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Ask Dr. Sherry: 'My Abusive Marriage Is Affecting My Kids and I Want Out'

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Dr Sherry Profile Two

You've seen celebrity clinical psychologist Dr. Sherry Blake, author of The Single Married Woman: True Stories of Why Women Feel All Alone in Their Marriages, keep the Braxton sisters calm on the hit show Braxton Family Values. Now it's your turn to sit in her chair...

Dr. Sherry,

I am a 44-year-old married woman and I want to end my marriage. My husband and I were high school sweethearts. We’ve been together for 28 years and married for six. I have never dated anyone else from the age of fifteen. I should have ended the relationship many years ago. Our relationship/marriage has been filled with emotional, mental and verbal abuse at times by my husband. There was also physical abusea few times that no one knew about. (Not excusing it.) He refused any type of counseling for us or him. I have basically checked out of my marriage mentally and emotionally and I want to go physically too. However, when I think about it, it terrifies me. I no longer care about what happens in this marriage but I’m not sure how to leave. I allowed myself to get depressed about it and admit it has affected my relationship with my family and my work, even though I'm no longer allowing that to happen now.

I have three adult children and three beautiful grandchildren. I have realized that staying in the relationship for so long has affected the way my children deal with their own relationships. Two of my children are in abusive relationships, one is verbally abusive and the other is being abused. I have talked to both and suggested counseling for us all. I know that I have failed my children for not standing up and leaving a long time ago. To be perfectly honest, when I look back at my childhood I find myself mirroring my mother being abused by my father. It has not stopped and she’s 65-years-old. I never looked at my life in this way until my children began having their own relationships and I learned about their abuse. I’m so pissed at myself and I often apologize to them for not being stronger, as I thought I was a better mother.

If I could do one thing it would be to show my children that it’s never too late to make changes. I have to file for bankruptcy (it’s necessary) and by doing so it will force me to confront my fears and realities. I have reached out through my employer’s work/life management program and have been set up to meet with mental health care specialists too. I know I need a plan, I’m just not sure where to start. I am financially capable of taking care of myself even with the filing. Although, I am definitely leaving, I have never felt so unsure and confused. At times I have trouble sleeping and feel some anxiety. Any advice or words of wisdom is appreciated. You're never too old to learn.

Warm Regards,

Getting Out

Dear Sis,

Congratulations! It takes a lot of courage to break the cycle of abuse. Stop beating yourself up for not leaving sooner. Some women never leave. Your strength and courage will not only help you and your children but many other women too. Women tend to stay in abusive relationships because of fear of the unknown and issues related to their self esteem. Many women develop a sense of "learned helplessness" after being a victim of abuse. Their self esteem has been reduced so low that they truly believe that they are helpless and have no power to change their situation. You and others in abusive relationships have the power to change the situation, but often just do not have the courage. Courage is not easy to find when you have been beaten down emotionally, verbally or physically. The abusive relationship is really about you and not your husband. Your husband can only do to you what you allow to be done. You stated that you checked out of your marriage mentally and emotionally but fear keeps your there physically. Do not let fear control your life!

As frightened as you may be, it must be more frightening to see your children in abusive relationships too. That is a real wake up call for your life. You are doing the right thing by focusing on getting your life together. Seeking psychological therapy will give you an opportunity to work through your emotional pain and let go of the guilt. I would also recommend that you also participate in group therapy for women who have been abused. After years of being in an unhealthy relationship, you must learn what a healthy relationship looks and feels like. You deserve happiness and a healthy relationship. Keep moving forward with your life and don't turn back. By walking away from abuse, you are walking into a new you. Enjoy it! -- Dr. Sherry

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