Pinings — Advice by Sherry Hughes

Abusive Relationship...

Hi Sherry,

Iíve been divorced for nearly four years now.  It was a very abusive relationship. It took me a long time to just get beyond the post traumatic stress, let alone trust people and think of myself as worthy in any way. However, here I am today a strong woman, more empowered than ever and chugging along through life ready to tackle its little, and not so little, challenges. Yet I have this problem with my ex-husband that haunts me. We have two children that I ďallowĒ him to see every other weekend for an overnight (he was not abusive with the children). Because of this I still must have contact with him. He has gone through a few women since I left him.

He told me of this one woman he was dating; her ex put her in the hospital. I knew as soon as he told me this heíd probably marry her. (It just fits the mold for an abuser.) Itís been almost two years since then and, yes, they are engaged (she asked him). The issue is that she has no clue why our marriage ended.

Personally, I donít fear him any longer, so why could I not tell her myself? My friends say ďdonít get involved, you canít save the world,Ē others question my motives. Honestly, she wonít care. Iím pretty sure that she is still in a huge amount of denial, fully under his spell, and I can relate, but maybe if he hits her or calls her horrific names she can remember as sheís crying she isnít alone in this, he did this before ... to me, before that to his mother, to his sister, to other women heís dated.

Nobody warned me, and I wish they would have. She has this empty, soul-less look in her eyes; I know he hurts her. She has a 4-year-old daughter that lives with them. He has told me he hates this little girl ó thatís another aspect of it that just drives me crazy. I want her to know that sheís better than this ó all women are!! So what do you think? I trust your advice.

ó Renee, Manchester

Dear Renee,

Congratulations on the work youíve done to turn your life around. Itís rough stuff that youíve been through and you sound like you are doing really well.

I wonder if someone had warned you about your ex if you really would have listened Ö I wonder because usually we have lessons that we just have to learn on our own. I think itís more likely that had you been warned that your ex was abusive, that you might have seen the truth more quickly and gotten out faster ó but maybe not.

The difficult part in this is that you donít want to make life difficult for your exís new fiancť, or more difficult. If she is already being abused, she isnít ready to leave or she is scared to leave.

I have wanted to warn people before ó to spare them the pain Iíve experienced, to let them know what they were getting into. And my motive was probably a good one mostly, but it was probably tinged with some revenge too.

As tempted as Iíve been, Iíve never taken that step.

First, Iíd worry about your children being around an angry person like your ex. Even though he isnít abusive to them, he sounds like a man with no self-control mechanism in place. I also worry about the 4-year-old. Children donít have any choices in situations like this.

As for speaking to the fiancť, I would probably not do that. I would encourage your ex to tell her the reasons for your divorce, to come clean with her. But heís not likely to do that at your request.

I know that over the years, youíve likely spoken to a counselor. Now might be a good time to speak to one again, and try and determine the best course of action.

One thing Iíve learned about the nature of abusive relationships is that even when we get out and are moving on, the abuser has a tendency to invite us back in for one reason or another Ė think of it as a ferris wheel ride. We ride around and around, at times, we are at the top and every thing is beautiful. Then we get to the bottom, and itís awful again. Then we go back to the top. After leaving an abusive relationship, the abuser often tries to get the partner to get back on the ride, to get involved in the chaos and the muck. You donít have to get on the ride again.

Sherry Hughes welcomes letters. Contact her at

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