How can I get my abu­sive ex-hus­band out of my life?

The Hamilton Spectator - - GO - el­liead­

Q . My first mar­riage was very abu­sive. My then-hus­band taught my son from age two, to call me bad names. He beat and stran­gled me, locked my son, at 6, in the bath­room and ter­ror­ized him.

We di­vorced 23 years ago when my daugh­ter was age four and said, “Daddy doesn’t love you.”

I was very afraid of him be­cause of his “con­nec­tions.” Be­cause of the court case that en­sued when he stran­gled me, I had full cus­tody, but I never de­nied him ac­cess to his kids.

He paid lit­tle child sup­port, though he was mak­ing $120,000 while I was mak­ing $14,000. But he did spend money spoil­ing the chil­dren. I re­mar­ried 10 years ago. My ex still comes to my fam­ily func­tions with his new wife, and my kids see noth­ing wrong with that.

When I asked him nicely in writ­ing if he could stop show­ing up, my son said it was in­ap­pro­pri­ate. He said his doc­tor also felt it was in­ap­pro­pri­ate.

I’m at a loss to see why my son feels this way. Is my let­ter in­ap­pro­pri­ate?

A. Thank you for send­ing me a copy of the let­ter you sent your ex af­ter he at­tended your aunt’s fu­neral.

You in­cluded a very per­sonal past ex­change: “We for­gave each other in our kitchen in 1993 where . . . I apol­o­gized for not mak­ing you feel loved and you apol­o­gized for not mak­ing me feel safe.”

It men­tioned your adult chil­dren’s per­sonal feel­ings — your son be­ing “over­whelmed” by try­ing to com­fort you when his fa­ther’s around; and in­cluded your sad rev­e­la­tion that you get only hos­til­ity from your daugh­ter.

Many peo­ple would em­pathize with you over your past, as I do.

Hav­ing bravely es­caped the se­vere abuse in your mar­riage 23 years ago, it’s nat­u­rally dis­turb­ing to you that your ex pe­ri­od­i­cally shows up at your fam­ily events — mar­riages, fu­ner­als, wed­dings, show­ers, stags, etc. How­ever, whether it’s be­cause of his past “spoil­ing” of your chil­dren, or his main­tain­ing a good re­la­tion­ship with him even when apart, they are okay with him be­ing in­volved in their lives, and have made that clear to you.

Your choice now is to de­cide whether your feel­ings about the past take prece­dence, or you want to try and de­velop a health­ier re­la­tion­ship with th­ese chil­dren, who are now in their mid-to-late 20s.

For that to hap­pen, you’d likely need to ac­cept your ex’s oc­ca­sional ap­pear­ances, or just avoid him on those oc­ca­sions and pos­si­bly leave early your­self.

Get­ting coun­selling about this could help you un­der­stand that his chil­dren’s needs for a fa­ther still count, de­spite your own dis­com­fort around a man who abused you.

Deal with your de­ci­sion about how to go for­ward from this in­ci­dent of the group email, pri­vately. And con­sider coun­selling.

Griev­ing is a per­sonal pas­sage

Q. I’m 54, re­cently wid­owed, my hus­band was 77. I was his third wife; we had seven won­der­ful years to­gether.

He sud­denly de­vel­oped a dev­as­tat­ing ill­ness, just months be­fore he died. I was his care­giver, along with vis­it­ing nurs­ing help, un­til the end.

His long­time friends knew both his pre­vi­ous wives. Some of them al­most dis­miss my grief be­cause we weren’t to­gether long. They say they’re “sorry” but ask no ques­tions about how I’m do­ing.

I went to an event to­day for the first time in a month and I felt peo­ple were judg­ing me. How do I han­dle this?

A. Carry on as you feel is right for you, which is how he would’ve ex­pected you to do. Thank any­one who ex­presses con­do­lence and sim­ply say you miss him deeply.

Griev­ing is a per­sonal pas­sage. Some­times grief coun­selling is needed to brush away all other con­cerns but how to ad­just to your loss.

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