It's hard to admit, and take action, when abuse happens in your marriage. My therapist was a saint, patiently listening to my story session after session, until finally one day she looked me straight in the eye and asked, "What's it going to take? Is he going to have to kill you?" That was my "aha" moment.
Problem was, I had a hard time seeing myself as a "victim." That was something that happened to others, not me. I'd landed in therapy because I was shell-shocked to learn my then husband had a mistress and "love" child. I was struggling with the "should I leave or should I stay" question while desperately trying to do all I could to save my marriage. Being raised Catholic, divorce was not in my plan. And, I was not ready to admit I'd chosen a man who abused me.
To put the shame of being a victim of domestic violence in perspective, the truth is I could tell people my ex-to-be had fathered a child with his mistress years before I could admit to physical abuse. In my mind, the child was his fault and the abuse was mine. To this day, I kind of mumble the words "abusive marriage." Sad thing is, I am not alone.
I've worked with many clients who are struggling with upscale abuse. Smart, educated, beautiful, gifted women who are shocked to piece together the fact they are in an abusive marriage. Most don't have the "victim" mentality and are mortified to find that yes, they are victims of domestic violence. These women succeed at most things, so it's excruciatingly painful that they can't make their marriage work.
Often they are married to powerful, high earning men. Many have given up promising careers at their spouse's unrelenting pressure. Compassionate moms, they do all they can to protect their children from the dad's emotional and/or physical abuse. They create beautiful homes, become a super volunteer, and do whatever they can to "make their husband look good." They are so busy they don't see how their spouse is slowly, but surely, chipping away at their soul.
Then one day they wake up and realize they can no longer perpetuate the "happily-ever-after" myth. Perhaps their spouse has had an affair, cut them off financially, grabbed them by the throat, or their survival instincts tell them they better make a plan to get out before it's too late.
When kids are involved, a new wrinkle is added. Many women (or men) stay to protect their children from time alone with an abusive parent. Others have extreme guilt at breaking up their family. What they don't realize is that it is exposure to conflict, and witnessing abuse, that harms children not divorce or losing a privileged lifestyle. When a child sees a parent get hit, yelled at or criticized the child unknowingly experiences it as something happening to him/her. So if you are staying for the children, studies show you are doing them more harm than good.
If you can identify, get a copy of Susan Weitzman's book Not To People Like Us: Hidden Abuse in Upscale Marriages or check out nottopeoplelikeus.com. Knowing you are not alone is so crucial to getting out. In your world that swirls with "unreals" and craziness, you'll find this book/site a gift of validation. You'll know you are not crazy.
Also visit The Weitzman Center and download the free Care Kit provided. It too will help you understand and safely plan for when you are ready to get out. And plan you must. When you leave a high earning, narcissistic professional you can be in for quite a rough ride through the legal system. Often the upscale abuser has the means, power and leverage to hire a legal dream team and use the courts to further the abuse.
I know. My ex was a surgeon and Ivy League grad. He used our money to hire a bully of an attorney and his credentials gave him status in the Courts. That's a story for another day. In the meantime, visit these sites. If you can identify contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org). We need to talk. You are not alone.
FYI: Not sure if you meet the criteria? Then take this test and call me in the morning: Upscale Abuse Test
HuffPost Lifestyle is a daily newsletter that will make you happier and healthier — one email at a time. Learn more