What Should I Do?


New member
I think I might be in an abusive relationship. My friends who know about it are being very careful not to influence my decision one way or another, but are there for me in whatever I choose to do. My therapist is the same--she won't tell me to leave or stay. I thought I'd post here some of the dynamics of what's going on, and maybe get some thoughts on what I should do, because I'm so damn indecisive.

My husband and I have agreed since the beginning of our relationship that we would like to be polyamorous. Up until recently, we've been operating under the "unicorn-hunting" paradigm. Lately, I've grown tired of this, and have asked for our relationship to be opened up more. I specifically asked to date people online, as finding like-minded people where we live can be a challenge. He said he didn't really care what I do online; that I could do "whatever." He didn't want to discuss the topic further than that. But even so, I brought the topic up once or twice a day for about a week. He continued to just say the same thing, that he didn't care what I did.
So, I began chatting with people on Facebook groups, and found someone I was quite interested in. I flirted a bit, and when I started to realize I had feelings for this person (the feelings really seemed to be mutual too), I brought it up to my husband. He became very upset that I had done what he said was basically ok to do, and accused me of cheating. He demanded that I cut off contact with the person I had been talking to, and I did.
I was even apologetic, and wanted to try and find a way for us to both be happy. Over the next few weeks, he was extremely verbally aggressive toward me, calling me a slut, whore, cunt, bitch, stupid, almost daily. He said he couldn't believe how stupid I had been, that he could never trust me again, that I had ruined the marriage. I was afraid of the marriage ending, and kind of just took the insults. But more recently I got to a point where I wasn't taking it anymore, and was getting mad at him for not fucking dropping the subject. It got to a point that I felt like he was mentally torturing me. I was emphatic that I didn't cheat, that I'm not a cheater.
Ok, to break off the poly subject for a minute, there is more here. There is also a history of physical abuse in our marriage. I've had things thrown at me, I've been shoved, hit, smacked, and once I was choked. There hasn't been any of that recently, as I've made it very clear that if it ever happens again, I'm automatically walking out on the relationship. But, I'm still afraid that it could happen again, anyway. Or, that if it does happen again, that I'll just think "oh, that was the last time." That, and I also feel like he has replaced physical violence with verbal/ emotional violence more recently (which makes it harder to leave, because it's less obviously a problem). Almost every time I have brought it up since, he downplays the whole thing and/or says it was somehow my fault. There have been two times where he admitted that he was truly in the wrong.
Anyway, back on the poly subject. Recently, I brought up the subject of a separation. There's a year-long program I could sign up for that would look great on my resume, and my re-location costs would be covered. So finances/ making it on my own aren't really my concern. I figured that after a year, if our problems aren't sorted, that we should separate for good. But, he was very sad/emotional when I brought it up (oh, btw, he's been saying things like "i'm killing him/ he wants to die" when he's in an emotional state over this, which makes me feel so guilty). The next day, he said that we can open up our poly relationship, and that he even wants to let me go back to the relationship that I sort-of started (the one that he accused me of cheating with). He gave me a list of rules, which includes the caveat that he be allowed to look at my online activity whenever he wants. (I have evidence of him spying on me in the past, and since, my computer is password protected).
But, this seems like real progress to me. He's getting over at least some of his jealousy and insecurity. But at the same time, I almost don't even want to start another relationship right now, as I feel like I'd be dragging someone else unnecessarily into my drama. I just don't feel like it would be fair to dump all this on someone, even if I really like him a lot..... That, and I just feel kind of broken right now.
Anyway, there are reasons I haven't left. I'm still in love with my husband. I married him for a reason. When all these negative things I've talked about aren't happening, he's a wonderful person to be around. We got very similar degrees in school, and can carry on interesting intellectual conversations. We have similar interests outside of academia as well, and can relate to each other a lot of the time---when things are peaceful.
Anyway, even though this is a rather long post, it doesn't fully encompass the entirety of the situation. If you need more details on something, please ask. But mostly, I just want opinions on what I should do? Is this a hopeless situation I'm in?
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Your whole post reads to me like you know the situation you are in, you know it's abusive, but you're so unsure of yourself (probably a lot to do with the abuse) that you aren't willing to leave unless someone else tells you it's okay to leave. You've asked everyone you know and since none of them are giving you the answer you want, you've come to ask people you don't know.

The whole "you're killing me, I want to die" thing is just another aspect of the abuse, as is calling you names and degrading you after you did what he told you was fine. He's trying to control you, make you not leave, by making you feel responsible for his mental well-being. He's responsible for that, not you.

