ask ammanda

My husband is violent

I am 62, divorced 17 years ago (domestic violence). I have two adult children. I have been with my current husband for 12 years. We met at a school reunion when we were 50. I love him very much. He was also divorced.

He keeps leaving, once for 5 weeks. He cannot talk anything through and simply runs away and lives in his truck. Everywhere we have been has memories of times when he has stormed off and left me stranded (eg in the motorhome in the middle of a roundabout - the Police came!), the slip road at B&Q, in the hills he drives off and leaves me to walk, once for 2 hours to find a town, with no money or water, walking partly on a dual carriageway with no pavement. He said afterwards that he had been watching me the whole time.

His mood changes from going out of a room to coming back in. He often moves the car or motorhome so that I am stranded and only reappears when I am sitting on a wall in tears. He tried to strangle me on holiday. I have many pictures of bruises and a scald that he has inflicted. He pushes me over, trapped my head in a door and threw boiling coffee over me, the kitchen and hall. He lies but tells me it’s not lying if I didn’t ask him.

My children have got homes of their own. Before he moved out my youngest son was belittled and undermined by my husband. He has 2 sons of his own but picked on my son. My children and I had been close after the divorce and my 2nd husband resented this, as his parents had died when he was 16. I have made allowances for my husbands behaviour because of this and because he was raped as a child.

I vowed I would never be in this position again after the domestic violence of my first marriage. I feel so angry inside but never show my temper. I retaliate by being scathing and as he puts it ‘bitchy’ but feel I have no control of the relationship and whether he stays or keeps leaving. I never know where in the country he is or when he will be back. He knows where I am at all times as my routine is tied by work, caring for my mother with Alzheimer’s daily (she lives 15 mins away), caring for my Grandson one day a week and my 2 dogs (one of whom has vital medication every 4 hours day and night - so I can’t even go out for long periods).

My husband hates walking, which I love, never wants to do anything at weekend except sleep and has refused to have sex with me for several months. He often takes my phone or disconnects the internet when he walks out. He has put all his belongings in the motorhome on the drive and taken away my key. He has gone away in his truck but says he will return to take the motorhome to live in when I am at work. He had also refused to sell his old house, so that we could buy somewhere between us, which he rents out. He still refuses to do DIY at home because he says it’s ‘my’ house, even after all these years.

Our respective children both had grandchildren at the same time. My daughter calls him Grandad but he won’t let me be called Grandma to his grandson as he says he has nothing to do with me. I have shared everything with him, despite having to fight so hard to keep it after the divorce, but even after 12 years he still doesn’t seem to see us as a together couple. He isn’t interested if I talk about my job (which is very stressful and I need to talk), and interrupts spending longer telling me how I should’ve said it than it would for me to have finished speaking. He says he will not come back this time but I know that if he did I would take him back again. Am I wrong? 


You’re stuck in that terrible cycle that many victims of domestic abuse will recognize. Basically, you keep hoping he will change. You’ve made numerous excuses for his behaviour based on the understanding that he has suffered terribly as a child. As many people do, you’ve placed his suffering above your own and my harsh reality check is that you need to change tack. 

I think you need some serious professional support that will help you to better prioritise your own safety and wellbeing. Like many in similar positions, the need to keep everything going, like work, caring for your mum, and making sure the dogs and everything else are seen to is taking up all your emotional energy. I suspect your husband sees this and uses it to ensure that you can never take the actions that might help you to become safer. That's not your fault, it's his and is a well-known tactic by abusers the world over. 

I don't underestimate either the terrible impact that your husband’s child sexual abuse has had on him. While its not for me to attribute particular feelings and behaviours to those events, nonetheless he may well have been and continues to be man tormented by the cruelty of others. But that neither explains nor excuses his treatment of you. 

Understandably, after all this time you may have lost sight of and belief in the possibility that your life could be different. When all is said and done it sounds like your clear assertion that you'd take him back may spring from a need to care for him no matter how unpleasant and dangerous his actions towards you have been. I think it's this dynamic you need help to unravel.  

Considering how or if to leave a dangerous relationship can feel overwhelming. While things look and feel bad, what feels worse is taking the steps to be free of toxic and overwhelming behaviour. Added to this, his chipping away at your self esteem which is again a much-loved tool of a domestic abuser may have resulted in your belief that you’re not worth much more than all this. The idea that you might regain your autonomy and emotional wellbeing can seem an awfully distant image when someone who should be treating you with love and respect is essentially telling you through thought, word and deed that you're rubbish. 

So, my hope would be that you consider reaching out for some individual support like counselling with someone professionally qualified. By creating a little bit of space to focus on you and potential next steps you may be starting what I'm sure might feel like a very difficult journey of self-discovery albeit towards a supportive and safer existence. It may enable you to question your basic assertion that you'd have this man back in your life and of course, ultimately, that is entirely your decision to make but you asked for my advice which I've offered in the knowledge based on twenty-five years of working with individuals and couples where domestic abuse was a feature. Basically, things rarely get better when the person dishing out the abuse won't or can't see what they do is wrong. I hope you find the peace you so clearly seek.  

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Ammanda Major is a sex and relationship therapist and our Head of Service Quality and Clinical Practice

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