My husband and I got married because I got pregnant. But a month before the wedding, he shouted at me. Ordinarily, I would have broken up with him. But because I was pregnant and the wedding was set for the following month, I didn’t. I married him and we had a daughter.
I had hoped our love would make him change (he likes to shout at me a lot), but it didn’t. To my horror, he also doesn’t talk to me. He keeps his salary, his schedule, where he would go, his plans for the future, and how he would spend the money from his own business a secret. He likes staying in a separate room. He claims to be working. But I don’t believe him.
He doesn’t like to have sex with me. After our daughter was born, he has refused all my sexual advances. At first, I attributed it to the weight I gained due to the pregnancy, but when I started losing the pounds, still, he refused to have sex with me.
He prefers the company of his friends over mine. He doesn’t talk to me and would be in a hurry to leave the room when I say something. In the first two years of our marriage, I felt desperately isolated and frustrated. I became insecure — I thought I had bad breath and body odor so I became conscious of my body, but still, no sex.
I became depressed at one point and cried every night. My family didn’t believe that my husband was being neglectful and verbally abusive. They said my husband was just busy and pressured with work, and I should be a dutiful wife by focusing on my child and my career. I followed my parents’ advice and became successful, being VP now of a big multinational company. I know I’m beautiful. I notice his friends giving me a second glance and he takes pride in introducing me as his wife.
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I avoid him during breakfast, lunch, and dinner because whenever we start a conversation, he would be condescending to me or insult me like, “Hindi ka ba nagbabasa?” He contradicts my opinions in front of people. Yet, on some occasions, he sends text messages saying “I love you.” But I don’t believe it anymore.
I envy women who leave their abusive husbands. If there is a counseling or therapy for couples, I feel there should also be a group therapy for wives like me who stick to their neglectful and verbally abusive husbands. I need to leave him.
Yet I’m paralyzed by fear — fear of what society will think, fear that my family will not accept my decision, fear of creating a stigma on my daughter, fear of being a single mom and, most of all, I fear my husband’s anger. Please help me move forward. GRIPPED BY FEAR
DEAR GRIPPED BY FEAR,
It is quite evident in your letter that your husband is abusive. But I’m not so sure about the history of your marital life. I need to make you understand that there is a difference between an abusive husband and a husband who is an abuser. In my opinion, most abusers have a personality disorder and they may not change in his/her lifetime. But an abusive husband can change.
Abusive husbands may have abusive wives. The husband or wife may manifest abuse through obvious aggression while the partner may use passive aggression. For example, the husband may shout while the wife rolls her eyes and looks the other way. Both are abusive. The methods are different, but the result is still hurting the other.
Remember the Raymart Santiago and Claudine Barretto case? In the beginning, it looked like Raymart was an abuser, but later, it seemed like it was the other way around, especially because there were allegations that Claudine was taking drugs. The public is now confused as to whether the abuser is Raymart or Claudine. But could it be that both of them are abusive, not just one? Could it be that they went through a hump in their lives that made both resent each other? Both of them are good people. But now, they both look like monsters. But that can both be undone through therapy or life situations.
Since you were the one presenting your case, then the story I see is from your point of view. I wonder what your husband’s point of view is. You see, it is interesting that like Claudine, your family seems to understand your husband. It may be possible that your family has heard both your sides and sees that there are reasons why the two of you are having problems. But the two of you don’t see it.
This does not take away the fact that your husband manifests abusive acts. I acknowledge that. However, are you aware of your own abusive acts? You must consider that the two of you may be resenting each other. This makes both of you dissatisfied with your marriage. Gayla Margolin, Richard John, and Louise Foo, in their article “Interactive and Unique Risk Factors for Husbands’ Emotional and Physical Abuse of Their Wives” published in the Journal of Family Violence, report that dissatisfaction in marriage may make a man abusive. You and your husband must find the root of your resentment.
I believe you allow people to trample on you, and you also compromise too much. You allowed your husband to shout at you before marrying him because you were pregnant. You compromised. Even now, you are making the same mistakes. You give importance to people’s opinions, which makes you sacrifice your own happiness. You have neglected yourself far too long. This is not just about your husband. This is about you allowing the world to treat you like a doormat.
I suggest that you sit down with your husband and talk about what you want. Bring him to a therapist who can help the two of you communicate. As for your request for a support group, I will look for an organization that can provide this for you. Keep reading my column and I will keep you posted on groups giving help to people with different life issues, group therapy for couples, group therapy for battered wives, group therapy for adopted children and their adoptive families, group therapy for families with members who have personality disorders, and so on. I will start posting information within the next two weeks. EPPY