It really doesn't matter what type of person he is when he isn't being abusive. What matters is what type of person he is when he is being abusive. Even if he's only abusive ten percent of the time, that's ten percent more than it should be.

I'm especially concerned because he's been physical abusive in the past, to the point of trying to kill you (because, let's face it, choking someone has no other final result, I'm just happy he stopped before it got to that point).

You know this isn't a healthy relationship or else you wouldn't be asking for opinions. You need to leave it, as soon as you possibly can safely. He's only saying you can be poly again to try to keep you around to be a target of his abuse. Leave while you still can, before it escalates again to physical violence.


New member
I think you're right... I just... I keep looking for signs of change in him. Sometimes I see it, but then he'll do something to prove to me that he's not changing.
Even so, I don't know how to fall out of love. Love is something that comes so easily and naturally to me. I don't know how to un-do it.
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Active member
Have you asked your friends point blank if it looks like abuse to them, just the way you asked us?

He is bargaining with you so you don't leave him. He isn't really okay with you dating online -- come on, deep down you know that already, so why delude yourself? This is not him becoming suddenly open-minded and forgiving. He is scrambling to keep his control over you!

It certainly sounds to me like he is being abusive toward you. That doesn't mean he cannot also have good qualities, be charming and intelligent and fun at other times, but those things are small consolation when you are being battered, whether verbally or physically. This has nothing to do with polyamory or monogamy - you may not realize how alarming it is to read about what he has been subjecting you to.

You are basically married to a bully. You love him, but need to realize that loving someone is not enough to make a relationship healthy, satisfying, and mutually supportive. Love is simply not the only thing a relationship should be based on to be successful. You can have feelings of love for someone who is totally wrong for you - what good does that do you? There are more important things that a person absolutely needs from a relationship. Don't let your exhaustion from what you've been going through cloud your judgment. If you saw a good friend being treated this way by her partner, what would you tell her?

In my opinion, everyone in a long-term, committed relationship should ask themselves these questions to gauge whether or not a relationship is healthy and satisfying:

Am I respected? Is my privacy respected?
Do I feel valued for who I am, just the way I am?
Does my partner hear and acknowledge me when I express myself?
Is my partner trustworthy and honest with me?
Am I psychologically and physically safe, and free to be myself with this person?
Do I look forward with excitement to spending time with my partner?
Does my relationship with this person enhance and enrich my life?

I think if one or two of these questions are answered with "no," there is a lot of hard work ahead -- but if the answer is "no" to most of these questions, I'd say the relationship is detrimental or abusive in a huge way, and basically should not continue.

Your situation will probably get worse before it gets better, if you don't take action. Here is a guideline on the tactics that abusers use to control their partners (the link is to a PDF): Tactics of Coercive Control Used by Men Against Intimate Female Partners.

The author also has extensive blog posts on each tactic, starting with #1 here: Tactic #1 — One-Sided Power Games.

I think you need to get out of your environment as soon as possible. The site I mentioned above also lists ways to develop a plan to get yourself to safety (after reading them, do make a plan!): How to Stay Safe When You Leave a Controlling Partner (the advice they give about making a false trail is especially good, I think).

There is another good list here: http://www.domesticviolence.org/personalized-safety-plan/.

Don't wait around, focusing on all the love you feel - that is irrelevant when someone is hurling abuse at you. It sounds like it is already pretty abusive, and will likely keep escalating into something much more dangerous - and you don't want to be stuck in a situation that will make it more difficult for you to extricate yourself and be safe. If you're thinking that others have it worse, or it could turn around, you may not fully comprehend just how serious it is NOW. Maybe he will turn around - it's possible - but that certainly won't happen overnight and you could be in the hospital or dead by then, sorry to say. It's best to remove yourself from your situation now,which will let him know you will not tolerate the abuse any more.

Do you have any children?

I wish you all the best in taking back control of your life.
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New member
Thanks for the links--I'll take a look at those.

Also, there are only two friends I've talked to at length about what's been going on. They think it's abuse. But they also know my husband, and aren't going to just tell me to leave. Although, I suspect one of my friends really wants to tell me to leave, she just wants me to come to a decision on my own.
Also, I don't have kids--I've completely avoided having any because the thought of raising small people kind of terrifies me, and deep down, I know raising a kid with my husband just wouldn't work long term.

I'm starting to think that, at least, a separation is needed.


