Why don’t you just divorce him?
I’ve been guilty of it, too, in the past. I’ve asked a friend, who confided in me about the misery involved in her relationship, why she stays. Why she doesn’t just go, because doesn’t she know she deserves better?
These days, I try not to. Because I know it won’t help. Because I know it isn’t up to me. Because I know that every woman in a bad relationship has to decide on her own that it’s time to go, and that timeline has nothing to do with what she’s hearing from her friends and family. She has to reach the point where she knows it’s over herself, and then decide. And, when she does, she needs to know that she has a support system in place, and not someone who’ll say, “I told you so,” or “FINALLY!”
Making yourself vulnerable enough to tell friends and family about what’s going on behind closed doors is tough. It’s hard for a lot of reasons. Because, once you do, you can’t un-ring that bell, so you’ll constantly have those (well-meaning) friends telling you that you should leave, or bringing up things from the past that still sting to point out to you why you should. Because they’ll get exasperated with you when you don’t leave, or when you put up with treatment that they think that you shouldn’t. Because they then won’t support your relationship while you’re still trying to see whether or not its worth salvaging. Because it feels like a betrayal to a man who – maybe? – is still capable of change, and one that, for better or for worse, you still love, even if you know that you shouldn’t.
Maybe all of those things ring true for you. Maybe some of them do. Maybe you have your own, entirely different reasons. But I do think that the truth is that it’s unfair for your friends to expect themselves from you, or to expect you to call it quits with someone on their timeline. Maybe they’re right – maybe you know it, I know it, they know it, and it’s a universal truth that most of us can agree on. But the reality of the situation is that you’re the one calling the shots and, if you can’t leave yet, you can’t leave yet.
Of course, this can be dangerous. If your relationship is abusive or otherwise toxic, staying is really dangerous to your physical and mental health. I hope that you’ll help free yourself before it’s too late, but, still, the decision is yours. And they say – as I’m sure you’ve heard – that abused women typically try to leave 7 times before they’re successful.
Part of that is the complicated reality, too. Do you have somewhere else to live? Do you have access to enough of your own money to make your own way? Do you have children to worry about? What about their school, their friends? What about your job? Will you have to get a new one? Have you finished that degree you were working on?
In a lot of cases, it’s about timing – finding the right time to leave. A time where you feel like the stars will align and you’ll be able to make it on your own.
It’s also not easy, when you hear stories about how the media has maligned other abused women. When you see your friends post things on social media in support of celebrities who’ve been accused (or convicted) of abuse, or when your partner’s voice runs through your mind, telling you that no one will believe you if you speak up. That no one will support you if you go. That people know the truth, that you’re a whole bunch of horrible things, that no one will ever love you again.
It’s hard to free yourself of that internal dialogue. And maybe it’s more than just a dialogue; maybe you know that things will actually get really, really messy when you decide to go, and you’re not sure you’re up for that. Maybe he has a diagnosed mental illness, substance abuse issues, or is a narcissist. Oftentimes, abusers really do put up a fight when the victim of their abuse decides not to allow it anymore. It can get harder before it gets better.
Just know that there are people out there who understand and who’ll help you. No one else can pave the way and make it entirely smooth sailing for you; that would be unrealistic. You’re going to have to do some really hard work, make some big decision, and probably withstand more abuse before his control over you lessens.
In the meantime, though, take care of you.
Request a copy of our book on divorce and child custody so you can begin to learn about how the system works. The more you know, the better position you’ll be in to withstand his verbal assaults. When he says, “I’ll take ________, and you’ll have nothing,” you’ll know better. You’ll know how we divide real estate, retirement, custody, and how we award spousal support. You can disassociate from the words he’s saying because you have the actual knowledge from real Virginia divorce attorneys who represent women only in family law cases. You can get a digital copy only of the book, or we can mail a hard copy to the spouse-safe address (like work, or maybe a friend’s house) you provide.
Maybe even attend a seminar. It may be hard, since you have to actually make time to attend an event in person – we actually do them on Zoom these days, so not like in-person in person – without him knowing where you are, but we have women attend them from work, or in their cars, or wherever they happen to be. Maybe you tell him you’ve gone to “Target”. It’s an easy way to get up to date, Virginia specific divorce information directly from an attorney, plus an opportunity to ask your questions.
Maybe you need to learn more about protective orders. If you’re not physically safe, if it’s more than verbal abuse (which, seriously, is incredibly difficult to overcome as well, don’t think I don’t know that), you may need to take steps to ensure your safety and the safety of your children. I don’t mean to get scary on you, because I know you know – but it’s a good idea to take steps to protect yourself if you’re worried that he might go too far one night, no matter how hard you try to pacify him.
You should probably also enlist the support of a therapist. All of the friends in the world are great, but, ultimately, their bandwidth (and the quality of their advice) is limited. Friends tend to get frustrated when they tell you over and over that you should go and you…don’t. A therapist won’t. Your therapist can help you work through your issues and be in a stronger, more mentally healthy place when you do decide that it’s time to leave.
You do deserve better than an abusive or toxic or unhappy relationship. But you also have to decide to leave when you’re ready, and not when your friends think that you should be ready. Maybe you’re there. Great! You can call us at 757-425-5200 to schedule an appointment, request a book, or register for a seminar.
But maybe you’re not. We all walk our own paths. Take your time, friend. We’ll be here when you’re ready.