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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!

Brawny Guy's Tale:Abuser,Abusee

 A Brawny Guy's Tale: Abuser, Abusee

There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that's your own self.
-  Aldous Huxley


February 5, 2003


Dear Dr. Irene,


My dad was a professional wrestler and was gone from most of my childhood – always on the road.  He was a BIG guy with tattoos, and I always felt intimidated by him.  My mother was always there and loved me unconditionally.  We traveled a lot.  I was in a different school every 6 months to a year.  I was always the “new kid” and was bullied and picked on.  Looking back now, my seeds of codependency were already planted:  a father with Narcissistic traits, a mother who was codependent - and me, with low self esteem.


As I got older I got more assertive and channeled my energy into Meditation, the Gym, and studying martial arts.  This helped greatly.  But through it all, I was taught that as a man, I should ‘control’ my emotions – never display anger, etc. I know that's destructive because it disconnected you from your feelings, but there's also a positive here. You learned self-discipline, an excellent requisite skill.


Then, I went to a military college (received lots of abuse the first year, and dished it out the next three years) and I got a degree in Psychology. Well, gee whiz!  Through those four years I first became a master at taking abuse while standing at attention, and then a master at dishing it out.  After school I joined the military as an officer and then came Desert Storm, but that’s another story in itself. One brawny guy!


I married my first wife and it lasted about 8 months (six of those I was in the Gulf War).  When I met her she had little money and lived with her mother.  While in the Gulf, she cheated. I called home from the war and a man answered the phone. Then friends and family told me about what had gone on. Finally she filed for divorce. I was angry at being cheated on and the fact that I still wanted the relationship to work (looking back, I think I was very controlling).  I felt the huge pain of being cheated on while at war - and still wanted her back!  Her refusal to see me and filing for divorce hurt.  Of course, I lost everything in the divorce:  my step-son whom I loved so much and haven’t seen again, my house, all my money, etc.  I came out of the military and then went to work for local government. Ouchhh...


My second marriage was around three years later.  I had just gotten a DUI. Yea, my attempt to escape the little voice, the feelings of low self esteem, guilt over the war, a failed marriage etc. And she was living with her mother too! Another one!  Why didn’t I see a pattern?  We got married - and I found out she was cheating on me with her boss - found letters and confronted her. 


I kicked her out of the house, told her to go to counseling (surly I didn’t have a problem! Hehehe!), and to get a life.  I told her I could not make her happy, only she could do that (too bad I didn’t follow my own advice).  Six months later we started dating, and she came back home. 


Although she came back, I started feeling this void in my life – I couldn’t put a finger on it.  Her presence felt overbearing.  Not mean or verbally abusive, but I just did not like to be in the house.  She wasn't really doing anything wrong, but I got bored around her because she would always have this ‘HoneyDo List’ and I felt like I was working harder at home than I was at work.  So, I started spending a lot of time on activities out of the house while she stayed home after work and gained weight. 


I suggested we go to the gym together.  She went a few times then quit.  We made love maybe 6 times in the last 3 years of the marriage.  We were roommates that just happened to sleep in the same bed.  I felt stagnated and that I was not ‘growing’.  I wanted out,  and we filed for a friendly divorce.  Of course, I gave her everything (house, furniture, cars, etc.) out of guilt because I felt to blame for giving up. But in all honesty, I wanted out at any cost to restart my life and control my own destiny.  Looking back, I don't think I ever forgave her cheating.


One year after our divorce, I began drinking socially.  I had quit in the past, but after getting my life back together, I began to trust myself more and could enjoy 3-4 beers on a weekend (oh, oh!).  I generally liked being on my own, but eventually became board and got involved with many outside activities. (Hmmmm). 


I went to a bar with a friend and a waitress sat down with me and started talking.  She gave me her number and asked me to call her.  I did. And I picked her up from her mother’s house (AGAIN??! WHY DID I NOT SEE ALL THIS?)


Our dates went well and I found myself really falling for this girl.  We had so much in common – both had been in the Military, she had two previous marriages, she had a son and I wanted one.  We liked the same things (going to bike rallies, dancing, fixing my house).  We fell in love quickly.  We spent romantic evenings together, sitting in the tub and talking.  We did a lot of talking. Through our courtship there were many times that she would break down in tears talking about a rape, two husbands that beat on her, her father's and her sister's death, etc. (Hmmm, red flag! – Why did I not see it?) I sympathized with her.  She got a job working for an attorney.  She’s very intelligent and has a very powerful personality.  She was having some trouble with her mom.  I, the codependent one, suggested she move in - and she did.  At time passed, she drank more and more.  Then came the profanity, the verbal abuse, the complete disrespect, the shoving, the slapping, the yelling, etc.  I can go on and on.  And I sat there and took it.  My little voice said “GET OUT OF THIS RELATIONSHIP NOW!”  But I did not. 


I took on the roll of the fixer.  Sober, she was the sweetest thing in the world.  I gave her my Corvette, while I drove her beat-up Mazda. I was forbidden to call my house “My House.” It was “Our Home”.  She told me where the furniture needed to be, etc.  All of this came about because I loved her and wanted to give her what she wanted.  Guys are so often like this... A wonderful trait - when tempered by sense of Self and boundaries.


When she was drunk, I knew I would get her rage. Example: At Wal-Mart she blew-up because I would not buy her teeth-whitener.  At home that night she flew into a rage about the teeth-whitener and slapped me.  Now I am 5’10, 200 lbs and pretty fit.  She is 5’ and about 100 lbs. 


The next weekend, drunk again, she said she needed space, and went to a bar.  She did not come home until 4:30 in the morning.  The next morning I asked where she had been. She said she got disoriented coming home from the bar, pulled up to the wrong house, and fell asleep in the car. (Come-on!) This is just one example. Most of this mis-behavior was displayed in front of her son.


