Leaving an Abusive Marriage

Parent Q&A

Select any title to view the full question and replies.

  • I've read over the BPN archives and webpages on abusive marriages, and I'm beginning to get real clarity on what's happening in my marriage. But I still have this doubt in my mind. I have a therapist but I reason with her, with myself, with what I read saying, "But he's actually a really good person." We've been married for 10 years; our boys are 9 and 6yo. About 2-3 times each year my husband has erupted at me in an extreme rage. What I've always said is it's a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde situation. He literally flips a lid and becomes someone else. He becomes absolutely demonic, eyes flashing, spitting, and calling me an f-ing bitch over and over, throwing things. I am not afraid of him. I used to yell back at him, showing him he couldn't bully me around. But our marriage counselor advised me to stay calm and say, "We don't yell at or hit each other in this family." So that's what I do: I stand my ground, stare him down, and calmly say those words. But in these past 3 years (more financial and job stress in his life) he's been erupting much more frequently. In the past 12 months, for example, he has flown into a demonic rage 8 times, calling me a f-ing bitch, and much more. Also, he now screams at me in front of the children. And, he erupts in anger at the children at least a few times each week. He over-reacts with everything - twisting an arm behind the back, throwing a PVC pipe or a block at them, howling in rage. The kids and I have a protocol: they're not to ever let him touch them when he's angry. They're to run away and hide under the bed till he calms down. Last month I took them to a hotel b/c he was raging at us. The other day my 6yo said, "Mommy, who is this monster? He is not the daddy I used to know." I rarely leave them alone with him (which is hard b/c I'm a teacher and a theater director). At the same time ... when he's not mad, he's an attentive, playful, loving daddy. My boys adore him. They build projects in the backyard; play pirates; he tells them about the stars and amazing things happening in the universe. They wake up in the morning and play Legos together; at night they tell stories together. As for me: I don't like him anymore, we haven't had sex in years, but I try to stay neutral, co-parent with him, let them have their loving relationship, and I talk the kids through his rages (this is not right, we don't deserve to be treated this way). So my confusion is this: his verbal and emotional abuse doesn't follow what I read on domestic violence webpages. He isn't intentionally trying to control, belittle, shame, confine, or isolate us; I don't feel bad about myself; he does not intentionally manipulate our emotions. It's literally a flipped lid moment; it passes; he's back to being calm and loving with the children. It doesn't seem like textbook emotional, verbal abuse. It seems like a grey area. Or is it? My thought is we could get a divorce but buy a tiny house to put behind the garage for him to live in. He'd still have the tools and workspace in his garage, and the children could see him whenever he's chill. I won't have to see him daily. He would have the space to calm down. But I'm beginning to wonder if I'm deluded! What am I seeing or not seeing? I know this isn't right!

    Has he, or have the two of you together, sought help? Does he recognize that he has a problem?

    I agree with you that this is not normal and not something that you or the kids should be subjected to.  If help is available for him to manage/control/eliminate these outbursts that seems like a good first step. 

    Dear Waverly, What you describe is an abusive (and maybe-- I don't know-- but ) maybe a dangerous situation when he's in one of his, unpredictable, moods.  It seems that something is causing his turn-on-a - dime switch into someone scary for your kids to be around (you too).  That something can be such things as drugs, a tumor, brain chemistry suddenly gone awry, electrical misfirings (as in some forms of epilepsy) etc. etc.  But please be proactive, quickly, in protecting yourself and your kids. 

    Isn't there a local shelter for women and children?  You've already gone to a hotel-- so you know about running for cover.  Maybe if you moved out, QUICKLY, that would get his attention.  And then perhaps immediately he'd be up for seeing a psychiatrist, even a neurologist, but at least someone who's trained to unravel what's going on. But by moving out, just leaving him a note, you are protecting your kids and yourself.  And I wouldn't risk having my kids around him again -- I wouldn't move back-- until you see long term improvement. That probably means you need to rent a house or apartment or share some place with someone...without telling him your address... You have good reason to not trust him.

    I am so sorry this is happening.  I have some personal experience with a former husband in this regard.  I am very thankful I took my young kids and left.  It wasn't easy. 

    I have to respond here - you are correct, this is not right! There is no doubt at all that this is ABUSE. Verbal, emotional, physical abuse. NO it is NOT a gray area! What you are describing is what many if not most abusive people do - very seriously, there is nothing unusual or special about your story, except for you somehow not recognizing that your children's father is abusive. Does he scream abuse at co-workers? friends? his family of origin?  If not, then I ask you to consider why he is doing it in a targeted way to YOU and YOUR CHILDREN? Yes, he is indeed aware of what he's doing and trying to manipulate and control you. He may present differently, but this is indeed what he is doing.  Much has been written about this online and in books. 

    You are asking your kids to hide when he rages? You're coping with this repeatedly throughout the year? Those names and that rage in front of any human being is unacceptable. By allowing him to just cathartically scream at everyone, get calm and act like nothing happened ... and you act like nothing happened as well ... what do you think you're teaching your children? Who will they partner with as adults, if this is what you're telling them is okay and normal? 

    And, why do you think this is okay? What in your own background is allowing this?

    You are not having sex with him because your body knows this is wrong and you no longer trust him. Throwing things at you and your kids, calling you vicious names in front of them, is the definition of abuse. It's illegal to threaten a minor. Throwing is violent and threatening. This is not okay.

    Please get a new therapist. Then consult an attorney. Start documenting his rages. Keep a journal online with dates and descriptions. Try to video him or get his voice on your cell. The next time he gets to the point of scary rage (even if you claim not to be scared), call the police. Explain to him that you will call the police every time he does this. Tell him in advance if you want. If it were me, I'd calmly explain that you can no longer live like this. Ask him to get into serious, year long counseling for anger management. On the one hand, you can be loving and ask him to change. But at the same time, you must seriously DOCUMENT what's happening, because once you start legal separation or divorce, you will not be there to protect your children. He is likely to be awarded 50% custody unless you can really prove that he is abusive and a danger to them.

    Please really know that this IS "textbook abuse."

    I think this falls more into the category of mental illness (which of course can be an element of domestic violence).  I also think that it is traumatic for you and your children to have to experience it.  A few times a week is a lot.  Does he have any insight afterwards?  I think he needs a psychiatric evaluation, and then whatever treatment the psychiatrist suggests.  If he refuses, then you can decide whether it's tolerable or not. Don't forget that if you divorce he will have some sort of custody, and then you won't see what happens because you won't be there.  

    I'm really sorry you are going through this. You and your children deserve to be treated better. I say this gently - but you sound like you are in deep denial. This is definitely abuse. I'm so glad you reached out to ask this community because I suspect the resounding response will be yes, you and your children are being abused.  Look at the words you and your children are using to describe your husband: "demonic, rage, monster, howl, erupt, screaming, spitting, throwing, hitting," not to mention the terrible, belittling and dehumanizing names he has called you. This is textbook abuse. Please find a way out of this situation and a way to protect your children from the abuse. Perhaps start by having a private consultation (without your husband) with a divorce lawyer about your options. 

    This is not your fault and you and your children deserve to be safe and treated with respect - 100% of the time. 

    I know you'll get a lot of feedback from the community. My two cents as an adult survivor of a raging parent: He may not be a "classic" abuser but the behavior is still abuse, very clearly. That it's gotten to the point you had to teach the kids to get under the bed to protect themselves, but you're not sure it's abuse, also makes it clear you are in denial. It's a horrible situation that's hard to face, and totally understandable that your struggling to face it. I know what it's like to get really "good" at tolerating abuse, thinking you're standing up to it or "not afraid" and coming up with a dozen workarounds so that the impact is minimized. But someday, when all this crap is behind you, you'll remember how good it is to have a safe home again, to have only supportive people in your inner circle, and to have all your energy and attention available to live your life and parent your kids. Abuse quietly sucks the life out of you, makes all your relationships shallow, kills your dreams, and gives you kooky reasoning that tells you that you're "winning" this sad and repetitive cycle of misery. Now consider that this is also happening to your kids. In fact, they're learning how to tolerate abuse like champs. And so when you ask 'What am I missing" -- it's this. I know I won't be the only one to tell you: It's time to get serious legal and professional help, starting with an agency that specializes in supporting abused women, so you can get private answers about what's involved in a safe and successful exit.

    There are a lot of reasons someone would behave this way, whether it's intentional or because there is some kind of disorder. It matters, but not in the immediate present. Perhaps the reasons and the question of hope can be addressed in counseling later, after you and the kids are safe. The fact that there is physical violence now, and it's escalating, is the cold, hard fact that demands you open your eyes, and act on behalf of yourself and your kids right now. 

    It was hard to read this description. It made me feel so sad and upset. I'm astounded that you have been in marriage counseling with this man and the counselor was apparently okay with you continuing to live this way, but I shouldn't be surprised - I myself went to counseling with my abuser and that therapist just sat there placidly nodding when I described what was happening. I'm sorry, I can't say more at the moment, I will try to calm down and come back, but I'm so angry at couples counselors and marriage counselors who allow themselves to be manipulated by abusers. It makes things worse. 

    If his outbursts are truly uncontrollable, no wonder he's having trouble at work ... or do these occur only at home?  That might tell you how truly "uncontrollable" they are.

