Dear Neil: My husband and I have been having problems since I had my son. I became depressed after having my son two years ago. He began drinking heavily, saying that was the only way he could deal with me. He began pushing me on the floor regularly to get me back in line, and he taunted me until I became submissive to his demands. I kept on telling him what I thought was wrong, but he blamed me for it. He was very abrasive with discipline, and he stole things from other people.

Now I want to leave.   But when I told him I was going to leave, he suddenly admitted that what he had been doing was wrong, and said that he wanted to change. He blames everything on alcohol and drugs, and says he doesn’t even remember doing half of the things he did because he was so drunk. Now I don’t know what to do. I want to leave, but I feel guilty.

Unsure of What to Do

Dear Unsure: Doesn’t it seem a bit funny to you that he wants to clean up his act only when you threaten to leave?  What happens when he feels confident that you’re not going to leave? Will he remain Dr. Jeckyl, or will he turn back into Mr. Hyde?

Unless he gets extensive drug, alcohol and abuse counseling – and stays with it consistently over time – he is very likely to revert back to his old behaviors.  (The program AMEND offers a 36 week counseling program for domestic abusers, and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meet at many different times throughout the week.) At the very least insist on a six month cooling off period where you live apart—so you can watch his recovery from afar.

But personally, I think you are better off dumping this loser and working to improve your own sense of self-worth, so you are not tempted to ever again permit yourself to be treated so poorly in a relationship.  If he begins to be threatening or abusive to you or your child—call the police on him.  You can do better than this.

For the future, here are the signs of an abusive person:

  • Jealousy.  Very possessive. Wants to know who you are talking to, what you said or where you were.  Is quick to accuse you of wrong doing or of having questionable motives.
  • Controlling.  Wants to control the money, who you are with, what you buy, what you say, what you feel.
  • Insecure.  Takes things personally.  Is extremely defensive.  Nothing is his/her fault.  Has a hard time owning up to a mistake or accepting accountability for wrong doing or poor decisions.  Blames others.  Gets argumentative or belligerent when confronted with anger or criticism.
  • Threats of Violence.  Threatens to hurt you or others or to destroy property.
  • Past Violence.  Has hurt you or others in the past or has destroyed property.
  • Cruelty to animals or children.  Excessive harsh discipline. Can get brutal and very insensitive.  Expects an animal or child to be more advanced or controlled than they are.
  • Verbal Abuse.  Ugly name calling.  Tries to undercut your self—confidence or self-esteem. Attempts to shame or degrade you—or others.  Uses cruel, mean, critical words.
  • Isolation.  Tries to cut you off from family and friends—and sometimes from even going to work.  Wants you within his/her control all the time.
  • Sudden mood swings. Turns from sweet to angry with little provocation.

Has your relationship turned cold and distant? Neil’s book Love, Sex, and Staying Warm can help you rekindle your passion.

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