We are preparing for the impending gloom of a Trump presidency. As we enter our new world order, as a British Pakistani woman I believe there’s much we can learn from the women in my community who have been forced to live under a domineering husband, and how they have coped.
The arrival of Donald Trump in a role of such global power has many parallels with how a newly-wed bride from India or Pakistan learns to live and survive if she is unlucky enough to have been paired up with a traditional, dominating husband. The groom typically picked from a shortlist of potential candidates by ill-informed naïve hoodwinked parents. The match is usually negotiated and agreed through self-serving community elders with hidden agendas. For the young bride, she is suddenly and permanently bound to a man who will control every aspect of her life, from clothes to friendships – even how often she is allowed to visit her parents.
In my youth, I witnessed many such marriages in my community. Women who were verbally abused and crushed. Today these women, now in their seventies and eighties are the wise elders, surrounded by loving grandchildren. Their husbands, however, are lonely, isolated and barely tolerated by those around them.
A peek under the covers of these doomed unions offers many lessons we can draw to help us survive Trump and beyond. There are ways of living someone with you hate.
With her henna yet to fade, the newly-wed bride quickly learns that she is shackled to an egotist. Reasoning with him, applying logic or appealing to his better nature and she will end up emotionally punched and battered. Remind you of anyone?
Desperate and terrified, a young wife will often seek solace in the arms of her helpless parents, who are tortured by their bad decision. Prior to the wedding, unsuspecting parents anxious to marry off their daughters are usually swayed by future promises of wealth and security. Like Trump, these men are skilled at pitching and know just what to say to get a “yes”. Now guilty of choosing the wrong candidate, her parents suffer forever the catastrophic consequences of the ill-fated match.
The wives must prepare themselves for the long-haul to survive. They usually have older women in the background teaching them patience and self-protection, giving them the inner strength to carry on being themselves, and not let the bully destroy their soul, the essence of their power and goodness.
These women have usually lived through and witnessed many Trump-style fiefdoms. They raise their sons to be strong fathers, teaching them how to respect women and empower daughters. As a society, we need to channel the wisdom of these women.
With the advice of her family and the wisdom of elders a plan is hatched: biding time, and shifting the balance of power. The shift eventually comes through her children. Once children come of age, an abused wife gains power. Her children become her metaphorical castle, withstanding attack from the enemy. The bullying husband is lost, defeated, vilified for his past behavior.
Boris Johnson might have a point when he told EU leaders to stop whining. Instead, we – the dominated and bullied wives of our new political reality - should start working hard at engaging with disappointed, disaffected and ultimately abused Trump voters in preparation for 2020 (or before, if things blow up earlier). There may be difficult years ahead, but Trump’s behaviour cannot sustain him for long. In the end, it is those who act with kindness and respect whose power will endure.
Salma Shah is a psychologist and coach who specialises in helping women achieve their goals
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