    If indeed your husband can't help his outbursts, maybe it's a mental or physical illness.  Could be neurological damage, a brain tumor, steroids, drugs, a form of bi-polar illness, Intermittent Explosive Disorder, etc.  He needs a full physical and mental workup to find out what is wrong, and he'll probably need medication and therapy.  I've provided some links below.

    And yes--what you describe is definitely ABUSE.  It doesn't matter what the "domestic abuse" websites say.  It doesn't matter whether he can control it or not.  Bottom line: he hurts your children and poisons your home atmosphere.  Even as you witness abuse and endure abuse, you're rationalizing it away, almost as if you're hypnotized.  It's like you're calmly saying,  "It's just a nuclear bomb, kids.  Duck and cover and you'll be fine."

    I'm amazed your therapist hasn't called Child Protective Services, but sooner or later, someone will--maybe when you  explain at the hospital that your child's concussion happened when Dad threw a PVC pipe at them.  A tiny house is no solution; he needs a diagnosis and treatment, and you and the kids need safety; don't put off dealing with this.

    Get support.  Domestic abuse groups can help you with an emergency plan.  Learn your legal options.  Talk to your doctor, his doctor, therapists, friends, family, advocacy groups.  If he's mentally ill, talk to NAMI.  Find a SAFE PLACE to have an intervention (maybe the therapist's? a coffee shop?) .  If he won't agree to diagnosis and treatment, force the issue; file domestic abuse charges if you need to.  Leave if you need to.  You've got to keep your kids safe.  In the long run, his life will improve if he's treated, and so will his relationship with his children.






    Of course your husband is sweet and attentive sometimes.  If abusive partners were abusive all the time, no one would be with them in the first place.  That doesn't make the abusive episodes not abuse.  You are already worried about your kids' physical safety, and the situation is escalating.  Get yourselves out now, before it gets worse.

    Waverly, thank you for your post.

    I sent you a more detailed message in private, but in short, YES this is abusive (there is nothing grey about this; it's classic bipolar behavior) and YES, to be healthy, you need to remove him from yourself and your children as soon as possible.

    Why hasn't your therapist recommended your husband get therapy? Your therapist should be helping you and your family find resources to keep you and your kids safe and emotionally healthy. This is not right, and I suspect your husband may have a mental illness that causes his mood swings and behavior. Please ask your therapist or your doctor or someone you trust for a referral to help you with this for your kids sake if not for yours.

    Related article:


    Remember, no one is abusive ALL the time. They wear whatever mask is socially acceptable, until they're established with you, and then they will behave in whatever way they feel they can get away with.

    Dont worry about labels.  Read your post and think what your advice would be to a friend.  He is throwing things at your kids every once and a while and twisting arms.  You are leaving to stay in a hotel.  How are your children interpreting this? Do they feel safe? What does it mean that you don't feel safe leaving them in his presence at these moments?  What lessons do you want your children to learn about how to behave and what we tolerate and don't tolerate?  What do you want your children' to learn about what you are willing to tolerate both in terms of his behavior towards you and what you "allow" to happen with them?  I am not in your shoes and don't know the full story, but what you describe would have me out of there in a heartbeat.  And I say that with my full heart going out to your husband.  I am sure he is a good person but he clearly has some trauma or issues he needs to work through.  Love and appreciation for someone doesn't mean you have to accept everything that they do.  If you do decide this is not acceptable, talk to a lawyer about custody and how to keep your kids safe. Do you need to document this behavior so that you have a record?    I wish you and your husband and you the best!

    Wow! This is NOT okay!  I am glad he is loving in between, and you are protecting your boys as much as you can, but this is NOT, NOT normal. How about you insist he go to treatment, and discuss this in his calm moments? Say you will have to call the police next time he does this? I don't know, but, no! This is NOT good, not healthy, and it is escalating.... So sorry!

    Whatever the root cause of your husband's mood swings and however much of a good guy he is much of the time there are no grey areas here, this is outright abuse - physical , emotional and verbal. I'm sorry to say this but need to document everything and take steps to get him out of the house ASAP. This is not a safe environment for the children to be in and the responsibility should not be on them to "not let him touch them when he's angry". Its your role as a mother to protect them from that and that means him not physically being in the home until he has addressed his anger issue and changed his behavior. I am so mad (as a therapist and survivor of emotional abuse) to hear that neither your therapist or marriage counselor seem to have addressed this properly, but this is so so common. Please consult a lawyer who specializes in domestic violence (twisting arms, throwing blocks and pipes, name calling, intimidation, raging all = domestic violence) and I would also recommend you make an anonymous call to the police to get guidance at this stage. Having been there myself and having seen friends go through similar situations (all too common and too few of us feel safe talking about this because to the outside world our partners look "normal") many abusers, when feeling pushed or threatened, often get worse and behavior can escalate fast. Please have a safety plan for yourself and the children, have people you can call on and places you can go in an emergency, confide in a friend you can trust about what's going on. And document, document, document. If you need a restraining order, file for it. You and your children deserve better than this and physical and emotional safety comes first.

    What you describe is definitely abuse. Just because you don't react to it in in the typical manner doesn't make it any less abusive on his part. And, unfortunately, it sounds like it is escalating.

    I was in a similar situation a few years ago. Prior to our divorce, we tried couples counseling (which didn't help at all), and eventually individual counseling that had him focusing on anger management and me focused on trying to decide whether to stay. Anger management helped him immensely, but didn't save our marriage as there was too much water under the bridge for me to stay. It sounds like you might still be in a place to salvage the marriage IF he can acknowledge that he has a problem, get help for anger management, and follow through on it. But if he can't do that, you need to get out.

    As to the cottage in the back yard, my ex and I live upstairs and downstairs in the 2-unit building we owned when we were married, for 7 years now. So it isn't impossible. I often say that he makes a way better neighbor than a husband. It made all the difference to be able to say, I don't have to take this crap, talk to the hand, I'm going back to my own house (on both our parts). And my daughter has the benefit of having us both nearby, all the time.

    Be aware though, that if you divorce, California strongly favors 50-50 joint physical and legal custody. If you have concerns about the kids' safety and imagine that you can get primary custody, you need to think twice.

    He may be a really good person, and still fly into an unacceptable rage at you. You don't have to completely condemn him in order to take the stand that you and your children shouldn't be treated this way. It sounds like you should let go of that, since the idea is preventing you from getting the family into better circumstances. 

    As far as saying "we don't yell at or hit each other in this family" goes ... did that actually work with your husband? Sounds like bad advice from your marriage counselor since you're still in this situation.

    You can only expect your kids to believe that for so long, if their material circumstances show otherwise. Actions speak louder than words. You can say "we don't do that" or "I won't put up with it" but if you are, they know. 

    Hello, I'm a therapist who has worked with many people experiencing violence in their relationships.  Great to hear you have your own therapist too who can support you through this process of deciding what you might want to do next.  From what you write, it sounds like your husband is both verbally and physically abusive ("twisting an arm behind the back, throwing a pvc pipe or block at them") and that his abusive episodes are becoming much more frequent, which sounds unsafe for everybody.  It is not uncommon for people to have conflicted feelings about an abusive partner, since most are not abusive 24/7.  It also sounds like you are trying to be a protective parent by developing safety plans to use during his rages, and fantasizing about how to keep him separate enough (the tiny house behind the garage) for you and the kids to truly be safe.  Since you're trying to teach the kids that they don't deserve to be treated like that (or to see you treated like that), I wonder if there's a part of you that can imagine divorcing him and having him truly be separate from your daily life experience?  Or if the tiny house idea is because you are afraid to have your kids spend time with him without you being able to monitor his behavior/their safety?  Even if it is not his conscious intent to manipulate or control you, it sounds like his violence is doing exactly that.  It would take a lot of work on your husband's part (in his own treatment, not couples counseling) for him to own and change his behavior, and learn better ways of managing his emotions.  If he is not motivated to take ownership of his violence and do that work, then you and the kids will remain at risk.

    Hi Waverly, The behavior you describe is verbal and physical abuse (the throwing objects) towards you AND your children. Please show this post to your therapist to get some help regarding a referral for anger management courses for your husband and possibly for other actions. Your children are absorbing this behavior and it is going to very negatively impact their own relationships when they are older so it would be best to get some help as soon as possible, for each of you. Good luck, I hope you find a way to improve your situation--you and your children deserve better than this.

    Well you already know it is not right - the question is how to respond. I strongly suggest that you find a local therapist that the two of you can see weekly. Your husband is obviously angry and needs help figuring out why - are you willing to g t therapy with him? If he won't agree to therapy I think you need to tell him that his behavior is unacceptable- the kids are scared of him- and that this is no way to live. If he does not agree to therapy  I suggest you ask him to find another place to live. Your children and you deserve better. Good luck

    Hello, so sorry to hear that you are living with this.  So sorry that your children are growing up with all of you having to normalize this violence.  You can find free help at the Family Violence Law Center at 470 27th Street in Oakland.  Please make your move very soon & carefully.  You can get advice on how to get help moving out to a safe shelter.  Please do not let your kids have to live through another incident.  You can get intensive free & expert help so that your boys will not grow up to emulate the violence.  Please do not worry about how this is going to play out with Dad, where he is going to live, etc.  Right now you desperately need to get away from this horror.  There are systems set up to help you get away and rebuild your lives in a healthy way.  You will still be able to keep your job and parent your precious children.  Once you are able to get help, you will probably see how horribly this has impacted your life.  

    I am also very surprised that the therapist has not reported the abuse, since by law, she is required to do so.

    Best of luck in a terrible situation.

