She has options. She should get away, I think.
March 4, 2013 8:51 PM   Subscribe

A person close to me spoke about her relationship with her husband of 25 years. I say the symptoms she described are abuse in prototype form and I'm alarmed about it. Perhaps I am wrong; please help her and me figure out what's going on. Bonus points for next steps.

Close person P is married to husband H. P is a hausfrau: very intelligent but with no employment history to speak of. H does not like P to work. H is mostly loving according to P and my own reaction to H is "salt of the earth, solid, stable, reliable". P says H has sudden fits of anger directed at her - I've never seen this - over social peccadilloes and other rather trivial items. The anecdote that stands out: P tumbled down the stairs and pulled up at the landing hurt and confused. H yelled at P about the fact that two coffee cups broke in the fall and the contents splashed the wall. He did not comfort P but became angry when she said "don't look at me now". P was hurt, badly bruised, and she would have valued help and not H's anger.

Other less graphic elements in their relationship are: P wants financial stability; H wants a display of financial acumen, power and success. According to P, H plunges into risky ventures that have not got a very good track record and they lost their hats and fannies during the 2008 - 2011 financial flop. They are underwater on their only remaining real estate investment. P beseeches H to treat their finances more conservatively. Her concerns get no attention.

H and P have two offspring: one an independent young gentleman I esteem of 21, the other a noisy yet charming kid R of 12. P wants to leave H but fears for R's development in a shuttle arrangement if they break up.

H and P live in California. P will shortly inherit a house, free and clear, in a nearby state in which she doesn't particularly want to live. She is tempted to divorce H, and give up all other rights in exchange for sole custody of R. California law treats inherited real estate as individual property as does the state in which the real estate is.

P is confused and afraid. She and H have tried counseling, and it is not working according to her. She would like to get a sense of her options without alerting H by means of checks to legal firms.

What are P's options, next steps, resources to draw on, and so forth? I am way out of my depth here, except for advocating that she find a divorce lawyer and some kind of support to which I have no pointers.
posted by jet_silver to Human Relations (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

Best answer: She really needs to talk to a lawyer just to get an idea of what her options are. She can be creative about how she pays for the lawyer's time (especially if a friend or family member helps you.) She should also be aware that lawyers cost money and they are often willing to wait and get paid by the wage earning spouse as the divorce proceeds but they are hesitant to get involved when there is no money at all in the family.

Second, you should be aware that what she wants now may not be possible and that what she wants later my change. IANAL but I think it might be much harder to get sole custody than she thinks, especially if the father wants to fight about it. Court tend to prefer both parents stay involved in the child's life. On the other hand, as the child gets older, his preferences will be taken into account more and more. Also, I have known other women who started out saying "I don't need or want anything from him" but as the separation becomes real and they start to find out their own value, they realize that they have earned a right to a share of family assets and that they are entitled and deserve a fair settlement. So that may change too.
posted by metahawk at 9:44 PM on March 4, 2013 [4 favorites]

I was in a similar thing. This is emotional, verbal, and financial abuse. She should go to a domestic violence shelter and take her son. They can protect her and guide her.
posted by FunkyHelix at 9:48 PM on March 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yeah, custody and property aside, he's a dumper. The inherited house is a once-in-a-lifetime get out of jail free card & the asshole will probably connive to fuck it up if she lingers around long enough for him to somehow get his mitts on it.

The 12 yo will be okay if he knows he's loved and cared for. She should seek a "joint w/primary residence" sort of deal if sole isn't viable legally, which is probably tough without documented abuse.
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:17 PM on March 4, 2013 [5 favorites]

Her next step is to visit a bunch of lawyers and weigh her options.

We on the internet can not help except to say she will likely be surprised at how many options she does, in fact, have!

Start daling...
posted by jbenben at 11:36 PM on March 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: You can't make your friend do anything, and you're probably going to be frustrated because she's tried nothing and she's all out of ideas.

Here's what I'd suggest:

1. Direct your friend to a Domestic Abuse hotline. 1-800-799-7233. They can discuss her situation with her and direct her to resources in her area.

2. Be willing to help her phycially move if she needs to do this.

3. Don't enable her to stay in her situation. Don't continue to pat her hand and listen to her tale of woe if she's not making positive steps to ending this situation.

4. Don't play 'Yes, But." Many women will continue to stay in abusive situations, siting what seem to them to unsurmountable obsticles, "Yes, but I don't have any money." Yes, but I'd have to take my child out of school." "Yes, but he'll destroy all my family photos." You get the idea. Here's what you say, "There are a thousand terrible reasons to stay; and there is one excellent reason to go--when you leave you'll be free of him."

5. Be prepared for her to diminish her injuries and to exaggerate her culpability. "It's not that big a deal, I was only bruised, and truth be told, I pushed his buttons." (You are allowed to scream loudly at this.)

At the end of the day, she may be dipping her toe in the water and testing to see where her support is. In that case, I'd help her rally in whatever way I could.

The other possibility is that she's in denial and she's using other people to justify her decision to stay. In which case, don't feed into it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:37 AM on March 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

Wow! Ugh! It sounds like this could be a very bad situation indeed, and I suspect there is more going on than your friend has told you. HOWEVER, you need to know, that if this is a worst case situation and H. is physically violent, you need to take steps to maintain your own safety when dealing with any of this. Its probably been said over and over on the green but the danger for abused women is greatest when they are trying to leave, and that can extend to people who are trying to help them. I got out of an abusive relationship over ten years ago and in the process learned some very key things about the nature and cycle of abuse. If I were you (and had not already done so) I would do some research into domestic violence on your own so that you can spot cycles and patterns and warning signs and also keep yourself safe. You don't necessarily have to inform your friend of everything you find out. Sometimes people are not ready to hear the truth. Fear and denial can be extremely strong, but you should be as informed as possible before taking any of this on in any way.

That being said, I am not trying to talk you out of helping your friend, she will need tons of help and support if she is going to leave. I think contacting a domestic violence hot line is a very good place to start. You can call even if you are not directly involved in any abuse.

Just a random thought here, in my own case my husband physically threatened my friends. I was afraid to tell them everything that was going on in my relationship for fear they would become more involved, and possibly be hurt. I hope that is not what is going on for your friend.

Good luck to both of you, please be careful!
posted by WalkerWestridge at 6:07 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, folks. P knows the following: 1) I can support her in case of need; 2) my assessment of abuse-in-the-bud has been confirmed and she knows my hunch was MOL accurate though she disagreed at first; 3) she is motivated to change.

She has seen this post and she's taking the advice given of finding a lawyer or three to advise her.

The question of what she shall do after the cannons go off and the dust settles is still terra incognita. I'm urging her to imagine her life if she gets exactly what she wants, and to ask herself "what then?"
posted by jet_silver at 8:12 PM on March 6, 2013

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