Unexpected and untimely loss of life is always sad and tragic. It is extremely distressing for the grieving family, who are left with numerous unanswered questions. Helplessness, despair, overwhelmed with pain and or an inability to access appropriate resources to express their despairing emotions leading to anxiety and mental health issues such as depression along with other factors likely to contribute to the tragedy. It is of course debatable whether all with mental health commit suicide. From my professional experience while working and supporting some vulnerable members of the Indian community in Victoria, there are multilayer factors along with unbearable abusive situation that contribute to the tragedy.
Conflict and differences in relationships are inevitable, and we also know that certain arguments are unresolvable, however violence and abuse is unacceptable in any context or relationship dynamic. It is a well-known fact that family violence has been on the increase during the lockdown phase. We are also aware of the gravity of enduring multiple layers of abuse, in this instance by the vulnerable, newly arrived married women with limited resources, language and loss of or lack of network. Even in Victoria, the Domestic Violence law, included ‘economic abuse’, cited as “sexually transmitted debt”, as recently as in 2008. From experience this aspect of abuse is also one of the root cause of domestic violence in the Indian community.
Culturally specific to India it is not unusual for parents to select a partner for their son or daughter. In several such instances the couple have limited opportunity to know each other before the marriage. This is entirely unique to Indian arranged marriages and different from other cultures, that at different phases and stages of relationship levels of the relationships, there can be strong cultural nuances and expectations. Migration and settlement for the new bride or groom in an ethnically diverse Australian cultural society, with a new environment is likely to be significantly challenging. This in itself poses difficulties and challenges which is compounded by having to understand the new relationship with a spouse whom they have not had an opportunity to know, bond or attach. Attributing further to the challenges is the loss of the ‘comfortable cushion padding’ (family and social network), resulting in social isolation, depression and multiple strands of abuse debilitates one’s coping mechanism manifesting in helplessness and despair. Marital distress is likely to cause emotional flooding and compromise one’s ability to communicate effectively.
I am reflecting on the issue; as questions in my mind, that I factor in, when relating to domestic violence in the Victorian community in Australia. I know arranged marriages per say are not a tradition that is essentially wrong. In an arranged marriage conducted in its essence, the parents of the bride and groom, traditionally do research either on their own of the values and beliefs and authenticity of the family they are directing their attention towards. To what extend the couple to be are provided an opportunity to know and understand each other; communicate their expectations of the relationships? Each individual brings to the relationship their strengths and vulnerabilities. What is their style of communication, tone and language? How is communication or what is being said understood by each partner? Do they feel secure to seek clarifications of each other respectfully? Do they listen to each other to defend or do they listen to understand each other? What is it that they are willing accept about each other? What is it that they are not willing to accept? Do they have the capacity and the skills to negotiate with each other? How do they resolve conflict and misunderstanding? Do they react in a negative circular pattern? Do they attack and counter attack each? When problems/ issues surface how do they pull themselves out of negativity and do they have the inherent in their personality and family upbringing culture’, to make up with each other? Or are they engaged in a power struggle and continue the blame and nagging dance? Are both partners suffering from lack of satisfaction in the relationship? The repetitive cycle of conflict can keep the couple locked and stuck. These are a few basic necessary unavoidable questions in regard to the couple’s attachment and bonding, communication, conflict resolution skills that each partner may have to visit to develop an insight to their relationships
Relationships by their very nature are constantly evolving and going through phases in the course of the life of any given relationship. All relationships can and often do go through ‘a healthy’ phase and then not. When couples are respectful of each other, and issues of control do not drive relationships, they are likely to relate to a success in relationship. Securely attached relationships do not often have ongoing circular conflicts. They are able to repair when matters go wrong. They have the ability to turn to their partners in times of needs and distress and support each other. From my experience couples and families that work towards strengthen the quality of relationship by working with each other rather than against each are emotional connected.
There is a need to have accredited Programs that skill up couples to manage their relationship distress. I strongly emphasis Relationship skill-based education of both genders to help pre-empt, commonly occurring relationship issues and challenges, provided by qualified professionals.
By Muktesh Chibber
Ms Muktesh Chibber is a highly trained and experienced couple & family therapist, and a Mediator