“I always wanted my mom to get out of her marriage. I still believe she shud have.”

Sharing an email.

Hi IHM

I follow your blog religiously, in fact it’s the one huge saucer from which i can quench my thirst of my deeply feminist sentiments. Everyday.

I am 25 years old, a doctor pursuing my MD. Apart from that, (coz i m quite bright!!), i have a lot of hobbies and am passionate about a lot of things. I dream about my future, opening a clinic, travelling the world, buying a car, helping the needy…….So…err….. what’s my problem…??

I don’t dream of a relationship….I never dream of marriage…

It’s not like I think of these as a ‘MUST HAVE’ in my life, or anybody else’s.. for that matter. but it’s only human and normal to want that. My problem is, I know that deep down i want that, but i shrink away from it, i block it out. and finally i have figured out why.

The most important reason is the dynamics i have seen at play while growing up, in the marriage that created me. My mom (a doctor) left her MD midway because my dad and his parents wanted her to ‘come and be their bahu’. My mom is a superlatively intelligent woman, soon after, she began her practice as an MBBS doctor in the tiny town we live in (as opposed to a big city she always lived in), and naturally, her kindness and brilliance paid off, her practice began flourishing.

My dad, on the other hand, became distracted with politics and other stuff, even with an MD, his wife earned more, became more popular. He being a typical Indian Male chauvinist could not absorb this, and so began the endless emotional abuse that haunts me even today.

He’d pick a fight without any reason with mom. he’d taunt her with ‘bahut kamati ho, iska matlab ye nahi mujhe daba sakti ho. mujhe jahan jaana hai, jo karna hai, karoonga, samjhi’. He’d yell at her if she asked why he was so late to dinner. he’d spend the entire day outside and expect her to not ask where he was. he’d yell saying how atrocious the food was and what a bad cook she was. he screamed if she asked for groceries for home, medicines and stuff for clinic, saying there was no money for ‘all this stuff’. He kept all the money she earned and gave her monthly pocket money. if we went out shopping and my mom forgot her mobile or purse, he’d scream at her and her irresponsibility, of course, it was perfectly ok for him to have forgotten any damn thing. when he entered the house, there was a silence of apprehension, of an upcoming war, yet again. When he was out, I would cry, only because my mom was being hurt everyday.

She could not go out when she wanted to. Her social circle shrank every day because of him. She could hardly ever visit her own parents. he’d roam all over the place, but she had to ‘see patients and earn money and look after the house’. Her 25th college re-union happened. She really really wanted to go and all uncles and aunts requested my dad to come with her. But HE was adamant, and SHE COULD NOT go.

He never cared about her happiness. He wanted her to find all happiness in him. He hated seeing her happy with her own family, friends or colleagues. he had a short temper, a sharp tongue, and a way with taunts. and of course, he had the moral police attitude. TYPICAL.

It tore my heart to see my mom. It was good I studied in a boarding school and college. That put me off-scene, but it was worse to imagine her alone with him. She could have been anything she wanted, she could have had it all. She is the kindest, nicest, most amazing and brilliant person. not just me, a lot of people around her confer to that.

In the past few years, things at home have gotten better. Much better. but that cannot make up for all those horrible years of torture. I always wanted my mom to get out of her marriage. I still believe she shud have. but, as we know, getting out is never really an option for the ‘married Indian woman’. Stupid, mean, cruel world.

Anyway, it’s evident now why I don’t fancy marriage very much. What I saw, what I went through, it twisted something inside me, it probably broke something within me. I am actually quite an open-hearted, happy, warm person. Just like my mom. she has survived all of this because of her amazing strength. SO HAVE I. But along with inheriting that, I’m afraid i have also inherited a little cowardly and (forgive my use of the word) doormat-ish attitude. sometimes I m extremely accommodating, eager-to-please and a bit of a pushover. I know my weaknesses, and work on them.

But I’ve never mustered the courage to think of having a relationship, let alone get married. I’ve built a hard stone wall around me. I WILL NEVER GO THROUGH WHAT MY MOM DID. I know of a lot of great, equal relationships and marriages. I know a lot (or atleast a few) men out there will be progressive, romantic and nice. I know I can find a good guy. Problem is, I m too afraid to attempt to even look for one. It’s always like ‘what if he turns out to be a jerk?’, and that ‘WHAT IF’ chills me, stones me, denies me. It’s paranoia, and i know it. Inwardly I love romantic movies and books (am even writing one) but I am afraid of letting love, (paranoid it will be coupled with misogyny) into my life. Lest it ruins my freedom, my aspirations, my dreams, my identity, and ME.

I know i will have  all other forms of happiness and adventure in my life. WILL I HAVE THIS TOO? I know it’s my own battle, and only I can fight it, and hopefully one day, win it.

