How to get Dr. Irene's Advice: Look here!

Ask The Doc Board Archives

The CatBox Archives

Stories Archives


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 Bad Guy is a She

The Bad Guy is a She


From: Robert
Sent: Saturday, July 31, 1999 11:09 PM
Subject: do the abusers ever apologize?

I will contribute my story to your web site soon (I'm working on a book right now, new job, you know the story), and I'm going through a lot of grief about my marriage to a viciously verbally and emotionally abusive woman.


Dear Robert,
Great! I look forward to it! You write so well!

My ALANON sponsor had me do a 4th step on my obsession with my ex-wife's treatment of me.  My sponsor heard me list my part, how I "volunteered" for the abuse by ignoring my own gut feelings, Yep. by ignoring the warning signs. Yep. Then she heard my list of the many cruel and unfair things my wife said, and did, while we were married.  My sponsor gave me an assignment, to get in touch with the fact that I was an abused husband. Your sponsor is doing a great job.

Naturally, my chickenshit wife never laid a hand on me, but the marks she left on my heart and soul still burn. 
The invisible bruises are the most difficult to deal with. Not only is the victim confused, there is also little sympathy for wounds that cannot be seen. I was very angry at her treatment, her accusations, her double standards for a long time, but only now am I really coming to terms with the real pain beneath the anger:  the hurt, the deep deep sadness that this woman I loved, who said she loved me, would treat me so terribly.  Yes. Read everything on the abuser pages., particularly The Verbally Abusive Partner.  She does not know how to love the way you do. She loved you the best she could.
 (I kept telling her, "Just treat me like you treat your friends!  You don't call them names, mock and belittle them."  She interpreted that to mean I had to be treated better than her friends.  But I digress.)

As a divorced father, I've also been getting in touch with how much I hate this "shift-change" life with my son.  And my sadness has precipitated now that my ex has a new boyfriend.  Of course, I find myself asking, "What does this guy have that I don't?" Probably a bleak future, or maybe not if he is angrier than she is. 

I swear to you, Dr. Irene, I was a decent guy.  I didn't cheat, beat, drink up the rent money, or any of that crap.  I worked hard around the house, cooked, cleaned, yard work, house maintenance. I believe you. But so what. This is not about getting Brownie points. You did what you did because that is what you believed would gain her favor. The problem is that you did so much, tried too hard to get her love and approval. No matter what you did, it would not have been enough not be enough in part because of your attitude, in part because of hers.
 Not enough for her.   Sure, once the stuff got escalated, I began to respond with some verbal backlash of my own...but nothing, nothing like the way she treated me.  And I ask, how can she be nice to him, and she wasn't able to give me those wonderful parts of herself?  Get out of the pity pot. Once upon a time she was nice to you too. You married her, didn't you? Hell, because I had this stupid expectation that my dreams were as important as hers, she denied me  affection, emotional support, sex, and respect.  It hurts to see her offering that to someone else. She did the best she could. Why are you comparing?  Who cares? (I know, you do...)

Anyway, I've been weeping a bit almost every day. 
What are you lamenting? Not having a rotten wife? Not being abused? You sound depressed and it seems to be going on for a while. You may want to call your family doc and ask for a meds evaluation. Sometimes a little chemical help can really give you the boost you need to learn the lessons you need to implement.


Saturday last, she called.  It was my day with my son.  I was going to do something with him differently than she would.  She began to demand I do it "her" way.  I hung  up.  Then the escalation of aggression, threat, name-calling on her part started.  I hung up three times. Next time, don't even pick up the phone when you know she is calling and is in a mood. When you are with your kid, you run the show, not her. You don't need her permission or her OK to do things your way. Don't defend, don't explain.

My slip came on Monday night.  She called to speak to my son (we share custody, I live 4 blocks away, have my son almost every other day), and I asked Katie if she was going to apologize for the way she spoke to me on Saturday.  It went nowhere.  It will go nowhere. She does not feel she has anything to apologize for. Stop trying to get what you need from her. She won't give it. Accept that.
 I kind of unloaded about my feelings on her, that she was abusive to me when we were married.  Her response was that  whatever she did to me, I did to her in spades.  I suggested, make a list, and we'll compare.  She didn't want to make a list (and I damn well know why), and then, in classic abuser fashion, made it my fault.  "If you'd only do what you're supposed to...if you hadn't of (not lived my life the way she  wanted me to)", then, of course, she wouldn't have done it. So what! You dumped her. Get out of the pity pot & get on with life!
On one hand, she has apologized, sort of.  "I'm sorry."  Sorry for what? Sorry that I called her on her bullshit?  Sorry I'm not being a good sport about everything? Let it go! You don't need an apology! Stop being so codependent that you are trying to change her to give you what you want. Instead, change yourself. Deal with the fact that you will not get an apology. Your other option is what you are doing now: needless dwelling and obsessing over something you have no control over, which you give the power to make you miserable. Stop it, unless you choose to continue feeling yukky. Nor does she admit she was abusive to me.  That's her problem. You don't have to make it yours.


She considered herself a good, liberal feminist, and a lot of crap we went through was about her totalitarian thinking around her "principles" (principles that somehow never extended to me and my identity, fancy that).  And in her mind, women like her aren't abusive...that's for men to do, or drunken trailer trash.