New member
I've had things thrown at me, I've been shoved, hit, smacked, and once I was choked. There hasn't been any of that recently, as I've made it very clear that if it ever happens again, I'm automatically walking out on the relationship. But, I'm still afraid that it could happen again, anyway.
I could forget the entirety of your post excepting this little bit, and it would still scream at me that you shouldn't be staying with him.
You shouldn't be afraid that your partner is going to physically harm you. This shouldn't be a thing.

He sounds very abusive and manipulative and while I understand that you love him, you don't have to put up with that crap. If you don't feel safe, if you don't feel like you can trust him to protect you, not hurt you, then you don't belong there.
I'm sure there are plenty of reasons to stay, but I can't imagine any that could possibly outweigh the reasons to leave.


Active member
Leave him. Love isn't supposed to hurt, cause you fear, cause you shame, or knock you down. Change is always scary, but you wouldn't be the first woman to leave a marriage that wasn't working for her. You'll be ok.


Well-known member
I am sorry you are being hurt. :(

You seem to recognize you are being abused and that none of this is normal or healthy. You do not know how to make it stop. You do have some ideas though for how get YOU out of it. This is GOOD.

It does a number on your head to be inside the abuse cycle. And the cycle over time grows worse like a downward spiral. You spend less time in the "green honeymoon zone" and more time in the "red danger zone."

This is a dangerous situation you are in. But it is not hopeless... You CAN help yourself out of it.

You are right to be fearful. Either of another attack, or it escalating should you try to leave. You are in a tight place and need advice on how to get out safely.

To me you also sound like are working through the stages emotionally. They are described here... Scroll to the middle of the the page to the stage links.


I could be wrong, but you sound like combo stage 3 or 4.

I suggest you quietly call the nearest women's shelter for an appointment to learn your options. They have seen it all, do not worry. I think they would be better equipped to guide you in what your options are on the local level and how to help you prepare to safely leave when you are ready to leave. Talk about a safety plan. I would also talk with them about going on the work program and what to do after the program is over.

You need to be non-abused for a while to heal enough to make the big plan to leave him for good. A time out to do that is a good thing, and I am glad you have the opportunity for that with your work program.

Tell him you have given up on poly, the facebook guy and rather just focus on your career. Say whatever so he does not try to block you from attending the work program and getting to clearer headspace. Alternately -- say NOTHING but plan to leave on the work program without his knowledge. You are there. You know which is the safer approach.

Dude has tried to choke you to death...he is not a stable or safe dude! He is your abusive would-be murderer.

Normally I am big on honesty. But you do not owe you abuser honesty. If you have to lie or leave things out to get to a safer zone? Do it. These are difficult, unusual circumstances.

What you see as progress with his offer to return to poly? I see as "fake roses" of the honeymoon period in the abuse cycle:
  • You were gonna leave. He says whatever so you do not leave. (green)
  • Then he tries to tighten up the grip on you. Like all the "rules." (yellow)
  • When's the next red zone explosion on the horizon?

Over time, the spins around the merry-go-round get faster and louder. Where before it would take months to complete a cycle? Now might be weeks, days, or even hours.

Please be careful. But do continue your idea to join this program and get you to a safer zone.

Guard against your soft feelings for past him blinding you to the fact that in here present day? The TODAY him has become your abuser that engages in many tactics of power and control over you.

If you need to see it on paper? Print the pdf and highlight what you experience. I see lots in your post as it is.


I hope you do follow up with a women's shelter and set up a counseling appt there.

I hope you do attend your program and get to a temporary safer space so you can think more clearly away from your abuser.

I hope you find permanent safety soon and eventual healing. You do not deserve to be abused.

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Well-known member
Take the opportunity presented to you and run..

Leave the douche bag. Abuse is never ever ok.


Well-known member
My marriage was very similar (minus the poly part...we were mono.) It is abuse. Just because we rationalize and tell ourselves differently, and just because the behavior becomes normalized (meaning it's our normal so it doesn't feel wrong to us), doesn't make it not abuse. You know you need to get out.

One other thing, before you take the year long program and use it as an opportunity to get out, I'd evaluate it independently of your marriage before deciding. Don't use it as an excuse to get out. You can get out without it. Only do the program if it's the right decision for you and your career.


New member
Verbal and emotional abuse can sometimes be more insidious than physical, because it's harder to identify as abuse. I was in an abusive marriage for 14 years; I didn't leave because "he never hits me, so no one's going to consider it abuse." It took a friend telling me that Alt and Country, then ages 11 and 8, were growing up thinking that marriage was supposed to be that way, that I found the strength to get out.