Sorry for the LOOOOOONG mail.

Cheers for all the good work,

My mother’s daughter.

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“I have so much to tell about this one man who is “almost” a representation of every Indian middle-class husband.”

An email: “My in laws want me to stay here with them while my husband works in another city.”

Sixty. And nowhere to go.

52 thoughts on ““I always wanted my mom to get out of her marriage. I still believe she shud have.”

  1. All I can says is: Hugs. I hope you can find a way to get back that warm and open-hearted girl. Not that marriage is mandatory, but the back-story for why you don’t want it is just so sad.

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  2. This mail is enough evidence of what abuse can do to families and people, even the educated and empowered ones. It is an unequal world and equal Indian marriages are very few, but Hey email writer I would say never say never, nit that you can’t have a fulfilling life without a marriage. Of course you can, but if you ever find a man who is better than the majority do not shy away due to the what ifs. strength to you !!

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    • I want to suggest that ‘equality’ is the incorrect term. Good marriages are really about good understanding and sharing of work rather than being equal

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      • @Niketan ,I think calling a marriage ‘equal’ indicates that both husband and wife are equally valued and respected- equal in that sense, as opposed to the literal meaning that everything is done and dealt with ‘half-half’.

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      • Why dislikes to this? Why does it matter what the split of work is, as long as the couple is happy? On the regular day, I do more than my wife.

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        • I get what you mean. But like I said, the usage of the term ‘equal’ means that work is divided in such a way that is fair and respectful to both. In reality that is different to different people.

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      • All good relationships need equality – no one should feel or be made to feel unequal. Understanding, sharing of work etc., are all part of it. But the underlying basis of a good relationship IS equality between the partners.

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        • Sure, who defines equality though? It’s essentially the couple. I see nothing wrong in families where the woman does all the household work and the man does the ‘go to office’ routine as long as the couple is happy with it. It’s worked with my parents and they are as happy a couple as you can find!

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  3. Awww. Hugs, LW. I’m sure others will have some good advice for you. All I can say is, relax, open yourself up to the possibilities. At your own pace. Go out and about and meet people without thinking about the future. You might end up enjoying someone’s company. Let it be just that for some time. Maybe a couple of years. If you begin to see a possibility of that person being compatible enough, then start thinking more seriously on that relationship. You’ll do well for yourself, professionally and personally. Don’t let these thoughts fester, let them out more, like you did now. You’ll be fine, you’ll meet someone and fall in love someday, and find someone who values you and lets you be yourself.🙂

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  4. @LW–I’d say do not focus so much on being in a relationship. If it happens organically, then great. If not, I’d say leave it alone. You’re young and on your way to being financially independent–focus on your interests, school, friends etc.

    You are not your mother–you will not end up in the same place that she did. If’/when you do get into a relationship then I’d say draw out clear non-negotiables (and let your partner know as soon as the relationship gets serious), have a support system of friends and family members, and always, always be financially independent. That way, you’ll always have a safety net should you need it.

    Also, relationships don’t just happen. It takes time to date someone, get to know them, decide whether you’re compatible and then maybe you can say that you’re in a serious relationship. My personal advice would be: don’t get too close to the person you’re dating (emotionally, that is) too soon, let it take time (and by time I mean at least a year). A lot of people will disagree with that but that’s how I would play it.

    About your dad–you say that your parents are in a much better place now. Has your dad changed as a person? Does he realize what he did was very wrong? If so, would you be willing to forgive him? If your dad can meet you half way, then forgiving him might also help you with your relationship issues. I’ll give you my parents as an example. My mom and dad had an arranged marriage. There was a shortage of dudes from the same caste/ same-ish background so they chose my dad. My mom had been raised to believe that her job in life is to be married, bake cakes and cookies, set tables perfectly for dinner, read and embroider in her free time etc, etc you get the idea. Unfortunately for her, my dad’s family happened to be a loud, non-english speaking family that ate with their hands of all things and had no clue who P G Wodehouse or Jane Austen were.

    My mom, till I was about 13, would have these depressive tantrums at least once a week where she’d sit in a dark room and cry for hours because of how horrible her life had become. Imagine being six, seven, eight, nine and knowing that if you came home from school and didn’t find snacks on the table, your mother would be depressed for hours, if not a few days. My mom was great otherwise–but this still really messed with my head for a long time. It took me more than a decade to realize how angry I was with her and that I should let that anger go and accept her for her flaws and the fact that she was socially conditioned to be that helpless by my grandparents and society in general.

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    • Kay – i agree with your comment, except for this part “Unfortunately for her, my dad’s family happened to be a loud, non-english speaking family that ate with their hands of all things and had no clue who P G Wodehouse or Jane Austen were”. Eating with hands or not not knowing PG Wodehouse and Jane Austen is not a bad thing, per se- hope you understand that.

