As a man, I have always been taught that to be strong I have to hide my emotions and feelings. This has made it very hard for me to talk to others about the years of abuse I faced in my marriage.
I met Hamza* around January of 2013 at University of Texas, Dallas, where she was studying Economics and I was studying Mechanical Engineering. At the time, I was an officer of a student organization. She joined as a member, and we ended up doing a lot of work together. Three months into working with her, she invited me to the school coffee shop where she asked if I was interested in getting to know each other for marriage.
She seemed like a very understanding and intelligent young woman and we practiced the same religion. I was happy, I could see myself marrying her. The only red flag I noticed was when she shared with me that she once wanted to commit suicide when she was younger. But I did not think too much about it, since Hamza seemed grateful and content with her life. After nine months of getting to know each other, we finally got engaged in a ceremony at her parents’ house, and later had a grander second ceremony with family and friends at the Irving Convention Center in January 2014.
It was in April that year that I saw the first sign that things were not quite right. My wife asked not to register our marriage with the Government because she did not want to lose her “McDermott scholarship” that was contingent upon her being single and so she demanded not to make our marriage public. Soon after, I started noticing that she had extreme mood swings. One day, she opened up about how her father severely neglected her. The ways of neglect didn’t seem to make any sense, but right after I asked her about it, she got very angry at me. I really cared about her, but she made me feel like a worthless person and she gave me no respite, no matter how many flowers I bought for her or meals I made for her after coming back from a long day of work.
The first six months of our marriage were rough, to say the least, especially when she started threatening me saying that she wanted to leave me. She started criticizing the way I lived my life and everything I did. Even my way of praying had to be the way she wanted. I was not allowed to talk to any female friends and cousins, even the ones she knew about before we got married.
A year into the marriage, she told me she realized that she needed professional help. The psychologist we began seeing suspected that she had early-onset Bipolar disorder called Cyclothymia from all that she had told him. He advised us to request space when things were getting out of hand. But things didn’t get better because Hamza did not follow his instruction and refused to go for counseling again after the counselor came back from his vacation. She got even more aggravated when she saw that she was not as successful in controlling me anymore. I was reading books about relationships and that helped me recognize the abuse better. I was not responding to her verbal abuse and her anger was not reciprocated at all and I would take space like the counselor asked.
April 18, 2015 was one of the most traumatizing and emotionally scarring events. That afternoon she started taunting me and telling me to “go back to my mom’s house” which she quickly followed with “oops I forgot she doesn’t have one anymore” knowing that my parents’ home had recently been ruined by the 2014 flood in Kashmir that had kept my parents trapped on the third floor of their house for eight days. I could not even comprehend how someone could be so heartless and cruel as to bring that up simply to try and make me react. That day she had absolutely no control over herself and she even threw a rock at my face through a glass window. When the neighbor came to see what the sound was and why I was crying, she told him that nothing happened and said “He acts crazy like this sometimes.” She begged him not to call the police. I asked her why and she told me that she would have me jailed and deported by lying to the police that I hit her. She left to stay with her parents, and when I texted her about the nightmares I was having where she would throw a rock at my face and I would wake up sweating, she didn’t say anything and just blocked me
Despite so many similar incidents, I remained with my wife as I felt determined to help her get the help she felt needed. About a year later, in March 2016, she told me that she was finally ready to have kids. But I wasn’t comfortable unless she stopped verbally threatening me with a divorce every month. And she had failed a year-long Arabic course she was studying so it seemed like her back-up plan .
On May 29, 2016, she woke up, called her parents over, and said she was not happy and didn’t feel we were compatible. So she left and went back to living with her wealthy parents. It was In January 2017, she filed for divorce, and even though I earned less than $30,000, she used two different lawyers to extort an “allowance” and a “post-divorce maintenance”. According to multiple lawyers that I reached out to, this was an unlawful request since we had been married for less than ten years and we didn’t have kids. Because of that and several other absurd demands, I was forced to hire a lawyer to contest the claims in court.
After internally battling all the stress alone for so long due to stigma around mental health, I visited a doctor and was diagnosed with anxiety and depression in Dallas, and put on medication. Since the separation, I have tried really hard to battle my mental health problems with outdoor activities, meeting new people, but I haven’t had much success and memories of the abuse still come back to haunt me when I wake up or when I take a shower.
One thing I know for certain, though, is that no one should have to go through the emotional, physical and psychological abuse I suffered during my marriage.