What do you do when a re­la­tion­ship goes south? We get some ad­vice from Dr. Arunan

Marie Claire (Malaysia) - - Contents - By Sc Chua

Anna* - beau­ti­ful and smart – was hope­lessly in love with her hus­band, Richard*, who ran a suc­cess­ful business. It was fine in the be­gin­ning, both en­joy­ing the hon­ey­moon stages of their marriage. Ev­ery­thing was per­fect and Anna couldn’t have asked for more.

And yet, the pic­ture is far from per­fect. Richard started hurl­ing abuse to­wards Anna. Then the abuse turned phys­i­cal – a shove at first, then slaps and kicks. When his business took a dive, the abuse be­came more reg­u­lar and vi­o­lent. Anna

blamed it on the stress Richard was going through, hop­ing that when his business picked up, he would re­turn to be­ing the man she fell in love with. But the abuse con­tin­ued over the years and Anna re­mained stuck and ter­ri­fied.

Like many women in Anna’s sit­u­a­tion, hope that vi­o­lent episodes are cir­cum­stan­tial is what keeps them in abu­sive re­la­tion­ships. We speak to Dato’ Dr. Arunan Sel­varaj, lawyer and au­thor of Sav­ing Your Marriage, to get his take: “Gen­er­ally women are very trust­ing and some of them are in de­nial when

they get into an abu­sive re­la­tion­ship. They tend to trust the other party a lot, think­ing and hop­ing that it is a one-off in­ci­dent. Some women are so deeply in­volved that they can’t see the abuse.”

Be­cause of this, many vic­tims find them­selves trapped. Worst still is that to the out­side world, these women might not look or seem like they are vic­tims of any­thing. Which brings to the ques­tion many ask when they hear of a friend or rel­a­tive in an abu­sive re­la­tion­ship: Why didn’t you leave him?

Eas­ier said than done. Hope aside, there are many other fac­tors like fi­nances or chil­dren “pre­vent­ing” a wo­man from leav­ing her abu­sive part­ner. Says Dr. Arunan, “The fact that the vic­tims con­tinue to love the abuser can make it all the more dif­fi­cult. The sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity to keep work­ing at the marriage of­ten re­sult in the abused spouse ac­cept­ing and at­tempt­ing to for­give these abuses over and over.”

The vi­cious cy­cle of do­mes­tic abuse doesn’t help ei­ther. “When the abuse starts, it may seem un­in­ten­tional at first. The abuser will then con­vince the vic­tim of the guilt that they go through, with prom­ises to never do it again. Next, the abuser will dis­play a normal be­hav­iour with the in­ten­tion to con­vince the vic­tim that they have changed and to make them stay in the re­la­tion­ship. The last stage of the cy­cle is the ex­e­cu­tion of the abuse wherein the abuser re­ceives some­what a plea­sure from the abuse in­flicted on their vic­tim. Then the cy­cle re­peats,” shares Dr. Arunan. STAY... OR LEAVE

Should there ever be a time when a vic­tim actually stays in the abu­sive re­la­tion­ship? “Only when there is a be­lief that there is the pos­si­bil­ity of the abu­sive spouse hav­ing some kind of break­through or if the spouse ac­knowl­edges the fact that they are be­ing abu­sive and is will­ing to seek help,” says Dr. Arunan. But he also warns that there should be a time limit and a de­ci­sion to move on.

Leav­ing a marriage is never an easy de­ci­sion to make and an even more dif­fi­cult task to carry out. But you should never al­low your­self to be abused in any form. “Gather the courage to leave. Cut off con­nec­tions with your spouse and seek help from the au­thor­i­ties to pro­tect your­self legally. Seek coun­selling. En­gage your­self in so­cial ac­tiv­i­ties that will cre­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties to meet new peo­ple. Take care of your­self and spend time with your loved ones and friends. Re­gain your self-con­fi­dence. You al­ways have a choice to leave for a bet­ter life,” ad­vises Dr. Arunan.

The fact that the vic­tims con­tinue to love the abuser can make it all the more dif­fi­cult.

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