My husband is a bully and I feel trapped
22nd March 2016
I've reached a point in my marriage where I don't know whether to stay with or leave my husband. We've been married for over 30 years. When I married him, he was fun, light-hearted and kind, but then over time he seems to have hardened and become quite inflexible. He's the strong silent type who doesn't like talking about issues and I suspect he bottles things up.
I've been taking anti-depressants for most of our marriage. There have been times when I've been terribly close to hurting myself and it's by a whisker that I'm still here. When I was first diagnosed, all he could say was 'you have to be strong' - ugh. He shied away from discussing my illness ever since, so I've had to deal with my depression on my own.
Aside from this he can be a bully and can be scary when he's angry. My dad was a very domineering character and I think I've made the mistake of marrying someone very like him. I look at my husband and while I still care about him in a general way, I don't love him anymore.
Unfortunately, because of the situation we're living in it would be difficult for me to leave. I help with child care for my grown up daughter, who lives with us. Aside from that, I've just given up work as a result of my continued mental health issues so I have no income. I have nowhere else to go either as I have no family. I feel trapped.
I’m not surprised you feel trapped. The circumstances you describe would be enough to make anyone feel as if they have no choices available to them, and the lack of support you’re getting from your husband must make things that much worse.
You describe your husband as almost being two separate people. There’s the man from the early part of your marriage, who was able to meet your needs by being kind and considerate. And then there’s who he is today: someone who is behaving very inappropriately towards you. From what you tell me, I’m actually very concerned for your emotional welfare.
It’s one thing for a partner to find depression in a relationship difficult to deal with. The additional pressures that depression can bring to any partnership can be hard on everyone involved (although sometimes, with support from organisations like Mind, couples can begin to learn more about the condition and respond in more productive ways), but it sounds like you’re saying you’re sometimes scared of your husband. That must surely impact on how you feel about yourself and how you feel about everything else in your life.
You say too your eldest daughter and her family are living with you and that this works well. But do they see or understand how desperate you’re feeling about things? I don’t get any sense from your letter whether they're also on the receiving end of your husband’s bullying or whether they’ve witnessed your distress. In fact, the impression your letter gives - and I may be completely wide of the mark here - is that you have no support from anyone. If this is the case, that's the first thing that needs to change.
One of the key components of domestic abuse (and this is what you’re being subjected to) is that it often involves everyone keeping silent. People in the family don’t ‘see’ what’s happening because the climate of fear is such that everyone is rendered mute. I can understand why you would want to keep things sweet for your daughter and her partner. They’re a young family trying to make their way in the world. It’s possible you feel you can't lumber them with your fears and concerns about how you’re treated by your husband (or perhaps you have tried and not found them receptive). It’s also possible you’re concerned your husband’s behaviour will get worse if he gets any sense you’ve told people about what’s going on. But from what you describe, it sounds as if you’re in a very isolated place. And talking is one of the best ways of starting to break this isolation down.
So, what to do? First off, I really want to encourage you to see a counsellor by yourself. You can find Relate services local to you by searching online. Many GP surgeries also have their own counselling team. I think that starting to talk with someone could be a really helpful form of support for you. There are no easy answers but finding a neutral space where you can be valued and, most importantly, heard is a first step.
I think it’s imperative that you tell the counsellor about the treatment you get from your husband. It’s very likely that they will be able to help you to liaise with other local agencies who can help. Of course, there’s nothing to stop you making contact directly with domestic abuse agencies, but I can fully understand that this might feel like a step too far at this time. I’d also want to encourage you to meet with the Citizens Advice Bureau and look at what other resources may be available.
One thing that you don’t mention is friends. I’m wondering if you’ve left friends behind from when you were working and that this may be adding to your sense of feeling trapped inside a very small world. Would it be possible to meet up with old work mates or perhaps people who you may have lost track of in the recent past? This might help you to see that there are people who are interested in what you’re going through and want to help.
You say you no longer love your husband and, although many relationships can thrive on companionship rather than love, I think you are essentially saying you want out. You also mention you’ve previously thought about hurting yourself and that’s why I want to really encourage you to prioritize your own emotional wellbeing and personal safety by getting in touch with people who can offer you support and help you find a way through this maze of unhappiness. No one should be living with the isolation and bullying that you are so clearly experiencing.