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Below is an Interactive Board sampler. A fuller listing is found in the "Stories" menu above.

4/14 Interactive Board: Codependent Partners

3/23 Interactive Board: He's Changing... I'm Not...

3/1 Interactive Board: D/s Lifestyle

1/14 Interactive Board: My Purrrfect Husband

12/12 Interactive Board: What if He Could Have Changed?

10/23 Interactive Board: Quandary Revisited

8/24 Interactive Board: Quandary! What's Going On?

7/20: Dr. Irene on cognitive behavior therapy and mindfulness

6/12 Interactive Board: Unintentional Abuse

11/7 Interactive Board: Is This Abusive?

12/29 Interactive Board: There Goes the Wife...

11/4 Interactive Board: A New Me!

10/8 Interactive Board: Seeming Impossibility

9/8 Interactive Board: My Ex MisTreats Our Son

5/1 Interactive Board: I feel Dead - Towards Him

4/26 Interactive Board: Why is This So Hard?

4/19 Interactive Board: I Lost My Love...

4/7 Interactive Board: Too Guilty!

The Tale of An Abused Husband

  The Tale of an Abused Husband

September 11, 1999

My Story

My therapist has labeled me as a codependent and emotionally battered male. This revelation has opened my eyes. Good for you! One less piece of yourself that you need to fix. You see, my therapist believes my Wife suffers from a borderline personality disorder, which is most likely related to a traumatic childhood experience. So what? Is this license to treat another person poorly? Even though I am beginning to understand why she behaves the way she does, I also realize that I have some tough decisions ahead of me if the situation doesn't improve soon.  Yes.

I have been married for 23 years, and we have four children. Our two eldest sons are married. Our only daughter is in High School, and we have an 8 year-old son. He's my pride and joy.

Both my Wife and I come from abusive childhoods. My father, and her mother, were our respective tormentors. Both engaged in extreme acts of verbal and emotional abuse. Occasionally, there were incidences of physical violence in both homes. Fortunately I was able to seek the compassion of my mother, and to this day she remains my best friend. However, my Wife despises my father, and accuses me of being just like him.
Hmmm...just like her, perhaps?

For many years, I was able to keep the peace by simply accepting responsibility for all that was wrong in our marriage. It had to be, I was my father's son! Wasn't I? Well, for years I suffered tremendous verbal abuse from my Wife, for no other reason than I was my father's son and was willing to accept that fact. As a result, I allowed my Wife to abuse me beyond belief. I was accused of being selfish, self-centered, a poor excuse for a provider, husband, and father. All sense of self-esteem and dignity were stripped away. The sad part was, that much of this verbal assault was perpetrated in front of my children. My children heard their mother call me "no good," "worthless," "ill-tempered," "a piss poor excuse for a father/husband," or the children were told on many occasions that they couldn't buy something they wanted in the store "because your father didn't bring home enough money." I felt ashamed and guilty, somehow I hadn't worked quite hard enough to provide for my family. Ugh! 

Even though I desperately struggled for my Wife's approval, I never quite earned her praise. Later, my therapist pointed out that I was reliving my childhood struggles with my father. He quite unabashedly stated that "I had married my father." I agree. Looks like you are still striving to win his love and acceptance.

After graduating from law school and beginning a practice, I began to realize that I was not solely responsible for everything that was wrong in our marriage. With this realization, I began challenging any accusations of fault which made me feel uncomfortable. My Wife didn't expect this change in behavior. Tension in our marriage increased twofold.
This is a typical scenario when the victim begins to speak up. Eventually, we found ourselves seeking marriage counseling. 

It wasn't long before our joint therapist decided we needed to see separate therapists. Ultimately, it was determined that we both suffered from childhood trauma, which set the stage for the problems we were experiencing in our adult relationship with one another. Our therapists concluded that we were like a pair of bookends, both carrying baggage that had everything and nothing to do with our marriage. As well, we were both the victims and the victimizers, but for different reasons. Yes. My own behavior was associated with codependency and low self-esteem. My Wife's was associated with severe depression and compulsive rage. My therapist also believed that my Wife may be suffering from a borderline personality disorder. Despite our extensive therapy and self insight, our problems persist.

Over the course of the last three weeks, I have been locked out of my own home on three separate occasions. Because I am building a new sole practice against my Wife's wishes, and she is shouldering the brunt of the financial responsibilities, I will do as I am told - even though I was the sole provider for the family for over 18 years. The first lock out occurred three weeks ago after we had been arguing for almost three hours without resolution. I had become exhausted by the relentless arguing, and refused to argue any further. Because tempers were flaring, I went outside into the backyard to cool off. At that point, my wife locked the front door, the back door, shut off all the lights, and went to bed.

When I tried to reenter the house and found the doors locked, pure rage overcame me and I punched the glass out of the door. Immediately I felt the pain, and realized the mistake I had just made. Since it was dark, I couldn't really tell just how badly I had injured myself, until I noticed the large pool of blood forming at my feet. At that point, I began to panic. I reached in through the broken window, and unlocked the dead bolt. However, the door wouldn't open because my Wife had barricaded it, just in case I tried to break the window. I began screaming and banging on the door for my Wife to help me.

