Single Parents and Broken Marriages

Last month a few readers emailed me separately about a similar issue: disharmony in relationships. I’m clubbing their comments.

I’ve been married for 15 years and have done everything I could but my husband still gets mad like hell. He swears at me and shouts as if I am an unwanted servant in the house. It all happens over tiny matters and this is his general behavior towards me. So many times I left him but went back to him because every time he promised to not repeat his behavior…

I thought of a divorce but didn’t go for it for the sake of my children because I believe that children from single families become more timid, moody and have psychological problems. What to do when it just doesn’t work with your partner?

While I’m not a psychologist, trained or otherwise, I can shed some light from a spiritual perspective. First of all, there’s no clear evidence to suggest that children brought up by single parents turn out any less in any way compared to those with both parents. Some of the kindest and most adorable people I’ve known were raised by single parents.

There is no doubt that children in single families miss the presence of other parent, but there is no conclusive proof that this void has far reaching psychological or other implications. On the contrary, children of single parents tend to take their own relationships more seriously because they have already experienced the fragility of it.

What matters more is not whether a child has been raised by a single parent but if she’s been provided a loving environment conducive to personal growth. You may want to read my post on it (here). And, this is really the spiritual perspective I wish to offer: a close-knit family with fewer people is infinitely better than a toxic one with more people. When two partners frequently argue, quarrel and fight, this has a telling impact on the child. In such a case, in my opinion, it’s better to split and be at peace than live in a tense, unpredictable and unhealthy environment. An abuser must be shunned.

Going back to my readers’ questions: the decision of separation is never an easy one. No, not because you don’t know right from wrong, but because in most abusive relationships the dominating partner is often unpredictable and inconsistent. You don’t know what will tick them off. They can be very loving one moment and an absolute monster the next. This is torturous and intimidating for the family members. And, this sort of environment is far more damaging than being raised by a single parent.

Inconsistency in the behavior of the other person is what makes most relationships particularly complicated. What’s even worse is that an abusive partner rarely changes his or her ways. When they are fickle and discordant, they’ll remain like that with you. I also want to make an important point here: don’t think that it’s in their nature to be angry. They are — albeit not necessarily consciously ­— choosing to be this way with you because you’ve accepted their misbehavior in the past.

Most abusive partners come across as loving and respectful at the beginning of a new relationship, but, as time goes by, they become increasingly condescending, even manipulative. If you keep on accepting misdemeanor, they’ll continue to misbehave. Never for the sake of a child or for any other reason should you ever put up with a partner who mistreats you. They treated you well when they were courting you, didn’t they? It means they are capable of good behavior and now you are being taken for granted. If you are financially independent, move on. If you are not, seek financial independence as a matter of priority.

If you don’t move out of an abusive relationship, you are doing yourself great disservice. And, if you just can’t call it quits then you must develop your personal method to keep your sanity. Whether your coping mechanism is compassion or shopping, forgiveness or meditation, it’s your personal choice. Some have more peculiar methods though:

“What do you do when your husband shouts at you?” A lady asked her friend.

“I start cleaning,” the friend said.

“Cleaning?” She was surprised. “You don’t shout back or get mad?”

“Nope. I simply clean the washroom.”

“Never heard this one before! It won’t work for me for sure.”

“Well, when I clean the toilet bowl with his toothbrush, it gives me immense satisfaction.”

Hopefully, you have a more hygienic approach. Humor aside, if you are going to treat yourself second-rate by accepting or ignoring offensive behavior, please know you’ll have to face it till your last breath. Your partner won’t improve or change. Better than getting caught up in social definitions of right and wrong is to lead a life of peace and respect.

A life of dignity is your birth right. Don’t discount it.

Peace.
Swami

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