Posted by: canthold | April 17, 2008

Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing

Recently, someone that I love very much hurt my feelings. She let her husband and in-laws control her ability for us to get our kids together. While I don’t see this person very often, she didn’t make the required effort to stand up to them and say that she’s going to come visit me (only five miles away) and that was that.

But I have also long believed that this woman is emotionally abused and not only by her husband, but by his family, as well. Remembering this key fact helped lighten my anger, but enrage me again for that sad, cold fact.

I don’t think that she believes she is abused, which is the cunning ability of the abusers use to make you feel it’s your own fault somehow. I know this because I experienced it firsthand in my first marriage. This horrible man would threaten to kill my cat if I didn’t comply. He would tell me that no one else could possibly love me with all my faults. And he called me a loser.

On some level, I didn’t really believe all of it. But I had a strong sense of commitment to follow through with my marriage vows, and so I let him chip away at my self-esteem for six painful years. On the outside, we appeared to be a fun-loving couple who may have had a few problems, but they could be worked out, right? Carol, you just need to try a little harder now.

It took me a year to recover after our divorce and I absolutely refuse contact with him at all since. We ended our marriage on perfectly amicable terms, too. Especially if you consider how nice he was to me when I walked away leaving him everything except my clothes. I started my new life with new dishes, pots and pans, and a futon. All of which were purchased for me by my best friend at the time and my dad, who also helped with first-month’s rent (in a cockroach-infested apartment, next door to a park where you could hear gunshots.) I had nothing else.

So when I see this person that I love dearly experiencing something similar, I recognize it for what it is. It is not marital problems that can be dealt with, it is abuse. Plain and simple.

I was venting my frustration about not being able to help her understand what’s happening to her to another friend yesterday. In the course of the conversation, I told my friend about how my ex-husband hit me once. Actually, he punched me. And I proceeded to say that it wasn’t indicative of the relationship. He only hit me that one time. He was belligerently drunk when it happened. Excuses every one of them. Only then, 14-years after we’ve been divorced, did I finally realize that I was making excuses for his hitting me. Still.

There is absolutely no excuse for him to have hit me. Spousal violence is NEVER okay.

And it became all the more clear to me that this person, whom I love dearly, is in a very dangerous position because she’s at risk of never getting out. She may never have the gumption to pack her bags and leave. She may never have the courage to stand up for herself.

Please check out this link. Dear Abby prints this column every year or so and it’s so important to recognize the signs of abuse. I have personally witnessed 6 out of 15 in the time that she’s been married and only she can answer to whether there are more.

I don’t know what to do for this person. I can’t watch a train-wreck, but I’m afraid to take my eyes off. Since she’s been isolated from friends and family, I think that I need to remain a lifeline, but it’s hard to watch without being able to take action.

(Also good to check out here and here.)



  1. That’s just so awful. I don’t know what I’d do.

    We had a situation with a family we knew when we lived in Florida. I babysat for them a ton, including weekend-long stints. Turns out the husband, who was a prominent stockbroker and member of the SAFEPlace board, had been beating the wife for years. When their boys were in college, the husband beat the wife to death with a golf club and then shot himself.

    Don’t give up on your friend. Keep offering your friendship, even though it may get rebuffed. She needs someone on her side. And the fact that you’ve been in her shoes and have gotten out makes you an especially valuable resource.

  2. […] presents Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing, a great post on spousal abuse and when you know someone who is being abused by their […]

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