By Joyce Oglesby
Q: “My husband has been an alcoholic for years. Whereas he’s not physically abusive, he is verbally offensive and intolerable because the alcohol makes him angry. He hasn’t worked for most of our marriage because he can’t hold down a job. It’s been a blessing that I have a good career. I have stayed with him for the sake of our children and because I really have desired to make marriage last. Now they’re grown, and I don’t like what life looks like for me. The kids will drop in for a really short visit occasionally, but none of them have ever come for dinner. It breaks my heart. I really want to leave, but for many years have not been able to save money to move out. Am I stuck forever?
Joyce: Stuck is a jam where flies can’t escape.
Marriage is a sacred institution. One that should be taken seriously. But, within the confines of that foundation are responsibilities and obligations. I commend you for what you attempted to do, i.e., preserve the legacy for the sake of your children. But, what has been preserved? Your “jam” has been spoiled for a long time.
I grew up in an alcoholic home, so I can somewhat commiserate with you. My mother stayed with my father more than 32 years for the same purpose as you — the kids (all eight of us) — and many more reasons as well. I believe she loved him, at least she loved the man she “thought” he would be for the longevity of their marriage. He not only disappointed her, he disillusioned their children, most of whom would grow to emulate his behavior. My mother’s desire for stability in the home brought nothing short of imbalance for the futures of other spouses and grandchildren.
I want to offer you hope today, and your hope could be the turning point for your husband. Also moving out is definitely going to take a plan.
Here are some starters:
- Start tucking away money. Your husband is buying alcohol with someone’s money. If it’s not yours, then whose? A line must be drawn to disable the behavior that has become the norm for your home life. There are many ways you can cut back on expenditures — shopping for groceries, unplugging appliances to cut back on electric bills (pennies mount up to dollars), extending the amount of time between hair appointments, taking lunches to work, cutting back or cutting off cable. It will require tracking every penny you spend to assess where you can save. Your stash will grow, and so will your confidence.
- Seek an alternative solution. Perhaps there’s a family member or friend who would take you in for a few months until you can get on your feet. No one wants to be an imposition or to wear out a welcome, but people are often more than willing to help in some way. This will give you time to save considerable dollars with which to navigate a new beginning.
- Set a budget. Regardless of whether the marriage is dissolved or resolved, you should take precautions and know the material worth of your investment in the marriage. If he remains in the home, you deserve an equitable share in its value, as well as other acquired possessions. You probably have been living on a shoestring budget for some time, but there will likely be legal fees involved in your new venture.
- Don’t give up on your husband. The reality of comfort being disturbed could be all the impetus your husband needs to take that first step, especially if he has never been challenged to this degree before. Whereas you will be starting anew, he will be stuck in the rut he created. You will be honest with him regarding your decision, and it will come as no surprise to him, I’m sure. In your discussion, be sure to encourage him to seek the help he has needed. Your legacy could survive, but only if he takes steps toward rehabilitation. Recovery has happened many times, but he is the only one who can begin the process.
- This is not your fault. No one forced the bottle to his mouth. Moving forward means letting go of the past. Onward!
- Don’t rush into divorce. I’m no advocate for divorce, but I know it happens. You have exhausted much energy and time into preserving your family. While you’re regrouping your life, simply focus on that. I would advise you to consider the following:
° Give your new arrangement time.
° Give him time to prove he will change.
° Give no thought to taking him back if he does not seek help for at least six months.
A “new” home — with or without him — will soon find your children finding their way back.