I told her I was going to stay with my sister; I was no longer going to put-up with this behavior.  I stayed the weekend and when I got home on Sunday I said, “We need to talk.”  She immediately replied, “I have done nothing wrong!”


Then it was MY time to blow-up. (I know, I know, WRONG!)  Blow-up I did.  I yelled, screamed, cried.  I told her it was over.  She pleaded, cried, and grabbing on to me saying, “Please don’t go, I love you.”  I said “If you quit drinking and we both go to counseling, then I might reconsider.”  She said that she would - and she did. 


We had one counseling session, but the next appointment was a month away.  Things were going great and she was doing her part.  I asked her to marry me. (I know, I know, you codependent guy, you!) I loved her deeply, but I made sure the wedding was over a year and a half away to give us time to work our our problems.  


As time passed, the wedding date kept getting moved-up.  Big plans for a wedding and honeymoon... And a big pit began to form in my stomach. I began to resent her.  I had put up with her crap for so long and here she was driving MY CAR, IN MY HOUSE, INVADING MY LIFE! 


I began to get ‘snippy.’  I was not the catering guy I had been.  Anger began to well.  I had Anxiety about our approaching wedding when we had not worked things out!  I did not want anther divorce.  I had suffered too much loss in the past.  I began to think of her as a vampire:  sucking me dry, my identity, my life blood away. 


She became curt and aloof.  Sex and intimacy began to dwindle.  Then, she brought a dog home (the straw that broke the camels back). (Of course, had she brought home a cat, everything would have been fine!) I tried to persuade her to give the dog back. He was pooping in the house, etc.  She was immovable. She refused to talk about it and refused to do anything about the dog that was crapping in the house, keeping me up all hours of the night, etc. 


I blew-up again, and this time I because quite verbally abusive.  She just sat there watching T.V. ignoring me.  I went to stay with my sister again for the weekend (my sister and brother-in law now tired of our fights and tired with her).  After I allowed myself to cool-off, I told her that we could try it again, but things would be different.  The engagement was off until we got these problems worked-out.  She refused to live together unless I gave her ring back and kept the marriage date we had. 


I told her it was over.  I could not put-up with this behavior from myself or from her.  I felt drained.  I felt total loss of everything.  I felt the potential loss of another son and wife, both of whom I loved. Good for you for recognizing that both of you were misbehaving. You were back into taking it and dishing it out, and she, apparently was doing same. Good for you for insisting you both become more whole!


Finally, I began to put the pieces of my life back together.  I broke-down one night and cried for three hours.  This night, after reading ‘Codependent No More: How To Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself’ and spending many hours on this website, I began to review things in my life.  THEN IT HIT ME.  I felt rage, sadness, bitterness.  I cried and cried.  I tried to stop crying and could not.  Finally, the crying stopped and I felt 110% better. :) A little connecting with long-lost feelings methinks!  I somehow felt assertive, in control.  I started getting my life back.  Now I feel like I can do anything.  I could not remember having this feeling before.  I feel powerful.  Not in a controlling way, but an inner power. Excellent. It's called "Personal Power." Sense of self. Mastery.  Centeredness.  Wholeness.


My Ex-fiancÚ are now ‘dating’ and things are going well. Good! We are both in counseling and hope one day to try a move-in again.  I just know that I will NOT put up with abusive behavior and I will not allow myself to become codependent or abusive again. She has ‘baggage’ that needs addressing and she is working on it, just as I am. Excellent! She is reading another book about codependency and we can talk without hurting each other.  We both still love each other but we need space apart. It's a good idea to really get your boundaries down pat alone before you try maintaining them in a live-in situation. I don’t think she likes living back at her mother's, but it’s what I need and I think she needs to ‘find herself,’ just like I am in the processes of doing. I agree! I will never compromise myself again! Good! As you continue to choose the "high road" and stop selling yourSelf out, you will develop an ever deepening sense of self-respect, mastery, power, and integrity.  It becomes easier and easier to do what you know you must do, no matter what. 


Is it possible for two people who were abusive to each other to change to a point to have a normal relationship – I mean without abuse or controlling issues? Yes. Certainly you can. And, unless she is way far off the narcissistic end of the scale, so can she. I pray that this is so.  I think about her and when I see her; all I want to do is hug her.  I miss her being with me from time to time, but I don't miss the abuse.


What I really like is your ability to spot your own issues - and your ability to understand what issues are hers. Boundaries are so very important to being centered in the Self. If you don't know where you begin and you end, you run the risk of making another individual responsible for your issues (as in narcissistic, sociopathic, BPD tendencies) and/or taking responsibility for another person's problems (as in dependent, histrionic tendencies, etc.), both no-win situations. Go slow and no matter how much you love her, never sell out the information the little voice offers in favor of the short-term gain of having the warm body around.


When and if the wedding day approaches again, watch your fear and approach it with respect. When you find yourself bored with her or feel as though she's taken over your life, remember that she hasn't done anything. But you have. You have sold yourSelf out.


You may want to look at these books, if you haven't seen them already:


Facing Love Addiction : Giving Yourself the Power to Change the Way You Love --The Love Connection to Codependence


A Path With Heart: A Guide Through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life


Thanks for reading; I know it was very long.  It helped me, just in writing it.  Thanks for this website – It has changed my life!

Thank you Steven. Thank you for writing about your story. It's great to get stories from men. It's so much harder for guys to think about this stuff and write about it. In most cultures, including our own, guys are taught from early on to be tough and not feel. 

Plus I'm happy to support those who have supported our wonderful country in any way I can.

Warmest regards and God bless you, Dr. Irene

Anybody have comments for Steven?


Also, see Steven's May 2003 update here!

I want to read the posts