My question to you, more than do they ever apologize and change their behavior  Each "they" is different. From what you tell me about your ex-wife, it is unlikely she will apologize and it is unlikely she will change her behavior towards you. My advice: stop looking for an apology, and you change your behavior towards her! (Maybe, maybe then, she will change towards you!) is "How do I get past my desire for justice, and let the past go?" You have to realize that you script your life and you make choices. Right now you are choosing to dwell on all this stuff and make yourself miserable. You will get past this when you decide that what happened happened, you can't change it, but you can learn from it. You will get past this when you realize that there are better ways of spending your time and energy rather than on her. You will get past this when you are willing to do anything in your power to let this go, including checking out if you are an antidepressant (or St. John's Wort) candidate .

I want her hurt, you know? Yeah. And I want to be able to eat anything I want and lose weight. But no matter how much I want it, I cannot make it true, even if it is unfair. So, I accept that I will forever have to pick and choose what I eat if I want to look reasonable. I am also grateful, cuz, you know, it ain't so bad! You have to do same. You must accept that you cannot get what you want, so stop barking up the wrong tree.  
It is my (God forgive me) strong wish that her boyfriend treat her exactly the way she treated me (list attached, just so you know the kind of crap she did and said to me), so SHE KNOWS HOW IT FEELS.  Instead of asking for His forgiveness, why not ask for the strength to help yourself?
But more than that, I want to let it go, let her go to her own destiny. Now you're on the right thinking track. I still weep for the family and home that I was denied.  So that's what you want!  Go find a nice codependent sweetie, like you are...and get it!  I weep for what I fear this is doing to my son (although his mom and I are very concerned about him, and have never used him as a pawn in our battles), Good! I'm glad you both love him more than you hate each other.  I weep for everything I was denied. Enough weeping already. Its time to go out and get it.
Finally, I worry about my son, because I just two weeks ago heard his mom speaking to him the way she spoke to me....  Thanks for your web site, and I will write to the survivors page, because I personally am tired of the plethora of "Domestic Abuse" writing in which the villain is 95% of the time a man.  My ex says all the right things, has all the right politics, and I'm just the dumb-f..k ex-husband, the jerk who left her...
I'm glad to hear you left her! I really do hope you send in your story. I am particularly interested in hearing if and how you implemented any of my feedback. 

My very best wishes, -Dr. Irene 

p.s. Print this out and bring it to your Sponsor...



From: Robert
To: Dr. Irene 
Sent: Sunday, August 01, 1999 11:48 AM
Subject: RE: do the abusers ever apologize?

Obviously, you come from the tough love school. Nope. Cognitive behavioral. We look for things to make sense.
Thanks for your reply, even though some of it stung. I know. Sorry.

I will write my story for your web page. Great!

The pity-pot...possibly.  The other part is simply me feeling the stuff that was stuffed, you know?  Instead of covering up my feelings with, oh, say, VERBAL ABUSE OF ANOTHER HUMAN BEING, I am actually experiencing them, and learning from them.   Finding out, more clearly, what I do really want, and, as you suggested, going out and getting it.
I don't know how long you've been feeling it. You do need some time to do that. My concern is that you not stay there too long because it can be a trap if you are not also moving in the direction you need to go in. What's too long? I don't know. Stay there as long as feels right for you, but just know at some point, you have to move on. OK?

And my son.  Yeah, I'm modeling like a m-----f-----.  My vow is that he won't grow up feeling the way I did (like, hearing my father tell me he loved me once, and that was when he was drunk), that he won't grow up feeling invisible.  I am trying to teach him the stuff I learned in ALANON, and to give him all kinds of good memories, to honor who he is, and to encourage him to find out who he is.  To not pass on the garbage I got ("You don't hurt"  "Stop crying or I'll give you something to cry about", "You don't feel that way,"  etc.), but to let him know and experience his own reality...and to know, without a doubt, that he's loved.
Doesn't seem to me that you're doing such a bad job...especially under the circumstances. But that's also part of the modeling. Life has "stuff."

You sound a heck of a lot like my sponsor in trying to get me off the "fairness/justice" kick.  Hey, we all have our little quirks, that is one of mine I'm working hard on dumping. It's not a's an "irrational belief" straight out of the textbooks. Very common one too, so rest assured. Bottom line: It is not true, life is not fair, your belief just doesn't work.

I wanted to disagree with your "Brownie Points" comment, but on honest reflection, I can see that I was trying to buy some peace and piece (if you'll excuse a crude allusion).  It didn't work in achieving either goal. But the good part is, I learned to c
ook!  Silver lining to every cloud! The other good part of putting myself in that furnace (and staying, even though I could open the door and walk right out) is that I finally, completely confirmed for myself that I wasn't an alcoholic (like most of the men in my family).  No matter how wretched I felt, I never wanted to go out and get blasted... Honestly, you sounded pretty blasted in your letter...but what the heck.

Good from the bad, I guess.  That would have to include my son, who I love more than anything or anyone in the world.
And you. Looking forward to getting your story, when you have the time. My best, -Dr. Irene