Needs Stong Wife Who Forces Change

Dear Neil:  My husband of three years was verbally abusive.  I sugar-coated things, instead of telling him what I was feeling, because I was afraid he would yell and curse at me.  I got sick of telling him to calm down and stop yelling, so I left him.  After I left, I realized that I shouldn’t have, that I truly loved him.  But now he is feeling betrayed—and says he would never be able to trust me again.  I have tried everything, but his pride is in the way.  What can I do?

Hopeless in New York


Dear Hopeless:  You want to return to a verbally abusive man that you’re afraid to be truthful around, not understanding what price you’d be forced to pay if he took you back. 

The likely price?  He’ll feel justified to heap great amounts of ridicule and criticism on you for leaving, and that will be in addition to his “usual” verbal assaults on you.  The end result will be that you’ll feel just as trapped and as hopeless as before, but you’ll be more afraid to leave a second time.

Here’s what you could do that would give your relationship the best chance of having a happy future:  regardless of how much you love and want him, tell him the only way you’ll consider continuing a relationship with him is for him to acknowledge that he was treating you poorly, that he was being a bully in order to get his way, that you were afraid of him, and afraid to speak openly and honestly to him, and that such behavior will absolutely not be tolerated in the future—no matter how justified or self-righteous he may feel.

Then insist on the two of you going to a marriage therapist in order to learn more effective and more loving ways to communicate and to disagree with each other, and  insist that the two of you stay in therapy until both of you are actually using such skills routinely and consistently.

Does he care about you enough to want you to feel happy, content and safe around him?  We know you want him.  What you will learn using this approach is how badly he wants you.


Dear Neil:  I am a 74 year-old widow and I don’t want a long term relationship.  My late husband was ill for a long time and complained a lot, and I have no intention of ever nursing another man.  But I like men, and I would love to have a gentleman friend with whom I could have dinner and attend the theatre.  Someone with whom I could have an intelligent conversation or compare interests.  Is it possible to meet a male senior citizen who is not looking for cook, a housekeeper, a nurse, a sexual partner or a roof over his head?

Seeking in Westminster, Colorado


Dear Seeking:  Probably you can find what you’re looking for, although I suspect that you’ll spend a fair amount of time searching for what you desire.  Just be up front about it from the beginning: that you’re looking for friendship only, not a romantic and/or sexual relationship.  And then hold your boundaries firm. 

Where do you find such a man?  It’s going to take some trial and error as well as some courage.  If your local area senior citizen center puts out a newsletter, you might try putting an ad in that paper.  Or get access to the Internet and try one of the dating sites such as www.eHarmony.com or www.match.com where you can let everyone know that it’s “friendship only” that interests you.  You could also find a class or interest group and let people there know what you’re looking for.  It’s out there.  It just may not be easy to find.