatives and friends. I still recall you clearly sometimes, during those early days of our marriage, standing on the tip of your toes on a precariously balanced armchair, trying to straighten the curtains. I remember grabbing your feet before you fell. I remember our wedding night. The honeymoon. The hotel at Shimla. The dinner parties.We had a beautiful son. He’s doing so well. So why was it such an ill-fated marriage?

I’m starting to realize that that was probably because of me.


 

When my therapist first told me about manipulation, I grew resentful and defensive. I said there was no manipulation. Yes, we had fights. Every couple fights right?

But then, I started remembering some things. Like the fact that my parents never really liked you and I never told you that. Like how my mother didn’t let you leave the house,  talk to anyone, wear what you wanted, read, speak, breathe, live as you ought to have. My father constantly provoked you, sometimes with his scathing remarks about your background, sometimes with those thinly-veiled insults about your income, or your middle-class parents.  My sister constantly picked fights with you. She blamed you for ‘ensnaring me’. I was blissfully oblivious to all that chaos. I never stood up for you. Why couldn’t you play nice with my family?

I never ceased to manipulate you, and this never ceases to amaze me. A few months into our marriage, when I compared you to other women, flirted with them openly, castigated you for talking to other men,  humiliated you in front of our friends or made snide comments about your intellect and constantly put you down, I was always, always manipulating you. I just wanted you to admit I was better than you.

I never saved any money, and fought with you when you asked me to do the same. I drank, I smoked, I cheated on you, I expected sex whenever I wanted it. When you won an argument, I would take off in high dudgeon, banging doors and hanging out in bars all night knowing that you would be worried when I didn’t come back and relishing the pain I was causing you.

After every fight, you’d console me. It was probably the sulky face I made which moved you, or because I completely ignored you for days or didn’t take your calls, something that I now understand to be passive-aggressive behavior. Whatever it was, you would always give in to me, and I, the one who was really at fault, took you back graciously.

It was plain bullying. I always thought bullying happened in the playground, like when our son was pelted with water balloons till he came back home crying. I never thought  bullying was emotional.


 

The part that I am ashamed of, that I have had the hardest time accepting, is that I knew what I was doing. When you were struggling with depression, when you went to a psychiatrist, I didn’t really care. Bit by bit I was breaking your spirit. Bit by bit I was chiseling away all those things that made you whole. Bit by bit I was, I was pushing you to leave me. Every time you talked of moving out however, I threw a fit. I cried. I moped. I promised I’d be a better husband.

I tried feigning ignorance about all of this when I met my therapist for the fourth session. It continued till she said I was too pathetic a case to treat and on the next day she said she didn’t remember saying that to me and that if it hurt my feelings, it was my problem. I realized that was exactly what I had done with you. I knew I was hurting you all along. What I didn’t know, was that it was wrong.

Does that make sense?

But Sudha, what haunts me most is what you must think of me. Surely you knew I was a caring, loving, protective husband? Surely what the therapist says about power-struggle, emotional torment, feelings of insecurity on my part are absolutely untrue? I never raised a hand on you. I never threw you out of the house or demanded dowry. I belonged to an educated upper-class family and I knew how to treat women. So how can it possible be abuse?

There is one part of me, that is finally admitting to what I did. But the other part, the part that is at my core, still blames you.

For I feel had I married any other woman, I would never have ended up like this. My kid would not be meeting me under supervision, my wife would love me, would never leave me and I would be a happy man. But instead, after the divorce I have spent my days missing my life, my family, my wife. Somewhere, deep down, a tiny voice says that what I truly miss is the abuse. That absolute feeling of control, that rush when I hurt you and lie to you. That feeling of immense power which I enjoyed having over you.


 

I can’t know for sure. If I have to go on with my life, I must leave myself with a smidgen of self-respect. So I now go back to saying what I always thought. It was you. You were too strong, too beautiful, too loving, too secure, too smart, too much of everything for me. Had you been any lesser than the Sudha I knew, I would never have felt the need to emotionally abuse you.

Because it was abuse.

I know you’re not going to respond to this letter. Just know that I am trying to make sense of what happened and I am still trying to understand what went wrong between us. Because I truly feel it was not all my fault. Abuse is not possible without some provocation on the side of the victim, surely. I’m sure you must have made some mistake.

Hopefully, one day, I’ll find your fault.

With love,

Akshay

 

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Published by: Abby

Abha is a law student in her early 20s, an aspiring women and child welfare lawyer, a speaker on child sexual abuse and an advocate for gender equality. She enjoys reading romantic thrillers, running after her wayward Alsatian and practicing Buddhism. She loves home-cooked food, electronic rock from the 80s and videos of soldiers reuniting with their kids/dogs.

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