by Ras Tyehimba
October 17, 2006
Recently, I read in the media of the incident involving Anita Lutchmepersad, who was forced to leave her home because of the threatening abuses of a ‘close male relative’. After she left, he burnt down the house and drank detergent in an apparent suicide bid. According to one newspaper report, the male relative had seen a text message from one of Anita’s co-workers and misinterpreted it, getting in to a fit of rage. Another newspaper report told of Devica Mahabir who survived being poisoned, beaten and burned but was left horribly disfigured by her husband who killed himself after murdering her lover. What are the factors at play in such scenarios? How do so many relationships which SEEM to start off so good and which are supposedly based on ‘love’ be filled with so much mistrust, pain and abuse?
Such incidents of jealousy, insecurity and abuse (verbal and/or physical abuse) with the context of intimate male/female relations are common place, although only from time to time does it reach to such proportions as to reach the attention of the media. This is usually when someone gets killed or badly physically damaged. Often abuse is conceptualized in terms of physical abuse, but many times abuse in relationships may not be physical but will be verbal and/or emotional. This abuse is no less damaging than outright physical abuse. The many cases of persons who experienced so much trauma and pain from the circumstances of their intimate relationships that they had to seek psychological or psychiatric help are less heard about.
Notwithstanding the ignorance and complicity of offending partners, the deep and persistent problems that people encounter in the context of intimate relationships can be traced to poor ideas and attitudes, and while these may provide temporary ‘feel-good’ feelings, the end result is enslavement, rather that FREEDOM and UPLIFTMENT.
Despite the good intentions of partners, insecurity, jealousy and enslaving possessiveness are inherent in the mainstream model of male/female relations. “You are mine and I am yours,” as the saying goes. Placing one person at the center of one’s universe, and depending on that person to supply attention and bring happiness is not a healthy thing to do. If that person decides to leave or pursue an intimate relationship with another, then the blow of having the ‘center of your universe’ gone is enough to send one in a fit of jealousy or cause a nervous mental breakdown. Just the very threat of a break-up can do this.
All the good intentions or pronouncements of ‘love’ cannot make the ill effects of such flaws in the way people conceptualize relations disappear. The dramas and issues that have not been worked out by the individual will inevitably block him or her from being able to move properly with their partner. The disconnection that individuals suffer because of poor social conditioning will affect the nature of their relationships.
Many of the love songs that play on the airwaves contain sentiments such as ‘you are the light of my day’ or ‘without you I can’t go on’ or ‘I cannot live without you’. Following from this type of thinking, a male may kill his spouse (and himself) if he suspects she is having an affair or is wishing to leave the relationship, all because, in his mind, he cannot live without her.
How people construct relationships are a result of the attitudes and values that they learn and are taught. The basis of which people generally interact with each other in the context of male/female relations is more on the basis of this social conditioning rather than on reasoning or understanding of some truth. Nor is the mainstream model for male/female interaction the only way persons can interact, rather it is the only way most people have been accustomed to behaving in their existence. The male Eurocentric biases that are inherent in social institutions and processes are also very present in the values that underlie how males and females interact with each another.
As such, male/female relations are often very patriarchal in nature. In other words, male domination is very present, especially in terms of the ideas and values inherent in relationships. Males are generally expected to take the lead and dictate the pace of the relationship. For many persons, the male is automatically the head of the household, regardless of how foolish and ignorant he is. The male takes satisfaction in possessing and controlling his partner and conversely the female gets satisfaction at being possessed by her mate. The nature of this possession may range from being overt in some cases to be being very subtle in others. Since the relationship has a strong male bias, females receive the brunt of the poor ideas and values underlying the interaction, even though males will themselves be trapped by such.
Quite often the female will be bound more strongly to the expectations and desires of her partner than he will be bound by her expectations. For example, I have observed instances where males generally expect their partners to tell them where they are going, who they are going with etc., but those same males are not required to tell their females partners where they are going or who they are going with. Such is the nature of male hypocrisy within a society based on male constructs.
Recently, I got into a discussion with a friend of mine, who related that she had always wondered why females in abusive relationships do not just leave, but it was only when she got involved in an abusive relationship herself that she gained a greater insight into the emotional and psychological issues involved in such scenarios. After some time and after really digging into her inner strength did she find the courage to end the relationship. It would have been harder still, if she had had children with the male, was financially dependent on him or had their relationship institutionalized through legal marriage.
The emotional ties are highlighted in the experiences of one female who experienced physical abuse at the hands of her husband on a number of separate occasions. After each incident he apologized and made it up to her by doing such things as taking her out to dinner and buying flowers. Although she is still very unhappy with such incidents, she hopes that the relationship will get better. After all, they have been together for 5 years and he promised to never hit her again. She spoke with such hope and belief in the relationship working out that I did not have the heart to tell her that it is likely that he will hit her again. If the root cause of such behavior is not addressed, it will manifest eventually, even if it is suppressed temporarily.
Many feel stifled and unhappy within the context of their relationships but stay in it for a number of reasons. Some may have a financial interest in continuing the relationship, have a biological interest (a child) or may be afraid of navigating life’s challenges without an intimate partner close by. Insecurities about one’s own self-worth and attractiveness by both parties give rise to unhealthy relationships, and even make it harder to leave such relationships. The longer the duration of an unhealthy relationship, the more a person is compromised and the harder it is to break free.
There has been some limited exploration of how the processes of history has affected our social and economic development, but there has been even less attention paid to how the circumstances of history have affected how males and females relate to each other. The lack of understanding as well as the denial of history has contributed to the self-weakening relationships that many find themselves in. On top of this are the poor evaluations, which people make in choosing intimate partners, which are responsible for their problems. People’s biases in choosing partners inevitably reflect the biases seen in the wider society, so it is no surprise that these choices, which are not based upon the character and integrity of the individual do not lead to happiness. Addressing all these factors can give individuals, both males and females, the courage and opportunity to break free of conditioned male arrogance as well as their deep insecurities, reaching a greater level of understanding and confidence that is needed to form healthier relationships.