More Covert Abuse

More Covert Abuse

Material posted here is intended for educational purposes only, and must not be considered a substitute for informed advice from your own health care provider.

Courtesy of Dr. Irene Matiatos  Copyrightę 2000. The material on this website may be distributed freely for non-commercial or educational purposes provided that author credit is given. For commercial distribution, please contact the author at

More Covert Abuse page 2


Date: Sunday, August 06, 2000

An example: He and She have kids. He counts on her to take care of their kids, and takes the time to do his stuff, but does not reciprocate: a. because he's selfish (does not want to help or do anything he does not care to do), and b. he does not acknowledge (whether only to her or also to himself) that she is the one who enables him to do what he wants. 

Another example: When "victim" is working on something, and "abuser" finds himself (or herself; could go either way) "stuck" with taking care of the kids, he does his best not to succeed (so kid keeps going to mom and disturbs her work), blames it on the mom ("It's not my fault, you raise her that way, so she prefers you!"), and also complains about the time mom spends doing "her things" (hint: I deem them unimportant) instead of being with him (abuser feels neglected because victim does something other than take care of him).

The main covert abuse here, perhaps, is the ways the partner manages not to be a partner, not to help, not to do his share, but in a covert and manipulative way. :)

I have 3 kinds of questions: One is, what should the victim do in such a situation? Take care of the self. Always, always, always. Everything else takes care of itself. Or, at least, is there a correct reaction to when the abuser blames his failure to keep child from disturbing mom - on mom's parenting! Two is, what general advice do you have, Dr. Irene, about how one should react to covert abuse? Telling the abuser what he does only sounds like complaining. In general, I miss this in many places on your wonderful site. Often I find myself asking: "OK, so what SHOULD the victim have done?" Look at these two pages with Q & A: How to Deal With An Abuser W/O Getting Defensive and 
Dealing With Your Abuser: When Words Won't Work.

We need you to tell us how a healthy, self-respecting person would behave when confronted with such abusive behaviour. Three is, are all these examples of covert abuse abusive only when the abuser-type does them? No. Victims can learn to dish it out too, though the underlying motivation is not the same. Because when my partner behaves unkindly to our 3 year old, I protect HER feelings and not his. So am I guilty of the abuse "prefers his kid's feelings over yours" covert abuse? Huh? Please explain. NO! Setting limits is not abuse! (Especially when done firmly and calmly; just work on it if you get nasty.) He overstepped his boundaries; he diminished his integrity by hurting the child. When you defend the child, you are simply correcting his misbehavior to the extent you can; you are not enabling him to continue hurting her.

Many thanks for your wonderful site. B. I'm sorry for the spotty answers, but your questions are BIG and deserve their own forum. I will try to spell out healthy ways to think and act more.

  Date: Sunday, August 06, 2000

I started dating my husband over 18 years ago. I had been in an extremely abusive relationship (mostly psychological/verbal) which ended in 1980. I met my husband in early 1982. He seemed like such a gentle, kind and philosophical man that I did not recognize his abusiveness. In fact, back then there wasn't much information or even names for the problems that existed. Egs.: Abusive relationships, Anorexia/bulimia/self-abuse, panic attacks, date rape, etc. 

When I first started dating my husband I was 23, he was 41. (The girl he was dating before me was only 17 years old.) I fell in love at first sight. He was twice divorced, no kids. We saw each other frequently for the first few weeks. Then, no call for almost a month. Back then there were no answering machines, no call waiting or caller ID. Needless to say, I'd spend every free moment sitting perched on the phone. He called usually around 3:00 am to verbally masturbate while I hung on every word. He would expound on metaphysics and philosophy. Since I was such a young woman, he had the perfect audience.

I didn't realize at all that he was abusive for a very, very long time. Even today, victims may not realize what's going on for a very, very long time. Although he seemed to be infatuated with me, he was controlling the relationship totally by making me wait for him. Let's rephrase that in a way that empowers you: The young girl did not have the self-esteem or skills to tell him what to do with it, so she unwittingly allowed herself to be controlled... 

For several months I felt that he loved me, although he never said it, but he would not make a commitment. I maintained my friendships with others. One friend was a man. It was strictly platonic, and he knew it. Three months into our relationship he made a date with me to take me to dinner on my 24th birthday. I had been out the night before with my male friend and, of course, told him about it. It was no big deal. The night of my birthday I met him at his house. We drove across town to meet his friends at a restaurant. He did not speak to me the entire drive downtown. I didn't know why he wasn't speaking to me and I was too afraid to ask. When we got to the restaurant with his friends, the silent treatment continued. He told his friends that he was going to California. This was a shock to me. All through dinner he didn't speak to me once. We went back to his friend's house. He went out on the porch with his buddy while I remained inside with his buddy's wife. The trip home was no different. Total silence. He drove with both hands on the wheel. I finally mustered the courage to ask him what was wrong. He replied, "It's just not working out". 

I was totally destroyed. I started to weep and simply asked him to let me out of the car. He promptly pulled off of the freeway. I opened the door and ran out of the car. I was sobbing. But silly me, I didn't think that a grown man would leave a young woman out in the middle of nowhere late at night. I was wrong. He went home. He just left me there on my birthday with no valid explanation and no concern whatsoever of my safety. I was picked up by a man who was kind enough to drive me back to my car. 

I looked in the window of his house. He was talking to his ex-wife. I knocked on his door. He told me to go home. I told him that apparently I had cast my pearls before swine and left. A month later he called again. I foolishly met with him. Again, he had no solid answer for his actions. This whole incident had nothing to do with his disinterest in me. One does not break off a relationship in such a manner when the rejected party is clearly going to be hurt. These things are done compassionately and gently. Yes.

It occurred to me years later why he did what he did. It was covert hostility that was being directed towards me. He was mad, angry. And very much so. He just refused to admit it. To this day he still maintains ignorance in regards to what his true feelings or intentions were. Correct. What I now realize is that he simply wanted a little girl there at his beck and call. One he could manipulate, one that worshipped him and had no life except for the one she had with him. This is what he wanted. And that's why he dated very young women. It's all about CONTROL. Yes. He wanted a woman who would allow herself to be controlled.

There is no way he'd ever get away with treating an older woman in such a fashion. Not true, by the way. Just tips the balance of power even more in his favor. Yes, I stayed with him. But the behavior persisted for many years after that. I wrote him a note a year into our relationship. It read, "You have diminished my ability to trust. But I conclude from your actions that one person's opposition is miniscule in the overall achievement of your quest. Just as a terrorist rationalizes that one death is a pertinent sacrifice for a people or a cause. You are a narcissistic, pathetic little man. The benevolence and compassion you pontificate is merely for your own personal gain. You are searching for praise, not love. You are trying to acquire the adoration of people, not truth and goodness". Pretty astute for a young woman. Yes. Very astute, but you missed that he does not have the power to diminish your ability to trust. Only you can do that. 

Why I didn't have the courage to drop him, I don't know. Perhaps it was because I had such low self-esteem coupled with the fact that he was a master of elocution and manipulation. A lethal combo. His ego was destroyed by the letter. He continued to pursue me, of course. Four years into our relationship I became pregnant. When I was 6 months pregnant, I broke it off with him because he wouldn't commit. He never called me.

Approaching my due date, I broke down and called him. I was scared. I thought that I could have the child on my own, which I was prepared to do, but I weakened. When our son was 15 months old, he reluctantly agreed to marry me. How romantic! We now have three children, ages 15, 11 & 7. I am 42 and he is 60. At this stage, I am too old for him and he is too old for me! 

The moral here? If there is no equality, balance of power or respect...then get out. It's ABUSE. I've been fighting for nearly 20 years for these things. These aren't things I should be fighting for. They belong to me. He knows now that I am capable of leaving him. And he knows that I will if he continues with his abusive treatment. I'm just too old and way too young to waste another minute being treated unfairly. Do you see what you did? You TOOK your power as only you can take it; you started to take responsibility for your own life. Good for you and keep it up! 

Date: Sunday, August 06, 2000

An example I'm not sure of: Your partner messes up but does not "clean after himself". When you ask him to please correct his mistake/clean up the mess he made he a. denies he did it (it can be spilling the coffee all over the floor right in front of you and your kid), b. attacks you for being "hysterical" and bugging him, and c. tells you that if you have a problem, you clean up the mess. It's none of his concern, and he plans to do nothing. I think you can make a case for covert abuse. Whatever it is, it is yukky. Handle it by calmly a. Telling him it doesn't matter who did it, would he please clean it up; b. Calmly tell him that whether or not you are hysterical is besides the point, and please clean it up; c. Clean up the mess and pack your emotional and or physical bags. 

Now let's say it was the other way around: I mess up (I'm human too). I immediately say: "Oops! I messed up" (Oh, I spilled the coffee! Oh, I don't believe it! I forgot to pay the car insurance!) and then I immediately proceed to correct my mistake. If it happens that he finds out before me (Gee! You forgot to pay the car insurance!) I own it (God! I did! I don't believe it! How could I?) and immediately start to correct it.

