Sticky situation


I am a 49 year old husband and father of 3 children, ages 9 to 15 and I am nearing the end of my rope. After 15 years of marriage my wife declared to me that she hired a lawyer and was going to divorce me. This was February 21, 2007. She refused my request to reconsider or to go to counseling and said she wanted to tell the children that night after school. I told her it was her idea and she should tell them herself. She didn’t tell them that night. The next day I spoke to an attorney and he told me she could divorce me for no reason and there was nothing I could do about it. I went home to her, got on my knees and begged her not to tear our family apart. She said if I sold my business and moved 275 miles to be near her family she would call off the divorce. I agreed. 3 years earlier we had considered moving near her family and her mother and sister told us not to, so I said oooooook, I am not moving down there. Fast forward to the here and now, we have moved, we live 4 miles from her mother. Her family treats me and sometimes the kids very badly. They insult me, saying I am a poor provider for my wife and children. My wife exaggerates all of my flaws when she talks to them. My wife arranges family outings so that I am excluded, usually when i am at work. My wife tells me we don’t have enough money to go out or to take the kids out and then goes out with her sisters or mother every chance she gets… One of her sisters and her husband having taken her side and confront me every chance they get. She throws up road blocks to me going back to visit my mother in a nursing home. She throws up road blocks to me taking children on vacations or family reunions to my family. We argue. I asked her if she wants me to leave one time and she says she doesn’t. I got her to a counselor once and it seems to have helped some. I also got her to get a job and I think that has helped. I can’t find a good job. I don’t know anyone around here. Her family puts me down as being lazy and a trouble maker. I am currently farming and have a part time job at a farm store. We both have college educations. We lost 25% of our equity with this move. We could have educated all 3 of our children with the money we lost with this move. We were so well off and my family had helped us so much and now it is all gone. I am very angry…


Go do an hour of adoration and ask Jesus to help. Cry out to Mary, she is your Heavenly Mother. Ask her to go to her Son for you. I will keep you in my prayers.


I can kind of relate to what your wife may be experiencing with her family right now. My mother really doesn’t like my husband and can barely bring herself to be civil with him. I know that if I moved closer to my mother (who I have a great long distance relationship with,) she would try to undermine my marriage.

I think it’s just easier for some people to leave their original family and focus on their spouse and children than it is for others. My mother can be very controlling and made me feel guilty all of the time, and throughout my life I fed into it. My husband had no desire to do so and helped me to separate from the need to please her. In my situation, moving away was a blessing because the control was gone.

Also, I learned not to talk about any marital issues with family members because I often exaggerated the situation, which they in turn held against my husband.

I hope you find a solution for your situation. Perhaps if you could secure a good job about 100 miles away from her family, it could work. (Trust me, even 50 miles is too close.) You’d still be close enough for a weekend visit, but too far for a ‘drop-in visit.’

Either way, if your wife wont properly communicate with you, you’ve got a long road ahead of you.


First of all I would look at what they are complaining about and see if there is any truth to it. There is very little we can change but I would also pray for your wife, sounds like she is an unhappy person.


You mentioned that they are hurtful to your children too. Would you say that your wife is verbally/emotionally abusive to both you and the children?


