When Your Parents Don’t Love Each Other

Jess faran

The following may be triggering to those affected by domestic violence.

 

When my mother was my age, she was engaged to my father.

At 18 years old, she was set to marry a man twenty years her senior. Arranged marriages in the Indian community are a commodity, brought upon by circumstance — or necessity. Before getting married, my father sent sweet introductory letters to my mother, which changed after they flew to Los Angeles together from Fiji. This was the closest my parents would ever get to loving each other. All of a sudden, my mother was stripped of the right to talk to her family and go outside. He was afraid she would cheat on him or find someone else. She was oftentimes locked in a tiny, suffocating apartment, homesick with no one to turn to.

My mother was subject to his berating tantrums and his intense physicality, which often culminated in visits from police officers. By the time I was five, I had cultivated an indifference towards the hurtful occurrences in my home. Violence had become so normalized in my household, that I couldn’t even imagine home without it. The first time I saw my mother struck by him, I meekly stood there. To this day, I still do the same.

I love my father with all my heart, which hurts to say, but I have an internalized fear of him that I will never be able to shake off. The look he gets in his eyes when he raises his voice and edges closer to raising his hand at me or my mother makes me flinch every time. It’s the reason why I jolt whenever someone tries to high-five me or why I am so stiff when they lean in for a hug.

The sorrow in my mother’s eyes, the accumulation of bruises, and her hushed sobs into her pillow eventually translated into deep periods of depression and bouts of anxiety. My father undeniably became my mother’s trigger and later became mine. We found ourselves finding solace in our prescription drugs; Xanax and Ativan became crutches. Whether it was deliberately spending hours at a time at a park to avoid him, or making sure the house was spotless, there was no denying the treatment that was to come.

I’ve tried to attribute my father’s behaviors to the undermining of women perpetuated by various Bollywood films and Hindu customs. Despite having a myriad of goddesses, who portray femininity as divine, women are seen as the dregs of Indian society. Is the learned, general lack of respect for women the cause of his violence? Or is it his upbringing he never mentions? Pinpointing the root of this is hard to determine, but I realized that the patterns that entail abuse are essentially the same. The systematic dehumanization that comes with it starts slowly, beginning with controlling the person’s every move as a “protective” pretense, keeping tabs on the person, not allowing them to see certain people or do certain things, which cripples them so they’re essentially bound and limited. My mother wishes she could have left my father, but divorces in the Indian community were frowned upon then, and doing so would’ve tarnish her family’s reputation by labeling my mother as a failed housewife. She also had my little sister and me. She didn’t have the heart to leave us with him, knowing that he’d make it so she would never see us again if she did leave.

My mother can’t hold a job because of her mental illnesses, and my father uses it as a means of blackmail. He uses it to show her she has no financial security without him. What’s important to realize is that abusers diminish the meaning of individuality and independence in the process….

Surpassing abusers means recognizing the signs early on and distancing yourself.

 

All photos by Jess Farran