Stayed When I Shouldn’t Have

Dear Robin:

Four years ago I was at the end of my rope with my marriage and told my wife I wanted a divorce.  

She talked me out of it and convinced me it was in our kids’ best interests to stay together.  At the time they were 10 and 8.

She promised things would get better and I admit they did for a while, but then they went back to where they were. Then they got worse.

My wife is a very angry woman with a terrible temper.  She flies off the handle on a regular basis and yells at both me and the kids, but I definitely get the worst of it.  I am embarrassed to admit she has hit me and thrown things at me on occasion and last week was the final straw when she spit in my face over an argument about a carpool.

I told her that’s it and I want a divorce.  She’s back to begging me to stay and said the kids are at the worst age possible and we should at least try until they are out of the house.  

She is making me feel very guilty and threatened to tell everyone about an affair I had 4 years ago, something I am very ashamed of.

What is the best or worst age for kids to go through a divorce?  Do you think she can change?  I don’t think I can take this anymore.

Portland Paul

Dear Portland Paul:

The first best age for your children to go through your divorce would have been the day after you married this abusive sow.  You could have saved them the heartache of being spawned into your house of horrors.

The second best time would have been 4 years ago.

The third best time is now.

Your letter makes me sick.

It makes me sick for you: a man who should be angry he is being abused instead of embarrassed and who is wasting his life with an abominable woman who probably can change, but won’t.  That’s not your fault because we live in a society that does not take female abuse of males seriously at all.

It makes me doubly so for your children who are living in a world in which treating other people like garbage is the norm.  To say you aren’t doing them any favors by remaining married is the understatement of the century.

Your Wife

  • When we talked you told me the initial improvement 4 years ago coincided with her entering solo therapy and marital counseling with you.  Unfortunately she decided she’d rather not participate in either activity anymore, and after a few short months your relationship reverted to the Bobby Brown/Whitney Houston show.
  • You also told me the last time she threw something at you it was the TV remote and you had to have 6 stitches on your forehead.
  • Your wife has threatened to expose the affair repeatedly over the past 4 years.  I think you can safely assume that little cat is out of its bag.
  • Your children are frightened of her.

Paul, don’t make me come over there and beat some sense into you.  I think you’ve had enough abuse to last a lifetime.

If I had a dollar for every time I hear someone opine that it’s better to stay together “for the sake of the kids,” I’d have a truckload of money to donate to my new charity, “Kids Fucked Up by Their Parents’ Marriage.”

Not only are your children suffering from the day-to-day stress of living with an unpredictable and enraged mother, they are also becoming accustomed to this norm and will grow into adults who think it’s OK to throw things at people and use screaming as their preferred method of communication.  

You don’t want them becoming notorious Portland divorce lawyers, after all.

By the way, the spitting thing?  That’s really gross.  It’s one of the most hostile acts I think a human being can do to another.  Your wife may want to stay married to you, but I’m fairly certain she hates your guts.  You may want to pour your own drinks and make your own meals until you get out of there.

My Advice

  • Leave.  Now.
  • Document everything that has gone on.
  • Hire a good lawyer if your wife will not agree to counseling and at the least 50/50 parenting time.
  • Make every effort to conduct the divorce as amicably as possible under the circumstances, even if she does not.
  • Consider going for full custody if she cannot control her behavior.
  • Get your children into therapy STAT so they can begin healing, understand it isn’t their fault that mommy is a psycho bitch, and to ensure they don’t absorb this paradigm and make it their own someday.
  • Get yourself into therapy STAT so this never happens to you again.  You need to get to the root of why you allowed yourself to be treated this way for so long.
  • Stop worry about whether people know you had an affair.  My bet is most people would give you a high-five and an “atta boy” for finding a tiny piece of happiness in your miserable life, even if it was fleeting. Do you still have her number, by the way?

Paul, you are only 49 years old.  You told me every day with this woman is a terrifying and depressing struggle.  Are you seriously considering 2,190 more days?  Because that’s how long it will be until your youngest is off to college and by then you will be 55.

