Dear Mrs. Bluth,
I feel myself compelled to write to you about my situation because this year with Covid-19 has made it intolerable. Please don’t think I’m being overly sensitive or ungrateful for all the blessings I have, however, these past years prior to the pandemic I have been very unhappy. I am possibly overreacting and you may find my letter unworthy to appear in your column, but it is the only way I will see your reply. I feel that something needs to be done at this juncture as it is affecting not only myself, but my children as well.
I am a mother of five children, and married for thirteen years to a highly motivated and success driven ‘earner-learner’. Almost from the outset of our marriage I was surprised to find the easy going and mild mannered person I had dated turn into a critical and dictatorial man who had to have everything the way he wanted and often displeased with everything I did. At these times when his anger flared, he would take to using strong and abusive language to show his displeasure. I excused it away at first, attributing this to the stress of trying to build up a business and working from dawn till dusk.
I had no one to confide in to discuss my problem as I was always too busy taking care of the home and children and even if I did, I was too ashamed, thinking it was my fault because I didn’t do enough to please him. Over time things got progressively worse to the point of his not caring if he berated me in private or in public, not caring where, when or who heard his degradations and uncensored language towards me.
The problem has escalated to the point where my twelve-year-old son has started to use the same foul language when bickering with his sisters. Yesterday those words were directed at me and when I reprimanded him he said his father always said that I was useless and worthless, clumsy and stupid, so why don’t I just shut up! I was so taken aback at what this usually mild mannered child said and the vile tone of voice he used, perfectly imitating his father, that I realized how great the damage was. It is no longer just I who am suffering from the verbal fallout that my husband directs at me, but my children are deeply affected as well.
Out of a sense of shame and loss for what to do, I am turning to you to see if there is any way to salvage my family. Please don’t tell me to leave my husband because outside of this problem he is a good and loving husband and father when he is calm, and I truly love him. He has never raised a hand to me or the children and always apologizes for his hurtful words to me when he has calmed down and we are alone. It’s just that he works so hard, now even harder because of the pandemic, to learn, go to minyanim and make life perfect for us.
S.M., Queens, N.Y.
I re-read your letter trying to figure out why you tolerated such mistreatment from the beginning of your marriage! This has nothing to do with the pandemic or this man’s desire to succeed in business and provide for his family. What we are talking about here is blatant abuse, the kind that leaves no outward physical marks the way a slap or a punch does. The damage verbal abuse leaves behind is mental and emotional, affecting the abused spouse and the children who normalize this behavior and carry it into their own future marriages. Your children are deeply affected, as is depicted by your son’s behavior towards you and his sisters. The damage has already begun.
You don’t want me to tell you to leave your husband, so I won’t, because you should have considered this long ago. As much as you don’t want to admit to what is clearly evident, your husband is a classic abuser who inflicts his wrath and displeasure on his wife and/or children, stripping them down to dust on the ground, stealing their self worth, so as to satisfy his rage, and then he apologizes, swearing he’ll never do it again. But the damage is done, just as if he had raised his hands and beaten you. But the marks he leaves are on the inside, and your children will grow up thinking this is the way all marriages are and this is the way you treat your spouse. Did a light bulb go on yet, or are you still making excuses in your head?
If you have no intentions of leaving this abusive man, then at least think of your children and get them into therapy post haste! I’m not quite sure you know what love is if you could have put up with all the hurt and humiliation at your husband’s hands, which is a strong indication that YOU need therapy so that you can find yourself before he manages to destroy whatever little self-esteem and dignity you have left. If he doesn’t want to go for therapy with you, then know that life will never change and his behavior will only get worse. The choice is yours to save yourself and your children. And if your husband truly loves you and his children, he will go with you for therapy. Otherwise, there is little hope that even when life returns to what we once believed was ‘normal,’ yours will never be any better than what you have now.