DEAR ABBY: I am 55 now. Between the ages of 18 and 26, I was married four times to three different men. I was stupid. I had no direction in life and thought marriage was the answer. At 27, I went back to college, graduated and became a CPA.
I married again at 34. My husband was abusive, and the marriage was rocky, to say the least. He hit me, shoved me, kicked me, drank too much, passed out in the street and was a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to live with. I hung in with him for 20 years because I was desperate to make a marriage work and avoid further shame.
I finally left him last year. I feel damaged, empty and ashamed, and I don't know how to start over at this point. I have been fighting a chronic illness for eight years, which contributes to my feelings of hopelessness.
Have you any advice about where I can turn to start a new life? Please don't suggest counseling. I have already done that and gotten as much healing from it as possible. Now I need to know how to move forward. -- SHAMED BUT NOT STUPID
DEAR SHAMED: Your new life began the moment you walked out the door and left your abuser behind. I have often asked, "If marriage is the answer, what is the question?" Now that you know marriage isn't the answer, you can begin building your new life by first forgiving yourself, and then learning to like yourself again.
There are online support groups for divorced people as well as those recovering from abusive relationships. It may be helpful to sample a few to see if you can find the support you're looking for. I wish you luck, because you are finally on the right track.