Dear Dr. Archer,
I'm now touching the bottom after three years of mental and physical abuse from my husband. We have a baby and he yells, insults me, threatens me, degrades me, grabs my throat and spits in my face in front of our baby daughter.
He was diagnosed as bipolar, and since then he doesn't have any motivation. He has been to therapy maybe four times, and gave up the medications because they didn't help him. At times he acts completely crazy, and then a few hours later he acts like nothing has happened.
He never apologizes, and when I want to talk about what happened, he refuses to talk. Then at other times he will cry and say he regrets it and wants to change, but he doesn't seek medical help!
He makes me miserable, and I have become completely isolated from the world. I don't see people anymore, because he makes me feel guilty because he never sees anyone himself. I feel like he owns me.
He made me believe he was going to commit suicide and disappeared for several hours. I left to go to my grandma's house to eat with her and spend an evening with my aunt. When I got home I went to bed. He was certain I had slept with someone and freely insulted me all night. It was horrible and I was scared. I did not deserve to be treated that way!
I want to leave him, but when we talk about getting a divorce, he gets very, very angry and refuses. My family, after years, finally believes he has violence issues -- he's so nice with everyone else, no one believes he can act this way! Until, that is, I videotaped him and showed my family. Then, they believed.
When he gets mad, it looks like he enjoys the state he's in. He smiles and his look scares me -- he looks like Jack Nicholson in the Shining. Please tell me what to do. I am lost. I am even scared to leave him because he gets so angry when I bring this up, and he refuses any discussion about it.
I have called the police once, as I thought it would change him, but it has gotten worse. His rants used to happen once every six months, then once every three months, then every month, then once every two weeks, once a week and now, it's about every other day, and sometimes several times in a day.
My life has become unlivable, a psychological nightmare, and I have a baby to care for. Please help me. Thank you.
I want you to read your own letter as a friend, and then I want you to tell your friend what she needs to do. You know what you need to do; you just want to hear it from someone else. His behavior is escalating and your life is at risk, you must act now.
You and your baby must leave this dangerous situation before something tragic happens. My first concern is your safety, Maud. Make sure you and your baby are safe.
I urge you to keep in contact with your family. Have your aunt come pick you and your baby up for an afternoon. Pack the diaper bag with things you need -- a sort of getaway bag -- to keep at her house. Each time you go, take more things, or if he leaves for work, pack up some things and move them; little at a time, not enough for him to notice. Do this as soon as possible.
Choose someone to stay with, preferably a family member, or if that’s not an option, you can always go to the women's shelter. Once you leave, inform police about his threats and where you will be staying, so they can at least be on notice.
Do not discuss this with him because you already know how he's going to react. Be sure you pack up your videotape so you have a record of his behavior. When he gets angry, don't try to discuss anything, Maud, because he's not rational.
Whatever insults he throws your way, please don't take it personally. That's what he's trying to do, but don't buy into it; it's all about making you feel inadequate while he makes himself feel superior and in control.
And about him threatening to kill himself? It's a common tactic batterers use; it's another form of control. Don't fall for it and don't feel guilty. He has put you in a life threatening situation and your first thought must be to save yourself and the baby.
When there is a time that is safe, make your escape. This needs to be within a week, again your life is at risk. I would like to say one thing, an abused woman, on average, leaves her abusive husband seven times and returns before making the final permanent move. That's because of the confusion, the fear, guilt and the incredible sadness.
I urge you, Maude, to overcome these feelings and put your daughter first. Remember, being raised in this atmosphere will most likely guarantee your daughter will be abused when she is a woman, and she will consider it normal behavior. This, alone, should keep you from ever returning.
You are in a dangerous situation, and I do not want you to become a statistic. Please form a plan with a your family and then carefully carry it out. After you are safe you can talk to an attorney. Normally I recommend doing that ahead of time, but you have no time for that until you are safe.
Take care, and I wish you the best of luck. Write back after a while and let me know how you're doing. I care.