What to do when you’re trapped in a bad marriage.

Ahana asks: I am 19 and I got married 6 months ago. My husband is my father’s childhood friend’s son. He (my husband) has loved me since I was 15. Later when I turned 18 he, with his family, came to my place to propose marriage. I directly said no as I’d never liked him. Later he tried a lot to convince me but I never said yes. After few months he tried committing suicide because I rejected him. So I had no other option than saying yes. After that we had our engagement. I thought I would get married only when I turn 20-21 but he was not ready to wait, as he thought that I could change my mind and not marry him. Later I did so many attempts to postpone my marriage, but I failed and he forced me to get married this year. I had no other option. Just after our marriage he tried getting physical with me but I didn’t allow him, so he started complaining to his mom about it, and she would explain to me that we should allow our husbands to do everything they want to do with our body. That was just too embarrassing. Then at last I allowed him. My husband owns a bungalow so we shifted from my in-laws’ house to his bungalow after a couple of months from our marriage . And now he will not let me wear my clothes all day, and has sex with me for hours and hours. His main motive behind this is that he wants me to become pregnant fast so that I can never leave him. Now I really want help – I don’t know what to do.

Hi Ahana –


I have so many thoughts about this. First, where I live in the United States, we tend to have the opposite problem from arranged marriages – so many of our young people fall in love with the excitement of youth, get married and/or have babies, and then realize they don’t know who they’re with and have nothing in common with them, and end up either unhappily together or in a miserable expensive divorce. So that can make arranged marriages (where society or parents pick someone really compatible as a life partner) look much better.


But then I read your letter and my heart just shatters. You see, Ahana, your situation sounds more like ours – my doggy friends. I was in a pound, and was one day from being put to death, when this human came and bought me. I had no idea how he’d treat me, though he seemed nice enough. Then over time, although we had some bad moments (maybe due to my chewing up a lot of things he valued, including his ankles!), the fact that we both wanted a great relationship won out over everything, and we’re absolutely crazy about each other now.


This isn’t your story.


Your husband says he’s loved you for years, but is showing no love at all, from what you tell me. What he’s showing instead is fear. Fear of you not wanting him, fear of you leaving, fear that the only thing that would keep you in the marriage is children. And just like some of my human friend’s girlfriends who were so afraid of being cheated on that they accused him of it all the time (to the point they eventually ruined the relationship; he was so unhappy being accused all the time that he’d leave), your husband’s fear is making what he fears come true! You are deeply unhappy in the relationship, and you do want a solution!


I have to say, I’m also sorry for him. It’s tough to believe you’re not attractive, and even more so when others kind of tell you you’re right. He married a woman who wasn’t attracted to him, and he only accomplished it by threatening to kill himself! What an awful view he must have of himself!


But of course, my primary sadness is for you. I am a very romantic pup, and have seen beautiful marriages (arranged and not) where both people devote themselves to the other’s happiness. And your marriage is not that. Your husband doesn’t seem to care if you’re happy or not. In fact, your marriage sounds like something closer to slavery!


Now I don’t know where you live. In some countries, what he’s doing would be illegal.


But even if that’s not the case, what I would really like would be for you two to find someone to talk with. A couples therapist would be my favorite choice, but maybe the leader of your mosque or temple, whatever you can get – your marriage NEEDS a third person involved (and I don’t mean his mother, well-meaning as she is!).


And here’s what I’d want you guys to talk about:


  • Your marriage was built on a very weak foundation. If you’re going to stay together, he needs to find ways – a LOT of ways – to get you to like him more, and even love him.
  • He needs to work on his self-esteem. He needs to feel good and worthy. At some point, this might involve you helping this along by encouraging his good points, but right now, it’s just got to be him doing it himself.
  • Sex in a marriage is one of the most beautiful, free, glorious things in the world. Mainly because, since you two know you’ll be with each other forever, deep levels of openness and intimacy are possible that simply can’t happen with uncommitted couples. But right now, he is doing everything wrong in trying to achieve this. You two need training in making sex something you both enjoy – and the first step in that will be giving you the freedom to only have it when you want it! I’m not saying it’s healthy in a marriage for sex to never be there, but this stuff of keeping you locked up and unclothed is completely wrong, and will only lead you to hate him.
  • And when all these are accomplished (which could take years) – when you and he both like him, and your physical relationship is something you both enjoy – that will be the beginning of a true marriage!


Now if you both try, really do try, and find that these things just aren’t possible, then maybe there are ways to end the marriage. But I’m guessing that that would be just awful in your society, so I really do recommend giving it all the effort you can.


But none of this can happen until he grasps the idea that everything he’s doing out of fear is only pushing you away more and more. He simply HAS to learn this – if you’re as lovable as he says you are, he just needs to imagine how wonderful life would be with you actually liking him back. At this point, I’m not sure he actually even thinks that way. Your job – and I’m happy to help in any way I can – is to open his mind to allow that in.


Please, Ahana, stay in touch with me. Let me know how this goes. And do let me know where you live (I promise, I won’t post it on the website; it’ll just help me understand what you’re dealing with).


I very much appreciate you writing me about this. It was a brave brave thing to do. And I think you’re going to need a good deal more bravery in the months and years ahead. But a better life, a MUCH better life, is possible.


With great respect,


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