Imagine a housewife diligently waking up at five in the morning, making tea for her in-laws, cooking a lavish brunch, checking the clock to wake her husband up. She moves on to cut some fruits, pack them and ensures that her husband carries them along. He never does, and she makes it a point to hurriedly take them to the car just before it runs off. There is no acknowledgement or appreciation for any of it, and perhaps, she doesn’t know that it is required.
She finally sits and takes a deep breath. Maybe you could say it is just a result of tiredness. But then, why is every moment around her husband exhausting when it is supposed to be a cherishable bond? Why is his exit a sign of relief?
The description could be relevant in many urban affluent families. While the husband, in such conventional settings, goes out to earn, the wife tends to household chores. And amidst all this, they rarely have any time alone.
When this is the case, in concrete terms, emotional abuse does not seem too grave.
The man has a humiliating dig at the wife in a family gathering disguised as a joke. He seems to throw in derogatory pet names commenting on his wife’s deepest insecurities once in a while. His patronizing happens, but he probably does not have time to patronize ‘enough.’
With this being generational, most women going through this do not even realize that this is not supposed to happen. Emotional abuse is a far-fetched concept, and apart from just going through that, they also go through unawareness and mistrust.
My heart aches if I pause to think of the situation of such women during the enforced lockdown. Just like most other social problems, the problem of emotional abuse has always existed. COVID-19, however, disallows these to hide under the developing social institutions as it forces the institutions themselves to stop. The derogatory comments, humiliating jokes, the dismissiveness, the gaslighting, the pushing of the wife’s buttons when the man is angry- it’s all there, but now, it’s too hard to ignore. It’s not something thrown in here and there. It is persistently present, which is so likely to have a huge mental toll on the woman.
If you are reading this and can relate to it, try thanking the woman you envision when she serves you food. And notice how she brushes it apart, or perhaps, doesn’t even accept it. She believes that she doesn’t deserve appreciation despite the mental and physical burden that we, even if unknowingly, unleash on her. I want to appreciate her, but does that solve the problem? Can we not start by acknowledging that we are a part of the problem? We recognize it, but we find ourselves too comfortable to change it. Can we not work towards creating a society that is comfortable for her as well?
*Men, of course, could be on the receiving end of emotional abuse too. The composition, however, is written from the narratives I have personally seen in my immediate surroundings.