Divorce and emotional abuse often go hand in hand. After years of putting up with unacceptable behavior, you may find yourself in the courtroom ending a marriage that should have never started. Reconciling your feelings about the whole situation is often difficult, as highlighted by the following questions.
Answers by Gloria Swardenski, Life Coach
Jolene's Question: I've been married for eighteen years and things have not always been the best. I've put up with his drinking and his verbal abuse. Now it comes down to his wanting to leave, and I just can't seem to let go. I know that it's the best for me and the kids, but I'm afraid and I have no idea why. I guess I really thought by putting up with all of this I would have a better outcome.
Gloria's Answer: I'm so glad, Jolene, that you are seeing the truth in your last statement. Somehow we do think that if we put up with all the stuff our husband's bring home in one form or another, we will be able to keep the marriage together and things will turn out okay. It really is a fantasy to think that way. So as painful as it is right now, I'm excited for you to set the fantasy aside and see the truth.
My encouragement and challenge for you now is to get all the support you can around you - friends, support groups, outside agencies. You are looking for those people that will continue to tell you the truth and support you in rebuilding your life.
After years of verbal abuse, it is easy to start believing the lies you've been told - you're stupid, you aren't good enough, you can't make it on your own, you don't have what it takes to raise the kids alone, and on and on. Know that all of these are lies, and you do have what it takes to create and enjoy a beautiful life. You are smart, beautiful, strong, creative, and have the ability to learn whatever you need to. Until you start believing it though, surround yourself with those who believe it for you. This is not a fantasy. This is who you are!
J's Question: I have been on an emotional roller coaster with a verbally and emotionally abusive man for seven years (4 married). Although I logically know that he isn't going to change (he won't seek treatment, behaves after he's blown up for a short while, then blows again), how do I get the strength to actually leave? I am coming to the sad realization that I cannot love him enough to make him change. I feel like I am losing me and I feel trapped. I know that he can control his temper, as he doesn't do it to anyone other than me. If anyone else were in my shoes, I would advise them to leave now, before the sun sets tonight. Why is it that I can't do it myself??? I'm so frustrated with myself, as I know you can't have an abuser without a volunteer. I don't want to be that volunteer anymore.
Gloria's Answer: My guess is that you aren't leaving because you don't have enough support to be able to go. Most of the time, those who have been abused as you are describing keep it to themselves. They put on the fake smiles, tell everyone everything is okay and you (or he) are just having a bad day, and you make excuses. No one sees what is really going on behind the scenes.
It's time to be real with yourself and get the support you need. Tell those supportive people in your life the truth as you see it, and take whatever steps you need to take care of yourself.
Also, the reason your husband doesn't treat others the way he treats you is that he knows he can't. He can't manipulate and abuse others and still have them around. But you, on the other hand, are a sure thing. You haven't left yet, so unless you do something that lets him know it's not okay to keep on this path with you, he won't stop.
Your best move in bringing out the very best in him and bringing only the very best into your life is to get the support you need, get out, and support him to get the help he truly needs to be the best he can be in this world. If you don't make the first move, nothing will change. You can do this!!
Mary's Question: After being married for 22 years, I find that I am no longer happy in my marriage. We spend hardly any time together, and I get the feeling he isn't happy in our marriage based on his actions. There is a lot of tension and he likes to correct me, often in front of the children. He tries to tell me what I can and can't do. I'm wondering if he'll tell me what I should think next. I often find myself wishing I never married him. I think my husband is emotionally abusive but not very blatant, it's subtle. Should I divorce him? I don't want to end up bitter and unhappy.
Gloria's Answer: If in the end you wind up bitter and unhappy, it won't be the fault of your husband - it will be yours! You have so many choices here, Mary, and it breaks my heart that you feel like the victim and give him so much control over your thoughts and attitudes.
I would challenge you to take a long look in the mirror, make the decision to be happy and whole, and begin to create that life, your life! You have the power to do this, and your husband cannot stop you. And you can do this within the context of your marriage. Be a healthy role model for your children by living a life of happiness and joy even when everything may not be going your way or a negative comment is thrown out here or there.
If your husband corrects you in front of the children, show them what a healthy response is - take it lightly, acknowledge what has been said, and move on. Then later talk with your husband privately and let him know that you do not appreciate comments being said in front of the kiddos. Stand up for yourself, respect yourself, and honor your children.
The truth is whether you go or stay, this is exactly what you will need to do anyway.
Holly's Question: What should you do when your spouse criticizes you constantly, and yells at you in front of your children using a lot of bad words? I want a divorce every day of my life, but I don't know where to start. Please help me end my horrible marriage.
Gloria's Answer: It sounds to me like your husband is emotionally abusive, and it is not in the best interest of your kids to allow this to continue. Right now, I would encourage you to stop the yelling simply by leaving the room or your home. State very clearly and firmly that you won't tolerate the yelling any more, you are leaving, and if he wants to talk with you about this without all the yelling, you'll be available later. It may be enough.
If it isn't though, I would encourage you to get the support you need for both divorce and emotional abuse from the many organizations that are out there. Look in your phone book and pick a family related agency. I'm sure they can point you in the right direction to support you in getting more information.
Raquel's Question: I left Mexico almost 5 years ago to marry a man that I met over the internet. After we were married, I learned that he was dating someone else, and then he replaced me with this new woman. I left him to protect myself against his anger, and had to put a restraining order against him. Even though I won the case, things have turned harder because of it. Now I am alone in America and away my daughter that I left in Mexico. I know that I need to forget his infidelity and the years of emotional abuse, but starting over is tearing me apart. I've had to adjust to a different house again, different people, and a new job. I have no desire to go out and discover who I am without him. I feel lost without him, without my marriage and without my daughter. I made a mess of things, and feel guilty for my stupid choices. How I can cope with the pain of my recent situation?