That's what convinces me that what he does is covert abuse. Also, it is a pattern of his, to mess up, to not pay attention. Had that been a once or twice a year thing - OK, but when it's a pattern, it's covert abuse. I agree.

I am explaining this because I've just read "how to be unhappy" in the abuser pages, and I found that one of the things the abuser does is pick on "messes other people do", and starts an argument where he is always "right" in his "justified anger" at what seems like other people's imperfections. So I started thinking: "Am I the abuser here, because I ask him to clean up his messes?" No! Stop getting twisted - by the way, you are in good company, but please stop it anyway. You are asking him to take care of his end of the deal and he is refusing. He is being disrespectful towards you - and towards himself. He is also provoking you to get mad and act out. Don't bite! If you do, he can turn around and blame you for "yelling" or whatever. That's the game. You can fall into the trap of behaving abusively yourself if you start yelling, and that will diminish your own self esteem. Recognize the provocation and don't bite. Pull away emotionally because he just played with your head.

But then I thought that I feel like the abuser because his abuse is covert. Right. And you are the one who looks bad if you act upset with his irresponsible behavior. I am the one walking on eggshells with HIM, I choose many times to just clean up and not even mention to him that he messed up. (I guess you would say that this is the ultimate goal of his behaviour: to create a house where he can do anything he wants and make other take care of him and his, without his needing to ask for it, acknowledge it or thank for it), because I simply don't want to be attacked. He may want that indeed, though my guess is that he feels contempt towards you if he gets what he wants. Take care of yourself: Your own self respect should dictate that you do not allow yourself to be manipulated, so you pull away and set limits. As you begin to respect yourself, and as he sees you mean it - or bye - he begins to respect you, and in many cases (but not always) cleans up his act.

He almost always attacks me for even mentioning the fact that something he did was not perfect (he feels so stupid and useless): sometimes he attacks me verbally and adds to the damage (to punish me for saying anything or expecting him to actually clean up), other times he just attacks me verbally, in either case he does not clean up his mess. Rarely, he attacks me verbally but grudgingly cleans up after himself. So, is that covert abuse? Yes. It's mixed with overt abuse. Am I also abusive here? No, unless you are disrespecting yourself by letting your frustration get the best of you. Even so, you are not "abusive" because you are not the one who is provoking. You may be misbehaving abusively, but you are "engaging" with his junk. The abuser provokes, the victim engages. Both can behave poorly. See the difference?

If letting him get away with it (not mentioning it and doing his cleaning for him) is wrong victim and co-dependent behaviour, and calling his attention to the mess is a. perhaps abusive? b. futile (he does not clean anyway) and c. only facilitates overt abuse - is there a third way I don't see, other than just leaving him and taking our child with me, or than letting the mess stand (the majority of the messes are such, that doing that will cause a lot of damage which we cannot afford or fix. I did try this a few times. Nothing happened. He did nothing.)? Thanks. B.

No. You've tried all that. He has set up a no-win situation. The only way I know of that may work in rectifying the marriage in the long run is for you to refuse to put up with his abuse.  But, needless to say, never pack your bags to send a message or to fix the marriage. Pack your bags when you've done everything you can and you've had enough. There are no guarantees. You leave because you have to take care of yourself by removing yourself from a situation that is toxic.

Date: Sunday, August 06, 2000

-Since he gets home from work at a certain hour every night and likes supper at that time, you start making supper at that time so he goes and does something else first and gets home an hour later without phoning. You eat the nice, warm dinner alone and let his get cold. He has only been to the gym or where ever but in the meantime your meal is ruined. No it's not; you enjoyed it!  You ask for an explanation why he couldn't call just to say he'd be late, knowing that a meal would be prepared at a certain time. No you don't. This is engaging. It is exactly what he wants you to do. You disengage because you work on not caring. If he chooses to come home late without calling, he has to deal with cold food. See, it's not your problem. He gets angry at you for trying to control his behaviour and being insecure that you would think that he might be out doing something he shouldn't be doing. Even though you are standing there on a Friday night with a cold supper explaining that it just is rude not to call and leave a message. Stop codepending with him. Let him care more about the temperature of his dinner than you do.

Doesn't ask you to go to work functions when female co-workers are going to be there because you'll probably embarrass him by looking insecure or worse yet, you might act jealous so it's best to leave you at home. Yuk! What a put down! Be out the door before you stand for this type of disrespect.

Tells you how insecure you are and how you must be suffering from low self esteem because you react to his endless talk about women he works with or has talked to during the day. He's right. The fix: Stop reacting; stop caring. Why would you want to spend time with a person who has nothing to do but spend endless time talking about other women? You deserve better; find it.

Date: Sunday, August 06, 2000

Dear Dr. Irene- I submitted a lengthy post on the Yak board last week - got lots of "agreement" and "applause". One "poster" suggested I submit it to you-perhaps you would like to look over my list "Rules in our household" Sincerely, Sunshine

Send it to me; I'd love to see it!

8/10 Got it! Posted it here. Excellent list of awful rules... Thank you Sunshine.

Date: Sunday, August 06, 2000

Responds to "I love you" with, "yeah, me too" when away on a trip...already feeling insecure about his whereabouts due to previous infidelity. Then refusing to discuss it, "You know I love you" later on, or pretending "it's ridiculous" that it wasn't purposeful or never happened. But, it did happen and it doesn't matter whether or not it is purposeful: It is painful and disrespectful. Listen to your body. Don't put up with it.

Date: Sunday, August 06, 2000

Rewrites history and then when contradicted with the truth he says you have a chemical imbalance and need help (his shrink confirms there's nothing "wrong" with me.) I really was starting to think I was nuts. Yuk! This was a good lesson for you; now you know whom you should be doubting

  B1: Submit
Date: Sunday, August 06, 2000

Trying again. When I read the covert abuse list - SO familiar. I understand better why I still felt awful when my ex stopped much of the overt abuse. Here are a few more examples: * He is "too busy" to talk about the relationship - for months at a time. * He will not discuss plans for the future -- or makes them and tells nothing, ie. suddenly he is gone on a trip; people show up to visit unannounced? But he knew; He has already made a down payment on a new house; * there are pictures all over his house of kids, ex, friends, dogs, but none of you. Ugh. Yuk yuk yuk yuk yuk... Sheer contempt.

Date: Sunday, August 06, 2000

The post about not cleaning up messes hit home with me! my husband told me shortly after our marriage that if he does a household repair, the least I can do is clean up the mess. He will also create messes in the kitchen. If he doesn't clean up, I don't dare say anything; he will act resentful and put upon. He is also into clutter, and has ignored my requests to keep it under control. If I clean it up, he becomes angry at me for "messing with" his stuff. If you took your power, it would go something like this: Tell him you need to tell him you are renegotiating your agreement regarding making messes (no defense or explanation). Announce that if his clutter gets out of hand in your eyes, you will let him know - and the next day, you will clean it up if he doesn't. You really don't want to hear about having his stuff "messed with." Same with kitchen messes. If he doesn't clean a mess he made in the kitchen, he can expect an expensive cleaning service to. Then do it! 

Another "biggie": asking me what I want to do, then becoming angry because I don't give the "right" answer, THEN criticizing me because I'm reluctant to state my preferences. ("What's wrong with you! You can never make a decision! or "Can you tell me what you DO want, instead of what you DON'T?") Tell him your preference then tell him to deal with it and knock off the criticism if he doesn't like the answer.

Also: being offended at the idea that I have the right to ask him to do things, or not do things, or keep promises. The idea is that if he honors my request, he's given up some power. So he acts as though he's being ordered--and he fights back. My guess is that he feels controlled, like he really has no choice, when in fact, he does. Just say something like, "Stop making a fuss; all you have to do is say no." Don't try to cajole him into doing anything; hire somebody to do it instead.

And the ultimate: Looking at me, lips in a tight line, slowly shaking head. Meaning: Boy, are you ever a disappointment! Walk away; why would you want to be in the company of an individual who thinks so poorly of you?

Date: Sunday, August 06, 2000

Sitting here with a HUGE BLACK EYE, received a few hours ago...Yes, he is out. No, I did not call the police. He will go to jail. This is a second offence. I already have an order of protection against him. HE WILL LOSE HIS JOB AND I COULD LOSE MY HOUSE, (o.k. I know what you are thinking, it may be a house but it is not a home, it's my prison).

He came to court last December and readily agreed to all terms in front of the judge. The order stated he attend counseling with an anger management specialist, specifically named on the order. He has never been to see this counselor due to an "irritating geographical location", translation, tooooooo far! He has dropped out of two abusers groups because, "They are all low lifes and I am as NOT as bad as these losers."

Why does it take the total and complete end of the relationship for the abuser to want/get help? Is it denial? Is their realization that the abused person is emotionally exhausted, drained and beyond participation in the crazy dance. I have allowed him to return my times before, with the result being his repositioning of attach tactics. Why is he such a great guy to the outside world and a relentless manipulator of me.

