After menopause 10 years ago, I developed a terrible anger problem. My husband and I went to marriage counseling, but I stopped going after a couple of months. My husband begged me to stay in counseling for my issues, but I didn't listen.
He put up with my anger for years, but eight months ago after one final angry outburst I had toward our 16-year-old daughter, my husband had a meltdown, cried and said, "That's it." He left saying he wouldn't live another day like this.
But after two weeks he came home on weekends. He stays near his work, which is about three hours away, Monday through Friday. We don't sleep together or even in the same room, but we are on good talking terms, go out to eat and do errands together when he's home.
I love him dearly and he's a great dad to our daughter. Since he left I've been going to a therapist for anger management and working hard. My therapist thinks I'm doing well and others notice a change, too.
When I asked my husband if he thought I was doing well, he minimally agreed I was. But when I press him about reconciling, his standard line is, "Today I don't want to be married. Who knows how I will feel in a year." He won't go with me to marriage counseling.
I'm nice to him, cook him dinners, and I guess I hope he changes his mind. Occasionally he still says he wants a divorce, but he hasn't attempted to file papers. He said if we divorce it will be in two or three years.
His emotions run hot and cold. One day he wants a kiss and a hug, the next day he doesn't. What's up with that? Should I keep things the way they are and hope they get better? Or should I file for divorce in the near future?
Margot, he put up with your anger for nine years, and you expect him back in nine months. Nine years of anger changed him more than eight months of your attempts to stop torturing the family.
By leaving he finally showed you that there is another human in this relationship. And he is the more considerate one. He gave you nine years to stop. Agents of abuse never seem to understand why their victim finally says, "Enough."
There is a normal pattern of the reformed anything. By "reformed anything" we mean a person who is an alcoholic, drug addict, batterer or just plain angry. When that person makes the first attempts to change, they expect others in their life to accept them as they now claim to be.
The victimizer doesn't get to decide the timetable for the victim. That is just more abuse. You don't know what you put them through. Someone didn't do this to you. You did this to them, and you don't know how you altered them.
Your husband leaving finally made you start to change, but your daughter has mostly known an angry, nasty mom. What is dad showing her? When someone you love abuses you, you need to walk away.
What is his biggest fear? You will reprise your act. Why does he say, if there is a divorce, it will be in two or three years? He wants to wait until your daughter is 18 or 19 before he makes a decision.
Pressuring him to get back together shows him it is all about you: your time schedule and what you demand, as in the past. You still haven't come to terms with what you did. If you had, your question would be, Why in the world would he come back to me?
If you had asked that question, it would mean you appreciate what you've done, and your recovery is as far along as you think it is.
~ Wayne & Tamara
Column for the week of January 27, 2014
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