Q: I was married for twelve years to a man (S) that left me twice. He also had numerous extra-marital infidelities. He took his stuff and left this last time about a year and a half ago. I tried and tried to talk to him but he refused to talk to me or answer my phone calls. I was just heartbroken. He was my second husband. My first husband wasn’t unfaithful, but he had an explosive temper and and shouted and screamed at me. And even though he never actually hit me, I was afraid of him.

Anyway, seven months after my second husband left me I decided to try and move on with my life. I met a wonderful man (D). He was everything I had wanted. Caring, responsible, trustful and very loving. We started slowly, but after awhile I fell deeply in love with him. And he fell in love with me. I hired an attorney. I filed for divorce. After I had been with D for around four months he proposed to me. I was very excited and accepted. I knew our relationship was perfect and we had a wonderful life ahead of us. We were doing everything together and I was so happy. S somehow found out. He started to phone me. He told me he wanted us to get back together. He told me he would never do any of the things he had done to me before. He said he had found God and was going to church now. He said that he was a changed man. He said I was still his wife and I owed him another chance to prove he had changed. He told me he was a broken man and was thinking about suicide. I finally allowed him to see me he cried and cried and pleaded with me telling me he had changed. I felt so guilty.
I told D and my church counselor that if S really has changed then I thought I should give him another chance. My church counselor said I needed to forgive S and try again. D was very upset and told me I was not thinking straight. He told me I had been emotionally abused through both my marriages and that S was manipulating me. D said that my marriage to S was over the minute he abandoned me. I still felt guilty. I went to psychiatric counseling with D and the doctor couldn’t understand why I considered going back to S.

I felt such pressure and told D I needed some space to figure this out. He left me alone for about a month. Meanwhile S kept calling and following me. I finally agreed to go see my church counselor with S. The counselor said that we couldn’t rebuild our marriage if we lived apart. So I allowed S to move back in. It wasn’t right. I knew it. After all the love and joy I had found in D I now was back in a very dark and unloving relationship. He follows me everywhere. He calls me on the cellphone constantly to make sure where I am. He times everything so if I am home late he wants to know why. I let him sleep in my bed, but I haven’t allowed him to touch me.

About two weeks ago D contacted me. He told me that our time apart was awful for him. I felt such love and excitement hearing from him. I had missed him so much. He said that he loved me more than ever. I love him more than anyone I have ever loved. I started seeing D whenever I could find an excuse to get away from S. We hold hands and kiss and the magic is greater than it ever was.

But S hounds me about everything I do. He intercepts my mail and anything from D he keeps. And sometimes I wonder, is S acting this way only because he knows I love D?

I know what I am doing is wrong. At first I thought that if S has really changed that I had to give him another chance. Now I see that even if he does change, this is not the life I want. I want to be with D. But now I feel trapped. Also, S has got himself into great debt. I feel guilty just leaving him to get out of debt by himself. I feel I should help. I even thought of moving out and letting him live in my house until he gets back on his feet again. I just don’t know what to do. I think going to church is such a good thing, but I’m not sure that they are giving me the right advice. I’m so confused. D tells me to pack a bag find a refuge for a while, tell S to leave and not talk to him anymore. I think the only right thing I’ve done in all this is not to cancel my divorce. It will be final in about a month.
Please give me some advice.

A: Please go to this website: ndvh.org or call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). This is the National Domestic Violence Hotline. There are women there 24-7 to help other women who are in situations like yours. From what you told me, it looks like you are being controlled, abused, and manipulated. In that case, it’s important that you find a safe way to distance yourself from S.

There is no need to feel guilty. You let S move back in. You went to counseling. You gave reconciliation an honest try. Having done so, you’ve found that marriage with S isn’t what you want. You want what D has to offer. You’re an adult. You have a right to make choices — even choices that other people don’t approve of. You don’t need to “buy” youself out of this situation by assuming S’s debts or by giving him your home. You have already done more than enough.
I wish you well.
Dr. Marie