Being wife number 3, he has really heated up his pursuit of my complete domination due to my getting mentally healthy through therapy and support. He calls my group the Lesbian Men Haters. My abuser has so much empathy for himself. Yet...his empathy for me is shown only when he is "kicked out" of the house.

A DVC, (domestic violence counselor), told me that for some couples deep in the cycle of control, the abuse almost has a life of its' own. Not to negate any persons' responsibility with this point, but the couple may have little conscience thought regarding their actions and reactions, during the abuse cycle. That is true, the abuse has a life of it's own. But don't ever confuse having it's own fuel with the owner, cognizant or not, with not having responsibility for the action!  

I do understand my co-dependence, denial, the and floating feeling of total detachment, that accompanies the abuse I suffer. I participated in one current and two previous, weekly women’s' group counseling sessions, held at a domestic violence center and shelter. Counselors complete rigorous domestic violence training.

In years past I attended with my abuser, four individual marital counselors, who were inexperienced in domestic violence. Two were completed fooled by the witty and charming interactions my extremely intelligent husband displayed. I was subjected to abuse by both my husband and the counselor, (this I learned from a DVC). They even rolled their eyes together once, and gave each other knowing looks, (HERE SHE GOES AGAIN), as I spoke. On another occasion, they laughed out loud at me. Ignorant, at best.

I was belittled and humiliated while the counselor bolstered his ability to control, manipulate and gaslight me. "Oh, come on that's not abuse - you are just thin skinned and overly emotional." "You need Prozac!" I tried it and guess what, I STILL CANNOT TOLERATE HIS NEED TO DOMINATE AND CONTROL ME. The same reaction occurred with Zoloft. 

He broke my nose three years ago. He stood over as the blood gushed everywhere. Shocked and panic stricken, I was screaming uncontrollably. My 15 year old step-son was extremely honorable. He bolted into the bedroom and shouted at his father to get away from me. As blood gushed all over me and the floor, my husband took his large hand forcefully pushed it over my mouth to muffle my screaming, (he feared the neighbors would call the police). However, I became even more hysterical because I could not breath through the gushing blood and he was hurting the broken nose further. His son said he would call an ambulance. Abuser, shouting at the top of his lungs said, "Oh no you won't. She is just fine her nose is not broken, she is just hamming it up". Son shouting back, "Dad she is hurt and this is really XXXXXX up!" My abuser screamed, “I will xxxxxxx dis-own you. You are not my son." Horrible situation. 

Son ran to neighbors and called police. Abuser went to jail. Guards never let him sleep that night, kept rattling his cell and calling out, "How's it going, wife beater?” He proclaimed that was a wake-up call to change. CHANGE his tactics to more covert methods, that's what changed. Sad.

I need surgery to breath properly and must use nose inhalers constantly. I keep putting off that surgery. The violence stopped for a few years but the verbal abuse raged on. I sometimes wondered when it is going to enough for me to get it. When I lose an eye or a finger? I am being treated by a shrink for serious panic attacks, ANY WONDER???? None. Your body is talking to you. Listen.

I think I understand what a soldier's battle fatigue is like, constantly on edge and ready for the next missile to fire off. I left two wonderful high paying jobs due to a little stress and challenge at work. I could not handle both home and work being combative. You shouldn't have to.

Two counselors challenged and begged me to leave him. I wasn't ready to face that reality and ended the counseling due to panic/denial/fear. I am not exaggerating in telling you during a solo session one counselor got on the floor, clasped her hands together and said, "He does this because he has no capacity for real intimacy, love or joy. He will destroy what is left of this relationship and/or destroy you. His severe self-hatred results in a disdain for you because you love of him. He views you as weak and unworthy since you tolerate this environment. He is the worst type of abuser, called a viper." His attacks are vicious assaults launched whenever he is displeased, his every need is not met, he feels ignored OR he sees me happy or enjoying something while he is not. He is covert and plays gaslighting games. He is determined to always take me down a notch. Ugh.

A favorite tactic of his is to walk out of the room while I am telling a really good story, event, etc. This usually happens after he has received my complete attention for 20 or 30 minutes of his stories or complains on his day. If I protest, he will holler from another room, Oh, keep going I can still hear you. Old me would get up and go follow & engage. New you knows better!

With an irritated tone in my voice,

"Why did you walk away like that on me? That is INCREDIBLY RUDE!"

Abuser, "That is not rudeness. Define rudeness.

Victim, "Rudeness is awkward, uncouth, unmannered socially unacceptable behavior."

Abuser, "You obviously do not know what is socially acceptable behavior in society today. I am sorry your mother was so mentally ill when you were a child that you did not develop proper social skills. That is probably way you have never risen above an upper level clerk position at your office and why you don't even make a third of my salary. And PLEASE let's not cry again about how hard you work. Yeah, Yeah, we all know that poor little S_____ is the hardest working woman in the world. She's the only one who works sooooo hard. You don't even know what real work is because...and pardon me, your a grunt."

Victim, "How dare you bring up my poor dead Mother!!"

Abuser, If you can't stand the truth then why did you tell it to me."

Victim, "I do not appreciate your throwing my Mother's name around in an argument."

Abuser, "Your the one who started it by following me around with your pathetic story. Who cares about you stupid discussion with that brainless skillet faced-xxxxx at your office."

Victim, "What is the matter with you. You are mean and vicious! Who do you think you are talking like that about my friend."

Abuser, "As long as you waste your time with a loser like her, you have nothing to say that I'm going to want to hear. And by the way since you have all this spare time to yak, I guess you are not the hardest working woman."

Fortunately, I learned to just stop talking! If I don't engage back he has no firing power. Right! But, sadly what a waste of time and energy having to think, guard and prepare for the next attack. Yeah, that really worked tonight. You can only push a person so far before they will engage. With all I have learned, I am amazed that I can be pulled right into it. There are things he call say and BANG we’re off and running. 

I an not going to give up hope for myself! I set goals in group. I work out a lot when things get really bad. I get on my trampoline and release those endorphins for inner peace. I am not going to continue my deluded thought process of trying to help fix him. That is romance novel thinking! Yes. Accept that the only peace you will have in life is likely without him.

If I can center as much attention on fixing myself as I do on him, I might just drop my denial mask and resolve my status of a Pleaser/Doormat and stop seeking out abusers while calling the nice mentally healthy people boring! I feel a little hopeful as the sun is rising. Am I in another denial? I do not know. When I look in the mirror I cannot be in denial of a big purple face and eye! Correct. You see your problem, but are wavering on doing what you know you have to do. You wish you didn't have to. Yet, your body is telling you very clearly, "GO!"  Just hold your breath, close your eyes, take the plunge, and don't open them till you've done what you have to do. Nobody ever said this was going to be easy.

Good luck to all of you on this journey. I hope we can all free ourselves of the shackles from those past horrors or traumas that helped developed our unhealthy behaviors and thought processes. The control can be a two way street. Is not our never ending need and desire to fix the abuser OUR attempt at controlling them instead of walking away from all of this drama? Absolutely. Do we not engage in passive-aggressive behavior in quiet retaliation of there control. Yes, and compromise your integrity in the process. What is so good about all of this, is that you see your input. You see how you accept his invitation to engage.

As a informed codependent victim, I have been able at times to emotionally pull away from a confrontation with him and watch him in action. When I turn the tables on him he becomes very confused. He expects me to always be the person he exploits...a loving, honest, passionate & nurturing person. When I respond to his verbal assaults with, "O.K., whatever., or Well that's your opinion., or Sorry you feel that way there is nothing I can do about it". He then tries something else. Yep. And it's very hard to be on your toes all the time looking to diffuse the invites. There comes a time when you realize you have to remove yourself from a toxic situation, want to or not, if you are to survive.

Did not David Viscott offer: (and I paraphrase liberally) After many years of control, the victim will eventually lose hope and disengage from the abuser either emotionally and/or physically. Yep; true. This site is about helping to empower you before you reach that space, or helping you to take your life back if you already have. That's why you want to take responsibility and take your power.

Thank you, The Future Reformed Victim/Co-Dependant/People Pleasing/ Doormat/Passive Aggressive/Panic Attack Prone Hang in there. You can do this; never, ever take him back. The counselor who got on his or her knees was 100% accurate in what he or she told you about him. 


Date: Sunday, August 06, 2000














YUK! "I don't care what your problem is; deal with it."

Date: Sunday, August 06, 2000

This is a brilliant article! My bf's abuse has been both overt and covert, but since we discovered the whole 'verbal abuse' thing, it became almost exclusively covert. Very VERY crazy making! After all, if he's not yelling at me anymore, everything's okay, right? Hmmm.. let me think of some examples to add.. Always forgetting my religious holidays, and even when I remind him or am celebrating them myself he wouldn't acknowledge them. Your task: Ignore him. Go about your celebration and don't bother reminding him to do something he is sure to "forget." If you try to get him to acknowledge your holidays, you are trying to control him! Not worth it!

