Hobson’s Choice

Guest Post by: Jenny (https://jennysreflections.wordpress.com/)

Hi All,

Please meet Jenny, fellow blogger and friend.  I find her writing refreshingly honest and straightforward.  This guest post of hers made me reflect on the choices I’ve been offered, the ones I eventually made and the process it took to go from the “destiny” handed to me to making conscious choices to finding freedom.  It is never simple and clear cut and I continue to learn.

– Priya
Hello,
Jenny here. I am so excited to write a guest post for IHM. I am an ordinary Indian woman who one day took a look around the world I was living in and began questioning questionable things. I am an avid reader and started to write mostly out of frustration with this thing called life. I try to write often at my original blog https://jennysreflections.wordpress.com/.
Thanks to Priya for encouraging me to write this guest post.
Hobson’s choice is almost an illusion as it is choosing between something and nothing.

When I first stumbled upon this term on Wikipedia, I hardly could wrap my head around it. Choice between something and nothing huh… how can that happen I wondered? Yet, on further contemplation I realized that my whole life has been a series of Hobson’s choice.

At the age of 15 choosing a group void of math and science was never an option. I was told either choose one without biology or computer science. Leaving out Math, which I hate was definitely not in the cards. Deep down, I knew that I would end up studying math, physics chemistry, and computer science, when all I wanted to be was a writer. So you see I never did really have an option. That very choice pretty much sealed my life as a don’t-wanna-be engineer.

At the age of 21, when I didn’t even know what life was all about, I was married. They said you don’t know how the world works, so listen to us and get married. I had rejected the first guy I saw, using the silly reason that he didn’t look good (Secretly hoping they won’t pressure me to get married). Ironically, using that same reason against me, I was told I couldn’t say no to the next guy, who did look handsome and met all the standards set by my family.  I had to marry a guy when there was only one option and at a point where I had no clue what marriage was all about.

Hobson’s choice is my case was the absence of a meaningful choice.

When I, who grew up well educated in an upper middle class family, can come up with 2 major illusions of choice, I shudder to think of all the women in various strata of the society who completely have no choices in front of them.

It has taken me years to undo this – to understand what it means to be an adult, to reject other people’s warnings and protection, to have the confidence to make my own choices.

Every time someone says with a sneer – so you are a feminist, I have the immense urge to sit them down and tell them: FEMINISM GIVES WOMEN CHOICES.  DO YOU WANT TO LIVE YOUR LIFE WITHOUT CHOICES?

As women in today’s world, we have the choice to live where we want, marry or not, work in any field, wear what we find comfortable.  We have the choice to make decisions that affect us.  Those decisions may not make sense to others.  They don’t have to.  As adults, we get to choose.

So dear reader – think about your life and those around you.  Choice is the most precious thing you have.  It will often be denied to you.  Know that you are born with the right to it.  Ask for it.  Exercise it.
➢ What choices do you have now that you didn’t have a few years ago?

➢ How have YOU changed on a personal level?  What choices do you make despite criticism, condescension, or emotional rejection?

➢ What kind of changes do you wish for, in terms of the specific choices that YOU should have?

