"You must leave this man."
Dear Kristine - You don't know who I am, but I know who you are. I heard you speak at St. Olaf's Lutheran Church last month, and I still haven't forgotten what you said.
It was almost like you talked directly to me. You preached about suffering. You said the church has it all wrong. You said no one should suffer to make another person feel adequate; no one should suffer to feed a sick ego or contribute to evil.
I haven't been able to forget what you said. I live with a man who is many good things; a good father, a wonderful neighbor. He plows the entire block all winter long; no thanks, no reward. He does it because he's a good guy.
But he doesn't love me. No. In fact, the man in my life doesn't like me at all.
I've known this for a long, long time.
He's mean to me in ways people are mean because they don't care. I'll ask him to do something for me - and he'll tell me "no." Straight up. No reason why, nothing. Just, "no."
We've been married twenty-seven years. Three kids. We live in a great community; everyone thinks the world of him.
Except me. I'm so tired of pretending everything is okay between us - in our family.
My youngest child leaves home this fall for college in Northfield. I'm going to be in the house, alone with him.
I don't know how I will survive.
Kristine, he doesn't hit me - he shouts, throws things, and calls me names. He only does this when we are alone, and I know no one would believe me if I told them.
He says I have no real friends. He tells me that my neighbors speak poorly about me to him when I'm not there.
Before my mother died, he told me she didn't love me - that I am the least lovable woman he knows.
I've given this man my entire life.
What should I do?
Samantha - You know what to do. You know exactly what to do. You're writing me because you know I'll tell you to do exactly what you know you must.
You must leave this man.
I don't need to know anything more about your marriage, your family, or the way he treats you.
All I needed to know was that he is not loving; does not cherish you, honor you or value you.
When a man and a woman agree to live together, a great contract is formed. The premise of the contract is this: I show you my weaknesses, you show me yours. We protect each other from criticism, pain, suffering and humiliation. We strengthen each other. We help each other through the times when our weaknesses might overwhelm us. We reach out in love and support when the other is in pain.
We do not hurt each other.
My dear mentor Sheila Shanley once said that the true sign of love is this; when you show another person how to hurt you and they make certain you are never hurt.
You need to leave this man. I'm not sure how you will do it - but you will find a way. Leave him today. Leave him immediately.
Your action will change everything. Who knows? It might even save your marriage. And your life.
Presbyterian pastor, broadcast commentator, playwright and great friend.