The Balancing Act: ‘My Husband Feels He Must Discipline Me By Hitting Me’
Every other week, Sonali Gupta draws on more than 10 years of experience as a clinical psychologist to give advice to readers with questions about parenting, family dynamics, relationships, mental health, and more.
Danger Signs: I’m married for five years and I face domestic violence. My husband feels the only way to discipline me is by hitting me.
Sonali: Domestic violence is a strict ‘No.’ Whether it’s within a marriage, dating relationship, or work relationship, physical violence is unhealthy. Being abused/physically hit can be a very traumatizing experience and also scars the relationship. So first, I would really recommend you see a psychologist or a relationship counsellor with whom you can discuss this. And second, you should know that Indian law under the Domestic Violence Bill provides protection to women who choose to report an incident of domestic violence. (The choice is yours.)
All relationships are characterized by conflict, which is normal. Resorting to violence to resolve conflict is not normal, nor is it a solution. As adults, we are capable of handling conflict in more mature ways. It’s especially concerning that you refer to physical violence as a means of “discipline.” Marriage is a relationship of two individuals who choose to see each other as equals and invest in each other’s lives physically, emotionally and psychologically. The premise of discipline reveals a power hierarchy and a denial of respect, sensitivity and concern for the other partner. This attitude is perhaps the root of poor conflict resolution and demeans your voice as an equal person in the relationship.
Violence is a conscious act, a personal choice; it is a myth or an excuse when people say that the action of a partner makes them respond with violence. Generally, men who engage in physical violence have difficulty controlling their emotions and impulses; they need professional help to learn anger management, conflict resolution techniques, and most importantly, to develop respect for their partners.
Your personal safety is most important. Seeing a psychologist or marital counsellor would help you toward healthy decisions specific to your personal situation and emotional readiness.
Words Matter: What is the difference between fidelity and loyalty in the context of marriage and extramarital affairs?
Sonali: In a very general sense, the terms fidelity and loyalty are used interchangeably. Loyalty means being honest and faithful; fidelity includes an element of loyalty and being faithful to one’s duties, vows and commitments.
However, within marriage or dating relationships, these terms can diverge. Fidelity assumes significance as sexual fidelity in a way loyalty does not. Sexual fidelity involves partners choosing to engage in sexual intimacy only with each other; so, fidelity speaks to exclusivity and a monogamous relationship. What causes a discrepancy sometimes is when men and women choose to express loyalty to their partners in terms of emotional fidelity but not sexual fidelity. This means a partner could emotionally, psychologically, financially and socially fulfil the various needs of his or her spouse, but still seek sexual encounters outside the relationship. These sexual encounters may never enter the space of an emotional connection and the person therefore may see them as a completely separate matter that has nothing to do with “life-partner loyalty.” Problems can arise if only one partner in the relationship sees this distinction.
It is important for dating and married couples to establish a clear, shared understanding of what fidelity – both sexual and emotional — means. When fidelity includes both sexual and emotional loyalty it not just stabilizes a relationship, it empowers two people as a unit. Differing definitions can shake the foundation of trust that all relationships are built on.