    "A few times a week." This is child abuse. You need to take your children to a therapist to document it. Calling the police when he's having an episode would also be a good idea to document. You don't want to set up a shared custody situation where he's spending unsupervised time with the children. This kind of situation was in my mandated reporter training.

    My heart goes out to you & your children.  Please try to get out with your children soon & without letting your abuser or kids know you are planning to leave.  Don't threaten that you might leave if A, B, C occurs.  Just plan it privately with free help from professionals who know how to do this and understand the urgency.  With this type of explosive abuse, you are at high risk for domestic homicide/suicide if you let your abuser know that you are leaving.  (If I can't have them, no one can.)  

    Here are some Alameda County resources:

    AASRA (Asian Indian survivors)

    A Safe Place

    Crisis Line 510-536-7233 (510-536-SAFE)

    Building Futures with Women and Children (BFWC)

    24 hour Crisis Line 1-866-A WAY OUT (1-866-292-9688)

    Emergency Shelter Program (ESP)

    24 hour Crisis Line (888) 339-SAFE

    Safe Alternatives to Violent Environments (SAVE)

    24 hour Crisis Line 1-510-794-6055

    Tri-Valley Haven

    Crisis Line 1-925-449-5842 or 1-800-884-8119

    Oakland Elizabeth House


    Mobile Response Team (MRT)
    24 hour crisis line for victims of domestic violence 510-757-5123

    Yes it's abuse but you don't need to assign that label to justify taking action here. You already told your kids they "don't deserve to be treated this way" and yet you are allowing this situation to continue. You tell him "We don't yell or hit each other in this family." But this has no meaning to him. What you're missing here is "We don't yell or hit in this family... and if you do... you are no longer a part of this family."

    I have been in a situation like you. For me, I was able to get my husband to acknowledge his behavior and see an Anger Management Specialist and that greatly helped. But in order to do that, I had to be ready to leave him. I had to dig deep to find my inner mama lion and protect myself and my kids and tell him this behavior was no longer going to happen in our home. PERIOD. 

    You seem like you're looking for someone to tell you YES it's bad, you need to do something. So YES, it's bad honey. Come up with a plan, commit to it, and DO it! We are behind you!! Remember, YOU are the only one right now who can make a change. YOU are the only one that can protect your children right now. 


    This is emotional abuse and can be as damaging and dangerous as physical abuse. Please do everything you can to protect yourself and your children from your husband. My sister was married to an emotionally abusive man. She was at risk for ovarian cancer – we have the genetic predisposition to it and others in our family had survived it – and, as a doctor, she knew what steps to take to avoid it (ovaries removed). She didn’t have the surgery. Why? Because she was convinced by her husband, after years of abuse, that she was a horrible mother and a worthless human being who didn't deserve to live. She died of cancer at age 57, leaving two teenagers behind. But she was convinced by this monster that, no matter how badly he treats her, he’s still a good father. That turned out not to be true as well. With her gone, he is now vicious to his kids, who have already lost one parent and now avoid the other. This tragic story may not sound relevant to your situation. But I urge you to think about what kind of damage his behavior is doing to you and your children, and whether you should put up with it. No one deserves to be abused, either physically or emotionally, and the longer it goes on the more damage it will cause. 

    I am sorry you are going though this with your family. You are describing abuse. Sometimes it is hard to see the forest when in the trees by living day to day & comparing one day/week/month to another, things can seem "not so bad". It sounds like his abuse is escalating & he will come to a point where someone is seriously hurt. The emotional hurt is already happening & will have a greater negative impact on you & your kids as long as you are subject to his abuse. At this time, you probably do not realize you are walking on egg shells every waking moment (and the kids too).Throwing objects at people and twisting someone's arm behind their back is assault. If these things are done to someone outside of your home, he would be arrested for assault. Try replacing the word abuse for assault. Do you and/or your kids feel assaulted by his word and actions? If yes,may I suggest to either get very frank with your current therapist (about all his abuse & tell him/her how it really makes you feel/without rationalizing his actions) or get a new therapist. In addition, record all abuse either in writing (dates/times/circumstances), voice/video or all three. It takes time to get this information recorded, so working on it now & keeping it in the event you need to end the marriage. In the meantime, when your husband is not in one of these moods, have a calm, concerned talk with him about seeking a medical evaluation to rule out a physical or psychological ailment. There are many things that can help him overcome this, but he has to want to seek help and act on medical recommendations. Abuse is a cycle. See if you can recognize it in your relationship. There is the Blow up, the Honeymoon and the Buildup which leads to the Blow up again. This cycle can be months apart, but becomes shorter & shorter overtime.  As the cycle becomes more frequent, the abuse may escalate.  The abused is used to a certain type of abuse so when the relationship is going through the cycle the abused is on familiar ground & can rationalize their way through the cycle. When a new abuse is introduced (i.e. - he only yells turns into yells/throws things; turns into yells/throws things/twists an arm; turns into yells/throws things/twists arms/punches wall/ etc.), then the abused may be thrown off from this newly introduced abuse, but rationalizes it during the Honeymoon phase (he is remorseful/cries/super nice/ loving/ tells the abused everything they want to hear) this makes the abused "forget" how bad the abuse was in the first place. As the abuse increases, the abuser can become extremely dangerous both psychologically & physically. Abusive relationships are all unique. Your husband will not fit into a neat box of "abuser". If you are having to take any time whatsoever to manage yours and your children's relationship with husband/father, then there is abuse going on.  In a relationship without abuse, there is not a "referee" ensuring everyone is ok. Your writing to this group is a great first step in understanding how to move forward to make a home for you and your kids that is healthy. It may or may not include your husband, but by trying to resolve this thru change, you are taking the first step to a healthier life for everyone.

Archived Q&A and Reviews


How to leave an abusive relationship

May 2012

I'm looking for some feedback from anyone who has left an abusive relationship while caring for a young child. I could use a little insight or inspiration from real people. Have you or someone you know overcome adversity to get out of an abusive situation? How did you do it? How old were your children? Did you have any support? A job? Money? Childcare? Legal assistance? What kept you focused on moving forward? How did the kids handle the split? Were you scared? How did you hold it together?

My situation: I'm in a verbally and emotionally abusive relationship. My husband (common law, not legal) has directed mild physical violence towards me, but since he's been in therapy it hasn't happened in a long time. The verbal abuse continues, along with outbursts of rage and periods of the ''cold shoulder.'' He also twists things around and says that I am the abuser so I'm often confused and lost. I know I can communicate better, but I don't do any of the awful things he does to me. This has been going on since before my 2.5 year-old son was born. He hasn't directed the abuse towards our son, but his behavior towards our child is hurtful (when he's raging, he will ignore him, come and go without a hello or goodbye, even though it's ME he's angry at). I would never trust him alone with our son when he's in that angry state.

We even went to couples counseling for awhile, but my husband stormed out of so many sessions that the therapist suggested individual counseling. I've finally gotten to a place in my own individual therapy where I'm ready to make a plan to leave. I'm done. There's nothing left to talk about. He's abusive and can't admit it. Things have gotten slightly better, but I can't wait a lifetime for the possibility of being treated the way I want. I have to leave.

The problem is, I'm terrified and alone. I only have one friend who has any idea what's going on. I don't have other friends or family I can depend on. Also, we are poor (as in Medi-Cal poor) and I haven't worked in 3 years. I've tried to stash some money away but I'm financially dependent on my husband. I'm educated and entirely capable of supporting myself and my son (how did this happen to me???!!). I'm just in a terrible emotional place. I freeze and panic when I think about leaving, even though every single piece of my mind and body knows that's what I need to do to be healthy and happy again. I'm afraid my son will hate me for leaving his dad, afraid that whatever comes next won't be much better, afraid of nasty custody issues (emotional abuse is so hard to prove), afraid of being a single mom, afraid, afraid, afraid. I just can't do this anymore. I have to leave, afraid or not.

Ready to leave

What you are going through is so hard. I just went through the same and you need all the support people you can find. Please contact me. N.

I have a close friend in a very similar situation, and my mother was in this situation when I was a toddler. It is SO HARD to leave when you have limited emotional support, no money and a young child - much harder than most people know. But as you have said, you can't live like this anymore. It's not in the best interest of your son for him to grow up in a tense, fearful, toxic environment. What's good for you is good for him, and this isn't good for you.

Have you been to the Family Violence Law Center in Oakland? I would start there: http://fvlc.org/about/contact-us/. They can help you make a plan, fill out paperwork, get everything in order and set up counseling for your son if necessary. All services are under one roof there, so you don't have to go all over town. They will help with custody and anything else you need.

Make a list of all the reasons why you will be okay if you leave: you're a strong, intelligent, resourceful woman who can take care of herself and her child. You are educated. You can support your family. You don't need him. You might have to make some sacrifices for a while, but when you come out on the other side you will be FREE.

Then come up with a mantra like ''it will be okay'' or ''I have to do it anyway'' or ''things will be different'' and repeat it to yourself over and over when you get frozen with fear.

