She’s made all the mistakes, so you don’t have to… Ask Erin is a weekly advice column, in which Erin answers your burning questions about anything at all.
I've been having trouble deciding if I should stay in my marriage and really need advice.
I married my husband nine years ago, and since then things have been a roller coaster. He had a crappy childhood, and his family is very dysfunctional. While my husband holds a job, he refuses to help out around the house. He goes to work, comes home, and plays video games. I am responsible for all the household tasks while working a more-than-full time job (between 50 and 60 hours a week) and going to graduate school full-time.
My husband has volatile mood swings that cause him to go from happy to angry or sad in seconds. He usually blames me for the swings, because I did or didn't do XYZ. For example, asking him what he wants for dinner will set him off, or that he's out of work clothes because I haven't washed his things.
He also has been very mildly physically abusive three times; once he bit me hard enough to leave a mark on my hand, once he kneed me in the back of the arm, and once he hit my back really hard.
I also think he's emotionally abusing me because he'll stonewall me constantly, call me names, and make other derogatory comments to me. He also claims I "abandon" him when I leave to go to the grocery store or go spend time with my family.
Our sex life has issues as well. He gets sex daily in most cases, but that's usually not enough for him, so he also watches hours of porn. If he doesn't get sex when he wants it, he becomes nasty and rude. I usually give in and let him do what he wants because if I refuse, he'll be mean or I'll wake up in the middle of the night to porn watching or him having sex with me while I'm asleep. He also demeans my sexual appetites, saying that I'm boring and "vanilla" because I won't indulge in all his fantasies. I find most of his fantasies scary or demeaning, and after trying them once, don't want to do them again.
Six years into our marriage, we found out that my husband has ADHD and ODD, among some other undiagnosed problems. My husband also claims to be a sociopath, but that's never been officially diagnosed. I wonder if these behaviors are part of his condition, or if he's just an asshole. He's sometimes medicated, but won't take his medicine regularly. I want to leave, but feel guilty because he has a mental health condition. I also know I'll probably lose everything I own, because he'll go after it, including my house. My family might even disown me because they really like him (he's good at putting on a show in front of them) and he'll tell them all kinds of crazy lies about me.
You know, I get a lot of questions from people wondering if they should leave their toxic relationship and I usually want to say one thing — run.
This time, I want to shout it. RUN!!!!!
You are in an abusive relationship. Period.
There is no question about that in my mind. You have outlined how he has emotionally abused you, sexually abused you (waking up to unwanted sex in your sleep, even with a partner, is rape), and has been gas lighting you all the way.
Oh, and there is no such thing as “mildly physically abusive.”
He has physically abused you. He has abused you in pretty much every way. Please, please, please get out.
You mentioned that he has your family conned. Abusers are often super charming to the outside world.
What you need to do is put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, and outline a list of exactly what’s been going on. Much like you did here, you need to document what’s been going on behind the scenes — as a framework to show your family, as an outline for a lawyer (which you need to get, pronto), and as a reminder to yourself. Keep a record of anything that occurs before you leave, be that written or photographic.
Regardless of whatever mental health issues he may or may not have, regardless of his crappy childhood, he is an ASSHOLE — an abusive asshole.
There is no gray area here. He has been abusing you, and it is time to leave.
You will need to prepare yourself. The first thing you should do is pack an emergency bag should you need to move quickly — change of clothes, toiletries, legal documents (such as a passport), and some money. Stash it somewhere he is unlikely to find it. This might sound extreme, but abusers can suddenly get worse when they sense their partner is getting ready to leave.
As I said, get a lawyer. Set whatever money aside you can. Even using something like Digit can be helpful for an emergency fund.
Reach out to your most trustworthy friends and family members so that you can set up a support system and perhaps a place to stay when you leave. I am confident that giving them the cold, hard truth will open their eyes. They’re not going to disown you for leaving an abusive marriage. (If they do, then lean on friends and evaluate the dysfunction there at a later time.)
There are resources available:
I strongly urge you to seek the help of a therapist, along with a support group. Please contact me again for region-specific resources.
Also, please, please, please DO NOT HAVE CHILDREN WITH THIS MAN.
(You didn’t mention kids, so I am assuming you don’t have them. If you do, then run even faster. Children absorb all of this. Watching you get out of an abusive situation will help to repair the damage of what they have already witnessed. Abuse cycles have a far greater chance of being halted if we don’t stay in abusive relationships.)
Once you leave, don't go back. It is highly unlikely that he will change anytime soon, if ever. Whatever mental health issues he has to work out and whatever past he has to overcome — these are not your problems.
Focus on getting your life back after nearly a decade of abuse. You deserve happiness. You deserve to be loved. You deserve to be safe.
Don’t hesitate to reach out if you need any further direction or region-specific resources.
If you or someone you know is being abused, please reach out. Reach out to friends or family, reach out to me, or contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline online or at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.
If you have a question for me about relationships, addiction, infidelity, friendship, on crystals and the eclipse, babies, my new 17-month agenda, or anything at all, use the contact form below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, your anonymity is golden. xoxo