Dear Carolyn • I was married to my ex for 20 years when we divorced. I wasn’t attractive to him anymore since I gained weight with our three children — his exact words.
I am now married to a woman. I have found myself on the receiving end of punches from her multiple times, each time with apologies. Recently, I was in our bedroom with the door locked, as I could tell she was angry. She began to beat the door down. Two of my children were home, and I’m guessing they didn’t hear what was happening.
When I let my wife in, she punched me and I couldn’t catch my breath.
I can’t bear the shame of another divorce. I don’t know what I’d tell people, what I’d tell my children. I am trying to move on with her, and forgive, but this time feels different. — Anonymous
Answer • I’d like the names of everyone on the panel who created the social law that one divorce is acceptable, but two divorces are so harmful to one’s record as a human being that the second divorce must be avoided at all costs — thereby freeing all second spouses to punch the breath from their partners’ bodies.
[Tick-tick-tick from my kitchen clock.]
Right. There is no such panel, there are no such social laws, and there is no license for anyone to punch the breath out of anyone except in self-defense.
You loved, you trusted, you tried; you are worthy. Please do not sabotage yourself with shame. The blame for abuse falls to abusers alone for treating natural human vulnerabilities as opportunities to grab power.
I understand that shame is a natural feeling. I urge you to think of it as something you walk through to the other side, though, vs. crawl under to hide.
I would say it is important to stop this self-sabotage because you don’t want your children to learn from you that absorbing abuse is OK — however, I’m afraid that might imply absorbing the abuse would somehow be OK if kids weren’t around to witness it.
I’m quite confident yours did hear, by the way — or if not this time then last time; or if they’ve never heard, then they’ve still witnessed an unkind power dynamic; or if they’re blissfully unaware, then it’s still unacceptable treatment of you by a spouse, and you are worthy of better, period, end of marriage.
Again: end of marriage. Since it effectively ended when your wife turned abusive, the steps you take now to end it are just the paperwork and logistics. Start with a lawyer, solo, now. 1-800-799-SAFE if you need help.
What you tell people is your own business, and can include anything from, “She hit me,” to, “That’s private,” to a rhetorical, “Why do you ask?” You owe yourself kindness and you owe your kids safety, but you don’t owe anyone anything else.
As you address the legal aspect, please also address the emotional with a reputable therapist — again, solo and now. Start with how tough you’ve been on yourself — don’t hide it, you’re not alone, many have lived this — and move on to why you’re ready to let others be so tough on you. Including spouses and these unnamed “people.” Good counseling can help you find, summon and reinforce your inherent strengths.
Some days you’ll feel stronger than others, so be ready for the bad ones when they come: Every time you face the hard work of surmounting an obstacle, remind yourself, “Better this than hit.” Take care.
Dear Carolyn • My 19-year-old daughter needs reliable transportation at college in order to complete required internships and work part time. My husband refuses to help her with this purchase because we already pay for her expensive out-of-state school and he bought his first car on his own. I do not want my daughter driving in New England without modern safety features.
While a few thousand dollars may have had buying power in the ‘80s when her dad was car-shopping, it will not get her into an appropriate vehicle now. We are arguing about this frequently. What are your thoughts? — Arguing
Answer • My thoughts are that frequent arguing is a terrible problem-solving tool.
That’s not what you asked me about, but, it also is.
Arguing says you’re both sure you’re right and you’re both more invested in being right than you are in getting the problem solved.
So if you do want to get this solved — and to make your home life inviting again, because nothing takes the om out of home faster than recurring arguments — then look at every variable as possible room for compromise. Baseline safety vs. excess, new vs. used, lease vs. buy, she makes payments or you do. Can she borrow $X of her tuition in return for a parentally bought $X-dollar car? Then she’s paying for it, just later. Task her with researching options, including dadproof ones. No to strong wills, yes to resourceful ways.