Relations don’t go sour overnight. I didn’t wake up one morning and decide that I couldn’t live with a monster of a husband for whom I was just a maid to take care of his physical needs and suffer beatings without a whimper. He expected me to do all chores single-handedly. No servant would work in our house for long because of his bad temper. My day would start at 4.30 a.m.: clean the house, lay everything ready for him neatly on the bed including his socks, shoes, wallet, clothes, make breakfast and lunch for three of us (those days his younger brother lived with us) and then rush to office by 8.15. In the evening, it was the same routine. And if I frowned, I was a bad wife. Once when I asked my brother-in-law to wash dishes after dinner, the complaint reached my mother-in-law the very next day. ‘How can you ask your brother-in-law to wash dishes?’ she shouted over the phone.
Now when I look back at my nine years of relationship with my ex-husband (seven years of marriage and two years of courtship) I realise financial independence is not the deciding factor to call it quits, it is actually what gives courage to do so.
I worked as an HR executive in a company, am more educated than him, earned more than him, but I stayed in an abusive marriage believing one day it would all be fine, the way it happens in Hindi movies. It took me seven years to gather courage to say enough is enough, I won’t take it anymore.
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This relationship was doomed even before it began, but I failed to see the signs because I was madly in love with him and believed that my love for him would transform him. Once before marriage when I was cooking for him, we had an argument and he got so angry with me that he grabbed the tava and threw it at me. It just missed my foot. My parents were not happy with the alliance due to our age difference (he is seven years older than me) and his small-town background, but they gave in for my sake.
We were two different personalities, with neither of us willing to change. The main issue was his temper. He needed no provocation to start abusing and hitting me. It could start with something as trivial as no salt in the dal. He wouldn’t control his temper and I wasn’t ready to shed tears in silence. I would shout back whenever I thought he was unreasonable. I couldn’t hit him, because he was physically stronger. He hated that I didn’t want to succumb. “Shut up, don’t open your mouth in front of me,” he would shout every time there was a squabble.
But I was not brought up to be subservient to a husband under all circumstances. I was raised to be an independent girl with opinions.
Thinking he would mend his ways, I decided to start a family, but after our daughter was born, he was back to his old ways. His nasty temper was the deal breaker. How much is too much in a marriage? How much can a woman take? While I was still wondering how much longer I could continue in such a relationship, I learnt that he was having an affair.
Fortunately, the only harassment in the divorce proceedings was to make him agree to the terms, as he didn’t mind living separately without a divorce, but I wasn’t ready for that. I wanted a legal end to my torture. Initially, the counsellor tried to convince us to rethink for the sake of our two-year-old daughter, but when he started shouting at the counsellor, he gave up. He understood how difficult it must be for me to live with such a man.
Now I live above my parents’ house, so I’m independent but have family support. It’s been a year since the divorce. I’m beginning to live my life the way I always wanted. Before marriage, I loved baking but couldn’t follow my passion because of marital discord. Now, along with my full-time job, I am also taking orders for baked goods. Life is peaceful and there is hope. I feel like a complete person.
(As told to Sujata Rajpal)