Tell Me About It

How can I tell my husband it is over and I want a divorce?

 I want it to be over but part of me wants to be friends for our daughter’s sake

PROBLEM: How can I tell my husband that it is over and explain to him that I want a divorce without making him angrier? I’ve been married for 14 years and within this time my husband has put his hands on me more than once. It wasn’t a daily or even a weekly occurrence, but it happened.

After about 10 years of marriage an incident happened that resulted in my husband going to jail for three months and it left me alone, and my daughter was taken to my mother-in-law’s. That was the first time that I ever cheated on my husband. Afterwards, I told him and begged him to take me back.

We were together for about three years and, even though there wasn’t any physical abuse, there was verbal and emotional abuse. I am no longer sexually attracted to my husband. I have told him this and I have told him why, but he doesn’t seem to care – it’s all about what I’ve done to him and how much I’ve hurt him. We’ve been separated since January, and since then I’ve realised how controlling he is of me.

I want it to be over but a part of me still wants to be friends for our daughter’s sake. He’s threatened to take his own life and blames me for the life choices he’s making now.

I’m scared to even file divorce papers because I don’t know what he will do.

ADVICE:  It seems like a good idea that you and your husband have separated, but, of course, that is only part of your journey together, as you have a child that needs both of you to be part of her life for a considerable time to come. You don’t say who your child is living with since the separation, but her safety and security is what is paramount now.

It may be beneficial for you to have some psychotherapy to help you understand the years you spent in such a relationship

Your husband’s threat that he will kill himself is demonstrative of a man who needs mental health support. It is unlikely that he will be able to participate in a process that leads to divorce until this happens. Mediation is something you should both consider. It is provided free by the government and it allows professional facilitators to help you both navigate all the issues of permanent separation including parenting, finance and future communication. (See citizensinformation.ie for your local service.) Divorce may be the end goal for you but there are some important steps to take before this can happen.

Your mother-in-law has demonstrated an interest in her grand-daughter’s wellbeing so she may be someone you could approach about getting help for her son. If he is threatening to hurt himself, he will need those who love him to intervene and seek support for him. Your daughter needs her dad not only to stay around for her development but also to be a functioning adult she can lean on. It may be that his family GP could refer him to the local community mental health team, where he would get a variety of assessments and supports. The difficulty is that your husband might see your involvement in this as a condemnation and criticism of him, and this could make him reject offers of intervention. Can you set up a coffee with your mother-in-law and start the conversation? It may be possible that she will keep your involvement low key so that there is a better chance of engagement from him.

 If you commit to self-development and to support for your daughter, you will have done all you can

You speak of your husband’s controlling behaviour, and while you are exiting this relationship you will need to protect your daughter from any future episodes of him attempting to control her. It may be beneficial for you to have some psychotherapy to help you understand the years you spent in such a relationship so that you may then be able to help your daughter develop a mechanism where she does not feel responsible for her father’s feelings or actions. You don’t say what caused your husband’s incarceration, but it seems that it was traumatic for the whole family, leading to your daughter leaving her home for some time. Again, this trauma is likely to have repercussions for all of you, and perhaps a family therapist could be helpful here; they can see both individuals and members of the family as the need arises. See familytherapyireland.com.

You have already separated and the next step is divorce. If your husband refuses your offers of help and intervention, you have to accept this and continue on the path to divorce nonetheless. If you commit to self-development and to support for your daughter, you will have done all you can. Above all you need to realise that you are not responsible for his decisions or actions. This can be a difficult stance, given your years of feeling responsible for him, but for both yours and your daughter’s sake it is a stance worth taking.