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      • @Sharmi–I agree. But my dad and his family (they lived in a joint family for a few years after getting married) would probably have been the last people on earth my mom would have said ‘yes’ to, if the circumstances were different. That got her depressed for a very long time. As a kid, the last thing you want to hear is ‘you’re the only good thing that happened to me in this marriage.’ For the longest time, I was really mad at both of them for getting married to each other.

        They’re doing great now–I think moving to the US gave them a chance to see each other in a whole different light.

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      • Sharmi, I get where you are coming from–eating with hands or not knowing PGW and Jane Austen is not such a terrible thing at all– but I feel Kay meant to say that her dad just wasn’t the kind of man her mom would have chosen for herself. We’re all entitled to our choices.

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  5. I hear you and I hear you loud. Been there.
    I was very scared of getting married too for the same reasons as you. I wasnt looking. My eyes were all set on establishing my carerr. But the right person came along and something just clicked. I got married after 4 years of dating and knowing him and his family in and out. It was extremely important for me to know how his family treated their women…esp the bahus….and what attitude bahus had towards their inlaws.
    He isnt Mr. Perfect but he is not like my Dad. That is all that mattered to me then. There are times when I submit myself to the doormatish attitude, then there are other times I gather all the courage I can to become visible. I somehow learned to maintain that balance in marriage. I choose my battles.
    All my life I have empowered my mother, encouraged her, taught her to be independent, the things my dad should have actually done. He stripped off her confidence little by little and caused her a lot of pain. I resent my dad for what he and his family have put my mother through to this day. I donot really trust him in caring for her so I need to visit her often for assurance.
    For sometime after marriage, happiness made me feel wierd and rather gulity because I knew my mom was out there suffering…deep down I wished that she had got to experience bliss in a relationship. Then I began to realize that she found happiness in my happiness and also was proud to have a daughter like me and a son-inlaw like my husband. It gave her a unique sense of confidence. I became her accomplishment.
    My mother has now grown stronger because of her support system. She has friends and she has a friend in me. She has finally started working as a teacher (she never worked all her life). I confront my dad each time he is unreasonable to her. A lot has changed in my dad since I got married….he is somehow learning things by looking at my husband and the way he treats me. Dad is very conscious of his image in my husband’s eyes.

    All in all, I just want to assure you that things wont be as bad as you think. You will meet the right person. You should certainly do your investigation….and dont compromise when it comes to selecting a husband. It is afterall, a matter of your entire life.

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    • This reply really resonated with me.

      My dad has always been supportive of my mother and her career- completely and totally, but I think she’s always felt let down on the home front .He never helped with cooking and cleaning , despite her also having a full time job. Yeah there was hired help, but she was one of those women who woke up at 5 am to cook two meals before rushing to work.
      She never expresses it, but there’s a note of resentment that exists between them.

      My mother (like many other Indian mothers I’m sure) turns to her grown-up kids for solace,encouragement, and general opening-up and confiding. I do feel like the surrogate spouse on many occasions, but I don’t mind it.
      And yeah, she is genuinely surprised and happy at the attitudes of the young men she now knows- the husbands of her daughter and nieces.

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    • hi…thanx 4 ur long reply….congrats on da nice hubby….it’s so true … my mom finds happiness in my happiness too..now she’s active on fb making lots of frenz n catching up wid old ones…she’s in a much better place now

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  6. I feel your pain…or rather, fright. Been there, done that. I do not come from a conventionally normal family myself. My parents are great as individual people, but horribly incompatible as a couple. They started living separately when I was 11, but stayed legally married “for my sake” as society told them to. It took another decade, most of which of I stayed with my mother and some of it with my father, for me to grow up and think of the world from their shoes. Took the task of persuading them to divorce and find happiness the way they see it. It took a lot of effort, but now they are happily (re)married to their respective spouses. The way I see it, I have four parents and two homes….

    However the traumatic experience was enough to put me off the whole thought of marriage. Every guy I met, I would think omg, what if he eventually turns out to be wrong one for me and I get stuck in an unhappy marriage? And it would go phut! I had major trust issues with men. As friends it was ok, but moving beyond that was painful becoz of my paranoia.
    So I left the thought of marriage/relationships until I was ready to face it. Let no one force it down your throat. I went abroad to finish my studies. Made friends, travelled to new places. Started working. Pursued hobbies. Built a small world of my own. And eventually when I realised that I wanted to settle down, that’s when I faced the thought of marriage.

    That’s what I’d advise you too. Give yourself time to heal. Go slow. You have been through enough already. Concentrate on your own life. Let your life grow…move ahead. Eventually… you will figure out what works for you.
    Yes you know it’s your own battle, and only you can fight it. And yes you most certainly will win it one day. Be patient. And be open to the world. And be gentle on yourself while you are at it.
    You’ll be fine sweetheart🙂
    .

