Dear Margo: I'm a 27-year-old woman trapped in a loveless marriage. My husband is younger than I am by a few years, and he's very co-dependent. Before he started dating me, he had never had a girlfriend or a sexual encounter. I, on the other hand, came to the relationship with a child from a failed relationship and a whole lot of trust and fear issues from an abusive ex. Since we've been married, my husband has become verbally, sexually and, to a lesser degree, physically abusive, to the point of laying a hand on my 5-year-old-son. I threw him out for that, but caved to pressure from my family to take him back; they deem him a "stabilizing" force in my life. They think our relationship has caused me to "settle down" and be more responsible. But they do not grasp the abuse I suffered previously, and if I so much as mention that something frightens me, they tell me I'm lying about it for attention.
My husband has left for basic training with the army and will be gone for a few months. Although it's only been two weeks, I feel freer, lighter and better able to cope with things. But if I leave him while he's away at training, the social and family repercussions could be devastating, and my son and I may be forced to relocate. I'm so torn and afraid. I only went through with the wedding to please my family, as the abuse started just before the wedding. — A Canadian
Dear A: You are in that group, by no means a small number, who repeat a mistaken choice in partners. No one intends to hook up with two alcoholics or two abusers, but there is some attraction to that personality type. First, ignore your family. They sound not only ignorant on the subject of abuse, but also not terribly friendly in their suggestion that you are making this up for attention. Second, undo the marriage. If it's problematic to leave him while he's at basic training, wait until he returns. At least you're living on your own. You are young, he is maladjusted, and marrying because of family pressure is the kiss of death. These things are better done sooner rather than later. I wish you good luck. — Margo, encouragingly
Strangely, It May Be Your Husband Who Needs Therapy
Dear Margo: My husband and I have been married for two years, together for seven. His daughter is 24. I suspect, given her behavior, that she has some form of bipolar disorder. (I would guess cyclothymia, the mild version). Examples: She changes her mind every eight to 12 weeks about boyfriends, friends, major and where she wants to live. We have moved her five times in the past year, we planned a wedding (and paid for it), and now we are dealing with her divorce less than three months after her marriage.
My husband has always said how good I am for her to talk to, and he thinks I am a great role model for her. The problem is that the drama is starting to stress me out, I can no longer talk to her about her troubles, and this bothers my husband more than her antics. We have always been completely together on things, but I feel I am watching a train wreck while my husband sees nothing wrong. His daughter is the only cause of tension in our marriage. Any suggestions for how to get through this? — Tense All the Time
Dear Tense: I do have a suggestion, actually. Make an appointment with a therapist, perhaps a couples counselor, and go with your husband. Lay out his daughter's "changes of mind," and let the therapist tell your husband what's wrong with this picture. I do not know if her behavior (enabled by her father's indulgence) is from a mood disorder, immaturity, being a spoiled brat or not being very smart. Your husband needs to understand what is going on, and also that his enabling these spur-of-the-moment changes is doing her no good and in addition could likely wreck his marriage. Over to you. — Margo, rationally
Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers' daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at www.creators.com/dearmargo. Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.