Like many, I grew up in a world that promoted, forcefully at times, relationships and marriage. From the youngest of ages, I remember being told that I was to marry, have kids, and... That's just it, there was no real "and". It ended with marriage and having kids. As I grew older, noticing the relationships around me, I realized that those were not really what I wanted. I spent years with the fantasy of marriage, because what else was there? I had been taught that there was nothing else. Sure, there was university and becoming an engineer or a doctor, but the purpose of those careers was to provide for my future family. There were no other options.
I also grew up with seven sisters, so I also noticed how much worse they had it. Day to day, it seemed that their entire existence was based on them being married someday, and having children. I come from a Palestinian family, but regardless of where we went (the US, Canada, Europe) the message was the same. Relationships, in whatever form they take, are everything. Unfortunately, it's not healthy relationships that are everything, but relationships. I have worked with over a dozen individuals in abusive relationships, as a Peer Support Specialist, and one of the main things that comes up is the question; what's the alternative? To our society, an abusive relationship is better than no relationship. That mentality allows us to continue upholding patriarchy and domestic violence, creating a culture of abuse that is, literally, everywhere. I had this conversation again today and I was told that I should be realistic, that I can't live in a make-believe world. If being in a healthy relationship is so unrealistic for people and that seems like perfection, then we have a serious problem.
There are many problems that arise from all this; difficulty leaving abusive relationships, healing, and so many more. But, today, I want to talk about a unique problem that, unfortunately, is all too common in my world. I want to talk about this culture that we've built and its relation to Suicide.
If you are told your entire life that relationships are all there is, and that abuse is entirely acceptable within those relationships, then what happens if you choose better? What happens if you decide you will not accept abuse? And, what happens when you decide that you do not want to be a part of a relationship? If all life is relationships, and you don't want that, then why be alive?
This sounds far fetched, but I have worked with far too many individuals and have heard of way too many cases of deaths by suicide to ignore this. Suicidality, in its earliest stage, is believing that death is better than life. If there is no life then all that's left is death. With that realization, you enter a world of suicidality and hopelessness. All around us, we can see the abusive relationships that have formed who we are as individuals. I think it's time we step away from that.
This is a serious problem, in every meaning of the word. We have created a world built on relationships, and have allowed systems of oppression to dictate what these relationships look like. We must be vigilant in starting to counter this message and allow individuals to live their lives any way they want to. Here are a few messages you can start spreading today:
- Not all relationships are equal, and healthy relationships are not only possible, but they should be the standard.
- It is always the fault of the abuser, regardless of what the abused has endured.
- There are an infinite amount of ways to live your life, and most don't require relationships, but healthy relationships can be a part of life.
- It is never too late to leave abusive relationships and recover.
- Suicidality is always a problem, and this culture is making it difficult for some to find hope.
On a final note, I want to be very clear; I am not saying that individuals are becoming suicidal because they're not in relationships. I am stressing that, for the most part, we have maintained that relationships are the only option in life. That is the problem. Relationships are great if they are healthy, and destructive if they are not, but we need to move past the ideology that that is all the world has to offer. There's so much more out there, I hope we can get to a place where everyone can see that.
Ahmad Abojaradeh is the Founder and Executive Director of Life in My Days, Inc. He is the co-Founder of Muslim Community Link, An Engineer, a world traveler, a Peer Support Specialist, and a Novelist. He hopes to spread awareness of living a life of wellness through his writing, workshops and speaker events. Follow Ahmad on twitter, instagram or facebook.