Dear Abby: My husband, “Brett,” and I have been legally married for five years. We had a common-law marriage for more than 15 years before that. Brett was always a stable and encouraging partner, but over the last two to three years he has changed. He’s angry and he blames me for things that could not possibly be my fault. He blows up in a rage and throws things across the room over insignificant annoyances. He has removed my name from our bank accounts and changed all the passwords.
Abby, Brett is the breadwinner. We have had counseling, but he wasn’t a participant as much as an observer, and later he criticized the therapist. I’m a homemaker, and I make some extra money creating artwork on commission. We have a son who is 12. I am going to be looking for a job or going back to school.
I have kept this to myself and haven’t shared with family or friends because I’m embarrassed. It brings back my own parents’ fighting and divorce. When my husband rages, I freeze. I’m unable to think and usually just retreat within myself for a while. I’m not thinking rationally and I need advice.
Marriage Gone Wrong
Dear Marriage Gone Wrong: Your husband’s behavior is threatening, demeaning and emotionally abusive. When he rages, it is not unusual for someone to shut down as you have done. It’s vital that you get to the bottom of what has gone wrong with your marriage. An abrupt change in personality such as you describe is not normal, and your husband may need a physical and neurological evaluation.
Your mistake has been in remaining silent. Inform his doctor, your family and his about what has been going on. You should also make an appointment for yourself with an attorney who specializes in family law and can explain your rights as a (legal) wife in the state in which you live, because I don’t think you can be cut off financially as Brett has done.
A final thought: Take concrete steps now toward becoming financially independent. The handwriting on the wall tells me it may be necessary.
Dear Abby: My father and I weren’t close while I was growing up, and it affected me negatively in a lot of ways. I was resentful until, 30 years later, I told him how I felt. He validated my feelings and we started building our relationship.
He died nine months ago, and I connected with a friend of his who worked with him as a social worker. He’s 20 years my senior and has been a good friend to me. I have been struggling with depression and attempted suicide. I would get into counseling but I can’t afford to, so good friends (which aren’t many) are a godsend.
After visiting him, I went to my mother’s, and the first thing she said when I walked in the door was, “Is he trying to get in your pants?” I was deeply offended and replied, “Not every person wants to be my friend so they can get in my pants.” She then told me I should “lighten up” and accused me of being too sensitive. Are my feelings valid or am I being too sensitive?
Struggling in Utah
Dear Struggling: I’m sorry for your loss, and for your struggle with depression. Humor is risky. Your mother’s attempt at it bombed. Because you are emotionally fragile, you may have overreacted. Although you said you can’t afford counseling, it may be time to check with your local department of mental health or the psychology department at your local university to see if low-cost help is available for you. Please don’t put it off.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.