Dear Ms. Vicki,
I read your article about women who are the checkers in the relationship. My husband of 20 years is the obsessive checker.
I had always left my purse out and my phone lying around, and my Facebook account was not a secret. However, when I caught him going through my things, he broke that trust. He was no longer allowed access to my personal things, but he did not stop. He continued full force.
So I made the decision that if he was going to continue to go through my things and he was looking for something to find, then I would put something there for him to find.
I opened up two credit cards and used them for various things. Some things were spent on me, some on my kids, my family and my sister who needed help at the time. It may not have been my best decision, but I was so tired of listening to him say how he deserved his fancy sports car then listening to him preach about our finances while he was going through my things behind my back.
He accused me of cheating, went through my cell phone records, and contacted people I knew to ask questions about me. He made sure that any friends of mine became his friends as well.
He criticizes me constantly, putting me down and calling me names. He has grabbed me, cornered me, intimidated me.
He threatened on Christmas Eve to kick me out of the house. I had myself shut up in the bathroom and he was beating on the door yelling at me, telling me to get out. He wanted me gone by 4 p.m. We had a neighbor's child in our home, along with our own children. I was very fearful of him and what he would do that day.
I called his first sergeant and his command removed him for the night. He blames me. We have had many other situations -- situations that should have involved the police, but I feel frozen.
I don't want my children to be damaged by his actions but, at the same time, I don't want them damaged by the horrible memories of police coming to our door.
I go to counseling once a week. It helps to an extent. After six weeks, I keep coming back to the fact that I am in an abusive relationship and I need to start making hard decisions.
-- At the End of My Rope
Dear End of the Rope,
This marriage is about power and control. Your husband is emotionally abusive. He is using the children to make you feel guilty. He uses male privilege (he deserves everything but you don't deserve anything). He intimidates you and he wants to isolate you.
You did something right: You reached out for help from others. I'm happy you are working individually with a therapist. This has been a long-term problem that won't be solved overnight. It will take time for your husband to change.
On the other hand, when anyone changes, the system will change. Because of this, it is important for you to continue in therapy. You have to learn more about you and ways that you could have enabled your husband's behavior. Your change will add change to your family and marriage.
Now here's the kicker: Your change and insight could help you realize that your marriage is over. If that's the case, you should start making plans to move forward with legal advice.
Lastly, any kind of abuse is serious. I am very concerned about you because, from your report, you are in fear of your personal safety, even your life!
For this reason, I don't think you should live in the same house with your husband until the following things have happened: Your husband should admit that he has a problem and that he is willing to work on changing his behavior today.
You should have a safety plan established (e.g., who will you call in the case of an emergency and where will you and your children go for shelter and safety).
After a 20-year marriage, you may want out, but it's your natural proclivity to try to save your marriage. You have to make sure you are not setting up the same relationship patterns.
Please let me hear from you. Thank you for reading the column and for taking the time to write to me.
-- Ms. Vicki