Marriage in Abeyance

23 Oct

Dear LetterBalm: My husband and I have two young children. He’s been out of work for several years and has been unable to find any kind of decent employment. I know a lot of families are going through this because of the slow job market. I’ve had to take a full-time job, while he stays home. He’s been drinking a lot, so he’s doing nothing to take care of the house. I’m handling everything – cooking, cleaning, laundry – and paying all the bills, including childcare. My husband has become a sloppy, surly, alcoholic mess. He’s disrupted family gatherings. He yells at me and the kids (often scaring them) and refuses to seek therapy. Friends and family have tried to talk to him. He sits in the dark late into the night, drinking and watching porn. I’m at the end of my rope. I still love him, God knows why, but I want to divorce him. Help!

–Married to a Drunk

Many marriages are certainly under stress from underemployment. But your marriage is in full-blown crisis. Your husband is angry and depressed, and, worse, he’s frightening his young children. Ms. L.B. says you must cast a wide net to protect yourself and your kids – try employee services through your human resources department, look up local clinics for affordable counseling, and see an attorney to review your rights regarding a trial separation. You’re already supporting your family and your home. It is your husband who must leave and consider his options. Follow your attorney’s advice and talk with your husband when he is (relatively) sober. Be mindful that he may not leave quietly, so open with this – more discussion to come:

Owen, I’ve taken steps to begin a trial separation. I’m not going to recite a litany of what you’ve done – you’re an intelligent man, and you know you’ve behaved badly in the past few years. But I will say that I must protect myself and the children from your abusive behavior. I know times have been tough for you, but you’ve hit rock bottom. Only you can decide if you want to get better and participate once again in the life of your family. I miss my husband and the kids miss their father. You need to find a place to live, and you need to consider what you want to do. It’s in your hands.

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