Should I leave my husband?
April 24, 2014 12:04 AM   Subscribe

I married my husband almost a year ago. Prior to that we had been dating 6 months. I am 21. This person is my best friend who saved me from a very dark place in my life. He means a lot to me, and does so much for me.

I however have no interest in having sex with him. I am not happy. I’m starting to feel very trapped. This has happened due to me growing farther and farther away from my friends, and due to me entwining my entire life with his. I also think it’s due to me being lost in my own. In the beginning of our relationship he was emotionally manipulative by guilting me when I would do things without him. This has calmed down however, a lot. Some other issues I am having are his temper tantrums. When angry enough he will break things, or slam doors, and be otherwise irrational. This really bothers me, especially because I grew up in an abusive household, and especially because my last ex was emotionally and physically abusive and controlling. He is in my opinion, emotionally immature, and can be at times emotionally unstable. I feel like he is very clingy, and suffocating emotionally.

I’ve talked to him about all my issues with him and I was on the verge of leaving him. We have seemingly worked things out however, and he has improved. He truly loves me, and does so much for me. He cleans, cooks, and generally is as loving as a person could be. I wish I could just feel the love he feels for me in return. He is the epitome of a great husband. My feelings for him haven’t returned since our talk however. The love I once had just isn’t there. I have no interest in cuddling or affection, and he knows this and “accepts” it, begrudgingly.

I love him, but I do not want to be with him. I feel terrible for not being able to give him back the love he gives me. He does not outright threaten suicide when I have mentioned leaving, but also has said he does not promise his safety if I do go. He is the kind of person who would hurt himself. Lately there was an incident in which he blacked out due to alcohol and hurt me physically. He’s never done anything like this before. It was completely out of character. And he is very apologetic and has sworn off drinking. I however just want it to be done. I know he would feel awful if this is incident is what caused me to leave him. I don’t want him to be in pain. I’m not sure what to do. The other complicating factor is that I would not only be hurting him, but I would be hurting his family, and they are people I have become very close to. Also a lot of my friends are also his friends, complicating things.

I am so unsure of what to do. I don’t think I want to be married. But I feel like I should stick it out for his sake. Being with him is like being roommates with a best friend. I love him but I just am not in love with him.
posted by wilywabbit to Human Relations (53 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You are basically asking for permission to leave a shitty marriage. You have our permission. You can go. Better now than when kids are in the picture.
posted by empath at 12:17 AM on April 24, 2014 [52 favorites]

I give you permission to leave. That you do not realize that your self-respect, safety and integrity must be more important to you than anything your husband is going through is a tragedy. Each desire of your heart, large or small, is more crucial to your well-being than anything your husband feels or does, up to and including removing himself from this planet. You deserve to be what G_d intended you to be: precious and free.
posted by macinchik at 12:24 AM on April 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

"He is the epitome of a great husband."

"Lately there was an incident in which he blacked out due to alcohol and hurt me physically."

These statements are impossible to reconcile.
posted by macinchik at 12:27 AM on April 24, 2014 [118 favorites]

There are two ways to think of this that may help you leave:

Yes it will hurt him if you leave, but he is probably not that happy either knowing that you've lost your feelings for him and don't want to be affectionate. You both deserve someone who will make you feel happy and loved.

He "can't ensure his safety" if you leave, and blacked out and hurt you. This has become a safety issue, and the longer you stay the more attached he will get, which will increase the likelihood he'll hurt himself/you when you do leave.

Also, he's the self-harming type already and is at a point that he's willing to hurt himself to avoid losing you. That's a very unhealthy perspective. I've been in relationships where I felt this way and I was always too obsessed with the other person and had no idea of my identity as a "self."

When they ended I was devastated, but I felt free. What I had feared happened had happened, and now the choice to live or die was my own. I was your age when the last relationship I felt this way in ended, and 3 years later I'm happy I didn't end up with that person.

If you're worried about his feelings, think of you leaving him as a (hopeful) push to get him to seek help for himself, but what he does after that is on him.

One last thing: I also dated someone who would break things, slam doors, scream and such while angry. Then it progressed to pushing me around, holding me down so I'd have to stay in argument, blocking doorways and etc. Then it progressed to hitting. So, be careful.
posted by Autumn at 12:38 AM on April 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

YES, Leave.

Go. Be Happy.
posted by jbenben at 12:45 AM on April 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

From your post, the list of points you made in favour of "leave him" is about the same length of that in favour of staying. However, as macinchik points out, you seem to have under-weighted "blacked out from alcohol and hurt me" in your assessment. Also the "stick it out" list seems to be heavily stacked with points which are about your guilt - while the "leave him" list seems to be more about your own future welfare.
posted by rongorongo at 12:46 AM on April 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Seconding everything said, including some of the "I've been that guy" portion. The threats of self-harm are last ditch efforts to try and control. They are likely just that, threats.

