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4/14 Interactive Board: Codependent Partners

3/23 Interactive Board: He's Changing... I'm Not...

3/1 Interactive Board: D/s Lifestyle

1/14 Interactive Board: My Purrrfect Husband

12/12 Interactive Board: What if He Could Have Changed?

10/23 Interactive Board: Quandary Revisited

8/24 Interactive Board: Quandary! What's Going On?

7/20: Dr. Irene on cognitive behavior therapy and mindfulness

6/12 Interactive Board: Unintentional Abuse

11/7 Interactive Board: Is This Abusive?

12/29 Interactive Board: There Goes the Wife...

11/4 Interactive Board: A New Me!

10/8 Interactive Board: Seeming Impossibility

9/8 Interactive Board: My Ex MisTreats Our Son

5/1 Interactive Board: I feel Dead - Towards Him

4/26 Interactive Board: Why is This So Hard?

4/19 Interactive Board: I Lost My Love...

4/7 Interactive Board: Too Guilty!

Why Won't She Leave Her Abuser?

Why Won't She Leave Her Abuser?

February 13, 2000

Dear Dr. Irene:
Your web site is very informative and is an inspiration for victims of verbal and mental abuse. I hope abuser types find it inspirational too!

I recently am having a very heated affair with a victim. The control of the abuser is so strong that it is near impossible for the victim to leave her abuser. She is going for help to try to break out of this 20-year relationship. It seems almost impossible for her to leave. The abuse has been excessive - so excessive that he conforms to three quarters of the list of warning signs that you have on your site

He has tremendous issues that he refuses to get help for. As a matter of fact, he told her to get help because he is not going to change and she should. He is like a pimp and she is his whore. She works six days a week and gives him her pay check. She cooks every night when she gets home, does the wash, cleans, shops for food, and at the end of the week she has little or no money of her own. She has to ask for money and then she gets questioned about where she spent it. 

He on the other hand constantly is on the computer in private rooms and has private conversations with 15 and 16 year olds (he is in his 50s). He goes for massages every week, yet starves her sexually (our relationship takes care of that problem). She constantly has to walk on egg shells, and is afraid to say anything that might get him mad. 


Now why is she having so much trouble leaving him? She says she is not in love with him and she swears that she is in love with me, and believe me, she is - by the way she acts and the love that we have. It is extraordinary. What is the problem here? Please help me.

Dear Me,

I don't know what the problem is. Have you asked her what she thinks the problem is? Would she tell you, or would she be afraid to hurt your feelings too?

Certainly part of the problem is familiarity. If this life is all this woman has known for the past 2 decades, she knows the ropes, so to speak. She knows what to expect and she has made adjustments to ease the pain. You are probably one joyful adjustment, though I am not necessarily suggesting that is all you are. More possibilities:

bulletShe may not know how to tell him. 
bulletShe may not know how to get out. 
bulletYou may not know the whole story.
bulletAre children involved? Finances?
bulletPerhaps she is comfortable in a marriage where she has one idyllic nook: your relationship. 
bulletPerhaps she does not want to risk losing her oasis of happiness.
bulletPerhaps she fears going from the frying pan into the fire: what if she married you and you became like him!

What can you do for her? Not much. Only she can control her life. You mentioned she is getting help. Good for her.

bullet Give her time, and lots of it. 
bulletTrust is likely to be a big issue for her. 
bulletShe will need to test you over and over again to make sure you are not like he is. (After all, look what happened the last time she trusted.)
bulletShe needs to assure herself that it is not all about YOU this time...

What can you do for you? Well... This situation cannot feel very good for you. She bends over backward for him, but won't budge for you - and you are the good guy! Why compromise yourself this way? You may want to consider becoming friends with her as opposed to remaining lovers! 

Removing sex is likely to clear lots of things up for both of you. Certainly, your self-esteem will benefit since you will no longer be waiting in the wings. Also, never forget that the foundation of a good marriage is a strong friendship. Sex is just wonderfully yummy icing on the cake, but sex is not love. Unfortunately, sex also obscures problem areas and incompatibilities. Where would the love you share fit in a sexually abstinent relationship?

Think about it...

Good luck to both of you, Dr. Irene