Thursday 19 October 2017

Dear Mary: What's the best way to get out of this miserable, abusive marriage?

'Nobody should have to feel afraid in their own home'. Thinkstock Images.
'Nobody should have to feel afraid in their own home'. Thinkstock Images.

Mary O'Connor

When my husband and I married we already had a very small baby and I was quite young. My husband had previously had numerous short-lived volatile relationships with other women and had been engaged twice.

I had been warned by people that he had an explosive temper. At that age all I saw was love and hope for the future. I had a few bad experiences with him early on, for instance if we were driving and I said something he didn't like he would drive erratically and terrify me in the process.

He was extremely jealous and possessive which I took to mean he cared for me deeply, and I thought because he had been hurt by previous relationships that in time he would learn to trust me. The first few years of our marriage were good and we had a few more children. He was working long hours and I stayed home to mind our children. Money was an issue as he gave me a set amount every week to pay the mortgage, the bills and for food and clothing. The amount he gave me did not cover all the costs involved and I got into debt. He saw this as a complete failure on my part and no amount of explaining made any difference - it was my fault and that was it.

My family and my husband never got on, he felt that he was superior to them and this caused all sorts of tensions. He was a good father when it suited him. He taught the children to swim, ride and took them for long walks. He had his own hobbies and they were always put before us and became all-consuming. He formed what he described as friendships and I would call flirtations with women associated with these hobbies and would regularly socialise in their company while I was home with the children. He would tell me often how nice and fit these women were, and I would end up feeling pretty down as I was made to feel that I couldn't compete with them.

My husband never wanted to celebrate birthdays or anniversaries and said they were commercial nonsense. He had complete control of our finances and I was never asked if I was OK or needed more money. He didn't believe in maintaining the family home and it was only when I went out to work that I could take care of the maintenance. During his many explosions he would destroy what I had done and just walk away. He never admitted that he was wrong or sorry, it was always my fault, I had made him do it.

Over the last 10 years I have found it increasingly difficult to be in his company. He is very negative and shouts and screams, looking for attention. When he is in the house I'm always on edge. He took to sitting in darkness, brooding, waiting for me to get home and was always accusing me of seeing other people even though I don't socialise. He suffers from paranoia and fully believes that his thinking is rational. When he is out socially he is the life and soul of the party, always loud and in the company of women. We have had a very up and down relationship over the last few years, sometimes not talking for months. On one occasion he threatened me with an object and there are times when I'm living in fear.

He started a sexual relationship with a lady and brought her to our home behind my back. My children were distraught and this action changed all of our views. That relationship came to an abrupt end when I looked for a legal separation.

He begged me to take him back, saying he would change and against my better judgment I decided to give it another go. He was great for a while but I found that I didn't have the same feelings any more and I was less tolerant of his temper tantrums and mood swings. He created havoc on Christmas morning and something snapped in me.

Our youngest is now 18 and I feel it's time to sort out this mess. He is currently out of the country on a contract and for the first time in years I have a peaceful mind. We have not spoken since he left apart from texts about post, but he has started sending me emotionally- charged texts telling me that he is lonely and missing me. Some are bordering on intimidation as I have told him it's over and I don't want to live in the same house as him again. His reply is "when I go home I'm living in my house and you can f*** off".

How do you think I should handle this?

Mary replies: You have had a very difficult life, particularly in later years, with your husband. You made the decision to end it after he had the affair but he seems to have talked you out of it. However, nothing changed in his behaviour towards you after the initial good resolutions and you have to ask yourself why this time would be any different.

You also have had a glimpse of how things are in the house without him, and it sounds to me that you were very happy until the threatening texts started. Now seems to be a very good time to seek legal advice again because you need to be very sure of your facts when he returns. If you haven't taken any of your family into your confidence you need to do this.

Nobody should have to feel afraid in their own home and the threat of violence at any time is unacceptable.

Something has definitely shifted for you in your toleration of his behaviour. You have to keep telling yourself that none of what happened was your fault, despite his attempt to brainwash you. It is natural that you are thinking of finishing the marriage because your children have reached adulthood and they have obviously been your prime concern while they were growing up. But now is the time to think about yourself and what is best for you, and it certainly does not appear to be that staying in this abusive relationship is the answer.

You took the first steps, then went backwards, so now is the time to start going forward again.

But please ensure that you have support from either family or friends when he is about to return to Ireland as you will need to feel secure when his threats become a reality, as no doubt they will.

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