'Partner's low rejection sensitivity could be reason for Shraddha Walkar murder' | Podcast Series

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The brutal murder of Shraddha Walkar by her live-in partner Aaftab Amin Poonawala in Delhi's Mehrauli recently sent shock waves across the country.

The incident attracted national headlines shortly after a little case of food poisoning in Parassala of Kerala's Thiruvananthapuram escalated into a full-fledged murder story. The 23-year-old radiology student Sharon Raj passed away after consuming an ayurveda concoction mixed with poison given by his girlfriend Greeshma.

So why do lovers commit such extreme crimes instead of opting for a break-up or separation? Crimes committed by a lover either out of revenge for being dumped, or to realise unrequited love, are now being classified as 'jilted lover syndrome'.

Through its News Brake podcast series, Onmanorama speaks to youngsters who have been exposed to toxic relationships and psych consultants to gain more know-how on the issue.

Jilted lover syndrome

Head of Clinical Psychology at Prajyoti Niketan College in Thrissur Dr Milu Maria Anto says the 'jilted lover syndrome' trend is not new.

"Love has been rendered as an excruciating act of passion since time immemorial. It is just getting widely reported now. In fact, 10 per cent of the crime in the United States are committed by lovers. In Kerala, we have at least one case of violence being reported every week," said Dr Milu Maria.

“Love's pull is so strong that biologically, cognitively and behaviourally, the lover can become distracted, unpredictable, unreasonable, unfaithful and sometimes even deadly,” she added.

“A person very low in rejection sensitivity is disturbed by rejection, inattention and disagreement by his/her partner. Such individuals feel insecure if they feel their partner is independent and is not respectful. They will react aggressively and vindictively to such behaviour,” Dr Milu said.

A vicious cycle of compromises 

Najiya, a journalist based in Kochi, says how some partners in toxic relationships become more and more authoritative in the long run taking a toll on the mental health of the other person.

“The fact that your ex-girl or boyfriend could get close to another person is scary for most people. People hold on to the relationship to avoid this,” she said.

“Toxic relationship begins when you do something for a person out of an obligation rather than love. It need not be just physical abuse,” opines Priya Soly, a student of St. Teresa's College Ernakulam.

Vishnu Muraleedharan, an Onmanorama journalist, on the other hand, believes that the common notion that compromises are inevitable in a relationship and the fear of being alone keeps couples in toxic relationships.

“Compromises do not mean you turn into a fossil of yourself, and become unrecognisable, and bent out of shape for the sake of love. You should be able to walk out of a relationship the moment it begins to stifle you,” he said.

Some youngsters Onmanorama spoke to said that they stayed in the relationship even after their partners displayed toxic traits after the initial phase of courtship, as they believed the latter could reform. They believed that the initial, beautiful phase of their relationship full of oxytocin and endorphins can be recreated with a little effort.

The Mehrauli murder case is a classic example of this. Shraddha Walkar chose to stay with her partner even after experiencing physical abuse from as early as 2020.

Symptoms of a toxic relationship

Most couples are unable to detect the signs and symptoms of toxicity when they are in a close relationship.

According to psychologists, doubts regarding sexual fidelity, unprovoked anger resulting in even verbal or physical abuse, lack of support, loss of mutual trust, jealousy and harbouring grudges are the classic symptoms of a toxic relationship. The partner often fails to recognise the symptoms due to the deep-rooted love at their end.

“The partner poses demands like personal time disregarding personal space, financial needs etc which need immediate gratification. If you cannot derive happiness from the relation, that in itself is the biggest indication,” says Dr Milu.

Stress is common in any relationship including romantic relationships. Some couples fall into vicious cycles without realising it. Others communicate and sort it out amongst themselves.

“No relationship is ideal. The initial magic of neurotransmitters subsides and reality dawns. Aggressively running behind an unattainable, mismatched relationship is the worst decision,” she added.

“Women are taught to have very low standards of men. This leaves a partner in awe even if they do something remotely caring. Social conditioning is a major factor why toxic relationships last this long,” said Gayathri, a Thrissur-based digital marketing strategist, who said she got out of a toxic relationship recently.

“There is no awareness of choices. From a very young age, children are not taught to respect other people's choices. That's the issue when there's a breakup. If you respect the other person's choice, then break up or separation shouldn't be a problem,” she added.

Our movie industry and media are not helpful either. For example, most Indian films glorify stalking and portray breakups or separation as a shameful act.

In 2015, Sandesh Baliga, a 32-year-old security guard in Australia, said he learned from Bollywood movies that relentlessly pursuing women was the only way to woo them.

He pleaded guilty and said the male leads in Bollywood movies always got the women to say yes by doggedly chasing them. The court accepted the argument and let him go on the condition of good behaviour.

How to cope

“Many people feel overwhelmed due to break-ups as it can cause psychological distress. But many approach psychologists to let go of the relationship and maintain better mental health,” says consultant clinical psychologist Divya Ajay from Lourde Hospital, Kochi.

“The entire notion of completely staying away from a person after a break-up is not healthy either,” says Priya Soly.

“Unless the relationship is toxic, where you need to distance yourself from your ex, I think it's healthier to stay in touch cordially. Suddenly cutting off a person who was an important part of your life might leave a great void in both lives,” she said.

“There are multiple ways to get over a relationship. Movies, music and even a great group of friends can. The key lies in ensuring that it does not turn aggressive or violent,” says Vishnu.


While an individual's acts cannot be entirely pinned on his/her family or society, the two elements play a key role in moulding their personality.

Psychologists opine that teaching children patience and not gratifying their needs immediately will help them grow into stronger human beings without such self-destructive characteristics.

“Instant gratification of a child's needs does a great deal of damage to personality development,” says Dr Milu.

Adverse childhood experiences also create a psychopath. They crave for love but are unable to sustain the relationship do to past trauma.

Narcissism and other anti-social traits usually persuade individuals to commit aggressive acts. Such individuals show maladaptive self-concept and maladaptive self-esteem.

Maladaptive behaviours are those that stop you from adapting to new or difficult circumstances. They can start after a major life change, illness, or traumatic event.

A good upbringing with reality checks can help in addressing this to a great extent.

Family as a support system

Most of the youngsters whom Onmanorama spoke to felt uncomfortable discussing their issues with their families. A sound support system can help individuals grow out of breakups and not stay in toxic relationships for long.

“Family should be a space which facilitates smooth communication.”

“ Training children to face failures and be patient will help. Teaching them to be empathetic, and giving them positive reinforcements instead of only negative feedback is also important,” Dr Milu said.

According to psychologists, focusing on proper socialisation starting from the interaction of family members to peers to social surroundings is crucial.

(This article is based on a three-part podcast series by Haritha Benjamin and Deepa Soman. Listen to all parts here:
Part 1: Society, movies or peers: Who is to blame for crimes by jilted lovers, stalkers?
Part 2: Of break-ups, separation anxiety & toxic relationships. What does the youth say?
Part 3: What are the symptoms of a toxic relationship?)

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