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Frequently Asked Questions

All questions are answered by Larry James. When you are finished with this page, follow the links listed after the Q & A to go back to "FAQ Topics" or to read the "next" question and answer.

Q I have been married to my husband for 6 years. We have a 4 year old daughter together. I have not been happy with the marriage for a few months now. He has physically abused me in the past, and verbally abuses me often. I want to get out of the marriage but I'm afraid. I am not sure why I'm afraid. I feel guilty for wanting out, and feel even worse about hurting my husband. He doesnt even have a clue that I feel this way. He quit his job that he has been at for 12 years. And wants me to sign for his 401K. My lawyer has told me not too. But I know if I stay in the marriage I will have too and when I decide to get out the money that I would have gotten from the divorce will be gone. And my children and I will have a hard time making ends meet. (I also have a 9 year old son from a previous marriage). He is very tight fisted with money so I know I want get any. He only allowes me $100.00 a month to buy groceries and things the kids need. . . so I am not sure whether it's my heart or my head telling me to get out of the marriage. How can I tell which one to follow?

A You MUST leave. There is NEVER a good reason to stay in an abusive relationship. If you cannot do it for YOU, then do it for the sake of the children. Your home is a school. . . what are you teaching your kids.

This may not be what you want to hear, but it is what you NEED to know!

When anyone physically abuses you, you must know that they are taking out the rage they feel within. . . on you! What is upsetting to them now goes much deeper than what they are really angry about that causes them demonstrate their anger by physical abuse.

RED FLAG: What you have described is an emotionally and physically abusive relationship.

SHOCKING FACT!!!: Over 1,300 women are killed each year by their husbands, ex-husbands, or boyfriends! An estimated three to four million women each year silently endure abuse or travel to hospital emergency rooms following an assault by their husbands or partners. (Source: A February, 1993 Congressional Quarterly, Inc. report).

Your husband must agree to be responsible for maintaining his own well being. Physically abusive behavior is not being well. Therapy is always a wise choice when (not if) recovery is intended (not just talked about or desired).

You need help! So does he. . . AND he must be responsible for getting help for himself! You cannot help him except by removing yourself and your children from this unhealthy atmosphere.

You know the relationship is over when one partner REFUSES to work on the relationship!!!

By the way, never let him tell you that HIS behavior is YOUR fault! It is not triggered by anything that YOU do. It has nothing to do with you and EVERYTHING to do with HIM! This behavior is sick!

Experience shows that this type of behavior is not likely to change and in most cases will only get worse.

WARNING: Any kind of physical or emotional abuse is never a GOOD reason to stay in an abusive relationship. NEVER! You MUST leave the relationship NOW!

I strongly recommend you read the books The Verbally Abusive Relationship: How to Recognize it and How to Respond and Verbal Abuse Survivors Speak Out: On Relationship and Recovery. Two other books to consider are Women Who Love Too Much: When You Keep Wishing and Hoping He'll Change and "Answers to Letters from Women Who Love Too Much." You can find them in our online book store or your local book store.

For local referrals or CONFIDENTIAL counseling, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline (24 hours a day - English or Spanish): 1-800-799-SAFE (1-800-799-9233) IMMEDIATELY for assistance! For emergencies, please call your local police at 911. The National Domestic Violence Hotline also has a website:

When you love someone, you treat them with RESPECT! Physically abusive behavior demonstrates the highest level of disrespect!

For what GOOD reason would you want to stay with someone who treats you like that? I'm sure that you love them, but for your own safety and the safety of your children I would encourage you to leave NOW! You can love someone and not be with them.

You will have to learn how to deal with it. Dealing with it is leaving the relationship!!

The hardest thing you will ever have to do is to leave. If you think you can't make it on your own, take my word for it, YOU CAN. Many women in your situation have felt the same way and they have survived. The National Domestic Violence Hotline can offer suggestions. They can handle all forms of abuse. Please don't let anyone ever tell you that YOU have to change in order to prevent him from abusing you, it is simply not going to work. He is not a reasonable person or he would not abuse you in this way. We all do things that anger our love partners but reasonable people can talk about those things and don't have to throw a temper tantrum or call their partner names or whatever they do.

Hang in there! You are a precious human being and you do not deserve to be mistreated. You deserve only the very best! And to have it. . . you must BELIEVE it!

Emotional abuse is just as damaging as physical abuse. The difference between the two is with physical abuse you are wearing it on outside for the world to see and the other is felt deep inside. It will fester and grow into resentment, anger, depression and cause you to feel as insecure as he really is. Don't allow him to drag you down to his level.

You don't NEED a relationship be be a whole person, you only need yourself. When need goes away, choice shows up. When you are needy, you have no choice. You only rush headlong into relationships, never clarifying your needs, nor making sure they get fulfilled. You are too busy doing things for the one you love, out of fear that if you don't, he will go away. If you are in this boat, please know that if you continue on this path, he may eventually go away anyway and usually not before he has left permanant scars on you and your children.

It's time to take care of you! Therapy is always a wise choice. Please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (1-800-799-9233) IMMEDIATELY for suggestions about how to receive therapy in your area.

If you answer "Yes!" to several of the following questions, I urge you to pick up the phone and call the National Domestic Violence Hotline!

