December 10, 2006
left 18 months ago after an 18 year marriage. I never had my husband
pegged as an abuser, but since reading your site, I realise that the
way he treated me was unacceptable. (Just so we're on the same page, there is no
diagnosis for "abuser." People can be abusive for many reasons. )
called me names and disrespected me in front of our son, despite me
asking him not to. He threw things at me, and poked and shoved me – so
hard that on one occasion, I fell down 2 steps and injured myself. Not OK. He never showed any remorse.
Not a good sign. In fact, this is a very, very
bad sign. I was often scared of him.
Another bad sign. He
was constantly criticizing me or complaining about things I had or
hadn’t done. Everything from cobwebs in the corners, to using his pens.
I felt like my opinions and needs didn’t count. I tried talking to him,
writing letters to him and asking him to go to counseling, which he
refused. We didn’t have sex for the last 3 years. I didn’t have the
strength to leave. I felt like I was out of control of my own life and
future. I felt that things would never change, so I accepted my lot in
life and got on with it. Sounds like you did everything in your power
to get him to hear you... Sounds to me as if you were too patient
years ago I joined a writing group and became close friends with a
member of the group. After a year of initially getting to know each
other as friends, we started an affair. He left his partner (13 years
together, no kids) within two weeks and I left my husband within 2
months. I am still seeing him. He is a loving, understanding and
patient enough for me to get to wherever I need to be in my head
through all this.
On the day I left my husband he asked me if we could go to counseling.
You gotta love his timing! I
was quite surprised as I felt that he didn’t even really like me very
much by then, let alone want to stay married to me. He used to tell me
he loved me, but towards the end, I never felt that from him. I
declined counseling because I was worn out by it all, had given up and
had the promise of a happier future ahead of me. Understandable.
the first 6 months or so, I felt happier than I had felt in a long
while. I moved into my own house and started to get my life back. My
husband got angrier. He threatened to put my boyfriend in a wheelchair.
He pushed him off his cycle from a moving car. This is seriously not OK. He dragged my son off me in the street.
No! All these things I made excuses for. “He’s angry”, “he’s hurt”, “he has no self control” “he can’t help it”
I now realize that NONE of that stuff is excusable.
Correct. Entirely inexcusable. Forgive but never, ever forget.
financial worries and guilt over my son’s future without his father
around full time started to get to me, I become plagued by” what ifs”.
What if I had agreed to counseling? What if he could have changed? What if the moon falls down tomorrow?
I only recently told him that I have realised that I was a victim of his verbal and physical abuse. He denies this.
He does? No insight at all! I
asked him tonight if he thought it would be a good idea for him to
attend anger management classes or counseling. He told me that I’m the
one who needs help. He's begging you back and he's telling you
that you are the one who needs help? (He knows I’ve already had counseling since we split up) He told me I’m not acting as a rational and reasonable person.
But supposing he does admit to it all and does something about his behaviour and succeeds?
Suppose the moon really does fall down tomorrow? How would I even know, as we're no longer together?
Why would it matter? Have I given up on what might have been a good marriage if he made those changes?
A little wishful thinking here, you think? I would feel so incredibly guilty
Why? You gave him a thousand chances... if
he made the changes and I'd given up on us and thus denied our son the
chance to grow up in what might have been a happy family. Denied your son the opportunity to grow up in
an abusive family perhaps?
I don't want to sit around waiting for that to happen. I want to get on
with my life, and be able to commit to my new relationship. How do I do
that when I'm haunted by "what ifs"? Rachel
You start by recognizing that the
"what ifs" are part of an anxiety disorder. You start by recognizing
- and accepting - that we do the best we can. That there is no such
thing as certainty, that you will make the best choices for your and
your son at any given time. You recognize that in retrospect,
many of us would choose to do some things differently. For example,
knowing what you know now, would you have married your
I hope when you make whatever
choice you make, you make it fully. Whether you stay or move on,
please walk into your future unencumbered. Know that nobody can
predict the future, including you. Know that our choices are
educated guesses. Know that you alone are responsible for your
life., and please know that all of this is OK... It is even OK if
you feel some guilt. It is not OK to wallow in it.
Back to business: You have absolutely no evidence to believe that
your husband will all of the sudden wake up and smell the coffee.
None. Historically he has waited until the very last minute to give
you an inch, like agree to go to counseling on the very day you leave.
More recently, he tells you you are the one with the problem. Well,
you know what? I agree with him! The problem is that you would even
consider staying with a man who has pushed you around and who has
attempted physical harm!!! Who then tells you that you are the
one with the problem! What are you thinking?
Let's say he did finally admitted it
all. So what? He would have to work very, very hard to modify a
personality style that is centered in self-gratification. The leap
you implicitly make from
"But supposing he does admit to it all and does something about his behaviour"
to "and succeeds?"
is HUGE. Think along the lines of crossing the
Atlantic Ocean in a rowboat. It would take time, luck, and mammoth
effort. Even among those who are highly motivated, too often
the challenge outweighs the motivation over time.
Guilt and anxiety (your "what iffing"
is anxiety) are not unusual. You are emotionally worked up because
you are making life changes. You want to make sure you do right by
your child. But, please, never, ever stay with
someone because of their potential! (Potential, which, in your
husband's case, is not remotely apparent.)
Seems to me you've fallen prey to
your wishful thinking. Hoping against hope that somehow he will "get
it." That you can somehow go on and have a normal family life.
And with absolutely no evidence to support your concerns!
If anything, the "evidence" you've presented is not in his favor.
So, what are you doing?
My question to you is, guilt and
anxiety aside, what do you want to do? Deep inside your
heart, what do YOU want? You know, you do have a right to
Oh, and please read this book:
When Hope Can Kill: Reclaiming Your Soul in a
Please think about all this and
post away. I will be back in about a week to reply.
Readers, what do you think? Any
suggestions or insights for Rachel?
No more posting, but if you just want to read the posts,
Very warmly yours, Dr. Irene,