Today I respond to Kylie. She’s the woman who’s having second thoughts about divorcing Matt.
They’ve been married for 15 years, and they have two children. Matt is an alcoholic who screams at Kylie and their children in his drunken rages. He’s cheated on her and belittled her.
One day, after Matt swore at her yet again, she told him she didn’t want to be married anymore.
She said: “As I said this, I was handing him his lunch, so I really didn’t mean it. I really wanted him to apologize. But that never happened.”
Now she’s wondering whether the whole thing is her fault.
She says: “I’m on an emotional roller coaster. I have days when I know this divorce is what’s needed and days when I want everything to work out so we can be happy. I’m scared to death about what will happen. Maybe living like that was better than being alone.”
Dear Kylie: There’s no one who contemplates divorce who isn’t scared. It’s normal to fear that you’re going into a situation that’s even worse than the one you’re in. It’s even natural to try to pretend the situation isn’t that bad so you don’t have to deal with it. That’s what you’re doing when you say you want things to work “so we can be happy.”
Be honest with yourself. You can never be happy with this man. If you stay with him, you will only become more and more miserable as he becomes more and more abusive.
Yes, change is hard. And change after 15 years of marriage and two children is very hard. But that doesn’t mean you can avoid it. Your marriage is beyond repair, and you have to end it no matter how scared you are.
As so many readers have written, you owe it to your children to get out. You’re teaching your daughters to be victims and to accept abuse as a normal part of marriage. You’re teaching your sons to be abusers and to express their emotions through bullying and intimidating, and that’s just a short step to punching and beating.
Before you do anything else, you need to get into therapy. You need to know why you’ve accepted this treatment for so long. You need to know how you can build up your self-esteem so you don’t fall victim to another abuser. You need someone who can help you write a new script for the next half of your life. Look into working one-on-one with a therapist and also into groups like Al-Anon.
When you’re ready, find yourself a good lawyer to protect your rights and those of your children. Don’t go anywhere near the lawyers your husband has suggested! Get recommendations from friends.
I’m a big advocate of faking it till you make it. Pretend to be a strong, independent woman even if you feel weak and powerless. What would that woman do if she were in your shoes? Put on her attitude in the morning along with your clothes and your makeup. It helps.
I wish you good luck, and so do the many readers who have written. Please move forward and stay in touch.
— Got a problem? Send it, along with your questions and rants to firstname.lastname@example.org. And check out my e-book, “Dear Cheryl: Advice from Tales from the Front.”