Your son might have trouble understanding why you left now, when he's young. But there are resources for kids in this situation. Trust me - in the long run, he will THANK you for not raising him in an abusive home. If you want to teach him to love himself, show him that you love yourself. Life is too short to spend with someone who hurts you. - Mom of a boy and former DV advocate

For support in getting out of an abusive relationship, call Stand for Families Free of Violence. Their number is 1-888-215-5555. If you have access to a computer, you can go to www.211database.org or call 211 for referrrals to all kinds of resources for you and your child. anon

I'm sorry that you are going through this and hope that you are able to get out of this unhealthy relationship both for your sake and your son's sake. Since you stated that your husband has physically hurt you in the past, when you leave he could become violent again. I suggest calling ''Stand! for Families Free of Violence''. They have a crisis hotline 1-888-215-5555. Call them and find out how they can help you. Good luck--you can do it!

Yes, I've been where you are. With a two year old, no job, no savings, on food stamps and getting Medi-Cal in a verbally abusive relationship that left me feeling drained of energy, confused, and unsure of myself. He also accused me of being the abuser. Once you are free of his psychological games, you will gain clarity. Getting out is the best thing you can do for yourself and your child.

The first thing I did was get a job nannying another child the same age at the other child's house so that I was gone all day WITH MY CHILD making money. I didn't tell my husband what I was doing or explain myself. If you can find a job that lets you bring your son along, that's great. Or get a friend to watch your son or start a babysitting trade with another mother so that you have time to go on job interviews, then find a nanny share or daycare to put your son in while you work.

Call or go to BANANAS, Inc in Oakland immediately to get on their waiting list for subsidized childcare or to find out what kind of services are available where you are. In SF go the SF Children's Council for help.

Put your paychecks into a bank account in a new bank in only your name.

If you have trusted family you can move in with, I highly recommend that route. I had the miracle of a friend's house that was empty and up for sale that she let me stay in for the cost of the utilities until I saved enough money for a deposit on an apartment of my own. You can also try http://coabode.com, which is a roommate link up site for single moms. If you think you'll be low income for a while, get on the waiting list for section 8 housing.

I worked my ass off nannying and doing other side jobs. It was exhausting, emotional, and required that I be firm in my resolve, but it was definitely for the best for me and for my child. Eventually I found other work and put my toddler in preschool and we are much better off financially. Even doing it all by myself is still way less stressful - and easier - than when I was with my ex. much better off without the abuser

Document every incident in detail - mood swings, what was said, if alcohol or other drugs were involved, any threats.

Call a women's crisis or domestic violence hotline and talk to them about your situation. They can refer you to free legal advocates and other resources to help you figure out your plan of action. If he threatens, stalks, damages property, or strikes you or your child, call the police and apply for a restraining order.

My first legal step would be to file an ex parte request for custody as soon as you know you are physically moving out or moved out, so that you have an enforceable court order around custody and visitation with your son. This will protect your son from being taken by his father and you having to go to court to get him back. Such orders typically include a clause about not leaving the state, so get legal advice first if you are thinking of moving in with out of state family.

Once you file papers with the court, if you and your child's father do not agree on a custody schedule, you will be asked to go to mediation. There is free court appointed mediators. If you apply for a protection order, there will be sworn allegations of domestic violence and you will be able to request separate appointments. I actually paid for over 6 hours of a private mediator first and my ex used the time to be verbally abusive; we came to no agreements whatsoever. I was only with the court appointed mediator for 20 minutes and he met separately with my ex; we got a recommended parenting plan that was perfectly reasonable and was adopted by the court.

California does not recognize common law marriages. You might want to research whether or not you are actually considered married and need to divorce. If you are not married, you may need to prove paternity to get child support.

In Alameda County there is a Family Law Center where you can go to get help figuring out what forms to file for custody and child support and to get some basic questions answered. The Alameda County Bar Association has a Volunteer Legal Services Corporation that places pro bono attorneys with a limited number of qualified applicants. Their intake line is 510-302-2222. Press option 4 to complete the intake process. It takes about 4-8 weeks for them to place an attorney with you if there is one available and you qualify.

Best of wishes on your new journey! much better off without the abuser

Your son will go through his own emotions about you leaving his father. There is nothing you can do except to explain to him that you love him and that you are doing your best with his best interest in mind.

He may be clingy and weepy more often at first, especially if he sees you are stressed, but he will also feel the calm that enters your lives with his abusive father gone. He is young enough that he may later never even remember you and his father being together.

It is a scary step, but you can do it. You might have to make lifestyle choices you prefer not to make - for me it was leaving my son in a daycare while I worked - and things are likely to be strained financially at first, but it does work out.

Make your plan, gather your resources, face the fear, and stick to your resolve. You will be glad you did. Expect that there will be a scary period of not knowing what is next or how to make everything work, but that as long as you keep moving forward in your plan and don't look back, you will make it happen. And you and your son will be better off for it.

Good luck! much better off without the abuser

My heart goes out to you. You have been abused - of course you are scared! I don't have a lot of advice, but I just wanted to chime in about your son being 'mad' about you leaving your husband. I think a perspective shift is in order here. You are doing the absolute BEST thing for your son by leaving an abusive relationship. Your son may have trouble adjusting, but that is the worst reason in the world to stay with an abuser. My mother left my emotionally abusive father when I was 2. Guess what? I don't even remember living with him. More importantly, I am so incredibly grateful to my mother for taking the steps toward having me grow up in a healthy, safe environment. I had a happy, wonderful childhood with my (single and poor) mom, and that would not have happened if she had stayed with my dad. Even if your husband gets half custody (which my dad never wanted), that means the amount of time your son is exposed to potential abuse is cut in half. Please do this for your son. Anon

Dear Ready-to-Leave,

Your message sounds like you are more terrified about the act of leaving than you are about ending the relationship. Ask yourself, ''If I could just magically be in my new life without him, would I want that?'' If your answer is, yes, than you're really just afraid of the act of leaving him. In fact, you're heart and spirit have already left the relationship.

I had the same situation while I was a mother with a baby. In my case, after a lot of verbal and emotional abuse and veiled threats of violence, I arranged for a future without him.

I quietly planned to get a new job somewhere else. After I got the job in another state, I found a place to live and packed everything up. Then, I simply left. He was furious and threatened to do harm to himself and others. Fortunately, he never followed through on his threats, nor did he even want to be with his child. I later remarried and my new husband adopted my child.

My advice: First, find out what your partner really wants. Then, if it's reasonable, try to give him what he wants AND at the same time, quietly arrange for your future life without him. Once you find your resolve, he will let you go. But be careful not to provoke him to become violent. Sympathetic

Leaving a violent marriage with a 7 month old and no family in the US

Jan 2012

would like to get advice regarding how to leave a violent, abusive relationship. I have read previous posts about similar situations but did not find answers besides getting some legal help, which I am in the middle of doing.

I have a 7 month old baby and I am back to full time work (for a month, stayed home for 6 1/2 months), which is working 6 days in 2 weeks, each day is about 14 hours, so the rest of the days I am with my baby. My partner is babysitting the days that I am working and stays home. He does not work and has not had a job since we are together, for about 2 years. He moved here from the east coast and as I knew, he had a job. Since he moved to the Bay Area he is ''looking'' but never found a job. I worked until the end of my pregnancy in a very demanding job where I am on my feet 14 hours a day in a stressful environment. Thank God my baby is perfect, smiling and shows extreme resiliency.

The truth is I should have left when I was pregnant but because I don't have any family in the US, I thought things will get better, let's try to have a family, etc. I was wrong and naive. Verbal abuse with name calling, yelling can erupt at any moment and have had some physical abuse also, such as choking, spitting on me (while late in pregnancy, breastfeeding, or now....). He has another daughter and does not pay child support (as I've learned) for only god knows how long. Trying to resolve the situation peacefully - meaning trying to separate - he doesn't want to and threatens me to kill me, put me ''six feet under,'' taking the baby while I am at work, etc. I am afraid of him and he can do anything, capable of doing anything. I dont have any doubt about, I have found from searching through some old papers from his past 3 restraining orders, all over 10 years old.

I spoke a lawyer once and said b/c now I work, I would be responsible to pay child support to a man who doesn't work or doesnt want to. I can not record his threats on the phone b/c its w/out his consent, so in the court of law its illegal. I can not use any of the former restraining orders b/c they are from out of state and all expired.....I am afraid to leave b/c I am afraid he will hurt me. I went to the police station once to ask about domestic violence and they said that if the police comes out, they can take him but the restraining order is maximum for 7 days. Now that he helps out with babysitting in the court of law he has equal rights and in the eye of the judge it doesnt matter how violent he is towards me.....

I am open to any advice, which is compassionate. I dont know what to do w/out family here but with some good friends.

Friends don't know about my situation.

Thank you anon

I recommend you visit the Alameda County Family Justice Center at 470 27th Street Oakland, CA 94612. You can reach them by phone at (510) 267-8800 or online at http://www.acfjc.org.

They have expert staff who can help you understand your rights and your options. They are total advocates for you, and nobody else.

I believe they can help get a restraining order based on the threats your partner made, if that's what you want. Also, they can help you apply for a special visa, if necessary, to help keep you in the country should you decide to file for divorce. They even have free on-site childcare so you can bring your child.

FYI - I don't work for the Justice Center. I run a small community mental health agency that works in the area of family violence. I cannot tell you how impressed I am with them.

Best of luck to you. Feel free to contact me off list if you need more referrals or resources. Matt

Please contact the Family Justice Center in Oakland: 510- 267-8800 or http://www.acfjc.org/ The ACFJC provides, under one roof, the services required by domestic violence victims and their families: * Crisis intervention, survivor support, and victim advocacy
* Legal assistance services
* Medical care and mental health counseling for victims and children impacted by family violence
* Employment assistance, and information and referral to other community services
* Law enforcement investigation and prosecution of offenders

And they have people who speak many languages. Please let them help you before you or your baby get hurt!!! praying you will get help and get out

First, let me recognize your strength and courage. Taking these next steps will be really hard, but you are already doing an amazing job of trying to find a safe place for you and your child.

