I met a friend for a while after work. We needed to rant, because everything around us disappointed us. ‘Do you want to hear some shocking news?’, she asked me. ‘Sure… go ahead!”, I told her.
A couple had apparently broken up. The reason? Emotional abuse. The guy was toxic. He was possessive, regularly checked her phone, stalked the people she talked to and was obsessed with controlling her every move. Their social media reality was different. They regularly posted cute pictures with captions such as – ‘you are my world’ or ‘you make me happy’ and this sweet public display of affection was celebrated with comments like ‘awww’ or ‘couple goals’. If it is revealed that the guy was emotionally abusive, no one will believe it.
I gave her my piece of *shocking news* – an Indian celebrity couple was getting divorced because the husband was physically and emotionally abusive towards the wife. While giving her statement, a journalist asks the wife why she stayed in the marriage if he was abusive (doubting her, probably!) and she replies – ‘Because I loved him. I still love him.’ I stalked her instagram handle and they too had a plethora of *cute* photos.
Whenever my friends and I get together to catch up on our lives, there is at least one such story that has recently happened to someone we know. Either a neighbor filing for divorce because her husband beat her or a friend dealing with a toxic relationship or a celebrity story. We exclaim that they were such a sweet couple and how we can’t believe they broke up. We think about how people get easily manipulated and how people submit to these toxic people. We even pass judgement sometimes about how she (it’s mostly she, in our discussions) should have left, and lament on why she didn’t. We get angry and collectively agree that all men are the same. We also think about how it could happen to us as well. We discuss it so much that it seems like an inevitable reality – like it’s bound to happen to all of us regardless of our relationship status. Then we go back to our lives, where these discussions become a voice in the background warning as we figure out our way through love and intimate partnership.
In my friend group, all of us are extremely career oriented. We often put our love lives in the backseat while we ride high and fast on the ‘being independent young women’ route. Some of us are in relationships, some of us are using dating apps for fun, and some of us have vowed to be single forever. We’ve all grown up witnessing unequal and toxic relationships and think we can easily spot such malignant and abusive behavior in others. ‘If this happens to me, I am going to leave right away’, we say without giving it much thought because it feels so simple. And it should be that simple, but it’s not. We never know when a seemingly nice person can turn out to be manipulative; when our ‘world’ of a partner will wrap their toxicity in a love bomb and burst us in pieces. You never know. So we release a sigh of hopelessness as we plan to conquer the world so it doesn’t happen to us.
We value our safety, above all. But we also want love, of some kind. We want to have someone who can give us contentment, and emotional security. Some of us picture an immaculate love story for ourselves and are in love with the idea of being in love. Some of us despise the idea of relationships. But, unlike the old days, we don’t believe that love is blind, and we don’t want to be blinded by love for if we put our guard down for even a moment, we might fall in the trap and end up in a vicious cycle of abuse without even realizing. Love today comes in a combined shipment of fear and cynicism. It comes with the constant voice of ‘you never know’ and ‘be aware’. And if we approach love like we approach fear, what’s the difference between love and fear?
There is an abundance of news regarding intimate partner violence. Whenever I read such news, I think of the victims and imagine how they must have trusted their partner, how being with them must have been valuable for them, and they were cheated; betrayed – ripped off of their pure feelings. Will they be able to trust again? Will they be able to love someone again without being disbelieving? Because I have only read the news. I have only discussed it with my friends. And I can’t seem to separate love from fear and distrust.
That celebrity probably didn’t love an abuser. She loved a human she thought was a good person. She was proven to be wrong. But she still loves him. She loves the version of him that she thinks exists. Yet she was abused, and how she stands as an example in many conversations, where people might either judge her or support her. Whatever it is, it won’t matter to her. She loved someone and that someone hurt her. Love was hurtful for her. And it may not be for us. Or it may be. No matter what, we will always hang onto the thread of these slim chances.
‘What if it happens to us too? You never know!”, says my friend and I think to myself, ‘I hope I never love someone enough to let them abuse me.’