Will Marrying the Abuser Make Things Better?

Reader’s Question

First of all, I’d like you to know that I have always been a student of psychology and have immense faith in counselling and therapy. I don’t find it embarrassing to ask for help because not all of us are equally equipped to tackle life and its challenges. Some people may see this as weakness but I do not. So, I’m asking with the faith that help is really available.

I am from India, and a lot of my problems have to do with certain aspects of our culture. I am my parents’ second child. My sister is 4 years older than me and got married 6 months earlier. I was only an average student so my parents used to scold me a lot and compare me unfavorably to other kids. This made me quite angry and I eventually became a rather aggressive child. On the other hand, my sister was always calm and quiet so everyone liked her better. As we grew up, things changed: I became the quiet and calm one while she started doing what she wanted, including lying and trying to have her way with everything. She had several love affairs with complete losers and would throw fits, but my parents remained lenient with her. She is now married for some of the wrong reasons but at least her husband is a sensible guy compared to the others.

Getting back to me, ever since the age of 15 I’ve made my own decisions, especially about academics. Initially my parents were angry with me for shunning science and thought that my career interests would bring shame on the family. But now that I have my MBA, they are proud of me. When I was in college I fell head over heals in love with a guy and even though he was honest about his problems like his temper, I told him he didn’t have to change. I was not the first girl in his life but he was the first boy in mine. After dating 2 months, he told his parents that I am one that he wants to marry and he is working hard now to earn enough to give us a decent future.

My problem is that this boy definitely has a dark side. As I said, I have always been independent, but he always wants to have things his way; if I object, he threatens to leave me. He’s always criticizing me and telling me what to do. He’ll say don’t go here, don’t do this, or that I am a liar, or I don’t know how to talk to people, I can’t do anything right, and it’s a pain being with me. He doesn’t just threaten to leave — he’s done it, too. He has gotten drunk and left me, not answered the phone for days, called me a bitch, slut, and even hit me. He compares me to his other girlfriends and says all kinds of rude, vulgar things that hurt me, but I end up wondering if they’re true. I’ve actually changed myself a lot to try and please him. My close friends don’t like what I have become. I can’t get these things he’s said to me out of my head, and they have made me lose the confidence and respect I once had for myself. It’s killing me.

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Now recently he’s been asking me to talk to my parents about the two of us getting married. Despite everything, I still love him and feel like I can’t live without him. I also feel like I have gone too far into this relationship to back out. He tells me his life would be perfect without me because he would get someone else, but I don’t feel like I can start a new life on my own. I have become so weak emotionally that I can’t stop crying.

I desperately need help. My parents love me and don’t want to see me hurt by this guy. I see their point I just want them to get me married to him so that I can get some peace, and maybe sleep without crying at least once. Please give me some advice. I need it desperately.

Psychologist’s Reply

It’s hard to say to what extent you truly were a more independent sort of person in your earlier years, because there’s a big difference between rebelliousness and true independence. In any case, you are certainly not sounding like a person in charge of your own life presently. From the things you report, it’s quite likely that the emotional trauma of being in an emotionally abusive situation as well as a fair amount of depression now have you in a position to doubt yourself considerably, to seek refuge in the arms of someone you view as more powerful, and to ignore the likely disastrous repercussions of subjecting yourself to ongoing abuse.

While generally speaking it’s difficult to give accurate advice to someone remotely, you give certain information that speaks for itself. You say that this person admitted his “temper” issues early on, but you were willing to take him as he is. You also say he threatens you when he doesn’t get his way; says demeaning, rude, and insulting things to you; and has even hit you. You report that he has boasted that he would be perfectly content to dump you for someone else if you don’t do his bidding. The likelihood, therefore, is not that you stay because you love him but because your self-image has been deeply damaged by his tactics. You show signs of succumbing to the Stockholm Syndrome, being emotionally battered, and becoming so depressed that you truly can’t think clearly or rationally at the moment. The only solution is to get as far away from the situation as you can and seek help and treatment from a trained professional so that you can start to think more clearly again and heal.

The problem you describe is not specific to your culture. Abuse is abuse, wherever it occurs. Abusers and their victims have common characteristics in all cultures.

The advice you need with respect to this relationship is simple, although it might be unwelcome and hard to follow. Marrying this guy will not bring you “peace.”

Get out, and do so now.

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