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She's Finally Dumping That Abusive Philanderer – But Why Is It So Hard?

03 May

Dear Belleruth:

After being married for 33 years to the same man since I was 21 years old, I have asked for a divorce. He has been unable to change his emotionally & verbally abusive behaviors, in spite of counseling. In October, I discovered he was having a sexual affair (2nd time) with a woman younger than him (he is 58, she 45). He said he wanted a divorce, that he has been unhappy a long time. I said fine, I will make this happen.

I am fed up with him, but I feel so sad, heartbroken really, in spite of the problems.  What do you suggest for all the emotional upheavals? Please change my name to Kathie. Do not give my last name or email.

-Kathie
 

Dear Kathie:

Sounds like you're doing the right thing (although why he can’t make his own divorce happen is a bit of a puzzler... no doubt he couldn’t pick up his own socks either...) Oh, and by the way, I’m betting there were more than just 2 flings, just between you and me... usually, that’s just the tip of the iceberg..

But, hey, why wouldn’t this be sad?  For better or worse, this has been your life since you were twenty-one, and you’re parting with it.  That makes for grief, regardless.  You’re also parting with whatever your hopes and dreams were about this relationship when you first married this guy – that’s sad too.  But don’t confuse “sad” with “bad idea”.   It’s also scary to be down to just one of you when you were used to being paired… liberating but scary.  Nothing’s simple, eh?


 

I say, stick with your plan - it's a good one, in spite of the pain, which will come and go in varying degrees but eventually should pass. Your self-esteem will bounce back the longer you are away from this jerk, provided you don't find another one just like him.

Yes, any one of these guided imagery CDs would be helpful: Tranquilities For Persons Experiencing Grief, Attracting Genuine Love, Relaxation & Wellness, Posttraumatic Stress, Anger & Forgiveness, or Relieve Stress; also Emmett Miller’s Accepting Change & Moving On. Start with one or two and if you find them helpful, order another when you’re sick of those.

Here is an interesting program for your perusal – the components of a successful program for battered women who have been traumatized by their abusive partners, created by Edward Kubany and Susan Watson at the Honolulu V.A. I just want you to see what it consists of. It’s aimed at alleviating PTSD, depression, guilt, shame, and negative self-esteem in formerly battered women.

The main treatment components include:

  1. Exploration of partner abuse history and exposure to other trauma;
  2. Education on the nature of PTSD;
  3. Imagery homework;
  4. Education on maladaptive self-talk (talking trash to yourself about yourself);
  5. Stress management and relaxation training;
  6. Cognitive therapy for trauma-related guilt;
  7. Education on assertiveness and responses to verbal aggression;
  8. Managing unwanted contacts with former partners;
  9. Learning to identify potential perpetrators and avoid re-victimization;
  10. Education on positive coping strategies that focus on self-advocacy and self-empowerment (e.g., placing oneself first, decision-making that promotes self-interest).

If your couple’s counselor is skilled in several these approaches, continuing alone with him or her could be a big help.  Or you might want to start fresh with somebody else.  You can also find some good pointers in self-help books and online support groups, too.

Dianne Schwartz's website, Educating Against Domestic Violence, - http://www.eadv.net - is part of a network of sites providing help for domestic violence victims.  (Dianne is also the survivor of an abusive marriage, and this is a terrific support network. Her book, Whose Face is in the Mirror, is a good read for you, and her message boards will immediately make it clear that you are not alone!)

Good luck and have faith in a future without this clown! It’s waiting for you. All you have to do is tough this part out and learn from your experience.

All best,
BR

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award