If you have honest fears about what's going to happen when you pull the trigger, talk with someone close to you both, preferably closer to him like a relative or something that will be more likely to stand by him no matter what, but understand what's up on your end. Warn them what;s going down. Then GTFO of there.

Sorry to hear things have come to this moment for you, but know that you will both be better off with time.
posted by ThrowbackDave at 12:49 AM on April 24, 2014

Okay, I know this site skews quite heavily towards 'DTMFA'. I, personally, do not lean towards 'DTMFA' when there is marriage and/or kids involved.

Please bear that in mind when I say this: at 21, with only 6 months' dating + one year of marriage behind you, and he's behaving like this? Leave.

I don’t want him to be in pain. I’m not sure what to do. The other complicating factor is that I would not only be hurting him, but I would be hurting his family, and they are people I have become very close to. Also a lot of my friends are also his friends, complicating things.

What about hurting yourself? For the next several decades? Are you okay with that? Because you shouldn't be. The only person who is going to advocate for you in this situation is yourself.

If I were you, I'd get at least a few sessions of individual counselling before making a final decision, only because it's a marriage and marriage vows are serious business. But I think that decision will, and should, be: leave.
posted by Salamander at 12:56 AM on April 24, 2014 [10 favorites]

You don't love him. He's physically abusive. He's emotionally abusive. Yes, you should leave him. The sooner you leave, the sooner you start living the rest of your life.
posted by Dansaman at 1:02 AM on April 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

You're a good person, and deserve to be in a (different) relationship with someone you feel romantic love for. And you deserve to be happy.

Your husband is a bit of a twit, but deserves to be in a (different) relationship with someone who feels romantic love for him, after he gets counseling for his personal issues.) And he deserves to be happy.

I am so unsure of what to do.
You basically know that if you stay with him, your romantic love for him will not come back. Especially now that you know, in the back of your head, that he's capable of some of the same shit your ex did, with the rage issues and such.

It may be that once you leave him, that will be the spark that will drive him to sort himself out and be a good husband for someone else, and we can hope for that, but right now you need to get out of there.

The other complicating factor is that I would not only be hurting him, but I would be hurting his family, and they are people I have become very close to.

I would have a talk with one of them to make sure they know he probably needs treatment for rage issues and invoking self harm. This will help him, and is really the only way I can think of that you can take care of him, mental health wise. This will shock them a bit, but this will shock them less than him greviously hurting himself, you, or his partner in some future where you don't warn them they need to take care of him, both short term after you leave and long term.

If you worry about hurting his family, having a talk with a family member in this way will hurt them less than just divorcing and vanishing with no explanation. (And it will hurt them less than if you stay with him and he abuses you further. I don't know what it would be like to see my loved daughter-in-law's black eye or tombstone, but it would be worse than finding out the soft way.)

But whatever you do, you need to get of there. And be happy.
posted by sebastienbailard at 1:11 AM on April 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

When reading your question, some things immediately jumped out at me:
- he was emotionally manipulative by guilting me when I would do things without him
- his temper tantrums. When angry enough he will break things, or slam doors, and be otherwise irrational.
- can be at times emotionally unstable. I feel like he is very clingy, and suffocating emotionally.
- He does not outright threaten suicide when I have mentioned leaving, but also has said he does not promise his safety if I do go.
- Lately there was an incident in which he blacked out due to alcohol and hurt me physically.

These are all classic signs of an abusive relationship. He is emotionally manipulative, tries to isolate you and make you dependent on him whilst threatening to harm himself if you leave so that you will stay with him. This is controlling behaviour. There's also an escalating pattern of violent behaviour, first towards things and now towards you.

You mention that he's shown improvement after you've discussed things with him. Sadly, this is completely consistent with an abusive relationship, wooing you back with presents or normality or promises to change, and does for a bit, but then it's back into the abusive behaviour.

I think you know this, deep down; this is why you want to leave him. Your experiences probably mean you recognise what's going on - yet you (understandably!) don't want this relationship to be yet another abusive relationship.

Go through this page and honestly think about what does and doesn't match up with your relationship. From what you've described, a lot of it does.

You need to leave before it gets worse. Go. Go. Go.
posted by Athanassiel at 1:12 AM on April 24, 2014 [11 favorites]

No, no, no - do not stick it out for his sake. It will eat you alive. I was married from the age of 23 for 20 years. I have a 21 year old daughter who is learning to navigate the complexities of adult romantic relationships. I can not imagine any circumstances, given my experience, where I would encourage her to remain in a marriage formed before she had a chance to really find out what she valued in life. If you are feeling guilty, think about this. He deserves to be with someone who wants to have sex with him.

He is not your responsibility, that is to yourself and your well being. Leave, before you get sucked into a vortex of recycled threats and promises and a overwhelming feeling of obligation.

Oh, and make a deal with yourself not to a. Enter a romantic relationship for a year, and b. not to remarry before you are Xx years old.
posted by b33j at 1:13 AM on April 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

But I feel like I should stick it out for his sake.

So both of you are thinking about what's best for him. What about what's best for you?

