Ask Lisa: I’m in an Emotionally Abusive Marriage

I started dating my husband when I was 19 and he was 36. I came from a broken home where there was extreme violence and alcohol abuse, so I did not want to have anything to do with alcohol. He told me that he was only a social drinker, but come to find out he is an alcoholic. Soon after we got together, I found out that I was pregnant. After that, I became ill and could not work. He could not afford to carry both of us because of his dependence upon alcohol.

My family agreed to let us stay with them until we got on our feet. While there, he quit paying my car insurance so that I could not drive, refused to agree that I get a job, and became agitated when I mentioned going to school. I soon felt like a pregnant prisoner. From the beginning ,he has blatantly lied to me about were he has been and how much money he has spent on alcohol. He always seems to turn a situation around to be my fault, and I am left feeling guilty as if I actually did do something wrong. Soon after I had our son, I found out that I was pregnant again!! We stayed with my parents for 2 1/2 years rent free until his father offered for us live with him and pay half of the bills for the chance to own something ourselves. It seems like he is not responsible enough for us to ever live on our own. He gets the bills payed, but he asks my parents to borrow money that he doesn’t pay back and becomes over extended on his pay check.

We are always hurting for money, He has verbally abused me, our sons, my dad, my mom, and my step mother. They are all at their wits end. I feel like I have lost my families respect because I have not left him. I don’t want my sons to grow up with long term emotional damage from our situation like I did from my childhood. For some reason I insist on trying to hold it together. I am miserable from hiding from what my heart feels. But my head tells me to make it work. How am I suppose to know what is best for me and my children whom are 2 1/2 and 1 1/2 now?

Lisa’s thoughts…

As you are aware, you are in an emotionally abusive relationship with your husband.  It sounds like he is controlling and is essentially holding your whole family hostage.  I’m the most concerned about your children.  This type of situation can cause lifelong emotional damage to them.  Your young children need to feel safe.  Not only are their brains still being wired but they are developing their sense of selves, others and the world.  Your little boys are also learning about relationships – and not healthy lessons in your case.

You said you came from a dysfunctional home so you know firsthand what the impact of an alcoholic abusing parent can have on a child.  Unfortunately, this likely played a role in your situation now.  It’s not uncommon for this type of cycle to repeat itself.

That all being said, it is not too late to do something different and get you and your boys on a path to healing.  They don’t have a choice now – which is why you must make the right one for them.  If you can’t do it for yourself – do it for them.  You must get out and deserve to be treated with kindness and respect.

Lastly, keep in mind this type of behavior can be a slippery slope to physical abuse.

For information about emotional / other forms of abuse and how to get out –>

Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT

Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT

Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT is the creator of with emotional and relationship health articles, guides, courses and other tools for individuals and couples. She is a frequent consultant for the media having appeared in,, and others. Lisa has a private practice in Marin County, CA and offers Emotional Health and Relationship Consultations via email, phone or video conference.