Isolated in a toxic relationship

I am in lockdown with my husband who drinks and shouts and breaks things. We live on social grants. My kids are trying to do homework on my phone. #HumansofCOVID19

Karineh Matevosyan
9 April 2020
Lockdown is lonely for women trapped in unhappy marriages

I have been married for 21 years, unfortunately. I was 18 years old. He was our neighbor. He invited me to his friend’s home and didn’t let me go. From that day on we are considered married, which I regret.

I have three kids. The oldest is my daughter, who is 19 years old, the youngest is my 8-year-old son. My 13-year-old middle son is disabled, and he attends a school for children with hearing impairments.

"My husband’s only participation in our daily life is his aggressive behaviour, shouting and breaking things."

I am the only one taking care of our kids: helping them to do classes, cooking and cleaning for them. Simultaneously, I am under constant pressure from my husband especially in these lockdown days when there is nowhere to go and staying home is torment with his presence. He drinks and shouts and breaks things around him.

My isolated day starts with feeding the kids, then organizing their online classes. We don’t have a computer at home, so we got the wifi code from the neighbour to be able to connect via my phone. It’s way more difficult to make the kids study online.

I am their teacher, their mother and their father at the same time. My husband’s only participation in our daily life is his aggressive behaviour, shouting and breaking things. What kind of example is he for my kids?

He would beat me

My youngest kid is almost nine years old, and I have slept in a different bed from my husband for about eight years. I can't let him touch me. I am not the same person as I was previously. Previously, he would beat me. Now that the kids are older, they get mixed up in the fights so he doesn’t dare to hit me. He just breaks things around, yells and shouts. Almost every day he says to me: ‘Take your things and leave. I don’t need you. I am getting married again.’

If I had even a small cottage where I could live with my kids, I would have divorced him many years ago. I just have nowhere to go.

No job

The house we are living in has no inside toilet or bathroom. The only income we have is my son’s disability pension (around 20,000 AMD - around 50 USD) and the state benefits (30,000 AMD - around 60 USD) we receive as a family with two children under 18 and no income.

I did some cleaning jobs previously but left my job to be able to support my kids’ education. My little ones don’t go to school on their own yet and my husband doesn’t even know where their school is.

My husband has never had a constant job and never brought money home. His main justification for not working is his back pain. But this doesn’t stop him from drinking. During these years, I myself have become very aggressive. I just can’t take his actions.

[As told to Ani Hovhannisyan]

There has been a state of emergency in Armenia since 16 March in relation to COVID-19. There is no public transport. All the schools, universities, restaurants, offices and public spaces are closed. Only pharmacies and food markets remain open. Police enforce the lockdown.

This story is part of our Humans of COVID-19 project: lifting up voices from across the world that are not being heard during this crisis. Click here for more of these stories

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Hear from:

Paolo Gerbaudo Sociologist and political theorist, director of the Centre for Digital Culture at King’s College London and author of ‘The Mask and the Flag: Populism and Global Protest’ and ‘The Digital Party: Political Organisation and Online Democracy’, and of the forthcoming ‘The Great Recoil: Politics After Populism and Pandemic’.

Chantal Mouffe Emeritus Professor of Political Theory at the University of Westminster in London. Her most recent books are ‘Agonistics. Thinking the World Politically’, ‘Podemos. In the Name of the People’ and ‘For a Left Populism’.

Spyros A. Sofos Researcher and research coordinator at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Lund University and author of ‘Nation and Identity in Contemporary Europe’, ‘Tormented by History’ and ‘Islam in Europe: Public Spaces and Civic Networks'.

Chair: Walid el Houri Researcher, journalist and filmmaker based between Berlin and Beirut. He is partnerships editor at openDemocracy and lead editor of its North Africa, West Asia project.


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