Dear Annie: I've been married for nearly 32 years to a financially abusive bully. For many years, whenever I took out money that I needed without first seeking his approval, he'd punish me. His method for doing this was to ask me to go to the bank to get money out; when I'd try to do so, the tellers would let me know that there was not enough money in the account — because he'd withdrawn nearly all of the money and opened his own accounts without my name on them! Seeing the tellers whisper and snicker to each other was so embarrassing, and it was hurtful that he'd deliberately humiliate me that way.
Some years ago, an attorney told him never to do this, and for the past five years he has not. But to this day, if I take money out of any account, even for something important, his dirty looks, silent treatment and yelling and screaming are unbearable!
I don't want to live like this anymore, but I'm afraid to leave. Any advice? — Bullied
Dear Bullied: Your husband's behavior is indeed abusive. The National Domestic Violence Hotline describes economic abusers as achieving power over their partners in some of the following ways: "preventing her from getting a job; making her ask for money; giving her an allowance; taking her money; not letting her know about or have access to family income." To demean someone this way, to deliberately make them feel small and powerless, is the opposite of love.
For your safety, it's important to formulate an exit strategy that includes the support of a counselor, legal adviser and at least one trusted friend. For further guidance, I'd encourage you to call the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233), which is available 24/7, or visit their website (thehotline.org). Hold fast to the knowledge that you are worthy of so much more.
Dear Annie: About two years ago, my husband had a relationship with another woman. The only reason I found out was that she called my home and told me all the sordid details. He then admitted it was all true. My question to you now is: Should I trust him again or leave him? — Tortured
Dear Tortured: Indeed, those are the options — because you cannot stay with him without trusting him. But you can't simply force yourself to trust him, either. You're going to need a lot of help to get to that point.
Talk to your husband about seeking out that help together through marriage counseling. Know that counseling doesn't have to be an indefinite, ongoing thing; even a few sessions can help equip you both with tools for repairing trust and rebuilding your relationship. By doing the work, you two can come out the other side with a stronger foundation than ever.
Dear Annie: My grown children don't really need anything for Christmas, so this year I did a family history for them. I have books that were put together by my mother and cousins. I also copied old pictures of my parents, grandparents and great-grandparents.
I sent some to my younger siblings, too, because I realized while talking to them that they were getting some of the family history wrong, and I wanted them to know the correct information. — Jill, Washington
Dear Jill: What a beautiful gift, honoring your family in such a way. That is something that everyone will keep for years to come. Thank you for sharing.
"Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie" is out now! Annie Lane's debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to [email protected]