My ten-year wedding anniversary is coming up very soon, but my husband told me to leave our home, saying he doesn’t want the marriage anymore. We have three sons who are presently with me. I’ve been away from him for the past six months and he hasn’t called to know how the kids are. I am hurt because I have been emotionally and verbally abused in that marriage. I held to it because of our kids and covenants and the fact that I also felt he was being influenced by his family since he used to be a nice husband who gradually turned bad and abusive.
What do I do about our wedding anniversary since he doesn’t want to see me? I don’t know that I want to see him right now either, but I don’t want that day to just go by like that because it was supposed to be a very eventful day for us.
You’ve experienced a terrible abandonment and I’m deeply sorry you and your sons are going through something so devastating. Not only did he fail to correct and repair the damage of verbally and emotionally abusing you, he left you and your sons to fend for yourselves without his support. I’m glad to hear that you’re safe and not being actively abused anymore. It’s important that you stay safe and that your sons learn how to treat others kindly.
You’re worried about what to do with your upcoming ten-year anniversary. Even though it may seem like a strange thing to worry about under these conditions, it’s actually pretty normal to fixate on events like this when you’ve experienced a sudden loss. Anniversaries, holidays, and traditions are the anchors that connect us to those we love. Making it to ten years of marriage is worth celebrating and it’s understandable that you want to acknowledge all of the hard work and sacrifices you gave to make it this far. Clearly, you’ve put up with too many hurtful patterns and gave him the benefit of the doubt, even though he was mistreating you. So, of course you want to acknowledge your commitment to your marriage!
You care about this because you care about your marriage. You’re not the one who disappeared and cut off your husband. You’re not the one who dismantled the family unit and went silent. You can live with the truth that you gave it everything you had. So, yes, this anniversary matters to you because marriage matters to you.
When we get out of abusive situations, it can feel confusing when we still long for the relationship. I don’t believe we’re longing for a relationship with that specific person, but, instead, we’re longing for the ideal of having a healthy relationship. In other words, we’re grieving the loss of the dream. Even though your husband took your marriage from you, he couldn’t diminish your longing to celebrate the hard work of marriage.
Commemorating your anniversary doesn’t mean you have to include your husband. Now, I realize that sounds strange to recommend the solo celebration of a marriage anniversary but remember that you described him as an unapologetic abuser. Unless you have some evidence that he’s willing to turn back and repair the damage, it’s not safe to put yourself back in a situation where he can once again devalue you and your marriage. Your mental and physical health are much more important than trying to celebrate an anniversary together.
Instead, here are a few ideas that will allow you to embrace your heartfelt commitment and celebration of your ten-year marriage:
- Write him a card expressing your thoughts and feelings about what you love about marriage and why this anniversary meant something to you. You might share your hopes for what could have been. You might even share your disappointment in his choices that led to this current situation. Even if he doesn’t read it or respond, you can speak your truth about what this relationship meant to you.
- Gather your sons and tell them about some of the great times you had in your marriage. Tell them how you met their father and focus on those times when he was aligned with his values. You don’t have to hide the fact that their father decided to be done with the marriage. Instead, you can show them that even though he made some destructive decisions, there were times when he was living as a good husband and caring father. You can let them know that this is why you held on for so long, hoping he would come back to himself and his family. You know your sons and what they can understand and tolerate, so use your best judgement.
- On the day of your anniversary, spend time with a trusted confidant so you can cry, grieve, reminisce, and even celebrate everything you gave to make this marriage work. You need a safe and loving place to express your deep reservoir of love, commitment, and hurt. You’ve been through a lot and you don’t want to hold your emotional breath on this day.
You owe it yourself and your sons to honor what marriage means to you Even though your husband refused to cherish you and his family, you can still hold fast to what you know is good and true about healthy marriages. I have met many separated and divorced people who refused to blame marriage as the problem. They believed in marriage and held out hope that they could someday unite with someone who would also honor those promises and do the work of building a healthy marriage. However you handle this day, let it reflect why marriage means so much to you.
Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at [email protected]
If you’ve broken trust with your spouse and want a structured approach to repairing the damage you’ve created, I’ve created the Trust Building Bootcamp, a 12-week online program designed to help you restore trust and become a trustworthy person. Visit www.trustbuildingacademy.com to learn more and enroll in the course.
About the Author
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples, pornography/sexual addiction, betrayal trauma, and infidelity. He is the founder of LifeStar of St. George, Utah (www.lifestarstgeorge.com) and Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com). Geoff is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, the host of the Illuminate podcast, and creates online relationship courses available at www.trustbuildingacademy.com. He earned degrees from Brigham Young University and Auburn University. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.
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