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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!

Don't Write Back-He Will Know...

Don't Write Back. He Will Know...

Date: August 23, 1999

Dear Dr. Irene,

I discovered I was in an abusive relationship 7 years ago.  I met a counselor who pointed it out, then read the Patricia Evans books.  I was in shock.  I tried to stop the abuse but did not have the skills.  I finally packed up and moved in with my dad about 2000 miles away.  My husband would call and swear he would change.  I told him he needed to get counseling before I would come back, so he did.  He then told me how the counselor said we needed couples counseling and I needed to come back.  His counselor also said we had normal everyday problems, not abuse.  I came back after about 2 years because I did not want to give up. I felt he deserved a chance. I lived in a nearby city with a roommate while we got couples counseling.  The counselor was oblivious to verbal abuse and my husband was the perfect gentleman. I slowly let myself be manipulated into moving back in. Watch that wishful thinking next time.

Well, he is doing it again, more covertly, and he accuses me of being the abuser ("You are so angry, you need to do something about your anger").  I finally picked up the Patricia Evans book again and then found your web site.  My eyes are opened again!!  I am now trying to stand up for myself. Good!  The other day he ordered me to bring him a glass of water. When I asked him to ask or say please, he refused.  He said I was a bitch.  I again said all he had to do was ask me nicely.  He angrily got up and got himself his water. (This seems so petty as I write it, but the little petty things really add up to a lot of bad feelings). Not petty! Ordering another person around as though they are property is not petty! Don't trivialize your feelings! Listen to yourself and trust what you hear!

My concern:  It took all the strength and energy I had to pack up the last time. Last time the abuse was more overt - he tried to strangle me!  I don't know how to do it again. Yes you do. In fact, it should be easier this time. I feel like my life is wasting away. Unless you change your life, that feeling is likely to continue and grow stronger. But you already know that. I am 31 and would like to have kids (The doctors said his sperm count was too low, thank God.) How do I leave, now? What are you waiting for? I asked for counseling again, he does not want to spend the money (though he has no trouble borrowing thousands from his brother for home office equipment). Don't ask. Just go. Charge it! Whatever! His anger scares me. Not yourself. I can feel the animosity in the air.  He keeps going on with life like our marriage is good (let's buy this, do that, Vegas vacation, etc.). But the spending sprees are tying me down more and more.  I am scared.  It was soooo hard to leave before, and it feels harder now. The longer you wait, the more difficult it is likely to get...

Please don't reply to my e-mail address, he checks and reads the mail, too. Oh boy! Is this any way to live? Take your power and tell him to knock it off and respect your privacy.  He would not be happy to know I am on to his abuse again. He is likely to make it harder for you to leave, which is why you are protecting this "secret." Just get a plan together in the meanwhile.  I do feel stronger as far as distancing myself from him (I knew I was not a bitch for wanting him to ask nicely, where before I would have been crying because I was a bitch). Good! It feels good to just say this to someone.  I have to look into finding another counselor, this time someone knowledgeable about abuse. Yes!


Dear ...

You are not a bitch, and I'm glad you know it. Good for you that you are not crying! You recognize that you are being abused, and you are correct. You are following the expected emotional pattern: demoralized and beaten down. This is not a good place to be, but you already know this. You also already know your situation is likely to get worse. 

Do what you have to do...just like he does. Beg, borrow, or steal if you must. Also, you sound depressed. Ask  your medical doctor about an antidepressant. Or, if you can't go or won't go, try St. John's Wort.  Doing what you have to do is hard enough. You need to give yourself every edge (just like he does). Ask yourself what he would do if he found himself in your place! Talk to friends, family, your old counselor, anybody who will listen. Take the guilt and throw it out the window. Then grit your teeth and pack up. In a couple of months, you are likely to be relieved and he is likely to be knocking at your door - again.

Spend time getting to know yourself. Get some treatment and learn how to spot abuse and deal with it - so there won't be a next time, ever. Get a copy of You Can't Say That To Me!  (The link takes you to Never, ever forget that the abusive partner has little motivation to change; in most cases, motivation ends when you come back. These people are usually more concerned with "getting over" and convincing the world than they are about true change.  Counseling is no guarantee that he will improve. This includes counseling with an appropriate, knowledgeable therapist!

My very best wishes. One of these days, when you are on your feet again, I hope you'll drop me a line. Best regards and may God bless,  Dr. Irene

August 24, 1999


Dr. Irene, Thank you for your letter. I started crying when I reread my own words. I do not know hard to change my own behavior. When he calls me something derogatory, I don't know what to do. I have tried to a) ignore him,  Not a bad reaction. b) give him the silent treatment until he apologizes, Depends. If he knows he pushed your buttons, he is likely to continue. c) point out to him that he is being verbally abusive, Good if done firmly and unemotionally. d) call him something back. Bad, bad, bad! None of these responses seem to have a positive effect. Any suggestions? Yes, but: Tell him to knock it off & walk away.  But, your power really comes from your resolve to walk out if he won't comply. Pleading, reasoning, requesting, etc. will not work alone.  

I know you said I should focus on me so I guess instead of wondering what causes him to be abusive, I should try to figure out why I am in this relationship in the first place. My father is an emotionally abusive drug addict. So,  you married dad. My mom died at 35 from breast cancer. I recall her saying at one point that she thought that he caused her cancer from the stress. No proof, but I believe her. Understand the past and understand that your family gave you a map of what married life looks like. Are you playing out that history? Are you being mom? Is that what you want? 

I guess I don't even like to think about all that because I don't want to blame them for my current relationship issues. There is no blame; plus it is a waste of time. They did the best they could - and besides, you don't seem to be doing much better. So be angry with them for doing a rotten job - and love them, all at the same time. Then move on. Now, the important question: How are you going to do things differently? Or are you? Apparently, they never fixed their stuff. Do you want to fix yours? In my opinion, fixing the damage mom and dad did is your task in life (Too bad they never fixed their own wounds.). Being the best YOU can be is your responsibility to yourself and to your Maker. But, that's just my opinion. What is yours?


I think I am afraid to be alone. Most women are. The best way to lick that one is to be alone. You will find there was nothing to be afraid of after all... When I think about really leaving, I think of  crazy excuses not to. So, stop coming up with excuses...unless this life is what you want. Some people, like your mom, do! Just remember, every action or lack thereof you make in life is a CHOICE. You are the only one who is responsible for your life. You are the only one who will create your path. What do you want? 


Besides the financial issues, and nowhere to live issues, I think of how horrible I will feel when I look at my wedding album, I suggest you think about how horrible you feel when you are being put down. how uncomfortable it will be to tell coworkers I am getting a divorce, How comfortable are you today? Yesterday? etc. Etc. Is this normal to think about these stupid things???? Of course it's normal!  Besides, what difference does it make if it is "normal" or not. If that is how you feel, that is what you feel! "Normal" for you. Trust your feelings. Regardless, if you leave,  you will mourn your lost marriage (You are more likely to mourn the loss of the state of being married than the loss of your partner!). Such is life. Ask yourself whether you would rather mourn the marriage or remain in it. Again, you script your life. 

And how do you get to the point to make a decision and act on it? Most people don't act until they are fed up. Perhaps you are not there yet. Your mom never got there, though, in her defense, it was much tougher in those days. 

All you know is the life your mom and dad modeled for you. Yet, you have choices: remain where you are and live a repetition of mom's life, or, take some risks. Find out who you are and where you want to be. As per the title of one of my favorite out-of-print books, the choice is always yours. Once again, remember: your power really comes from your resolve to walk out if he won't comply.

Regards,  Dr. Irene