I read your letter in the Jewish Press (H.O.P.E. – Hold On, Pain Ends) and can identify with much of what you wrote about. I never had the courage to get divorced, thinking that if my life was miserable now, how much more miserable would my husband make it if I shook the waters.
I did not have family to support me and was worried about finances. I also thought that if I try to please my husband, he would be kinder. The one lesson I learned was that controllers are bullies, and you do not fight bullies by being nice; the only way to fight a bully is to bully back. The only rights I have gotten in my marriage were achieved by fighting back and not by being nice.
I too went to many sholom bayis speeches and tried to treat my husband as a king. But all I got in return was treatment fit for the king’s servant. Again I repeat that bullies need to be fought with toughness. I believe girls need to be taught that when you are dealing with normal people you can be mevater (give in) and be nice. But there is a time when one must take a stand. I wish all sholom bayis lectures would include this in order to prevent unnecessary hurt.
Instead of preaching to the choir, it is high time rabbanim focused on preaching sholom bayis to the real culprits, the men. Hatzlocha to you; I am sure you will be happier in your new life. And just know that there are women out there who know exactly what you are talking about.