A tree at the edge with roots falling into nowhere through several meters of no soil

Why do some women not leave abusive marriages?

A tree at the edge with roots falling into nowhere through several meters of no soil

The System

What do you want them to leave? A man, an in-law who are abusive? Are marriages only about men and relatives?

Weddings that become marriages performed by invoking ancestors, spirits and Gods of the faith, attended, witnessed and celebrated by hundreds, on the words of some mystical language by the bearer of that language, through many moments of consent, and give and take. Perhaps in the lingering, a respect, a care for these ceremonies.

And it is the ushering of hope, of dreams of happiness together. Maybe a desire to emerge as an adult from the shadow of the parent. Maybe a desire to be one amongst the fairy tales, a beautiful woman come alive. Also a relief from searching for partners, that entire act of having to appear a certain way to garner a mate, of putting yourself out there. A relief that other systems can support the gaze now. Now partnered, one can focus on other aspects of living and emerging.

And it is love. No matter how vicious, there is something that happens in living together for long, a form of relating that is comforting. The moments when you made up, or when you tended and cared, or when you hoped for care. Even that desire connects. Marriage is not a single story that we tell later.

And love of children, a desire for them to grow up in a family, that unwillingness to step into uncertain moments of single parenting, of questioning folks, of school and college fees to be paid.

And it is about money. The house rent paid or shared property, school fees paid, a certain assurance of ways of being, of comfort in a system that passionately teaches men to earn, and women ambiguously—damned if you, damned if you don’t. Then it is about that intimidating process of learning skills, becoming economically viable, managing taxes, negotiating bills.

And it is about certainty. The certainty of a specific form of grief, the certainty of the gifts of home,  status, a sense of security, human networks that also comes with it. How does one step from place of familiarity to uncertain forms of betrayal and grief and uncertain gifts of emerging?

And it is about social shame. Of the woman who couldn’t hold it together, of the woman spurned and hence not seductive enough, or an arrogant woman who cared for herself more than traditions, who now has a cold bed, that is available sans commitment.

And it is about the law, untransparent and unpeopled, cold as it can be. That won’t listen to your whimper of why you don’t have his financial records, that you don’t know where he invested what, that there is an essay to your grief, that it is not few moments isolated from their contexts. About why you stayed for as long as you did. Are we life-skilled to work with legal system?

And it is messy. It is messy. No amount of clean takes away the mess.

I feel you, sister.

Divorce is a Systemic Response

There, then, Divorce is a systemic response. A pattern interruptus. A break in the web.

Through which you say—I dare. I dare walk into uncertain spaces. I am willing to walk the bog. I embrace that flooding of openness, of light to newly eyed person. Or fuck it. It was not worth the pain, the struggle. I cannot accept that behaviour. Or a way to keep dreams alive – surely there is more to life than this. Or perhaps someone else out there awaiting me. Or that children will grow in courage, as responsive individuals in society, and you have a chance to caretake future in your own ways.

Or to reclaim your greatness, your unique ways of being in the world, of ceasing to apologize to be smart or creative or dreamy or passionate. Of being models for others –yeah, you did it, so how? Of speaking from the beyond, from the new earth.

And sometimes even the thought that maybe you can walk away brings to awareness the possibility of a door, a choice to place your hand on the knob and turn it out. It is good to know that there is a door, na.

Those who walk away perhaps are bog veterans, life-skilled to be resilient, changemakers of the world. Or perhaps not. Maybe they suffer years of depression, grieve unendingly, search for new mate unendingly, hoping to reinscribe the structures of marriage back into their lives.

Perhaps there is no walking away, no easy stories. There is a shift over from this moment to next. Some cross thresholds, some don’t.

It is what you make of it.

The issue was never about just one woman being called to morally walk away from her abuse. It is about a complex system that has become cold, dry and unresponsive.

And what can we do to juice it back?

1 thought on “Why do some women not leave abusive marriages?”

  1. Indeed a beautiful article that got me thinking…. is it all worthwhile?
    Depression it is…. for living in that environment suffocating the self and accepting it as a way of life… fear of the unknown… fear of being ostracized by the society. ……brilliantly you have put out so many ideas and thoughts …as if you were reading thr mind….
    Loved loved it… and indeed thought provoking.

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