Learn from my Motherfucking Mistakes (An Occasional Series)

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I’ve actually answered this before! 


Here’s a heavy one.
My husband and I have a bad relationship. We got married when we were young and stupid (I was 19/20, he was a few years older) and things were ok until kids happened and we got out of school. Now, I feel like I don’t know him at all; he’s turned completely into his dad, including with how he treats me – there’s a lot of emotional/psychological abuse from his dad to his mom, and husband has picked up some of those habits. But I fight back, so there’s a lot of yelling and anger in our house.
I’ve tried to fix it. We’ve had conversations over the nearly 9 years we’ve been married. I’ve explained my emotions and my reactions and listened to him, but things never change. And he adamantly refuses to go to couples counseling or to see a psychiatrist to see if he has any mental health problems (I know I do, and I’m treating them with meds. We just found out his mom has severe bipolar disorder, and he still refuses). He claims we can work things out on our own, but the spiral just continues.
I want to leave. I’ve threatened divorce several times, but I’ve never had the courage, or funds, or close support to get out. I don’t want to take my daughter from her school – she has behavioral special needs, and the teachers who work with her are a dream. I have no income of my own, and the closest family to us are his parents, who wouldn’t be any help if I did leave, so I have no money of my own to hire a lawyer for any divorce proceedings. My friends are all telling me to leave so I can finally be happy, it’s just that I feel trapped by all the details of actually trying to get out and where will I go and what will I do with the kids. I’ll admit in my darker times I wish that my husband would just die so I don’t have to deal with any of it, and I could be free. I feel horrible for wanting that but it doesn’t stop me from wanting it.
He knows I’m unhappy. It’s affecting my daughter’s behavior at school, and my younger son’s behavior at home. And he’s not really that bad of a guy, it’s just… not working. And it didn’t work from the beginning; there were these same signs when we were dating, I just never noticed.
How did you do it? Just pick up and leave? How can I do it without becoming a villain to both my and his family? Where did you find the courage? How can I do this with no income? I’m tired of being mistreated, but I’m scared to be on my own. How did you do it?
Tl;dr in a bad marriage, husband refuses to change, have counseling, or divorce, how do I leave and give my two young kids a good life?


This is such a difficult situation. First of all, let me send you so much love and assure you that you are doing the best you can in a terrible situation.

I can only talk about this from my own perspective, and my answer is, I didn’t feel I had a choice. We also tried for a long time to fix the issues between us. I am not going to go into the details of that. We both made a lot of mistakes, but at the end of the day what it came down to was that we were deeply incompatible and I realised that if I stayed I was just going to fall ever deeper into a spiral of depression and drinking and cheating and I didn’t want to be that person. I especially didn’t want to be that mother.

So I just left. Honestly, I was a bit of a basket case at the time. I didn’t have much of a plan or really anywhere near the support I needed, but I felt like if I stayed I was going to lose myself, so I just left. And then I just kind of stumbled through the first couple of years desperately trying to keep my head above water. I just sort of dealt with the next thing in front of me, and then the next, until I reached a point where I could breathe again, but it was really very fucking hard and sometimes I look back on those two or three years and wonder how the hell I survived.

A big part of the answer to that is that I live in New Zealand, and we have a relatively decent welfare system, so I was able to get a single mom benefit, and even some mental health help. While it really wasn’t enough to live on, realistically, between that and my freelance editing skills, I managed to limp through.

I also have a lot of really amazing people in my life, so when things got really impossible, my friends and family helped out.

If I was going to give advice, I’d say don’t do it the way I did. Heh. See the title of this column. Be smarter about it. Start setting up some kind of financial buffer if you can – that’s the big one. Start looking into where you could live. Is there somewhere where you would have more support? Check the schools there. Check the rent prices. Is there something you could do for money? You don’t say whether you worked before kids, or what skills you have, but start looking into those things now. Find out what help there is in your country. Are there organisations that might support you? Knowledge is power.

As for being a villain to your families… you know, my attitude to that is that you have to do what is right for yourself and for your children. It’s not best for your kids to grow up in a house full of anger and unhappiness. Showing your kids by your own example that it is possible to take control of your life and pursue happiness is a good thing, in my opinion. If your family doesn’t understand that, then, frankly, that’s their problem. And I don’t think you should really care at all what his family thinks of you. You may be a villain in their version of events, and that may just be something you have to live with. But you need to do what is right for you and your children, and what other people think of that is kind of irrelevant.

Your question about where I got the courage is hard, because when I look back, I don’t remember feeling like I had a choice. I remember agonising about it, because I wasn’t sure what the right thing to do was, but I also remember the moment when I realised he was never really going to understand the things I needed, the reasons I was so unhappy, and that that meant I had to leave both for myself and for my son. Because my kid deserved better than a chronically depressed alcoholic mother. And that was where I was heading. And once I saw that, I just… told him I was out. And that was that.

I never changed my mind, I never regretted it, not even when things were really hard afterwards. I just put one step in front of the other through that awful, impossible, desperate time, and eventually things got better. But I won’t lie to you, it was bloody difficult. There were times when I wasn’t at all sure I was going to survive it.

But I look back now at the mountain I climbed, and at my life now and it is so so much better, so I believe it was worth it.

I would recommend more planning than I put into it, but I also think that if you have tried and tried and you’re still miserable, at some point you may just have to do what you need to do. If you’re someone I know and you’d like to talk specifics, get in touch. I will help in any way I can.

Much love. May you find a way through. ❤