Life

Ask Fiona: I'm worried about being stuck with my violent husband

Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine answers another set of reader dilemmas

This is an unacceptable situation and you need to seek help

MY husband has always been a violent man, so I decided some time ago never to have children. I now deeply regret that decision, because at least now they would be grown up, and I would have somewhere to go to get away from my husband’s violent turns.

While we’ve have been together through the pandemic, it has been very difficult for me, as he got so frustrated with being kept indoors. I have dreaded what each day will bring. When he was younger, he worked away from home a lot and that was a great relief for me, as I had long periods when I was safe. I never knew when he would be coming home though, so I always had to keep the house ready for him – just in case.

Of course, over this past year or so, he has always been at home, and I’ve felt like I was living on a knife edge all the time. He has got worse as he’s got older, and has frequently hurt me so much that I have had to go to hospital.

As I write this letter, I am recovering from a dislocated shoulder and am a mass of bruises. I would dearly like to leave him, but I have no money to start my own home and besides, he would never agree to a divorce. What can I do?

BK

FIONA SAYS: This is an intolerable situation. Your husband has got away with abusing you for far too long – if you have been seen in hospital before, I am surprised they have not picked up on the abuse and questioned you about it.

Please don’t feel that you have to spend another moment of your life in a house with this man. There are refuges across the country for women who have been, or are at risk of abuse. The pandemic has made things much worse for people experiencing abusive relationships, just as you’ve found. More and more of them have been forced to turn to the crisis lines, such as those operated by Refuge and Women’s Aid. I would urge you to contact the helpline as soon as you possibly can.

The advisors can help in all manner of ways; you can be referred to a secure refuge, which would enable you to leave your husband, or you could be supported to make plans to help keep you safe. And they would help you get the information you so clearly need about your rights and options.

You really do not have to stay with this man – you have rights over the assets of your marriage, like your home and other property. You say he would not agree to a divorce, but he wouldn’t have to. In circumstances like this, a divorce would be granted whether he agreed to it or not.

With the help of a solicitor, I am sure there is plenty of medical and other evidence that could be brought to show the years of trauma you have been experiencing.

The courts could also have the power to place an injunction on your husband to prevent him from coming anywhere near you if that is felt necessary.

The 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline (nationaldahelpline.org.uk) can be reached on 0808 2000 247. You can also visit the website to access live chat support, Monday to Friday from 3-10pm. Finding time and space away from him to make a call might be difficult, but please try and find a way as soon as you can, as you really shouldn’t be anywhere near an abuser like this for a moment longer.

SHOULD I LEAVE MY WIFE?

I MET my wife 11 years ago and we immediately hit it off.

She was an independent, free-spirited person, who knew what she wanted. Within six months, we were living together and eventually got married. I loved her so much that I did everything for her, but then I gradually began to notice I was getting nothing in return.

We decided to have a child and I have always had to do a lot of the childcare from the beginning, as she didn’t seem particularly interested. Over time, this lack of interest has got worse – she seems increasingly indifferent to our son, who is now 10.

I now realise, because I’ve been working from home, how much worse it has got for our son. She shouts at him a lot and I think she hits him too – although I’ve not seen her do so. Apparently, she doesn’t feed him properly – normally all he’s been getting at lunchtimes, it seems (if he’s not been at school) is a sandwich if he’s lucky. Other times he’s just been told to help himself to cereal – at least that’s what he told me, when I started making proper lunches.

It’s always been down to me to get him ready for school and I usually cook the evening meal when I get back from work, on top of holding down a busy job. She resents having had to give her up job when our son was born and blames him for ‘ruining her life’, but she’s not worked properly since he was born so it’s not like she’s had a busy career.

Apart from worrying about my son, I feel used, angry and betrayed by her, and I’m wondering if I should leave and take my son with me. Alternatively, can I force her to leave? My poor son keeps asking me why mummy is so angry, and I don’t know what to do for the best.

LJ

FIONA SAYS: While I am concerned for you and your wife, the person that worries me most in this scenario is your young son. The rejection it sounds like he he is facing from his mother could, potentially, cause long-term emotional damage.

Yes, your wife shows signs of emotional damage herself but the child should be a priority in this case. He needs to know he is loved, wanted, and cared for and it seems his mother is unwilling or unable to provide that for him.

