Carolyn Hax: How to find courage to leave a selfish husband? She already has it.
Dear Carolyn: I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I tried denying it, ignoring it, running away from it for about 30 years. It caught up with me in the last year or two, knocking on my door, demanding, “Deal with this or die.” (Or, that’s how I felt about it.) I sought help from a therapist. Actually several therapists. Still seeing one. I’m trying to work on it.
Meanwhile I haven’t been capable of having any kind of intimate physical relationship with my husband for about the past year, without going into a blind panic. I asked him for a break from sex while I try to sort all this out. From the day I told him, he’s been harassing me for sex. Then it turned into, “I could go get sex with anyone if I wanted to.” Is this supposed to be some kind of threat? Guilt trip? Manipulation? Then about a month ago he told me he wanted my permission to go sleep around with other women. We have been married for 17 years.
Whatever happened to “for better or worse”? One therapist told me, “Well, he didn’t sign up for a relationship without sex.” Well, I didn’t sign up to get repeatedly raped when I was 10-12 years old. I never said, “No sex, ever again.” I asked for a BREAK. Lord knows I’ve helped him through his own issues, including seven years of alcohol addiction.
After his request for an open marriage, I told him he needed to find somewhere else to live. Now. He has since moved out, but I can’t move past feeling like he stuck a knife in my back. I have never felt so disrespected. I feel like the world’s biggest idiot, and a pile of used trash who is of no value to anyone except as a sex object, all over again. Seventeen years of giving him everything I had, and one request plus a short time without sex, and he’s done?
Please, a little perspective would mean the world to me right now.
Lost, Sad & Angry
Lost, Sad & Angry: I’d change your signature, if I could, to “Sad, Angry & Found.”
Your situation is so awful, but it’s a truth, and truth is the only soil that grows beautiful things.
Your own phrasing suggests you know this, or are just a nudge away, when you say you had to deal with this or die: Dealing with it means you can finally start to live.
Your husband’s deplorable reaction reflects the poisoned soil stunting your growth these 30 years. You were not healthy, so it follows that neither your partner nor relationship was healthy. This isn’t your fault. You are not an idiot. You are not used or disposable or valued only for sex. You are just living the legacy your abuser forced on you.
You are also clearly ready to face this legacy and tear it down with your bare hands (and with the therapist who didn’t try to normalize your husband’s selfishness, I hope). Having the strength to kick your husband out proves better than I ever could that you’re ready for this. You’re ready to tell your trauma that it won’t make decisions for you anymore — you make them now. I hope I live with half your courage. Godspeed.