You deserve respect, and you deserve love, and you deserve a safe home. It doesn't sound like you have any of those at the moment. Doing nice things to guilt you into staying isn't respect. Threatening to self-harm if you leave him isn't love. And blacking out and hurting you physically is such a red flag that I hope you can see me waving it from all the way over here in Australia.

This marriage sounds over already. The only real question is whether you leave now, or let it drag on a while longer.

I wish you all the best.
posted by Georgina at 1:18 AM on April 24, 2014 [15 favorites]

When I was 21 I lost all of my friends when I left my partner (quite literally, they once destroyed a bunch of my stuff after I left a party because they invited him since he was 'more fun').

On the other side, it's fucking amazing. People who support and value abusers are not good people. They might have their own issues, might be blind to it, whatever, but having friends who aren't afraid to take your side? It's wonderful. It's truly wonderful. Never mind my fabulous partner that I have now, I have friends who love me as well, that I could never have had with my old partner.
posted by geek anachronism at 1:43 AM on April 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

It sounds like maybe you have learned to be dependent on pleasing others. That would be understandable considering that you grew up in an abusive househld. You know that children in abusive families tend to repeat the same patterns as adults, right? There are a gazillion questions on this site to that effect. Have you reflected much on whether this could be happening?

I suspect you may be mentally exaggerating how much it would hurt your in-laws for you to leave. If they care about you, they want you to be happy. Think of it this way: somewhere there is someone with whom you can have a happier marriage, but if you don't find him, he and his family will be disappointed! But actually, of course, you should chart your life path according to your own happiness and values.
posted by Comet Bug at 1:44 AM on April 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yes, leave! Geesh. My husband cooks, cleans, adores me, and exhibits NONE of these shitty behaviours. It's pretty awesome. Imagine having ONLY his good and best parts... That's my normal. Really, it's the only thing worth not being single for.

You're's the time. Be free!
posted by jrobin276 at 1:45 AM on April 24, 2014 [7 favorites]

The trouble is that by the time they hit you, you have unlearned a lot of things that you thought you knew, especially about what that violence would mean and what context it would arrive in. You will have redefined a lot of your priorities, and lost a lot of your faith in who you are and what you are worth to anyone, but mostly you will be shocked to find that the excuses you never thought you would be stupid enough to utter are now the things you not only believe, but that you can't function without believing.

I said that on the Blue, not long ago.

This is why you feel like you need permission, and this is also why you have it. It would not matter if you'd been married a decade, it would not matter if you had small children, it would not matter if he made you breakfast in bed every morning, it would not matter if you thought he was the sexiest thing alive and 99% of the time you wanted to tear his clothes off. He gets angry, he breaks things, he hurt you. It was the first time; it will not be the last. You are not responsible for his safety, you are responsible for your own, but he is using his as the noose around your neck to keep you there. You can feel that this is wrong, but you have been coaxed into it bit by bit, manipulated into tolerating the intolerable. He may not be doing it intentionally, but it doesn't matter.

Go, go, go.

You will be okay.
posted by Sequence at 1:51 AM on April 24, 2014 [13 favorites]

Thank you. I appreciate all the responses. I'm genuinely surprised strangers support my thoughts on this..
posted by wilywabbit at 2:29 AM on April 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

How do I even have this conversation?
posted by wilywabbit at 2:34 AM on April 24, 2014

Wilywabbit, are there any free services in your local community for marriage counselling? I would like to see you supported by someone local at this point.

However, that said, there are at least 50 ways... You have to balance your needs and safety, and your expectations of his behaviour against his needs, and your desire to be a kind, loving, ex-spouse.

After 20 years of marriage, I came to metafilter and I asked,what's the kindest way to do this, and in the end, what happened were circumstances became too much and I blurted it out. Given your experiences with your husband, I don't think that's ideal. I'd like you to have someone waiting for you, with a car, with your stuff in it, while you say, "X, I did the best I could, and so did you, but I can't do it anymore and I need to go."
posted by b33j at 2:40 AM on April 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Nthing it's a terrible marriage, and you're being so incredibly overly generous with your interpretations of his behavior that (and here's one I don't recommend all that often) that when the dust settles, you should consider sitting with a therapist and discussing why, exactly, you are so generous with how you describe him, because if it's not obvious from the responses, he sounds like a manipulative, dangerous, selfish asshole. Sorry to be quite that blunt--but it's not like he's in a gray area.

As for leaving him, prepare quietly if you can, tell him in a public spot, have boxes ready in your car and a friend ready to help you pack. Tell him early in the day and then let him go to work so you can pack. Don't tell him at 7 at night when he can start drinking and raging. Keep a friend around, do stuff in daylight. Tell him quickly and simply and say 'This isn't something I can discuss' because from the sound of him, he'll want to argue about it. It's not something to have an argument about, it's a decision you make and then execute on.