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  7. My advise

    Dont be afraid of meeting guys. Every guy is not crap.
    Dont lose foucs on your studies/career
    Be trusting but not careless about the guy you might meet
    Take things at your pace. No need to rush.
    Ask questions. And listen to what he says. And infer from it
    Dont go with biased attitude but open mind
    Relax, enjoy dont make hard choices too soo

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  8. This is really sad. Not just your own psychological problems, but how your mother’s life was ruined. I wish she had the courage to leave and make a good life for herself.

    Have you considered therapy? You are facing some major problems that are due to constant abuse during your childhood. This needs professional help. Please try and find some good psychologist to discuss your case. With a little help, you will feel a lot more confident and positive.

    As for a relationship, you will know when the right person comes along. Just make friends, enjoy life and meet people. Even if you make a mistake in choosing your partner, you know you can walk out. That is the difference between you and your mother. No one can abuse you without your consent. And if you don’t find anyone, single life is great too.

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    • Completely agree with Fem. Professional therapy would really help you. I find it very sad how much therapy is considered as a taboo in India. Hell, people even ridicule and mock at those who seek therapy, making it sound as though everyone who seeks it is clinically insane. What hurts me more is so many therapists in India are patriarchs themselves and ask the victim to ‘adjust’. Have seen this personally happen as my family is predominated with doctors.

      So do please ensure you find a decent therapist through some research before. Because a bad one can inflict more pain than treating it.

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  9. Maybe some counseling can help you deal with your childhood trauma. Most of your friends may tell you to put it all behind you and move on (well intentioned advice of course), but it may not work.

    Sometimes we have to look the past in the eye and understand it better. Many children unconsciously blame themselves when they watch abuse. They may feel frustrated that they are unable to help the victim. They may not know that, as children, it is not in their power to help. They may be ridden with guilt. Sometimes, even when we become adults, we continue to process childhood trauma through the eyes of a child. We still experience the same feelings of helplessness because that is how our brain recorded it and we replay the same recordings. The voices are louder, the people are bigger, every conflict seems more frightening through a child’s eyes.

    If you can find a good counselor, he/she can help you untangle these feelings, and help you re-view the trauma through adult-vision – then you will feel more in control, more objective about the whole situation, you will be able to acknowledge what happened without being pulled into it, and hopefully free yourself from the past.
    Hugs and all the best!

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  10. Please find a good counselor and undergo some therapy. It will definitely help. And as for relationship, let it happen at its own course … Please concentrate on other things in your life and seek pleasure in what you do..

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  11. I’ve been thru similar family equations and 1 promise I made to myself before I got married – that if it didn’t work out – I’ll call it quits. Won’t stay married for the sake of it. Wasn’t averse to doing it….a lot of ppl are….separation isn’t an option for them. Because of the mental boundries that they’ve set for themselves.

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  12. Dear Mother’s Daughter, the fact that you are speculating/wondering/pondering the absence/need/relevance of an intimate relationship indicates that you know being your mom’s daughter is not enough. Do you think becoming your own woman to be such a bad idea? Would you at least like to try? Hypothetically, if a close friend of yours were going through what your mom put up with, what would you advise her? (I’m guessing it’d be the same as you always wanted your mom to separate) What would you say if she let herself hurt and bleed instead and stay on? Isn’t it her personal business? Yes we all have parents and parents are people and they are not perfect. But, we always have a choice. It’s a tough one but it’s there. At least a lot more so for intelligent, educated women of means that your mom was. It’s a choice she made to put up with an abusive spouse. Not all men are like that and I daresay things would have improved had she challenged him at the very beginning (I am not talking through my hat. I have known such characters at close quarters). I won’t call these men passive but they certainly are products of the same assembly line as women who think that once married, they must put up with whatever they encounter. Intelligence, professional accomplishments are one thing. Having the inner strength, the courage, the vision and foresight to handle abuse the way it ought to be is quite another. Most of us don’t learn this. So, essentially, the question is, do you want to live in your mother’s past or do you want to make your own present as you go along? Trials and tribulations are a part of life but even then, it pays to face OUR OWN trials and tribulations and not ponder over those of others’. Even when those others happen to be our very own parents. If an intimate relationship doesn’t appeal to you, well be it. COncentrate on your career, your dreams. But to avoid one out of fear, how mature would that be! Think of how you might be limiting yourself. Who is to say you are not repeating your parents’ mistakes – mother AND father. Perhaps the mother was scared of losing her relationship/approval of family, etc and perhaps the father was scared of losing something else held dear by the ingrained system of patriarchy? You are neither of your parents. You are you. Live your life. Think your own thoughts. Make your own mistakes. As you will. We all do. TC!

