A Husband Upside-down? Maybe backwards?

“When you meet my husband, you won’t believe the things I have told you about him.”  At my law firm, we hear this so frequently from women in emotionally abusive relationships.  They tell us that their husbands belittle, demean, threaten, and frighten them, and yet, to the outside world, the men are charming, funny, considerate and sweet.

With apologies to the men I have not yet met, I must add a disclaimer here.  I have never met a man who meets the description I attribute to the wives in this piece.

The women feel as if their friends and family will take the husband’s side in any factual dispute, since they see their husbands making the other wives laugh and blush.  They see their husbands glad-handing and back-slapping with the other men.  They see the man they fell in love with, when they are out in public.  And they think that everyone else is just as duped by the external façade as they were.

Truthfully, a lot of us are duped by their husbands’ façades.  We do not know what goes on behind the closed doors of someone else’s marriage.  If a couple seems happy together, we presume that they are happy.

The wife in these situations must feel especially confused and betrayed.  When she is out with her husband in a group, she sees the man she loves.  Frequently, that man can last for weeks, months or years.  The wife might even begin to doubt her own senses, and think that maybe he is not as bad as she feared.   But, then, something happens, a trigger is secretly thrown and the controlling, anger, vicious comments, or subtle put-downs begin again.  And, she is alone again.  How can she expect anyone to understand or believe her when they were out for dinner just last week, and she was laughing and dancing and hugging her husband?

So, eventually, she makes her way to my office.  She is frequently a woman whose confidence is substantially lower than her station, accomplishments or looks would warrant.  She clearly feels badly about herself and does not quite understand why that would be, or how she got that way.  She is a woman who doubts her own judgment and is afraid of what her husband will say or do when he finds out that she wants a divorce.

And then she will tell us how she lives within her marriage, the abuses, the angry words, and the accusations she has sustained.  Often, she will not have any friends of her own, because the husband disapproved of them, one by one.  She might not be wearing clothes she would have chosen for herself, but instead dress the way her husband prefers.  Frequently, she will not know the family’s true financial picture because the husband has either been the only who worked, or the only one who controlled the bills and income.

And then she will say, “When you meet my husband, you won’t believe the things I have told you about him.”

But, sadly, we do.  Here is what I have come to understand.  Nice, normal guys don’t have to pretend to be charming.  They are not in it to trick anyone.  So, they can be a little gruff, a little rough around the edges.  The controlling, creepy, abusive ones, however, can never afford to just be themselves in public. They would quickly find themselves exceedingly alone, with no one to order around.  What’s the fun of being a controlling borderline personality all by yourself? In order to lure people into their world these are sometimes the very people who have the most highly developed sense of social ability – because they are the ones with the most to lose.

So, I tell my women clients to rest easy. Not only will their family and their true friends believe them; but the attorneys and – more importantly – the Judges have all seen this before.  And they will know who to believe, despite any false impressions.

WHAT WE LOVE:  Once a wife decides to see her husband for who he truly is, she empowers herself.  The rest of the world will very shortly see him for who he is as well.

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Author: Sharon Oberst DeFala

Sharon Oberst DeFala has practiced low-impact safe divorce since 1992.

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