Psychologist Chris Hart's advice on leaving an abusive marriage [Courtesy]

Hi Chris,

I have been married for 10 years, and for the most part, I have been wanting to leave. But somehow I never do. My problem is that my husband is often very rough. He gets angry, says the most awful things, and can be quite violent. Afterwards, he is always sorry, and we get along for a while. But I am always on edge, watching for the signs that we are heading towards a row again. And no matter how careful and nice I am, it always happens sooner or later. Am I right to want to leave? I tell myself I am staying for the sake of the children, but I do not understand why I cannot seem to go.

Abused Wife

Hi Abused Wife!

All relationships have their ups and downs, and every couple occasionally gets so mad at one another that they come close to blows. But they stay in control. Except maybe for some broken plates or a few strong words.

But your husband is abusing you. You are always on edge. So is he. That may sound hard to believe, but he is perpetually afraid you might leave him or stand up for yourself. So he uses physical or emotional abuse to try to control you.


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And the reason you find it hard to leave is that the abuse occurs in cycles.

A cycle starts as the tension slowly rises between you. You avoid your husband or saying or doing anything that has sparked off trouble in the past. But inevitably some trivial clash occurs. Or he has had a few drinks. Or he is angry about something at work. Or he just picks a fight for no obvious reason at all. An argument starts, and he quickly becomes abusive.

By the next day, he is sorry and even affectionate. You want to believe he means it, and that this is the person you married. Things calm down, and it feels like the relationship is back on track. But before long, you can feel the tension rising once more, and so the cycle starts all over again.

 Abusive partners rarely accept responsibility for their behaviour [Courtesy]

Things are unlikely to get better. Because abusive partners rarely accept responsibility for their behaviour. And nothing you can do will make any difference at all.

Frankly, you are only one step away from tragedy. So make plans to be able to leave the house with your children at the slightest sign of trouble. Because the situation may quickly get out of control.

Later, make sure your husband understands that you won’t tolerate his behaviour. Say what you will do if you feel threatened in future, and do it. Such as spending the night with relatives.

Do not cover things up. Talk to a counsellor and try to get your husband to also see a counsellor because that is the one thing that might help. And start planning to end the relationship. For your safety and your children’s.

All the best,