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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!

Interactive: I feel Dead Towards Him

 Interactive Board:  Your ALT-Text here I Feel Dead - Towards Him

Sunday, May 1, 2005

Hi Doc,

What Now? My husband and I have been married for 9 years today. Congratulations Nina, except I'm sorry you're writing... We live in Mexico (I'm from the US) and have four children. I have been pretty much unhappy for 5 of those 9 years. :(

To no avail, no matter how I behave or try to fit into his world, it never seems to be enough. He does nothing for me around the house, chores, children bills etc. He farms out duties that he has to do (bills, or anything he can) out to his sister or brothers. What follows are some of the behaviors that I believe constitute abuse. Having read ahead, I fully agree with you.

His Abuse is so ingrained in him that in 9 years (9 years!!!! 9 years!!!!) I have not been able to consistently stop him from engaging in these behaviors. He has to stop him; all you can do is not engage. He may be “good” for three weeks, and then just when I'm ok, It starts in again: He argues with me about the pettiest little things. If I say, "Its black," he says, "You're wrong, its white, surely you can see its white!" Sometimes these silly little power struggles are so ridiculous, I've just gotten to the point where I say, “Ok, dear”. That's a pretty good answer. You know what color it is, so who cares what color he thinks it is. And if he thinks he's convinced you, well, he'll stop. That's a disengaged answer because you don't doubt the color, you just want to end the argument.

It’s exhausting and sometimes its so blatant that he doesn’t even know what he’s talking about. I don’t understand why he continues the argument. He feels a sense of power when he "wins." He often says “I forgot:” I forgot to tell you…….Oh, I forgot that I have this thing to go to…… I forgot to get a present for…… I would have, but I forgot…., etc. Frequently his forgetting puts me in a position to have to do the task or, be late, or have missed something. This is passive aggressive. You know Nina, you don't have to do the task... You can let the task go undone and when he blames you for not having done it, you calmly tell him it's not up to you to do it (the truth).

He says that I blow things out of proportion, “Don’t make such a big deal out of it” or, “You're overreacting.” This is usually followed by silent treatment. Your husband is very passive aggressive! If you're disengaged, you would just let him sulk and not let it bother you what he thinks - because you know better, and it's not worth the fight trying to convince him. Often times when I confront him about something he forgot or when he fudges, says, “I didn’t say that, nobody said that!” or “that didn’t happen.” It drives me crazy! No, "it" doesn't drive you crazy, you let it drive you crazy! He plans trips for example, a family trip to the beach - but he doesn’t tell me about it until the day before we are to leave! I think that’s the oddest thing. And then he will say, “I just didn’t know for sure," or, "It just came up.” He gets very jealous, literally. Almost like he doesn't want to give you too much control!  He can feel more secure knowing that you can't really make plans - or he wants to make sure you will cancel your plans (with one of your many boyfriends perhaps) for him. No doubt, his behavior is extremely upsetting. You can't trust that he will get anything done.  If we are out and he sees me talk to a man or God forbid touch one (as in greeting). He will make a scene and usually make me cry. You make yourself cry. (When you take responsibility for your behavior, your begin to claim your personal power!) If you don't care about his ranting because you know that's what he does no matter what, you watch him make a fool of himself and ignore it., threatening to abandon me at the place. This is not OK; in fact, this is awful! Maybe you should take your own car - or not go!

I'm not allowed to go out with anyone. Wow! This is control... Once I went with a girlfriend to a dinner with a bar. He called me 21 times on my cell phone. A lengthy discussion ensued where I was told that going out with my friend is inappropriate behavior and so I cant do it anymore. If I were to argue this issue, he would come back at me with comments like, "If that’s all you want, to go out, to flirt, to be a tramp..." That's why you don't bother arguing. In fact, avoid the lengthy discussion (he's engaged you so you feel you have to defend yourself). You don't argue. You simply say something like, "I'm with so-and-so and I don't want to hear it. Deal with it." Yes, I know there will be hell to pay later, but if you knew how to disengage, you would not let him upset you. Maybe you would even leave.

When I've confronted him, he gets angry and makes stupid excuses, usually ends up being the ‘victim.’ When we have an issue where my feelings are hurt and I need to talk about it, he kind of just clams-up. Don't you see, you don't "need" to talk about his hurting you with him. You will never make him "understand." And if after an exhausting effort on your side where he finally understands, he won't understand the next time... It drives me crazy; I'm a talker and not having any feedback or emotions or responses from him makes me feel so unsatisfied. He can't give you what he doesn't have. Do your talking elsewhere. By the way, nothing "makes" you feel anything. Said with more personal power, "I find his lack of emotional responsivity so unsatisfying." Semantics, or how we phrase things, may seem little. It's not! It influences how we see ourselves, define ourselves. Said this way, you haven't given him the power to make you anything. It's more than just words; it reflects the way you think and subsequently feel.

He frequently (once a week or every other week) says, “Ill be right back” and - really - he comes home around 5:00 am. When I confront him, he makes excuses, “I don’t have to ask for permission”, “Its because I don’t want to come home and be ignored,” etc.  Why confront him? Do you really take him that seriously? Don't you know he would do this to whomever he was married to? Recently I told him, "I don’t want to hear your reasons. I want you to just think about how that makes me feel." (He pouted for 2 days). This was excellent! You got him to think about his behavior without engaging in an exhaustive battle trying to get him to understand! (You're reply here is better than mine would have been!) We used to have a very sexually satisfying relationship, but I just cant anymore, I cant stand it. Of course. When the friendship goes, sexuality goes, at least for the emotionally sensitive partner (emotional sensitivity is a good thing.) I can't imagine many readers who wouldn't empathize with your incredibly difficult marriage.

I feel like I have so much resentment built up its impossible to get past it. Sometimes there is just too much water under the bridge... I feel emotionally dead towards him and although I continue to “catch” him on his bad behavior, it never results in a long term change. Exactly. Only he can change his behavior. Literally we will have a ‘discussion’ or an ‘issue’ he will then pout for three days not talking to me, then want to make up….but nothing has been resolved! Right. The only difference is he's done being angry. What can I do about this? Not much about his behavior, but you can do something about you. Your choices are to learn how to disengage emotionally from his antics, or, if that's not good enough, to leave.  It will be a huge move for the kids just to up and leave. But frankly I have no hopes in him changing, and I am unhappier and unhappier by the month. I've even thought, this could go on forever. Can I live like this forever? It will certainly hurt...

 But then again, I don’t want my kids to learn this behavior. Yes! I feel doubts as to whether this is abuse, This is abuse. He is controlling, expects you to "make" him feel better, puts you down so he can feel better about himself (more powerful), and is passive aggressive in general doubts to how dangerous it is to stay, why does he do this? He doesn't do it on purpose; he just can't help it. As sick as his behavior is, it's "normal" to him and he will fight to maintain it. And even if it could be fixed, do I really want to fix it? You can't. He would have to. Nina

You have tough choices to make Nina. You can learn to disengage from his stuff more, and that will help you feel less resentment towards him since you won't be expending so much energy fighting. You are more likely to accept that this is who is is and that his behavior has little to do with you. He will never be a partner to you, he just won't upset you as much since you will expect so much less. Learning how to do this will be good for you no matter what you do, so I highly suggest you read Ellis' The Secret of Overcoming Verbal Abuse: Getting Off the Emotional Roller Coaster and Regaining Control of Your Life while you figure out your next move.

I'll be back in about a week, so please post your comments, and questions Nina. Hang in there! Dr. Irene

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