Good luck - I hope it goes as easy as possible and you don't put yourself on the hook for this but go on into the rest of your life ready to be happy and better able to tell when someone is truly great, or, alternately, a total stinker.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:50 AM on April 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

How do I even have this conversation?

Leaving an abusive husband is not something you should do alone. It takes some planning. I would contact a local women's center before you do anything.

Don't plan or do anything from your home computer or your cell phone. Assume your husband is checking your browser history, phone call history and reading your email. If you haven't deleted your browser history, i'd do it now. I'd suggest suddenly developing an interest in reading and spending more time at the library and using their computers.

Ideally, you have the conversation about ending the marriage once you are already safely out of the house. I really can't emphasize enough how important it is to get help doing this.
posted by empath at 2:51 AM on April 24, 2014 [21 favorites]

I'm nthing the 'leave' votes.

This sounds just like an abusive relationship: the thing about those is that no-one is ever abusive all day every day, so there are always times when the abusive partner isn't abusive, isn't yelling, isn't hitting you, isn't isolating you from your friends and family, and isn't manipulating you through guilt and shame.

But you've said that he does all those things -- and it's what he DOES that matters, not what he wants to do or means to do or promises to do or will do the next time. And you care about him, which is quite normal.

As empath says, you will need help. Go and talk to a women's center; tell them what you've told us, and they'll provide help, support and advice. There's ways of leaving that are safer, less confrontational, and less likely to allow you to be sucked back in.
posted by jrochest at 2:58 AM on April 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

The link in the comment I made also has a link to how to leave your abusive partner. Includes lots of useful advice about planning, what to prepare in advance, stuff to remember after you've left, phone numbers of helplines, etc.
posted by Athanassiel at 3:03 AM on April 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you're financially independent on him, your first stop is an attorney. You then find a place to live and when he's out of the house, you move your stuff. Don't give him your information. Don't feel obligated to talk to him. If he threatens suicide, call 911. They'll check on him.

Block him on all social media. Block anyone who bothers you. Consider blocking his family no matter what. You might lose friends, but it'll be okay since you'll be able to go out without the guilt trips. So you'll rebuild your social network.

He's been violent and angry, so you don't have this conversation with him, because he'll guilt you or threaten you. You just leave and avoid contact with him and get a divorce.

If you do go back, and you might, you can leave again.
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:20 AM on April 24, 2014 [9 favorites]

Before I told my husband of 17 years to leave, I:

* hired a lawyer and went over my plans
* started seeing a therapist who could help me through the process
* contacted my best friend who I could trust not to contact him and let her know what I was doing and left a suitcase at her house with stuff for me and my kids
* applied for several credit cards and had them delivered to my friend's house just in case
* planned exactly how I would tell my ex

and then one day while I was at work and he was shooting hoops in the driveway instead of looking for a job or watching the kids who were in the house playing unsupervised, I ended up getting out of the car and saying, "You need to leave. I want a divorce," and even though it wasn't the script I had in mind, it felt like 180 lbs. of weight off my shoulders.

Have a lawyer, have a plan in mind, and just do it.
posted by kinetic at 4:22 AM on April 24, 2014 [10 favorites]

I'd like to mention that blacking out due to alcohol happens later. He cannot remember what he did the next day. It does not mean that he was incapable of making decisions while he was drunk (something he chose to do, just like he chose to be violent to you). You might also want to consider what stuff he breaks -- your stuff, your shared stuff that he likes, your shared stuff he doesn't care about, his stuff? Does he clean it up afterwards or do you? Because I think you need to reconsider your comment that he's not abusive.

You should go see a therapist (on your own), and speak to resources mentioned above to help you extricate yourself from this marriage.
posted by jeather at 5:16 AM on April 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

You deserve to be happy, and feel safe and respected - not just some of the time. It is ok to leave. You also deserve support as you do this really hard thing.

If you have concerns about your safety (or the safety of your stuff, pets, or anything else) violence can often escalate when people are trying to leave. If you want support with talking through a plan, in the US you can call the national domestic violence hotline - their advocates can talk through a personalized safety plan, and also should be able to connect you with some counseling and legal support if you want it.
posted by Atalanta at 5:23 AM on April 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yeah, @jeather makes a good point. You cannot hurt someone while blacked out on alcohol. You hut someone while you're drunk. Then you pass out. Then you don't remember what you did.

... or say you don't remember, because to admit what you did means you'd have to own what you did, and he doesn't want to do that.

You have no idea if he blacked out or not, or knows what he did but is refusing to acknowledge it.
posted by musofire at 5:42 AM on April 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

You definitely should leave him.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:51 AM on April 24, 2014

Oh my gosh, honey: leave, leave, leave, leave, LEAVE. Leave. While it seems somewhat-complicated, this is actually one of the more clear-cut AskMe relationship questions I've ever seen: LEAVE.

I can rattle off ten reasons right off the top of my head why you should leave:

1. You can leave at any time, for any reason, and not be the "bad guy", as long as you leave in as respectful and caring a manner as possible.