Here are some good next steps:

1. Oakland and Berkeley have phenomenal ''Domestic Violence Advocates'' who work directly with you and the police department to help you stay safe. Their only job is to be your advocate and counselor. They can help you write a restraining order, help you to file a police report, help you to find safe shelter, etc. The Family Violence Law Center http://fvlc.org/get-help/how-we-can- help/ serves women in all of Alameda County, and can put you in touch with an advocate at your local police department. They have a hotline that you can call anytime (800) 947-8301. Their attorneys will work for you for free to help with restraining orders, child custody, support and visitation. If you don't live in Alameda County, they can refer you to a similar agency where you live.

2. The information that you received about restraining orders is not entirely correct. The police can write what is called a ''Temporary'' or ''Emergency'' restraining order, that is only good for 7 days, BUT you can petition the court for a long-term order, and based on what you told us in your post, you absolutely would qualify for one. An advocate, or the Law Center, will help you write it and go to court with you.

3. Safe shelter. You may need to completely relocate to keep yourself safe. You can call Building Futures With Women and Children http://www.bfwc.org/getting_help.php or 1-866-A WAY OUT. They will help you with safe shelter, or money for a safe hotel while you plan your next steps. Start making a safety plan now. When you do leave, you are going to need the element of surprise on your side. Start stashing money somewhere safe. Make sure you have your ID, Driver's License, Passport, baby's birth certificate. If there is a friend that you really trust, set up a ''code word'' with them so that if you are in immediate danger they know to call police for you. Get prepared, contact the hotlines/counselors, and they will help you to plan your escape.

The law actually says that you can include your child on your restraining order. He will not be able to have visitation with your child if you have stated that he is violent.

5. Please know that there is help available, and that you are doing the right thing by reaching out. Leaving is NOT EASY. You CAN do this, and we're all rooting for you!! Domestic Violence Counselor

I have been a domestic violence counselor for over two decades. You and your baby are in danger. I cannot recommend strongly enough that you contact a domestic violence agency immediately. They will assist you with getting and keeping safe, counseling, legal matters (including restraining orders), etc.

One of the most dangerous times in an abusive relationship is when the abused person tries to leave. Also, the level of violence almost always escalates.

You can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline 24/7 at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Their website is http://www.thehotline.org/. You can click on ''quick escape'' if you need to get off the site in a hurry. They will provide assistance over the phone and refer you to a local domestic violence agency.

I hope you will get help soon. You and your baby deserve to be safe. Take care

Dear Anon, I am writing you as a former abused woman so no judgment and much sympathy and empathy. First of all, if your partner is threatening to kill you, believe him! Leave the finances aside for the moment, confide in someone you respect (does not need to be a friend, can be a work colleague, a neighbor) and GET OUT!!! Here is a list of resources: http://sfnow.org/hotlines.cfm.

Do not let your partner take care of your daughter. Get yourself and your daughter away from him and figure out all the financial matters later. You do not need anything from this person. It sounds to me that the lawyer you consulted has no understanding of the law as it pertains to abuse of women, and although I have no expertise, I do know that the court system supported me in my efforts to protect myself. I'm sure the NOW website above can help you find a better lawyer. In most cases, a violent partner becomes their most violent when the abused partner actually leaves. In my case, I left my violent partner and then was naive enough to meet up with him to get repaid some debts he owed me. He did not bring any money. Instead he attacked me in public, began banging my head against a concrete wall. I believe he would have killed me if people had not called the police and they arrived to arrest him. I tell you this to say that you need to be prepared for what he may do to you when you leave him. I lost several thousand dollars getting out of this situation, and I never gave the money a second thought. I was so glad to have him out of my life and so glad to be alive. I have no doubt that with a good lawyer you will be able to exclude your partner from anything other than supervised visits with your child.

no longer battered

Hi there. you're going to get a lot of responses to this, there's no doubt. I want to stick to the facts, if i may, after saying that I'm so very sorry you are going through this, yet so thrilled that you see it for what it is- abuse. Nothing in your post had the red flag of low self esteem or wavering decision.

So, first of all, are you married? It didn't sound like it. If not, where are you getting this info that he has rights because he ''babysits'' (its not babysitting, its caring for his child.) If you are not married, he has no rights to custody, until there is a final court decision. So, research the facts on that and empower yourself. Next, it sounds like you need a very safe place to turn, do you have friends? Big, scary make friends? You need to find a safe place, if even a shelter for women, until he can carry on enough to get arrested, or calms down enough to reach a court decision.

As for the child, start interviewing for childcare NOW! What can you afford, a nanny? A nanny share?A daycare? Figure this out. Do you have enough friends to split care for awhile? Don't underestimate how much people will want to help. And don't dare to be too proud to ask for it. As for paying him, just eat that one for now. Just suck it up as one of many hard and unfair aspects of the rest of your motherhood life. It WILL work out in the end. you shouldn't have to give him a dime, but you will, and please look at your beautiful baby and think of it as a payoff to keep him out of her life. And yours.

And document, document, document. Yes, you can record phone calls, who told you that?! And write them down! Everything! Every time he threatens you, touches you, anything.

Hire a lawyer, you can't afford no to. get a court appointed one, if nothing else. Take a self defense class. Prepare yourself. Dont be rash. Get all your ducks in a row and don't let on to him what you are doing. Then get the hell out of there and never look back. The universe will take care of you, and so will the law. And last but not least, be so. very. kind. to yourself. fellow abuser fleer-and now free!

You are wise to take his threats seriously. I would say, find a women's group for women in abusive relationships - there are some free or cheap. Also there are abused women's services. The only one I know of is Marin County Abused Women's Services, but they're great and if you call there asking for a similar place in your location, they will help you. You need to strategize for sure. Leaving an abusive relationship is the most dangerous time for a woman, when the guy goes crazy so you're right to be careful. But you CAN LEAVE. Get help, find other women.

I hate to say this but can you go back to your country of origin or plan a move? Do you have a safe place to go to if it gets bad? Do you have your own money and stuff in the trunk of your car for you and the baby to sleep somewhere else if necessary? These are short term but important.

I also think it's important to confide in someone, maybe one friend. You have to be careful, you have to be able to trust them. But that would make you not so alone with it.

You can and should keep a written, dated log of all of his incidents of any kind of violence, exact words. Start it now and recreate as far back as you can remember. Keep this somewhere totally hidden from him, like in a work desk. Write down everything, anything involving the baby and the baby's reaction. This carries weight in court.

I'm so sorry you have to go through this right now. I'm sorry I don't have anything better to suggest. Do get the support of other women. Start there. - wish you the best

Tell your friends. Find out if you can stay with them. You can leave this man. You can do it for yourself. You can do it for your child.

The police failed to tell you that the restraining order is for seven days, during which time you can get another into place. This would also give you some time to get this man out of your home while you clear out your clothes, or change the locks, or whatever.

Contact your local domestic violence shelter. I don't know where you are, but here are a couple of free phone numbers and links for you: http://www.cpedv.org; click on Get Help Now You may contact the 24-hour National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233) to be directly connected to your local domestic violence program.

WEAVE (Women Escaping A Violent Environment): 866.920.2952 Toll Free www.weaveinc.org

The advocates listed above will help figure out how to keep this man from getting custody, even partial custody, of your child. You can ask them about the phone recordings as well.

If you have to pay support to him, and that is the price to pay to get away from him, then do that. You can always revisit this later. A domestic violence advocate will help you navigate this, I am sure. A friend of mine had to give five years of her retirement to her ex after he got out of prison, and he stays unemployed so that he doesn't have to pay child support. Fair? NO. But she and her daughter are safe.

The system is definitely set up to be punative to the abused parent (that's you), so PLEASE call the advocates FIRST to set it up to keep yourself and your daughter safe. do it for yourself, do it for your child

First of all, I am so sorry about your situation. It sounds very serious, and I am very worried for you and your baby. Several comments in response to your post: I am glad that you are seeking legal advice, but from several things that you wrote, I think you are either not getting good advice, or your attorney is not communicating clearly with you and/or does not understand the gravity of your situation. Here on BPN we are not supposed to give legal advice, but let's just say that it is not necessarily the case that you should refrain from attempting to record threats that are made against you by phone. Also, you can inform the person that you are recording him - he might keep screaming the threats anyway. One thing you can definitely do is WRITE DOWN all threats immediately after they happen. Also, I would get in touch with some women's shelters, and try to get into a support group where you can talk to other women who have managed to escape abusive situations. Please also make contact with the District Attorney's Office of your county (not sure if you are Alameda County or Contra Costa County) and talk to the Domestic Violence Unit. They will probably be more helpful than the police. If I read your post correctly, you are from a different country. You need to find a Family Law attorney who has specific experience in dealing with abusive relationships involving a child and a foreign spouse. Finally, please please share what is going on with your friends and with your family. Not only for your own mental health, but so that they can support you as witnesses, should that become necessary. If you would like to talk more please get my contact info from the moderator. I will be thinking very positive thoughts for you and your baby. Your baby's safety is THE most important thing to focus on. take care of yourself

Let me express my care and concern & thank you for writing.

