Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Abusive husband still is only looking out for himself
Not a hypothetical question: If a woman's husband has been verbally and emotionally abusive toward her throughout the course of their marriage, and the wife finally becomes fed up and wants to leave, what do you see as her obligation toward him and the marriage, if he says he NOW wants to change his behavior?
Is she obligated to give it a shot, go for counseling, give him another chance because he says he needs her help and feedback in order to change? I don't want to give it a shot, but he has me thinking I should. I feel as if I've given him many chances over the years and he ignored me until faced with the prospect of losing me.
Carolyn: That he is trying to guilt you into staying is a clear sign that he has not reached the point where you should trust him.
You know you can trust someone when you know s/he has your back. And how do you know that? When there is daily, unambiguous proof that this person treats your needs as equal to his own.
For example, this person will occasionally do something around the house to give you a break, when you're fully aware this person could use a break, too. That's a small example, but it says big things. It says you have a teammate who is capable of thinking selflessly for the greater good of the partnership.
Of course, big examples can also say big things. And he could say a lot here by saying to you: "I get it, I have treated you abysmally and unforgivably, and I'm going to do what I need to do to get well. I understand you have to do that, too, and so I'll support whatever it is you decide to do — stay or go." That's someone who has your back. Right now, the only body part he's looking out for in this marriage is his own butt.
Get some outside help from people who have the training and experience to work with people in abusive marriages, and do whatever you need to get well.
Refusal of counseling may nix prospect of friendly divorce
D.C.: My husband is (angry) that I won't see a marriage counselor. I have asked him for a divorce. I have been unhappy a long time, and have been in individual therapy. I am not in love with him anymore, and the reasons I want out are not external, but those internal things that add up to a strong distaste as an intimate emotional partner. I still enjoy his friendship. I don't want him to hold a grudge as we move forward, but I think counseling together would give him false hopes.
Carolyn: There's no question here, but it looks to me as if you're really facing a choice between divorcing on your terms (thereby risking that he'll hold a grudge), or granting him his terms and going to marriage counseling (thereby postponing the escape you're anxious to make).
You might get the quick exit or the friendly exit, but apparently not both. Your husband wants to have some say in something that's essentially out of his hands. At least acknowledge where that comes from, even if you don't bend to it.