2. You are not physically attracted to him. You deserve to be, ESPECIALLY this early on.

3. He is manipulative - saying he "can't guarantee his safety if you leave"? That's awful.

4. He has been jealous and controlling: while this can get better, it often does not.

5. He's gotten physically violent.

6. You are NOT the guardian of his mental health! HE IS.

7. Being with him is making you miserable.

8. Your words: "He is in my opinion, emotionally immature, and can be at times emotionally unstable. I feel like he is very clingy, and suffocating emotionally."

9. You haven't invested a ton of time in this train wreck of a relationship: NOW is the time to go, before further entanglement, before kids.

10. You are very, very young and while you probably won't believe me, relationships can and SHOULD be so, so much better than this. Seriously.
posted by julthumbscrew at 5:56 AM on April 24, 2014 [5 favorites]

Agree with all the others who say you should leave him. You will very likely both live for 50-70 more years. You can't condemn yourself to living with a man you don't love for three-quarters of your life! (Even if he weren't abusive, which he is.)

If either of you own significant property (a house or whatever) or have significant debts or if one of you is financially dependent on the other, then it's more essential to talk to a lawyer asap so you can get all of that straightened out. But if you're relatively unentangled financially and if you have a friend who could take you in for a month or two? You can just GO. You can wait until he goes to work or out or whatever, pack up all the stuff you want to keep, and just go. You can figure out the property and lawyer stuff later.

Yes, it's going to hurt for both of you but in the long run (i.e. the next 70 years of your life) it is going to be so much better. You deserve to be treated well and to be with a man you care about who cares about you. (Also make sure you realize that "being treated well" is different from "not being treated like shit." It is so, so, so much better.)
posted by mskyle at 6:04 AM on April 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

How do I even have this conversation?

You have the conversation with a competent divorce attorney. Not with your husband.
posted by ook at 6:19 AM on April 24, 2014 [9 favorites]

I went through a similar experience at a similar age. Some general advice I can think of:

1. "Pull off the bandaid" doesn't really apply to marriage. I think it's near-impossible to just break up one day if you've been with someone for six years. You have to have your ducks in a row legally first, and then I personally think it goes better for everyone involved if there's some hinting over time or a sense of the relationship deteriorating over, say, at least a few weeks to a month rather than just springing it on them suddenly. Some people may disagree, but I think with unstable men, it's also usually easier for them to let go if you kind of ease into it. Expect some contact at first after the break-up, too, I would say. If he's basically a good guy with some bad-tending qualities this will work. If he's a really, really bad guy, well, nothing will work anyway and you'll need to get into changing your number and address and restraining order territory anyway. Before all that, I would give him a chance to sort of come to terms with it over a period of about a month. The point is that your contact and friendship should be tapering off, and as long as it is, it may actually be easier to do it that way than the "cold turkey" approach MeFi likes a lot (usually that works fine with shorter relationships).

2. The way my ex broke up with me was pretty good. He came over and told me we needed to talk and then said, "I'm not happy." I thought that was a good way to approach it. He said he'd been thinking and wanted to break up. We stayed friends, which was initiated by both of us (like I said, very hard to go cold turkey if you've been best friend and lovers for six years!) but eventually it tapered off. Now if I met him on the street, things wouldn't be weird, but we're not in contact except maybe a happy birthday email once a year.

3. It's going to hurt a lot and suck a lot and no one your age is going to be able to understand you. It gets better, slowly.
posted by quincunx at 6:44 AM on April 24, 2014

Oops, 6 months, not six years. Yeah, that changes things a bit!

But I'd still say you don't have to go completely cold turkey. That's not always the best route for every relationship.
posted by quincunx at 6:54 AM on April 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

With someone with a history of violence, ANY history of violence, you do not owe them an in-person breakup, and it is totally legitimate to find some way to get out of the house and contact them afterwards. You are also not obligated to speak to them afterwards without your divorce attorney present. This may put assets at risk in the divorce, if you're leaving a lot of things in the home--but to be quite frank, you're 21, you probably don't have that many of those, and your safety is paramount. He is not your friend and you do not have to treat him like one. I'm not saying I'm really thinking he'll get violent with you again after finding out, but you don't want to take the chance of being alone with him after he knows you're leaving to see if this is true. I do think, given the manipulation you've described, that he will try to wear you down and convince you to come back if you allow this to become a conversation about whether you're leaving, instead of a firm statement that you have gone and are not coming back.

Yes, the divorce complicates things, and you will need an attorney, and I didn't have those things to worry about, but what I did was fake a migraine long enough to get out of going to an event that we were both supposed to be attending, allowing me an afternoon to get my things together without him being there. This sort of thing is invaluable. Do not treat a person who has gotten physical with you, under the influence of alcohol or otherwise, as worthy of the usual breakup civilities--he will exploit them to his own advantage, and you can't give him any more advantages, here, than he already has.