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Learning To Say No

‘No’ is the most powerful word in the English language. Due to social conditioning, many women and some men have difficulty saying this simple word.  That’s because our brain has been trained to operate in pathways that tend to avoid the word ‘no’. It can be intensely stressful to ignore a well reinforced pathway and forge a new one.  Saying ‘no’ to the things we don’t want (for people who tend to have difficulty with it) is a habit that must be worked at consistently, until it becomes second nature.
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I was not born assertive.  But I was always curious about how the world works.  And that includes me, who I am, and how I respond to various situations.  As my self awareness grew, so did my ability to say ‘no’ to things I did not like.  If we do not know who we are, it’s hard to assess what we want.  Knowing what we want can help us turn down the offers we don’t want.
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However, self awareness takes us only so far.  The ‘yes’ response is so primeval that we may say it even when we don’t want to and are aware of what we dislike.  Saying ‘yes’ to things we dislike or are uncomfortable with can build a lot of stress – in some cases, this can even lead to severe anxiety or other psychological illnesses.  It is therefore crucial to understand the subtleties surrounding this ‘yes’ inducing behavior and keep those in mind to counter it.  On my road to becoming increasingly assertive, I’ve tried to observe myself and understand what makes me say ‘yes’ when I don’t want to.  Based on these observations, I’ve tried to come up with certain strategies that would help me counter this illogical urge to say an unwilling ‘yes’.  I hope you find these strategies useful.
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Know your rights
In many Eastern cultures, a sense of entitlement and the need for conformity can create relationships driven by control.  Unsolicited advice (with intentions ranging from well meaning to downright evil) is given in the name of caring for the other person. Resistance is often greeted with a range of negative emotions.  In all cultures (including Western), there is at least some degree of societal pressure to do things that someone else sees as appropriate.
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Know that other people cannot tell you what to wear (except for reasonable professional requirements in a workplace ), what to eat, how to schedule your day (when to wake up, shower, etc).  As an adult, you get to decide when to go out, who should or need not accompany you, where to go, and whom you’d like to hang out with, and how you get to spend the money you earn.  You alone have the right and responsibility for ensuring your well being, safety, and financial upkeep.
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Many of us know these rights but conditioning keeps kicking in – so reminding ourselves of our rights is a good idea.
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Recognize signs of boundary crossing
If the in-laws or neighbors are giving unsolicited advice, it is easy to recognize that a boundary is being crossed.  It is much harder to recognize this when it happens between spouses or partners.  There is so much common territory and lots of room for error.
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A spouse can make positive, relevant suggestions regarding children, finances, or house work because those are all joint responsibilities.  It is best for a spouse to stay away from advice regarding choice of friends or activities (unless these are directly impacting his or her rights in some way).
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A good way to recognize right from wrong is to ask what the impact of the actions of one are on the other.  If there is no impact, then there should be no criticism/suggestions for improvement.  My husband’s tendency to while away his free time following a certain baseball team (incomprehensible to me) is really none of my business.  If he does that when it’s his turn to cook, then it impacts me, and I have the right to bring it up.  My tendency to be OCD about house cleaning is none of his business unless my extreme cleaning has a cost to the family’s well being.
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Recognize coercive speech
When you finally muster the courage to say ‘no’, it can be greeted with resistance.  You will be told things that are meant to change your mind. Coercive speech looks like this –
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“I thought you were better than this.”
“You always ……”
“You never ……”
“My mom would’ve done this for me.”
“I’m not sure I can love you the same way if you do this.”
“Where in the world did you get this crazy idea??”
“Is this your crazy side talking.”
“Did your friend give you this advice?”
“Do you want to end up like him?”
“You are beginning to turn into your dad.”
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Recognize coercive behavior
Your ‘no’ can be greeted with coercive behavior.  Coercive behavior is harder to recognize than words because it is less concrete and attacks our vulnerabilities (someone social is more easily weakened by being shut down, by being refused conversation).  Coercive behavior can look like this
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– not talking, sulking
– not eating
– giving disappointed looks or mean looks
– avoiding interaction
– appearing sad, depressed
– banging doors, put objects down with force
– long periods of silence with deep sighs
– making indirect negative/mocking remarks about you while talking to someone else
– doing things that annoy you, being petty, getting back at you, making simple things harder.
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Buy time
If you are struggling to say ‘no’, buy some time with responses like –
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“Let me think about that and get back to you.”
“I have to go now, let’s talk about this later.”
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Giving yourself space and time to understand what you might me getting yourself into can be helpful.  You can mull over things, understand the consequences of giving in to pressure, reaffirm your dislike or discomfort with the offer, and come back with a much more confident ‘no’. A confident ‘no’ is important because a weak ‘no’ is just an uncomfortable ‘yes’ waiting to happen.
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Turn it back on them
Some well meaning people give advice when they think that the whole world thinks like them – therefore what they like, others must like, what works for them must work for others.  In such cases you can turn the advice back to them –
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Consider this suggestion: “You should wake up early.  You can get a great, non-stressful start to the day that way.”
You could respond, “Are you an early riser?”
And if they respond yes and rave about this habit of theirs, you could say “Good for you!  I’m glad you’ve found a way to get in your exercise!”
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To: “You should dress up more, you look so pretty with jewelry!”
You could respond: “Do you like jewelry? What kind do you like to wear?”
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Of course, the straightforward way is to simply say things like –
“I will wake up when I want to.  What’s your problem?”
Or “I don’t like wearing jewelry”
Or “I feel pretty being myself”
Or “I don’t care if you think I’m pretty or not.”
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But it may not be so simple for some people.  Dismissing unassertive behavior as “getting what they deserve” is unhelpful.  Human behavior can’t be easily explained.  We don’t always do what’s logical – that is what’s good and healthy for us.
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Therefore the above suggestions (turning it back on the person giving advice, etc.) are for people who struggle with making such assertive statements – or for people who live in such a strong culture of hierarchy or conformity that a ‘no’ to advice invites a distinctly negative reaction.
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State the problem
If you stay away from the ‘no’ word for fear of hurting someone’s feelings, you can spotlight your own discomfort, thus taking the focus away from “criticizing” them
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“I don’t like being told what to wear. I prefer deciding for myself.”
“I feel uncomfortable being asked to go to this party.”
“I don’t enjoy being forced to make a decision on this.”
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No matter how you say it, learning to say ‘no’ is one of the most important things we can teach our kids.  And as for us adults, it can be extremely liberating.
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If you’ve always been assertive, good for you!  If you are working on it, what do you do and what has worked for you?  If you struggle with it more than the average person, what could be getting in the way?  Please share your thoughts and experiences.
Related Posts:

Relationships – Making Someone Happy

Guest Post by wordssetmefreee

There are times when we do things hoping to make someone else happy. I’ve made my children’s favorite dishes countless times over the years. I’ve recalled that a certain teacher likes the Chai Latte at Pete’s Coffee and Tea. I had bought her a bag of this tea when I wanted to appreciate her for her dedication. When my best friend turned 40, I looked everywhere for a copy of Tagore’s Fireflies to get her a birthday present that would mean something to her.

And then, there are times when we try to make someone happy and it takes us down a very self-defeating path. I remember this friend who was not quite committed to our friendship. I mistook her last minute cancellations for genuine personal problems and felt protective toward her. I would listen intensely to her problems, and think about them, and offer helpful suggestions. I did not realize that she very rarely listened to me or cared about what was going on in my life. I mistook her flakiness for innocence and an inability to defend herself. A little late into the friendship, I realized that she would show up only when nothing else was going on in her life. While I would put our meetings on the calendar and fit things around them. Once I began to see her for who she really was (not evil, and nothing personal about her callousness, but just an inability to be someone solid, reliable, and committed to anything), I put an end to our friendship without a fight. I simply told her it wasn’t working.

The above situation is inevitable in relationships – we trust people sometimes, assume they are true to their word and when we learn otherwise, we distance and protect ourselves.  A relationship is like a dance – sometimes it’s smooth and comes together beautifully.  Sometimes it’s awkward.  Sometimes, we start stepping on each other’s toes – and then it’s time to stop and assess what’s happening.

So what happens when we don’t protect ourselves? What happens when we try to mend the relationship by doing more and more while getting back less and less? We are setting ourselves up for manipulation and abuse. In these instances, the more we try to make the other person happy, the less happy we ourselves become. Because their happiness comes at a cost of ours.

This is what I was thinking of when reading some recent emails on this blog. Women in our culture are taught at a very early age to put others’ happiness ahead of theirs. This makes them easy targets for manipulation and abuse.

But it doesn’t just have to happen in abusive relationships or just with women. It can happen at the workplace or with friendships – with both men and women – trying to make someone else happy or trying to make someone proud of us comes at a cost to our own happiness and is invariably detrimental to our relationships and our emotional health.

Yet this self-damaging behavior (varying in intensity) is exceedingly common. Students compete hard to get into the best colleges rather than to pursue something they find interesting in a less than top-notch college. Employees try hard to please their bosses and become disheartened at their criticism. People try to impress their neighbors and friends with better cars, better houses, and better clothes. People have multiple surgeries to stretch their skin free of wrinkles. Some people earn so much money but it is never enough. They are still working on landing a better deal, a better job, a better yacht, and a better life.

It almost seems as if it is human nature to try to win the approval of others, and in doing so, we set ourselves up for misery. No one can claim that they haven’t tried to win someone’s approval somewhere in the teeniest possible way.

Where does this begin, this need for approval?

Survival Instincts

It probably starts with trying to please our parents. When we are little, our parents provide us with every need. We depend on them for our survival. We feel secure when we see them, the guardians of our world, happy. Bringing a smile to their faces seems to trigger the pleasure centers in our brain.

I remember how I would fear my parent’s disappointment more than my own, when I received a bad grade on a test. I also remember a particular day when I went on stage to receive a trophy in a debate tournament. I did not think much of my trophy because I felt the topic was predictable. The event felt special because my father, who had to travel a lot, was in town and was able to attend. As soon as I took it, I searched the audience for my father’s face. I found him smiling and clapping. Even though there were many people in the room, they all just blanked out for me. All I saw was my father’s proud face. Why was his approval more important to me that my own reaction?

Our parents have been given something precious – this tiny bit of power – to mold a life – and power can be intoxicating. They begin to teach us, influence us, shape us. Much of this happens with good hearts and intentions. (I’m referring here to non-toxic parenting.)  And yet some part of parenting begins to create certain expectations that don’t necessarily value the individual at hand.

