Dear Miriam

I am in a very toxic marriage. Regularly I am insulted and verbally abused and belittled and downgraded. I am called filthy names and am regularly told how useless I am, even though I work a great deal.

He has a health condition so I feel I can’t do anything to get out of the situation, because I’d be the worst in the world.

Any advice?

Regular reader

Dear Regular reader

While this is a short letter, it is so full of pain. I want you to know that I see you, and your suffering. This is abuse- you name it yourself- each hurtful word or insult stripping away your confidence, your self-esteem and your peace of heart and mind. You describe this marriage as “toxic” and that is what your husband’s behaviour is: poisonous.

Indeed, the HSE website lists some of the hallmarks of emotional abuse as “constant criticism, being controlled by someone and always being put down”

You say that you feel you cannot do anything to get out of the situation due to your husband’s health condition. It is not my place to tell you what to do or how to live your life. What I would do, however, is encourage you to reflect on how this situation is impacting on your own health: physical, mental and emotional. How will that affect you in the next year, five years, 10 years and so on? It is an important consideration.

You also refer to the fear of being “the worst in the world”. You know that you are certainly not that, so I’m guessing you are talking in terms of general perception from people outside of the marriage. I assume that they do not know what is going on behind closed doors; but also, they are not the ones living in this situation. In that case, what does it really matter what anybody else thinks?

Making major life changes is never easy, but the first thing I would ask you is to be kind to yourself. You deserve self- compassion and love. Is there anything that you enjoy doing for yourself? Do you like going for walks, gardening, meeting a friend for a coffee, going to the cinema? It really does not matter what it is, as long as it gets you out of that toxic environment and brings some much needed joy to your day. You need to prioritise your self-care at this time.

I would also encourage you to seek support. Have you a good friend or a trusted family member that you can talk to in confidence to explain what is going on for you? I would also strongly advise you to look for some professional support from people who have experience in dealing with these situations.

That could mean talking to your GP, or linking in with a specialised organisation like Women’s Aid (, which offers supports including a national freephone helpline on 1800-341-900, offering a safe and non-judgmental space to talk about your experience of emotional abuse. They can also refer you on to other services in your locality. If you would like to find out more about your rights, your local Citizens Information office is also a good place to connect with. However, it is important to stress that if you ever feel like you are in immediate danger, to contact the Gardaí or to call 999.

It might be helpful to remind yourself that none of this is any of your “fault” and that there is no “shame” in seeking support. It is actually a great sign of strength and courage to reach out for help. Each person deserves to live a life of dignity and respect and peace; especially within their own home. If any reader with a similar experience would like to share how they dealt with the situation, I will be happy to publish their advice. Sometimes it’s good to know that you are not alone, even if it feels that way.

From the bottom of my heart, I wish you the best. Writing this letter was the first step; hold your head high and continue to walk forward.

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