(As told to Barnali Roy)
Names changed to protect identities
I have finally found a way to get Sunil to listen to me!
He doesn’t pay attention to me when I confide in him, share something, or when I vent my grouses. His TV match or mobile updates grab more attention from him than I do. I want a response, some response. He turns a deaf ear, simply ignoring me as if I don’t exist. I was sick of being ignored like that. This had been going on too long. When I accused him of not paying attention, he just clammed up in response.
Am I a piece of furniture? Whom do I talk to about my emotions or my needs? Isn’t he supposed to be a companion, a partner? I just can’t shatter the wall he has built around him.
Related reading: 50 first dates and counting…
In the company of friends and relatives he is very social. But only I know how painful it is to get him to either listen attentively to me, or say something meaningful in response.
It’s even worse during our arguments and fights. After hurling some accusation, he just shuts up, refusing to hear my side of the story. I go on explaining or justifying myself, but it is like speaking to a wall. Last time he just walked away and switched on the television in the other room!
Anyone who hears me shouting will think that I am making his life hell with my unreasonable ranting.
Last week, I just couldn’t take it anymore. We were getting ready to go out.
He remarked that my dress was shouting out loud to grab attention. I was shocked. He had gifted it to me a year back. I told him this, but by then his wall had come up. He just went silent and told me to hurry up.
How could he say something like that and expect me not to react? I asked him what exactly he had meant by that remark. He said absently that it was a light-hearted comment. I react too much, he mumbled. That just blew my lid.
“Are you jealous when people give me compliments? Can’t you handle having a beautiful wife?” I lashed out.
No response. I was simmering within. I wanted him to say something, at least say sorry or regret that remark. But he kept quiet, burying his face in his goddamned tablet.
That’s when I could take it no more.
“I know what your problem is,” I taunted, “Basically you have a huge inferiority complex. Everywhere I get more attention than you, and you can’t take that. You should have married a similar non-entity or loser like you, not someone articulate and good-looking like me. I don’t know how my parents approved your proposal. They have just pushed me into a living hell.” The words just spilled out.
I could see that he was shocked. Not used to such remarks from me, he looked at me for a few seconds.
“You just pretend to be modern and open minded. Actually your narrow-mindedness shows through now and then. But what to do? You have been brought up that way, so perhaps it is not your fault. The damage is too deep to undo.”
Silence, but I had his complete attention.
React at least now, I said in my mind. Or perhaps I had gone too far.
I was regretting my last words, when he said in a low voice, “So you feel like that? My parents have not taught me to respect women? You’re dragging my parents into this! And I am jealous of you? After three years of marriage, you tell me that you regret marrying me? This was in your subconscious all along, was it? I should have realised when you had said it jokingly earlier.”
‘‘You have been irresponsible and selfish, leaving me to take care of the house whenever you went for your outings. When my parents were visiting last time, you didn’t think twice about leaving them alone at home to go have a good time with your friends. How many times have I taken care of things when you messed them up? And now you are saying this nonsense? You are not worthy of me, understand?”
His voice had slowly risen. I was surprised that he had raked up incidents from the past to accuse me. I stared at him in anger. The next moment, however, he tried to use his usual tactic, which was to walk away from the scene. But I was not in a mood to let him go after accusing me.
I was unstoppable now. Bristling with wounded pride, I wanted to avenge myself.
“Oh yeah?” I mocked. “’So the polite, genteel Sunil is showing his real colours! But maybe it’s not really your fault. Blame it on your upbringing!”
Shell-shocked, he yelled at me for the first time in three years. “Stop insulting my parents, you uncultured woman! If you can’t respect them, at least leave them alone.”
Anger and humiliation raged within me and fuelled me to go on. “’And what about the times when my parents come over? You are never back from office in time to meet them! The sincere, good-boy son-in-law always plays truant when his in-laws visit, doesn’t he?”
I was determined to thrash all issues with him today. So what if I was hurting him, and myself too?
“Shut up, just shut up!” He left the room and banged the door.
Though I was fuming, I realised later that he had reacted at last. He was really hurt, I could see. I had never said all this before, particularly the personal attacks. But at least he had listened to me with his full attention. He had not got up and switched on the TV or looked at his mobile screen. I had managed to shake him out of his apathy. If this is what I have to do to get his attention, fine, I will do it…