Here’s an absolutely heart-breaking letter I got in yesterday. It’s used here by permission. Some details have been changed. I get more of these than, God knows, I wish anyone ever had to write. If you’ve ever wondered what it really feels like to be stuck in a horrifically toxic marriage, here you go.
Dear Mr. Shore,
I am sure by now you’ve received so many messages and emails in response to your article 7 Reasons Women Stay that you might be tired of emails from women like me. I read your article several days ago, and I have pondered and pondered and thought about it so deeply, having difficulty getting it out of my head.
I have been married for 14 years; I’m now 44 years old, with three wonderful children who are part of every breath I take. My marriage has never been great, but has gotten much worse gradually through the years. Before my husband and I were married, he told me that he would not marry me unless I earned a college degree. I earned not one, but two degrees, and then gave up my career to stay at home with my first born, and then subsequent children.
I feel crazy writing a perfect stranger, but frankly, I am at the end—with no where to go. I grew up in a dysfunctional home, with an alcoholic father. I grew up always guessing at what “normal” was. I felt “rescued” when I met my husband … but gradually I began to guess at what was ‘normal’ again inside of my own marriage. Always feeling uneasy, threatened if I didn’t do things just as they were supposed to be done. Always feeling that I, and now the children, have been a burden because he can’t join the golf club, or travel. Because I don’t “contribute” the way he does. He gave me a newspaper article with the pie chart with how much people earn, and told me that I am worth 19K a year because that’s what childcare providers earn.
I sought counseling and stayed in it for a year in a half … my husband would not go because all of the problems were mine; “when you get fixed, our marriage will be fixed” is all he ever said. Telling me constantly that I need to exercise, and, a week after our third was born, that I should start doing sit ups. I feel so worthless, and have remained for so long because he tells me that without him I will be on the streets. I am afraid. He calls me names to our children, and tells them that “mommy is ruining everything,” that “mommy doesn’t know how to do anything right.” I feel so afraid … I start to believe him .. that scares me.
Some days I am strong, but never strong enough to leave. I am Christian, and I keep reading the Bible, the part about marriage, and I don’t want to let God down. I ask myself if I have done everything I can. And to my knowledge, my husband has not committed adultery, but I know he has been to strip clubs, and his phone dialed home by mistake one night when he was on a business trip. I heard him talking about women’s body parts, and about them sitting on laps in the back room. I hear him telling his coworkers that he has wanted to get in so-and-so’s pants at the office. I told him about what I heard on the phone and he called me “weird,” and said that I live in fantasy world if I don’t think every man in the world does this kind of thing.
And I start to believe him … I struggle between being strong and normal, and falling weak to the ground, not knowing what to feel. I am always so nervous around him. He yells so much and yells at our kids. It scares me. When they are just being kids, he always blames me for their behavior, and tells me that he’s going to replace me with an au pair. We are so peaceful when he is traveling. I have raised our children for the last 10 years for the most part by myself … while he has been out working (yes he is a good provider), traveling, playing lacrosse through every season. My 6-year-old son plays soccer and he asked his dad to coach his team. My husband’s response: ” I can’t, lacrosse is my game, you should play lacrosse, soccer is a no-skill sport.” He constantly yells at my oldest daughter when she is eating .. telling her that she is getting as big as a house, and that she is being a pig. I sigh.
I think that you must wonder why I write it all down. It helps to tell someone. I live in a nice house, a beautiful house, my husband earns a good living. But I would trade it all for an apartment, my children, and a peace of mind. When I was a little girl, I was molested first by a babysitter’s husband, and then by an uncle. The most hurtful thing my husband ever said to me was that if he would have known that, he never would have married me; that people like me are psycho and never get fixed. Well, his words hurt—and I did tell him about all it a year before we were married. I will never forget how vulnerable I felt to disclose all the pain … and when he says I never told him, I just don’t understand.
I am having a hard time staying close to God. I am so confused and feel so worthless. I don’t know if it’s me, sometimes I wonder if it’s my fault. He tells me that I am not a normal wife like everyone else. I know I am not like everyone else. I know that I have work to do. I think what I struggle with now is all of the scar tissue which has built up. I have no love for this man anymore. I am nervous when I am in the same room with him, I don’t trust him. As much as I hate to admit it, his threats scare me. I hate him really. I am depressed when I know he is coming home. If God wanted me to stay with him … I have thought I would rather die. I love our children with every beat of my heart. I don’t want to hurt them. My parents divorced. I don’t want to let our children down. I know that when/if I leave, I will be blamed for everything. My husband talks to the children about me all of the time. I shouldn’t let it hurt me, but it really does. I want to jump off the diving board. I want to be strong and courageous, but I am so afraid. And I am afraid that God will not forgive me, that my life will be doomed from here on out. I never thought I would be here. I don’t know what to do. Thank you so much for listening. Through all of the typing and tears, somehow I feel relieved … even if to tell my story to stranger. Thank you.
I know that in “7 Women” I said everything I would ever say to this woman. I’m deeply hopeful, of course, that she gets out. The last thing I wrote to her was:
You do need to leave, though; as I know you know. It’s going to get worse. If he’s not hitting you yet, he will. And then that will escalate. And then you’ll have to live with knowing that you didn’t do enough to save your kids, and on and on and on, straight into hell. Get out while you can still make a life for you and your children. You don’t want to be an old woman (if you make it that long), and see that you ruined your life and the life of your kids. Fuck that. Get out.
I’ll use your story to encourage others to know they’re not alone, which is how so many in your position feel, exactly. As you yourself have felt.