As told to Tanya Matthews
I was 19 when I got married. It was the 1980s and, as was the custom then, I met my husband for the first time at our engagement ceremony. All my friends envied my impending marriage. I never imagined I’d soon be cursing my luck and asking myself “how to leave an abusive relationship with no money?”
I was marrying into a rich family from a posh part of the country. Hailing from a small town in the suburbs, going to a big city was a dream come true. I was ecstatic. I moved into a huge flat with our joint family, consisting of my in-laws, five of my husband’s sisters, and of course, my husband.
Going into it, I was scared and excited. I was starting a new life with my husband, and the thought of living in a big city at the time seemed like I had won the lottery. I was making up scenarios in my head of what life would be like, how we’d go on vacations and how much we’d love each other. But I never thought that a few weeks into my marriage, I’d be realizing my husband is mentally unstable.
How I Was Abused In My Relationship
During my wedding and all the ceremonies, I never thought I’d be thinking “how to leave an abusive relationship with no money?” months into my marriage. It seemed as though, as soon as I stepped into their house as my husband’s wife, the abuse began.
Cook for ten people, clean the house, clean up after the dog. I lost myself in all the commotion but I never refused any work and went out of my way to help out. I once asked one of my sisters-in-law for a hairdryer for which I was yelled at the whole day. “How dare a village girl ask for my hairdryer??! Have you ever seen one before?” My husband stayed silent all throughout.
Then my in-laws started to emotionally abuse me every day, every hour. From abusing my parents to breaking my confidence – telling me I was a burden, I wasn’t good enough, telling me I didn’t have class or sophistication.
When so many people constantly keep breaking your confidence, telling you you’re worthless and not good enough, you start to question yourself. At that point, I was treated as though I was inferior to everyone in the house. They acted as if they have the power to do whatever they want to me. Since I was not earning, I had very little freedom. I had no choice but to listen to their abuse.
My brother-in-law even tried to slap me one day – until my father-in-law finally intervened. All the gifts and money we had received at our marriage were taken away. Even my wedding clothes. I developed post-wedding depression.
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I was baffled that my husband stayed quiet all throughout. He neither had a job nor did he have any other income. We were dependent on my ‘rich’ in-laws. I called my parents to ask for support, but they asked me to work it out and avoided me.
When I realized my husband is mentally unstable
My husband started to display odd characteristics. He would randomly start shouting at weird things. He would argue about why we can’t place the pressure cooker in the hall instead of the kitchen. He would fight with all the neighbors and run in the streets shouting and abusing people. I saw his mother administering medicines to him in secret.
I then realized why such a big family came to a small suburban town to find a girl to marry their son. I was heavily pregnant by the time I realized this. My husband suffered from severe schizophrenia.
I cried for days and months. I didn’t know what to do. I’d grown to love my husband but I also hated him for lying to me. I couldn’t leave him either. I had nowhere to go. Stuck in an abusive relationship, I kept thinking about how do I leave a relationship with no money. I could not figure out how to deal with my abusive in-laws.
He was a good man but his sudden bouts of madness made me miserable, always shamed me in front of others. In 1980, the world was not kind to its mentally disabled. My husband was abused and even hit for his illness by people around him.
I felt sympathetic for my husband, as he was suffering from his own mental issues and his family wasn’t too kind to him either. I realized the problem here lay with the abusive family I was living with, not with my husband. I had been lied to under the pretext of marrying and getting to live in a big city. I was not told how my husband is mentally unstable. I couldn’t figure out how to leave an abusive relationship with no money.
How To Leave An Abusive Relationship With No Money
I felt as though I couldn’t find an answer to how to leave a relationship when you have no money. I was a small-town girl in a big city. I did not know anybody there except my abusive in-laws. This is when I turned religious. I started praying to God to help me. I prayed to God to show me how to leave an abusive relationship with no money.
While this may sound cliched, each day started getting easier than the one before. Eventually, I lost my fear – fear for my child on the way, fear of my in-laws, fear of my husband’s illness, fear of no financial security. The worst had already happened. It couldn’t get worse. With a 5-month pregnant belly, I interviewed for a teaching job in a city nearby and got it.
I was worried I wouldn’t have financial freedom if I continued to stay in this house. So, I took charge of the situation and decided that we would be better on our own. I decided to face the world on my own terms.
Taking charge of my own life and leaving my abusive relationship behind
With a heavily pregnant belly, a mentally challenged husband, and 5 dollars in my pocket, I got on a train to a nearby city, towards freedom! Since I loved my husband so I decided to take him with me. I had a job in a small private preschool. Managing small children while I had one on the way was quite the challenge but the work helped build my confidence.
It made me feel like I mattered and was important. I was so happy that I was educated because my degrees were my saving grace.
In the beginning, getting out of an abusive relationship with no money seemed like an impossible task. But I took the leap of faith and decided to give the interview for the teaching job without telling anyone.
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Our family friends gave us a room in their servants’ quarters. It was small and dingy. But it was home and I was happy. Before I knew it, my baby was born. My husband helped me out a lot when the baby came. It was his biggest virtue. He looked after the baby, cooked, cleaned, and managed the house while I worked. At that time, being a stay-at-home dad wasn’t the most conventional thing, but it worked for us. The city was new, the language was different, the weather amazing — it was ideal for a new start. And that’s what we got.
I’ve been married for 32 years now and have two beautiful children – an engineer and a doctor. My husband is much better, though not fully healed. I’ve taught hundreds of children and helped build the future of our country. What more could I ask for?
Sometimes I wonder, why did such things happen to me? Why did I have to go through leaving an abusive relationship with no money? Why couldn’t I have had a normal life with a loving husband and normal in-laws? But, as they say, gold must tolerate the heat of the furnace to shine brighter.
I’ve learned that young girls today face trying and difficult challenges. But I would urge them to get to know themselves, build their intelligence, careers, and character. Nobody can exploit a strong and confident girl. I urge all mothers to build their daughters to be independent and strong so that they can help themselves when no one else helps them. Life can be unpredictable, prepare for the worst and hope for the best!
If you are in danger of being emotionally and physically abused in your relationship and are fearing for your safety, you must contact the domestic violence hotline immediately.
Most countries now have local domestic violence hotline numbers set up which will help you leave your abusive relationship, ensure your safety and help you get back on your feet.
You could also call the police, take legal action or just start with getting yourself out of the location you feel threatened in.
If you have found out your spouse is mentally ill and you wish to support them, contact the relevant psychiatrists and consult them for future treatment. Help your partner get the treatment they need so they can start healing.
If your spouse refuses to take any help, you must set clear boundaries and you should also seek treatment for yourself. Through therapy, you will learn how to deal with a mentally unstable spouse who is unwilling to accept help.