If you use a computer or phone that this man can access, be sure to clear the computer & phone call history.

I urge you to QUICKLY find someone local you can trust and talk to. I don't know if that person is a friend, an adviser at a non-profit organization, or someone at work, but you need an ally who can keep your confidence and help you make good decisions.

I did some research. You will probably find that some resources below are more useful than others. If the first few don't work out for you, keep on until you find one that does.

This page seemed very practical and down-to-earth-- http://www.helpguide.org/mental/domestic_violence_abuse_help_treatment_prevention.htm

This page has useful information & resources on domestic abuse-- http://www.courts.ca.gov/selfhelp-domesticviolence.htm

the bottom of this page can tell you a little more about shelters-- http://neighborhood.gottrouble.com/Domestic_Violence_Shelters_And_Safe_Houses_Berkeley_CA-p3779-Berkeley_CA.html

If you live in Berkeley, this is a useful reference: http://www.berkeleycountycomm.org/officials/domestic-violence.cfm

also-- http://www.standffov.org/gethelp/gethelpnow.html

I worry for you and your child. You may want to consider relocating to a shelter & from there moving closer to your family, but I don't know what your legal & financial situation are. I do hope you post a follow-up as things progress. --Be Safe

As a survivor of domestic violence, I really empathize with you and your situation. Many of the behaviors you described, like the verbal abuse, physical violence, unemployment, and threats occurred in my relationship, too, and I know that living with a person like that is terrifying and isolating, especially with a baby.

The most important thing you need to do immediately is to get you and your baby into safety. The reality is that you're in an extremely dangerous situation that can and will end badly if you don't protect yourself. What that means right now is making sure that you do not, under any circumstances, leave your baby alone with your partner. He is not fit to be a caregiver for your child while you're not there, even if he has some good moods, nice moments, etc. The reality is that he is violent, unpredictable, with a very questionable history as far as the restraining orders, etc. I know he's your baby's dad, but your child's safety is at risk and it's very important that the baby not be left alone with him.

I know that leaving your partner is a scary unknown, but staying in the relationship is even scarier. You and your child deserve to live in a peaceful, non-violent and non-toxic home. You deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. I strongly encourage you to contact a local women's shelter, or call a domestic violence hotline that can refer you to local resources for help in safely leaving the relationship. These resources can also provide you with legal assistance, support groups, etc. As far as your questions regarding paying child support, custody, etc..I do know that domestic violence plays a role in visitation rights, whether visits are supervised, etc. It's important that you retain an experienced family law attorney and above all, document everything. You should get copies of his previous restraining orders as well.

Wishing you and your child peace and safety. Feel free to get my email from the moderator if you want to talk or need support. Take good care. Been there

My female police officer friend and I agree that a restraining order isn't what's needed here. In fact, my friend has stories about women who end up dead after filing a restraining order against a low-life like your partner.

We both feel that if we were in your situation we would VERY secretly and carefully devise a plan to escape with the baby and go somewhere where he will never find the two of you. The fact that you are from another country in our opinion is a plus. Less likely he can find you. And his parental rights? Irrelevant.

I suggest SECRETLY (don't use your cellphone) talk to professionals who deal with this type of thing exactly, to work out a viable and safe plan to escape and maybe get funding for plane tickets - because your lives are on the line.

My friend knows someone who had to do this very thing - start a new secret life - and her ex, who used to beat her up regularly and threatened to kill her - was also a police officer. Can you believe it?

Be careful how you do this and who you go to for help. I think this may be a good place to start: National Domestic Violence Hotline www.ndvh.org

The National Domestic Violence Hotline, operating 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, offers services in Spanish and English, with access to more than 170 languages through interpreter services. The hotline provides crisis intervention, safety planning, information, and referrals to agencies in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Very scared 4 u and baby. God Bless.

I am so sorry you are in this situation. You must get out though. I would talk to a different lawyer. It's true you would probably be responsible for some child support, but not if you have full custody. Financially speaking, it seems like you could walk away. You are the only breadwinner, he doesn't work, so you are not only supporting the baby but also him. He is codependent on you and resents you at the same time because of it I'm sure. I know it is hard to leave, he may come after you. You definitely need to get away though, and I'd start telling your friends and documenting the situation privately. You need a support network in place in order to leave. anon

I feel for you. There are a number of resources out there for you, and the advice you were given about the restraining order was incorrect (perhaps they were talking about an emergency order.) The way it works is that you get a temporary restraining order that is good until your court date, and then assuming the judge agrees, is made permanent for 3 years. It is far from a perfect solution, but it is what is out there.

I strongly recommend that you go to one of two excellent nonprofits for advice. Both are confidential, they have lawyers on staff who will go with you every step of the way, and neither charges for their services, but have a number of resources outside of legal assistance.

The first is the family violence law center http://fvlc.org/

The second is alameda county family justice center http://www.acfjc.org/

another good resource is in san francisco it is called womens inc.

If you are a kaiser member, they run support groups in san francisco and richmond and perhaps (don't know here) in oakland.

All the best to you; you should not have to suffer this. cs

Hi - I wrote before but I just wanted to reiterate what one person said about restraining orders... although it's true that you can get a permanent restraining order during the 7-day temporary one, I absolutely agree that restraining orders mean nothing to a man as violent as this one. It's a piece of paper and can enrage him further to the point of keeping his promise to kill you - between the time you call the police and the time they get there.

I agree that secrecy and total removal from the situation and him is what you need. As a person who has gone through this, legality comes second to keeping yourself and your baby safe. I would run to my country of origin if I were from somewhere else, it's a great option to consider.

How many news stories are there about men who shot or killed their soon-to-be-ex or ''estranged'' partners, women who were trying to leave the violence. Many. Their kids' lives, even their own lives are less important than controlling the woman even if it means killing her, the kids & themselves.

Your guy sounds this extreme. You were wise to ask for help. Good luck in following up on the leads people offered and the offer of free help. anon

Hi, I'm not a lawyer or paralegal and know next to nothing about the law, but want to respond to your post. Your situation sounds scary, and first I want to tell you that there is a free lawyer on KGO radio named Len Tillum, and you can email his site and you might get some advice. I do know that if your partner is ''babysitting'' the kid, there is a chance that he will get joint custody or even full, if you split up. Okay, I'm sure many people will disagree with my idea here, and that is fine because maybe I'm wrong, but have you considered quitting your job. Quit your job, and take care of your baby. Handle the financial crisis as it comes. Appeal to shelters, to churches, to anyone who can help a mother in distress. You are living with a violent, unpredictable, very unstable person who probably has mental health issues. To choke you, or spit on you says it all right there; this guy is a nut job. Yes, he is dangerous to your child as well, and don't think that he won't do as he threatens. Now is the time to protect your baby, stay with your baby, and get away from him. Absolutely call the police, absolutely. This is the only evidence (police reports) that means anything in court. If you don't call the police, this will hurt your whole case. You must have a restraining order, you must call the cops, and you must have a good lawyer. I wish you luck, and pray that you take action immediately and that you find good people to help guide you, but don't give in to your partner's predictable ''good behavior'' and apology which will surely happen, and take him back in, or give your child to him. God bless you in this. anon

SAHM in emotionally abusive relationship

April 2010

I am a SAHM of a 5 and almost 4 year old. I've been gradually doing my prereqs towards a nursing degree and can technically transfer into a BSN degree in a year and a half. With today's impacted programs however, it might take me at the least 5 years to get my RN license.

Some time ago I started seeing a counselor to address some of the issues in my past only to come to terms with the fact that I'm in an emotional abusive marriage. My husband and I have tried to address the issues, even went to some marriage counseling. It will go well for a while but eventually just revert back to the way things were.

My point is that I am thinking about possibly leaving the relationship but have nowhere to turn. We've been together for 15 years and we've been through a lot but I'm not sure if I can live with the way he is treating me anymore. It seems to have gotten worse with the added responsibilities of kids and our current circumstances and little support. Overall he is a great person and father except for the times he loses his temper and he is known for being a difficult person to live with. We have moved here form another country(and do not wish to return) so I have no support nearby. I also have no means of financially supporting myself and the kids...with that also fearing that I may lose the kids should we divorce.

I am looking into immediately doing a Medical assisting program, to resolve the self support issue and not to base my decision on fear, and later continue to pursue nursing. But, I know how divorce can affect kids and I'm wondering whether I should wait and just stick with trying to complete the nursing program and be done with it. I don't know whether my inner struggle with leaving is clouding my judgment.

Has anyone gone through this? Your insight will be greatly appreciated!

Thank you. Scared

Not only have I gone through this, but have a couple of wonderful recommendations in case they are of help to you. First, the books of Patricia Evans and her website were an amazing resource for me. I even had a couple of phone consults with her, as did my husband.

Secondly, there is an amazingly wonderful therapist who is an expert in the field and runs a weekly woman's group in the east bay that is terrific. Her name is Deborah Joy and her number is 510-524-8284 She has a colleague who works with men in groups as well.

My journey has been hard, but not as hard as some. It took me a very long time to recognize what was going on as abuse, but finally got clarity which has been helpful. I wasn't helped at all by some therapists and marriage counselors. In some cases, I believe they made it worse, or at least didn't help, because they didn't understand the abuse part. I have found that working with someone who really does have knowledge about verbal/emotional abuse is so necessary.

