My husband is a different person behind closed doors

The problem
“I’m writing to you about my husband, who is a real split personality. He goes out of his way to help other people all the time – he’ll do anything to help a friend in need. As a result, everyone thinks he is such a gentle, kind and thoughtful man and they tell me how lucky I am to have such a wonderful husband. When they say this, I just smile because I know differently.

“When he’s alone with me, he is aggressive and hurtful, yet in public, he is affectionate and caring. He’ll get through a bottle of whisky every two or three days and consumes huge quantities of beer and lager. When he gets drunk – which is most days – he blames me for everything that has ever gone wrong in his life.


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“He says I don’t love him but that’s just not true. I do love him, or at least I did, but I’m finding it increasingly difficult to live with him and sometimes I’m afraid to be around him. I’ve become terribly anxious and some days I’m afraid to go out.

“His mood swings are getting worse, and I just don’t understand how he can be like this with me and so different with other people. What should I do? I’m so depressed and I cry most days.”

Read: Dear Fiona: ‘I’m 50 and feel like life is passing me by’

Fiona says
“There’s clearly something seriously wrong in this relationship, and most people, knowing what you’re going through, would think the easy solution is to leave. You – and others in a similar situation – know that’s easier said than done though.

“You are faced with all manner of barriers – emotional, financial, and logistical – to be overcome first. I have no doubt you do love this man, or at least you love the man you thought he was and know he could be, and therein lies part of the problem. Are you hoping that something will happen to turn this aggressive, bullying drunk into the charming man that others see?

“When you married him, I’m sure you thought you would spend the rest of your lives together, and while you want things to change (and some alcoholics can recover), sometimes they don’t. There are some clear signs of when the wisest thing to do would be to leave a partner, and your email indicates several warning signals.

Read: Dear Fiona: How can I support my grieving friend?

“Firstly, his physical and emotional aggression towards you puts you in danger, and that’s clearly not a good place to be. You are living in constant fear and anxiety, which are indicators of trauma that can damage both your physical and mental health. Secondly, the way your husband is drinking is having a negative effect on your mental health; you say you’re crying most days and that you’re depressed. That’s hardly surprising. It’s undermining your self-confidence too, making you unsure about what decisions to make.

“Thirdly, your husband shows no sign of wanting to change his behaviour, in which case, do you really foresee yourself living in this situation in another 10 or 20 years from now? Don’t you want more for yourself than that?

“Alcoholism is a disease, and while millions of people have learned how to control their drinking, unfortunately, some never do. It is not your responsibility to control his drinking and he certainly needs help to do so, but the chances are that if you suggest this, you could be faced with more abuse.

Read: Older Australians more likely to abuse alcohol, study finds

“The steps you need to take to walk away may be hard, but you cannot continue to live a life like this, which is damaging you and is ruining your life. Other people may not understand, not knowing how he is with you in private, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that you’re safe and healthy, both mentally and physically, and that’s not going to happen as long as you stay with this man.”

If you have a problem you need help with, email Fiona by writing to [email protected] for advice. All letters are treated in complete confidence and, to protect this privacy, Fiona is unable to pass on your messages to other readers. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.

What advice would you give in this situation? Let us know in the comments section below.

– With PA

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