If you are unable to look at it from your own place of safety and emotional well-being, I implore you to consider that of your children.  

Divorce is a gift to children like yours, not a catastrophe.  

Your kids deserve to grow up in a peaceful setting and you are thwarting that while convincing yourself it is in their best interests to remain mired in the Hell that is their home.  I urge you to take action today and let me know how you are doing soon.

Thank you for trusting me with this letter.  Please be strong enough to do what is right for you and your children.  I know you can!





This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. tamsen

    OMG. This letter is so scary. WHY OH WHY do people think it’s best to stay in an unhappy relationship/home “for the sake of the children”? It’s the worst thing you could possibly do to them. They need to see some normalcy, gain a sense of stability (and I mean emotional, not “staying together” that way, that isn’t normalcy) and they need a Dad who will stand up for himself and not accept the kind of abuse that bitch has been dishing out for the kids’ whole lives. It’s not OK and it never was OK. If, at some point down the road, Dad finds a nice, stable, loving relationship, that’s what the kids need to see. And I would re-affirm that if that bitch doesn’t shape up, he needs to fight for sole custody. In my mind it is quite likely that her out of control temper will now be solely focused on the kids since she will be under stress with a divorce, and the Dad isn’t there to use as a punching bag. I find leaving the kids with her through this very troubling.

  2. LuLu

    In case Paul might read these comments, I have one thing to add – I’m in complete agreement with Robin’s post, and I agree with Tamsen’s comments right up until she talks about being concerned about the kids staying with their mom during the divorce. Do NOT let that thought stop you from leaving the abusive relationship (which, I agree, you do not want to continue modeling for your kids).


    She may just as easily spit-shine her outward self in an effort to “win” the divorce and custody, and she probably won’t want to risk alienating them. I also just don’t think she’d do any worse to them than she already has, and they’ve grown up with it – they can handle this transition and will benefit HUGELY from what they get to see on the other side of it: how at least one of their parents begins to conduct a healthier and happier life on their own.

    They’ll then have the luxury of comparing exhibit A (ex-wife on her own) with exhibit B (dad on his own), and likely have all the information they need to make good choices about which sort of person they want to be and be with, both in the coming years as kids and as adults. Do it now, Paul – this is actually perfect timing. They’re (more than) old enough to deal with it, but not yet so old that it’s indelibly tainted the footsteps of their adulthoods – their teen years.

  3. Keith Stone

    Robin is right… get out. I went through this and it was worth it. The kids will appreciate your set of balls to do the right thing… reset the balance.

    Great writing Robin.


  4. SavageWotan

    I, of course, totally agree with Robin. You are doing your children no favors by maintaining this undoubtedly highly stressful household and allowing the children to witness (and they know what is happening) the actions of this abusive shrew. Children will model their relationships on what they witness in the home and how their parents conduct themselves. I do not want to diminish what will undoubtedly be a wrenching process, but I think that you should relish the idea of having your own place and establishing a place of refuge for you children. I do not think that you can conceive of how dramatically your lives will change. I will also tell you this–you will go through emotional difficulties in the divorce. But you will come out the other side, and one fine day you will be on a golf course or out on a bike or at some place of great beauty without the burden of this bitch, and you will know that it was all worth it to get away from this bitch.
    As an aside, I dabble in martial arts. We get inured to people striking each other from television and movies which makes physical violence seem so casual. However, in real life, hitting someone (or spitting on them for that matter) without provocation or not in self-defense and injuring them is a really big deal. You need to consider the mental state of someone who has had children with you, but would strike you out of anger. It is a huge violation of your person and is simply not something to be tolerated under any circumstances. That is the red line in any human relationship. I worry that if you are not around to be the punching bag this woman will start hitting the children. You really need to consider going the restraining order route and getting full time custody (as daunting as that may seem) until she can demonstrate that she has her anger and violence issues under control.

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