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Feeling Helpless: Why Does My Husband Treat Me Bad?

05 May, 2018
Q As-Salamu Alaykum.

I have been married for 20 years and have 4 kids. My husband treats me very badly, addresses me as “trush" when he is normally talking to me in front of my kids. He tells people things like "I have never seen a lazy person like her" and lots of other hurtful things. I do not say anything because if I defend myself he’ll make a fight out of it. I just feel broken into several pieces. He’s at home all the time as he’s got back problems.

When the kids go to school, he is just sitting and watching TV. He's calm and doesn't argue or swear otherwise. As soon as the kids are home, he starts. I pay all the bills, the loan, and every household expenses. He just brings the food, yet he has two houses under his name. He hides his bank statements from me. I haven't slept with him for 2 years, and I told him I want to divorce, but he doesn't want to talk about it.

My 2 girls are baligh (age of discretion). The older one is only 15 and wants to get married so she can get out of here. The other one told a friend that she would leave by the time she’s 18. I am in a situation where I can’t turn to anyone. My family is not here and I have no contact with my relatives as I feel embarrassed. We come from different backgrounds and he hates me interacting with people from my country. He even hates if I watch a movie in my language. There’s so much more.

Please give me guidance and make du’aa’ for me.


In this counseling answer:

• Think back to the time when your husband could work and do not have serious back problems. Was his behavior than the same as it is now?

• The marriage calls for a timeout so that you can both take a step back, review the situation, recover, and then decide what to do.

• Encourage your husband to join a support group.

As-Salamu ‘Alaikum dear sister, 

Allah gave us the gift of choice and the ability to intuit what is good for us. However, emotions have a shorter, thus, quicker root in the circuitry of our brain. If we have not developed the power of reasoning enough to act as a circuit breaker when it comes to emotions, then the emotions rule.

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You made a choice, sister, and, like many of us, those choices come with a set of circumstances that present themselves for us to learn from. When it comes to marital choices, far too many of us enter into those choices, expecting everything to fall into place.

I want you to think back to the time when your husband could work and do not have serious back problems. Was his behavior than the same as it is now? At what point did he begin to change? The aim is to put into context the reasons for the years of emotional and psychological abuse that you have suffered from.

Your husband owns a property, and he does not show to you the bank statement, but none of these things can give him what he needs. Whether they deny it or not, men’s nature is to provide his family and himself as being worthy as a man, a husband, and a father.

This may explain why his behavior is worse when the children return home – because they remind him of what he “feels” he cannot do! It might even explain why your husband resents you referring or engaging in anything that is of your culture –  because he is not a part of it and he feels excluded. This might seem simplistic, but it is nature’s calling card, and men have various ways of coping, or not coping, with this feeling of worthlessness.

For you, your husband hasn’t fallen into place, and, for whatever reason, he hasn’t lived up to his expectations. When this happens, one of the ways of “coping”, from their point of view, is to make others feel inferior by whatever means.

In the case of your husband, he has become a control freak and, to facilitate that, a bully as well. To maintain that position, he continuously undermines you, belittles you, and generally makes you feel as he feels. He shifts in an argument and manages to make you feel you are wrong. Over a period of time, without anything else to counter his position, you end up questioning yourself. Then the doubts become facts, at least in your own mind.

A part of you draws inwards, making you less vibrant than you were before. Soon it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy until you reach a point whereby you can take no more – the point where you are at now.

For him, you serve a purpose, and he might love you in his own way, but his eternal tantrum has prevented him from being otherwise. Of course, he will not discuss the divorce that you seek because he more than likely knows that no one else would put up with the person who he has become. Unfortunately, this is a lose-lose situation; becoming conditioned to his behavior means that you have lost the ability to challenge him enough to stop feeling sorry for himself. Culturally, it might even be that you were raised to be submissive, which has given him more reason to continue as he has done.

Regardless, what you have, sister, is yourself. Your husband might not want to grant you a divorce, at least now, but for someone who provides the income, you can choose to separate for a defined period. You need a time out of this situation, and the marriage does call for a timeout so that you can both take a step back, review the situation, recover, and then decide what to do. Take a look at your resources, sister, and explore what resources/support is available within your capabilities. Try to find a suitable place for you and your two girls to live temporarily. Explain to him in a gentle manner what he has done over the years because he might not be aware of the effect of his behavior on you.

For separation, decide the length of the period together. Be persistent in your request stating that it is only for a short time so that he will be more likely to agree. This is not as drastic as a divorce, but you both need space to breath and find yourselves again. If there is anything left that you can use to rebuild the marriage, then in sha’ Allah, you will discover it.

  • Learn to find things that help you to relax so that you can learn to feel comfortable with yourself again.
  • Learn to establish practical steps towards everyday solutions which make a solution more likely than if you deal with situations from a purely emotional approach.
  • When you feel upset, learn to change your mood so that the hurt does not control your perception of what is going on.
  • Learn to help your daughters to do the same so that they can take control of their own lives. Sometimes it is easier to help others than to help yourself, so if you find it easier to start with your daughters, then let this be the means by which you can begin your own healing/recovery process.

There are many support groups for men in the country in which you live, so encourage your husband in a light manner to seek help in this way. There are even support groups for men who are perpetrators of domestic violence – which your husband is; it is just that the violence you have been experiencing is non-physical. If you should decide to go through with a divorce, then you will find you will be more capable of doing so after having a respite from each other.

May Allah (swt) help you make the right decision,


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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