Yes, I believe that she is, but I don’t think she would physically harm them. I have complained to her about constantly yelling at them and at times I have actually stepped between her and the children. One time when I wasn’t there she got angry at the kids while she was loading them into the pickup, she slammed her hand against the pickup window, broke the window and cut her hand. She has thrown things at me. When our oldest was about two, she would get mad at him for misbehaving and force him to leave the house. I would find him outside alone when i came home. I was afraid he would get under some of my farm machinery and I wouldn’t know it so I started taking him with me on the tractor so I would know where he was. When our middle son was 2 and our youngest was 2 months, I became ill and was hospitalized for 2 weeks. My wife’s mother stayed with my wife. When I got out of the hospital our 2 year old son didn’t want me to pick him up anymore…he was never the same. He became very unruly and difficult. I visited with my wife about how to handle him and what could be wrong. She said something that made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. She said “he hears voices”. I said ‘what?’. She repeated “he hears voices”. I said what makes you think that. She never answered. I said did he tell you he hears voices? She said he didn’t. I never knew what to think of that exchange. She may have mental problems, I don’t know. She is 46 and she might be having hormone changes or something. I have tried to question her about her past and she is very secretive. I don’t understand her and she is not very cooperative in helping me to understand her. I think we can have a good life together and I want to make that happen. She seems to use her family to hurt me…setting up outings with them that I can’t attend, telling them exaggerations of things i say to hurt them. It all seems so odd and unnecessary. I don’t know if it derives from a mental problem or if it is just learned behavior from how she was raised. I have tried everything to deal with her, but I don’t believe I can answer meanness with meanness. I think the counselor helped some. The counselor recommended us to read THE DANCE OF ANGER by Lerner. I have gotten through part of it, although it seems to be targeted toward women, I think it has helped. I think the job has helped too. I thought she just had to get out of the house, plus if she divorced me she’d most likely have to get a job anyway.


Yes, there is some truth to some of what they say. Most of what they complain about is what I have done in response to her and taken out of context it does make me look bad. This is why I have concluded that I can’t answer meanness or whatever her problem is with meanness and that is not easy. I get angry and frustated. I try not to, but it is difficult.


You are being abused. It is harmful to you, and it is harmful to your children. Emotional abuse harms you from the inside out. I think in addition to couple’s counseling, you should probably also go to individual counseling. You need to get your strength and your perspective back, because you should not be living with this abuse, nor should your children.

You might also want to discuss this with your priest. Staying in an abusive situation that is not improving is not the right thing to do, for anyone involved.


Your wife has serious mental and/or behavioural problems~which seem to only be intensified by contact with her family. You are now in an extrememly difficult position, having moved into the hornet’s nest. The most pressing concern is the effect her erratic/violent behaviour may have on your children. It also sounds like you have little leverage over her if she is as unreasonable as she sounds, has her own source of income and the support of her family. Aside from working on your own employment prospects, your only apparent option for protecting the children might be to notify protective services. I would do so anonymously, if possible, because of the the risk that with heavy case loads, bad behaviour alone without obvious abuse may not result in any intervention, and reporting her would undoubtedly inflame the negativity you get from her and her family.


I think that things are beginning to become clearer now that we have moved nearer to her mother and siblings. I just don’t know exactly what to think about it all, or really how to deal with it all. I will seek more counseling. The local priest here is alot more responsive than the priest we had prior to our move. I would like to approach some of her brothers to see what the heck is the source of all of this, but I am afraid to and I think they would be reluctant to discuss it with me. She will do what she wants to do and her mother and siblings will support her. I believe that if she divorces me she will fight for custody of the children and win and she will then promptly dump them off on some of her siblings or mother. I will do whatever I can to stay with her and the children. It is just hard to deal with.


There is some abuse at times, I suppose. There are some good times too, though not many. I wouldn’t win custody of the children and if I was out of the picture, it would be worse for them. Women hold the cards when it comes to custody, unless I could prove abuse and I can’t imagine I could do that. If she divorced me I would fight for custody and lose, at least she would then be required to undergo mental evaluation. I have talked to our priest and he is supportive, more supportive than I had expected he would be.



You are in an abusive situation. The fact that you are being prevented from visiting your mother is a type of isolation that is characteristic of abuse. I think you need to stand up for yourself and put your foot down.

First, document every instance of abuse you are subject to - whether it be things your wife throws, “that time of the month” fits, badmouthing on the part of your in-laws, etc. Make note of the when, what, and any witnesses. This will be invaluable when it comes time to have the parish priest talk to her - she needs to be cornered like they do in “interventions” - or if you need to commit her to an institution (the next time she harms herself might be the pretext you need to commit her), or when it comes time for custody battles. Remember, you have kids to protect, and what you do now could save them thousands of dollars in therapy bills later in their lives.

