March 23, 2000
Dear Dr. Irene,
I am 42 years old and have been divorced one month after being married for 28 1/2 years. Yes, if you do the math you will find out I got married when I was 13 years old. Wow! The marriage was never good. My husband left me alone, made fun of me, called me names in front of others, and verbally, mentally, and sexually abused me throughout our marriage. I kept telling myself things would get better we got older (He was 19 when we got married). It only worsened.
As the years passed, I got better. I decided to take control. (GOD has truly blessed me.) I got my GED shortly before my 30th birthday, and I went to night school and got my Bachelors. I teach Family Violence and Corrective Thinking. Good stuff!
As I said, I got better - but I am a fine one to be teaching these classes. Why not? You have first hand knowledge! When I think of the things I have been through, I get so angry with myself. Why did I allow these things to happen? You did not know any better. There is no way I can tell about the daily abuses I encountered. They are pretty much the usual: I was not allowed to have friends unless he chose them for me (spouses of his friends), and then I could only spend time with them when he chose. I couldn't buy anything unless he approved (what he considered necessary). He would punish me for not "doing right" by withholding sex for months at the time. I know now that it wasn't really the sex I needed as much as the companionship. He always made fun of my plans and ideals. According to him, I was good for nothing and didn't have sense enough to have a thought of my own. I lied to keep the peace. The problem was I didn't really have anything to lie about. I did what he said; when he said it. Ouchhh! You didn't know any better...
I must admit little by little in the past 12 years his control lessened. He hated the idea of college. The beginning of every quarter was a battle. I heard his speech so often, I finally recorded it and played it to him at the start of one quarter. (It's his money. Costs too much money. He and the kids needed me. I was selfish, etc...) It took me 10 years to get my 4 year degree because I paid for it as I worked and went to school at night. Double wow! I felt so guilty about abandoning him and the kids that I only went one night a week. But you did it!
Until I started school, he would stay out several nights a week until the wee hours of the morning. I was never allowed to ask where he was. However, I certainly better never go anywhere while he was gone! After I started to school, he quit staying out so much. I think it was another part of his manipulation Guilt: he was home and I was not. I think also he had less to puff his feathers about; he was loosing control over you. There were other women, although he would never admit it, and on may occasions he would call me a whore in front of the kids. Ugh. I have been accused of sleeping with every man I ever spoke to. A twisted measure of his love for you, no doubt.
I am sorry this is so long. I'm not. I could go on for 28 1/2 years I guess. MY immediate concern: We have been separated for 1 1/2 years and have been divorced for one month. I started seeing him again. I don't want to live with him or anything, but finally, he treats me better. I say it's to keep things semi together for the kids. (We have three kids. I haven't mentioned them because there would be similar horror stories. Our two eldest are married, and our baby is 12 years old. He lives with me. However, the kids aren't around when he and I are together. I continue to be manipulated by him but in a nicer way. He inputs information "for my own good". When I start to feel trapped, I withdraw from him but his pleading draws me back. I seriously doubt he is nicer to you because of the kids. I am willing to bet that he is nicer because he wants you in his life. He can be nicer now because you are a conquest; he can no longer take you for granted. He cannot evidence his full-blown contempt when you are no longer his.
I left him several times before I finally got up enough nerve to divorce him, so I know how sweet he can be when he wants something. I don't think he wants me as much as he doesn't want to pay me child support. I'm not arguing about the child support, but, I bet he misses the living property he used to abuse. I don't like him. I don't trust him, and we have never been able to talk about anything. What I have to say is always "stupid." I know this sounds typical, but I do love him. I don't think we will ever be a couple again, and I certainly don't want to. I don't think I will ever want to get married again. I am enjoying my new freedom. I am on my own for the first time in my life. The kids have adjusted to the divorce and we all get along well. But, why am I still here? I have no thoughts of getting back together with him. Is it wrong to spend time with him? I need help? Am I fooling myself? He is all you know! You spent most of your life with this man. Even if you don't like him, he is comfortable in his familiarity. You are in an interim space right now. One foot is in the water, but you haven't taken the plunge; you haven't developed your new life yet.
At work I am in control ( I am a control freak). I know what to do and when to do it. What is wrong with me in my personal life? The same thing wrong with most people: their lives are together except in love. Love is the most difficult arena to negotiate. That's where it really matters; that's where you are most vulnerable.
I think you are frightened of diving into your new life. Anybody would be. A woman married as young as you were, who spent most of her life with one partner would be especially frightened. Not only have you little experience in venturing out, but you also have fearsome memories: he is your model of a relationship! He may be a pain in the neck, but he is company, and you know what you expect. You don't know me and I only gave you one side of the story, but even if half of what I have been through was told he would still be a monster. Why am I still hanging around? Please help. Dina
Be patient. Divorce is difficult. Forging new bonds in your 40s is extremely difficult. You are frightened. Divorced men you will meet are frightened. Everyone has their baggage.
Take your time, just be careful that you don't become too comfortable with a man you don't like and would never accept as a partner. The danger is the relative comfort level generated by his presence. This can delay or preclude your establishing a relationship with a more viable partner. Not only will he consume your free time, he will also partially meet your companionship needs - so you have little motivation to get out and meet new people.
Here is the good news: you have a track record of slow, but sure and steady progress. You reach your goals. History is the best predictor of future performance. I have no doubt that you will eventually get to exactly where you want to be.
My very best wishes, Dr. Irene
I want to read the posts.