Ask Marwa: Wife-Beater: Stay or Leave?

Date posted: February 23, 2010

Dear Marwa

I have a question. Should a woman get divorced if her husband hits her? This is my case. My husband started hitting me since our honeymoon and on average, he hits up to 2 times a year though this has lessened in recent years after I threatened to call the police and to make sure that all people at his office (boss and colleagues) got to know that he is a wife beater. We have been married for 4 years. Till now I have not carried out any of my threats.

Can a marriage be sustained by simple threats? Even though he hasn't hit me from about 2 years, I still feel physically threatened every time we disagree. He always makes sure to show me that he is about to slap or kick me and I know he is scared to do it out of his fear for his reputation and career. He claims that I get him quite nervous and because of that, he hits me.

We have a daughter and now he has extended the abuse to her. But surprisingly, he doesn't lose his temper with his bosses when they disrespect him (I have seen that). I notice that he only acts violent with people who are weaker than him – physically or in position. When I act strong and threatening…he gets scared. My question is: What are the criteria for me to decide whether or not I can leave him and start over on my own? Everything seems uncertain for me now. What are my guidelines?

Can I live with my daughter alone in Egypt considering the demeaning outlook people have of divorced women? See, I don't want to feel that I am the loser in this marriage. We are not equal. I will have a big responsibility with my daughter even if he agrees to help me financial with her expenses. He will be free, can get re married – or can live like a single man and enjoy whatever life he chooses. My problem right now is that I can't get over the feeling of wanting to revenge. I want to make sure that before I leave him, I leave him as lower as I am after the marriage (emotionally and in terms of burdens and responsibilities he would have to bear, not that I would give him my daughter by any means). I want to make sure that when I divorce, I make sure to leave him feeling humiliated and ashamed and condemned by society (in his job/career and whatever else that makes him proud). I feel so bitter and determined to ruin him if i decide to divorce.

Please help me…I feel so lonely and have no one to talk to.

Dear Isolated,

Let me summarize what you just said:

1) You are married to an abusive husband
2) Your husband is abusing you and your baby girl
3) You are asking me if you should leave
4) You want to stay until you get your revenge
5) You are worried about society and how people perceive divorced women

Leave him or stay? You are the only one who could decide such a thing.

Yes … it is not a healthy relationship! Yes … he will not change! Yes … he might do it again! Yes … he will always blame you for it! Yes … he will extend the abuse to your daughter! Yes … he takes all his frustration on you! Yes … you are better off without him! BUT can you actually leave him and start over on your own? First of all you have to make up your mind! Decide that you want to leave! Then you need to secure a job, an income, and think of how you will raise your kid up (Financial aspects). Then think of family support and understanding (Emotional aspect). Then think of the suffering you will go through … weigh the suffering of being with him against the suffering of being without him and decide which suffering hurts less.

If I were you, I would leave immediately. I would not care if I had no family … no friends … or no money … I would take my daughter … get my divorce and move somewhere new and start over. I would always know that I did the right thing. I would always know that I am educated and talented and that I would be a success at anything I did.

But look at you! You are not thinking straight and you are being very selfish as well! In your position there is no winning … you cannot come out a winner! In your position you have to think of how you can get out with the least damages to you and to your daughter – and the longer you stay the more damage there will be. Your priorities are a mess as well. I thought that your first priority should be your daughter, her safety, and her well being – and this will never happen with a father who beats her mom up and beats her up or with a mother who is full of anger and bitterness. You put society, revenge, and your personal agenda before her … what do you want me to say now?

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