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  13. Been there,done that,seen different versions,oh so many people around me – aunts,uncles,cousins. Dear LW, you are not alone.
    You are just 25, please take it slow.Enjoy being single thoroughly.
    You need to feel alright being with yourself first.Only then, can you think of being with somebody else.And as others here suggested, therapy definitely helps.
    All the best and beleive me you will have an wesome life. Good luck on your book. Would love to read it once it hits the stores.

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  14. I think your story is a clear example of what happens when a couple in abusive relationship stay together just for the sake of their children.Of course in India,especially during your Mom’s time the barrier to exit this relationship must have been too high. I feel your pain. I see such couples in my family whose unhappiness is transparent to everybody,yet they believe that they are hiding this from their friends and family.

    You seem to have worked out a really good life for yourself despite your rough childhood so you need to really feel proud of yourself for accomplishing that.To overcome your trust issues,you could talk to a trusted friend or a therapist.No reason for an amazing woman like you to let childhood issues hold you back!

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  15. My mom was having the same issue as the author of the letter. My grandpa, mother’s father never had success in career, he was living without any purpose in life, while my grandma was gem of woman. Hardworker, big helper for those who was in need and simply very kind person. Because of same reason my mom didn’t want to get married much until she met my dad. They had love marriage and are in marriage since then. She never regreted she choose my dad and she loves him even now, I can tell from how she looks at him and talks to him.

    I hope that sweet girl won’t get too much discouraged to get married. I’m sure she won’t repeat the destiny of her mother and meet opposite to her father. Usually it happens that way. ‘Girls search those who look like their fathers, but marry opposite’.

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  16. You need to realize that not all men are your dad. What happened was purely a function of your dad’s behavior. As long as you don’t look for relationships with your dad as a template, you should be fine. (It’s mighty easy to miss doing this though – and get caught in the same old cycle)

    I would suggest (although I’m no expert) that you just go out and try your hand at dating people. You’ll come to know what you like and dislike about relationships. You can always walk out if the guy turns out to have some of those attributes you didn’t like in your dad. Everybody has something that holds them back from putting themselves out there. So do you. It’s a process of making yourself a little vulnerable. To take the step is extremely courageous and I personally admire everyone who does that. Of course, you might fail at the first relationship, but once you get over the miserable feeling which haunts you for a while, you’ll see that it was a great learning experience.

    Your story reminds me of my dad. My dad’s behavior was eerily similar. The ramifications are evident even today in the personalities of me and my brother. We’re both horribly insecure, painfully introverted, and fear physical violence from any and all (we got beat up quite regularly by our dad). I didn’t know till I was two years into the workforce that some kids never had a finger laid on them all their lives! I feel you have it easier than me because you only fear the guy might turn out to be like your dad. But I feel I myself turn into my dad sometimes. Especially when I lose my temper. It’s scary, and I feel like shit afterward. I seriously did consider therapy but I’ve found striking out on my own (living by myself in a new country) and finding new friends, new education, jobs and hobbies has helped me discover myself. I personally found I can be funny too! I’m even auditioning with troupes that do improvisational theater now! I haven’t lost my temper violently for 3 years!

    So there is hope🙂

    Damn, this blog makes me go anonymous more often than I go “nymous”, if I may.

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    • May I add, you have a fantastic sense of humor. Clearly, your dad could not steal that away from you. Stay true to your personality!

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  17. You have to know your father’s treatment of your mother is not unique in Indian families. It is the norm. All of us brought up in similar circumstances can differentiate ourselves only by the severity of the emotional abuse inflicted upon the women in our families. We all suffer from post-traumatic stress; we have all had adverse childhood experiences (ACE). But it is rarely acknowledged. We are too busy patting ourselves on the back for being successful in our careers; we have to admit rigid, controlling parents will at least ensure their children don’t shirk school.

    Our experience within our family leaves permanent patterns for us to follow when interacting with others. It takes a lot of self-awareness and constant work to break those automatic and ingrained patterns. Even those who realize they were brought up sub-optimally will revert to familiar responses when under stress. I yell at my children when I’m fed up with them. I feel really bad right after, but THAT is how I was brought up, with constant criticism. It is a daily and uphill struggle for me to not berate them for every little flaw, because THAT is how I was brought up.
    My point is, your awareness of your doormat behavior is your strength. As long as you know you allow yourself to be trampled, you can make conscious efforts to respond with more confidence, even if it feels strained and artificial. It becomes easier with practice. You can definitely change yourself.

