Question: Dear Luise: My husband (47 yrs old) and I (30 yrs old) have been married for going on ten years, have been separated for about six months now and have formally filed for a divorce. He has been physically (about five times), sexually (twice), mentally (innumerable), verbally (innumerable), and emotionally (innumerable) abusive to me in the past. He even denied me children, as I raised his two daughters from two prior relationships. He would rip-up prescriptions written by my OBGYN in my face and tell me that was what he thought about having children with me. This is the fifth time I have left him, but the four times prior I was only gone for either a couple of days or weeks. During our marriage, I saw two counselors on my own and we saw two other counselors together. The second counselor we saw together, two years ago, told him that if he touched another hair on my head, she would see to it that he went to prison for a very long time, and he has not actually hit me since. Although, he has acted like he would do so, and even backed me up to a wall on two occasions. Once, by pushing my nose with his finger, and the other time by pushing my nose with his nose. From the moment I left him, he has been begging me to come back home. He has been going to counseling on his own since I left, claims to have read two self-help books and all of a sudden says that he wants to have a baby. He claims to be a changed man and promises to never abuse me again. Now, I heard all of this kind of stuff each and every time I left in the past. On past occasions, he would tell me that I was right and would never hurt me again, but after a month or two of going back he would start abusing me all over again and would even tell me that he lied just to get me to come back home. This time, I told myself that I was leaving him for good. I felt very confident and right in the decision I had made. I still feel right in the decision I had made. The day after I left him I had coffee with another man and we even began talking over the phone. I did not feel guilty at all. He tells me that he just cannot believe that I could start talking to another man the day after I left him. I simply decided that I was not going to allow myself to feel any more pain. I felt as though I had wasted so many years trying to please my husband, as I had nothing to show for the marriage. I was abused, had no children, and left him all of the marital assets, with the exception of my truck. I just wanted to start my new life immediately and was very excited about the idea of finally being happy. I didn’t, and still don’t want to waste another day of my life. None of my dreams ever seemed to matter, and certainly never came to fruition. I was thoroughly unhappy in my marriage and could not take any more mistreatment. All I ever wanted was for my husband to treat me with love, respect, and appreciation. I spent the majority of my marriage trying to gain his approval of me as a wife and mother to his children. I worked full-time and went to school full-time to get a degree in education. Nine months ago I had even added another part-time job at night on top of my full-time job and school. I cooked and served him dinner, cleaned the house, did laundry, children’s homework, my own homework, etc. He would tell me that I did nothing. I began suffering from severe anxiety attacks about six years ago. They would get so bad that I felt like I might die. I would eventually accept fault, apologize, and beg for forgiveness for any event that spawned an argument. Throughout the past six months, while I have had my moments of pain and uncontrollable crying, they have been few. Sadness has only gotten the best of me maybe five or six times. I have felt sane for the first time in maybe seven years. However, I have moments when I miss him, and if I call him or speak to him for any reason, he has a way of making me wonder if I am making the wrong decision by divorcing him. He tells me that he knows that I still love him, and if I divorce him I will be making a huge mistake. The trouble is, of course, I still love him. I married him because I wanted to spend the rest of my life happily ever after with him. He made me laugh. He was intelligent, talented, charismatic, and attractive. I wanted children with him. I did not leave him because I did not love him. I think I lost all respect for him as a man. When we spend any time together, he always wants to have sex. He says he just wants to make love to his wife and that he has been waiting a long time, but I don’t want to. I don’t even have the urge to have sex, when we are together. The idea of it makes me angry and almost sick. Will I ever be able to get past the things he has done to me? Will I ever regain respect for him? Can men like him actually change? If an abusive man waits six months for a woman, goes to counseling on his own and reads self-help books, could he have actually seen the err of his ways and really change? He continually tells me that all he wants to do is show me the love, respect and appreciation that I deserve. He admits that he treated me very badly and tells me that he owes me the rest of our lives to make it up to me. Could he have really changed? I don’t want to make a mistake. What if he really has changed and then treats the next woman the way I should have been treated. What if he gives her a baby? What if I never fall out of love with him? Am I really even in-love with him anymore? What if I never fall in love with anyone else and never have children of my own. None of these things bothered me before, as it seemed that it was easier to love him from afar, with the hope that I would eventually be able to get over him and move on, rather then love him while in the same house with him. Even the possibility of never having children after leaving him did not seem to matter, as I was certain that he would never have children with me anyway. Am I simply clouded, because I have recently begun spending time with him? Should I give him one last chance? Should I go back to my husband? Please, help me. I don’t want to spend another day of my life in misery. I want to be happy. I don’t want wake up in the same position ten years from now. C.
Answer: Dear C. You can love someone you can’t live with. And you can be addicted to someone who will eventually do you in. Those situations exist and as far as I know, no one can help anyone who won’t help herself.
I don’t have a crystal ball. “What ifs” are a dime a dozen and not worth even that, to my way of thinking. All I can do is look at the odds and wonder how you can be seeing him again and thinking about trusting him again with your hopes and dreams. I think it’s terribly sad.
You have apparently never learned that you are in charge of your own happiness. It isn’t to be found in another person. Once you have cultivated inner joy…you may or may not find another like-minded person to share it with. I found my prince when I was 62 and he was 78. Now, he’s 98 and I’m his full time caregiver. We have had eight children of our own. How? That many adults have been drawn to us and call us Mom and Dad for one reason and another. Isn’t that a hoot?
If you’re up for it, it’s probably time for counseling that isn’t centered around him, what he does to you and how long you have been his victim. It’s time to heal whatever keeps you from finding yourself and standing tall. It can be done.
I have a saying about marriage, and this is it: “If your life isn’t better being married than it was being single…what’s the point?” Will he ever change? What do you think?
You deserve so much better than this. You really do. Being alone and childless is so much better that this. So is being hung by your thumbs. Blessings, Luise