Hubby's Changed-- for the Worse
Q: I have been married for 21 years. It took until seven years ago for me to become pregnant (had to use donor sperm finally). The problem is that my husband has become spiteful and resentful toward me. He shows extreme jealousy toward our child, withholds financial support (he won't even buy a roll of toilet paper for home), stays gone with his buds from Friday to Sunday night, and goes to bed before I get in from work the other days (our child is with me). He hasn't touched me or spoken a nice word to me in six months, and in fact calls me offensive names. Yet he says he doesn't have a problem. He drinks almost daily. Divorce or not? I don't trust him to share custody because he has threatened to take him and never let me see him again. Our boy doesn't want to do anything alone with him because he is afraid of him, though he doesn't physically abuse either of us. I don't know what to do. I love the man I married , but I don't like the man he has become.--Sammie
Dr. Susan: This is one of those stories that has to have another side, however unsympathetic it may turn out to be. You didn't say when things turned negative. I strongly urge you to get your husband into counseling with you so he can tell his side. You won't accomplish this by suggesting he has a problem. Tell him you're miserable and lonely and at the end of your rope, and you need his help to figure out what happened to the good marriage you had. He's avoiding you to such an extreme that he must be very angry. I would want to know if he is having an affair, and also wonder whether he doesn't feel the child's really "his" and therefore refuses to accept him fully. Mainly, though, he sounds emotionally abusive and withholding. Those traits may have been there before but you didn't recognize them until they became more extreme.
It may help to ease your mind to know that some men, when threatened by divorce, bully their wives into staying by saying they'll totally take the kids from them. They very rarely follow through (but you'll want to consult a lawyer anyway). He may want to stay married to you, even though he doesn't spend time with you and calls you names, because he needs someone to control. Abuse of this sort, especially with the killer additive of alcohol, doesn't get better all by itself. Get some counseling yourself and discuss how to proceed, especially to protect your son, if you do have to end this marriage.
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Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.