Q: I’ve been married for nearly 4 years to this man. i love him. this is hard for me to write. in the past he has been physically abusive. it’s stopped for a long time now – 6 months nearly. it hasn’t completely stopped, there are no more bruises. but like tonight, i didn’t want to have sex with him. why can’t that be ok? he got what he wanted…after i screamed for him to knock it off. he wouldn’t. and afterwards, he begs me for his forgiveness. how can i do that? the answer is to leave, right? if he could just hear my no. but my no just rides the wind. i feel used, dirty, worthless. but at times he makes me feel queen
of the castle. i know he loves me, he just doesn’t get what is appropriate. if that makes sense. i just need to hear some insight. i’m feeling dark and thoughts are not real at this place. i feel violated. i feel dizzy. i feel confused. please help me. do i go lay back in bed with him? i don’t know…i don’t know.
— Distressed in Idaho

A. I’m so sorry you are in this situation. You must love your husband very, very much to keep trying. But you letter is a good example of why love is not enough. Respect, understanding, and trust – on the part of both people – are also necessary to make a marriage work.

I do want you to know that what you are describing is very common in relationships of domestic abuse. You are not alone in this. The reason most women don’t leave men who hurt them is that fights are often followed by periods of apologies, sweetness and being treated like a queen. The cycle then starts again.

You haven’t been beaten down completely. You have enough strength to question what is going on and you have enough self-respect to write for some help. That was an important first step.

I, of course, can’t tell you what to do about your marriage — especially on the basis of a letter. But I do think you need to talk with someone who is an expert on the kind of behavior you see in your man to get the insight you are looking for and to help you figure out what to do.

Please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline for referrals and
support: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). The women there are available to you 24/7.

Love should never hurt like this.
I wish you well.
Dr. Marie