Dear Neil: My husband left me four weeks ago. We have been married for two years, together for four and have two children, ages 4 and 2. I was pregnant when we met and am now 27. (He is 24.) We have been fighting a lot, and he is often angry at me. Frequently he rages at me, and he’s hit me several times.
But I’m not ready to give up on him, and I forgive him. I was sexually and physically abused as a child, and I consider him my best friend. So recently I gave him a gift: a picture of us when we first married (with the wedding vows written around it) and an engraved bracelet. He threw them in my face. I asked if he still loved me, and he said no. But I love him, and I don’t know what to do.
He doesn’t see the kids unless I drive him (he doesn’t have a car), and he’s refusing to pay any child support. He also won’t talk to me anymore, is nasty toward me and blames me for everything that has gone wrong. He said he does not want to be with me anymore and has pushed me and the kids away completely. I am afraid of letting him go. Please help.
All Alone in New Zealand
Dear All Alone: He’s just not that into you, as the expression goes. He is being clear that he wants out of a relationship with you, and no matter how much you love him and forgive his transgressions, you are not going to change either his mind or his heart.
But what you are inviting is for him to become more violent toward you, because you are not accepting his “no” and you’re forcing unwanted contact on him.
People who come from abusive childhoods find abusive adult behavior oddly comforting and familiar. Especially if you were beaten or sexually abused with the words: “I’m doing this because I love you,” it becomes easier as an adult to confuse abuse for love. So he gets nasty toward you, blames you, criticizes you, hits you, refuses communication with you and tells you point blank that he does not want you anymore — but you are forgiving him and are unwilling to accept that he wants out. That is dangerous. You are telling him that he has to get more forceful and violent in order for you to finally get the message and back off.
ACCEPT YOUR LOSSES
He is very clearly saying “no” to you. You are not going to convince him otherwise, no matter what you do. Only he can do that, and he doesn’t appear to be so inclined. The only wise thing you can do, therefore, is to accept that he wants out — and mourn for the loss of your dreams, the loss for your children and the loss of your marriage — all of which you are avoiding by refusing to let him go.
Accepting this painful reality will assist you in licking your wounds and in looking carefully at what lessons can be taken from this experience. You would be wise to look at how you can grow and become better because of all of this, the mistakes you are determined not to repeat in your next relationship and how you’re going to manage being a single mom with two young children. But you are not going to win him back by being a sweetheart and forgiving him. He is telling you that, for whatever his reasons, he doesn’t want to be with you anymore. And for the record, there are laws that determine child support — the decision is not up to him.
You are coming face to face with your fear of letting him go and also your fear of being alone (and maybe abandoned). But you do not want a man who rejects you or finds fault with you too often, is too judgmental or critical, hits you or who doesn’t act friendly and respectful toward you. You don’t want someone who doesn’t want you — that is rough on the ego, and it hurts. You want a man who values your happiness, who cares for your well being and who does his very best to please you. Don’t you?
Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Westminster and Boulder. His column is in its 21st year of publication and is syndicated around the world. You can reach him at 303-758-8777, or email him through his website, www.heartrelationships.com. He is not able to respond individually to queries.