A Habit That’s Hard to Break

And thus, our parents have naturally set the stage for seeking approval. When we ace a test, we see tour parents smile, and we want to keep acing tests so badly. When we do badly on a test, we get heart broken. And this sets in motion a pattern of earning approval and being rewarded for it.

Earning approval suppresses the self because the rewards are external. – a pattern that some of us eventually break out of, when we realize that setting our own goals, self-assessing our own efforts, and asserting our individuality is the more genuine way to happiness.

Some people, however, continue this pattern and extend it to other authority figures (after they outgrow their parental home). They must gain approval from their neighbors, their friends, their in-laws. They must keep others happy. It’s now a habit that’s hard to break.

It takes them on a path where they’ve forgotten who they are and what they want. Even though the approval they get feels good in the short run, the conditions for approval keep changing, and it’s a hard game to keep up with. Human beings are insatiable creatures – give them control and they keep wanting more. The person seeking approval gets caught in a web of someone else’s greed and insecurities.

The Need to Belong

Human beings are mostly social creatures and thrive in groups.  Sometimes we seek approval because we want to belong in a group. The group gives us warmth, affection, camaraderie, fun, and in return, we give the group back conformity. In college, I belonged to a group of girls who wore mostly Western clothes. (I didn’t think deeply about my clothing choices, I just wore what I liked and my parents didn’t have strong opinions on the matter.) And being similar in other ways made us gravitate toward each other. We also spoke comfortably in English and belonging to different states made the English speaking a necessity.   There were 2 girls in my group that spoke condescendingly about other girls who appeared more traditional in their dressing choices. They also made fun of other people’s (English) accents. This wasn’t good-natured fun, this was clearly ‘I’m better than you’ kind of talk. I felt uncomfortable with this talk but never protested.

I was not assertive enough in my 20s to say, “She has the right to wear what she wants. Stop judging her.” Or “If you think her English is so funny, let’s hear you talk in French.” Or “The gist of what she’s saying in imperfect English has far more depth than your superficial Gibberish.”

This is not to say the group was all bad.  We had a great time discussing books, watching old B&W movies, solving made-up mysteries, dancing to “Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head”, making fun of each other, falling in love with Mr. Darcy, and singing “I have Confidence in Me” at the top of our voices until the neighbors protested.

I was afraid of losing their friendship. I was going against my beliefs (that we respect other people’s choices and abilities) and ‘blending in’ to preserve the relationship. A lot had changed for me over the next 20 years – as I gradually learnt to speak my mind and openly advocate for my values and beliefs, without losing valuable friendships. But it took time and effort. It didn’t just happen.

Dependence and Fear

If a woman is financially dependent on her husband and in-laws, she may do things that go against her value system, to keep them happy. This is not just a matter of survival. This is also something that is driven by fear. Although survival is an issue here, there are solutions. There are means and ways to garner supports, get skills/education, find a job, file for divorce, and free oneself from this prison. It is not an easy path and it is strewn with hardship, but it’s not impossible. What is much harder to overcome is the fear – a fear that is induced my sheer numbers – parents and in-laws, neighbors, extended family, and friends acting against one person. It feels like the whole world is telling you that you need to adjust, you should know your place, you have to earn your basic rights, and to please quit complaining.

Fear makes people try hard to win hearts, a venture that is bound to fail, because people who need to be “won over” are never worth it.

Nature

Some of us hate conflict.  Others take it head on.  Some of us worry about how others feel.  Others don’t.  When my brother and I used to fight in our teens, we would sometimes stop talking.  I would cry all night and analyze my every word and action and try to look for something I did wrong and look at the situation from both his side and mine.  He would sleep through the night blissfully.  It’s not that he didn’t (or doesn’t) love me.  But I think I worked much harder at our relationship than he did.  Even now, I work harder at my other relationships than he does with the people in his life.  I can’t just sleep through the night when I fight with someone.  This makes me vulnerable to some degree.

Can We Break Out of This?

So, what can we do to watch out for this behavior? Some people seem to have a natural ability to resist it. They may have been born assertive, outspoken, and seem to always be able to prioritize their wishes, desires, and happiness. What can we do if this is not our first instinct? How can we protect ourselves and safeguard our personal happiness?

Make a conscious decision to love yourself.

In many cultures, children are taught that loving oneself is selfishness. This is such a mistaken notion. If we are unable to love ourselves, we can’t truly love others. If we judge ourselves harshly, we are more likely to judge others. If we disrespect ourselves, we become insecure and resentful of other people.  If we despair over every mistake of ours, we are more likely to see other’s mistakes as permanent failures.  If we see our mistakes as growth, we tend to be more forgiving of others’ faults.  Therefore understanding that it all begins with us is the first step.

