How To Escape Abuse
How Do I Get out of Marriage that’s Emotionally Abusive?
Q: I am unhappy in my marriage. My husband is verbally and emotionally abusive to me and the kids but I can’t afford to leave. What should I do?
A: Of the two issues you need to address, the first one is logical, practical, and, in some ways, easier. It’s important that you take the time to do some research in order to better understand your legal rights and your financial obligations. Schedule an appointment with both a lawyer and a financial planner — the information and support you receive from these experts will help you look at your situation from an educated perspective. As you expand your knowledge base and see that there are other choices open to you, you may come to a different conclusion about how to plan for your future.
The second major concern is emotional. Being in an abusive relationship is psychologically draining and extremely detrimental to your feelings of self-worth. Typically the abuse itself will be followed by feelings of guilt on the part of the perpetrator and then a loving period will ensue. This dance repeats itself until the victim is worn down and unable to act on her own behalf. So, in fact, you eventually become emotionally bankrupt.
Although divorce is financially costly, the true cost of divorce is its effect on the family. It’s possible that your husband is unhappy in the marriage, as well, and will be open to negotiating an equitable agreement. As there are children involved, their best interests are paramount, according to the courts, and child support is a mandatory part of the divorce agreement. If yours is a longstanding marriage and your primary work has been as a homemaker, your husband will be court ordered to pay spousal support — and this will change only when you have re-trained and are sufficiently prepared to return to the job market. So there are some built-in measures in the legal system that will act on your behalf.
Men typically tend to know more about financial matters, so be sure to continue educating yourself. Women considering divorce sometimes don’t get all that they deserve because they are afraid, don’t want to alienate their spouse, or are anxious to be finished with the process. Don’t be willing to give up your rights, especially if you have primary custody since your financial situation will directly impact your children. Begin to develop more financial autonomy by opening a bank account, exploring part-time work options, and by getting a credit card in your own name. These are viable first steps toward creating a new life for yourself.
Think about what you value and the goals you have for your children and yourself. Talk with a close family member, a good friend, a therapist, or a coach; investigate a local shelter for abused women. By facing your concerns head-on and getting the support you deserve, you’ll begin to build more self-assurance and confidence. Before you know it, instead of asking what you should do, you will know — and you will be making the decisions that will best serve your own needs and your family.