Keep yourself safe. It's okay to be sad because you're going to miss the good things, it's okay not to be thrilled that you're doing this. Just, once he knows, assume that you are going to need another trusted adult to come with you any time you see him in person (your attorney counts) and assume that anything coming out of his mouth is specifically designed to get you back in the house by any means necessary. Err on the side of caution.
posted by Sequence at 7:08 AM on April 24, 2014 [8 favorites]

I know he would feel awful if this is incident is what caused me to leave him.

That would be OK. I'm not saying that he is awful, or that he should feel unbearably bad for the rest of his life. I'm just saying, it would be OK if you left him because of an incident of violence and then he felt awful about it. A natural consequence of hurting someone is that one feels bad about it--unless one is a sociopath--but feeling bad doesn't make things right. Another natural consequence of hurting someone is that the person moves away from one, either by creating emotional distance or physical distance. Even if the person who did harm feels bad, it's often healthy for the person who was hurt to leave.

Moreover, this may have been the first incident of violence against you, but it is not the first incident of frightening violent behavior around you. You know from your background, that his previous behavior was harmful even if it didn't physically injure you. You know in your gut that you can't trust him to be safe around you when he's angry. Listen to that.

If you don't feel like you know how to move forward with a breakup, you can call the domestic violence hotline Atlanta linked above. Once you have a plan for safety, individual therapy could be very helpful for sorting through some of the things that have emerged as patterns in your family and relationship history.
posted by Meg_Murry at 7:26 AM on April 24, 2014 [11 favorites]

Great, you're leaving! Excellent choice. It sounds like you married your husband out of gratitude and that's a shitty foundation for any relationship.

You need to plan this, because your husband is emotionally and physically violent.

As others have said, buy a burner phone, and don't use your phone or computer. He may be checking them.

Call the hotline and ask them for the best way to do this. Call a friend or family member who can shelter you, preferably someone who is unknown to your husband. That way he can't find you. (Take the sim card out of your phone when you go.)

If you want, arrange for meetings with a marriage counselor to discuss your leaving and to have someone to mediate the separation and divorce. This will protect you, and it will help him deal with his feelings, also, if he treatens self-harm, the counselor can deal with that, so you don't have to.

You are allowed to live the life you want to live. While your husband may have done some great things for you, it doesn't negate that he is emotionally manipulative, controlling and abusive as well.

You are very young and sometimes you make mistakes. It's okay, there's very little in this life that isn't reversable. You can do this, and you'll be fine.

I would suggest that you get some counseling for yourself, so you can understand what it was that drew you into this relationship, so that you can avoid such things in the future.

Also, slow your roll. You don't have to marry everyone you love, sometimes you can love people who are 100% terrible for you.

Take care of yourself!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:03 AM on April 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

You say you have no physical attraction for him, do you have any idea why? If this is the driving force behind your desire to leave him, I would want to explore that, and understand the root causes.
posted by parallax7d at 8:11 AM on April 24, 2014

Abusive childhoods unfortunately give people very shaky foundations for starting relationships. This can lead you to make poor decisions until you repair those foundations, often with therapy. I think until you truly like and love yourself, you are not in a good position for relationships. Its not your fault, and it does not make you a bad person, but you are in a bad relationship for bad reasons. Sadly, this bad relationship seems to be escalating. Getting out now is what I would recommend. Protect yourself, 100%, first and foremost. You are only responsible for you, NOT ANYTHING HE CHOOSES TO DO. You CANNOT change other people, or make them do anything. You can live your life, and everything else is someone elses burden.

I posted this poem by Portia Nelson in another thread, and I think its relevant.

The good news is, you're mostly done with Chapter Three, and can heal, move on, and get a much better relationship next time (cause you deserve one! We believe in you, and want the best for you!)
posted by Jacen at 8:13 AM on April 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

You are not responsible for him. Threatening self-harm is blackmail. You are a kind and generous person, so get some referrals for mental health crisis and therapists, and provide them to him. But you are losing yourself, and that's not what marriage should be about. I'm glad you came and asked. Good luck.
posted by theora55 at 8:59 AM on April 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

You don't have to have a conversation, you just have to go. As other say upstream, this will take varied amounts of planning, depending, but I'd suggest you not over-think it because of stuff like this:

The other complicating factor is that I would not only be hurting him, but I would be hurting his family, and they are people I have become very close to.

You're repeatedly talking yourself into choosing other people's comfort at the expense of your own misery. Don't use planning or preparing as an excuse to continue dragging this out. You're here asking because you want to go. Everyone is telling you that all signs - even BEFORE you list the dealbreaker of physical harm - show you should go. Stop delaying. Don't dawdle. Go.

The sooner you stop the ongoing suffering the sooner everyone can start healing.
posted by phearlez at 9:03 AM on April 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

You do need his approval, his consent, or his agreement on the existence of the abuse for you to leave.

I posted that in another thread and I am repeating here. No matter how much he manipulates you, coerces you, cries, yells, or begs for forgiveness, it will never not be true. You only need your own permission to do what is best for you.