Get to know yourself.

What do you like and dislike? What makes you uncomfortable? What do you fear? What gets you excited? How do you typically react in a given situation? Many of us have never been asked these questions, growing up. We’ve often been TOLD how to feel. As adults, we may continue to fumble when presented with various situations.   We wonder – How should I react? How am I supposed to react? “Maybe, it’s not okay to get angry when someone tells me to wake up earlier. Maybe, I’m the one being unreasonable.” When we don’t know ourselves, we don’t know what we want. Then we don’t know what to fight for.

Understand boundaries.

This is something we don’t learn, growing up in India, and other similar cultures. I grew up in a house full of aunts, uncles, and cousins. Everyone used everyone’s things. This wasn’t ‘sharing’ or ‘generosity’. It was mostly inconsiderate behavior. Those who were pushy got more, the nicer ones got less, as a result of this no-boundaries environment.

My parents bought me a scooter when I turned 16. I took good care of it and used it responsibly. My older cousin began ‘borrowing’ it and I was expected to ‘share and be nice’ and I did. Then he would use it roughly and it began needing more and more repairs. Sometimes he would bring it home with not a drop of gas left in it. Sometimes I didn’t have it on hand when I really needed it (when I went for tutoring). When I questioned him on these things, he told me that since he’s a boy, he should have more access to it because, he can go out late and run errands and help the family. My parents didn’t want to fight with his parents over it. The result was someone getting away with inconsiderate, irresponsible, selfish behavior.

Keep track of the cost to yourself.

When you deny yourself your rights – the right to ownership (in my scooter example), the right to respect for one’s own time (in the example of my friend who stood me up often) – then we are entering the area of unfairness and unhappiness. This crossing over often goes unnoticed. Being aware of this boundary alerts us to someone impinging on our rights and taking advantage of us.

Understand that being nice is still okay.

You don’t have to be rude or loud or mean to stand up for yourself. But you do have to be firm. And you have to be unequivocal with your communication.

Don’t say, “Can you please not use my computer?” to your children, especially after you told them it’s off limits. Instead say, “Don’t use my computer. It’s not okay to use other people’s devices without their permission.” If you see something as a violation of a boundary, say it in no uncertain terms. And say it like you mean it. You are not asking or requesting. You are telling someone what you think and that you intend to stand by it.

Assess your relationships from time to time.

Stepping on each other’s toes?  Frequently unhappy?  More and more conversations leaving a bad taste in your mouth?  Take a step back and try to be objective. As yourself, “Am I getting something valuable out of this relationship? Is there give and take? Am I being listened to? Do my thoughts and feelings count? Do I take the lead at least half the time? Do I get to make my own decisions about personal things that affect no one else? Do I feel supported and affirmed by the other person?

Answer the above questions honestly. Be willing to look at the truth. Do you feel you could’ve stopped some people from manipulating you sooner? Did you badly want to believe they were good? Did you try too hard to make things work? If the truth is undesirable, that’s okay. That’s what we humans do – we make mistakes. You can always change course and begin to work on reclaiming your happiness.

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Not everyone is naturally assertive. But we can all work on it. Our relationships teach us many things about ourselves. There is this inner commentary that our brain engages in – a sort of an objective, truthful, and meaningful analysis of our experiences. It’s up to us to listen and pay attention.

Are you naturally assertive? Or did you have to work at it? Which experiences shaped you? Did you try to make a relationship work, only to realize later that it wasn’t worth it? Do you prioritize your happiness? Do other people’s opinions have a strong influence on you? Do you struggle with trying not to seek approval? Please share your experiences in these situations.

I’m most interested in the growth aspect of this.  What did you learn? What would you want to work toward?

Related Posts:

An email from a Newly Wed Wife. “Now they don’t like me.”

But how do we go about accepting ourselves just the way we are?

Does loving someone mean we should ‘improve’ them?

“I think most problems in life are when we look for approval and validation outside of ourselves.”

What are we generally thinking of when we say ‘Respect Women’?

Display of respect to those in power, in Indian culture.

When you offer her respect,

What do ‘Modest’ women have that their ‘Immodest’ sisters don’t…

“I have met a lot of Indian guys who say their parents have done a lot for them so they can’t leave them now…”

“What is it in a ceremony of a few hours, that makes women fight tooth and nail to preserve the marriage, however unhappy they may be…?”

