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ramblings of an unknown psychiatrist

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“Why don’t you just leave your husband?”

Posted by Dheeraj Kattula on November 6, 2009

“Why don’t you just leave your husband?” Yes, this is what I said a couple of days to a patient of mine. How could I suggest such a thing? Leaving a marriage is not consistent with my worldview. Suggesting things is not consistent with psychological therapeutic practices. Then how on earth was I moved to do such a thing.

She had come into the hospital having eaten a crushed Oleander seed, a common method to kill oneself in this part of the world. She was 32 years old. She is married for 18 years, with an alcoholic man.  He beat the hell out of her everyday. He sold all the articles of the house to feed his habit of drinking. She had no ornaments of any kind, not even plastic stuff. He sold everything except the clothing upon her.Her husband never visited her, even when she was admitted into the Hospital. She worked hard as a daily wage laborer to feed her husband, son and herself. What she gets in return is slaps, punches and kicks.

She has tried her best to get justice. She thought the village elders would counsel him and stop the mindless violence at home. The elders of the village were men who enjoyed alcohol. Domestic violence is not an issue for them. In fact they supported him as he occasionally bought drinks for them. She had gone to her parents’ house to get some support. Her husband came to their house and dragged her out and took her back to his village. It was his right, after all she was ‘his’ wife. Her parents had complained to the local police station. The police told them that it was not their business to interfere in domestic problems of their house-hold. Her 16 year old son had already started drinking alcohol and was joining his father in violating her.

The woman I am talking about was not just another dumb illiterate woman. She was quite functional. She had saved a couple of women, who had attempted suicide by consuming Oleander seeds by taking them to the hospital. She knew Oleander seeds were deadly. She had high intention of her death. She survived by God’s grace.

Why is it that she was pushed to this extreme? She had tough life and had no hope. The system was against her. What else could she do? Escape! Where? From life…this is what she thought. I too think she should escape…not from life but from husband. I wish we had good police and legal aid for such women. The NGO’s are faaaar away from her.

She had never considered running away from the rogue husband of hers. She could easily work as a maid servant in a caring household and live comfortably. She did not know that it is possible. May be I was paternalistic in suggesting it. Whatever…it gave her hope. She decided to search for work somewhere. She is now living with her parents. Her husband is not bothered about her now as he feels she is weak and useless, especially as she had a recent hospital admission. She hopes to have a better life. At least she does not want to die now.

I wonder how contexts can change the way we view what is good. Socially, leaving a marriage is justifiable on basis of sexual infidelity. If a person has right to sexual purity of the partner, don’t they have for maintaining their own physical and mental integrity from the partner? If it is acceptable to leave a spouse if there is a trespass in sexual norms, why not it be acceptable to leave a spouse who violates physically and mentally?

I do not know the answers. You can help…just comment.I am busy thesedays, but could not help writing this.


8 Responses to ““Why don’t you just leave your husband?””

  1. srujun said

    Hi Anna,
    This is a very good and important topic that needs a discussion and some solution too.
    i dont know the answers too, but i just wanted to encourage you in this matter.


    • Dheeraj Kattula said

      The minimum we can do is not ostracise people in our circle who leave their ‘intolerable’ spouse.
      Divorce/ separation is bad.Making such a victim a social outcaste is even worse,at a time when more support is needed.
      We need to think this from a theological angle too.Would God want a woman to intentionally suffer with a lousy husband or protecting the temple of Holy Spirit i.e. her own body is acceptable. It is time for us to think instead of only teaching in Churches on the sanctity of marriage meaning ‘keeping people together’ rather than ‘keeping people safe and happy’.

  2. Deepali said

    Hi Dheeraj
    Interesting is what i would say to your blogs !
    The Art section too was truly interesting…some I had’t seen before !
    Read the last blog…
    The institution of marriage is a combined effort of two individuals who are committed to the responsibility they take and when that does not exist the pillars fall apart.
    Hence, your question ” Why don’t you leave your husband ” is justifiable in the whole sense.
    The problem with our society is the strong gender bias. This is empowered by illiteracy and societal dogmas.
    How many NGO’s are there to empower such women who are victims of the very society we live in ?
    Do you know your patient came in from a village ! I had a similar case: That too in the so called educated society where we live…and I so wanted to tell her ” Why don’t you leave your husband ? ” when she had a 4 yr old and pregnant with 26 weeks !
    I never could understand what kept her going in life… HOPE that one day things will change !
    Even the thought sends shivers to my bones at this very moment how could someone live on that HOPE ?

    • Dheeraj Kattula said

      Thanks Deepz for taking time out to read and respond.
      I love it when you said “The institution of marriage is a combined effort of two individuals who are committed to the responsibility”.

      “HOPE that one day things will change” :- That is a pretty strong hope.It comes from faith.We don’t see it because of our reason.Reason gives clarity.Faith adds beauty.So long as faith is reasonable…It is Absolutely GREAT.

      I agree our Indian women do not enjoy equal position in our society,though they are equally good if not better in many dimensions.

  3. AMN said

    In the future you should advice women who undergo such abuse to the approach the Tamil Nadu Magaleer Aanaiyam (Women’s commission).

    • Dheeraj Kattula said

      Thanks Malar for that info.I am sure,I would call them up the next time I encounter this kind of stuff.
      I found the address of this organization on google.
      Tamil Nadu State Commission for Women.
      Ground Floor, Agriculture Office Building, Chepauk, Chennai – 600 005

      Phone: 044 – 28592750

  4. vivek said

    I have encountered similar situations. I wanted to tell the wife the same thing, but this issue, especially in India, is a hard one to deal with. Women who have alcoholic husbands go through a horrible ordeal, and I always wondered why they never left their useless husbands, why they put themselves through such an ordeal.

    They are intelligent enough to know the option of dumping their husbands, and i offered it too, at times thinking “wouldn’t they have already thought of this as an option?”. so I went ahead and asked one of them why?. The answer she gave me was “What will I do if I leave him, where will I go, how can I leave him”. I realized that the lousy person they call their husbands is an inseperable part of their lives, the life they identify with. The only option is to seek to make him better. They don’t see any other option.

    They are willing to endure the abuse, rather than live the life of a woman aho has left her husband. And if you look at how our society operates, a woman living with an alcoholic husband recieves more help and sympathy than one who dumps her alcoholic husband.

    • Dheeraj Kattula said

      Thanks Vivek.I am glad many of you who encounter similar situations feel the same way as I do.

      I am not abnormal,after all. 🙂
      Keep contributing.Catch you in Jaipur during ANCIPS 2010.

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