How do you characterize an abusive marriage and divorce?

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  • December 15, 2023 at 3:30 pm #1127111

    For the first time since my divorce, I’m thinking of dating someone who (on the surface at least) appears to be fairly healthy. I just realized that I’ve not had to explain the reasons for my divorce to anyone – because everyone kind of already knew. I was married for 21 years.

    And the people I dated during my separation weren’t that interested or didn’t ask why my marriage had ended. I have a feeling this person I’m going to go out with will ask. We met at an awards show and spent several hours talking – he’s divorced, with similar-aged children, so I could see it coming up sooner rather than later.

    My marriage was abusive – emotionally, financially, and physically. Because I was raised in a very similar household, it took therapy to realize the relationship wasn’t healthy and that I should leave. It’s not information I want to lead with. I don’t know how to answer the inevitable question of why I ended my marriage in a way that doesn’t lead with the crazy but gives me room to expand later. Any suggestions would be most appreciated.

    December 15, 2023 at 6:42 pm #1127112

    Why do you think a shred of the truth wouldn’t be good to tell this guy, who you already have started to get to know? You can just say, “It wasn’t good, it was a very unhappy marriage, you don’t want to spoil the mood with a sad story, let’s keep the exes out of it,” etc. I’m sure others will have great script ideas.

    “The crazy,” don’t say that. You don’t have to tell him everything that happened.

    You also have no idea if he’s healthy. He could turn out to be an abusive jerk, you never know.

    December 15, 2023 at 7:14 pm #1127114

    I would tend to follow @Anonymousse line: a good person can respect that you will open up as and when. Trying to “characterise” your unique experience may lead to less understanding: what you mean by the label abusive and what he understands may be very different; he could then unwittingly minimise what it was like for you. If he’s a bad person, he will use the information to manipulate and exploit you.

    December 15, 2023 at 9:25 pm #1127115

    You’re allowed to slowly release information. Most decent guys are going to recognize when you’re not ready to talk about something and give you the space you need to tell your story. If you share information with him and he’s like “nah I’m out”, that speaks more about his character than it does of yours.

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    December 16, 2023 at 10:51 am #1127121

    You could describe the marriage as unhealthy and unhappy and leave it at that… at least for now. It’s generally a red flag when someone overshares about their past relationship, calls their ex crazy, or isn’t able to reflect about the role they played in their relationship dynamics (and to be clear, I do not mean that anyone deserves to be abused)… but I do think there are ways to accurately describe what happened in a way that is accurate without oversharing or bashing. But you also don’t owe a new romantic interest all the details. You also never have to share any details if you don’t want to.

    I dated one divorced guy for about a year in my mid-20s and I didn’t ask many questions about his divorce. I knew the basics of why his marriage had ended, I knew he carried around a lot of shame for marrying and divorcing young. But I let him tell me what he wanted as he felt comfortable. It never felt like my business.

    December 22, 2023 at 6:48 am #1127221

    Thanks a bunch for the advice. Truly appreciated.

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How do you characterize an abusive marriage and divorce?

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