Good luck, hang in there. I have found that my self esteem has really grown since I put my foot down. In my case, I am still with my husband, after a separation. In many cases I don't think the abusive partner is either willing or able to change enough. My husband had been, I think, the exception, but it's still challenging and I think that even though most of his horrible behavior has stopped, it's going to take me a very long time to trust and forgive him. The jury is still out for us, but at least things are much more peaceful in our home. If things ever get bad again, I will choose to be on my own rather than be the recipient of abuse.

All the best to you.
empathic friend

Hi - This is only one step but it's a good first step. There are probably layers of issues but one initial one is male violence (including emotional) and control over women. There are men's programs that deal with this. You can look them up. I knew a guy years ago who was a trailblazer in designing one of the first of these, and holding men accountable for that behavior and helping them change. It's not easy and the guy has to want to--very few do. He's older now and I don't know what he's doing. His name is Hamish Sinclair and I think he's still working in some capacity in San Francisco. It might be worth looking him up and making a call. And/or just researching that in general. If an abusive guy (or woman for that matter, but it's overwhelming men and that's held in place societally) doesn't own up and deal with this or want to change, couples counseling is flawed. The therapist will equalize everything but this is not equal. If one side of a couple is an alcoholic, say, most therapists won't see the couple until that person is in treatment because it skews things. Same is true with male abusive behavior patterns toward women. If it does initiate an opening, and you see things could change, you may have a totally different feeling about your life. Good luck. Anon

Your situation sounds really hard and my heart goes out to you. I just wanted to provide another perspective - I'm the child of an emotionally abusive dad (not all the time, just when the mood takes him). My parents fought all the time, mostly as a result of this abuse, so I'm nothing but glad that they separated when I was 4-1/2. The only memories I have of their marriage are bad ones, and I have no doubt it would have gotten worse. I understand your fears about custody, and for those you need to consult with a lawyer, but I wanted to set your mind at ease about divorce hurting kids. Discord and abuse hurt kids way more in the long run. All the best of luck to you!

hello, SAHM-I was in a relationship like yours. I left the relationship not only for myself but more for my children. The longer you and your children stay the more damage and danger you put yourself in. My youngest daughter began physically shaking out of fear when her father was around her. It's been 7 years since I left the abusive relationship. I wish I would have left sooner. My daughter went through years of counseling. If you can't leave the relationship to protect yourself...Do it for your children.

Praying for you and your children
a friend

Help for husband being emotionally abused by his wife?

June 2009

I've seen and heard a lot of recommendations for Patricia Evans' book on emotional abuse (forget the title). I'm wondering, does anyone know of any similar book for when the gender roles are switched, when the woman is dominant and abusive and the man is fearful and being controlled? Or does it matter, is it the same either way? It seems to me there would be more support for a woman in this position... Any thoughts, recommended titles appreciated. Anon

Do a google search for the following search string ''Duluth Wheel of violence gender neutral''. There are alot of websites which suuport battered men. Peace & blessings to you. abuse is wrong no matter the gender

I just want you to know that you are not alone! I am a relationship coach and have seen several men in your situation. Abuse is abuse regardless of who is the perpetrator and the toll abuse takes on the victim is not gender biased. It's great that you are looking into self help books but often people in emotionally abusive relationships benefit from counseling as well. It can be a very difficult cycle to break free of, and if your hope is to heal the relationship then counseling is a must. You have already begun the change!

Men can definitely be emotionally abused -- my maternal grandfather, a very sweet man, was abused by my grandmother in a way that upset the entire family. It is important, I think, for you to stand up for your right to be treated with respect. I would think that couples counseling is a must. The counselor would try to help you get at underlying issues and teach you and your wife healthier ways to communicate. And you should probably go in for counseling about self-esteem issues; I was involved in an emotionally abusive relationship for many years, and the question that I have to ask myself is: why did I allow myself to be treated that way for so long? Asking yourself about whether emotional abuse is possible is a good first step -- now go on and try to end this cycle.

no longer abused

How to leave a verbally abusive relationship

Dec 2005

My husband is being abusive to me and I am not doing well. He does not hit me, but does put me down very often, screams at me, tells me that I am useless, calls me a b****, leaves the house for hours when he gets angry... We have a 20 month old baby and another one on the way, so I am concerned about me AND the kids.

He does argue in front of our baby and we never talk about our problems after the big explosion comes. When he is over being mad, he wants to be intimate and act like nothing ever happened, and if I try to bring up the argument to try and makes things better the next time, he says not to spoil the good moment.

This started happening when I was pregnant with our first baby, it got worse until I started going to therapy then I got myself more together and, I don't know why, he started to do better. I had a serious talk with him before telling him about the second pregnancy and he said that he was very commited to the relationship, that he loved me, that he would go to counseling if we had these problems again, but now he says that he lied and that he will never go to therapy.

I LOVE my husband and would love to make things work, but he needs to want to work on it, and there is no magical way to help him figure out how important this is... is there?

He also tells me that he loves me, and shows it fine some times, but it is getting really difficult to deal with the difficult times and think that our kids will grow up in such a disfunctional family. His family has a lot of problems (his mom is being abused also), but mine is very stable and my parents just talked about their things and we were almost never there when this happened.

I am having a really hard time with this and would like to know what kind of support I can have if I decide to leave him. We have been married for a little over four years and I am working part time (we made this decision together) to focus more in the house and to have more time for me and to be with our baby. So I make about one fourth of what he makes and I would have to support myself and the two kids if I decide to leave him.

I know I need to go to counseling, does anyone have any ideas of a good place that is not very expensive? Where could I go to live/spend a couple of nights when I leave the house with the baby... and the belly? Where could I get legal advise (free and anonymous advise)? I want to know if I would receive finantial help, who would have custody of the kids...

Thank you for your help. Lost mom

You ARE in an abusive relationship, and your instincts about needing to consult with a lawyer and seek counseling for yourself are right on target.

re. the legal end... I'm not a lawyer, but I know that California law has a formula for determining child support payments based on the income of each partner. Each child would receive support until he/she reaches the age of 18. If you think your husband would not be reliable in paying support, the court can attach his salary. But you need to get advice from a lawyer...

re. counseling. If he won't go to counseling (which is a shame, as he NEEDS it desperately), you need that support personally. I can recommend Claire Stone, a Marriage and Family Therapist in Berkeley. She does have a sliding scale. I think she would be very helpful to you. You can read more about her practice at her website: http://berkeleytherapist.org/ ... or phone her at 510 410-4182. Best wishes! anon

I am so sorry to hear about what you are going through. It sounds as if you have taken some steps to help yourself, but one really important one is to see a lawyer, because even if you decide to leave the relationship, you are not solely responsible for the support of your kids. I know others on the network can offer advice about where to stay (or perhaps you should make him leave...), but I wanted to express my support for your decision to leave the relationship if your husband refuses to take steps to change, right now. no more abuse

I am so glad you are reaching out for support. I have worked in the field of domestic violence for over 10 years, and although you do not describe physical abuse, you do describe a classic case of domestic violence. It is highly likely that your husband will become physically abusive towards you in the future if he does not accept responsibility for his behavior and get help.

Domestic violence oftens begins in pregnancy, and the fact that you have another one on the way and a toddler already, cause me great concern for your saftey. There are many resources available. Family Violence Law Center is the best place to start- the have free legal services and tons of referrals for support groups and shelters. The website is http://www.fvlc.org/, and their hotline number is 510-208-0255.

Abusive relationships are very difficult to leave and leaving can often increase the chances of physical harm- so you must decide when to leave and how. I say this as you may receive many responses to your post that tell you to leave asap. It is great that you are researching your options before the baby is born. Can your family help? I encourage you to continue your counseling and make a safety plan with your therapist (places you can go, items to take, ways to hide away some money) or call the Law Center and they can help you make a safety plan. I wish you well. Know that you are not alone and there are resources out there. anon

Trapped in marriage with disrespectful and controlling husband

January 2003

All the advice to the person with the abusive husband is sound and correct. Getting out of the abusive situation is the best.

All abuse not not consist of yelling, threatening and hitting. I am in the unfortunate situation of having my personality abused - as opposed to my person. I live with a control freak who has systematically cut me off from any friends I had prior to marriage, ridicules any and every hobby or activity I want to take up and has created essentially a prison for me by setting up situations where I am the one who has to be there for the kids. He gets to go to all his football games, visit all his relatives who live in town, play golF etc. while I get no rec time or ''fun'' time at all. I could not financially take care of my children on my own salary.

I do not have any family to go to. I can't leave town because I have a job in the area where I am treated like a human being and I have to keep that for benefits and retirement, etc. There is no way I could leave my children in the care of my husband and the influence of his own dysfunctional family upon them. Plus I am really afraid that if I did take the kids and leave, whether I pressed for divorce or not, we would be out on the street and I would never get the husband out of the house. There would be a big legal battle - not over custody of the kids but over the house which he would then try to take control of.

I put most of the work into fixing the place up and making it a home for my kids. My husband does very little axcept pick up the kids from school, watch them for about 1 1/2 hours in the evening until I get home from work and on Saturday mornings for 4 hours. Then he goes ''somewhere.'' My husband has lots of family in the area and since he is always over a one of their homes I think he should move out and live with them. The one time I kicked him out because he was taking advantage of my mom who was visitng - he basically treated her like a maid - he went to stay with his parents for 2 days, but when my mom left - he came back. He thought my mom was the problem.

