Time and again, some ‘kanda’ (incident) brews up on Nepali social media. This week, someone with a pseudonym wrote a long post on Facebook about her abusive relationship. The post was full of heart-wrenching incidents she suffered in the past one year. There was a back and forth response from both the involved parties.
The accused man accepted that the allegations were true to an extent, but he then blamed the woman for provoking him. Surprisingly and not so surprisingly, the whole community started offering their own verdict on the case. One common statement from male members who were judging the woman, “Why now?” or, “Why was she still in the relationship even after the first incident?”
This is a straight case of domestic violence where this woman was tortured, both physically and emotionally. Which made me think, why exactly do women stay in toxic relationships or abusive marriages? What could convince them psychologically and emotionally to be with a partner who constantly makes her life miserable?
When I asked a divorcee friend about this, referencing her abusive failed marriage, she said that as her father was extremely toxic, there was no male role model in her life. When she met this guy who claimed to love her, she thought she would never get someone better. And even when things went wrong, she constantly blamed herself for being a difficult person and for everything that was happening.
Another reason she cited concerned children. Women are the nurturing gender and often, they feel that if the parents get divorced, the kid/s will suffer because of the shuffling between parents. They fear another parent’s absence might destroy the kid psychologically in the long run. They also consider the traumatization the kid/s have to go through living in this society where divorce/separation are still frowned upon.
When I asked the same question of other friends, they also pointed to the issue of financial dependence. Even in urban cities, many Nepali women decide to be homemakers and are financially dependent on their male counterparts. On the other hand, even if they are working, most of the time, the man is a bigger financial contributor to the family. This is how the society is shaped. Stepping out of that zone can be scary for women. So they compromise and stay in the marriage or relationship.
Another major factor we cannot ignore is how our societal beliefs are constructed. People not only look down on women who come out of a bad marriage but also on women who have a series of bad relationships. In this fear even the victims’ families convince them to stay and compromise. The family plays a vital role in the decision making of the women--to be or not to be in the toxic relationship. When families pull out from helping, the woman gets little or no support to make a decision.
In an informal gathering at a friend’s place, one guest who was in a toxic relationship very light-heartedly said to a group of her friends, “You know girls why I don’t want to quit this relationship? Because I have already invested seven years training him to be with me. Now I don’t have the energy to train another man. In the end, they are all the same”.
Other guests were teasing and laughing but I couldn’t find any humor in it. Instead I found an exhausted individual who had given up on living. There might be many women who might relate to this story. Maybe you have a friend who is going through something similar or you could be that one.
Interestingly, often, the male partners are very convincing. They vow not to repeat their mistake and to make things better. The reasons mentioned above play the devil’s advocate and as a safety measure, women decide to give it one more shot, and yet another… until they end up with severe depression.
Regardless of how many excuses and reasons we discuss, physical violence of any sort is unacceptable. And after that when a person musters the courage to come out of the toxicity, asking questions and giving unsolicited advice to go to the court and take legal action doesn’t make you a messiah.
Sometimes they are so mind-screwed due to trauma and depression, the decision they take might be extreme or inconsistent: from expressing rage on social media and again deleting it due to peer and family pressure to self-harming. It is high time we stop questioning the victim: “why?”, “why now?”, or “why didn’t you?”. The burden is already too much for them to take. If we cannot help, it is better to just keep quiet. Silence is also a response and in this case, a better one rather than needlessly butting in and making things worse.
The writer is a businessperson by profession, prefers to be called connoisseur of DIY and recycle, and is mother to a golden retriever named Ba:la Princess