    But guess what you cannot change: the cultural imprint on men from Indian families. I knew this. So I made a decision before I was 10 that I would NEVER place myself under the control of a man from an Indian family. I had to turn my back on my culture, because my culture had no room for me. My emotional health is in MY hands, and I refused to jeopardize it for the sake of “upholding” or “living” my culture. I am married to an American and have a family. We have our own issues, as he was also brought up in a patriarchal culture, although the U.S. version is about two generations ahead of the Indian one. I did not have two generations of my own life to waste hoping I would strike it lucky with that mythical beast, the unicorn, the enlightened Indian man. I have uncles, cousins, classmates, any number of Indian troglodytes who affirm my decision to get out of this toxic culture.

    Don’t listen to people who say “give dating a chance.” Listen to yourself. NO-ONE knows you as well as you do. If your life happens to intersect with a person you can trust, pursue a relationship, with all the self-care you need to give yourself. Be as careful as you want; no one else will give that much of a damn about your life.

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    • “We have our own issues, as he was also brought up in a patriarchal culture, although the U.S. version is about two generations ahead of the Indian one.”

      Thank you SO much for bringing this up. I would wager that it’s not even two generations, but maybe one and half, but that’s simply semantics. Patriarchy exists in its own unique and nasty forms in all part of the globe, unfortunately. If it’s not in one disguise, it’s in something else.

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  18. Felt sad reading your mother’s story. Can imagine how painful it was and still is. Glad that things are better at your home now. Nowadays it’s not like the old days where divorce was hardly an option. If you feel you and your spouse are not compatible, you can end matters and move on. Marriage is not mandatory for happiness. Keep enjoying your life, if you meet a nice guy then you can think of settling down, otherwise, rock on!

    I think partly it’s the social pressure on men to be then man, earn more, etc that turns some of them into jerks. Patriarchy at work again- it has expectations and rules for both men and women, to err would mean being a failure/being judged. If a man decides to stay at home and raise kids, a lot of women will also mock him for living off his wife’s income, because a man is expected to work and provide. I think the whole setup/mindset should change and ease the pressure on both parties. Instead of requiring them to play certain roles and live up to set expectations, we should just let people be who they want to be. If they find someone who is fine with that, they can settle down if the choose to.

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  19. LW, I don’t blame you a second for being hesitant over marriage and a relationship. If I, a person who witnessed a largely beautiful marriage, can be hesitant over the whole idea, it’s only logical that you, a witness to such a horrible train wreck, would want to run as far as you can from even the mention of marriage. And let’s face it–men and society, by and large, do not make the whole concept of marriage very appealing to any woman who cares for her autonomy. After all, what on earth is there to be gained from a concept that, especially in our culture, romanticizes the singular notion that women are built for sacrifice, and that our happiness is worth nothing, and that we ourselves have no worth outside of the relationships we have?

    And someone like you especially, who witnessed such a train wreck of a relationship, shouldn’t just be hesitant, but flat out running in the other direction! In fact, I’d be worried for you if that WASN’T what you were doing. Thank goodness for the fact that you have a decent head on your shoulders, and that you recognized easily how wrong the dynamic between your parents was. I know many other men and women who think that this type of treatment in a marriage is normal. That, by and large, is much scarier to even consider.

    I don’t have much advice, except to say that I’m in a similar boat right now. I’m not averse to relationships, but it’s not easy to have to look at every gentlemen you might want to be with and ask yourself if they are truly people who acknowledge your humanity on ALL fronts, not simply the ones convenient to them. It’s exhausting, and it’s difficult, and it’s enough to make anyone want to believe that a long, happy marriage is something that simply won’t happen for them. I mean, we all know that it is statistically impossible that all men are like this. But that knowledge is not very reassuring, and of little use when you realize that every relationship you see, and every man you meet, contain elements of the extreme relationship you were subjected to witnessing. Not to the same degree of course, but the fragile ego, the insistence that women center their lives around them, the belittling, the tantrums when their every need isn’t catered to–these things can be found sometimes even in the most egalitarian men. However, the difference between the people who truly care for your humanity and autonomy, and the ones who don’t, lies in how much they evaluate themselves, their influences, and the way they see the world. The most egalitarian people, in my experience, are the ones who truly think about the reasons behind their fragile ego, who wonder about why they want their girlfriends and wives to have hot meals ready for them at the drop of a hat, who don’t react negatively when you point out their privilege but rather acknowledge that they have it and focus on how they can change these long held attitudes and perceptions. And thankfully, people who have critical thinking skills, who aren’t afraid to question the norm, are not few and far in between.

    So, LW, all I can say is keep your chin up.🙂 Don’t let anyone put down and dismiss you and your experiences (and believe me, a lot of people will). Don’t worry about whether or not you should “want” marriage. Marriage and being in a relationship are not things that you need to live a fulfilling life, and not wanting them doesn’t make you any less of a human being. And honestly, living without compromising your humanity is worth more than anything else in the world, so always hold true to that.

