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