 Saying he wants me to be able to talk to him about 'anything' but withdrawing and becoming very cold and unsupportive when I do seek emotional support (and then later getting upset when I tell him I don't feel I can rely on him for emotional support). You "bit." He invited and you engaged. 

Being late. Leave without him. Refusing to indulge my needs. Say, we're on vacation, and I'm hungry and I ask if we can stop and get a bite. He says, "No, we'll wait till we get to the hotel. Is that okay?" I say no, but he doesn't stop anyway. Treating me like a child: "You can only have your friends visit if you promise not to make noise.." Does that sound like an equal relationship? So, why allow yourself to remain?  

The problem with covert abuse is that it's very hard VERY, VERY hard! to call the abuser on it, or to explain it to anyone else without coming across as an overly-sensitive crybaby. "So he forgets your holidays- men can't be expected to remember that kind of stuff. What's the big deal?" But in the context of an abusive relationship as a whole, this is all a big deal! YES! Covert abuse to me was being told that this person loved me, and that I could depend on them, but their actions showed that I was not a high priority in their life and I was foolish to depend on them. -SatokoGirl Good! You took responsibility: "I was foolish to depend on them." You power is in your ability to stop depending on them. 

Date: Sunday, August 06, 2000

My abusive brother steals items. When I ask if he has seen the item he denies seeing it, while he has actually stolen it. Some examples: on a visit with my parents (he lived with them) a necklace that was a gift from a friend disappears. I wore it everyday. I had mentioned to him how much I liked it. Every night I put it on the night table. One day it was gone and I searched everywhere for it.

On another visit a locket disappeared. I always kept it in the same place in my luggage. It was a gift. My brother must have heard me telling my parents how much it meant to me.

Another visit. This time a t-shirt with a logo that had great significance to me disappeared. I searched everywhere for it.

Years later when my brother was released from prison and living with me, the locket and t-shirt showed up in my stuff. We were friendly then. That's when I realized he stole things from people for revenge, for a perceived wrong to him. He's a sick puppy.

Two years ago I bought a bright yellow t-shirt and happened to mention to him that it was my favorite color. Three months later the t-shirt was missing. I never found it. He always denies seeing the "lost" items. 

A friend gave me a calendar with daily inspirational messages for women. I went out of town for the weekend and never saw it again. I kept wondering if I had taken it with me? Or did I put it somewhere? The only explanation is that he stole it.

He stole my metal cat litter scoop (he doesn't like my cats), and the following week my fingernail brush disappeared. I confronted him on these two items, saying I was positive he had stolen them. His answer was "you must be feeling guilty about something." Huh? Now I think what he was saying is that I must be feeling guilty because I had "wronged" him. Therefore, he stole in revenge. His twisted thought pattern must be, "you hurt me, I hurt you." Right. You know this. You know you cannot trust him, so don't.  

Date: Sunday, August 06, 2000

Covert abuse from my husband:

Any mistake I make is due to my disorganization, laziness etc. Every mistake he makes somehow turns around to be somehow my fault...even if I am not there at the time!

Any time the children do something wrong it is not because they are normal children who are learning, but the way "I am raising them".

Wants to have a say with what and how the children are raised without any of the duties of raising them.

He is the breadwinner and that is all.. expects me to do everything else even though I go until bedtime and he stops after work. When confronted he explains, if you think it is so easy then you go out and get a job and I will stay home. 

Acknowledges and agrees with things that people say, even though when I have said it in the past it was "not right".

Insists to me and others that he is "happy" to help me with the children or chores or anything I ask. All I have to do is ask him. Like clockwork he conveniently has an excuse why he can not fulfill this obligation because of something he "must" do.

Very passive-aggressive. Very frustrating. You're not going to change this.  

Date: Monday, August 07, 2000

The one I get when things go bad is. "Well, I can't help it if I'm upset. How would you like it if your family and friends told you that you could do better. I mean you are a wonderful person and all that, but let's face it, I am more educated than you and I make more money." Yes he is more educated and makes more money but so what? As one of my friend's said to me "you can't explain your VALUE to someone, they either know it or they don't." You know, of course, that his education and money have nothing to do with anything. That is just the diversion that is supposed to get you off track, and it did! The bottom line: "Upset or not, it's your job to help it. Deal with it."

 The other favorite of his when he's in full covert force is "you really are insecure to have to react like that,, you should do something about your low self-esteem. I guess it's like that because you didn't amount to much in life." What exactly his definition of "not amounting to much" varies at different times. Yuk.

Most of the time I just look at him in stunned silence. Better than engaging! Before I used to argue my value to him but then I just decided to either be silent or say "that's not a nice thing to say to someone." Unfortunately, even if you just be quiet and listen to such things, you are still internalizing them and later questioning yourself of their validity. After all this is the person who is supposed to love you more than anyone else on earth. Correct. Your next step in recovery will be when you realize that whether he loves you or not, he doesn't behave as though he does - and you deserve a partner who can behave lovingly, as you do towards them. 

The ultimate worst one for me is when we are in the absolute throes of passion, suddenly he will jump off the bed leaving me in a rather vulnerable position and say "that program is starting on TV so get up and I'll finish you off later!!!" Not only is it rather mortifying to have this happen but it makes me feel like a total object instead of an intimate partner. He tells me I really need to see a shrink if I'm so insecure that some little thing like that would make me so upset. I don't think that is a "little thing" and if some women read this post could you please respond and tell me if I am being ridiculous or is this something that anyone would be upset about? I really need an answer for that one. You need to see a shrink alright, but not to help you understand why something like that would make you upset. You need the shrink to help you trust your very on-target feelings and get out of a relationship that is hurting you!

Date: Monday, August 07, 2000

More excuses:



HOW DO YOU THINK I'M GOING TO FIND TIME TO DO THAT, WITH all these other jobs to do/all these kids to look after/FITB

SURE, I COULD DO THAT... IF ONLY YOU lost some weight/smartened yourself up/earned more money/didn't keep bitching and moaning/paid more attention to me/FITB

and the most widespread and infamous excuse of all:



Date: Monday, August 07, 2000

Dr. Irene, I wrote: "what should the victim do in such a situation? (concerning a partner who does not do his part, but manages to pretend he does and that it's your fault anyway)" and you wrote me back: "Take care of the self". BUT - and this is a big but - what does that consist of? The only answer that comes to my mind is - live as if I am alone. What would I have done if I was a single parent? But - that does not solve my problem with him. Why then do I stay married to him? Is that the only way? B. He is apparently not giving you many other options. What else can you do when every fix you try backfires? If you found out you had a severe and dangerous radon problem in your home and no remedy controlled the radon level, what would you do?

Date: Monday, August 07, 2000

Dear Dr. Irene,

I could have added all of those examples too!! You described perfectly how it results in the partner feeling insecure, jealous and stupid. Here are a couple more:

*Countered advice I gave as a professional. Said his Dr. advised he never do what I had suggested. (I checked with my Dr. and she gave the same advice I did).

*Said "You've got to be kidding" when I told him why I had given him the gift I had chosen. Never said "Thanks".

*Didn't call or show up when we had a date. Got upset because I was worried and let him know I didn't appreciate the behavior.

*Said if he was abusive his grandma would come to him in his sleep. If she did he would pray that God would kill him in his sleep. Since that didn't happen he couldn't possibly be abusive.

*Offers help, but is too busy when I asked for his help.

*If he decided to help, he always made it clear it was an inconvenience.

*Wouldn't go to my son's class to speak to the kids because this is what he does for a living.

*Many broken promises. Can't count on anything.

Yuk. When I read this stuff, I feel angry. I guess the reason I'm not in an abusive relationship is because I pay attention to myself and I will not allow myself to remain in a relationship where I repeatedly experience bad feelings. When I am unable to 1. Get my partner to stop this stuff, or 2. I am unable (and in this case unwilling) to work on my interpretation / emotional reaction to this type of stuff (since my body says it hurts me!), I get out. Am I making sense gang?

Date: Monday, August 07, 2000

For my husband, abuse is like an abscess that has to pop out somehow, somewhere. Once I confronted him about his abusiveness, he eventually got quieter, turning to more covert methods. It seems as though he MUST do these things--it's a compulsion. Some of his covert tricks follow: ~ Starting to tell me something then saying, "Never mind. You wouldn't care anyway." ~ Buying me gifts he KNOWS I won't like, forcing me to look ungrateful when I return them. ` Starting numerous projects inside and outside the house and never finishing anything, forcing me to say something, do nothing, or clean it up myself. No win situation. ~ Wondering, out loud and in front of our three kids (20, 17,14), why I act like I don't like him anymore. Gosh, maybe it's about a dozen years of abuse. ~ Letting weeks and months go by without turning expense account information in to his company, forcing me to REMIND him to do it to pay the huge credit card bills. He gets to accuse me of pestering. This is a constant problem and a pitiful attempt to control me. ~ Buying and preparing food that he KNOWS no one likes, setting himself up for disappointment. ~ Complaining about the cluttered, messy house, when 3/4 of the clutter was brought into the house by him. ~ Using facial expressions, gestures, and body language to attempt to provoke me in front of the kids or in social situations. It's silent, insidious abuse designed to make me look crazy if I do react. ~ Telling grand, exaggerated stories and lies to the kids or friends, all the while baiting me to counter him, knowing I will look like the henpecker.