Gloria's Answer: Dear Raquel ~ my heart is breaking for you! Not so much for the situation that you have described to me, as life sometimes does have many twists and turns we don't anticipate, but for the judgment you are putting on yourself. Yes, you made decisions that didn't turn out like you had hoped, but that doesn't mean you are stupid.
I love that you are restarting your life. I want to celebrate that with you! You sound like a truly courageous woman who made some very tough decisions to leave your home in Mexico to begin a life here. In creating your new life now, that same courage is still there and you can tap into it whenever you want!
It is going to take courage to get out of the house and explore your new surroundings. It is going to take courage to reach out and make some new friends. It is going to take courage to decide if you want to reconnect with your daughter that you left behind. It is going to take courage to deal with your moods and be in control of them vs. the moods being in control of you attitude and actions.
Let go of the harsh feelings of judgment that you are placing on yourself. The past is the past, and there is nothing you can do to change it. Your opportunity now is to learn from your past decisions and experiences, create a new life of your choosing, and rediscover once again just how courageous you really are.
Aurianna's Question: I have been in a marriage that should have ended the day of the ceremony, but sadly it has lasted 40 years! His behavior has been entirely destructive the whole time, and I have been abused physically, verbally, and mentally. He continues to still cause grave trauma to me and my 38 year old daughter both verbally and mentally. I am permanently disabled and on a bare minimum fixed income that "our" mortgage consumes 90% of, and I still have to eat, pay bills etc. I am at wits end and have been suicidal... especially now. I have been told that my settlement can be based on the trauma I have sustained within the marriage. He needs to pay for all the pain that has left me permanently scarred. I am basically incapable of re-entering another relationship EVER because I am damaged beyond repair. It is imperative that I find out all that I can gain from this destruction. PLEASE HELP!! I am at the bottom of a dry well and I need someone to throw me a rope and help me out before it's too late.
Gloria's Answer: You made a statement in your note that you feel that you are damaged beyond repair. If you believe that, then it is true that there is very little hope, very little you can do, and all the reasons and justifications for considering suicide.
If you are open to challenging that statement though, and digging deep within to rediscover the powerful woman that I know is in there, keep reading! How do I know that you are powerful? Because you put up with the emotional and verbal abuse for 40 years, while raising a daughter at the same time. You have endured the hardships that have come from his alcoholism, and you have continued on in the face of so many disappointments and broken promises. YOU are strong and powerful, and you CAN deal with all of this.
Now, the big question is how? I'm not the one to deal with the legal issues, but I do know how very important the mental side of the battle is, and there are some things within your thinking that I'd love to challenge you on, so that you can move forward with dignity and grace.
First, let go of any notion that you will get justice. You won't! There is nothing that can happen now to make up for what you have gone through. Don't fool yourself into thinking that some event or judgment will make you feel better.
Second, stop being the victim. Yes, you've had a rough road, but you have choices and resources that you haven't begun to explore right now, right in front of you. You aren't helpless or powerless, and when you tell yourself that you are the poor victim, you rob yourself of the creativity and brilliance that is yours.
Third, no matter your age you can begin to create a new, joyful, satisfying life surrounded by family and friends who love you and support you. Bitterness, anger, and ungratefulness will eat away at you, and will actually push away from you the very things you most want in your new life.
I want to congratulate you, Aurianna, for stepping out of the bad situation and beginning again. I know it isn't easy. I know it isn't fair. I know in a perfect world, you wouldn't have to deal with any of this. But I also know you are capable of meeting the challenge, and you can be that shining light for so many others. Lead the way; be that example, and be that whole, vibrant person, I know you already are!
Katie's Question: My husband and I have been together since we were 16 and have 3 children together. I always took care of everything, was the breadwinner, took care of finances, built our credit, household, etc. We've always had extreme highs and lows in our relationship, and he always resorts to lashing out at my verbally when he's angry (he came from a physically and verbally abusive family).
About 2.5 years ago, I cheated on him (which he suspected but never knew). One night he told me to just tell him the truth, that if I had cheated on him previously, we could handle it and get through it. So I confessed. I've never seen more rage or experienced more punishing horrible words from him since. He says he doesn't know what he wants, but yet, he calls every day. Then he relapses and remembers what I actually am, a "[expletive removed]", or that I'm not trying hard enough to show that I've changed. He casts all the blame on me, for everything in our marriage. I love him and I'm horrified that I've done this. It seems like he has lost his love for me, and I'm worried that our kids will grow up in a broken home. How do I endure this?
Gloria's Answer: It always saddens me beyond words when I read so many emails of strong, wonderful women who live in abusive situations. Your husband was raised in an abusive home, and while he has tried to break free, it is nonetheless what he knows and what he resorts to when he doesn't know what else to do. Both of you need help or the pattern will continue. And your 3 children deserve better than this.
If you do truly love him, then your biggest challenge is not to get him to forgive you, but to get the professional help you need to begin working on your marriage in a healthy way. If he doesn't agree, then you need to love yourself and your children enough to stop the abuse and move on.
Did you do some things that you regret, that you wish never happened, that you think now were stupid and cowardly? Sure, but that does not justify or excuse his actions. You cannot fix the past, and you cannot fix your husband. Tell yourself the truth, the whole truth, and get what you need to be the healthy and whole Mom your kids need and deserve!
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