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Advice from Dr. Stanwix – Addictions and Abuse

Advice from Dr. Stanwix – Addictions and Abuse
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A comment for last week’s advice column appeared last Saturday on our website. It was on the subject of domestic abuse. My apologies to those of you who wrote in before, but I feel this comment requires an immediate response. Spousal abuse is just too important to not address immediately.

Dr. Stanwix

Here is last week’s comment from Zina:

Should I divorce my spouse of twenty-five years because of his addictions, which have caused him to be violent towards me? The violence is in the form of pushing, name-calling and arguments that my teenage son hears often. I haven’t divorced in the past because I need his income to remain in our home and provide food and other necessities.

Dear Zina,

I am very sorry to hear of your problem. Unfortunately, spousal abuse is much more common than we would like to think. It comes in many forms and what you have described in your comment is definitely an example of this abuse. Whether you should divorce your husband or not is certainly something we can explore. However, the most important thing for you to do is make him stop abusing you immediately. Next, you need him to seek help for his addictions.

I realize you are in a difficult predicament because you rely on your husband to support you and your son. However, you need to get out of your house as soon as you possibly can before your husband’s violence toward you escalates. This is not a question of if, but a question of when. See if you can arrange for you and your child to stay with a relative or friend for at least a week or two. Make the preparations for your departure; take whatever you will need for the next few weeks over to your temporary home. Once you have everything taken care of, inform your husband that you are not going to put up with his abuse or his addictions any longer. When you do so, I suggest you don’t tell him in person. Call him or write him about your decision. DO NOT TELL HIM WHERE YOU ARE!

You also need to document this abuse with the authorities. If you haven’t already done so, file a police report. You can also contact a domestic violence hotline:

National Domestic Violence Hotline — 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE)

Safe Horizon – 1-800-621-HOPE (4673)

By calling these numbers you will receive important information that will help you through this difficult situation. You will also be able to document that your husband is abusing you. Keep in mind you don’t have to have bruises or broken bones to be considered an abused spouse. However, you do need to have some documentation that this abuse has gone on, especially if you plan to file for divorce. By calling these numbers you will be able to speak to someone who can tell you how to properly document the abuse and receive information about important services that are provided to victims of domestic abuse. One of these services is temporary housing while you resolve the problem with your husband.

Your son definitely should not be witnessing this type of behavior. By letting it continue you are (in a way) complicit in making him think that this is how men treat women. You should talk to your son about your situation and make him understand that what his father is doing is simply not right. He may also be suffering emotionally by being exposed to the abuse your husband gives you. Although you are the main victim, your son is a victim as well. Just like you, he may need some counseling. Once you get this situation settled, make sure that you both talk to a professional about this.

Once you have safely separated from your husband, make it clear to him that you will not return to him until he promises to seek treatment for his addictions and promises to stop abusing you. When you discuss this with him, make sure that you are either in a public place or in a place where there are friends and family members present to protect you in case he becomes violent. While you may think that he won’t be abusive, it is always better to play it safe. You also need to be firm in your decision. Do not let him sweet-talk you into coming back if he is not prepared to seek treatment for his addictions!

As for whether to make this a permanent separation or not, that depends on how he reacts to your requests. If he seeks help for his addictions and promises not to abuse you anymore, then you may want to consider giving him another chance. However, that is entirely up to you.  If you can find it in your heart to forgive him, then your relationship may have a chance. If you don’t think he will change or you no longer love him, it’s best to make this separation permanent.

Once you are on your own with your son, things will be difficult. Your husband will be responsible for paying alimony and child support; however, this depends on the settlement you receive once your divorce comes through. You must also consider whether he will actually pay these once you are divorced. Once you’re separated, you will have to find some sort of job to support yourself.

Please don’t stay in this relationship only for the financial support. You can always get assistance from the government while you are getting back on your feet. Once you are able to make your own living, you will be happy you made this decision. You will be protecting you and your son from further harm and beginning an independent life that will eventually be much better than the one you have now.

Best of Luck,

Dr. Michael Stanwix





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