Tuesday 24 April 2018

Dear Mary: My husband verbally abuses me

A reader's husband has been verbally and physically abusive
A reader's husband has been verbally and physically abusive

Mary O'Connor

Relationship counsellor and psychosexual therapist Mary O'Conor offers relationship advice in her weekly column.

Question: I have been married for almost 40 years and we have grown-up children, college- educated and gone from home.   I have always worked full-time, my husband is self-employed.  He has been physically and verbally abusive to me throughout our marriage.

He always drank heavily and stayed out until the small hours even when the children were young and I was working. Those nights out on his own were a weekly occurrence, and he rarely came home in a good mood. I lay in bed dreading what would transpire when he came home.

We also socialised together - and these nights out were sometimes OK but some of them ended in rows and abuse. On a few occasions I was so upset that I cried in the pub.

The physical abuse continued until the late 90s. During one very frightening night I phoned a family member and told them what was happening. The physical abuse stopped after that. The verbal abuse continues unabated, almost always after he has been out drinking. I try not to provoke him in any way but that seldom works.

He has a lot of issues and hang-ups from his childhood and school days - he feels a lot of people treated him badly. It is all a bit vague and I do not know of any instances of real abuse of any kind. He is highly critical of a lot of people, especially unemployed people and non-drinkers. My family is also on his list of disliked people and he has cut them to shreds over the years. They have always treated him with great respect. He never says anything nasty about them when in their company.

I am not a saint by any means, but I am good at managing the finances, a good housekeeper and have kept myself well. I have a busy demanding job and just want to get on with my life in peace. Most of the perceived slights and insults that he accuses me of are very minor. I often cannot remember some of the incidents that he speaks of - my life is just too busy for rehashing these things.

I want to move forward, not backwards. I did go to marriage counselling on my own. He would not attend and went mad when I tried to talk to him about our problems (as advised by the counsellor). There were a lot of times over the years when I thought about leaving him, but I never followed through. There were good times as well as the very bad times. At this stage of my life, I do not want to leave my home. I have not done anything wrong, so why should I leave?

He is not an alcoholic - he works every day and does not drink during the day. I feel tired and sad and weary all of this upset is so unnecessary. He rarely apologises for his abusive behaviour. I think that he was born with an inferiority complex and that he has never got over it.

I am sorry for being so long-winded, I just do not know what to do, as counselling is out and I do not want to speak to my family about my problems. Maybe I should try and build up his ego by praising him but I do not think that I could do that after all the unhappiness he has put me through.

Mary replies: Having read your letter a number of times I went for a long walk to try to marshal my thoughts. I found it so sad that one human being could have been treated by another as you have been treated.

You raise so many points that I would like to address, but, as always, I am bound by space constraints. Nobody should have had to endure what you have over the last four decades, and it is good that you are finally saying that enough is enough. I agree you should not have to leave your home, but you will have to stop allowing your husband to treat you the way he does. Just one phone call stopped the physical abuse many years ago, and so you saw that change is possible. Now the verbal abuse has to end as well, because if that one thing was removed you would have a far better quality of life.

Ask yourself what would make your husband see that you are in earnest when you tell him that his behaviour is no longer acceptable. If you stopped doing the housework would it make a difference to him? I'm assuming that the majority of it falls to you. Or how would he like not having any meals cooked? Again, I'm assuming that you are the cook.

Hopefully you have already stopped any sexual activity, given his treatment of you, but if not, then now is the time. A reader told me recently that her mother dealt with her husband's bullying by going abroad for a few months and coming back renewed and showing her husband that she could get by on her own. As you work full-time that is not an option, but you may consider taking some annual leave to go and stay with a friend or a family member, and explain to your husband that leaving for good is also a possibility.

Any or all of these options would result in him seeing that you mean business, and would at least get you on the right track in standing up to his constant haranguing. You should tell him what your plans are before you begin, and then stick to whatever course you decide on following. The alternative is to continue as you are for what may be 20, 30 or even 40 years. The Golden Years are very tarnished in your case, and it is now up to you to put yourself first and get a better quality of life. Just as you will find change difficult, so will your husband, but it is up to you to initiate the change because he certainly won't.

I do hope that you have somebody to talk to about all this, given that you do not want to talk to your family. If you don't have a trusted friend in whom you can confide then you need to have somebody professional to share it all. Marriage counselling works only when both parties are amenable to it, but you would benefit from psychotherapy for yourself to support you as you go through what may be quite a difficult process of change.

Your husband very obviously needs help with anger management and other issues but unless he sees the need to seek help then nothing can be done.

One final thought - just because he only drinks in the evening does not necessarily mean he is not an alcoholic. His drinking affects his relationship with you therefore he has a problem with alcohol. But that is for another day.

I need more work to keep me busy

Question: I am currently completing an internship under the JobBridge programme.I decided to complete it in a large multinational company with an excellent reputation. My role/title sounds good and I felt it could have value and real capital.The problem is that I have very little work. I am currently spending a lot of time applying for jobs, completing an online course, listening to the radio and  doing my  own creative writing while at work. I sit at the back of the office, so nobody sees what I am doing.

I have asked my manager for extra work a few times. An inspector from social protection came recently and she just seemed interested in ticking boxes, and not interested in the real situation.

The problem is I believe I am very capable and intelligent. I would definitely be able for a lot more work. I have six months completed already. I have a desire to complete the full thing and get a reference. However, it is impacting significantly on my mental health.

Mary replies: You must feel totally frustrated and undervalued at the lack of work, and I can see that this would have an affect on you mentally over such a long period. The average person spends one third of their day at work so it is essential that you feel good about this part of your life. As JobBridge has a nine- month ceiling you still have some time left to run on your contract. You should request a meeting with your supervisor or human resource person and explain that you feel capable of contributing much more to the organisation than you are currently doing. Ask that you be given specific tasks and duties which will equate with your skills, so that you will be marketable at the end of the contract.

After all, the basic premise of JobBridge is to link the trainee with employment in order to keep talent in the country rather than exporting it. You will need to be strong in enforcing your point of view, and I don't think that looking for more work will affect your chances of getting a good reference, which is what you seem to fear. Your priority should be getting relevant work experience in order to gain permanent or at least contractual employment in the future, and I feel that whoever you speak to will only applaud your efforts to achieve this. Keep telling yourself that you are worth it and then others will believe in you as well.

You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting www.dearmary.ie or email her at dearmary@independent.ie or write c/o 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately.

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