‘She believes that her husband has got into job troubles since marrying her (he tells her this) and that she has been unlucky for their entire family.’

What should you do if you are sure someone is in an abusive relationship but they believe you can’t understand or they don’t need your help, though they do talk about how unhappy they are? 

When do attempts to help and support become interference, and what would you view as indifference

What prevents domestic/intimate partner (or any) abuse victims from seeing even the most obvious abuse? 

I think, one could share this link with them: Is your relationship healthy? 

And then try not to judge them for not doing what we think they ought to do. (Like take control of their lives)

And then we could try and be there for them – not easy but I don’t think there is anything anybody can do without this – because trying to force them to act is not too different from what the abuser is doing – and the abuser does not just use force. Also, they often have time, inclination, self-interest, social permission to control the victim.

And how do we know we are right? I think there are some obvious non negotiables – but beyond that how do we know what would be the right thing to do?

I think the victim has to be the one to decide. All we can do is let them know we are there for them when they need us.

What do you think?

Sharing an email. 

Hi IHM,

One of my very close relatives is in an abusive relationship.

She is a very smart educated woman, she has great presence of mind.

She also has a one year old son.

She also has a good well – paying job for the moment.

She has a husband who keeps leaving his job and will not stick to any of them.

She believes that her husband has got into job troubles since marrying her (because he repeatedly tells her this) and that she has been unlucky for their entire family.

She supports the family now but believes that she is the reason for their troubles in the first place.

Both of them have fearful tempers and talk abusively during fights.  He hits her, he has kicked her a couple of times that I know of.

She believes that she provokes him into hitting her – this is also reinforced by his family – her mother in law and sisters in law keep repeating this.

When I talk to her and ask her to come out of the relationship, she says I have a happy marriage and I will never be able to understand what is going on in theirs.

She always wants to give him another chance.

What can I do for her???

Any practical inputs from you or the blog readers would be very much welcome.

Related Posts:

If you had to to say something to inspire a victim of domestic violence to walk out, what would you say?

An email. Please do not immediately write it off and say “separation”, “legal action”… is there anything she can do BEFORE she can resort to that?

An email from an Indian father: I want to place on record my own story as a warning to anyone…

Closing that chapter – just as if nothing happened – Careless Chronicles

If she doesn’t seem to see your logic, would you support her the way she can be supported?

“I need suggestions – these girls are ruining their lives with their stupid ideas about love.”

Because we can still be honest WITHOUT saying, “Gosh woman what is wrong with you?”

Why do we never talk about sisterhood, about women defending one another and supporting each other?

“Let me give you the reason I asked for advise here instead of talking with my family.”

 

23 thoughts on “‘She believes that her husband has got into job troubles since marrying her (he tells her this) and that she has been unlucky for their entire family.’

  1. I think you need to have a series of conversations with her that address these points:

    1. Her husband’s behavior is neither her fault nor her responsibility. She can’t instigate him to be violent any more than she can instigate him to be kind, no matter how much she tries.

    2. Things are only going to get worse. Right now she’s the scapegoat, soon it’ll be her child. She needs to weigh her options keeping this in mind. Her husband may promise to mend his ways, but he isn’t going to.

    3. She has two options – stay or leave. If she stays, she may gain the approval of her extended family in the short run, but will be miserable from a long-term perspective. If she decides to leave, her life will be difficult but completely under her control.

    You will need to be very patient – she’s likely to be defensive at first and may even downplay the frequency or magnitude of the abuse. So at first your conversations are going to have to be centered around your concern for her safety.

    When you feel like she’s opening up, maybe you could get her to talk about the reasons why she won’t leave – and then you could help her untangle her life thread by thread. Reason with her, slowly.

    Over time, she may (and I’m not saying she will) become more receptive and open to talking about her options. When she does, you will need to think about you’re willing and able to follow through. You will need to make the time and be emotionally committed to the cause, and brave brickbats from her family.

    But know this: the last say is hers and hers alone. Any action plan needs to come from her – you can only guide her to think in a specific direction. No matter what you say or do, she’s not going to do what you say. You CANNOT seek legal help without her consent.

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  2. I don’t think you can do much until she understands that she’s in an abusive relationship.
    Mainly she needs to understand that her husband’s job problems are not her fault.
    She has been brainwashed & made to believe that everything wrong that happens is all because of her.
    So what you can actually do is to share certain links & blog posts that shows her that she’s in one. You can even go on twitter & search for the tag #WhyIStayed & show her that there are so many like her who feel the same way when it’s actually not true!
    You need to explain to her that such an environment is harmful & very negative for her child’s upbringing.
    Another way is to try & convince her to meet with a counselor who would be able to make her understand this better or maybe you could even go to an NGO that houses women who have undergone Domestic Abuse & she would understand that she is in a similar situation.

