Recently, a murder-suicide incident in High Point, North Carolina, has highlighted the dangers of staying in an abusive marriage. Divorce may be difficult and painful, but it is preferable to staying in an abusive marriage. Abuse in abusive marriages can take many forms, including physical abuse, emotional and verbal abuse, sexual abuse, technological abuse, financial abuse, and stalking.
When abuse escalates, it can be life threatening, and even end in death and suicide. It is a far better choice to choose divorce than to remain in an abusive relationship.
The dangers of staying in an abusive marriage
The statistics show that domestic violence and abuse are a common occurrence all over the world. Abuse can take many forms, including physical, emotional, and psychological harm. In extreme cases, the risk of death or severe injury is very real.
Abusive marriages can be extremely stressful, leading to severe physical illnesses which manifest as a result of such stress. Examples include irritable bowel syndrome, cancer, migraines and headaches, and others.
The benefits of leaving an abusive marriage
Leaving an abusive marriage can be beneficial in many ways. It can provide an opportunity for healing and recovery from the trauma of abuse. It can also create a safer and healthier environment for oneself and any children. Finally, it can open the door to finding a happier and more fulfilling relationship.
The challenges of leaving an abusive marriage
However, leaving an abusive marriage can also be challenging. There may be fear of retaliation from the abuser, difficulty in accessing resources and support, and the emotional toll of leaving a long-term relationship.
In such cases, the first step may be simply to live separately in an attempt to “cool down” the marriage while allowing each party to reflect on the situation. There may also be opportunity for the abusive party to seek help and make amends. In actual fact, living separately removes you (the abused spouse) from the presence of the abusive spouse, giving you safety from physical harm. (However, you may need help escaping from psychological abuse.)
Why are people reluctant to leave an abusive marriage
Some reasons for being reluctant to leave an abusive marriage, i.e. getting a divorce or a separation, include:
- Fear of homelessness, because you don’t have a place to stay
- Fear of losing the kids, i.e. loss of custody
- Fear of losing the abusive partner, i.e. you still love your abusive husband / wife
- Fear of losing financial support, i.e. you might be jobless or draw a minimal wage
- Fear of the unknown, i.e. you don’t know what you would do if you were not in your (abusive) marriage.
These fears may be justified, but, are they worth the potential negative impact on your life, your well-being, and your safety?
What you can do if you are in an abusive marriage
If you are stuck in an abusive marriage and you fear for your safety, be sure to check with a lawyer or a marriage counsellor on what you can do. In our practice, we often recommend for the abused spouse to make a police report to document what incidents occur, so that the police are alerted. Police reports can also be used as evidence in court proceedings at a later stage.
You may also encourage your spouse to seek help, if the abuse is driven by depression, alcohol, or debts. In doing so, you may either reduce the cause of the abuse, or, on the bright side, you may be able to document the cause and secure the existence of a witness in your divorce proceedings.
In the end, you have to consider whether you want to obtain a divorce, or seek separation. Most people do not know that, as an alternative to divorce, you can seek a court order for judicial separation, which, FYI, we do provide. You might even consider seeking a court order to prevent your abusive spouse (or ex-spouse) from stalking you at your workplace.
In conclusion, divorce may be difficult and painful, but it is preferable to staying in an abusive marriage. The dangers of staying in an abusive marriage are real and can be life-threatening. On the other hand, leaving an abusive marriage can provide an opportunity for healing and recovery, a safer and healthier environment, and the possibility of finding a happier and more fulfilling relationship.
Those in abusive relationships should seek help and support. If you need to consult with a family lawyer, please consider our office.
Thanks for reading.
This article was prepared to provide general information, but not your specific situation, and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Please consult with a lawyer before making any decision or taking any action.