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I want to leave him but I don't want to leave his children

Kara wrote:

My boyfriend is a widower with 2 sons and I am divorced with 2 daughters. We have been together almost 4 years and decided to move in together about a year ago. Everything was great. All of the children get along wonderfully and I was very happy.

He began to pull away from us all. He became mean to me and began ignoring the children. I slowly started taking over the raising of the children. I do all of the feeding, bathing, dressing. All of the school activities, cheer leading and football is all on me.

I do everything around the house as well (with the help of the children) as far as all the cleaning and repair. I don't mind this as I love him and this family so much. Whenever things go wrong with the house, such as me forgetting to take the trash out or dinner burning because I am busy with the kids, he becomes brutally critical. I am spread so thin that I make mistakes but it's never anything serious. He does nothing but work a short shift and entertain his friends who are at our house every night. I still don't mind. I love him.

About 3 months ago he started becoming more and more cruel to me. He has become verbally, mentally and emotionally abusive to me. There is no love for me from him. He has completely withdrawn himself from the children's lives. He doesn't eat meals with us any more. He makes the children leave the room whenever they are in his presence.

I have asked him what is wrong. He says that everything is fine and asks to be left alone. I have ensured him that I love him and that whatever it is, I will help him get through it. He says its me. He refuses to be specific and if I push it, he becomes very angry and the abuse comes out. I can't talk to him at all without a fight.

I worry about the example he is setting for the children. I try to just avoid him because I never know when a fight will break out and this upsets the children. Two weeks ago he was physically abusive. How I feel or what I think is completely unimportant. I need to bite my tongue or the abuse starts.

I am so unhappy and I want out. I don't even think he loves me any more.

I love his children as if they were my own. His youngest was just a year old when I met him. They don't remember their real mother and, due to her illness, she wasn't able to care for them. I'm the closest thing to a mom they've ever had. Our children are truly siblings. The five of us love each other so deeply. If I leave, I'll destroy our family. My girls and I will probably never see his boys again.

Please help. I just don't know what to do.

Dear Kara

I don't think you have a lot of choice; regardless of why the change has occurred, you cannot save the relationship on your own - it takes two.

Professional counselling might help if you can persuade him, single counselling may help you to see your way clearer. But if he's physically abusive, and will not even discuss the reasons for his withdrawal, you cannot save the relationship - if he won;'t help, at the very least, he needs to allow you to help him. It seems he won't.

If he's been abusive and has neither recognised the size of the problem, or sought help, it is only a matter of time before it happens again - and next time, it might involve a child.

Do what's right for the children first, what's right for you second. Then think about him.

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