I have been married to my husband for almost 21 years. To many people he appears the perfect husband, and in a way he is. He can cook, will help around the house and with the children and is generally very good to me. However, I have a problem.
When we were first married, for the first few years, every time we got into an argument he would hit me. He caused black eyes on occasion, made my nose bleed and left me with bruises. Every time it happened he was remorseful afterwards and promised that it would never happen again and eventually he did stop hitting me.
He is however still quite threatening in his stance when we have an argument now, and although I do actually believe that he wouldn't hit me again, every time we fight, it brings back vile memories for me. He denies any current threatening attitude, and admittedly that is all it is really, and he gets upset when I mention the past.
He is a good husband in so many ways, but these memories have put a distant shadow over our marriage. I have five lovely children, and I want really to keep the marriage alive for them. Do you think that I can ever get rid of this ghost?
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Dear Hurting Helene--
I have to say that part of me is a little sad that you are still with him after the way he's treated you, but I do understand that he's the father of your children and it sounds like he's changed his ways (slightly). Abuse isn't just physical, and although he's stopped hitting you, it sounds like he still is holding power over you emotionally with his threatening personality. That's still a form of abuse, and it worries me, for both you and for your children.
You say that you want to keep the marriage going for the sake of your five kids, but if you are unhappy or if they see him act negatively towards you, you run the risk of them growing up thinking that is "normal" behavior, which we all know is very false. It sounds like you two need some counseling, both together and on your own. Talking about the past will make you feel better, will make him realize how wrong his reaction to anger is, and will help prevent abuse in the future.
I do believe that people can change, but if these threatening behaviors continue, for the mental health and safety of you and your five children, you have got to find a way to get away from him until he can treat you and your children with love and respect. I know that's easier said then done, but there are many women's programs available or you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or TTY 1-800-787-3224) so you don't have to deal with this alone. Good luck Helene.