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Direct Answers – Hello

After discovering Rosalind Penfold’s graphic novel about abuse, Dragonslippers, I stumbled upon your website.

It’s stories like hers that make me think about my own relationship with my husband. Compared to the problems in her marriage, mine pale in comparison. My husband is a responsible and loving father, a hardworking family man, which is why I flip-flop on whether he’s really a jerk.

In the years I’ve known him, I have been living on eggshells, not knowing when his explosive temper might occur. In the beginning, I was confused when we had a conversation and he barely responded.

When I asked him a question and there was no response, I would say something like, Hello? Are you there? Next thing you know, he’s kicking my purse and throwing my things down the stairs in response.

One of my scariest memories was when we were driving to the airport. Complete utter silence. So as usual I said, Hello? Are you there? Within a split second, he’s driving recklessly, flooring the gas pedal and swerving in and out of lanes.

Then he turns to me and says, “I’m merging, can’t you see that! Don’t you ever talk to me when I’m trying to get into traffic.”

He once cornered me into our upstairs master bedroom with a knife during an argument. After he calmed down, he says and I quote, “I never intended to hurt you, but I wanted to show you how insane you make me feel to the point where I want to use this knife on myself.”

This is the person I have three children with. After one incident, on vacation at Disney World in 2009, his outburst triggered something I never felt before. I felt a boulder lift from my shoulders. I no longer cared, not one single bit. I felt I grew 10 feet tall. I thought the hell with his tantrums and hissy fits.

From that day on, I ignored him whenever he got upset with me out of the blue. As I got stronger, he started to change for the better, or so I thought.

Last year, not knowing when I would set him off for the most trivial of common, daily-life things, I was ready to divorce. But I had my kids to think of.

As a compromise, I moved into the spare room and only spoke to him when necessary. During the “separation” he improved his behavior and controlled his temper. Not a single outburst in over a year. I started to believe he’d changed. I decided to give it another try and moved back into our room.

Things were okay for a while, but the more they settled back to normal daily routine and conversations, and I let my guard down, the less patient he started to become. Bit by bit the old him started to reappear.

Just last week we were meeting with a gardener and I casually mentioned wanting to remove a lavender bush. Knowing from past history what might happen if I didn’t cover my bases and my ass and check with him first, I turned to him and said, “Of course, the decision is up to you.”

I had no idea how upset he would be. He used the word “ambush” to describe me catching him off guard and not alerting him to what I had in mind.

First of all, this was about landscaping, not a world crisis or a major purchase. Second, why use the word “ambush” which means to attack?

He’s back to his old self again. My daughter will be leaving for college in less than two years, but my youngest is only 10. I think I can hang on for 24 months, but no more.

~ Frieda

Frieda, reading your letter makes us wonder, if your husband wrote, what might he say? Next week we’ll answer both letters, yours and the one he didn’t write.

~ Wayne & Tamara

Column for the week of November 9, 2015

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