In the end, Ayesha was left with no choice but to forgive Anwar, her husband of 17 years. Forgiving him meant that she had to trust him; forgetting the years of physical, mental, sexual and financial abuse. Forgiving him meant confessing various lies that she had told him during the marriage (that her menstrual cycle is of 14 days only to escape marital rape the other half of the month). Forgiving him meant bridging the gap of indifference between them.
Yet, forgiving and healing the psychological wound wasn’t easy for her. Though she saw several positive changes in him, she didn’t want to be fooled into dreaming an alcohol-free life for the family as this change had come as an aftermath of an accident, followed by several months of hospitalisation. She constantly doubted that when Anwar’s fear of death disappeared, he would fall back on alcohol. Alcoholism, she had realised, is a disease and ‘once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic.’ Ayesha wanted to forgive Anwar and trust him completely but she didn’t want to suffer the second part of her life being meek and vulnerable.
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On the other side of alcohol, Anwar was making a sincere effort to move away from the addiction. After returning from the hospital, he lost his job and had no money to sponsor his addiction. He sincerely wished the acceptance and forgiveness of Ayesha. His emotional vocabulary was limited, therefore, he couldn’t ask for acceptance in words. He believed that his actions would explain it all to her. Anwar didn’t know how he behaved while under the influence of alcohol, he didn’t know the damage he had done but he was willing to mend his ways with utmost sincerity.
Alcoholism had also driven their only daughter into boarding school and he wanted to bring his daughter back but didn’t know how to convince Ayesha who had been taking major decisions at home since the absence of his soberness.
Living in a gated community, Ayesha constantly feared being thrown out from their home so she always went into silence when Anwar went into violence. Silence was her mode of communication in their married life. She also nurtured a fear of him not just as an alcoholic, but also as a husband.
When people came home to invite the family for auspicious occasions they would invite Ayesha and give the invite in her hands avoiding Anwar completely. Being from a conservative Muslim background, there was no acceptance of an alcoholic during festivity. This troubled the sober Ayesha and she thus, had no social life. But she was firm that she wouldn’t go anywhere without him. She wished to tell the world that he was a changed man and to give him a chance; but she was struggling to prove that to herself.
Anwar had been a notorious alcoholic so no one was willing to risk giving him work thus he had to opt for work-from-home. He yearned to go out, get a job and wished to be the earning husband and let his wife lead a stress free life but he wasn’t given the clean chit to take over as the working husband. Ayesha was willing to support him get back on his feet and finances but there was no opportunity.
The communication between Ayesha and Anwar was in monosyllables and body language. Ayesha couldn’t come forward and have an open talk with him about the new boundaries in their lives. She couldn’t tell him that she was unable to trust him and was very scared that opening a conversation itself will make him fall back. On the other hand, Anwar wasn’t used to having sober conversations with Ayesha. For 17 years the alcohol in him spoke and now without alcohol, he felt like he didn’t have his walking stick.
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The interesting fact about this couple was that while Ayesha nurtured fear and silence during the first 17 years of marriage; Anwar was experiencing the same fear and silence as he went into insecurity day by day. Their situation was complicated by delay and indifference in communication. Yet, the power of communication can’t be ruled out in this marriage. The only way to establish a foundation of trust and security is through constant and continuous communication sessions.
Names have been changed to protect the identity of the couple who belong to a small town in Kerala. They are currently undergoing counselling with Jaseena.