Discovering Hope in an Emotionally Destructive Marriage | To Leave, or Not To Leave?

A couple of months ago, I mentioned in my post Discovering Hope in an Emotionally Destructive Marriage | I Rededicated My Life to Jesus! that I was so desperate that I was willing to risk the comfort and security of the known to brave the healing and hope of the unknown. Though rededicating my life to Jesus was an integral first step for me to recovering from the trauma that I’ve endured over the years, that was just the beginning on the long road of recovery ahead of me.

I think that I have decided to separate from my husband on a long-term basis (6 months minimum). Whether I follow through with it or not, only time will tell, but I’ve been planning and preparing to leave, nonetheless.

The reason why I want to separate from my husband is because, overall, he has always been psychologically abusive; my marriage has always been emotionally destructive. I’ve had enough. Overall, he can be aggressive, coercive, a complainer, controlling, critical, entitled, manipulative, and selfish. Here are several more specific examples of his misbehavior over the years:

  • Frequently, he becomes jealous and accuses me of unfaithfulness, even when there is absolutely no basis to do so. Even when the accusations are indirect, they are still accusations and they are still hurtful. Example: Last Friday, an ex-coworker was working at the place where we got Ashton’s oil change. I had no clue he had been laid off, too, and was now working at the Express. The ex-coworker recognized us and gave us a $30 voucher for a car wash, instead of the typical $10 voucher. Later, Ashton questioned why he would give us a $30 voucher and insinuated that I was cheating on him. He’s usually so subtle in his accusations that I don’t really realize that they’re accusations until later in the conversation.
  • He lacks integrity and is unreliable.  Frequently, he fails to keep his word – he tells me or the kids that he’s going to do one thing but fails to follow through. They may be little things, but it happens so often that they add up to a character deficiency.
  • He has made me feel like I can’t go anywhere or do anything without him because of his derogatory expressions if I want to accomplish even something as simple as check the mail, take a walk by myself, or go to church. This behavior was extremely prevalent in the beginning of our relationship, but he’s trained me so well that I no longer feel the need to do anything extra without him, and I now have a lot of social anxiety because of a combination of this type of behavior. Example: Recently, I mentioned to him that I wanted to go back to counseling. He replied, “I think you’re cheating when you see a counselor.” Of course, that’s not the case, but he knows exactly what to say to me to control me and prevent me from doing something for myself, even my mental health.
  • He has lowered my self-esteem and made me feel inadequate with his careless remarks about my postpartum body and lustful comments about and expressions toward other women.
  • He doesn’t take me or the things that are important to me seriously. For the most part, if I express an interest in something, he discredits it like it’s not important and tells me what he thinks I should have an interest in instead.
  • A lot of the times, I feel like he doesn’t listen to me when I do try to talk to him.  It seems like I am always trying to compete with his Pixel for his attention.  And hearing and listening are two different things.
  • He’s told me what I can’t wear and what I should wear. If he doesn’t like something I’m wearing, he’ll sometimes force me to change my outfit. There’s a difference between politely expressing his distaste in an outfit I’m wearing and compelling me to change.  It’s a similar situation with other appearance related issues, like when I mentioned that I wanted to get my hair cut recently, he said point-blank, “I can’t be with someone with short hair.”
  • He’s not supportive of anything I want to do on my own. For example, when I wanted to go back to work after I had Isla (my 9-year-old daughter), I felt like he prevented me from having a job. Almost every time I mentioned it, he discredited it and told me what he thought I should be doing instead. When I started enjoying and finding value in being a homemaker about five years into motherhood, he started trying to coerce me back into the workforce and micromanage my job search.
  • A lot of conversations tend to be frustrating with him, especially the “circular” ones. He is constantly asking the same questions over and over (in the same conversation), even though I’ve already answered them, sometimes multiple times. Sometimes, he’ll redirect the conversation, and he’ll shift blame on me, even if it doesn’t have anything to do with the topic we’re discussing.
  • When I need “space” the most, he usually denies me.  Sometimes during or after an argument, I just like to be left alone in order to calm down, but he suffocates me with coercive behaviors.
  • He’s complained and criticized me so much over the years that I’m scared to say or do anything without his permission, because I never know what will annoy him. It makes me feel inadequate, like I can’t do anything right. Sometimes, I wonder what’s the point in trying? Example: Recently, I made steak and broccoli for dinner. I didn’t talk to him about it first, but I thought it would be nice. When he got home, he already seemed like he was in a cranky mood. He sat down and started eating. The next thing I know he is throwing a tantrum, complaining that he didn’t want this for dinner, and yelling at me. When he got up to microwave his food, he forcefully pushed his chair and it fell to the ground.
  • He can be physically aggressive, too. Not too often, but he’s done things like pulled my hair and my pubic hair, pinched me, violently grabbed me, dug his fingernails into my skin, pushed me.

Not only has Ashton’s behavior affected me, but it’s infected me with its poison. I used to be such a joyful, loving, empathic girl, but I’ve become destructive myself. I’ve reacted in sinful ways that I am utterly ashamed of, including: anger, bitterness, defensiveness, resentment, and even hatred.  I’ve yelled at him, cussed at him, called him names, and hit/pinched/punched him.  I hate it when I respond to him like that; it feels absolutely yucky.  Living with him for a decade has taken such an ugly toll on me, and I refuse to live like this anymore.

I’m utterly defeated. I’ve been having severe emotional breakdowns and shutdowns, and suicidal thoughts. I’ve had panic attacks in the past. I’ve had enough of Ashton’s destructive behavior toward me, and enough is enough; he is not going to change (and I am not going to change, either) without severe consequences.

I just don’t know what to do anymore. I feel like a separation might be the only way that he hears that if he wants to stay married to me, then he needs to make serious changes. All other attempts to communicate that truth have failed. I’ve confronted Ashton with his behavior multiple times since we’ve been married, but he refuses to change (or he’ll change temporarily until he senses that I’m comfortable again). I’ve begged him to go to marriage counselor together, but he’s not interested. So, the purpose of the separation would be to bring him to his senses while giving me space and time to heal in a safe place. A separation would give us time to work on our own issues without the stress of living together. It’s a viable option.

I hope that I do follow through on this separation. I’m so sick, and I need to get well. My identity, dignity, and hope – the very essence of my being – are at stake.

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