Counselling can help end lifelong cycle of abuse
Q: I am in a situation where my exhusband does a lot of eye-rolling and sighing and turning his back on me when I express my hurt and fears. We have a 10-year-old daughter who thinks he is aggressive and cold. Passive aggression is part of his behaviour. Stonewalling for three months at a time. He tells our daughter bad things about me behind my back and she tells me. I’ve even had to pay him to take his only daughter. My mother is also abusive and has beaten me since age 2. I also have cancer and he often says “Haven’t you died yet?” Please advise.
A: So sorry to hear of your situation. The behaviour you have described from your former husband is remarkable emotional, verbal and psychological abuse. What you have described from your mother is remarkable physical abuse.
Given the abuse you suffered as a child, it is not uncommon for such behaviour to, in a sense, be normalized. As a married adult, absent the physical abuse, you may not have fully recognized your husband’s emotional and psychological abuse early on. Thus childhood abuse can have lifelong implications and inadvertently create the conditions for entrapment in adulthood through an intimate, abusive relationship.
At 10 years of age, you daughter recognizes the inherent abuse and advises you accordingly. Her father doesn’t appear to want to see her voluntarily and your paying him to take her inadvertently creates the conditions where she is subject to his abuse. As he badmouths you, he is abusing her too.
Consider counselling for yourself — explore what keeps you so involved with a fellow who is abusive and seeks little or no contact with his daughter and, when he does see her, speaks poorly of you. Rather than seeking to understand his behaviour, the challenge in these situations is to look at the basis for your own decisions.
In so doing, you may find yourself making different decisions — particularly in light of the impact of his behaviour on yourself and your daughter.
In seeking a counsellor for yourself, find someone knowledgeable about violence against women and childhood abuse. Such counselling is often available from a local women’s shelter. You don’t have to reside at the shelter to make use of their outreach services.