"He's Moody and Angry All the Time"
"After 20 years I finally told Ben I wanted a divorce," said Eve, 44, the mother of 19-year-old twin boys. "I can no longer live with a man who may blow up at any moment.
"Over the years Ben has grown more and more critical. If I make plans with friends or don't baby him enough when he's sick, he'll either lash out or sulk. We'll go out for a nice dinner and if his steak is overcooked he'll berate the waiter and ruin the whole evening. And if he's had too much to drink he gets sarcastic and nasty. He's never hurt me or the kids, but plenty of times he's stomped off to his workroom and thrown things around.
"Now, of course, he promises he'll change. He says he's stopped drinking, that he loves me and that he's heartsick about the way he's treated us. I've heard it all before. We've had more fresh starts than I can count.
"The boys can't understand why I've put up with him all these years. The answer is, simply, I loved him. There used to be a lot of goodness to Ben.
"I grew up in Boston as the youngest of five. Dad was boss and we were all afraid of him. He never physically abused us, but he was always cursing or flying into a rage. My mother was a stay-at-home mom who ran around saying things like, 'Your dad's coming home -- you'd better clean up that mess!' If I was upset he'd say, 'Stop crying or I'll give you something to cry about.' I resented both my parents but especially my mom because she never once stuck up for me.
"I was a good student, but no one encouraged me to go to college. So I got a job as a receptionist at the company where I'm now the head of human resources. Ben and I met at work when he came in to repair some equipment. We were only 22, so mainly we just had fun. But we really related to each other. We had similar backgrounds and knew a lot of the same people.
"After a year we moved in together, but I was wary about marriage. Ben was always pissed off about something. One morning while he was making breakfast the eggs stuck to the pan and burned. He opened the back door and simply threw the spatula and pan into the yard! That should've set off alarms, but I've always been good at rationalizing.
"Then I got pregnant. It was a total shock. We were excited about having a baby and decided to get married. When we found out it was two babies, Ben started drinking with friends after work. I kept hoping things would be better once the twins were born.
"And for a while they were. Ben changed diapers, helped with a relief bottle and, when the boys got older, played soccer with them in the backyard. But the negativity was still there, and it surfaced often. I'd always be racking my brains trying to figure out what I'd done this time to make him so mad.
"The boys suffered, too. They hated his constant screaming to keep the music down or put away their sports equipment. Zack tuned out but Kevin stood up to him. The explosions were not pretty. I'd come home from work and they'd roll their eyes and say, 'Stay away from Dad.' One day it dawned on me: The kids will be out of the house soon. I don't have to live like this, constantly anxious and worried that something is wrong with me.
"Telling Ben to leave is the hardest thing I've ever done. I didn't get married to get divorced, but I didn't get married to be miserable either."