I want to go back to my ex-husband from whom I’ve been divorced for over three years because of his violence. Before the divorce he ended up in jail for almost a year for domestic abuse. Since his release he says he’s changed. He’s gone to a local community mental health facility, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, PTSD, and adult ADHD. He’s on medication and collecting social security disability and has a payee handle his finances. I see him on a regular basis and realize we still love each other, although it’s hard to believe that he loved me when he was abusive, which I now attribute to mental illness. The problem is threefold:
1) My three grown sons (not his biological children) grew up witnessing the abuse and now hate him and categorically don’t want me to go back to him, no matter how he says he’s changed. They absolutely refuse to give him another chance and let me know unequivocally that they would have hard feelings toward me if I went back to my ex.
2) My ex has no income other than his social security disability; his chance of becoming gainfully employed is small. Also he doesn’t qualify for regular social security retirement benefits because at 57 years of age he’s too young. I am older than he (ten years) retired and collecting social security on a former spouse’s record, but it is not enough for me to live on; so I subsidize it by substitute teaching. But if I remarry him I will lose my social security benefits and won’t qualify to get any on my ex’s record. So there are serious financial consequences for me if I marry him again.
3) He is still somewhat quirky, dominating in his speech, and feels that he is spiritually more enlightened than most people. I see it as a sign of delusions of grandeur. He also appears somewhat narcissistic in that he has a hard time allowing me to speak when I have a different opinion from him, especially when it comes to our relationship.
What makes him upset and angry is when I tell him that even though we love each other, there are so many obstacles standing in our way and that perhaps we should just be friends from here on in. At those moments he tells me I’m unfaithful to our relationship and that just because we’re divorced legally doesn’t mean we are divorced spiritually. He maintains we are “One” and meant to be with each other–no matter what my grown kids say or anybody else for that matter, and if I really loved him the way I should I wouldn’t even think of not being with him. He makes sure he underscores his point by accusing me of bailing out on him, the only one who truly loves me.
I feel he certainly has a right to his anger and as long as he isn’t abusive, I can respect how he feels. Still my intuition tells me, that although I believe he won’t hit me anymore, he still will always have the tendency to be emotionally dominating. On the other hand I believe if I truly love him, I will accept that he will never act like most people do because of his bipolar illness and accept him anyway.
I am so conflicted. I’m torn between my children and my ex, torn between the desire to be with him again and my need to just get on with it and have a normal life. My heart tells me I want to be with him, while my mind tells me for the sake of my grown children’s peace of mind I should stay away.
A: It sounds to me like you already have a reasonable solution. You don’t have to marry in order to be friends and lovers. You have more to lose than to gain by giving in to his demands to somehow prove to him that you are there for him. What concerns me most is that he asserts he is the only one who truly loves you. These are the words of a potential abuser. Love isn’t about isolating someone. It’s not about making someone feel they can’t be loved by others. Real love is generous and kind. I hope you don’t believe that he’s the only one who cares. Your sons certainly love you and are protective of you when you aren’t protective of yourself. It’s one thing to “accept” him as he is. It’s another to cave in to unreasonable and selfish demands. I hope you will trust your intuition.
I wish you well.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 12 Apr 2011
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2011). She wants to reunite with ex-husband. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 28, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2011/04/12/she-wants-to-reunite-with-ex-husband/