‘My parents will be ignored and ridiculed. No one will let them forget my so called shameful behaviour.’

An email: Is it okay to make someone give up something they love to do, because we want them around?

“You can listen to your parents and be unhappy or you can go against them and feel guilty – those are your choices?”

“Blogging and reading provocative blogs by others has made the good girl in you go corrupt.”

Sharing an email from My Era. 

This post (“Can I really marry and live with a guy who is so uncomfortable with the fact that I am open and expressive?”)  finally, helped me make up my mind to write all I wanted to tell you, in hope that perhaps, my experience might be helpful to someone, somewhere.

I have been blogging from over 8 years. My earlier blog was more of a professional one that no longer exists and my current blog is around 4 years old. During my journey as a blogger I came across your (IHM’s) blog around the time when difficulties in my married life were slowly creeping in (around 2009). Slowly but surely, the open-minded discussions on your blog, inspired me to question life and the people in it more often than before. I learnt the importance of paying heed to my heart and not giving up unless my questions met a satisfactory reply.

This phase was very important in my life because it was when, my ex-husband started complaining that I was a changed person altogether. These mild complains in no time turned frequent and on one occasion when I was adamant to know what exactly he meant by me changing, I received a startling reply.

“Blogging and reading provocative blogs by others has made the good girl in you go corrupt.”

I have to admit that it took me a long time to realize what he was truly hinting at. While my ex-husband was aware of the existence of my blog, he was never inclined to reading it, owing to the fact, he was least interested in any of the topics that interested me.

However, at the time when I had discovered your blog I was so excited that I used to discuss at length all the points of view I read here with him. His usual ‘hmmm’ held a deeper meaning that I learnt at a point when my life started to fall apart. Without my ever doubting so, he had gradually started checking my browsing history and actually spent time to read the blogs I had slowly begun frequenting when I was not at home.

Much later, when our marriage was on the rocks and our divorce case was in the court, in one of the hearings he told the Magistrate, that ‘I had lost my mind, forgotten the duties of being a ‘good’ wife because I was being brain-washed by the anti-social blogs that I read.’ These were his exact words, which not only left me flabbergasted, but made the Magistrate give me a ‘look’. After a brief pause, my ex-husband took the privilege to actually blame our divorce on my habit of blogging.

Needless to say, I never gave up blogging despite these insane allegations and ended up with a divorce.

Today, looking back at those events after reading the letter shared on your blog, I was tempted to tell the letter writer, that if someone is ‘disturbed’ after reading your blog, that holds account of the real you; it is definitely a red flag.

I say so, because the person is actually expressing his dislike for the person he has encountered in the pages of your blog. He seems to not only find your being openly expressive as objectionable but is also trying to re-frame your approach to life, attempting to remould you.

In my limited life experiences, I have learnt that though people may learn to adjust, seldom do they change from their core beliefs. Trying to mould our lives, thought process, and everything else just to suit someone’s liking ( whom you know for hardly 10 days, are not in love or in a relationship with, is a big ask or rather too much an ask to even consider obliging for) is not worth it.

What has started on the note of expressing ‘dislike’ towards your freedom of expression at this stage, is a sure sign that you are heading on a road where ‘freedom of expression’ or making choices you like, will not be considered acceptable.

Moreover, I feel your best friend is quite right in saying that this man will never be at peace with your past about which he has read at length on your blog. For someone, what his sister thinks about you holds such paramount importance at this stage, ‘Log kya kahenge’ will be a weapon that he’ll blatantly use against you at every point in life from here on.

If for a minute, we assume, that you make your blog private and are happy to accommodate his request to not write a public blog in future, what is the guarantee that this is not just the tip of the iceberg of requests asking you to change as per his perception of a ‘good wife’?

Mind you, we are yet to give due thought to your happiness, peace of mind and integrity staying alive and healthy now and in future (if we consider you marry him).

I have learnt in life that there can never be enough sacrifices a girl can make to please her husband and in-laws in an arranged marriage setup. No-matter what you’ll do (killing the real you) it will be seen as expected from you as a ‘sanskari’ DIL.

Before you take a plunge into the endless pit of ‘adjustments’ please reflect on where your happiness truly lies. The usual norm of believing ‘Shaadi ke baad sab theek ho jayega’ is a blindfold our families tie on our rational minds, to let them decide everything for us, that opens at a time when major damages have been done.

Wishing you the best in your life and hoping you’ll pay heed to your inner voice that has already set the alarm off.

Warm Regards,

My Era

( https://theerailivedin.wordpress.com/ )

Related Posts:

To an Anonymous DIL

An email: He says what am I expecting out of this marriage if I cant even make him happy.