You already know in your heart what you need to do, but you are afraid of doing it. It seems too impossible to leave because as much as your life right now is painful, it is familiar and known to you, while the future without him is full of questions and infinite worries. He has threatened you, threatened himself, and made you are responsible for his happiness. These are lies and manipulations designed to keep you in a state of powerlessness.

There is a reason that this book keeps getting mentioned in threads about emotional, verbal, and physical abuse. It is one of the definitive guides to unraveling his convoluted distortions about what a real relationship should look like, and what love is. His love is poisoned, and the longer you stay, the weaker you will become, and the stronger his hold will be on you. If you buy the ebook version of it you can read it online in a browser or on your phone, discreetly. Even though you have already decided to leave, I urge you to read this. I reiterate my offer to buy a copy for anyone who cannot afford one. It will help answer so many of the questions you are struggling with and it will help you figure out a safe plan to leave as well as prepare you for what comes after that.

I'm sorry to say that although it will be a huge relief to begin separating your life from his and discover the parts of yourself you had buried in order to keep the peace, there will be a lot of resistance from him. Your real question, is not should I leave, but how do I do it safely without being manipulated, guilted, controlled, threatened, yelled at, or hit. Your instincts are not wrong. Leaving an abuser is the most dangerous time, the time when he will be at his most charming, most terrifying, most devastating, and most abusive. But you cannot let that stop you, because the tiny daily terrors, the ones that you don't even see anymore, they will destroy you also, and more thoroughly. Leave even though you care for him, even though you worry about him, even though you are afraid of what is to come. The only way out is through, my dear.

Most cities have a domestic violence shelter and accompanying support group. It's worth a call and a visit. You don't have to talk, but it may help you to listen to other women's stories, to know that you are not alone. All of these uncertainties you are feeling, that conflict about whether to leave and protect yourself or to stay and protect him, they are very familiar to those of us who have lived through this story. You are spending so much energy worrying about him and how he will cope if you leave, but no one is worrying about you and how you will copy if you stay. I assure you, he is not. You have to become your own champion first, and right now your energy has been focused on him for so long that you have forgotten what it feels like to put yourself first. And who can blame you? That focus is what has kept you safe from his anger and violence. But it is time to figure out what comes next. Read the book. Find a support group. Feel free to memail if you need someone to talk to.

I wish you the best of luck. You have a difficult road ahead of you, but I promise you, it's worth it.
posted by hindmost at 9:47 AM on April 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

DO NOT GO TO MARRIAGE COUNSELING. Go to a lawyer. Please please please think of your safety. Leaving a relationship is a very dangerous time for women that have already been physically hurt. It's important that you make your plans and leave in a safe way. You don't owe him a break-up conversation. You owe YOU safety and happiness.

I am so proud of you. This isn't easy, I know. Thinking about your own needs is really mature and grown up. Coming out of an abusive childhood, it can be easy to set the bar too low (ask me how I know). It's easy to compare it to the things that happened when you were growing up and think "It's not all thaaat bad." Here's the other side of that - nobody comes out of the gate as bad as it's going to be. There were years and years for the abuse to ramp up to the levels it was in your childhood. And I bet it didn't start as badly as what you're posting about here. This can only get worse. You're doing the right thing.
posted by stoneweaver at 10:57 AM on April 24, 2014 [9 favorites]

I had a very close relationship with my abuser's mother. She was one of the only people I spoke with regularly; we talked daily. When I left my abuser I was incredibly worried about his mom. What would she do? Who would she talk to? I was going to miss her and I was going to hurt her. She was going to be collateral damage - it was not her fault that I had to leave her son.

But she started harassing me, emailing me long screeds about how rotten I was. How I was a bad person for leaving. She didn't have the whole story, I was sure, so I wrote her back and said to her: "I know this will be hard to read. I can't stay with your son. Here are a few things your son has done to me" and I listed out some of the more egregious acts of abuse. "Would you want your daughter to stay with her husband if he had done those things and had no concrete plan for not doing them again?"

She wrote me back and said I needed to learn about forgiveness.

I needed to learn about forgiveness.

She was right, actually: I had been forgiving, and forgiving, and forgiving. I had been listening to his empty apologies for three years. Forgiveness is not the same as putting yourself in harm's way. It does not mean allowance. Forgiveness is not about not having boundaries.

I forgive him for what he did to me and to his ex-wife. I forgive his mother for not taking charge and seeing that her son needed help. I forgive her for continuing to contact me long after the breakup - even though I politely told her not to - because she missed me and wanted to see if my heart had softened and if I would take him back now.

This is a long story meant to illustrate that your connections to his family are not what matters. They will probably support him, not you, if and when you leave. I'm sorry that you will lose them.