I could go on and on. I believe most covert abuse is designed to put the victim in a lose-lose situation. No matter how one acts or reacts, there's no way to not lose. Very manipulative and controlling and frustrating. Thanks, again, Dr. Irene!  Yes Debi, unfortunately, you are right on target. The best you can do is not engage; not fall into his traps...


Date: Monday, August 07, 2000

Sets up impossible situations and gets mad when can't do them.

Date: Monday, August 07, 2000

How about when the abuser goes out of their way to initiate and maintain a lengthy conversation with a stranger for an hour (when you are supposed to be spending the day together at the beach or pool or a party) and completely ignores you during that time period? When you call them on it, they tell you that you are ridiculous because that is just "who he is" and there is nothing wrong with that. You feel neglected, but are not allowed to. But, you ARE allowed to, and you don't have to defend your right to feel the way you feel. This is why when calling them on it doesn't work, you are better off disengaging.

How about not making firm plans with you that are always subject to change at the last minute, then when you get upset about it and tell him, he just flip-outs claming he did nothing wrong. You feel unimportant, but are not allowed to. Disengage. Go by yourself.

How about he gets invited to his parents house for dinner on a Friday night and you're not invited because the house wasn't cleaned! He usually spends every Friday night eating at your place, so he tells you he'll be over when he's finished and at 10:00 he's still there and you are still waiting. You feel mad, but are now allowed to. You stop waiting. Go to a movie; go to sleep; whatever...

How about if he goes out of his way (on your birthday) to get a book for one of his clients and doesn't even give you a card, not to mention spending 5 minutes with you? You are REALLY hurt now, but not allowed to be. You get called all kinds of names for this one. Yuk...

How about if he always complains about not having enough money to do anything with, the relationship suffers because of it, but then he considers offering the man who rents the apartment below him money so he can patent some ridiculous idea? Yeah, you are annoyed but not allowed to be. Someone or something else is always more important than are just there for the taking! Only if you allow it...


Date: Monday, August 07, 2000

Oh, I forgot to sign the last post:


Although you have probably already figured that out my friends!! This was a great interactive Dr. Irene! When are you going to write a book - or have you? I keep meaning to; can't find the time... 

Date: Monday, August 07, 2000

This is not about covert abuse, but I think this man might have been molested as a child and never felt protected by his mother. He is sure doing some sexual acting out in the "butt" area. The overt abuse, which may have some covert roots would be enough to send me running for some help.


Date: Monday, August 07, 2000

Here is where I get confused,

We have plans for the weekend. We have discussed them and come to a joint agreement on them. ie: going out of town to attend a friend's wedding.

Then the day we are to leave he gets up and says, "You go alone, I've just decided I need to stay home and rest this weekend, but don't worry I'll be with you in spirit." Yuk.

Silly me engages in the argument of "they expect both of us, if I knew I had to travel alone, pay for a hotel, gas, restaurants, wedding gifts and then go by myself I probably wouldn't have gone, Not that the people were any less important but that it was also Thanksgiving weekend and our anniversary so it was going to be like our get a way weekend and their wedding combined"

His answer, "Well from what I read in all the books we are reading, it says I have to take care of myself "first" and I've just decided I really need to do that this weekend at home alone." Gee, I wonder what letting down another person like that does to his integrity?

He gives me this answer many times and especially when it comes to last minute canceling of plans that we have both discussed and agreed to. The one above is only one of the worst I can think of. It's the same thing, "These books all say one must be in tune with their body/spirit and take care of themselves first." Get him a copy of Grow Up!: How Taking Responsibility Can Make You A Happy Adult.

So, my question is, when does that take president over following through on plans that are made? I'm really confused, am I not getting something right here? By the way, I do just go do these things alone but when I go, instead of feeling the pleasure of togetherness, inside it still very much hurts my feelings. He tells me that this upset just shows my insecurity and weakness. No insecurity and weakness, dear. You are reacting to misbehavior on his part. When he makes plans with you, he has made a commitment. He then goes on to break these commitments nobody forced him to make, disappointing you in the process. Nothing to be confused about. He is compromising his integrity and misusing what he reads to justify his poor behavior. Trust your feelings.

I have to also tell you that at other times this guy is probably the nicest, most thoughtful person on earth. Our kids are grown and out of the house, we have a freedom of life that most would envy and we spend most of our free time together. By choice that is, because we are usually great companions for each other so why does this other stuff come out? It absolutely baffles me. Read some of the stuff on the Abuser Pages. If he's otherwise wonderful, but you know he breaks more plans than he keeps, don't make plans with him! Why set yourself up?

Date: Monday, August 07, 2000

Wow, this man sounds like my ex-husband!!!

Here's a few covert examples for the list :)

He goes on vacation with you and your family several states away, where a huge celebration has been organized for the 50th anniversary party of yours (and his) favorite Aunt and see him having a fabulous time, laughing, dancing, playing cards, etc. THEN after you get back home, he says he had a rotten time, did not enjoy a minute of it, and gives you a bad time about having to spend vacation time with YOUR family. You know he had fun, you saw it with your own eyes....but he takes all the joy away for some strange reason...... Focusing on the negative... Is he chronically depressed?

Or when you pull up in the driveway coming home from work. He's in the garage with the door open. He purposely avoids eye contact, WILL NOT EVEN LOOK AT YOU. There is no argument going on between you either. It takes conscious effort to NOT look up when a car pulls into the driveway and you're standing right there - it's the natural reaction! So why do they go out of their way to make you feel slighted? Goofy stuff!! Maybe its frightening to him to let you know how important you are to him...

You make plans together to remodel your kitchen. You are in agreement with pretty much everything. You bring a contractor to the house to begin to get the first estimate. Your husband all of a sudden starts telling the contractor all sorts of things he wants done that were never ever brought up in discussions between the two of you. When you tell the contractor about one aspect of the remodel you want done, your husband then turns to you and says "huh? We never talked about that!" --- BUT YOU DID TALK ABOUT IT IN PLAIN DIRECT ENGLISH. Better have the contractor give you two estimates!

ok enough examples from me today! bye! Ginger

Date: Monday, August 07, 2000

Plays practical jokes on you with others around to show what a "man" he is. Shows me how insecure he is.

Gets so tied up in "his" projects that you either cannot participate, choose not to participate  (sorry, I don't like fixing cars!), so that there's no time to be together. When approached he says "well, you could have helped out!" He might also help out with one of your projects...

Date: Monday, August 07, 2000

Asking him to leave, that you don't want to be with him anymore, and he ignores you. He stays. You call the police.

Date: Monday, August 07, 2000


Here is the long list of things that I dealt with. It is so very true when Dr. Irene said that it is "crazymaking". I really thought I was the "bitch" and was going crazy. Then I read the Patricia Evan's book on verbal abuse and another book called "Living with a Passive-Aggressive Man" and I realized it wasn't all in my head. There was finally a name and a label for all this! I felt validated! It was the beginning stages of awareness. It was the start of the healing process for me. These two books brought me out of the depression and confusion I was facing with my husband. And of course, I cannot forget to mention this very valuable website! :) I realized I wasn't alone..... No way!

Here are some examples of what I faced with my husband:

1. I asked him how I looked and he would act like he was doing me a favor by saying "you look ok"! 

2. He needed to be "alone" because he was better at that! He took me for granted. No thanks or compliments. 

3. He told me that he was attracted to another woman at work but told me not to worry about it and that it was "no big deal"! I see now that he wanted to set the tone of insecurity with me. (And it sure did!) 

4. He would not come home when he said he would. If he was very late then he would tell me he "forgot" to call and then would be angry if I questioned him! 

5. He would do nice things for the people in his office (i.e., secretaries, bosses, etc) like baking them a cake for their birthdays but NEVER once did that for me! Even when I told him that, he never did. 

6. He purposely "forgot" to do anything for Valentine's Day because "he was mad at me"! 

7. He purposely did not do anything for my 40th birthday because he didn't want to be "two-faced" when we were going through our tough times. 

8. He started taking little weekend trips by himself because he "needed to get away from US". He actually was going away with his "friend" from work. 

9. He told me that he spent times with her because "she understands and accepts me for who I am" and he wasn't going to stay away from her because I couldn't deal with it! 

10. He started not coming home at phone calls or anything! He said he couldn't handle the "level emotion" with us. It was none of my business where he was. He didn't care that I was up worrying about him. 

11. He didn't want to see a counselor, therapist, priest, Retrouvaille (marriage counseling program) or anyone because he didn't think anything would help and it was his final decision. 12. I was an afterthought to him. He would get mad when I said that and would tell me that I complained too much. 