I could not sing after my marriage and I am really sad about it, but women have to ‘adjust’ to see their family happy…

“Can I really marry and live with a guy who is so uncomfortable with the fact that I am open and expressive?”

Changing Someone (or oneself)

“I think most problems in life are when we look for approval and validation outside of ourselves.”

“10 years ago, the girl would have been counselled on how to change her dress sense for the boy, how to do as he says.”

Who would you never ask for advice?

What are you criticised the most for?

Does loving someone mean we should improve them?

 

 

‘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.”

 

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

Let me share an email received in response to the picture posted in the last post, as my first contribution to VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AWARENESS MONTH October 2011,

Do you think this man is a representation of every Indian middle-class husband? To me he seems to be an example of an emotional abuser.

I saw that image shared by Hrishikesh Bawa. My hubby and my MIL say wearing pants, wearing sleeveless is bad, you will be the one giving chances for men to comment on you.

And you won’t believe this, I said I wanted a bicycle and he says, “People stare at girls going to school on bicycles, think what would happen if you started cycling.”

He says, women who think liberally and wear jeans and top, even after they are married, are not respected in the society. And when I try to talk about it he says, “In marriages, the rule is, that women have to do as their husbands ask them to do.”

And if I want to change any of it, then I am a fool.
In fact he gave me an example. There is couple living in my locality, socially a little upscale, and that woman always wore chic clothes. Very nice actually and just is very pretty. So some local gundas commented on her and misbehaved with her. Is it her fault that she is pretty and dressed nicely? She was compelled to wrap herself in a sari or wear lousy large sized kurtis.

Maryada kapdo mein nahi, maryada manushya ke drishtkon mein honi chahiye. (Modesty should be in the mindset, not in a woman’s clothing).

Let me tell you that mine is a love marriage and the moment he tied that knot, things changed and from the very next day of my marriage he has tried and tried to change me.. and he says I am not trying hard enough.   Sometimes I wish I had given it a second thought and stayed single life would have been less complicated..
The most integral part of the changing part was to make me stop talking,  stop giving opinion. (He says no one cares for your opinion..so just keep quite. And be the good bahu by keeping your mouth shut. I am just loosing respect for men ..but all of them are not like that but most them are..!!!

I do think that the way he thinks should change but I can’t help it…

I would like to mention one more instance. His younger cousins are a little rebellious, not to blame them its the age typical teenagers (not too outrageous) ..their mom is supportive, saying, “We had so many restrictions growing up, I’ll let my girls live the way they want.”

One fine day my BIL called his Aunt and started giving updeshas (moral lectures), “Ladkiyaan haath se chali jayeingi (your girls will go out of control).. they are socializing online and most of her friends are male..” 

I took her side and said, “Its rude that you’re stalking your own cousin. You should help them use these social networks securely and you have been doing such stuff too..” I didn’t mention the porn he is been downloading using my lappy… but he is been seeing a girl. So, he says “So what? I am a boy I can do anything. …if something happens to them?” ..like they are  gonna get raped by making friends online…

And in my case, my husband complaints that I spend time on Facebook or web surfing. I do interact with people.. Had he known that I need a life…!!  “utho khaan banao..khao..fir khana banao aur khao office ka kaam aur so jao..kabhi kabhi T.V dekho aur wahi dekho jo mujhe dekhna chahiye.

(Translates to: Wake up, cook, eat, again cook and eat, do office work and go to sleep, Occasionally watch TV and then, only those channels which he wants me to watch”)

I watched the English channels. Since my teenage I used to watch Star World …’Friends’ and all that stuff. He says it’s vulgar. English movies are vulgar. He says I am indecent to be watching this stuff. I stopped watching them.

I work night shifts so I used to watch my favorite shows repeat telecast when everyone sleeps… so he started saying that I have a filthy mind..and all these English shows are full of sex… (OMG..I didn’t know how to react.. ) So I started spending time online..he says you are busy chatting you are more concerned about what a stranger is doing than being with me... I can’t say out loud that when I am with you its all about you. Even if we talk, and I give my opinion it is called back talking… oh Dear IHM…I have so much to tell about this one man who is “almost” a representation of every **** indian middle-class husband…I can go on and on, but I will stop here…

I would like to know how people react ..and please ask your readers if they can help me come out of this situation.. it is an emotionally torturing situation..help me change my husband..and let me tell you one more thing.. during one small discussions ..He was in a happy mood and asked me something… and then I said..“tum meri kahaan sunte ho to mera opinion kyun chahiye” (When you don’t listen to me, why do you want my opinion) and he said thank god finally tumhe yeh to samajh mein aaya ki main sunne waalon mein se nahi hoon..main jo bhi bolu woh tumhe sunna hoga, (So you have understood that I am not amongst those who listen. You will have to listen to what I say.) Don’t expect me to listen to you at any point...which left me hopeless that I will ever be able to change him..but anyways…Thanks for letting me pour out my feelings …!!!

