Tuesday 17 September 2019

Dear Mary: 'Help me. I'm desperate to leave abusive partner'

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Mary O'Conor

Please help me. I want to leave my abusive partner. He has been physically abusive but that's a rare occurrence, the emotional abuse is what gets me.

I know it's not OK and I never have accepted his abuse.

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I've tried everything - couples counselling which he refuses to go to, and talking to him about how he makes me feel, but he doesn't care that he upsets me.

I'm always put down by him and it is so hurtful. I am mentally very strong and try to see past it and remind myself that I am none of the things he says I am. But I have to fight my emotions because I am afraid of getting sucked into a depressive state.

That doesn't mean what he says doesn't hurt because it does. I have felt physically ill on many occasions from the stress and hurt.

I want to leave him but he has threatened to lie to get custody of our kids if I leave him and has promised that he would not allow me to leave, saying he would make things very difficult for me.

I am afraid he may just do that. He is not abusive to, or in front of, my kids so part of me thinks maybe I should stay at least until they are older because my happiness is not what's important here, compared to them.

I don't want to run the risk of having all of this unnecessary upset for them.

I've called Women's Aid but I haven't found any answers that can help me in my situation.

Do you have any advice?

Mary replies:  You got a friend to send this to me as you were too scared to send it yourself, and that tells me a lot about your situation.

You have as a partner a man who is emotionally abusive to you and has on occasion been physically abusive.

He is also bullying you into staying with him even though you have let him know that you are so unhappy that you want to leave.

This is no way to live your life and even though you say your children have never witnessed him being abusive to you, they cannot help but absorb that it is not a happy household and that in itself has to affect them.

And contrary to what you say your happiness is important to them because if you are unhappy they will sense this - children are incredibly perceptive even when you think they are not.

I'm sorry that you didn't feel you got the answers you needed from Women's Aid. I think it is an amazing organisation.

Perhaps you were unclear as to what you wanted to do, and as a result they were unable to help you.

Firstly you have to take on the bully.

Refuse to believe that he can get custody of your children by lying - that is insulting to both yourself and whatever judge you would appear in front of if you went down the legal route.

It sounds to me as if you really want to leave him but you are afraid of what he may do.

You should begin by finding out what your rights are by contacting the Citizens Information Phone Service at 0761 07 4000 or by visiting your local Citizens Information Centre. Its website (www.citizensinformation.ie) has a lot of useful information - look under Family and Relationships.

When you know what your rights are then you can have a conversation with your partner to let him know that you are really serious about leaving and will not be cowed by his threats.

If you wish you could once again offer him couples counselling but either way show him that you are in earnest.

At this point it would be advisable to take a close family member or friend into your confidence and let them know what is happening in your relationship.

They should be told about the abuse - even one episode of physical abuse is one too many and you need somebody to know what is really going on in your home.

You only have one life to live and nobody should have to live a life of fear.

Mary O'Conor is a sex therapist and relationship counsellor.

You can contact Mary anonymously by visiting www.dearmary.ie or email her at dearmary@independent.ie or write c/o 27-32 Talbot St, 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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