Essentially I feel like I am a single parent living with a partially absentee emotionally abusive, controlling, self-serving husband. I do most of the mom work, housekeeping, yardwork (''man's work - building , repairing things, ec.) and yet I am financiallly dependent on this person to pay for childcare, groceries etc. I pay half the mortgage, my own car payment, the phone bill, the kids clothes, toys etc and some groceries and my own gas and car insurance. After that I have nothing left. I am also too physically drained on a daily basis to proactively go out and find legal assistance.

I think there are many others in this situation where they would be divorced, but the high cost of living in the Bay Area has them trapped in less than moderate relationships. I, myself would appreciate any advice from anyone out there familiar with this sort of situation. I already have all of the abuse hotline information, battered women's shelter numbers, etc. etc. The problem is that police don't come unless you are being physically injured or threatened. The abuse in our household is one of emotional neglect, disrespect and control by a self-centered dictator which essentially just wears you down and breaks you so that you have no energy left to stand up for yourself or your kids anymore and leaves you imprisoned in a very closed environment where your ideas are not important, your thought are not heard, your needs are not met - because they are not those of the one doing the controlling.

What you are experiencing is as bad as physical abuse, and probably harder to recover from. I'll bet $100 he's having an affair, and the next time he goes ''somewhere'', you should quickly call a sitter and follow him with a camera and catch him in the act, then get a lawyer on a contingency and take him for everything. You'd win, and he'd get what he deserves...just my 2 cents worth. TC in Berkeley

I am so sorry to hear your awful situation. I left a bad marriage many years ago but mine paled in comparison. I am sure you will get lot's of advise as to why you should leave this marriage. All I want to say is that you can make it. I escaped a bad situation by leaving my house and everything else by taking my then two year old in the middle of the night from his home outside the Bay Area to stay with a friend. I never had a full- time job and no appearnt job skills. I also have no family in this country who could help me out. I thought I would never be able to support myself and my child. Well I did. I found a job that did not pay a lot, but had a lot of opportunities to ''move- up.'' Also, do not forget that your husband will have to pay child support! With his support, and my meager salary, I was able to get a small little apartment and take care of my child. My child is now a happy 7 year old, and his mommy is very happy too. Please get all the strength you can get and plan your move. Leave the house, if need be. It is really just a house! Nothing will be as important as for you and your child to be happy. been there too!!

I could have written your post, and my response is as much for myself as it is for you...get out.

If your husband is like mine, things will not improve. It doesn't matter whether you learn to be assertive or whether you continue to be accomodating, any effort to get your needs met will be shot down and you will continue to be manipulated. The phrase that keeps echoing through my head is ''anything you say can and will be used against you''. It's a no win situation, and its bound to get worse.

Talk to an attorney (there have been several listed in recent recommendations digests). Aim for divorce with the knowledge that things may be harder, even excrutiatingly painful. You may go into debt, or compromise your standard of living. But I know in my heart that nothing will ever be as bad as being in a relationship where you have lost yourself.

Remember, other than the lifestyle your husband's income provides, you already feel like a single parent. LET THE HOUSE GO (that's been a big challenge for me). Its just a house and not nearly as important as the emotional well being of you and your children. If you're anything like me there was a time in your life when you got anything you put your mind to, start scanning craigslist for places to live. Make a plan, don't wait any longer. You're not alone

You don't have to live like that. Don't be afraid to go. You can do it - other people have done it. When I left my husband, I was a grad student with two kids and no money and only a halftime job and a bunch of student loans. I walked away from the house and from all the stuff, literally walked - I didn't have a car - and I stayed first with a family member for a few months, and then I moved into a house that I shared with 3 other working adults. It was affordable. I was the only one who had kids, and there were some downsides, but heck, it got me out of that marriage. It worked out fine. I think the hardest part was making up my mind to do it. Once I made up my mind, I started figuring out how to do it, and it turned out that there was a way, and it was not so bad. Totally worth it. Good luck

Yikes! Your situation sounds dreadful, please accept my sincerest sympathies! Of course, I want to say ''get outta there!'' for your sake and the sake of your kids, but clearly it's not that simple or easy.

One question that came up for me after reading your post was ''do you get sick leave from your job?'' You mentioned feeling too exhausted after work to consult with a lawyer. I'm thinking that if I felt that way, I'd take a sick day off and consult with a lawyer! For one thing, with California's community property laws, if your husband insiststs on keeping the house, doesn't he have to buy you out?(Which would be helpful for getting started on your own somewhere - perhaps closer to your family?). I don't know your situation, of course. You may feel that your husband would try to avoid giving you any money (which seems a likely tactic for a control freak). I believe, however, that you can send a sherrif over to collect for you, if he doesn't cough up the divorce settlement.

Well, regardless, this will likely be a very difficult situation to extract yourself from. I hope you are able to get yourself and your kids away from your husband. alesia

Your message really resonated for me. I think I've had pieces of your experience over the last several years, and I want you to know you are not alone. You don't really say whether you want to try to save the marriage, or if you just feel stuck in it, or whether he does. And you're right-- verbal abuse is abuse. I did two things when I hit bottom: I talked to a lawyer to understand legal and financial options, and I talked to a therapist to try to get clear as to what I wanted, instead of having everything operate in reaction to my husband. I decided to give therapy a shot, to see if I could unlock my own patterns that were feeding a bad dynamic in our household. I was SO prepared to ditch him (and our house, car, life but NOT children) if I didn't get a lot more optomistic about the prospects for our marriage. It sounds like money is tight for you, and I too spent months convincing myself I couldn't afford it, until I finally called my work's benefit plan to learn they have an Employee Assistance Program or EAP, that basically covered the cost of therapy for over 18 months, except for a very low copay. I had the option to see someone near my house or my work, so it would have been possible to go at lunch once a week without him even knowing, and it's totally confidential. What's come to the surface for me through therapy is that my husband's own depression and guilt over some really bad acts in his past made him want to put me down all the time--especially as he saw me doing back flips trying to keep everything together. The amazing thing is that he didn't even realize he was doing it. I also realized I was pretty much a door mat--not that you are-- but in my case I felt so beaten down that I walked on eggshells trying to avoid another bad scene, felt like crap about everything and was so overwhelmed that getting my kids to the park felt like a major deal. It only got better (and it's much better) when I vented enough of my own anger elsewhere that I could calmly start pointing out to him the things he was doing, and how they were affecting our family. I think it made all the difference that when I was able to stop viewing him as the devil, he felt it. As to options for leaving, I too felt absolutely stuck with children, mortgage, job and that I couldn't possibly do it on my own. But I decided that if therapy didn't work, I was prepared to live anywhere to live happily. You also should know that if leaving feels like the only option to you, assuming you've been living in CA for your married life, the law does protect you and afford you rights, especially for child support and possibly alimony. Paying a lawyer for a one hour consultation to understand your options may just give you the comfort you need to know you do have options. Good Luck. anon

Considering divorce - Verbally Abusive Husband

July 1998

I am considering getting a divorce and it's not an easy decision as I have a three year old who loves her dad, and I am 6 and a half months pregnant with our second. My husband is constantly verbally abusive, and even threathens me physically once a year or more. I feel it would come to more if I didn't retreat from his outbursts and bullying in fear.

I think I might probably make the break if I was more financially well off, and if I didn't have a child who will suffer the separation. If I didn't work full-time, and could be there for her more, it would be easier. And I do not have any family here to help. I am entirely on my own.

I am willing to see someone, and so is he, but I feel that nothing can change a man like this. I also feel that the person we see should have some experience and knowledge re this kind of problem, which is why I am putting this request out here...in the hope that someone may have had similar experience and success with finding a good therapist who could really help. If anyone out there knows of such a therapist, please post me a message here. I would appreciate it very much. Thank you.

You said ... My husband is constantly verbally abusive, and even threathens me physically once a year or more. I feel it would come to more if I didn't retreat from his outbursts and bullying in fear.

That may or may not be true. His outbursts and bullying ARE the problem, not your fear. Maybe if you stood up to him, he'd back down, then again, maybe he'd get worse.

I worked for years in the battered women's shelter movement ... what you're describing is a complex and difficult situation, but you are right to try to protect yourself AND your kids.

What I'd suggest right now is that you do all you can to ease your own life, get yourself and your child support NOW, without even deciding about divorce just yet. For example, I'd recommend going to CARE services and asking for a recommendation for a couples counselor but ALSO an individual counselor for yourself. You can see a CARE person initially, for free, and then that person can help you assess further needs and plans.

I'd also recommend you see an attorney right now. NOT to file divorce yet (you don't seem clear that you want that) BUT instead to ask for advice on ways you can strengthen your financial and legal situation NOW.

I'd also suggest that you ask your department if you could telecommute one day a week. My boss lets me do that. We are very upfront about the fact that I have laundry running at the SAME time I'm doing my reading and editing at home, that instead of going out for coffee with a colleague twice a day, I spend those two 15 minute chunks of time washing dishes and mopping the bathroom. It's called multi-tasking. I DON'T keep my daughters home on my telecommute day; I'd get nothing done. But then when Saturday comes, I can spend more time with them, be more present, instead of doing huge mountains of laundry.

Before you ask your department, ask CARE services for the official, written, UC policy on work and family. It helped for us (me and my boss) to know that UC officially encourages supervisors to be supportive of flex-time, telecommuting and other family-friendly options.

I have found that the telecommuting day has made a HUGE difference in my life. I'm happier at home and more invested in, committed to my job, a less worried, more present employee.