I've been married for 18 years, and my connection to my husband has slowly dwindled down to nothing. I'd always been hopeful that things could get better, but after several years of church marriage counseling, then professional counseling, and reading every recommended marriage book out there, I've pretty much lost all hope. My husband is hardworking and responsible, but I don't love this man. He is controlling and verbally abusive. We have three kids under the age of 11, and as a father he's energetic and fun but uninvolved in any of the necessary tasks of taking care of them. We have nothing in common and no shared interests anymore. Is this marriage beyond repair?
- D.S., 43, New York City
No one should stay married to someone who abuses her for any reason. Ever. Kids or no kids. Putting up with abuse from a partner teaches your children that it's an acceptable way to conduct an intimate relationship. Is that what you want for them?
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That said, there's no hard-and-fast rule as to when a marriage is beyond repair. A marriage is not a dishwasher or a Toyota. What might seem irreparable to me would not be to you, and vice versa. So in the end, only you can know whether the right choice is to stay or go.
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If everything you say is true and you haven't overstated your husband's bad behavior out of exhaustion or frustration, the real question is why you would want to repair your marriage. It doesn't sound like it's bringing you joy or helping you expand your own horizons or even making your life easier.
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But let's assume there's something in your marriage worth fighting for - and let's also, for the sake of argument, assume your husband isn't guilty of verbal abuse per se (continuous belittling, undermining, and name-calling) but only of saying some not-nice things during heated arguments, as we all do. How, then, do you proceed? You need to isolate what, exactly, it is that needs to be repaired in your marriage. What concrete change will you need to see in order to stay? It's important for you to figure out the answers to these questions. You must have a clear sense of what you absolutely need, what you can compromise on, and what is, in the end, a deal-breaker.
Related: How to Fix Any Intimacy Issue in Marriage
Once you've arrived at a conclusion, don't second-guess yourself. Tell your husband what you're going to need to stay, and give him time - say, a few months - to take action on what you've asked. Then, respect your instincts when they tell you whether to stay or go.
Karen Karbo is an award-winning writer and author of The Gospel According to Coco Chanel: Life Lessons from the World's Most Elegant Woman. She's also a mom, a writing teacher, and a horse owner. Check out more advice from Karen.
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