Dear Thelma: I’m in a toxic marriage but cannot leave

  • Family
  • Sunday, 21 Jan 2018

Abusive husband has kicked wife and children out of their home.

Dear Thelma

I am 28 years old and I have two beautiful girls. Several times, I have caught my husband cheating on me. They were not just one-night stands.

Whenever he gets drunk, he beats me. It was especially bad after he found out I had discovered his affairs. Now, he has kicked me out of the house.

I know deep inside that I care about him. On good days, he is very generous with me and kind. Now the family is all involved and they are putting pressure on me – some of them say I should leave him, others want me to stay in the marriage because in our culture, children are greatly affected when their parents divorce. Also, we live in a judgmental community and no matter what happens, parents should make sacrifices for their children.

I am lost. Please help me. – Afraid of husband

Dear Afraid of husband

It’s very hard to understand what to do in a relationship where the person you love is also the person you fear. There is much to consider. The sanctity of the family, for one. The future of children is another. While all these are important, none is more important than your safety.

At the outset, it is important to see this relationship for what it is. It is an abusive one. Abusive relationships are not healthy relationships. They are dangerous. The common term is “toxic”.

What does infidelity have to do with abuse? Larger patterns of cheating in relationships are a sign of disrespect. Abuse is all about power and control. The person doing the abuse (abuser) exerts their power by doing what they want. The more they learn that they can get away with it, the more they do it. Hence, they will continue to cheat because they know their partners will not leave. This is how they exert control. The kind of infidelity that your husband is involved in results in more psychological and emotional abuse. They don’t leave scars but they are just as, if not more, painful.

It’s the same with physical abuse. He might have been drunk, and you may say that he would not have done it if he were sober. It will be good to reflect that many people drink and do not beat their spouses. Alcohol is not a reason for people to beat their spouses. It is an excuse so that they do not have to be held accountable for their behaviour.

But he is not always like this, you say. Yes. Abusers do not always abuse. There will be days where everything is perfect and happy and you might feel like you and your husband will live happily ever after. Those days will become fewer and further in between. You will want it to go back to times like these.

You will start walking on eggshells because you want to make sure that everything is all right and nothing will make him angry. You will become nervous and anxious. In essence, you will lose yourself in the process. Your entire existence will become about making sure nothing upsets him. And, you know what? Something will. You can’t stop this.

You can love someone from far away. You do not have to endure pain the way you do because you love someone.

You have two daughters. What are you teaching them when you show them that it is acceptable to stay with a man who abuses you and treats you badly? If it were one of your daughters in the same situation as you, what would you tell her? Will you ask her to stay?

Yes, there is a stigma in divorce, especially for women. Is that easier to live with, though, than the very painful situation you are now in? Other people are not living your life. They are not enduring your pain. Yet, they judge. Do you want to leave to them the power to decide what happens to you and your daughters?

You have a family that will support you. Take their advice. Speak to people who can help you – lawyers and women’s rights groups. Know your rights.

Just because you leave your husband, it does not mean you do not care for him or love him. You can love someone from far away. You do not have to endure pain the way you do because you love someone. What about him? Does he love you? Would you do to him what he is doing to you? The answer is probably no. That should tell you something.

Times have changed. There was a time where women had no choice but to remain in abusive relationships. You have a choice. Please do the right thing for you and your daughters.

Is something bothering you? Do you need a listening ear or a shoulder to lean on? Thelma is here to help.

Write to: Dear Thelma, c/o Star2, Menara Star, 15, Jalan 16/11, 46350 Petaling Jaya, Selangor.

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