Eight years later, I'm still paying the emotional and mental costs of staying in that situation so long. Physical injuries heal pretty quickly. Mental and emotional wounds can take years, if not decades.

As others have said, you KNOW you're in an abusive relationship. You say you don't know if you can fall out of love with your husband... who says you have to? You can still love him. But you hate what he's doing to you, and you are not safe in that situation. Leaving him means you're leaving *him* and the *abuse.* It doesn't mean you have to "fall out of love." It means you're putting your own safety, stability, and well-being *ahead* of love.


Active member
It's entirely possible to love someone with your whole heart, be in love with them, and want to stay with them and still *know* that they are not good for you. He's not just 'not good' for you - he's actively dangerous to your physical existence and your emotional and mental well-being. He is toxic. Love is not enough to make you safe and him healthy. Keep loving him, and love yourself by leaving.


Official Greeter
Staff member
Hi oneiromancer,

I basically agree with what the others have said. If you need some people to officially advise you to quit that abusive relationship, count me as one of those people.

Re (from OP):
"There's a year-long program I could sign up for that would look great on my resume, and my re-location costs would be covered."

I really like the sound of that and think you should go for it. I know PinkPig advised some caution about grabbing that easy out too quickly, but my feeling is, if grabbing that easy out is what makes it emotionally possible for you to remove yourself from the toxic situation you're in, then grab away. Once you've been removed from the toxic situation, you'll soon realize how bad it was overall and lose all inclination to return to your husband. (And I think he knows it!)

Life isn't entirely black-and-white. There are few if any totally pure good guys, and few if any utterly irredeemable bad guys. Most or all of us are a mixture of good and bad. So when I advise you to leave your husband, I don't necessarily mean to cast him as a villain. I just mean that the marriage isn't good for either of you. It's hurting you and putting you in danger, and it's lulling him into a state of complacency. I think he has an emotional disorder, possibly borderline personality disorder. He needs to get professional help, probably both meds and counseling. But as long as he has you around to blame all the problems on, he certainly won't get the help that he needs.

You're probably in more physical danger than you realize. Leave your husband, but do it stealthily. Don't leave behind any ties with him that he could use to find/contact you. Don't go back after awhile to see if he's improved. He'll have to work that out on his own now. You already know he's capable of choking you half to death; don't roll the dice to see if he's capable of going two halves.

Hang in there ... Let us know how things are going if you can ...
Kevin T.


New member
I just got back from a therapy appointment. I talked over the guilt I'm feeling about wanting to leave, and it's going to be a long road because I'm normally more concerned with how others feel over how I feel. I basically need to put the caregiver role on hold... which is really hard for me.
And this valentines day really made me realize some things. The romantic gestures he did only made me feel more uncomfortable. He bought me an expensive gift, and now I kind of feel obligated to him, which makes me feel a bit awful.

I'm still in the process of getting into the program I want to do for a year. It's not set in stone yet that I can do it, but it's likely. I'm kind of worried about leaving my friends and family behind too... because I'm sure I'm going to go through a lot emotionally after leaving. Maybe that's a good thing though, as one of the things that is holding me back is that I'm really worried about how my friends and family will react. I'd rather them not know.. I don't want to be labeled.

But, I'm coming to a point where I almost feel like I have no other choice than to leave if I'm going to be happy.
I just feel really stuck.
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New member
It is not ok for someone to verbally to physically abuse you. Your husband sounds like a tosser and actually poly is about more than unicorn hunting. You discussed with him your plans of finding others on the internet and he said yes, but then felt threatened and lashed out.

While I fully believe in supporting our partners and caring for them, the way he is treating you is not allowed under any circumstances. Physically abusing you even if you had cheated is simply out of order.

Please take care of yourself and leave this relationship that is clearly currently just destroying you.


Official Greeter
Staff member
To get the kind of emotional -- and logistical -- support you need from family and friends, you have to tell them what you've been going through. Right now it sounds like just two of your friends know. If the program you want to do for a year falls through, or if you decide not to do it, at least confide in more of your friends and family so that you can get more of the help and support that you need.

If you want to cut the ties with your husband without leaving the local area, take what GalaGirl said to heart: Work up a safety plan, and quietly call the nearest women's shelter for an appointment to learn your options.

Perhaps the biggest drawback to remaining in the local area is there's more temptation for you to run back home to your husband. If you are far away for a year, gaining more professional independence, you'll feel more encouraged to stand on your own two feet, and not be so tempted to run back home.

I think your gut instincts are already telling you to leave this man, but you're staying because of the guilt that you feel. Trust your instincts on this one; they're not deceiving you.