Dear Dr. Meg,
I have 3 boys under 8 years old. My children have been part of domestic violence their entire short lives.
We just had another incident with police involved attending the home after a drunken physical attack. On the phone to the kids he is sugary sweet, a very permissive parent and always putting my rules and boundaries down. Do you think he will ever change?
I believe he may have a hidden agenda to take the boys to live with him when they are able to fend for themselves so in the meantime he manipulates them with money, toys, candy and no rules parenting.
What am I truly dealing with here? How to equip and protect myself and the children from this tactical emotional game??
Your husband needs serious help. Can he change? Yes he can, IF he is motivated and wants to change badly enough. Moving from a life of abuse, violence and alcohol takes monumental effort and it doesn’t sound like your husband is anywhere near ready to change.
Here’s the deal. You can’t change him. He must have an inner fire ignite that wants to do this and it must come from him, not you. But, you are responsible for your sons. Telling me that they have been a part of domestic violence all of their lives is troubling and sad. Your job is to get those boys out of this situation immediately. They are completely relying on you to protect them from emotional and physical abuse. You are waiting to see if their dad will change, hoping that this will solve the problem. It won’t.
Your job as a good mother is to protect your sons and keep them from this abuse. If your husband changes, then he can see them but he needs to prove to you that he has changed. You can’t make your boys suffer while you wait, hoping that he will.
Here’s what will happen if you don’t get them away from him. They will grow up to resent you and they have an excellent chance of becoming abusers and alcoholics. You can help break this cycle if you are strong enough to do the right thing and show your sons how to live differently.
Fathers have a powerful impact on sons both for good and bad. Sons grow up to repeat their fathers’ behaviors and what your sons are seeing now is seriously unhealthy and harmful. You need to reach out to any family member who will help you remove yourself and these boys from him. If you don’t have family, call a women’s crisis line or a women’s resource center.
You don’t have to divorce your husband, but you must protect your sons and yourself. Then, if he chooses to do the right thing and get help, perhaps down the road, the two of you can reconcile. But that’s his decision, not yours.