  • Does your partner intimidate you through looks or actions, destroy your property or display weapons?
  • Does your partner continually put you down, call you names or humiliate you?
  • Does your partner control what you do, who you see and talk to, and where you go, limiting your involvement outside the relationship?
  • Are you made to feel guilty about the children, orhas your partner threatened to take the children away?
  • Has your partner prevented you from getting or keeping a job, made you ask for money, taken your money from you, or refused you access to family income?
  • Does your partner treat you like a servant, making all the decisions?
  • Has your partner threatened to kill you or commit suicide if you leave?
  • Has your partner forced you to drop assault charges against him or made you participate in an illegal activity?
  • Has your partner ever hit you causing injury, bruises, broken bones, or other injuries that reportedly result from "accidents?"
You are encouraged to exercise the wise choice to go to therapy alone. This is called taking care of yourself. If YOU can see there is a problem, understand that it is not just your love partner's problem. . . it is a problem of the relationship and that makes it your problem too.

Each love partner is only and always responsible for their own personal growth. When there is a relationship problem, it's not just HIM who needs to change (although it may seem that way). . . your own personal reluctance to change your own behavior by leaving a physically abusive relationship keeps you stuck along with him and the relationship. You will need some professional assistance in working through the difficulty the problem is causing for you and your children.

Always remember, the therapist cannot fix you. They can provide ideas, suggestions, guidelines, encourage new ways of being, etc., but YOU must do the work! You must work on yourself with the therapist.

By the way, therapy doesn't fail. If we must find blame: perhaps we should consider the person who would rather be right than happy. People like this often fail to make the necessary effort to work TOGETHER to make the relationship a healthy one that works. A relationship with physical abuse is way past the point of working together. Therapy works if you do!

Please do the work that is necessary to truly 'take care of you!' If you don't, who will?

Work on YOU! How do you work on YOU? You begin by really paying attention to what YOU need to be fulfilled as an individual. Focus on YOU! Think about how you are being when you are with yourself. Self inquire!

Ask yourself: Are you happy? Sad? Disappointed in where you are in the relationship you have with yourself? Angry? Resentful? Loving some or most of the time but not all of the time? Do you like you? When you are alone do you feel lonely? Are you always blaming others for what happens to you? Do you know that something is missing in your life and you are not quite sure what it is? Are you always looking back? Do you know what it feels like to live in the present; to really be present to what is going on? Have you lost sight of what you really would like to have in the area of relationships? Do you know specifically what YOU need from a relationship? Have you really ever thought seriously about that? Are you feeling sorry for yourself? Upset because of the kind of people you attract into your life? Have you reached a point where it is pointless to complain because you now know that relationships are what you make of them? Do you know down deep inside that there must be something better?

These are just a few questions you can answer that will cause you to begin to understand that no matter how hopeless or great things look, they can always be better. You have a choice in how your life turns out! Choice is your greatest power.

How do you work on YOU? You begin to get totally honest with yourself. You begin holding yourself accountable for who you are in the matter; how YOU feel about the way things are. Then. . . if you decide (and only when you decide) to do something different, you promise yourself (and keep your promise) that you will do everything within your power to be happy instead of right. Or in other words, discontinue justifying what doesn't work and begin to do something different.

How do you work on YOU? You read good books about relationships that stimulate your thinking; that inspire you to a better way of living. You attend seminars and workshops, not just about relationships, but those that stimulate you to change the way you have been. Become involved in a support group; one that supports you in being a better you. Begin to journal; really getting honest with how you feel about things, etc. You work on YOU!

What are the benefits of working on YOU? The reward for working on you is: you feel good about who you are. You really love you. Not the self-centered love that distracts you from being loving to others, but a genuine love of self; the kind of love you can share with others. Loving you for who you are causes you to begin to feel like a whole person. At that time you may be ready for another relationship. Unless you wait for this magic moment, you may always continue to be disapointed with the relationships that show up in your life.

If you cannot handle the most important relationship in your life - the one you have with yourself - then you will never be able to truly relate to the ambience of the coming together of two people. We spent so much of our time being concerned about the relationship we are in with someone else, that we forget about ourselves. This could be called "losing yourself in the relationship."

Many people agree that working on you takes discipline, determination and doing something different. The relationship we have with ourselves and the relationships we have with others is hard work. This, we know is true: We must work on our relationship all the time, not only when it is broken and need to be fixed, however, it must never be a struggle. Relationships become a struggle when someone is not pulling their fair share of the load. It's hard to feel good about yourself, when you know you are letting your love partner down by not giving yourself full attention. It's difficult if not impossible to pay attention to the overall relationship unless you know how to focus attention on yourself FIRST.

Two broken people can't fix each other. You only have the choice to fix yourself. AND to begin, you have to acknowledge the problem. Broken people seem to attract each other because they can relate to, "Something is missing in this relationship!" The opposite is also true!

So. . . never stray from the path of self-discovery. Always know where you stand with yourself. The only way you can do this is to be attentive to, and intentional about having the best relationship with yourself that is humanly possible. This means you must always work on YOU first. When you are ready. . . a relationship with someone else will be there; you will find each other. However, you must always remember. . . healing the hurts of an abusive relationship takes time.

Can you imagine? Two, whole, healthy people, together! Each feeling good about themselves; loving themselves and sharing that love with each other. Can you imagine?. . . BOTH love partners working on the relationship they have with each other and supporting each other in their own personal growth? If you believe it, really believe it, and make sure you are always doing the best you can to cause it to be this way. . . anything is possible.

There is no other like you. This is it! Don't waste time! Never stop working on YOU.

You would be wise to also take the advice of your attorney regarding the 401K.

Always listen to your heart. It always tells the truth.

Additional resources: An Affirmation for Letting Go
Domestic Violence Sucks!
For Your Eyes Only: Learning to Journal
Personal Relationship Coaching

Larry James is available for one-on-one personal relationship coaching by telephone. Click here for details.

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Frequently Asked Questions is intended to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. In no way should any advice or opinions expressed on our site be considered as a substitute for professional counseling and treatment.

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