Ours dogs were barking, and my 10 year old son was screaming. But, my Wife didn't come. I then walked around to the front door, yelling for help to no avail. Then I went to the bedroom window, and saw my Wife laying on the bed reading a book. I yelled in for her assistance, and she finally opened the door. Later, she claimed she didn't hear my pleas for help. Even though my Wife offered to drive me to the hospital, I refused her offer and drove myself. When I returned at 3:00 am, the doors were closed, lights off, and she was asleep in bed. The next day, I refused to discuss anything with her, because I was still upset. She told me that if I wanted to lay on my fat ass and watch TV then I should go to my office. The following night I did just that.

She came to my office, and again confronted me. Immediately I sensed her anger. She was very confrontational and antagonistic. I asked her several times to leave, and she refused exclaiming that she owned half of the office. At this point, I insisted she leave, and she started kicking client files all over the front office. I grabbed her by the arms, intending to escort her out of the building when she kicked me in the thigh. At that point, I let go and offered her one more opportunity to leave, otherwise I was going to call the police. When she refused to leave, I dialed 911. 

The police responded with three units. Thank god it was later at night! How embarrassing for a divorce attorney! Despite my Wife's claims of being pushed, the circumstances clearly indicated that she was the aggressor. Since there were no assaultive wounds, the police elected not to make any arrests, provided my Wife left peacefully. After she departed, the police inquired as whether I had somewhere to stay for the night. I told them I was just going to stay in the office and not go home. They insisted that I not even stay in the office, believing this incident was not over. The police did not want me in the office if she returned, because they were going to arrest her if she came back to the office. I spent the night elsewhere.

Much to my surprise, the police were absolutely correct. The incident wasn't over. Even though she didn't return to my office that night, she did go on a rampage when she got home. She went into my home office and gathered my personal papers, threw them into the bathtub, and burned them. Then she destroyed my personal property. Of all the property she destroyed, the care-bear was the hardest to tolerate. I have two care-bears that are about 2 feet high that sit on my dresser. They are stuffed bears made from the dresses of my two deceased grandmothers. My Wife took a steak knife from the kitchen and impaled the crime victims card given to us from the police on to the knife, and then stabbed the care-bear through the heart. My son found the care-bear the next morning. 

The level of physical violence has been increasing over the last 6 years. Each new incident involves more destruction and greater threats. The worst part of the whole situation, is that she sees herself as the victim, and denies any responsibility whatsoever. She stops short of stating that her behavior was appropriate, but does strongly believe that her behavior was justified under the circumstances. She told me tonight, that I was so filled with anger, that I was destroying our marriage, and she could no longer live under these conditions. She argues that my refusal to discuss a problem, and to allow a problem to linger for 3-4 days was emotional abuse to her. 

 have tried to explain to her, that I only have to acknowledged her feelings; I don't have to agree with them. My refusal to talk for hours or days on end, is only related to her level of anger. If she continues to display anger, then I'm not going to discuss anything with her. I have tried to explain to her, that
her insistence that I accept full responsibility for what she perceives as my own misbehavior is abusive in and of itself. I have a right to disagree. I also have a right not to engage in hours of debating the issue of blame, particularly with minor problems. She is so self-absorbed, that she literally cannot see or respect my point of view. I am treated like one of the kids, and made to feel like my sole purpose in life is to fulfill her needs. 

She rarely will ask me to do anything. If she wants something done, I'm ordered to do it. When I'm at home, she dominates my free time. I'm allowed very little time to myself. Since I dedicate so much time to my practice, which she also complains about, she feels I should come home ready willing and able  to serve the family needs as she has defined them. Somewhere in all of this mess, I've lost track of myself.

Well, I've rambled on rather extensively, and for that I apologize.
Don't. But I needed to express some of the intense pain I'm feeling right now. I feel very confused and uncertain of myself. My therapist tells me that I'm allowing that codependency to creep in again. Maybe I am, but I'm just searching for answers. You would think that a divorce attorney, like the Judge, would be able to manage their lives better. But I guess my situation just goes to prove that the grass isn't always greener on the other side.
Thank you for your patience and understanding, and I'm looking forward to your response.  -Jim

Dear Jim,

I don't care if you are an attorney, a marriage counselor, or a blacksmith. Doctors catch colds and financial experts go bust. You are human. You are also clearly a victim of abuse - and, you continue to allow it. Have you  read the books on the victim people's reading list? What exactly are you uncertain about? What are you waiting for? A sign from above? Well, you've got it: one totally whacko experience, and then some.

Your wife, if indeed borderline, is unlikely to overcome her over-emotional tendencies. In addition, your "acceptance" of her misbehavior certainly gives her no incentive to change her ways. Do you think it is somehow "OK" for her to treat you the way she does given that she is an abuse survivor? (I don't.)

You say you've lost track of yourself. Of course you have. Your entire account is about the writing on the wall - writing you obviously discount and refuse to take seriously! 

It is interesting that you capitalize the "w" in "wife." A little sardonic humor? Seriously, Jim, unless you secretly enjoy the drama you are experiencing (which I truly doubt), what are you doing in this marriage? 

Jim, please keep us posted. Good luck to you and take care of yourself (for a change).   -Dr. Irene