Thursday, September 27, 2012

Passive Aggressive Abuse

Abuse is not viewed the same in the US as it is in India. In many instances women seem to think that abuse is something that happens in life and they overlook it, dismiss it, etc. The primary example is the Indian DIL who is perceived to be the one making all the adjustments in a relationship. She is perceived as having to change all her ways and do what the new family wants. I specifically use the word perceived because IMO, it's BS.

This lie is used to make young women think that they have to change and be what the new family wants them to be. It's often misused as an excuse to be abusive to a young woman. You do not have to be a completely different person after marriage. Think about it this way.

In arranged marriages, this family chose you and liked you. So if they liked you, why is it that now you  are not good enough?

In love marriages, if they had not accepted you they would not have allowed the marriage. So if they accepted you then, what right do they have to make demands now?

It's simple. You were fine at marriage and you are fine now.

I understand that all new wives want to please their new family and gain acceptance. This is true in India and the west. We want to be a part of the new family and feel the love we anticipate comes with it. So in the beginning it's exciting to learn about the new family's culture (both the country's culture and the individual family culture). We readily accept learning new ways of doing things and new recipes to cook. This is great and normal and beautiful. It's a bonding experience.

That doesn't mean you have to subject yourself to passive aggressive abuse. What exactly is passive aggressive abuse? Well to put it simply this is when someone else uses indirect comments to make you feel lower than dirt. There's never any valid reason for someone to make you feel this way. It doesn't matter if you make a mistake or if you don't know something they thought you should have known. For an excellent description, see this link.

This kind of abuse doesn't just happen in India. I'm not pointing fingers. But I will say that it's much more accepted as normal in India. IMO, that is because of the sense of duty and obligation to family. I think that many people overlook it because they are bound to the family no matter what. In the US, we will leave our families because our emotional well being is important. It's a difference in culture, I'm not debating who is better.

In fact, I couldn't debate this particular subject if I wanted to. I have never been the victim of a passive-aggressive in-law. I hear a lot of stories from the pardesi community from girls who have. It just didn't happen to me. My in-laws (excluding uncle ji and his family) were very loving toward me. Despite our differences and the cultural issues I had trouble with, my in-laws never made a hurtful comment to me.

My MIL and FIL praised me often. They always had nice things to say when I cooked - even when it was some strange western food they couldn't even pronounce the name of - and they praised me when I dressed in both western and Indian clothes. If I chose to do something in line with Indian culture, they loved it. If I got new western clothes and dressed up, they complimented me.

I do experience passive-aggressive abuse here in the US. I'm learning this as part of my reverse culture shock experience. What I've learned is that this is a major part of why I no longer have any positive feelings toward the American man. I've experienced quite a bit of passive-aggressive abuse from American men.

Consider this one example. This one pisses me off and I've yet to deal with it. I may never deal with it because it would hurt someone that I loved and so instead I have kept my mouth shut. During a period of joblessness I was handed a local newspaper with the classified ads page open. The person stated "here's some jobs you could do." (Now keep in mind I have a Bachelor's Degree which is the highest needed in my field.) I looked at the paper thinking this person had tried to do something nice for me for once. I was wrong. He had highlighted an ad to go shovel horse manure (feces, excrement, sh*t). I was fuming. He didn't say it as a joke. He was maliciously trying to upset me.

It was completely uncalled for. I had plenty of savings at the time, was not costing him any money at all and I had been interviewing for really good jobs. This one act is what made me realize this person had been a passive-aggressive abuser toward me for a while. That's what also helped me realize that passive-aggressive abuse is not easily recognized.

At first you might just think someone is a jerk. That's what I thought. Before my involvement with the Indian community, I had never even heard the term passive-aggressive. Don't be deceived by how easily dismissed these comments can be. It is abuse. It is wrong and you don't have to live with it, dismiss it or ignore it. You do not have to be what someone else wants you to be. You do not have to be the proverbial Indian wife. You do not have to throw away the person you are now in order to please someone else.

Compromise and complete destruction of your identity are two different things.

How do you define passive-aggressive abuse?
What are some abusive things you've heard said around you (to you or to someone you know)?
What advice would you give to someone who is in an abusive situation like this?


  1. I could write a book on the passive aggressive crap my MIL and JUST my MIL put me through, and the sad part is that we don't even live with them. She tried emotional blackmail on DH when she learned he was dating me pretexting heart problems, when she was healthy. She then kept postponing meeting me before we got married, each time DH was trying to arrange our schedules to be with them she found an excuse to not have us over or travel, until he put his foot down saying that the wedding would happen at that date PERIOD, then suddenly it became urgent she met me 2 months before the wedding, and her first talk with me was "Whay are you with my son?" Me to reply we loved each other and her to reply: "if you love my son, then leave him alone, we don't need you" WTF I reported to DH who was in another room, and he talked to her in front of his dad who was pissed at his wife's behaviour, ever since that event she ALWAYS try to corner me in a sneaky way, now only talk to me in Hindi so that if I report it to DH and DH gets back to her she will pretend that I was the one who misunderstood, adding that "This is what happen when you marry a foreigner". So both DH and I now just walk away from her crap, if she can be passive aggressive then so can we, we both have tried to compromise, and she hasn't budged one inch on her views, refuse to change them, refuse to even try to know me, or where I come from, refuse to even take into account my cultural background, as far as she is concerned she decided that since she HAD to let her son marry me she has made the biggest compromise of all, and that it's all my fault so I am the one who has to go on some sort of redemption program to please her...uh nope not happening lady! DH supports me 100% there too.
    But even if we refuse to play her little game and be beaten, it hurts, less than being sadistically emotionnaly abused and belittled, but still hurt.

  2. It is really sad how your MIL treats you. It just shows that having a child doesn't always fix things. And as long as you've been together you would think she would calm down some but it seems she just can't. I understand how this kind of abuse feels. It's not something I could personally tolerate and I can see you don't really tolerate it either.