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Ms. Doubtful

Question:

I have recently separated from my husband. We were married for only 12 months, he was many years my junior. The crux of my problem is really to do with the low regard and self esteem I have for my self. I am conscious of it but cannot stop the deep rooted feelings of low self worth.

I was emotionally neglected and physically abandoned as a child, and I know this has shaped the person I am today. The issue that has effected me more than any life experience is the impact of this marriage and it’s breakdown on my emotional state of well being.

In the beginning of our relationship, my husband told me many lies about himself…his age, name, religion, nationality, nature of previous relationships. My existing insecurities exploded, he felt challenged all the time and continued to lie. He blamed my emotional weaknesses for spoiling our marriage. He began to express a need to go out alone…night clubs etc, explaining that he needed it, as he needed space. I respected this and gave him his freedom. My fears would not let go, so I was watching him quietly, and discovered he had been looking at porn on the Internet, and trying to arrange meetings with girls (3 months post marriage). He denied it, even with proof, and he would get defensive and hit me, this was a regular occurence by the way…usually bought about my challenging him for lying. I believed he didn’t really want to be with me, he was always unhappy and angry. I just wanted to end the relationship, but he refused to let go. I felt trapped. He would pull away from me at times, being almost rebellious, go out every night, pull away so indifferently. Then tell me there is no future for us, after all our plans. But still he would leave. I left to go on vacation. alone, hoping to gain a new perspective, to come back to find, used condoms ( i counted prior to leaving), and a sexually suggestive text message on his mobile phone. On another occasion, I found hotel room receipts. He had excuses for these incidents, such as masturbating whilst talking to me on Internet, the message was a wrong number, and the hotel room – change of scenery.

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p> My concern here is me, because when he talks to me, dribbling his bullshit, I believe him. Plus I accept and forgive the violence….this is what kills me, how could I allow this to happen to myself? I feel so stupid. I am conscious of the fact that I am a dysfunctional human being, and probably co-dependent, but I just wish I knew how to keep this perspective when I am facing him. I think about him all the time, and I feel my brain is completely scrambled by his lies, and his re-reinforcement to me of my insecurities….please offer some educated remarks. Much appreciated, Ms Doubtful

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Answer:

Self-confidence and self-respect is not something you get born with. You have to earn it. Actually, you have to build it out of actions and choices you make that promote your own integrity. In this light, what is there to say except that you are on the right track by leaving this abusive disrepectful relationship. You have been in a verbally and physically abusive relationship, and you have quite sanely and courageously chosen to separate from it. That you are beating yourself up for having gotten into this situation in the first place, or by having stayed with it is painful, but actually quite expectable. It’s fairly normal for people who are breaking out of abusive relationships to feel angry and guilty at the same time, and to spend time being angry at themselves as well as at their (former) partners. You may find that you feel guilty and pathetic one moment and angry the next. The reason that feelings can swing so widely is that often people are literally of multiple mindsets about their situation. They may sometimes feel very needy and dependent on the one hand (and a sucker for their partner’s seductive and belittling verbal patter and lies) and very angry and aware of the abusiveness of the situation at other times. It is normal to phase in and out of mindsets like these for a while during such relationships and while exiting them.

While both of these states could be reflections of yourself and your feelings, they are not equal and should not be given equal credence. In this instance, anger is more valuable to you than fear.

The needy, guilty, dependent state of mind part of you is likely to be reacting from fear: fear of being alone, of being inadequate, of being responsible for taking care of one’s self and having to make decisions and not being sure that one is up to the task, etc. The fearful part of you is perhaps what has kept you (and millions of other people) complicit in perpetuating your participation in the abuse; you hung around to be abused some more because it was easier to cling to the the devil you knew than to the devil you didn’t know which felt like it might have been worse.

The angry state of mind, while potentially destructive, is probably not particularly burdened by fear and this is freeing. You are more free to look at your situation from an outside perspective and to see the abuse more objectively when you are angry then when you are frightened. In this sense, anger can be an important part of your developing self-respect, as it will motivate you towards not putting up with abusive situations. Chances are very good, however, that you will be able to do better for yourself once you’ve understood how to not settle for abuse.

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p> At this crucial time it will probably be easy for you to go either way – either back towards your abusive husband for another round or two of abuse (or three or four), or away from him and people who would treat you this way. It is a fragile time when you feel of two minds. My advice is that you choose to reinforce the part of you that wants to escape from further abuse by getting yourself connected to social support. Check out support groups for women who have been abused (try calling your local domestic violence shelter for referrals), and also consider finding a local therapist, (or trustworthy confidant) to see on a regular basis for a while. A good therapist can help you find your own voice, teach you about assertive behavior, and help you to recognize when a relationship is nourishing and when it is abusive; all things that will help you achieve greater levels of healthy emotional independence. Good luck.

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