Somewhere inside of himself he is a good person but my husband is very emotionally abusive. He never hits me but I always want to leave him so bad. But I have a daughter who is only seven and she loves him so much. It would break my husband’s heart to lose her as well. I am so lost and so sad and I don’t know what to do. Can you help me?
Dear Sad Wife,
I am relieved to hear that you are physically safe. Still, this is obviously not a good situation. While I cannot make decisions for you, I do believe I can clarify the issue enough for you to possibly see your own way out of your predicament.
Only you know your values and what sacrifices would be associated with what action. What I impart to others has value because it allows you to access your own personal wisdom. Wisdom that is always available to you if you strip away all of the busy thought-based ideas currently trapping you. So let’s do that.
Firstly, it is good your daughter has such a compassionate and respectful parent. Considering your husband’s behaviour toward you, it is very big of you to not undermine your daughter’s love for him. People can be flawed—even heavily flawed—and still they are worthy of love.
In the end, we might choose not to be around people like that, but that doesn’t mean we have to hate them. One of the most important things a child can have is parents who respect each other. If they can’t have that, then one that respects the other is better than none. I have every confidence that your daughter will pick up on which one of you to emulate.
So let us accept that there would obviously be a set of consequences that would go with your daughter being estranged from her father or even just from your breakup. And I can appreciate why you would want to protect your daughter from that. At the same time, let’s remember that non-action is in fact a form of action. So to not leave is to stay.
Let’s do a thought experiment and say that your husband has passed away, and now you’re a single Mom. In this imagined future, you meet your current husband. But let us say that because you are friends with his friends, you quickly get a clear understanding of how he truly acts.
Knowing how disrespectful, demanding and selfish he is, would you want your daughter exposed to that? Would you want her to live with someone who speaks disrespectfully to others? As a woman, would you want your daughter to see “romance” portrayed as a subservient woman enduring the tirades of her mate?
Whatever behaviour is modelled to her will become her ‘normal,’ and then she won’t think there’s anything wrong with that when she’s older and dating and its abusive. She’ll think that’s what a relationship looks like. That’s obviously not a good thing.
As long as you are not putting yourself in danger (you should quietly contact your local women’s shelter for advice about a plan of action and info on area resources etc.), leaving should not feel overwhelming. Like a frog in boiling water, because this situation developed over time you’ve become accustomed to painful things. Leaving that behind will have an enormous impact.
If you feel you should leave then the odds are that leaving will feel much better than you’re anticipating. It will also model healthy behaviour for your daughter. She should know that you and she deserve better. That there is better. That people will happily and voluntarily treat you both much better, and that rather than staying and resenting and hating, people are better to leave, forgive and then build something better.
That’s the only kind of experience that will teach the guy too. Unless there’s a price to his heart there is no motivation to change the behaviour. That’s why they say the second spouse gets what the first one paid for. The second one gets treated better because, as in your case, the man is now fully aware that he can be left at any time.
If you stay in an abusive situation your daughter might learn to resent you or hate men. If you leave, your husband still has the chance to earn his way back into your lives. But at least your daughter isn’t being subjected —or isn’t seeing you subjected— to actual abuse.
Maybe this judgment and the idea is being carried by recent anger. Maybe you’re at the stage of quiet acceptance —only you know. But if it really is an abusive situation then leaving is never a bad idea simply because there are many ways to be happy in life. We don’t have to get married to one source of happiness and then hope it stays that way. We can change routes right up until the day we die.
I wish you well with the decision. But you must make any decisions from a place of loving yourself just as you love your daughter. For you are just like her —a child of the universe. You have many routes to happiness. If one path has changed, then you have every ability to shift to another that’s better overall.
Your daughter is lucky to have you —your husband too. Make sure you see all of that value too. Because when you do, you’ll automatically choose the direction that’s the healthiest of your choices.
Big hugs and all the best,
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.