If she won’t seek urgent help for her emotional problems and turn around her poisonous relationship with her child, then I feel you are right to consider separating. Divorce is never easy – but while it would be your choice to put up with a partner who acts selfishly, you cannot expect your son to do so.

If you were to want to try and make your marriage work, then I would recommend you seek the help of a family therapist. Counselling might help get to the bottom of things and perhaps turn things around. This might possibly stem from undiagnosed and untreated post-natal depression but, as you are the parent ultimately responsible for your son’s emotional health, you cannot let things continue as they are.

As to whether you can persuade (please, not force) your wife to leave, that will probably depend on what she can do and where she can go. If you were to offer her a new home of some kind, that might help – but that places a big financial and emotional burden on you. You will probably need a lawyer to disentangle that side of your relationship and a counsellor to help your son.

You say you don’t know what to do for the best – but if you put your son first and decide what is best for him, I don’t think you’ll go too far wrong. It is so important for your son to feel loved, especially at this age.

DID I MAKE A MISTAKE LEAVING MY SON?

THREE years ago, I left my partner of 30 years for the man I’d been having an affair with, and we are still together. Although I wanted him to come with me, my son of 12 decided to stay with his father.

Leaving my son was the hardest thing I have ever done, and I still wake up feeling guilty about it. If I had known the fallout, I’m not sure I would have gone through with it.

I love my current partner but cannot feel fully happy, as there is always a sadness about my old life (which I do miss sometimes) and what I’ve done.

I’m confused, and sometimes wonder if that confusion means I want my old life back. It was hard and scary to start again but I’ve done it, but I left a very comfortable lifestyle for one where I’m often struggling to make ends meet. I wish I knew how to move forward.

DM

FIONA SAYS: You don’t tell me anything in your message about your relationship with your ex, about how that relationship fell apart, or whether you have an on-going relationship with your son.

I know you had an affair and left your partner, but I don’t know if it was an acrimonious parting, or whether the relationship had run its course. With so many issues unclear, it is hard to know what to say to you – but I do recognise that being apart from your child is hard.

If both you and your ex were unhappy together though, your son might feel a whole lot better, if he thinks both you and his dad are happier now than you were before. It is surely up to you, therefore, to make the very best of the life you have chosen. You say that it was hard and scary but that you’ve now ‘done it’, which indicates you are moving forward, even though you don’t think you are.

Keep up regular contact with your son – he needs to know he is loved, even if you’re not with him. Hopefully you see him regularly, but if you don’t, I would encourage you to seek visitation rights and make arrangements on that front. Your son might have made a choice to stay with his dad when you separated, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he doesn’t want to see you – even if he’s angry and upset about the parting.

Moving forward might be happening in small steps, but it’s the only way. It doesn’t sound like going back is an option, even if you wanted to – and you don’t really indicate that you do. So, take a deep breath and put your best foot forward – you’ll get there!

SO LOW AFTER LOSING MY MUM

I LOST my Mum through coronavirus and it’s been very hard, because I was very close to her. I’ve been feeling very low, depressed, anxious, even suicidal at times, as I have now nobody to talk to about how I’m feeling. On top of that, my health isn’t good.

Next month it will be her birthday and a year since she died. I know it is going to be very hard. I know you can’t do anything, but I just wanted to write to someone.

OT

FIONA SAYS: I am so, so sorry to hear you’ve had to cope with your mother’s death on your own. This has been a devastating time for so many people, with an enormous impact on their mental health. You really need someone to talk to, and if or when you feel at the end of your tether, please call the Samaritans on 116 123. They are always there to help, at any time, day or night.

Among the other organisations that have stepped up to help people is the Marie Curie charity (mariecurie.org.uk), which organised a national day of remembrance recently.

There is a lot of helpful information on their website about coping with grief and they have an online chat service as well.

You say you have no body to talk to, but do you not have other family or friends you could reach out to? You have clearly become isolated, but is there no one in your life you could pick up the phone to?

As for your health, many people have failed to contact their doctors, for fear of putting more pressure on them whilst they are dealing with the pandemic. If that’s you then do please contact your GP to discuss your health – and please do mention your mental health as well, as you might be able to speak to a bereavement counsellor.

If you have a problem you need help with, email Fiona by writing to help@askfiona.net for advice. All letters are treated in complete confidence and, to protect this privacy, Fiona is unable to pass on your messages to other readers. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.

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