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    • Also, a lot of the advice seems to be focused on the idea that “all guys aren’t bad.”

      I’m not entirely sure how this piece of advice is helpful. Nobody is saying that all men are like this. LW certainly isn’t implying that all men are like her father and that she is avoiding marriage because everyone of a certain gender is bad. Her issue mainly seems to be with having to evaluate every man she wants to be in a relationship and ensuring that he does not exhibit the same qualities that her father does. It’s having to come to terms with the fact that as a woman, your autonomy WILL be attacked, and sustaining that autonomy is so very dependent on ensuring that you make the right decisions with regards to who you spend the rest of your life with. Imagine having to defend your freedom and humanity in every relationship you’re in, and at every turn. It’s exhausting.

      For the LW (and please, Mother’s Daughter, correct me if I’m wrong), avoiding relationship is a self-preservation tactic, because she has seen what happens if you make the wrong decision. And rather than telling her that “not all men are like this”, we should be examining why it is much safer and much easier in our society to simply not have a relationship with men at all.

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  20. I used to have a mindset growing up – if you got into a relationship, it was meant to last forever and end in marriage. This linearity, as I later found out, was all social conditioning. I feel that you too have this mindset. Turns out, it isn’t true. Exploring being in a relationship with a person doesn’t mean you have to marry them. So, It’s OK not to want to be in a relationship right now; it’s also OK if you want to date for a while; and it’s quite OK if you feel that the person you are dating is not for keeps. You are a doc, so you know your ovaries won’t shrivel up by 30! I really feel you will know when you want to be in a relationship and it has nothing to do with age. Don’t force it.

    When you live in a different country and culture, you realise how much of what you thought was “right” or “wrong” was just a outcome of the community that you grew up in. So perched on my hindsight stool, I would say – do all the things you want to, travel (and alone if that how’s circumstances fall in place), explore your body and your mind at your own sweet pace, recognize and shake away pre-existing conceptions of being in a relationship. Just flow and grow. Have you considered interning with medical sans frontiers? I have a cousin who as a emergency physician could sign up for all sorts of humanitarian missions, all over the world. She got to help people and travel at the same time. Meanwhile, understand and explore a little about financial management so you’ll always have funds to meet your goals (buying car etc) and perhaps, give your mother the courage to go solo if that’s something she and you want.

    I understand and emphatize that you experienced abuse, which jades your opinion of relationships. But till you try it out yourself, I don’t think you’ll ever know who or what you’ll become in one. Keep an open mind.

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    • “it’s also OK if you want to date for a while; and it’s quite OK if you feel that the person you are dating is not for keeps.” As long as the other person in the relationship is aware of your position and you’re upfront about your needs and views. It is a relationship, after all, with human beings involved and people have feelings that can get hurt.

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  21. I can feel what you were going through in your formative years…what I advice is allow yourself the company of like minded people and befriend not necessarily with the idea of relationship…just open up…let the nature work upon you…it just might happen that you come across the dream person…yes in India it may be difficult for girls to marry without forsaking your independence…but right, there is no need to marry at the cost of your respect, independence to make your own decisions etc.
    Good Luck.
    God Bless!

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  22. I empathize with your situation, but what you need my dear is a good therapist. Since your problem seems like something that was built over the years, it needs to be worked on during the course of several sessions to heal yourself.

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  23. Dear mothers daughter,

    Pl do not hold yourself from getting into a relationship if u feel like having one.
    If he turns out to be a jerk despite of choosing the right person, then u know u can divorce or leave like u find for it best for your mom.

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  24. I`m sorry that you had to see that when you are growing up – it is no example of LOVE. It sounds very traumatic.
    Know one thing – your parents` fate is not your fate. You build your own life for yourself and you know what you want. I have confidence in you that you will follow your heart.
    All marriages are not like this. You need to find somebody who supports you to have your own career and encourages you to have your independence. There are such men out there. But let love come to you naturally, don`t go looking for love.
    “What we find in a soulmate is not something wild to tame, but something wild to run with“ – Robert Brault

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  25. I think your dad was extremely insecure about your mother’s success with her career, and he resented that she did so well while his didn’t take off. He felt emasculated, as the traditional role of being the earner was not something he had claims to. So he made up for it by being aggressive. In his head, I’m sure he felt that being a jerk to your mom showed that he was boss immaterial of her bringing home the bacon.
    I feel bad for both your parents really. Being abused by the husband is terrible. She should’ve stood up to him, been more assertive, but obviously, so many things that *should* be done are not due to our social construct being what it is. Your dad sounds like he must have led an extremely lonely life, envying your mom her popularity and success, knowing that everyone, including his daughter, thought she was too good for him, and probably believing it himself.

