I was in an unconventional marriage. My husband, whom I was in love with for three months, hijacked me from another wedding mandap and on February 14th, 1990, I became Mrs. Unnikrishnan. My folks were relieved that I was finally married – so were his family. I remember my ma-in-law, a wonderful woman, asking me if I knew Unni well. So did his sister. She asked me whether I knew all his habits. I should have realized then why they were asking but I simply had no clue that I had just stepped into an emotionally abusive relationship.
(As told to Anney Sam)
I never took anything lying down
I used to warn my bosses that if they were to reprimand me they had to do so in a closed room. I even told them that if they humiliated me in front of my colleagues, or raised their voice, I would most probably retaliate.
I guess I forgot to apprise my husband of the same. I had only seen my parents’ marriage and it was one of equanimity, lots of affection and camaraderie. It was naïve of me to expect that in mine too.
He dragged me out of my bed on the first morning
So the runaway couple had a civil marriage certified by the Civil Court at Mayo Hall, Bangalore. We fell asleep in sheer fatigue in each other’s arms. Unni was an early riser and I am at my best late nights. The very next morning, he physically dragged me out of bed insisting that I brush my teeth. I burst into tears at being forced in that undignified manner. I don’t know where that girl who threatened her bosses vanished overnight.
I tried to be the perfect wife
I was to stay home until I found myself a new job. So I would wait for hubby to return, greet him with a cup of tea and a smile and he would not reciprocate my smile.
I thought he was a naturally reticent person and his only mode of communication was sex. He would, however, help me in cooking and frequently chide me for my poor skills in this field.
Later I learned to cook from my ma-in-law. But even at this stage of our marriage, he wasn’t yet abusive. Our relationship was somewhat healthy.
I didn’t have demands but he had
He had quickly found a gang of friends with families and they would visit frequently. I would cook for 10 adults and an equal number of kids using the traditional stone for grinding masala. Everyone else had mixer-grinders. I thought since he was just starting to earn money at his printing press I should contribute by “adjusting”.
I was a very non-demanding, low maintenance wife. I also, always, agreed to his sexual demands, which was sometimes 3 times a day. Thank god I had a libido to match. This, however, changed after the kids arrived one after the other.
He threatened to throw me out
He loved our daughter and carried her everywhere, fed her and put her to bed with great care.
But one day he came back very drunk, and picked her up and threatened to leave me at 2 am. He accused me of having affairs because I was refusing sex.
I was petrified but I retorted. I swore I would have 4 kids. Let’s see how many of his kids he could take away from me. I didn’t know then this was an emotionally abusive relationship I was in. I had no idea this was what you call an unhealthy relationship. So here is the account of a woman who survived an emotionally abusive marriage without even knowing she was in one.
I was pregnant again
When I told him I was pregnant again, he said I should abort or find a way to look after the second child myself. I was perplexed. After my son was born, his friend confided that he thought the baby was not his. I showed him the charts from the hospital stating that the child had the same blood type as his father, B negative.
Then came to the playschool and school admissions and he would not contribute to the expenses. So I sold my gold and diamonds. He claimed they needed to have a government school education. I disagreed.
He became an addict
He became an alcoholic, workaholic and was also kept smoking weed. I still did not think anything was wrong. I was willing to give him the space he needed. He was already making Rs 2 lakhs per month and this was nearly 21 years ago. I once asked him money to buy a packet of sanitary towels and he refused.
Whenever we visited his friends he would publicly humiliate me and strangely they would laugh at me too. I was told I was a lazy wife and I did not look after the kids well, never fed them enough and when my baby son fell ill from lactose intolerance at the age of 4 months he claimed that my breast milk was toxic.
Even then I did not think there was something wrong. I just felt it was the alcohol talking. But the emotional abuse had already started scarring me.
Then the physical abuse started
He started hitting me for silly reasons and refused to take me to a dentist after he punched me and I had broken teeth. That was the first time I suspected that the problem was deeper than I was realizing. After losing 2 teeth and suffering an infected jaw, I addressed the situation as I saw it. I suggested we go to Nimhans for treating my depression and frequent migraines. I wanted him to see a psychiatrist too. He saw through it and refused to go.
I finally stood up
The last straw was on a Sunday morning; he looked particularly anxious as if he was waiting for some important news, so I insisted he talk to me about it. He ignored my requests by turning up the volume of the television. So I turned the TV off. He pulled himself off the divan and attacked.
I have no idea how I managed to defend myself because not a single blow landed on me. He was so infuriated that he couldn’t hit me he ran into the kitchen, grabbed the large hatchet that we used for coconuts, muttering that he would end it all then and there.
In a split second, I locked myself in the bedroom, latched it from inside and heard him strike on the door. I was so terrified that I wet myself.
He committed suicide that night, March 3, 1996.
It was only in the last year of anguished strife that I recognized I was being abused emotionally, financially and then physically. After being in an abusive relationship and not realizing for years that it was one, I understand today why women find it so hard to just leave. Now I tell all my students and children, never to accept any controlling behavior and of course not to tolerate any kind of violence.