Hey Dr. NerdLove,
Longtime reader. I absolutely love your advice. Thank you for everything you’ve done for people, including myself. I’ve never written in but your articles have helped me through a lot. But now I need something more specific. I don’t think I’ve seen this yet. Here we go.
I am a 29 year old female, married to a 32 year old male. We have a 1 year old daughter together. Unfortunately, for most of our relationship I have been emotionally abused by him. Gaslighting, trying to separate me from family and friends, downplaying my accomplishments, yelling, lots of yelling, calling me names, and abusing alcohol; he’s done everything. I, luckily, have pretty high self-esteem and never fell for the ways he would try to separate me from people. I still have close friends and are close to my family. And they have been my rocks through some real torture.
I can’t say his negativity hasn’t had an effect on my self-esteem, or zero effect on relationships. I’m still nervous to invite friends over, worried he will ignore them (he’s done that) and make them feel really uncomfortable. So I go to their house. There’s a lot of things I realized I’ve been doing to make him more comfortable at the expense of my discomfort. Also, so we don’t fight.
It kills me I never left him. I did once but he got me back. I view myself as this strong woman, but it’s been eye-opening to go through something I’d never thought I would go through. And put up with things I never thought I’d put up with.
I hope I’ve given enough background because all of this is to say, about 3 months ago, he had a realization as to how he was treating me. He came home profusely apologized and admitted there was something wrong with his brain. He has sought help and is seeing a therapist. He has cut back on drinking A LOT. And I finally see the original man I fell in love with. At least parts to him. He’s starting to love my family again, we are having fun again, he is actually helping me with our child, he is listening and talking to me more. The list goes on. It’s everything I’ve wanted except…
It might be too little too late. I keep having flashbacks of all the shitty things he’s done to me. I keep having panic attacks and my therapist says I have PTSD. Even in these good times I’m on guard. Idk if that will ever go away. The other part is, it’s not like he’s made a full 180. He has A LOT to work on. It’s wonderful he’s putting in the work, but he still has anger issues, he still has problems with my friends, and he has yet to recognize how his childhood has played such a big part on who he is (he had an alcoholic, angry dad). He has told me his childhood was great. From the little snippets I’ve heard, it was not.
I realize this evolution is a process. I’m trying to be patient and kind. But it’s really hard. Really really hard. And I feel so bad because I want to leave him. He’s finally doing the things I’ve asked him to do for years and I still want to leave. I don’t know if I’ll ever be over what I’ve been through, what he’s done and said to me.
Let me note, as the father of my child, he will always be in my life. And I want him to be a part of our daughters life. This isn’t a situation where I am worried for her. He is a good dad. So if we separate I’d like us to remain friendly.
Am I being selfish? What kind of person doesn’t leave after someone slams cabinets but leaves after that same person starts to love and appreciate them? I’m just exhausted. Absolutely exhausted. And don’t know what to do.