Can't Stay, Can't Leave
Q: I've been married for 10 years now and have 4 kids. Although I didn't realize it at the time, my husband was emotionally abusive and pressured me into the marriage when I was 18. I've only come to see that in the past year or two. I don't know if I ever really loved him or was just scared. He's a recovering (so-called) meth addict but used pot for the first seven years of our marriage. We've been separated several times before, and both rehab and my in-laws led me to believe that all the abuse came from his drug use. So I keep taking him back in hopes that our life will be happy because that's all I want, a somewhat happy marriage. Each time he promises it will be different and that he can't live without me. He even attempted suicide one time while we were apart because I wouldn't take him back. The truth is when we're apart I don't even think about what he's doing or who he's with. I don't care, maybe because he's cheated so many times. We fight all the time about everything. I just can't stand him. I'm really unhappy. I tell myself that I stay because I feel trapped by his threats of messing my life up or taking his. That's the last thing I want for my kids because divorce is hard enough on kids. What should I do? -- Jessica, 28
Dr. Susan: Your husband, on or off drugs, is bullying you. Those threats to mess up your life are no sign of love. You don't need to go all the way back to the beginning to figure out if you ever really loved him. Simply decide if you and the kids are better off with him or without him. He cheats, he threatens you, he may still be using drugs, and the two of you can't be together without fighting. He keeps saying he'll change, and he never does. No wonder you're unhappy. What a terrible example your poor kids are getting of how relationships work!
You need to know that if he ever does kill himself, it wouldn't be your doing. It would be something he does out of the same messed-up mental processes that drive him to drugs. He's holding that big threat over your head, and you're falling for it, worried about how your kids would take it. He doesn't give a fig over how the kids would react to such a thing. I'm not saying he definitely won't succeed in killing himself, and I certainly hope he drops that threat, but right now he's using it to manipulate you and cloud your mind. Just picture yourself spending the rest of your life trapped in this marriage. How does that feel? Now go get some counseling (with him, if he'll go) and see a lawyer to find out what your options are. If you do leave, this time make it permanent.
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Advice for Her
Advice for Him
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.