Ready to Leave
My husband and I have been married for 10 years, we have one child together, and I have three children brought into this marriage. I feel I'm at the breaking point, and don't know what to do. He's tired of financially supporting my other 3, yet before we married, he made it clear that he wanted none of their fathers to be connected to them whatsoever. My oldest is 17, and graduating this year. My youngest of my 3, is 12. He knows no one other than my husband. It's become very verbally abusive, and constantly ridiculing me for not financially contributing, yet doesn't want me working outside of the home. I'm confused, tired, beyond stressed and dealing with depression. I also have a single injury requiring surgery soon. I feel like I'm ready to leave, and not turn back. I feel I'm wasting my time. He offers absolutely no support dealing with anything to do with the kids except our child together. My other children see and know his lack of connection with them. Should I consider counseling or move on? He has a very egotistical personality, so I don't have confidence in counseling for him. I have been in counseling for years due to PTSD, from an entire childhood of sexual, physical, emotional and mental abuse. It's a mess!
Wow, that’s a lot to deal with and I can understand why you’ve hit your breaking point. Have you talked with your current counselor about your relationship and how it’s affecting you and your children?
I’ve thought long and hard about how to respond to your question. I have many questions of my own and before I start giving you my perspective, I want to recommend that you stay in counseling and that you consider some family counseling, with or without your husband, for you and your kids. They’re going to need help working through this situation regardless of whether you choose to stay or go.
So there were some pretty big red flags for me in your letter starting with the fact that your husband insisted that your children’s fathers had nothing to do with them. Not knowing your background with their fathers, I hesitate. I can understand not wanting to have anything to do with men who have been abusive or have other negative issues that might affect your family. However (and this is a big however), having your kid’s dads involved in supporting them is actually a really important thing. I understand that ego can get in the way sometimes (new husband wants to take care of wife and kids by himself) BUT that neither relieves the other dads from their responsibility NOR does it mean that cutting those people out of their lives is the best thing for your kids. The truth of the matter is that the financial support is not at all about you or your husband, but about your kids…about providing for their needs. So it concerns me a little bit that he was so ready to remove your children’s fathers from their lives.
That, coupled with the verbal abuse that is taking place now makes me very wary of your husband’s intentions. How long have things been like this? Do you have a support system outside your marriage? Why doesn’t he want you working outside the home, especially if financial contribution is an issue for him? These are some of the things I would ask you to consider if we were chatting in person.
Ok, so down to the quick of it. It is absolutely unacceptable for him to be verbally abusive. Period. To you or to your kids. And treating them different than his biological kid is emotionally abusive to them (all of them, including his biological child). The abuse needs to stop. Whether that happens as a result of counseling or you leaving, you have an obligation to yourself and to your children to raise them in a safe and healthy environment. If you want to work on keeping your family together, then yes, I suggest family counseling. If your husband isn’t receptive, that’s one consideration in making a decision to stay or go. If he doesn’t want to make things better than you need to make a decision that’d going to keep your and your kids safe emotionally.
Now, back to you. First, kudos for seeking counseling and working on your issues because abuse stays with us throughout our lives and is present in every decision we make, whether for good or for bad. I would suggest speaking with your counselor about next steps for you and your family. Living in an abusive environment is certainly going to undermine the work you are doing on your own PTSD and abuse recovery. And the hard truth is that your children are learning from what they are seeing around them. Tell your counselor that you need things to change and that you need their help in making that happen. If they recommend family counseling, try it. But have them help you work on boundaries.
The bottom line is that your husband’s behavior is unreasonable and unacceptable. He married you knowing that you had children he would be responsible for. He has an obligation to treat those kids with respect. I’m concerned that his decisions both to have you stay at home and to keep your other children’s fathers out of their lives is a way of isolating you. I don’t want to be an alarmist and maybe I am totally off base here (I’m operating on a very small snapshot of your lives), but there’s not much about this situation that seems functional to me. Find help! See your current counselor or seek out a new one if you need to. Find a family counselor. You may even try contacting your local domestic violence program and see what kind of family services they provide.
Regardless what action you take, please know that you are deserving of love and respect. You do not have to accept a life of verbal abuse and ridicule. Believe me. You and your children deserve more.
Dealing with alcoholism
How do you deal with a verbally abusive alcoholic spouse?
Dealing with an alcoholic spouse is a challenge in itself and adding verbal abuse to the mix makes this a very precarious situation. How to deal with the spouse depends on a lot of different factors. First and foremost, are you physically safe with your spouse? If not, then I would advise seeking help to distance yourself from the situation, either temporarily or permanently, while addressing the core issues.
Next, and also very important to consider, is whether you plan on staying in the marriage. Addiction and recovery can be a very long and painful process and if you want to stay in your marriage, you need to understand what that might mean. Does your spouse acknowledge that they have a drinking problem? Are they willing to seek help?
Whether or not you choose to stay in your marriage, you should focus on getting yourself as healthy as you can. Do you have children? I would suggest counseling and/or Al Anon for both you and your children. As the daughter of an alcoholic, I can tell you that, even if you don’t drink, you pick up behaviors and habits are a result of dealing with your loved ones alcoholism – some that you may not even recognize until many years down the road. Visit Al-Anon and Alateen to find groups in your areas and start getting support. If your spouse is ready for help, check out local AA meetings as well.
But beyond the alcoholism, let’s talk about verbal abuse. Verbal abuse can be as damaging or even more so than physical abuse. In many cases, we don’t even begin to understand the emotional toll until we start having nightmares or having trouble concentrating, suffer from depression or even PTSD. Is the verbal abuse related to the drinking or is it more engrained in your spouse’s pattern of behavior? The verbally abusive behavior is definitely a huge problem and it needs to stop.
If you and I were chatting about this problem over coffee, I would ask you a lot of questions about your situation to try and understand more about the dynamics of your relationship, but here I am stuck dealing in generalities so here is my advice based on what I know about addiction and interpersonal violence. This problem is not going to go away on its own and you need to reach out for help. Find a counselor in your area that specializes in addiction and ask for help. Call your local domestic violence agency and talk to them about their programs and services. Sometimes they offer programs to work with abusive partners with the goal of helping them better manage anger and keep relationships intact. Go to Al-Anon and talk. You’ll get serious doses of perspective and helpful resources from people dealing with similar situations. Whatever path you choose, make sure it involves seeking the help you need to be as healthy as you can be in this very daunting situation.
My thoughts are with you and I invite you to reach out anytime you need a sympathetic ear.
Don't be shy! Say what's on your mind and get a good dose of perspective in return.