Artwork: Tess Emily Rodriguez
She’s made all the mistakes, so you don’t have to… Ask Erin is a weekly advice column, in which Erin answers your burning questions about anything at all.
I don’t know what to do.
My life has been nothing short of a Greek tragedy. I grew up in foster care. My father molested me. My adopted mom beat me, and verbally made me feel hopeless. Now, my husband of three years and father to my two boys is becoming someone I don't know.
Sometimes, I feel it has to be me.
Last week, my husband and I got into it over financial planning. I don't like to live on a whim, which we were doing for a couple of years. I feel stable and happy and want it to continue to be easy to pay bills. Neither one of us works because he's a retired vet.
We were talking, and at one point, I got off of the bed to take a shower, and he flipped again. The explosive anger. He threw me on the bed, tried to choke me, and somewhere in the altercation, my toes were broken.
Maybe it’s my own fault. I apologized to him for pushing his buttons.
I thought it would get better, but two days ago, he got mad about juice during bedtime. He said I disrespected him and called me a bitch over and over while shoving me.
I love my husband, but I'm scared.
I'm scared to be alone, to mess my children's lives up. I have no family. I don't want to be homeless again.
What do I do?
There are three things I am sure of from reading your email. There is no gray area here, no debate…
Your husband is abusing you. It is NOT your fault. You need to make a plan to get out, no matter how much you feel that you love him.
What you have described is very clearly physical and emotional abuse. There is no doubt in my mind. You know this. Your history of being abused has made it very easy for your husband to get away with this because he’s confirming those untrue belief systems you have about yourself.
When you experience abuse as a child, a belief system is created, one which whispers in your ear, you’re broken, you’re bad, it’s your fault.
I am not a therapist or mental health professional, but I speak from experience. I understand the lies that bloom inside of us, the ones that trauma and abuse bring. I have seen them play out again and again.
I had these toxic belief systems about myself, too.
I believed that the abuse I experienced as a child was my fault. Even when I intellectualized that it was not, internally, I held fast to that belief.
Your parents abused you. The people who were supposed to love and protect you failed. It is not surprising to me that you confuse love with abuse. You were raised to do that. This is NOT your fault. It is common for abuse survivors to find themselves in relationships that reenact that abuse repeatedly.
There is no argument that warrants shoving, name-calling, or broken toes. That is not love. That is abuse.
I understand that you are scared. It’s terrifying to confront abuse and challenge the belief systems we have about ourselves—no matter how harmful they’ve been. It’s equally scary to venture into the unknown. It can feel hopeless. It’s not. There is help, and there is hope; I promise you this.
You’re going to need some outside help. You didn’t mention in your email where you are from, so I am going to leave some general domestic violence resources below. If you email me again, I can give you resources specific to your location. I urge you to plan quickly.
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: Use the method of communication that is safest for you. Call 1-800-799-7233 or text LOVEIS to 1-866-331-9474. You can also log on online at thehotline.org.
- The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) Toolkits
- NCADV (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence): Personalized Safety Plan, Tips for Accessing Resources, Financial Education Webinar Series, Related Resources (trauma, homelessness, etc.)
This feels scary, but you don’t have to do this alone. I know you don’t have a family to lean on, but if you have any friends you trust, please reach out to them for practical or moral support. Most importantly, please use the domestic violence resources that are out there. It’s crucial that you and your children have protective measures in place.
You have an opportunity to break this cycle, not just for yourself, but for your children.
Again, please reach out so I can send you some location-specific information. Writing into me here is a significant first step. I am here to help in any way I can.
The information within Ask Erin should in no way be interpreted as medical advice because I’m not a medical professional. But I am here to help — to share the wisdom I’ve gained after years of making mistakes. If you have a question for me about relationships, addiction, dating, friendships, depression, parenting, sex, consent, what I’m watching, what I’m reading, what I’m listening to, Chrysocolla, or anything at all, use the contact form below or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, your anonymity is golden.
Did you know I wrote a book about my 15-year struggle with heroin addiction? It’s called STRUNG OUT: One Last Hit and Other Lies that Nearly Killed Me, and it’s on sale now!
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