13. He said that he "couldn't meet up to my expectations" anymore. I expected too much. (ie. honesty, fidelity, communication, etc) 

14. He kept saying he "was sorry" but there was no emotion or remorse when he said those words. 

15. He would spend more time on the yard than talking to me! He told me that the yard "didn't talk back"! 

16. As we were in our final days together, he decided to take a 5 day vacation to see his family and never once called! He then 'disappeared' for 5 more days after leaving his family. He was irate when I went to his job and found him there......12 days after he left home! He asked me why I was "stalking" him! 

17. He secretly moved out the next day when I wasn't home. 

18. The final act of degradation and anger.........When I went to his apartment to talk to him, he was there with his 'friend' from work and he totally lost control! He was very angry and went nuts. I left and he subsequently had a warrant for my arrest for trespassing and stalking! He had a protection order issued so I could not contact him. I received separation papers in the mail a week later. He also secretly filed for divorce several months later. No discussions or mention of this whatsoever. 

19. He told me that "I never needed him" so he had to find someone to who could! 

20. He told me that I "make him angry" and he can't help it! He doesn't do it on purpose. So, I guess that means he should be absolved from responsibility, huh? 

21. Worst of all, he admits that he "may be verbally abusive" but it isn't the same as physical abuse and I can't compare the two. TOTAL denial!!!


So, as you can was a nightmare for me over a period of a few months. I was devastated. I didn't understand what "I did" to deserve all this from a man I was married to for over 17 years. For three to four years, something was very slow and very covert. It happened almost overnight. Sometimes very subtle but all of it was abuse! He went out of his way "not to give me what I wanted"! It destroyed my spirit. But the good news is that I know that I don't deserve this treatment and I didn't cause any of this! It is him...not me. I accept responsibility for things that I can, but not for his anger! GOOD! 

Everyone out there.......please open your eyes! Be aware and trust how you feel! Don't let anyone take away your spirit. Don't ever question your value either. Most of all, don't let anyone take their anger out on you... either covert or overt! Words or lack of them, are just like fists to your face!

I wrote this because I am on the path of healing! My spirit is coming back too. I am taking care of ME and no one else! Therapy, medication, friends and family are the things that are helping me with my journey back to happiness. It has been a long, sad and desperate road for me since spring of last year. But I want to survive this and not be another sad statistic.

Everyone, my story is one of many. My husband and I (we are now divorced), are college educated and middle-class. Abuse doesn't is everywhere! It can happen to ANYONE! My husband is not a monster or a horrible person. He is a deeply troubled man who isn't dealing with his anger. But I have to take care of me and not let him destroy my spirit any longer. It is very sad for me but I have to hold my head high and move on......I pray that my story will open peoples eyes just like the postings, articles and of course, Dr. Irene's wisdom has for me over the last year. It opened my eyes and allowed me to start my journey of healing.

Thank you for listening....

Denise   Dear Denise, Thank you for writing. God bless you, Dr. Irene


Date: Monday, August 07, 2000

Not responding to questions directly asked of him. When asked again after a good period of time waiting for an answer, get yelled at because I am pestering him. Don't pester; disengage!

Date: Tuesday, August 08, 2000

I have some questions that you guys might be able to help me out with: I'm dealing with my recovering abuser. Lately, when he's become angry, he'll say (calmly) "I'm VERY angry right now!". Which is fine, we are all allowed to express our feelings. But he will say it VERY often, sometimes 4 or 5 times in a row. Does this seem weird to anyone else? I feel like I'm weird for it bugging me, but I know that he feels I have a problem with anger in general, not abusiveness, so when he says these things I feel like he's trying to upset me. Like being poked gently with a stick over and over again. Why not just state it once or twice? That's what I do.. or am I being unreasonable? My gut tells me that this is some kind of a blow. It may be; probably a provocation. It is an invitation he is extending to you to get angry, but you don't have to. Pull in your buttons! Practice disengaging. Change Your Life Now: Powerful Techniques for Positive Change is one book that will help you learn how to pull your buttons in.

Yes, I'm scared of his anger- almost all of his anger towards me has been abusive. But I am trying to see if I'm okay with non-abusive anger. I feel I am, he doesn't. You just said that you are trying to see if you are OK with it, then you said you are. Huh? I don't think you are, even though you are trying to be. (Note that the "you just can't handle me expressing my anger" argument used to be justified for all kind of OVERTLY abusive behavior to me, such as yelling, sarcasm, etc.) I don't think your husband is expressing his anger appropriately. For starters, never ever express anger while angry! You time yourself out and chill first! Angry All the Time and the book given just above can help your husband better understand appropriate expression of anger.

2. Is it abusive (or from an abusive mindset) to get angry for things that seem to me to be unreasonable as long as he doesn't ACT abusive? Here's a good example: He had just gotten his computer working. We said hello and were chatting back and forth through a message. Then I was reading this site and sent a message saying "There's a few good new articles on dr. Irene's site" then I pasted the URL and then I said "There's good stuff on the message board too." He became angry and said I was trying to control his recovery. Now, I am making a conscious effort not to control his recovery, I don't ask about therapy or group or what he's reading- I have been doing a very good job of staying out of it.  However, I was just reading the page and thought there might be something of value to both of us. I never demanded that he visit or told him to go now. I often give him other websites with funny non-recovery stuff that he might want to look at. And why does he assume I'm trying to control him? You may or may not be trying to control or guide his recovery, but that doesn't matter. This is about him not you: he feels controlled, when, in fact, he is not. People who feel a need to please the other person seem to fall into this trap a lot. Your recommendation is taken as some sort of judgment that what he is doing is somehow not good enough. It seems abusers always project THEIR traits onto their victims. I just don't understand how it's fair for him to be angry (and withdraw, I might add) at me because I suggested he visit a website. It's not "fair," but don't expect life to be fair; you'll be disappointed. Just accept that he's angry and his anger has nothing to do with you. 

But if I say that I'm not allowing him to express his anger! Again, my take is that your husband's idea of anger expression needs modification. This is a very common mistake. Appropriate, assertive expression of anger is a sophisticated skill most of us need to practice, practice, practice until we get good at it. Well, he has a long pattern of being angry at me for things that make no sense - like I'm sad about having an abortion, so he's angry at me. He's lost his boundaries here. It would be OK for him to be angry about your having an abortion, but being angry that you are sad suggests some kind of irrational thinking in the back of his mind. Perhaps at some level he feels responsible and unable to help you? Still, his reaction is inappropriate and self-absorbed - as well as abusive.

I'm not supposed to have a problem with this because he's free to express his anger? No.  I don't understand. I think anger is a good and necessary thing but I wonder if it's abusive to get angry at someone unreasonably. If I am angry with you and I express myself well, I can tell you specifically what you did or said that upset me. I don't do this while I am angry. I do this after I've chilled out and really thought about what bothered me. Then I express my concerns calmly and respectfully. (I know you'll hear me too since my delivery is unlikely to make you too defensive.) I am really confused about this and I would appreciate feedback- even if you disagree with me! Thanks! I hope this clears things up a bit.  -SatokoGirl

Date: Tuesday, August 08, 2000

"I'll apologize for what I did, sure. I'm not going to say I won't do it again..." Ooops!

Date: Tuesday, August 08, 2000

Says: "I know other people think you're ugly/stupid/mad/weird, but I love you anyway".

Hides things like my purse or keys, just to give him the opportunity of telling me how stupid I am for losing things.

Tells me: "I'll stick by you, because it's not your fault that you are stupid/crazy/jealous etc".

Says: "If you lost weight/bought some nice clothes, you'd look just as pretty as that girl over there".


Date: Tuesday, August 08, 2000

One day I asked my friend to listen to the conversation when we were all in the room. She was shocked at how many times my husband made "jokes" (not very funny) at my expense. We could be talking about someone else and somehow, someway he had to make a sarcastic joke about me. Why am I mad? It is only a joke!!!!  It is a joke at your expense.  No laughing matter.

Date: Tuesday, August 08, 2000

Dear Dr. Irene:

On the above post you mentioned "passive aggressive" behavior. I researched it. Can a person who displays this behavior have rage and outbursts of anger? Thanks!  Absolutely!

Date: Tuesday, August 08, 2000


It is great to hear your story of healing. Thanks for sharing - it's inspirational!!


Date: Tuesday, August 08, 2000

I have seen my husband change each time I call him on his abusive ways. Our relationship began with him openly criticizing the way I dressed, laughed, acted, talked, how I looked physically, things I said in public, etc. Then, after calling off our wedding, he became a prince - for about six months. 

I then realized that he was still doing it, but now it was done in a caring tone - he was only "giving me advice." Yuk. At times, though, he would still exhibit rude, hurtful behavior and, when asked to explain himself, he would say that it was just because he had such high expectations of me, that I could never meet them. What a backwards compliment! Ask him to adjust his  expectations! 

He would tell me how smart I was, how good looking I was, but that I just failed to exhibit that to people. He told me that, given how intelligent I am and how capable I am at work, he just didn't understand how I could be so ditzy at home. He actually had me believing that my brain turned off at 5:00 pm because I worked so hard at work that I had nothing left. Ugh.

