Ambivalent about abusive husband
Dear Annie: My husband and I recently put our house on the market and moved to a Southern state to spend our retirement there. I am 64, and he is 73. It is my second marriage and his third. The house went under contract, and I went north to clean up and sell everything. He stayed home with the animals. The house sale fell through, and I am relisting. He wants me to come home and close up the house. I do not want to keep it empty. He cries every night that we talk.
The problem is that I don’t miss him. We have been married for eight years. We did not live together before marriage. When we got married, I knew he drank a lot, but I didn’t realize that if there is something on his mind while he’s drinking he becomes verbally abusive. On average, he verbally abuses me every other week, depending on whether anything is troubling him. He calls me names using bad language. He has severe obsessive-compulsive disorder and sleep apnea. He does not take medication for either. We cannot sleep together because of the apnea.
We do, however, have some mutual likes. Since we moved South, his verbal abuse has decreased. We attended counseling before the move. The counselor said that he needs to stop drinking and that his abuse is alcohol-driven. He will not give up drinking. He hit me once, and I left him; I only agreed to go back with him if we went to counseling.
He has made my life very comfortable, and I have given him the companionship he needs, but there is something missing. We have many friends. I am not destitute, by any means, but my lifestyle would be compromised if I divorced him. I am a very young and active 64-year-old with many hobbies and talents. My physical feelings for him are cold. He treats me like a daughter. He is a good man, and all of his friends tell me what a great catch he is. They know he drinks but think nothing of it. He is a retired state trooper. I am not unhappy with him, but I am not happy, either. Please advise. — Stagnating in the South
Dear Stagnant: It is unacceptable for your husband to abuse you, verbally or physically. Do not downplay the importance of your own well-being. You deserve to feel safe, happy and free. Reach out to counselors at Safe Horizon (800-621-HOPE), who specialize in assisting victims of verbal abuse, for more guidance on the subject, and if he ever physically abuses you again, call 911.
The “something missing” you mention is something that’s missing not from your relationship but from your husband. He is deeply troubled, and he needs to find his own path to recovery. You can encourage him to seek help, but you cannot control the outcome. Please consider attending an Al-Anon Family Groups meeting in your town. Try a few different groups. I know; I’ve recommended the organization about a hundred times in this column. I’m guessing I’ll recommend it a hundred thousand times more. It’s that helpful.
Dear Annie: I have been a reader of advice columns since approximately 1958, when I first learned to read a newspaper. Ann Landers’ column was a huge part of my education in the repressed 1950s!
I want to compliment you on doing a great job. You show compassion and good sense daily. Your printing “B.R.’s” response to “Feeling So Bad” — about how people deal with terminal illness — triggered my note. My mother also cut everyone off during her final illness. I thought it was a mistake, but it was her choice.
And you are clearly a feminist! You don’t let men or women get away with much! Just sign me… — An Older Fan of the Newer Wave
Dear Older: I’m grateful for your readership, and I’ll keep working my hardest to earn it.
Dear Annie is written by Annie Lane, a young, married mother of two. Send questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org.