    And now you, you poor thing. You’re suffering the aftereffects of a marriage between two people who should never have gotten married, at least not to each other.
    You need counselling, in fact… your whole family could benefit from some good counselling.

    Choose to be single if you will, but not because you are afraid of being in relationship! Every relationship is a risk isn’t it? I’m not even talking about romantic ones. You make friends, and if you get close enough, if you spend enough time with a person, you will have disagreements and arguments. But you get out of those, you work those out. It’s similar in relationships as well.
    Don’t ever get into a relationship with someone you can’t be friends with.

    And seriously… get therapy. Locking your heart in a vault is no way to live.
    You know that saying “To have loved and lost is better to not have loved at all”?

    Take it from someone who has loved AND lost… it’s true!

    Good luck!

    Like

    • I would like to add that I think therapy is necessary, and not just advisable… cos there is a tendency of the soul to gravitate towards the familiar, whether it is good or bad. There are people whose parents were in an abusive relationship and will find themselves with a partner who abuses them as well. This is not a conscious act, but it happens a lot.

      In order to break out of that pattern, therapy will help by providing a platform for introspection and understanding of the dynamics of your home, your relationships and mindset.

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  26. Pingback: What advice would you give to a woman whose husband beats her when she does not give him lunch on time? | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  27. Dear Mother’s Daughter,

    As a boy I think it is only fair that warn upfront that I may bring in an alternative perspective to the subject, so please bear with me.😀

    Whilst reading your story I realised that it was a carbon copy of mine and just like your family had a major influence on how you’ve shaped up as a person, the troubles that constantly plagued my parents go into the heart of why I have become such an anti-intimacy kind of person. Like you point out, I’m also socially gracious, courteous and generally (passably) likeable, but I have never really had a lot of great friends (boys or girls) in my childhood owing in part to the feeling that everyone always seemed to be so much happier than me, and most kids’ parents were far more welcoming than my own.

    My father was the youngest amongst 4 brothers and 3 sisters. He was a coddled kid, and he developed an ‘entitlement complex’ very early in his age – something that has become a part of him over the years. He is mean, cruel-hearted, downright despotic at times, hypocritical, condescending and completely unreasonable. For years my mother, my sister and myself put up with his never-ending abuse and shenanigans. As a kid I always wondered why she stayed with him, although I know understand why she did, or at least why she felt that it was an acceptable state of affairs. I couldn’t ask friends over to my place out of a not irrational fear that he’d say something or do something that’ll embarrass me.

    Unfortunately I have little love for my mother as well. Whilst she single-handedly raised both me and my sister, she always made it clear to both of us that it was as if she was doing it out of a sense of duty and not any affection. I only find her a slightly more tolerable than my father. She has a rare trait of knowing instinctively what things to say that’ll cut up a person inside, and she has used this gift of hers on me and my sister countless times. I have spent many a night in my tweens and early teens feeling sad and wretched and completely hopeless.

    Indeed my sister is the only person from my family with whom I share a great bond. As kids we fought a lot but we were also united against the overwhelming sadness and despair that would always be present in the house. She’s given good counsel to me on a number of occasions and we have continued to stay in touch despite not having seen each other for sometimes 2 years continuously owing to our current jobs.

    I moved out of home when I was 17. I have gone back sporadically thereafter, but having achieved financial and emotional independence now, I have little or no contact with my parents. I call my mother out of a sense of duty, but I’m vague and distant with her. I burnt my bridges with my father years ago, after a series of quarrels and I am not in touch with him and to be honest, I really do not care what happens to him. I have endured a lot of criticism from my relatives (especially my uncles and aunts, whom I squarely blame for having not straightened up my father when he was younger), but I have no great respect for their opinions as well, and as I have grown older I have become increasingly rude to them as well.

    One of my biggest secret apprehensions is that deep down inside I possess the same traits as my father does. This may sound very odd and irrational but it is one of the primary reasons why I am very very conscious of showing any sign of intimacy, especially to a girl I am attracted to, since I don’t want her to think of me as a jerk.

    Also this line describes me perfectly:

    “But along with inheriting that, I’m afraid i have also inherited a little cowardly and (forgive my use of the word) doormat-ish attitude. sometimes I m extremely accommodating, eager-to-please and a bit of a pushover. I know my weaknesses, and work on them.”

    I am hoping that I’ll eventually get over my insecurities, but it’s nice to know that I’m not alone.

    And before I sign off, a word of thanks to IHM for peppering this wonderful blog with so many insightful posts and in particular for sharing this great write-up by Mother’s Daughter.

    Regards,

    The Goo

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  28. Pingback: “Some women harbor sexism and uphold patriarchy even when they have nothing to gain from it.” | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  29. Pingback: “I saw my sister was on the first floor and she was locked and she was crying badly with her daughter.” | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

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