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1 August, 2018 00:00 00 AM

Mental health and emotional abuse in marriage

Many of us do not characterise mistreatment or manipulation as abusive
Naznin Deeba
Mental health and emotional abuse 
in marriage

Abuse in a marriage causes terrible physical and emotional trauma. Today, we will shed some light on emotional abuse in marriage and its repercussions in the context matching Bangladeshi social setting. Before we dive into the discussion, let’s refresh our perception of mental abuse through a definition that reads: "Emotional abuse is any kind of abuse that is emotional rather than physical in nature. It can include anything from verbal abuse and constant criticism to more subtle tactics, such as intimidation, manipulation, and refusal to ever be pleased. Emotional abuse can take many forms. Three general patterns of abusive behavior include aggressing, denying, and minimizing. Withholding is another form of denying. Withholding includes refusing to listen, refusing to communicate, and emotionally withdrawing as punishment."

Marriage is considered to be the sacred practice in forming the social institution called family which is supposed to provide an individual with safety, comfort and confidence. Yet this sacred vow is broken quite often by the heinous act of violence or mental abuse. Many of us are well aware of physical abuse because it comes with its tangible evidences but many of us simply don’t conceive the idea of emotional abuse as a real form of abuse.

In our society violence and emotional abuse in a marriage reached epidemic proportions and only a mindful observation will be enough to grasp this reality. Sadly, in an intimate relationship these pervasive acts are conducted by people who are really close to us, behind the closed doors, leaving no trace for the world to validate the victim’s sufferings.

Tushi and Itmam tied the knot a decade ago with their hearts filled with love and endless possibilities. Both of them are well educated, well spoken and social. Tushi is an ambitious and strong spirited young lady who dreamt of building her own career with her husband by her side, cheering for her every little success. But the fate had other plans for her. Itmam started to face a bout of insecurity at her ambition and strong spiritedness. He came up with an ingenious plan of impregnating her with their first child thinking the event will restrain her from going out and explore the world. Well, his plan worked in a way. She could pursue neither a higher education nor a good job. All her attempts failed at the excuse of child care and Itmam’s selfish needs until the day when she could finally wrap her head around Itmam’s master plan leaving her feeling bitter and trapped. Now Itmam is tending the carcass of their nearly failed marriage with the help of manipulation and emotional abuse.

The case study indicates a classic example of emotional abuse due to power imbalance in an intimate relationship. In our society almost every household experience this insidious form of mental abuse. As a patriarch society men tend to feel threatened while it comes to the matter of sharing power by allowing their women to supersede them in certain areas of their lives. So, they choose manipulation, intimidation or passive aggression to debilitate their partners’ abilities.

In such cases the victims are at loss and totally confused, failing to fathom the damage until it’s too late. Some of the victims stay under the shadow of denial for a long time due to social restrictions and prejudice. They tend to develop a variety of coping or defense mechanism in order to seek to master, minimize or tolerate stress or conflict.

Now ruining an individual’s ambitions and future prospects is a crime, an atrocious form of abuse which is committed within intimate relationships either unconsciously in the name of society or by design. It is counterintuitive. It doesn’t generate harmony, prosperity, satisfaction or mutual growth.

When a victim realizes the oddity of such arrangements of discrimination and abuse at length, they turn to their near and dear ones with a cry for help and guidance. What guidance or answer do they get? They get some general consolations; suggestions, some uuhs, some empty oohs and the ultimate solution “Wait it out. Time will heal everything. Don’t be impatient.” Or even better the whole table is turned towards the victim serving the dishes stenched with blame for being ambitious.

 Unfortunately, the victim is left unnoticed and vulnerable to a disturbed mental health. The victim may feel immensely affected by the abuser that they may no longer recognize what their own feelings are about issues the abuser is trying to control. When the victim’s self-concept and independence are systematically taken away they develop the following symptoms:

•    Doing or avoiding things to make their partner happy and sacrificing their self in the process

•    Chronic anxiety as a precursor of various mental issues

•    Diving into the spiral of chronic depression impeding their day to day functions

•    Post traumatic stress disorder

Till date, many of us in our societal setup do not characterize mistreatment or manipulation as abusive. Yet it is their lying on the road of our holistic development like an uncomfortable bump, unaddressed. In a marriage women are taken for granted to do all the sacrifices and uphold their husbands’ pride.

Women lack voice and empathetic ears to relay their struggles. Families and friends withdraw their support as it is not considered as something visible and serious as physical abuse. Lack of intervention in such instances violates women’s self-concept and stems mental health issues.

The writer is a freelancer



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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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