Q: It seems like every day I am living my life on the edge, never knowing when my husband is going to get mad about something. It seems like I can’t make him happy no matter what I do and when he talks down to me it makes me feel like crap. Especially when he gets really mad (about absolutely nothing…seriously it comes out of nowhere.) He has threatened me many times, saying, “If you ever cheat on me, you will end up in pieces in some river!” or “If you ever take my child away from me….” He has tried to choke me. One night he hit me and I told him to let me out of the car and I walked home in the dark that night, scared out of my mind. After all this happens, he acts like everything is okay, like I shouldn’t be mad. Before we were married, he used to be so sweet, opening doors for me, holding me close, and I could see in his eyes that he loved me. It really makes me sad because that is the person I fell in love with and now, I don’t know who he is. I have never felt so low about myself. I don’t even know who I am anymore.
How much am I supposed to take?
Lately I have been having dreams about other guys (that I don’t know) that show me affection or some sign that they care about me and it feels really good, but I always feel guilty in my dreams because something tells me, “you are married.” One night the guy was about to tell me how he felt and kiss me and it made me feel so special, but I woke up right away. It is sad because I wanted to go right back in that dream, and I actually tried.
I just feel so broken down because I am alone in this relationship. I tell him what I need, for him to treat me well and give me hugs, etc., but he says he won’t change for anyone. Do you have any answers for me?
A: You aren’t alone. Time and again I hear from one spouse (usually the wife) about the controlling, angry nature of the other spouse. Maybe some of these statements from others reflect what you feel:
- I find myself thinking “how will he react” before I do anything. I live in fear that whatever I do, say, think, or feel will set him off.
- When he wants me to see it or do anything his way, he keeps on and on until he wears me down and I finally give in. Then he acts like I finally saw the light, but I feel overpowered and frustrated.
- He tells me that I don’t show him the respect he deserves, but it’s hard to respect a man who constantly runs you down and wants to control nearly everything you do
- He expects me to be a great lover and want him all the time, but I can’t go from being treated like a second-class citizen to all of a sudden becoming a sexual siren like he thinks I’m supposed to
- He constantly criticizes me for not building up his ego, but he feels free to tell anyone he wishes what he thinks my flaws are
- He tells me my motives are selfish whenever I do something I enjoy. He has derided me so often that I question myself and doubt myself.
- Can I ever be me again? Will I live my life trying to be whatever he wants me to be, or do whatever he wants me to do?
The bad news is that nothing will change about him as long as you allow him to treat you this way. In a sense you are the child and he is the parent. And not a very nice parent at that. Age may mellow him, but it may not and if it does it will take many years.
In my opinion, you will either live like this until you can’t take it at all and then do something dumb like committing adultery, or you must take charge of your life now. Having lived like this for a while, it’s possible that you will need therapy to overcome your own emotional confusion. You don’t have to divorce him, but you do have to put your foot down and make him face the consequences of his own behavior. If he hits or chokes you, call the police. If you are afraid of serious harm or death, quietly find the folks in your community who operate safe houses for abused women and let them guide you. If he verbally abuses you rather than physically, don’t think that’s okay. Verbal and emotional abuse is destructive and shouldn’t be tolerated. If that continues, you may find it much better to move out, find the spiritual and emotional support you need, and then – if he doesn’t change – move on.
If you are a Christian and fear that you will anger God if you don’t stay and take it, read Ephesians 5 where it says plainly that a husband is to love his wife as Jesus loves the church. This man is NOT doing that. He is failing his responsibility and being a bully, a manipulator, and a threat. In my view you have no obligation to stay with him if he does not get the help he needs to become a very different person than he is now.
I repeat: This is not going to change on its own. The odds of that are extremely low. YOU must stand up, be the adult that you are under all that confusion, and take charge of your life to make it what it should and could be. There are people in your community who can help you. Start with your church. If you don’t find it there, find a church or a center that has counselors or therapists. If you cannot afford that, call your county administrative offices and ask them where to find the help you need. There are people who care and who will stand beside you.
Don’t live like this any longer.