Dear Chump Lady,
I’m on the fence about divorcing my cheating husband. But this is where I get stuck — I made a vow to him. In good times and in bad. Okay, this is BAD times. Really bad, as in — I frequently fantasize that a tractor rolls over on him and crushes him flat or he dies in a fiery auto wreck. Of course, I immediately feel guilty for such thoughts… but I keep having them.
We’ve had good times too. It’s not always drama. But even when he quits cheating or raging about something, he still can be a real asshole to be around. He’ll try… be loving for awhile, I relax, then the drama flairs up, then dies down. Then it’s normal… then more drama… I don’t want to be a quitter. I think there is a good person in there somewhere. If I abandon him, won’t I make his issues worse? I’m wondering if he is bipolar or something. Then I think, well… if he’s sick, I vowed in sickness and in health.
I’ve tried a lot to get him help, but I’m feeling stuck and guilty. I know I should honor my vows, but some days I really don’t want to.
You’re a good person and you sound like you’re stuck in the cycle of abuse (google it). The cycle goes like this — There’s the honeymoon period, then tension builds, then there is a catalyst (like cheating or he rages), then the resulting fall out drama, then he’s super good winning you back with the honeymoon stuff… then tension builds…. then boom! Repeat.
The highs are high and the lows are loooooow. And you can get hooked on the drama. It feels like passion. But it’s really anything but. It’s abuse. Cheating and raging are abuse.
But… that’s not what you wrote me about. You wrote to me about how your concern about breaking your vows is keeping you stuck with a guy you fervently wish dead.
Okay, let’s attack this problem from several angles. First on the religion front — A just and loving God does not want you stuck with an abuser. (Hey, if those wacky right-wing evangelicals can speak for God, I can too.) Adultery, even in the most conservative of religious circles, is a big King’s X when it comes to divorce. You get a pass. Divorce is only serving him papers. A much lighter sentence than stoning him in a public square.
Second, legally when you married you entered a contract. Contracts are only valid when the other side holds up their end of the bargain. You’re not obliged to pay the grifter who says he is going to repave your driveway and then doesn’t, right? Your husband broke his commitment to you, the contract is null. He broke it by cheating and if he is truly bipolar, he breaks it again by not addressing his considerable issues and seeking help himself. You shouldn’t feel bound to a contract that he doesn’t respect or follow himself.
Third, you worry that “abandoning” him would make his issues worse. On the contrary, leaving him may send him the wake up call that he really needs to get help. Only through consequences do hard headed (and hard hearted) people learn. As my great-grandmother used to say, “If you don’t listen, then you must feel.”
Fourth, you matter. Your life is not one of service to his needs. It’s not your job to get him help. (Folks call that codependency). You can’t control him, and by doing the dance of forgiving him, and making your needs microscopic, and tiptoeing around his volatility, you aren’t going to succeed in improving him. You’re just giving him a green light to continue his crap. It’s OKAY to LAY THIS BURDEN DOWN. Cheating or not treating a mental illness can be a deal breaker. It’s healthy to have deal breakers.
You keep giving him the gift that is your love and attention, that is reconciliation. What is he doing with that gift, Trying? He’s shitting on it. When people shit on your gifts, that’s a clue to stop giving those gifts.
You deserve better. I can tell you that, but only you can believe it. Please dump him and don’t feel one bit guilty.