Either Live with Abusive Husband or Leave My Kids

27 December, 2017
Q As-Salamu Aleikom. I am writing this to seek advice for a very difficult problem that both my husband and I are currently facing. We have been married for 28 years and have 5 children and 4 grandchildren. I am an American, he is an Arab, and of course we are both Muslims. Several years ago, our marriage began declining for many reasons. My husband has been verbally and emotionally abusive to me throughout the years. I feel he has neglected my rights in terms of not showing me compassion or respect. Throughout our marriage, he has continuously blamed me for all problems without taking any responsibility for his own actions that have caused the quality of our marriage to decline. He has belittled me in such a way that has caused me to lose every ounce of self-esteem to the point where I could not function anymore as a wife, a mother, a friend, or even a person. I have spent many years in depression and sadness over this, but nothing I said or pointed out to him could ever change the way he dealt with me. It was always my fault. His way of dealing with me has caused me to finally get up and leave him and my home - and sadly my two youngest children. I sought help from our local Imam who met both of us once, gave a light advice for both of us to be patient, but he never further investigated or followed up with my concerns. It has been more than 8 months now and I am still living outside of my home by myself while he and my two younger children live in the family home. I have asked him to divorce me Islamically, but he absolutely refuses it. I have asked him to move out of the house so I could move back in and ake care of my home and our children, but he refuses it as well. He would let me come back if I chose to work it out with him. I feel there is no hope left in our marriage and the damage caused is unrepairable. I do not want to go back into a broken marriage because I know nothing has changed. He recently decided that he needed someone to take care of his needs so he secretly went to another country to get married. He lied to his parents, his children, and me as to where he truly went. Searching through his computer, I found out that he in fact went and got "engaged" to another woman. I understand his need to do so and I decided I could live with this fact as long as I remained the mother of his children, he continued to take care of us financially, and his life with the new wife was completely separate from mine. Now, his mother and brothers and sisters are extremely angry with him for taking a new wife which has caused tremendous strife and upheaval within the family. He is now telling me that he regrets marrying this other lady and wants to get out of it. He is telling everyone that he was forced and pushed by me to make that choice. He is using me again as someone to blame since now he feels the weight of the responsibility and the fact that his own family is opposed to what he has done. He implies that I could solve this awful situation by just coming to my senses and going back to him, but I cannot. It is even clearer to me that there is not a chance to fix our marriage. As a person, he has not changed the way he deals with me until now. All I want is for him to realize that I left him in the first place because of his ill-treatment of me which he maintains he never did anything wrong. I cannot go back to him; I am separated from my children. I am living by myself and working at a part-time job (he does give me money). The Muslim community is relentless in their gossip over my marriage problems. Because of this I feel embarrassed to go to the masjid for Friday prayer. I have isolated myself from friends and family and I don't know what to do. Please advise me and may Allah reward you.


In this counseling answer:

“Some good suggestions are to speak to your imam about obtaining the Islamic divorce. Find a divorce lawyer to help settle child custody issues. Figure out where you want to live, and how you will financially support yourself.”

As-Salam ‘Alaikum dear sister,  

Thank you for sending us your question. I am sorry to hear about your deteriorating marriage and your current situation. I have no doubt that you are going through a great difficulty. I ask Allah to give you the strength and courage to help you to find your way and to reach your goals.

Alhamdulillah, I am happy to read that you have already made an informed decision about your marriage based on your own reflections and insight. You have mentioned that you no longer want to stay married to your husband based on the examples that you have mentioned and have lived through already.

As Muslims, we do not quickly jump to divorce as a solution. However, if an individual has tried all that is in their power to change a negative situation to no avail, then Islamically divorce does become an option. You came to this conclusion taking into consideration the Islamic aspects of your rights and responsibilities as a Muslim wife towards her husband. That being said, I support you with your decision because you know fully what you are doing. Your decision was not taken out of heedlessness. Rather, you thought it through and logically came to your conclusion. Again, I commend you.

The issue now is to go through this decision which is more difficult than one might think. Divorce is certainly one of the most difficult things a human being can go through because it entails many losses and a complete change in one’s lifestyle and environment. Therefore, when one makes a decision, they must fully take responsibility for it.

In your case, the difficulties that you are encountering are several. First, you are living away from your two youngest children. Second, the Muslim community has been unsupportive of your separation. Third, your husband has been continuously making you feel guilty about your decision.

All three factors have taken a negative toll on you emotionally and have caused you to isolate yourself from people and feel down. It also may have made you feel confused about what you really want to do. Therefore, you may feel “stuck” and claim that you do not know what to do. This is to be expected when someone goes through something as difficult as a divorce. However, if you truly believe that your decision is the right one, then be patient with these difficulties.

You have mentioned that all you want is for him to realize the reasons why you left him in the first place. Sister, it would be a wonderful thing if he understood your pain, but do not be surprised if he chooses not to understand. The fact that he does not want to understand your point-of-view only shows how much he does not want to make a positive change in the marriage. This, naturally, should reinforce your decision to leave (if that is what you want to do).

If you still have a glimmer of hope that the marriage could work, I would advise that the both of you continue to see your imam and participate in marriage counseling. Marriage counseling is important because you will be helped by a trained professional who will assist the both of you realize your goals and help you to reach them as a couple. In many ways, marriage counselors help you to be accountable and they continue to follow-up with you more closely than anyone else because that is their job. Marriage counseling does, however, require that the both of you be open, honest, and completely willing to make a positive change for the sake of the marriage. Otherwise, it will not help.

In the meantime, take care of yourself emotionally and physically. Engage in positive activities such as exercising, reading, working, and socializing with people who care about you. Also, focus on making a decision about your marriage and be proactive in reaching your goals. Do not wait for things to happen. Rather, you should make them happen. If you decide to try again to save your marriage, then do what is needed to make the necessary appointments (with imam and counselor) to help the both of you reach this goal. If you believe that your marriage will not work, focus on how you will go through with the divorce.

Some good suggestions are to speak to your imam about obtaining the Islamic divorce. Find a divorce lawyer to help settle child custody issues. Figure out where you want to live, and how you will financially support yourself.

I ask Allah to help you make the right decision for yourself and to give you strength and courage to overcome all difficulties that you encounter.



Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.

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About Aliah F. Azmeh
Aliah F. Azmeh is a licensed clinical social worker who practices in Detroit, Michigan. Aliah graduated with a Master's degree in Social Work from the University of Michigan in 2007 and has experience working in the United States and overseas. Aliah currently works as a clinical social worker and provides individual, family, and marital counseling at Muslim Family Services in Detroit, MI.