(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 5 May 2012)
I often wonder how many women settle for relationships that are not mutually satisfying. How many spend day after day wishing they had a better relationship while living with a spouse or partner who could not care two cents about having a thriving relationship?
I am talking about the kind of relationships where the woman does everything, like nurture the relationship, bears the brunt of the household chores and at times even looks the other way while he talks to another woman on his BlackBerry.
As women, we hear some of these Sisters talk about their situations and try to help them through the tough times. Others quietly bear their hurt and pain, hoping one day the man will wake up and be that loving and caring partner they are so sure he truly is, deep inside.
Sadly, there are women who live this way for years and years until the multiple sharp barbs to the heart have calloused them so much that it is difficult to tell their dead feelings from those of the man who made them this way. Society expects women to stay in such relationships no matter how punishing. A woman is supposed to stand by her man and hope her goodness will rub off on him.
We all know, of course, that the man does not change. He doesn’t even want to change; does not see a reason to do so. In fact, most men will see that goodness from the woman as a licence to do even more that will hurt her.
When confronted about the hurt they cause, men like this tend to want to be defensive or to push the blame back on the woman instead of taking responsibility for their own actions. After all, he had no choice but to work late (365 days a year) or to talk to that other woman several times a day (it’s just a “business” relationship) or to walk all over the woman’s feelings (he never understands the tears – and never tries to do so).
That very same man would never tolerate this type of behaviour from her. Yet the woman is expected to just accept his ill-treatment with a smile and dinner on the table. And sadly, many women do just that.
On top of holding down a job to make ends meet, so many women in this type of untenable situation go home to wash and press that man’s clothes, clean his house, raise his children, shop for his groceries, cook his meals (and even take the food out of the pot and hand him the plate!) all while his majesty grumbles and complains about this or that – or talks to his sweet woman on the phone.
She does not get flowers for her hard work. There are no kind words for her; they are saved for the sweet woman. There’s not even a measly “thank you” for everything she does and all the sacrifices she makes, so he can live like a prince.
This goes on day after day, week after week, year after year. And when the woman just can’t take it any more and breaks down into tears, he calls her “emotional” or crazy or pathetic (sometimes all of the above). Afterwards, she is the one left feeling like she has done something wrong by putting a dark cloud in his majesty’s blue sky. This is madness to the nth degree.
Yet she fights to hold this unhealthy relationship together. She does not understand why she works so hard to preserve a relationship that causes her so much hurt and heartache; she just knows that it would disappoint society if she cannot make him happy. Moreover, she has invested so much of herself into this relationship that she can’t seem to just walk away – even if it is for her own good.
This is not a question of love. It is a question of self-preservation. How long can the woman hold on until she either loses all of herself to this relationship and becomes nothing more than the walking dead or has a mental breakdown from dealing with the constant bombardment of hurtful barbs?
What is wrong with this picture?
Does he have any intention at all of changing? Of becoming more loving, caring and attentive? Does he plan to stop hurting her with his curious relationships? Will he ever decide that he, too, has responsibilities in the home and finally help her?
Women should not be forced to live like this. Yet think about how many Sisters you know who live like this every single day. There is so much feminine potential in those Sisters that goes to waste as they spend all their energy trying to get even one smile from that man who is too wrapped up in his own selfish world to even take note.
Even her beauty and intelligence are lost on him. When others tell him how pretty she is; he gives a blank stare. When others tell him what a great woman she is, he picks up his BlackBerry to see if his sweet woman has sent him another message.
He thinks that sweet woman understands him better, but most times she doesn’t even know him. It is the spouse who has seen him through thick and thin, through richer and poorer and who really knows him. It is the partner who knows all of his ugly ways and still accepts him that truly loves him.
Imagine the possibilities if instead he spent all that “sweet woman” time, energy and effort on his wife.
When she finally cannot take it anymore and finds the courage to take her life back, all too often he suddenly he realises he loves her. Most times the man will beg her to stay and make empty promises about being a better husband, but one cannot help but wonder at this point if he fears losing his wife and his love – or just his maid.