Stand up to your in-laws. If you have favorable witnesses who will back you up, tell them to “kiss off”. I know it may not be the “nice” thing to do, but **protecting your marriage and your kids **are more important that maintaining an illusion of “niceness”.

How old is your wife? Since you say you are 49, it is possible she is not handling her “change of life” well, if you get what I mean.

What would happen if you simply told her “Look, I’m visiting my mother. I sold my business and moved 200+ miles for you. You owe me this small favor.”

Lastly, I will offer this prayer that I shall pray before typing it:

“O victorious Lady, thou has such powerful influence with thy divine Son in conquering the hardest of hearts, intercede for those for whom we pray: **that their hearts may be softened **by the rays of divine grace, that they may return to the unity of the true faith. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.”


Have you talked with an attorney to see if this is the case, that you would not win custody? I agree with a previous poster. You need to start keeping a journal and documenting everything. Keep track of the names she calls you and the children, any threats that she makes, anything that she throws at you, if she grabs you or pushes you…document it all with dates, times, quotes.

This will help you not only if you ever do end up in court with a custody dispute, but also I think it will give you some much needed perspective into what is really going on and how “out there” your wife and her family are. It sounds like this has been happening since the beginning since some of the violent behavior your described happened when your chilren were quite young. So, it is probably quite deep, deep into her personal make up. You’ve probably also lived in the midst of it for so long that you can’t quite see it for what it is. You are going to need to start the process of detatching from her.

Your children should also be in counseling. They have already suffered so much. If you contact the local domestic violence center they can probably refer you to some low cost counseling options. How do your children feel about their mother? Please don’t go and ask them, or try to say anything negative about her to them, but what have they said in the past. Your kids are old enough that in a divorce situtation, they would have a great deal of say as far as who gets custody over them.

Please do continue speaking with your priest and getting any outside help that you can. You are in my prayers. You really do need to be strong and not give into inaction here. Your children’s lives are in your hands.


A 2 year old outside alone ?? :eek: Isn’t that neglect??


Oh, and one further piece of advice…do not let your wife isolate you. Stay in contact with your family. Let them know what is going on with you. You also need to work to have some social contacts in your area, people who see the kind of good person and father that you are. If you had this in your previous town, make sure that you stay in touch with them. Get involved with groups at your church. This outside contact with people who are not abusive and unreasonable to you will do you a world of good.


Whereas I am not a favor of counseling over every little thing, the above could be useful for documentation in a custody battle or if the OP wants to set up an intervention or, if things are that serious, commit her to an institution.

Phantom, consider bringing up the subject of visiting your mother at family dinner with all kids present. Were you hoping to have any or all of the kids to visit your mother as well? Say you want the whole family to go. This will put her on the spot and kill several birds with one stone: you cannot be accused of leaving her out if you want her to come along; how she reacts can be documented; she will have to explain to the kids why they can’t visit grandma, and the kids will be able to see for themselves what is going on and they can testify to any judge that “daddy is the reasonable one and mommy is the meanie”.

I have to emphasize the last sentence. You need to portray yourself as the henpecked husband who bent over backwards at great personal cost to save the marriage while your wife is the “meanie”. It may not sound “nice” to some people, but in order to save the marriage it is your wife who needs to repent and change, not you; you have done more changing and bending over backwards than can be reasonably expected, and things have only gotten worse (unless there is something more going on or if there is a safety issue with your mother that your wife is concerned about).

One other thing: is there alcohol or other drug use happening in this situation?


I’m sorry phantom–your wife does need help, though. How you’re living is not healthy, for you, her, or the kids. I will keep you in my prayers, that she will consider counseling, and that God heals her in body, mind and spirit. And may He bless your marriage and bring it peace.


Thank you for your responses and prayers.

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