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How Do I Deal With a Verbally-Abusive Spouse?

Dr. Pepper Schwartz
Dr. Pepper Schwartz

Q: How does one stop verbal abuse and harsh sarcasm from a mate of 46 years so the tween grandchild isn't exposed to an unloving grandparent environment? It's hard because I rely 100 percent on my husband for financial support. Are there assistance programs for those who are not poverty level but in fact own a small business? In my situation, there is a need for a lack of oppression, some peace and cohesive support in the home. But leaving an angry spouse, who is nearly 70 years old, is causing a lot of guilt! Thanks for ideas. -- JM

Dr. Schwartz: Well, no one should take continuous abuse, that's for certain. It sounds like this has been going on a long time though: What has made you finally want to change it?

If , however, this is all new, there might be some physical reasons for it, and I would have your partner checked by someone who understands brain issues. Sometimes  major changes in temperament are an early sign of dementia or Alzheimer's.

But if you find this is just indulgent nastiness, you can threaten separation and see if that is enough to contain the cruel and sarcastic barbs. If nothing you say or do can create a more civilized household than do move out, or get your partner to move out. That might be just the shock it takes to get some reformed conduct.

The fact that you used the term "verbal abuse" worries me. Please find someone to talk with locally - your place of worship, a family services organization, sometimes there are support groups at hospitals and senior centers, etc., all are free. If he has harmed you physically, please report it to the police immediately.

Before contemplating even the threat of separation, you should talk to a domestic relations attorney. Depending on the state, you may be entitled to some level of continuing financial support from your spouse, even if you decide to separate. Each state is different on how assets are divided.

Also, you can use the AARP Social Security benefits calculator to estimate how much you would receive, either on your own work record or as a divorced spouse who has been married for more than 10 years. If it's going to be difficult to pay Medicare premiums and copayments, you need to check with your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) to get help covering medical expenses. The local area agency on aging is a good place to go for information about a wide range of support and assistance programs available in your community.

So, you now know that your quest for peace may require some financial sacrifices and restructuring of your lifestyle. However, if you decided to leave, doing some research on the best way to end your relationship, may uncover some resources  you may not have thought of. I  wish you the best of luck.

Dr. Schwartz answers readers questions every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Submit your questions hereRead of Pepper's columns hereFollow Pepper on Twitter  @pepperschwartz.

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