This is my third letter to you, each detailing whether I should leave my emotionally abusive partner (April 10, 2018), then, a year after I left, struggling with co-parenting with him (February 22, 2019):
“We’re now nearing two years’ separated. He’s a daily constant in my life as we share custody of our young children. There’ve been ups and downs, with glimpses into our former family life, when there was some joy but no respect or kindness from him in times of strife.
“Other times, he’s hurled unprovoked insults at me, angry about our separation. After, he’s apologized. He recognizes/acknowledges his abusive behaviour, but cannot control it. He has a hair-trigger temper… not nearly as explosive as before due to regular therapy sessions, and my ending our unhealthy relationship.
“Neither of us can finalize our separation agreement. Part of me hopes for a family reunion. I miss the intimacy that slipped away after years of neglect, and poor communication.
“We still love each other. We’ve shared birthday celebrations, some holidays which I pushed for and he begrudgingly adopted.
“Yet I’ve also enjoyed our time apart - the freedom, and peace of not walking on eggshells, to not incite his temper.
“He’s helped me during the recovery process from two minor surgeries. He still makes me feel special on birthdays, at Christmas. He’s a great father.
“BUT, I read a book on abusive men, Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft, with a 20-point checklist for assessing change in men who abuse women.
“It helped me fully understand my ex’s behaviour.
“Three points give me pause: (1) Developing respectful, kind, supportive behaviours; (2) changing how he is in highly-heated conflicts; and (3) changing how he responds to his partner’s anger and grievances.
“His rehabilitation is ongoing. But our children are small, and I don’t want to keep moving in separate directions when my heart keeps me firmly rooted in this place.
“Am I not strong enough to push through with the divorce, or fearing the unknown? Am I a prisoner to delusions about “happily-ever-after?” Am I doing my children a disservice by teetering back and forth?
“Those who’ve been there likely believe: “Abusers never change!” I’m partly terrified this is a truth I simply cannot accept.
“Getting back together feels very risky now that we’ve somewhat adjusted our kids to this new normal. What do you think?’
Your young children are the determinants here, but you have to think and speak for them.
They’d naturally want both of you together – and that might eventually happen – but neither of you are ready for that.
The great positives so far are that co-parenting is working well, and that he’s in therapy.
You should also be seeking professional counselling (even if you did previously) about why you previously accepted and how you handled his hair-trigger anger and disrespect.
You need to see meaningful change that stays steady, beyond when you need help after a surgery, or on special occasions.
Even holidays together aren’t telling enough… it’s the day-to-day behaviour that you must believe has changed, especially when there’s some normal stress and strife.
No one should “walk on eggshells” out of fear of emotional, verbal or (even if only threatened) physical abuse.
Your children are better off, for now, with a “great father” who’s getting help to control anger.
Forget the two-year timing and carry on as is, till you can make the right decision at that time.
Reader’s Commentary “I got divorced after 30 years of marriage. I was 60. Before the ink was dry on my decree, my son got married. When it came time for speeches, I went against the norm and instead of talking about what to do to have a happy marriage, I talked about what NOT to do to have a happy marriage.
“(I apologized to the minister for telling the bride and groom that sometimes you have to go to bed angry. He’d just finished speaking before me, and he had said to never go to bed angry).
“Everyone came up to me afterwards and told me it was the best speech at a wedding that they’ve ever heard. One woman wished that I had said these things to her before she got married, because after two years her relationship was over.
“You can gain a lot of wisdom in 30 years.”
Wise Woman Now
Tip of the day:
Abuse cannot be accepted, neither for the sake of love nor parenting. Change must be absolute or distrusted.