Dear Neil:  Can counseling help a situation such as ours?  My marriage from the start has involved verbal, emotional, mental and at times physical abuse.  Police have been involved several times.   In the most recent incident, where things got somewhat physical, I left the home.  My husband, thinking I was going to contact the police, contacted them first—and claimed that I had physically assaulted him.  Because he did not provide them with my contact information, a warrant was issued for my arrest.  I was able to give the complete story to the city attorney’s office, and they are now recommending that the case be dismissed.  My husband is aware of the damage he has called by lying, and still takes no responsibility for his actions.  He makes it seem as if I deserve all that I’m going through.  I feel as if there is no hope for us, even though I love him.  Emotionally I feel betrayed and deceived by the one person who I thought I could trust with my life.  It is as if I am sleeping with the enemy.  Should we end this before someone really gets hurt, or is there hope?

Unsure Of What To Do In Colorado

Dear Unsure of What to Do:  Abuse is not love.  It’s one person attempting to have control and power over the other person, and in your case it’s also about your husband protecting himself and covering his backside.

This isn’t a caring or loving way to be married.  And yes, it is dangerous.  You are apparently having difficulty coming to grips with the fact that you are in a hurtful and unfriendly relationship that is doing you harm.

Your husband sounds as if he and has low self-worth.  So he is attempting to chip away at your independence and low self-esteem by intimidating, undermining and demeaning you, so you will feel off-balance and unsure of yourself.  His goal is to disempower you so you’ll then be too weak to leave him.  As long as he keeps you weak and disempowered, he’ll feel safe around you.

Here’s what I’d recommend:  How does it feel internally—inside your body—to be around him?  What do your internal warning signals say about staying with your husband?  We all receive these internal messages from our bodies, although often they’re vague and sometimes even contradictory.  But if you tune into your own internal early warning system, what is it saying to you?  Is your stomach in knots?  Do you have headaches?  Anxiety?   Depression?   Low self-confidence?   Do you feel hopeless?  Devalued?  Although normally there are many reasons unrelated to your husband about why you might feel those feelings, if your answer is “yes” to one or more of these signs, take that to mean that your body is telling you that you are in danger around your husband.

Abuse is not love, its anger and control, and it seeks to dominate, not love.  You must feel safe if you’re going to love and feel loved.  I would advise you to force your husband into intensive abuse therapy (AMEND has a 36 week program) in order to exercise greater self-control over his emotions and actions.  Then the two of you need marriage counseling in order to learn more effective conflict resolution, compromising and negotiating skills—as well as how to sustain love and trust.  If he refuses to do this, get out of this relationship before you get hurt even more.

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