Does loving someone mean we should ‘improve’ them?

I once received this email,

IHM I would like you to if possible do a post on boundaries in relationships…you see more and more I find that domestic violence is not the only form of abuse, there are many more subtle forms of abuse and these assholes (pardon the language) think and even the women involved with them think that atleast its not beatings or any such thing so let me put up with it and let me lower my expectations…would you do a post on such a topic?

I didn’t know what the question meant until recently  when a friend was discussing her  in laws. I realised the husband and I have this unwritten boundary. We don’t say anything disrespectful about the other’s families. And it’s very easy to do this because we don’t force the said families’ expectations on each other. So if my dad thought my husband could maintain his cars better I won’t convey the message to my husband.

If his family thinks I should be…? No idea because he doesn’t convey their expectations (if any) either. The families sense this and respect this. So visiting the family on both the sides is always a pleasure.

A friend says her mom in law does not tell  her how to raise her children or how to dress and how often she should visit her own mother. Her logic being if we care  to be polite enough to give personal space to friends, then why not family. Makes sense also we don’t really have much choice.

No choice because more than a few of my friends do not wish to settle in the city where the spouse’s family resides. If personal spaces and boundaries in relationships were respected they could have enjoyed the benefits and support of their families.

Marriage might mean a loss of old friends to some people.

Can one partner have friends who are not also the friends of the other partner? One may not share every interest and hence have nothing in common with atleast some of the other’s friends? Should the other partner feel insecure then? Is it okay to control who the other partner interacts with? Sometimes the aim is to protect the partner – but that sounds like complacent confidence in one’s  superior judgment!

How right is it for us to wish to change another person? Should there be some (written or unwritten) boundaries in relationships?

Traditionally one is lead to believe that a wife could make a Kaalidas out of a fool, or a man could turn a shrew into a perfect, ‘obedient’ wife.

And some might try to change people, generally through criticism. How effective is criticism in improving relationships?

Can you be close to a person without giving them personal space?

Is it possible to respect someone and still not respect their personal space?

Does loving someone mean we own them? Sounds romantic?  But in real life how comfortable are we with personal decisions being taken out of our hands? What do you think of this song?

What about trusting and respecting a partner’s judgment? Do you believe that the best way to make a marriage work is through compromise? (Tomboy mom’s blog)

This post was in drafts, publishing it after reading TBG’s ‘Space’ and Cilla’s ‘I am what I am’ on the same subject.

And here’s a must-read,  ‘There are signs..If these signs are repeated, be aware you have stepped into an abusive relationship that can be dangerous in future.How Abuse Begins‘ by Desi Girl.

What are you criticised the most for?

What are you criticised the most for? When I was young I was criticised for ‘reading all the time’ (bad for eyes), for being timid, for biting my nails, for not eating enough, for not being interested in cooking, and at one point, for slouching and for spending too much time on the phone.

Did the criticism help? I wonder. Some of the things were just a difference in opinion or interest. Some improved changed with age. And some didn’t. I still get scared of the dark, and still strain my eyes, now on the computer screen too. I still talk endlessly on the phone.

Can boldness be learnt? I guess so. But can criticism and constant checking make one bolder, more open, walk straighter, love cooking and eat better?

We seem to believe that people need to know what’s wrong with them so that they can improve themselves. I feel differences are not imperfections, and nobody is perfect anyway. And what is perfect? When we try to improve everybody we come across, we infringe upon their personal space. If we really can’t resist trying, then it’s good to know that encouragement and appreciation helps, criticism harms (and hurts).

Are we grateful to those who criticise us? Everybody knows we are grateful to those who encourage, appreciate and accept us as we are (and there’s plenty to appreciate in all accept some politicians).

Criticism can kill confidence. Most people feel bitter about those who nag or criticise them. Most of us are aware of our shortcomings. Like I know I bite my nails and Shahrukh Khan knows he smokes. Nagging and constant reminders are not going to help (unless requested for).

Criticism is also used to control. Too much criticism is verbal abuse. I feel those who accept others as they are are the happiest.

Do you think criticism helps ‘improve’ us? …but then who is to say the new improved us is a happier us?