relationship advice

[Two Pronged] Leaving an abusive husband

Margarita Holmes

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[Two Pronged] Leaving an abusive husband
Our letter sender writes about a husband who's abusive and friends who think the marriage shouldn't end

Rappler’s Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr Margarita Holmes.

Jeremy has a master’s degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in 3 continents, he has been training with Dr Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives

Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons. 

Dear Dr Holmes and Mr Baer,

I am a nurse working overseas, so have limited days together with my husband “Jeff.” We’ve been together for 8 years, the last 4 in a LDR (marriage) seeing each other 20-30 days a year. We got married because: 1. this was the only way to be together abroad; 2. peer pressure my already being 31 then.

Jeff is also a nurse but it’s like he’s not interested to live abroad. We often fight; he always verbally curses me, blaming me for all his failures.

I went to the Philippines to celebrate our 1st wedding anniversary but  Jeff got so mad over slippers I wore, choking, hitting and threatening me with a knife. He stopped only when I called his parents while the fight is ongoing. 

It pains me a lot. Jeff does not give me due respect. I forgave him because I don’t want that incident sensationalized, with people talking about us. Also, I didn’t want to ruin my pre-planned vacation.

I thought he will change, he still curses me when upset. So tired of fighting and feeling unwanted, I concentrate on work and hope for courage to leave him.

When I told him we should separate, he cursed and told me I should die. He messaged that he allows me to fuck other men, just not to leave him. 

I tried calling him but he doesn’t answer. According to our common friend, Jeff tells them he is fine ending our marriage; he has a lot of pagkukulang (shortcomings) when we were together.

Is it okay if I file for an annulment? I don’t want to get back to him  ever again. Yet sharing that I have someone during this pandemic lessens the sadness when my friends and I compare our lives overseas.

I am happier now, the only thing bothering me is the legalities. Will Jeff sue me if he learns I have a new relationship?

Is my decision the right decision? Some friends tell me I have to be with him ’till death do us part; that if I fear the Lord, I should not break our vow. 


Dear Tina,

A crucial question you have to ask yourself is whether you want advice based on science/psychology, advice based on religious belief or advice based on the law.

To simplify the issue, if you are married to a man who has already threatened you with a knife once and you believe he may do more than threaten in the future, common sense as well as psychology suggests that your survival requires you to leave him. 

Religious belief however may require you to stay with him on the grounds of your vows etc. As for legal advice, that is best sought from a professional, particularly if more than one jurisdiction is involved.

Leaving aside the theological and juridical approaches, which are not within our remit, it seems quite clear that marriage to a man who attacks you with a knife, gives you permission to sleep with other men and then tells you that you should die is not a happy marriage and any life you have together may be “nasty, brutish and short,” to quote Thomas Hobbes. 

As for the possibility of change, if you married in order to be together abroad and then Jeff shows no interest in going abroad, it would appear that you have radically different attitudes to the sort of marriage you are sharing. 

Furthermore, if Jeff blames you for all his failures, he is certainly not ready to take responsibility for turning around his life and marriage.

A bout of couples therapy will perhaps give you a clearer idea of the future possibilities for your marriage. If Jeff remains intransigent in his views and behavior, then your next stop may well have to be your priest and/or your lawyer. 

All the best,

JAF Baer

Dear Tina:

Thank you very much for your letter and for making it very clear that despite your many painful problems, you have kept your wits about you. This shows in your priorities, save the last (at least in my opinion): an annulment, the legalities of your marriage, and finally, what people might say.

Your concern with what people might say has affected many of your previous decisions and I hope this concern will stop once you realize the deleterious effects it has had on your mental health:

1. “…peer pressure my already being 31 then” – who says 31 is too old for marriage? Or even 32, 33, 44? Granted, it’s probably easier to find a partner when you’re younger, but was a partner like your husband at 31 really better than no partner at all until you got someone more “worthy?” Worthy by YOUR standards and not by anyone else’s.

2. “I don’t want that incident sensationalized, with people talking about us”  Maybe if people did, you would have realized sooner that this man is not worthy to be anyone’s husband. And, later, you would realize even more that what matters is what you think and not anybody else.

3. “Yet sharing that I have someone during this pandemic lessens sadness when my friends and I compare our lives overseas.” Tina, Tina, woulda you really be “less sad” talking about your husband who’s an albatross around your neck just to impress your colleagues?

4. “…friends tell me I have to be with him till death do us part; that if I fear the Lord, I should not break our vow.” And you call these schizophrenics friends? (cf. Dr. Ssasz: “When you talk to God, that’s prayer. When God talks to you, that’s schizophrenia”)

“Friends” have no problem dishing advice to others because it doesn’t affect their lives. They won’t be threatened with a knife should they wear the wrong slippers. Stop taking their advice. Take ours instead 🙂

Better yet, listen to everyone’s suggestions, and then take your own counsel and do what seems right for you — not only in the short term, but for what you hope will be your entire life.  

Best of luck,

MG Holmes 


Need advice from our Two Pronged duo? Email with subject heading TWO PRONGED. Unfortunately, the volume of correspondence precludes a personal response.

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