    The biggest problem is that Victims of Abuse don’t understand what’s happening to them is Abuse & that’s the main thing they need to understand & that’s the only thing you can help her with along with staying by her side no matter what.

    You’re an amazing person & she’s very lucky to have someone such as you by her side. There maybe chances that she may stop speaking to you or ignore you, maybe she would tell all this to her husband & he may ask her to stop contacting you so before taking any step, make sure you have someone else who would be able to relay all of this to her in-directly.
    Whatever step you take & whatever you communicate with her should be done tactfully.

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  3. Since she talks about how unhappy she is, it is quite possible that she knows her relationship is abusive but is living in denial for reasons best known to her, reasons that she thinks are justifiable enough to take the abuse. May be, it is for the sake of her child as in we know how society has us inbred with ideas like both parents are absolutely necessary for good upbringing of children, or for children to be socially accepted in school / college circles, etc. It might be because of the taboo associated with single mother, or fear for her parents having to deal with the “char log” who will undoubtedly ask as to why their daughter chose to walk out of a marriage. It might also be illusion of love.

    I had read somewhere about abusive relationships and in particular, behavior of abusers. How they abuse knowingly and then there’s remorse and show of love and how they make you believe that if you stay in line, follow the expected behavior, then your relationship is perfect. How the blame passes on to the victim instead. You need to look up good articles from reliable sources on this and show it to her. But this has to be after she has told you the reasons and after she is willing to discuss.

    I can clearly see that she is made to believe its her fault and its classic emotional abuse. Making the victim believe that she, in fact, is doing something wrong. Please talk to her about it. And though you cannot take any legal action without having her on the plan, you can surely take her to a good psychoanalyst who can very clearly explain to her how abusive relationships work, so that she can put the blame where it belongs and free herself of that burden.

    As others said, you need to let her do the talking first. Try and make her open up. Try to be receptive to her ideas. Try getting the whole situation from her before attempting to talk her into questioning her marriage. I doubt that if she suspects you are going to ask her to quit, she will stop talking about the abuse.

    All the best. I hope you succeed.

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  4. She is in denial that she is in an abusive relationship. You can explain to her what is abuse and the options for her but you cannot do anything unless she chooses to. She may cut you out if you told her to leave the marriage. Direct her to a counselor something.

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  5. Be there for her,
    Be supportive,
    Listen and encourage her
    Repetedly tell her she is not the problem and tell her positive things she is doing.
    show her what a good marriage is, sometimes people look around and figure it out
    Whatever you do dont lose touch with her .

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  6. “She believes that her husband has got into job troubles since marrying her (because he repeatedly tells her this) and that she has been unlucky for their entire family.”

    “Both of them have fearful tempers and talk abusively during fights. He hits her, he has kicked her a couple of times that I know of. She believes that she provokes him into hitting her”

    With beliefs like this & problem solving skills like this – neither of these 2 are able to have a healthy, rational, reasonable discussion much less a healthy, stable relationship.

    I’ve seen many ‘toxic’ relationships that just go in continuously go in circles, nothing ever gets resolved.
    I don’t understand it, what is the point or the goal of these beliefs & behaviors?
    Every ‘toxic’ relationship I’ve seen following this pattern lasts about 5 yrs until some sort of ‘break up’ occurs.

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  7. I don’t think you should do anything for her at present.

    If you give her advice, you are essentially coaching her. If you get her therapy you are getting her coaching. The thing with any kind of coaching is that no coaching can happen without the agreement of the “coachee”. Since she hasn’t asked for help and has actively turned down your help, there is nothing you can really do, except make it clear that your support is always available should she ask for it.

    Now I’m gonna rebut my own view:
    My opinion above is rather idealistic, and may not always be practical. There is some point where you will have to intrude. If one took the same hands-off-idealistic approach to everything then no one will ever intervene when a person is depressed and is suicidal. So you need to see if things come to a head and then intervene. If he’s physically abusing her, hasn’t it already?

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  8. I’m declining to offer any solutions because I’m pretty sure this post is incomplete and lacks any significant understanding of the situation.

    I have no doubts the man is a jerk, but the woman seems to have her share of issues too.

    I would hang around her till things become a bit clearer.

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  9. IHM has already analyzed the situation very well. As a friend watching an abusive situation, this is exactly the dilemma we often face. To help or not to help? What does help mean? How much should we try before we give up? Difficult questions with no straight answers. I have been in this situation of ‘helpless observer’ a few times. In the beginning, I would get over-involved, urging the person to break out of it, engaging in long discussions which would kindle a spark, then watch that spark dwindle, feel frustrated, feel somehow responsible like I’m not doing enough.

