“Am I doing the right thing filing for divorce?”

by Annie Kaszina on March 9, 2011

Hi Annie,

I have to ask your opinion, although I think I already know the answer!

I have been with my husband for 3 yrs. He definitely has issues! He has an anger problem and he has been mentally abusing me during our whole relationship. He tells me it’s my fault, that I’m the reason he blows up, calls me names, etc.  Am I doing the right thing filing for divorce?”

Hi Leann,

You’re in a relationship with a partner who calls you names, blames you for everything, has temper tantrums and makes you feel worthless.

You’ve taken about as much as you can take, and you have a chorus of well-wishers (who may be family, friends, and/or professionals whose help you have enlisted) who all tell you to wash your hands of him.

Of course, you hate other people giving you advice – especially when you have a sneaking feeling they could be right, and their advices conflicts with what you’d like to happen…

You hate being pressured.

You hate feeling that people expect you to make a decision NOW, when you can’t think straight…

And you can’t help wondering:

”Am I doing the right thing filing for divorce?”

Let me ask you something:

What will you lose by ending the relationship?

You can expect to lose:

  • Financial security
  • Being married/having someone
  • The marital home
  • The status quo
  • The ‘stability’ your children have previously known
  • The social credibility having a husband confers on you… allegedly

Think about it for a moment: how secure is your financial security?  If you sit tight, will he stick around until death do you part?  Can you be sure about it?

Financial security, and the other perceived benefits of staying in the marriage, come at a price.  And guess who’s paying that price?

That’s right!  You are.

So, another question for you?

What do you lose if you stay put in the relationship?

Well, you can bet your bottom dollar you’ll lose:

  • Any vestiges of emotional security you still have.   He may be married to you, but you can’t guarantee he won’t leave you.  You simply don’t know.  He does have a habit of walking out at the drop of a hat.

  • Whatever self-worth and energy you still have.  Your partner is a good feelings vampire.  Left to his own devices, he’ll carry on sucking until he bleeds you dry.

  • Enjoyment – that includes enjoyment of your home, your spending power, your life, your children.  You know perfectly well that you are never free to enjoy anything 100%, because he is always in control of you.  Which means you also lose…

  • Your freedom.  Staying with him means continuing to forfeit your voice, your friends, your life, your dreams, ambitions, and hopes.  You live in a prison of his making.
  • Your happiness.  When did you last laugh freely and spontaneously around him?  When did you last rejoice in your health, the beauty of nature, or anything at all, for more than about 5 seconds?  When did you last feel happy just because?

  • Your safety.  So, a roof over your head is part of what he offers.  How safe do you feel under that roof from emotional, and/or physical attack?

  • Connection.  To the world, you may look like a couple, but you don’t live like couple.  There is a deep lack of emotional intimacy.  Only you know quite how much that hurts you.  However, because you have had to shut down emotionally with him – to keep yourself as safe as you can – you’ve shut down with other people also.  Living a lie is a terribly isolating way to live.

  • Meaningful friendships.  As a couple you mix a lot with other couples.  End the relationship and you will lose a lot of people that you considered friends.  What this means is that, when the chips are down and you need their care and support, the people you who only ever had a superficial relationship with you will walk away from you.  That may feel like a loss, but it isn’t.  They were the people your abusive partner encouraged you to mix with.  Chances are, when you are free to choose, you will create more giving, mutually supportive meaningful relationships.
  • Respect.  You lose  self-respect because it’s really hard to respect yourself when you settle for the unacceptable.  You also risk losing respect from your children.  In an ideal world, your children would “understand” and value the sacrifice you make for them.  This isn’t an ideal world.  Children don’t necessarily interpret your sacrifice in the way you would like them to.  They may feel your sacrifice places a huge, uncomfortable burden of beholdenness on their shoulders.  Or they may prefer to turn away from what they mistakenly see as your ‘weakness’. 

  • As regards social credibility, if you had your choice – and you can have your choice – would you rather be seen as “X’s wife”, or a remarkable person in your own right?  In an ideal world you could have both.  If you are married to an abuser, you can’t.  That’s one of the unwritten laws of an abusive relationship.  For as long as stay married to your abusive partner, the chances of being seen as a remarkable person in your own right are infinitesimally small.  I remember my wasband, and his brother, telling me their mother (married to an abusive man, par excellence) was a “wonderful woman”.  She wasn’t.  She and her children had a truly toxic, co-dependent relationship, mired in disempowering guilt on their side.

So you’re married to an emotionally abusive man, and what you really want is for him to change.  You’ve stuck around to make that happen, and it hasn’t.  It won’t.

Are you doing the right thing filing for divorce?

The simple answer has to be a resounding “YES!!”.

Unless, that is, you believe it is your lot in life to suffer until the bitter end – in which case, stay with the relationship.

If, on the other hand, you feel you, too, are entitled to a life worth living, then divorce has to be a much, much better option.

Life without him will be far better than life with him, in the same way that life without raging toothache is infinitely preferable to life with it.

And if you’re worried about having a life after abuse, let me leave you with this quote:

“Here is the test to find whether your mission on Earth is finished: If you’re alive, it isn’t.” Richard Bach

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