I wrote to you last year, about whether it was time to leave my miserable marriage (I was “Helpless not Hopeless” (April 10):
Your advice was on-point, when you said this: "The only answer you want is this: Just Escape."
I’d written every candid detail of our personal lives and was secretly hopeful that someone would confront me with some of it. No one did.
One month later, I took a weekend trip with a close friend. When I returned, my husband accused me of adultery based on an attractive male friend whom I’d connected with on social media.
I had not been unfaithful. His dormant jealousy reared its ugly head. He called me disgusting names and insisted that I leave that night.
Days later, I told him that I wanted to separate. He offered to leave the house.
We tried couples’ counselling (I wasn’t very invested in this). He was in and out of the house (we tried alternative living arrangements).
He seemed to be in the process of change, and I was hopeful. Not because I missed him, but because I didn’t want to live separately from my children, part-time.
We’ve been separated, officially, since mid-August, and have a joint childcare arrangement that seems to be working for us and the children.
But he hasn’t pursued any abuse counselling.
I have a condescending nature and I had controlling ways, which are also a form of abuse. I can acknowledge the part that I played in our marital breakdown, but I wasn’t "abusive" in the same manner, frequency or degree that he was.
Our therapist said of me, “You’ve been in a marriage with domestic abuse.”
I’ve been reading about domestic abuse which includes verbal abuse. I’ve become aware of all the ways this abuse entered our everyday life. I’ve developed a higher standard for what I believe I’m entitled to, from a partner.
Yet he seems intent on winning me back without the abuse counselling.
He shows me respect and kindness only on a whim - not with any regularity. He’s still set off by innocuous events (such as my neighbours shovelling my driveway for me).
I’m seeing a therapist, but still struggle with guilt, worrying that my children (who adore their doting father) may not understand why their mother left him. He cherishes them, indulging their every whim, and rarely raises his voice to them. His behaviour towards me is much different, but we rarely fought in their presence.
Still, I’m hopeful that we’ll find a co-parenting groove that works in the best interest of everyone involved, but especially my children.
So, I will often invite him along on certain outings, or over for dinner, because I want to normalize being together even if we’re not "together." The kids seem to enjoy spending time with both of us.
I’m no longer helpless (you said I never was), and I have hope for a better life (I already have one), but the nagging fear that I’ve "given up too easily" is with me too often.
Still, all of the literature that I’ve read on abuse draws the same conclusion: you must leave the abuser.
Where is the light at the end of the tunnel?
You’re already in the light. You’ve learned what you can no longer accept in a partner-relationship. But you’re giving the best alternative chance for your family to stay connected, and for your children to feel supported by both loving parents.
FEEDBACK Regarding the mother who blames her son’s disinterest in Christmas on his wife (January 30):
Reader – “Many couple’s today take a different approach to holidays and gifting, and to each being responsible for their immediate family's gifting at holidays, birthdays, special occasions, etc.
“Why, I don’t know, but men tend to avoid this aspect of life and leave it to the female in their lives to think up gifts, buy them, and then wrap the gifts.
“With two families, this can be overwhelming for one person, particularly at Christmas.
“It could be that her daughter-in-law feels it’s your son’s responsibility to tend to his family, while she tends to hers. It could be that your son is not particularly adept at such tasks and has fallen short of taking on the responsibility; hence, taking a passive aggressive approach by criticizing your Christmas traditions to avoid recognizing his own short comings in this area.”
Tip of the day:
If you accept abuse from a partner, there’s no reason for him or her to change.