    Over time, I’ve learnt to be helpful and empathetic while protecting myself. I’ve learnt the hard way that you cannot help someone who is not ready to be helped. This does not mean you are giving up on them. What this means is you are there, waiting. And if all they really want is a hug at the end of the day, then that’s what you offer.

    This is actually possible in less intense situations – when a friend faces milder marital conflict that she doesn’t deal with logically. But with very intense/draining situations like abuse, it is understandable if you cannot just watch and give that hug. In such situations, all you can do is watch out for your friend’s safety – offer her your place to stay if she ever needs to be safe.

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  10. Reads like my friends life,except she has a 4 year old son and not a one year old.
    She is forever defending her abusive husband saying stuff like -Oh my temper is no less, Oh but I provoked him.etc.
    I wish women could see the flaw in the logic.
    Honey, if you could provoke him into a rage, then you could also ‘provoke’ him into being a sensible kind reasonable adult, no?
    Since you are not able to ‘provoke’ him both ways, its not you thats the problem here.Its entirely him.He IS that kind of person.You did not do anything to make him what he is.

    Cant imagine a guy reasoning it out with himself that he provoked her and hence the reason her temper flares out in a fight.Never.He will always point a finger and say, ‘Woman,you need to give me respect and not yell at me.You need to know your place in the relationship.’

    A probable solution :
    Lets take her own line of reasoning to fight this battle.
    If she so passionately beleives she is the cause of all troubles like her husband job etc,and if she is the reason he gets into abuse mode, then its only fair that she leave the marriage.That way, her husbands job troubles will end, he will no longer be around a person who provokes him into a beast and he can live happily.He can finally have a permanent job and be a saint like person.No? So, for his own sake,she should walk away from him(because she is so not willing to walk away for HER sake).Like how Bollywood heroes and heroines sacrifice their loves.

    Will this line of attack work??

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  11. You can take a horse to the water, but you can’t make it drink. She has to do it for herself. She isn’t listening to your advice. It is unlikely she’ll listen, and if she says she’s happy, I guess there isn’t much you can do.

    Is there a supportive family member you could speak to on her behalf? If she finds she has family support, she might take a stand and leave. If that doesn’t work too, lend a shoulder (and also ensure that the weight she puts on it does not start pulling you down).

    Good luck.

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  12. Great questions! I’m sharing this with readers on my blog.

    There is a powerful force that professionals refer to as Trauma Bonding or Stockholm Syndrome. This is an excellent article for those unfamiliar with it: http://drjoecarver.makeswebsites.com/clients/49355/File/love_and_stockholm_syndrome.html

    An important facet to explore would be to recognize the difference between reactive abuse and abuse. Abuse causes reactive abuse, and not the other way around. If this woman is intelligent, educated, and strong in many ways, then she could be reacting strongly in a normal way to abnormal dynamics/abuse. Some women go quiet. Some women fight it. Either way, the end result is the same. The woman being abused is systematically diminished.

    Abusive men aren’t abusive 24/7. This is what contributes to trauma bonding. Since this happens over time, it’s easy for gas lighting (when someone undermines your reality and causes you to question it) to take its toll, and what seems obvious to the outside observer is not clear to the victim. Someone outside of the relationship may see something clearly, but the woman herself might be stepping blindly through a thick fog.

    How do you help her? Believe in her. Listen to her. Build her up faster than he’s tearing her down. Be patient and consistent. Listen to her fears, and never dismiss them. Help her to remember who she is and what she enjoys and loves. Validate her worth.

    Recognize that the man you see is the one he chooses to show you. Be willing to believe there is more to him and more to the story. She’ll experience their family, friends, and neighbors telling her what a great guy he is. Be willing to believe that along with all his charm, he has the capacity to repetitively abuse her. He will be typically indifferent to the impact of his abuse. When outsiders show impatience and indifference, his message that she’s not worth being loved and respected is strengthened.

    One of the most power aspects of abuse is the predictable unpredictability, and its consistent inconsistency. Be the stable, predictable, safe voice of support. Don’t ask her to leave or expect it of her. Help her to trust herself. Help her to believe in herself. Love her so that she remembers what love feels and looks like.

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  14. The abuser usually thrives when the victim has a low self esteem, when the victim thinks she is worthless and nobody else will ever love her because she is bad and deserves her sad life. Which is not true.

    I think maybe the best way to help is to practice active listening ; listening without judging, and without giving advice, just being there and available, helping the person to find solutions herself. Also anything you can do to help the person have a better self esteem would be helpful I think.

    There is also one idea that could help abused mothers ; fighting parents leave emotional scars on their children, an unhappy mother will teach unhapiness to her kids by example.

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  15. Pingback: “He became more distant and sometime would verbally abuse me, call me names and then slapping and wrist twisting started happening.” | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

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