Leaving my Husband of 40 Years

by Mary
(Sharon, MA )

I have been married for almost 40 years to a man who has been emotionally abusive for most of that time. For various reasons, I chose to stay with him in the past. Now he is quite ill, and needs a lot of assistance. I work full time, and also take care of him. He is getting more and more verbally and emotionally abusive, but I feel too guilty to leave someone who cannot take care of himself. He is not at the point of needing a nursing home yet. Also, I have three children, two of whom have no relationship with him. Only my son still talks to him, and I am afraid my son would break off all relations with me if I left his father. I feel like I am in a no win situation. Any advice?

Ben's Answer:

40 years is a long time. But it's NEVER too late for a person to change. Stand up to your husband. Look him square in the eye, tell him to shut up and listen, and tell him exactly what you will and will not accept from him from this point forward. Call his bluff. If he's relying on you to take care of him, he has nobody else to take advantage of. He's counting on you to remain the target of his abuse; He doesn't know it can be any other way. And the more his health declines, the more bitter he likely feels, and the more he feels justified in abusing the person he's always mistreated as a way to make himself feel more powerful and in control.

You have the opportunity here to wake him up while he's still alive, and possibly teach him the most valuable lesson of his entire life. Maybe he can develop a little genuine remorse, compassion and gratitude while he's still on the planet, rather than carrying his guilt into the next life.

You're the only one who is in the position to do this. Take back some power and confront him. Don't let him interrupt you, or over-talk you, just tell him everything you've ever held back, no matter how it comes out.

By the way, this could also be the most healing thing you'll ever do for yourself too.

If this makes no impression on him and he's still abusive, and you don't feel any better after speaking your mind, then maybe it's time to look for some kind of home for him that doesn't include you. Your son will have to learn his own lessons. You can't stay to together for the sake of the kids, when the kids are all grown up, or you'll only deprive yourself of the life you really deserve.

Wishing you the best,
Ben Schwarcz, MFT
Santa Rosa Psychotherapist

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