Carolyn Hax: Man must start process of leaving abusive fiancée

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Carolyn Hax
August 9, 2015

Hi, Carolyn:

My fiancée becomes abusive with me and has not been able to control her anger. She says she has the right to hit in the face. She has hit me so hard the metal nose tabs on my glasses broke off. I grab her wrists to prevent her from hitting me over and over. She tells me I should not be doing that.

She says I am the one that needs to change and blames me for everything.

I want her to go seek counseling with me but she refuses; she thinks there is nothing wrong with her being abusive with me. I want the abuse to stop.

She said I needed to go to a counselor, so I did, and her abusive behavior has continued.


You don't go to couple's counseling with your abuser, you break up with your abuser. Immediately.

She has no right to hit you—you know this—but you might not recognize how dangerous it is to hold her wrists. She could go to the police and accuse you of abuse. While the only appropriate way for authorities to investigate an abuse charge is with an open mind, your explanation that she's the one who hit you could easily fall on ears predisposed to hear that man = abuser and woman = victim.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline mentions the risk of false allegations in its guide for abused men (bit.ly/AbusedMen), and warns explicitly: “If you do retaliate, you'll almost certainly be the one who is arrested and/or removed from your home.”

So she's actually right that you “should not be doing that,” but not for the reason she likely intends. The most responsible way to stop her from “hitting me over and over” is to leave—in the moment and for good.

Staying in an effort to stop the abuse or save the relationship or defend yourself is staying too long.

Expect her to push hard for you to stay—guilt-tripping, apologizing, making threats, because that's what abusers do—and resolve beforehand not to give in. The hot line staff can help you with a plan to protect yourself as you leave, so do call, 800-799-SAFE (7233); abusers are typically at their most dangerous as their victims head for the door.

Please take care of yourself—and continue the solo counseling. “Leave” is both a simple imperative and a complex process, or surely you'd have done it by now.

Email Carolyn at [email protected], follow her on Facebook at facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at washingtonpost.com.

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