My marriage is a prison and I need to bust out

I'm being held captive by my husband and my dad. I can't survive as wifey for life. How to escape?

Topics: Since You Asked, Coupling, Divorce,

Dear Cary,

I am a 36-year-old woman. Mother to a beautiful child, and wife of someone with whom I’ve become very disconnected. After over three years of pain and anguish, marriage counseling, deliberation and overall agony, I have no doubt that my marriage is over and that I need to move on. It’s very clear to me, and the few who know me best, that this situation is now a prison of sorts, and I’ve been struggling to break free.

My husband remains in semi-denial of our situation and my feelings, and is completely uninterested in moving forward with any separation or related change. He grew up in a very insecure, unloving family, and it’s been his goal to have a happy, “normal” family. I admire this about him. I admire his resilience and tenacity in working so relentlessly for the things he wants. In so many ways, he is an extraordinary person (though sometimes extraordinary in ways that are not healthy for me). He is obsessively committed to maintaining our nuclear family. As I’m sure countless of your “gentle” readers will agree, he’s decided I am the “bad one,” the evildoer who is ruining something beautiful (and … fake). But, anyway, he is very righteous in his opposition to my desire to end our marriage, even though it creates unhealthy situations for our daughter.

My family lives three blocks from us and we are very close in certain specific ways. My father is a wealthy, very well-respected and well-connected (aka powerful) attorney in our city. The child of a chaotic, broken, emotionally sterile family, he has declared himself “violently opposed to divorce” (his exact words). And so even though I have been entreating his help for over 18 months, and he blandly agrees to assist me, he’s never followed through. Something very uncharacteristic given the “get it done yesterday” approach he takes with so many other things, both at work and within the family.



Once he realized I was earning enough money to really leave him, my husband began terrorizing me on a regular basis. He’d refuse to let me finish projects I had to do at night that were due in the morning. He’d refuse to stop arguing so that I could go to sleep, refuse to stop arguing every night and day, following me all over the house countless times and blocking my path … till very late at night, in the morning so that I would be late for work as I tried to calm him (and my daughter … ), etc. Last year, the year when things became especially dysfunctional and erratic and abusive in my home, I was fired from my job. When I was fired from my job, he stopped terrorizing me, because he knew I no longer had the financial means to leave. My independence had been taken away, as I have little savings and was focusing on paying down debt, etc.

At this time, I’ve fallen into a quiet desperation … a (sort of) comfortable depression, if you will. I’m comfortable because no one is forcing me to go back to work (hell, neither my husband nor my dad wants me to become financially independent … what century IS this?), my daughter is beautiful and we spend plenty of time together, I live in a beautiful place, etc. But I feel pathetic, abandoned (by my family, who easily has the means to assist me in this situation) and stuck. I am broke. I cannot hire a lawyer. I cannot do anything to move myself and my daughter. I can do nothing.

So what am I writing to you about? My most valuable asset at this moment is my very beautiful, very expensive engagement ring, and I want to sell it. But I am afraid that everyone in my family would shun me if they knew I had done such a thing. I do not have sentimental attachment to it, as my marriage feels like such a lifeless place, a prison. And I cannot imagine happily passing it along to my daughter … I mean, would you want to inherit the ring from your parents’ failed marriage? Do I have a right to make this act of desperation, so that I can at least try to move on with some things in my life (other than unsuccessfully finding a new job … though I keep trying)? Is it cruel and insensitive beyond belief for me to do such a thing to my future ex-husband and daughter? Will she hate me for it? What right do I have to save myself? I am lost. Very lost and feeling very pathetic and stuck. I need someone to give me some perspective. What’s yours?

Distressed Diamond

Dear Distressed,

You do sound like you are in prison. You sound like someone who is contemplating a desperate and dangerous move. You haven’t talked it out with anyone because you have no one to talk to in this prison.

The experienced inmates, who have been in and out of this same prison, nod sagely when they see your desperation. They’ve seen it before. They’ve felt it themselves. When it’s your first time in, and it dawns on you that you’re really in prison, at first you sort of go crazy and head for the wall. But that doesn’t work. The guards see you right away. They’ve seen it a million times. It just makes things worse. You get years added on to your sentence by one rash move. Then you really begin to get it. You really are in prison. You really are.

That is when you sit down and begin to think and think hard, every day, working through each scenario, interrogating your own motives, watching for signs of weakness and recklessness, vengefulness, symbolic as opposed to actual victories; you feel your way through it, noticing how a love of drama may be coloring your view. Sure, you’d like to make a dramatic break. Sure, selling the engagement ring would raise some cash and hit them right where they live. Sure, you’d like to show them what they’ve done to you, how they’ve degraded you, how they’ve made you feel. You’d like to throw that ring right back in their faces. And you could buy a ticket to Paris with what you get. But the dramatic way is most likely to arouse a devastating response. Selling that ring is like trying to go over the wall in broad daylight. You’re going to need something better.

You need a plan and you need help from the outside. You need a cool head and a clear assessment. Notice the ones who get away and the ones who get shot down in the yard. The ones who get away work out their plans in every detail. They don’t talk much. They keep to themselves. Then one day they’re gone.

That’s what you need to do. So stop thinking like a chump. Snap out of it. You say you can’t afford a lawyer. That’s crazy talk. You think there’s no lawyer in town who wouldn’t take a look at your assets and see there’s a payoff down the road? You think there’s no lawyer in town who won’t see an attractive, well-connected dame on a contingency basis? Plenty of lawyers would take a case like yours.

Just be careful when you begin looking. Maybe you should begin by looking out of town. Maybe you should begin with a women’s support center, someplace where women who’ve been through similar things will recognize your situation and guide you. Be careful to preserve confidentiality.

Take it step by step: What is your actual case? What do you really want? Do you want to take your daughter away from her dad? Is that what you want? Is that fair? Maybe you want to hurt this man; sure you love him but maybe you’d like to hurt him too. Watch for that. Vengeance backs you into a corner where you have to keep fighting all your life to prove you were right in what you did. Don’t go there. You have a legitimate reason for divorce. Don’t give in to your desire for vengeance. Just clarify what you want. You want out of this marriage. You want your freedom.

So that’s how you get out. You plan your escape carefully. You work only with a few people you can trust. You avoid flashy scenarios and vengefulness.

And then one day you go over the wall, quietly, cleanly, without a lot of fuss.



Stuck in a relationship? Not sure what to do? Been there.



Makes a great gift. Can be personalized for the giftee of your choice. Signed first editions on sale now.

What? You want more advice?

 

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
    Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
    Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Here by Richard McGuire
    A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
    The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
    This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
    For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Over Easy by Mimi Pond
    When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
    You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Shoplifter by Michael Cho
    Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
    This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>