After getting thrashed by her lover, Rihanna says he’s not a monster. How smart is it to go on with an abusive partner? When she broke up with boyfriend Chris Brown in 2009, saying she had been in an abusive relationship for long, Rihanna made a very important statement: “When I realised that my selfish decision for love could result into some young girl getting killed, I could not be easy with that part.
I couldn’t be responsible … If Chris never hit me again, who’s to say that their boyfriend won’t … kill these girls”. She urged young girls to not “react out of love”. That was then. Four years later, the Umbrella singer has got back with Brown, saying she missed her “best friend”. The 25-year-old has reacted to criticism saying she believed that Brown needed help. In her seventh studio album Unapologetic, the two crooners have recorded a song titled Nobody’s Business – which is kind of self explanatory.How safe is it to get back with an abusive – it could be mental, physical or even sexual – ex?
It’s a gamble most psychologists say one should avoid. Deepti Makhija who has a practice at Andheri believes, “Expecting a violent partner to change is a false notion. After all, we come from a society where mothers believe in reinforcing negative behaviour among their children.
If a child hits his/her classmate in school, instead of correcting their child or understanding if there’s a larger issue to be dealt with, mothers say, ‘at least, my child didn’t get hit’.” Psychiatrist Dr Ashit Sheth, who practices at Marine Lines, says a lot of people in abusive relationships tend to ‘romanticise the relationship’ and wonder how it would have turned out had they given it some time and care. Rihanna too, for instance, has been quoted in Rolling Stone magazine saying, “He’s not the monster everybody thinks.
He’s a good person. He has a fantastic heart. He’s giving and loving. And he’s fun to be around.” She added, “I decided it was more important for me to be happy. I wasn’t going to let anybody’s opinion get in the way of that. Even if it’s a mistake, it’s my mistake. After being tormented for so many years, being angry and dark, I’d rather just live my truth and take the backlash.I can handle it.”
Living a lie
Both Makhija and Sheth believe staying in an abusive relationship, or getting back to one is an unhealthy move. “It’s like being put in a miniconcentration camp. Initially, they face fear, anger or resentment but after that, they go through guilt, shame, and feel that something is wrong with them. In these cases women, especially, become too passive to take a decision. Instead, they tend to get used to the abuse,” says Sheth.Makhija says it is also a reflection of low self-esteem.
“Women who come from abusive homes tend to have esteem issues. If she has seen this sort of behaviour at home, she begins to think ‘abuse’ is normal.” Some victims even see this sort of aggression by a partner as a sign that they are wanted. This again, points out Makhija, mirrors lack of love and attention at home. “The roots can be traced to childhood.” Children, financial insecurities and even social stigma are often cited as reasons for not leaving an abusive relationship.
Sheth talks about a patient who suffered psychological and physical abuse at home. “Her husband had barred her from communicating with her maternal family because they didn’t show adequate respect to him. Though the woman’s brother and parents encouraged her to leave her husband, she was unwilling because she didn’t want to live the ‘shame of being a divorcee’.”
Rihanna, perhaps defending Brown, said, “We don’t often think of abusive men as victims or people who need help, but that’s really what they are.”
This may well be true says Sheth. “Sometimes abusive partners may be suffering from genuine disorders like paranoia or schizophrenia, or may have faced a major head injury and are therefore, going through bouts of bad temper. They need to be put on medication and in all my cases I have seen it has shown improvement in their behavior pattern.” Medication like anti-Parkinson and asthmatic drugs make people aggressive; insomnia is another major reason for persistent irritability.
These “aggressive victims” could also be abusing substances like alcohol or cocaine. Most often, says Sheth, it’s people who show signs of personality disorders – being anti-social to the point of being standoffish (utterly sensitive, self-centered) – who go home and try to control their spouses – or narcissistic personality disorder (full of pride) that bully their partners. “They need serious counseling, but the problem with such cases is that they seldom believe they need help,” says Sheth.