 Finally, I called it quits. Now he is even more covert, but still manipulative. I tell him it is over and that I don't want to be married to him. He tells me that he understands completely, then goes away and comes back a few days later as if nothing has happened. Then he is surprised when I say it again and hurt once more. He has done this at least 5 times!!! Making me be the bad guy over and over again. But I'm not backing down. His games don't work anymore. Good for you! Too bad for him. He just doesn't get it...

Date: Tuesday, August 08, 2000

What about all the lies!!! Or should I say half-truths you are told so you will quit complaining. It is very sad to live in a relationship where you can not trust the other person to tell you the truth about anything - you check it out and find out that what they said is a complete lie. Just another way to manipulate you to do what they want. I think I have finally reached the end of my rope here! Am tired of all the lies - thanks, Kathylee  Good for you Kathylee. 

Date: Wednesday, August 09, 2000

Dr. Irene- Thank you SO much for helping me make sense of this. My BF and I have discussed this rationally tonight and we both agree that it's impossible to tell if I have a problem with his anger overall because the majority of his anger towards me has been expressed abusively. He's going to talk to his therapist and his men's anger group about appropriate expression of anger, and I hope he'll that book as well. Excellent!

To clarify about the abortion thing, he supported my decision, but becomes angry when I grieve. He knows this is because he still feels very responsible and guilty about it. He has to tolerate these feelings and cope with them without acting out. Tell him to practice, practice, practice - and to look at the irrational basis of his guilt... However, that hardly justifies that behavior. He has long acknowledged that that response is abusive and I have stopped trying to get 'blood from a rock' in regards to it. (i.e. a shoulder to cry on, sympathy.) He recently said that he feels he could now be supportive, but I'm wary. Time will tell. Thanks again for helping me take the high road! The path of the 'in recovery' couple is a hard one, but we're sticking with it for the time being. -SatokoGirl Good luck!

Date: Wednesday, August 09, 2000

*Explaining that when he called incompetent that he only meant you were incompetent at that precise moment.  Doncha love it?

*He's critical of you, but not judgmental. He may not like things about you, but that doesn't mean you need to change.

*When he's more affectionate with his other friends in public than he is with you, it's because he sees you all the time and he only sees them on rare occasions.

*Telling you that you just can't take criticism.

Oh, there are just so many examples! Sad, isn't it...

Date: Wednesday, August 09, 2000


Date: Wednesday, August 09, 2000

I know we can get back together if you would just realize how much I have changed! (No change just talk.) Translation: My heart's in the right place. I have learned more about what you want, and can say it, - but I can only do it when I'm not angry. 

I have done everything I can think of to please you. You don't want things to get better between us! Translation: I have tried my very best to codependently take care of you, but even though I tell you what to do, you won't.

Your new house really looks good, BUT --- Another color may have looked better on the wall. The old windows were just as good and you could have saved a lot of money in leaving everything the way it was. Translation: I'm having a hard time with this, but I'll try my best to be helpful and protective, even if it makes you feel diminished in my anger.

8/10 Sunshine asks:

I would like to ask-do you believe the "abuser" (mostly judging, covert, angry,
sins of omission kind) is consciously aware? It depends on the person: If there is awareness, the realization of what it does to you is lost or minimized. Same as when you were in more denial, but knew something was wrong.

Is it all deliberate manipulation, power and control? Or more like "ingrained" bad habits-simply an established way of thinking and responding? Depends on the person. But, what's the difference? Your abuser doesn't wake up in the morning, scratch his head and ask how he's going to abuse you today. It just "happens" the same way you're buying into it just "happens." 

My husband became more and more controlling during our last year as he gained professional prestige, big salary, etc. Now, during our divorce process (I said get help or we separate; he provokes son into physical confrontation, I get mad, he leaves then files 2 wks later for divorce as I "supported your son and not your husband). He then blew lots of money, has defied everything, including court orders for support, lies, tries to manipulate in every way he can - become incredibly  Oppositional Defiance Disordered, Passive-Aggressive - total
shift from the very moral person, honest and hardworking to totally amoral - almost as if he finally gave up on all of his efforts to control his abuse. Perhaps he did give up - on life, love, and himself. These are the actions of great despair. After all, in his eyes, you gave up on him. Disgusted,  he doesn't know what to do now that he realizes that prestige and money won't bring peace of mind; won't even bring your wife's support. Sounds like he doesn't care about anything and is trying to find pseudo-solace anyway and anywhere he can get it. A lost soul who knows no better. Note that while I have empathy for his experience, I have no sympathy for his behavior, nor would I tolerate such from my partner. This is a good attitude to shoot for in advanced recovery.

In our early years together (now over 22 yrs. together!) Wow!  he was much more overt, then very covert, now back to more of both. I sent him this list-I wonder what his reaction was. Of course, he never responded. An angry man-but very down yesterday when I signed papers HE requested for divorce. Jealous of own son. Came from alcoholic, abusive, neglectful home. I know he doesn't want this divorce - he just can't face admitting his impulsive angry move to file. He's really lost Sunshine. He was never taught any other way (would anybody in their right mind behave like him if they knew another way?)  Try sending him this post. Maybe at some level he'll realize the only way out of Hell is via the High Road to Integrity... and that it's never too late to learn how to go there. Dr. Irene

Date: Thursday, August 10, 2000

Is selfish in sex and when you don't have an orgasm he says "it's because you don't love me." Get him an informational book! Constantly refers to the positive physical attributes of other women but never you never does anything if it is "your" idea. Yuk. Gets angry and throws out guilt trips when he does throw a crumb of kindness your way and you don't fall at his feet with appreciation. Of course, you don't fall for the guilt trips... Tells you that the other women he sleeps with are "just sex." You send him packing woman. Did either of you ever hear of STDs? Talks about himself and his interests all the time, never asks you about your life. Forgets to do what you've asked. Acts like Mr. perfect and wonderful when he suspects you are leaving. Always, always, always have one foot out the door.

Date: Thursday, August 10, 2000

Here are some more examples:

Asking a direct question, ignoring any response that is given, and then declaring to know the answer and stating it as though it were truth and fact.  

For example, it begins by asking a simple question like, "Do you remember that guy?" or "Do you watch that show?" Then, regardless of the response that is given, a judgment is made and vocalized, "Oh, you wouldn't care about that," (or know about that, or be aware of that, etc.). The conversation then continues on with a, "So, anyway..." and the focus is then turned to either another person or a different topic.

Or, appearing to be genuinely sincere about a topic of personal nature when actually gathering information that can then be used as ammunition for an attack.

For example, if a personal belief or value is shared during conversation, a question like, "Why do you think that," (or feel that, or believe that, etc.) may be asked. Then, after listening patiently to the answer, it is responded to with something like, "Well, that's just stupid," (or dumb, or weird, etc.).  "Gee, sorry I spoke..."


Date: Friday, August 11, 2000

Dear Dr. Irene - This is Sunshine. Got your response today - thank you.  But before I consider this, I want to share these "covert" statements I received from husband in email today. Is this simply abuse or someone out of touch with reality? Aren't both the same thing? Your input in terms of how to handle him, or a response to this would be much appreciated. Our family is in CRISIS - Is there anything I can do with/for my husband and our family? these are the kind of "distortions", lies, reality twists, manipulations, blame, "poor me" attitude, passive-aggressive behaviors that have contributed to making our household - especially me - absolutely feeling crazy at times. These are all "abuse tactics". However, as many "abusers" have been found to have mental health problems (childhood trauma, adult children of alcoholic families, ADD, bipolar, asocial personalities, narcissistic, whatever!!) perhaps you can better understand Jason - he does all the same kind of stuff. I don't know if they are simply outright lies or breaks with reality! 

