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Regret My Decision Every Single Day

Question:

Note: the author resides in India

I have been married for 6 years, and regret my decision every single day. I realized that we couldn’t get along a few days before the marriage, but at that time I felt that it was too late (now I know that it was not!). Secondly, I felt that love, compassion, tenderness and patience would change him for the better. But after the marriage I realized that he was not open to changing; he even refused to acknowledge that he had a problem. I have suffered every kind of abuse – I’m demeaned and belittled every day, he has kicked and throttled me when I was 3 months pregnant (because I was too tired to nurse the baby anymore, and she started crying when I stopped nursing her), he has struck me on the head continuously even when I was begging for mercy and screaming, “I’ll do anything u say, just stop hitting me”. For a week after that, my head kept spinning. He has ruptured my eardrum twice. I’ve had to go to work with a black eye.

He is a master charmer, and it is only when he chooses to reveal his dark side to u that you realize that he is quite different from what he portrays himself to be. Anyone that I confided to (and who knew him), found it very difficult to believe that he was capable of being negative, leave alone actually harsh and abusive. Even my doctor (who is our friend) initially felt I was exaggerating, until she actually saw some covert threatening behaviors. Typically, my husband reacts extremely for very simple disagreements that are common to most couples. I might have left him early on, but the impediment to this was that I got pregnant one month after the wedding. The second child came very early too, and then leaving became a little complicated. I did try to leave him a few times.

To cope with his behavior, I’ve tried assertiveness, aggressiveness, submission – everything. But it only instigates and provokes him more. I was brought up an independent, confident girl, and couldn’t believe that women continued to live in abusive relationships. And here I am! Once I tried to call the police, and to prevent me he beat me to a pulp and made sure that I couldn’t get near either the phone or the door. I feel so trapped in this relationship.

The reason I am still living with this man is that he threatens to separate the kids if I leave him. He says I can walk out when I wish, but I will not have the kids, or at least not one of them. This would be too cruel to them. I know that he will call his parents here to look after the kids when I am gone, and I know that the kind of upbringing and values that they will give my kids is not what I want for them. They will grow up disturbed, and may experience problems in relationships during their adult life. I feel that if I’ve taken a decision to bring these kids into the world, I owe them a good upbringing. While they do witness his abuse and are also the victimes sometimes, I think overall, this life is better for them than to be separated from each other, or to grow up with his parents.

Everytime this man is abusive, he expects me to forget and forgive. For instance, very typically, a short while after his abusive behavior, he behaves as though nothing happened, and as though everything is normal, and expects me to behave that way too. If I don’t, then he gets enraged. How dare I not forgive and forget! Sometimes he struts around with a puffed out chest after the abuse. I know I don’t want him, but I also know how it will be to bring up the kids all on my own (if I do get custody of both).

I believe he has some personality disorder (earlier i thought it was his uprbinging, but his brothers seem normal, and do not react the way he does to differences of opinion. Their wives do not face these issues), but of course he won’t acknowledge it. Like the typical abuser, he bluntly refuses to go for counseling, and says instead that I am mentally weak. In fact, I am not… rather, was not. the constant stress during the pregnancies, the non-acknowledgement of my post-partum depression… such things have cost me my health – mental and physical. I now shed a lot of hair, have gray hair, have a thin face, and lines on my face… all at 32. I KNOW that if my life had not been ONE BIG SUFFERING after the marriage, this may not have happened. I’ve never known peace or pleasure after I got into a relationship with this man. Yet, at that time I had broken an engagement with a person whom my parents had bullied me to get engaged to. That itself had taken a lot of guts. So when after accepting this proposal (my husband’s) i realized that we were not compatible – physically or emotionally or spiritually, I felt I could not break another engagement. How wrong I had been! Being a spinster would have been better than this life, but I didn’t know it then. Now I’m stuck! I have to tolerate the worst sex, the worst emotional abuse…… my life is just the pits. But I know the kids love him a lot, and miss him even if he’s away for a week. I don’t want to f* up their lives. Mine is already F*ed. What should I do?

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Answer:

There is some ambivalence in your letter, I think. On the one hand you’re saying that you’ve thought this all through and have come to believe that 1) your children’s needs come first, and 2) that they will be best off with you staying with their father, which leads you to the conclusion that you should stay, despite your desire to leave, your knowledge that you are in real physical danger from this man, and that your health is fading in this toxic environment. On the other hand, you’re asking me what you should do. Complicating all of this is that you life in India, and I in America, and I have no real clue what sort of cultural, legal and social structures are in place (or not in place) there to support you if you stay or if you go. I can only tell you what the right thing to do is from an American perspective. Just so we’re clear on that.

You are in a very difficult situation (as you well know). If you stay, you are going to be hurt more, and one of these times, he may very well kill you, or (even worse) disable you permanently. If he doesn’t kill you, your failing health will. The only sane option you have is to leave under these circumstances.

The matter of child custody does complicate things greatly. You are essentially arguing that it will be worse for your children if you leave than if you stay, but you aren’t sure about custody, and that argument only applies if you could not gain custody of them yourself after leaving. So – it would seem that it would be important for you to consult with a lawyer who can tell you what your chances of gaining custody over your children are, before you buy into your own argument too much. Perhaps you can document your abuse in some manner, and that could help you with your custody arguments. You would also have to take into account what your financial situation would be if you left, and if you could afford a custody battle. There are a lot of variables to take into account.

I guess my opinion is that even if you can’t win custody, you are still better off leaving than staying. If you stay, I believe you will be destroyed, based on what you’ve said. Your children will watch this process, and they will be traumatized themselves. They may even become abusers themselves like their father. If you go, they may still be traumatized, but at least you’d be in a position to fight for their custody, and to have the space to heal yourself and become a happier person. There is a chance that if you leave your husband will win custody and turn the kids against you, but then again, that may happen anyway as he progressively destroys you in front of them. At least if you leave, you may be able to offer them a safe refuge, either now or later in their lives when they are older and emancipated. If you don’t leave, you’ll not be able to keep yourself or them safe.

This is a heartbreaking situation to be in, and not one where there is no way to win cleanly. Whatever you decide, you will lose something important. The decision making process you go through needs to take this grim reality into account. I don’t believe that literally sacrificing your own life because you think it may make your children’s lives easier is the right decision. If it was either their very lives or your own, I would think differently, but based on what you’ve told me, I think they will suffer no matter what you do, so you might as well protect yourself so that you can have the best shot at protecting them.

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