Leaving an abusive marriagePosted: September 13, 2012
Over the past 2 weeks, I’ve had a few conversations with folks who, upon hearing that I’m leaving an abusive marriage, asked “did he physically hit you?” and “what did he do?”
I know these people are well meaning and didn’t mean to come across in any particular way, but I am left feeling like I need to justify what happened to me. Perhaps I should just be grateful that at least they aren’t asking me “what did you do to cause it?” which I’ve heard numerous times from some in my family. But really, what could one possibly do/say to cause someone to threaten to kill you or attempt to kill you? Must I have concrete examples to use such a loaded word like abuse?
Maybe I’m being overly sensitive. Or maybe it’s that for the past two years people have tried to minimize what’s been happening, encouraging me to stay married. Or maybe I’m tired of living in secrecy and isolation and four years of mentally, verbally, emotionally, and physically intimidating behavior.
How many times did my life need to be threatened or how many times did I need to be physically endangered by a vehicle or fist before it’s considered abuse? Maybe that’s why it’s taken me so long to leave. I needed to accumulate enough incidents before others would count it as an abusive relationship. I needed to have a rock solid reason to get divorced a second time – the first time from a man who cheated on me, and the second time because of abuse.
As someone who has always looked at my role in things to figure out what I’ve done wrong, perhaps I needed that outside validation and acknowledgment before I could admit, even to myself, that I had somehow gotten into an abusive relationship, and that I continued to stay in it for the sake of others.
Because, you see, I don’t fit the stereotypes our community has of these types of situations. I’m a good desi girl. I have an advanced degree and come from a suburban, professional, Muslim family. I could be your friend, your niece, or the person you pray next to at the masjid. And, abuse aside, my husband is also a decent guy from a loving and tight-knit, educated, suburban family.
These feelings and memories are being stirred up as I prepare to move tomorrow. The last time I left my home it was urgent and hasty after a night where my life was threatened. What was supposed to be a temporary separation lasted for 15 months. I had only moved back in with him in mid-March when he kicked me out of the house in the middle of the night in early June. And now September is here and I am officially, properly, and permanently moving out of “our” home.
Leaving this time feels very different. I’ve built an amazing community in this city. I’m already missing all the friends I made and can so easily visit, the ability to always find some show or event to attend at a moments notice, the easy access to farmers markets, acupuncture clinics, yoga studios, etc. I’m leaving a place where I had imagined a future.
Given all these challenges and emotions, I think I’m doing pretty well. I have been feeling so much love from my siblings, friends, and a support system I’ve helped to create for myself, including my relationship with God.
Someone recently asked me how I’m still able to maintain prayer and faith through all of this. Although I could look at my circumstances as unfair, unjust or a punishment, I don’t. I can honestly say that I am a better, more thoughtful, more considerate person because of everything I’ve been through. I wouldn’t have grown in these ways without these trials, and know I’m going to be a better parent because of the insight I’ve gained.
Instead of blaming my parents, my ex-husband, or the world for my pain, I am choosing to focus on myself and something that’s actually within my control. I am taking ownership of what I experienced, to be able to name it for myself and for others in similar situations.
Maryam Abdullah is the pen name of a writer living on the West Coast.