When I was leaving I took a sheet of paper and divided it into four equal quarters, labelled "Pros of leaving" "Pros of staying" "Cons of leaving" and "Cons of staying." I'm looking at it now. All of my reasons for leaving were for me, like "Being around him is painful and I don't want to be hurting anymore" or even more hauntingly "I won't have to live in fear". All of my reasons for staying were about him: "It is the loving thing to do for [his name]" and the saddest one, "I don't know if my reasons for leaving him are good enough." My cons are equally hard to read - the worst is under cons for staying: "He will really punish me for trying to leave."

I suggest you try the same exercise.

Abusers teach us that our feelings and needs should always be questioned, and they should always be weighed less heavily than their own. They teach us to prioritize their whims over our own basic needs. Where are you in your list? Whose needs are you prioritizing? When you are in the thick of it, it is really, really hard to see your need to be in a safe, loving environment all of the time as more important than any of his needs, but I really urge you to try to do so. Your safety and emotional well being are the most important.

I wish you all the best as you push through this. You are strong. Good luck.
posted by sockermom at 11:14 AM on April 24, 2014 [10 favorites]

You can't prevent someone from feeling bad about the bad thing they did. That's impossible. If you do something bad it is utterly necessary to feel guilt and shame - if you don't, then you never learn, you never change, you never stop.

(And I'd suggest physical attraction plummets when your partner is abusive, for no other reason than if they hold you in such disdain/disrespect, why would you want to have sex with and be vulnerable around them?)
posted by geek anachronism at 3:55 PM on April 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

If going to a lawyer feels overwhelming and like it would keep you from just leaving a bad situation, it's OK to do that after you get yourself somewhere safe. It doesn't have to be the first thing you do. The first thing can be packing an overnight bag with anything you would be truly bereft never to see again, and picking up to go to a hotel or a really trusted friend's house. You can just leave. All the rest of it will sort itself out in the long run as long as you are safe. Don't let anything stand in the way of you getting yourself out of a bad situation while you have the willpower to do it. It doesn't last forever.
posted by stoneweaver at 4:27 PM on April 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

Thank you so much for all the responses and advice. It's difficult to realize that I am the same relationship I have been in my entire life. I know what I have to do. The hardest thing is having the strength to do what's right for me and not him. And I can only hope he will get better.
posted by wilywabbit at 5:32 PM on April 24, 2014 [6 favorites]

If it helps, many of us repeat the same patterns over and over again. I think there are some lessons that we only have to learn once and never do it again. Others are harder to learn and they keep cropping up. These are different for everyone. Every time I realise I have been in yet another relationship with someone who wants to distance themselves from me (one of them through abuse) there's always the temptation to castigate myself for not having learned. But that's a trap and will only prime you to keep making the same mistakes. You need to accept yourself and forgive yourself.

But these are things to worry about later - right now you need to worry about yourself and your safety and getting out of the bad relationship you're in right now. Don't waste your hope on him, you need to keep all that hope and optimism and strength for yourself. You can do it, you will do it. You are stronger than you think you are.
posted by Athanassiel at 7:34 PM on April 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

And there's hope! It took me a long time to stop getting into and out of the same relationship (just with different people), but now I am in a really happy relationship that is completely 100% not like that. You're miles ahead of where I was at 21, too. You're seeing it for what it is, and that's the first step.

He may or may not get better. And it will take a long time being out of the relationship for you to stop feeling like you're the one who can fix him. But you can only start feeling that way once you're out. For me, that has always been the hardest part. Looking back and thinking that I didn't do my duty. But it was never my duty, and it's not yours.
posted by stoneweaver at 9:08 AM on April 25, 2014

Looks like you have gotten a lot of good replies here. I hope you also have people you can talk to in person about this - that is so, so crucial. (And please feel free to contact me privately if you want to talk directly with someone who has been in a similar spot.)

I just wanted to add, "I do not want to be with him," which is a direct quote from your post, is all the reason you need to leave. You don't have to weigh pros and cons. Wanting to get out, means you are allowed to get out. Period.

You may not feel strong enough to do this, but I bet you are.
posted by jessicapierce at 11:04 AM on April 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also, something that helped me was thinking of how it would feel to bring a child into my relationship (either by having a baby, or just having a friend's child sleep over - just the thought of seeing a child in that house). My immediate feeling was HELL NO, that it wasn't a healthy place for a kid to be. I had the same feeling when I imagined switching lives with a female friend. Would I ask my friend, or even my worst enemy, to live my life? Also HELL NO. This was illuminating.

You are allowed to have a happy life. Don't make yourself live a sad, scared, or unfulfilled life for someone else's sake. You matter.
posted by jessicapierce at 11:09 AM on April 25, 2014 [6 favorites]

jessicapierce: "I just wanted to add, "I do not want to be with him," which is a direct quote from your post, is all the reason you need to leave. You don't have to weigh pros and cons. Wanting to get out, means you are allowed to get out. Period."

You also don't have to convince him of this. Because he is not on your side - he's shown that with his actions - so if you get trapped into explaining why, he will never ever let you 'win'. So don't have that conversation - you do not need his consent to leave the relationship.
posted by geek anachronism at 3:49 PM on April 25, 2014 [4 favorites]

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