[Two Pronged] Why do I feel guilty after leaving my abusive husband?
Rappler's Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr Margarita Holmes.
Jeremy has a master's degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in 3 continents, he has been training with Dr Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives
Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons.
Dear Dr Holmes and Mr Baer,
I would like to seek advise on my current state.
Months after leaving my abusive husband, why do I feel sorry for him? Why is there a feeling of guilt after leaving him? Why do I pity him living alone and broke but I didn't pity myself during the time he abused me?
Why do I feel guilty all of a sudden after hearing a news that my husband looks down, lose weight already & seems lonely? Will I be blamed if something bad happens to him?
Thank you for your email.
In my limited experience, it is often the case that in an abusive relationship one party is prone to narcissism whereas the other suffers from a lack of self esteem. The abuser is able to shower the abused with love and the abused feels this love filling a void. Narcissists put themselves before others, the abused put their abuser above themselves and thus excuse their behavior.
You ask why you feel guilt, pity and sorrow.
Well, you probably spent your entire marriage being manipulated into these feelings by your husband so that he could maintain control over you so it would be unrealistic to think that they would cease just because you left him. You need to analyze quite why you think and feel this way and after the traumatic experience you have gone through, therapy from a mental health professional might help you find your way to a happier future. Certainly, years of abuse can lead to a distorted view of the world and therapy will help regain a better adjusted view.
As for blame, those who know you both will have their views but ultimately only your view really counts. If your husband loses weight and is lonely, are you supposed to return to an abusive marriage so that he can have some home cooked meals, put on a few kilos, and feel less lonely? Are you his mother? He is an adult and thus responsible for his actions.
Having said this, it would be unusual if looking back on the relationship you did not remember with fondness the positive elements: why he attracted you in the first place, happy highlights of the years together etc. Recollections like these are only natural, but should always be placed in the context of the dark side of your history together so that you can appreciate your escape from the abuse and your hopes for the future.
Time will dull but never erase these memories.
All the best,
Thank you very much for your letter.
Despite the fact that you are feeling guilty about leaving your husband, there is good news all around:
1. You have Mr Baer’s analysis that he is a narcissist and during your marriage you lacked self esteem. This is a realistic perspective. Narcissists know how to target people they think will abide by their terms when it comes to relationships and at that time in your life you fit the bill.
Slowly, he groomed you to fall in love with him; and then, when you were so in love you married him, slowly he began to beat you down. Slowly and insidiously are the operative words.
If he had controlled all aspects of your life too quickly, you would have noticed and left in a hurry. However, he was successful in his campaign to first woo you and have you fall in love with him; and then control you first through your love for him and later through your fear of him.
Let me add that it is possible that your husband doesn’t know he is a narcissist; and he behaved the way he did and the way he does, because it is natural to him. I think he truly did fall in love with you and that your marriage was not a conscious attempt to win and then abuse you. Not being aware of his narcissism, he was not devious in telling you he loved you. It was that his needs were so great that having you love him was not enough, he needed to control you to the extent that it became abuse.
This could be one of the reasons you find it hard to sustain your anger and now feel only pity and even empathy for him. People, after all, are not 100% black or white and now you are responding more to the bits of white that you remember about him.
Good for you, that probably means you have forgiven him.
2. Despite his abusing you, you left him. Hallelujah!
3. There is no doubt in your mind that he abused you. Despite your having forgiven him, this pity and guilt is clearly pity and guilt and thus no danger of being the reason for you to go back to him.
4. HOWEVER, all is not well in paradise. Snakes are everywhere, in the guise of “friends” who want the two of you back together again. The last two questions in your letter: “Why do I feel guilty all of a sudden after hearing a news that my husband looks down, lose weight already & seems lonely? Will I be blamed if something bad happens to him?” — make it clear that “maraming nakikialam” (well wishers with agendas) by appealing to your pity or your fear of being talked about.
Shame on them! Please remember the meme: “To people who understand explanations are necessary. For those who don’t, explanations are useless.”
All the best,
Need advice from our Two Pronged duo? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with subject heading TWO PRONGED. Unfortunately, the volume of correspondence precludes a personal response.