However, I just received an email from my husband which "feels" very "covert" and manipulative. I'm going to copy it here for you and give you my answers: our "truths", perceptions are SOOO different. I hope you have time to reply to this. I believe what I do at this moment may be critical to whether our marriage can be saved. Anyway, here it is: Well, lets see: 1) Tried to have me arrested. (NOT TRUE! The night he left, my boys called police, but I didn't press charges. Two months later after younger son said Dad doesn't have much clothes, I packed some, had them out side for him, he refused to take them-was going to drive off-I put them in his truck -controlling I know-my first stab at standing up to him-Well, he calls police on me and tried to press charges! Cop talked to me privately and said this man is just trying to control you! 2) Accepted the support orders both for Child and Spousal. Which you could have changed if you wanted. (I was supposed to turn down support settlement when for 4 months he refused to give me a penny! I was even, am still, paying his truck insurance!) 3) Reduced me to $600 a month to live on. Unable to get a place to live. (He left with $12,400. Moved in with his parents-no expense. With additional salary for 4mos. prior to support payments, he could have accumulated over $27K! He blew over $9K 1st 2 mos. out-history of spending sprees. Also, last summer when he knew I was ready to file, said to me, "How are you going to manage on a third of your salary? Also put down my "piddly little college degree-he has none-my teaching job is tenured and very secure) 4) Garnished my wages, which you could have changed. With the delay to <his place of employment> on the orders, not knowing how much and when caused more delays. (My lawyer said wage garnishment was automatic-I didn't request it. He talked to me week before it started and was so nice, complained about garnishment. I have no idea what he's talking about re: "delay"-I didn't do anything!) 5) Delayed the proceedings for longer that should have been, in a effort to pressure me. That wasn't threatening? (Again, I don't know what he's talking about-I caused no delays, in fact his lawyer scheduled everything except "ex parte hearing" I had to file because he wasn't honoring visitation, agreement to pay his own insurance-he did nothing he agreed to do in 4-way mtg. with our lawyers that he requested!) Do I believe that the legal fees and trial caused you to respond? Yes! The delays cost us both more money then should have. (He's apparently referring to his "bifurcation" request/threat which I had less than 10 days to agree to or he (per lawyer) would try to collect his attorney's fees.-I wrote husband email yesterday saying if it's what he really wanted, he could've just asked me instead of using threats/intimidation) 6) Didn't tell me when <our son> was leaving. (He and I agree to have oldest son, who's just like him, sent to 6 wk. high impact program to address behaviors. I had to pay $20 for program and escort. He said he didn't have the money-LIAR! Threatened to not sign consent when I said I'd front the money-he wanted to know where I was getting it from-not his business-I had to agree to "no interest to be paid by him" for carrying his portion. I set up escort-he was supposed to-I kept him posted-he knew it would happen ASAP-called me 2xs on Friday-hung up on me in anger over other stuff-so I couldn't tell him. I wrote letter to him to get next day here dropping off younger son-he dropped him at the street. He could have called to ask-didn't. He had phone #s for escort and school-didn't call. Which I would have never done. I would have never conceived. Not a trust builder. (He's been CONTINUOUSLY LYING! Very vindictive! (Last summer he knew I was thinking of filing and said to me "You'd better not see a lawyer because you're too mean and vindictive") 7) Would you have signed otherwise, everything indicates that you wouldn't. (Referring to the bifurcation notice and my saying he could have just asked.) Even your lawyer gave every indication that there would be delay. (Not sure-about this-maybe because my lawyer and his discussed several times whether hubby really wanted a divorce-I had told mine I didn't believe this was the case.)

So, do I want to proceed without legal counsel? (I has asked if the bifur. threat was his idea or lawyer's. If lawyer's, was this how he wanted to be represented.) No, would not be realistic. The real question is, can you be reasonable? Or do you continue to be anger driven? Cooperation, aside from custody and boat, I'm the only one that has cooperated. 9CAN HE REALLY BELIEVE THIS?!!?! HE IS THE ONE WHO HAS DEFIED EVERYTHING!!! Living on a less than my previous standard of living, which I understand I'm entitled to have at least that. (He's been whining to his lawyer, me, our son, etc. constantly about this.) Even with the way the system is, it's not clear how that would come about in the interim period. You certainly took advantage of that. (Again, unclear to me-maybe reference to he still makes support payments for older son while he's at his 6 wk. program).

Having counsel doesn't mean that either one of us can't do the right thing. So it's up to you. (THE RIGHT THING????? Remember, he's always right!)

So, Dr. Irene-what is this all about?!?! Help-it's like everything he's saying about me is about himself!!! I REALLY need some objective feedback. Here it is: You need to calm down. Do nothing until you are calmer.


Date: Friday, August 11, 2000

Dear Dr. Irene- Sunshine here. Oh, my goodness - I just got on line and read my "repeated" posts. I was so embarrassed!!! Please note-yesterday I kept getting messages back that "transfer was interrupted" or "site not responding", etc. So, my repeated posts were accidental-guess I'm either not computer literate enough yet (it'll come with time) or "the system" blew it (oh, well). Am I correct in assuming only you can "erase" my duplications-or can I do something to help out? Believe it not-I'm really not as "obsessive" as this "repeated" stuff might suggest. Ha, Ha!! Again, my apologies for "hogging" the board unintentionally. Don't worry about it. It's fixed. What I would worry about is not making any impulsive, reactive, half-baked decisions at a time of crisis. You need to chill and then sit down and calmly think about what you are going to do before you do anything. I'm not comfortable replying to you in this forum because my sense is that you are too impulsive right now and are likely to just do what some "expert" says. This is your life; you are the only expert. Think about how you want to handle it and take responsibility.

Date: Friday, August 11, 2000

...Asks you if he can trade places in a restaurant with you so that he won't be distracted by the beautiful woman behind you... Tell him sure, as long as he doesn't mind that she might distract you too...

...Withdraws emotionally and then when asked what's wrong tells you he's having a hard time accepting a certain body part and thinks you should have plastic surgery.

Agree. But make a deal since you are also having great difficulty with one of his body parts. Would he consider some serious brain surgery? (snicker, snicker)


Date: Monday, August 14, 2000

ok, I've left the abusive situation, I've worked on my issues and letting go, but I am still struggling with the memories. What do I do with the memories and the horrible feeling of having been abused? What can I do with all those feelings that are in my mind every day?  You get some professional help.


Date: Monday, August 14, 2000

My soon-to-be ex liked to tickle me in bed. Sounds cute but he would hold down my arms, sit on top of me and then tickle me for 2-3 minutes. It seemed like an eternity. I have a bad wrist due to surgery and would beg him to let go because he was hurting the wrist, not because he was torturing me. He would relent then but never once figured out (despite my repeatedly telling him) that he was hurting me. "Oh, honey, it's just tickling". No, it's abuse! You bet.

Date: Monday, August 14, 2000

My ex would tickle me like that too. Or with my son, when they would wrestle, he would always have to win.

Date: Tuesday, August 15, 2000

Justifies his behavior with excuses. Example, after confronted about a lie he has told, he replies "Hasn't anyone ever lied to you before?" Kinda like, "Murder is OK; lots of people do it."

Hey Sunshine, How are you?


Date: Thursday, August 17, 2000

I know this one very well, examples: Watches you put makeup on then says you look better without it. Asks why you always wear you hair so perfect, then says he likes it more natural until you wear it that way then says your hair is messy. Does not give you compliments when you know you look nice ,but tells you what he does not like you to wear. Tells you to call your friends or family and chat and then gets upset because he feels you talked too long. Plans for you to visit friends over the weekend then does not speak to you when you come home. Want to know all about your day but does not offer info about his. Questions you about who you talked to but does not tell you who he talks to until it suits his need. tells you that the job you have is good but complains about the hrs until you change to another job and then complains about that one too. Tells you you did something very well but this could have been better, nothing is ever quite right. Tells you you have the rest of your life to get over it, if you are upset about something he has done and he feels it was ok when you know it was not. Makes you feel guilty about self improvements by saying I like you the way you are, or competes with you when he know he can win. Makes you ask for affection then with holds it . Takes off for hrs and does not tell you where he has been, gets angry when you ask, but want to know you every move. End result you feel insecure about anything you decide and you self esteem is gone. It works like carbon monoxide: you cant see it or smell it but it kills you just as dead. This is the worst kind of abuse because know one knows it is going on. Yes.


Date: Thursday, August 17, 2000

Boy did this article hit home! I had left my boyfriend of 3 1/2 years and moved back to my home town because I couldn't stand his selfishness, emotional abuse of me and my daughter, affairs, the list could go on. Well after several months of trying to "long distance reconcile" he called it quits saying he loved me but he needed to find "passion" and be with other women. HE called me a few months after that telling me he wanted to see me, his life was a mess and he was using drugs heavy again. I drove over 500 miles each way to see him and we had a wonderful time; he pursued me like crazy telling me that he was finished "whoring" around and was ready to settle down (at 35).

 I agreed to move back...away from my family and friends and we discussed that there would be no more infidelity or emotional abuse of either me or my daughter. I told him what I needed from him, he told me what he needed from me I thought we were headed in the right direction. WHAT AN IDIOT I WAS! I got back and the only thing that had changed was his tactics for abuse. He would always have to have things his way. The lies, secrets, half truths and deceptions were rampant. He cheated on me again, more than once, only this time he did not rub it in my face, he lied about it, denied it and said I had no proof so it did not happen. He was always gone, and when I would ask for some time with him, he would tell me that I was never happy with what he did, always wanting more. He continued to use drugs and alcohol, justifying it all the way. I would try to talk to him, telling him that the relationship was in danger and he would just say "if you don't like it why don't you go back to Kansas where you're really happy". HE would say creepy things and then tell me I was hearing things or I TWISTED HIS WORDS AROUND! 

What was the worst part was KNOWING that what was happening was WRONG, I kept staying and trying because I really began to question my sanity. I thought I was being too sensitive because he told me EVERYDAY that he loved me. Every little crumb he would drop for me was like a feast so I thought I was being horrible to expect more. I fell into a deep depression and was barely functioning. I was no longer miss happy go lucky, affectionate, clean the house , take care of everything. I couldn't even look at him, touch him, nothing. I felt dead. 

That's when he started to be an angel, my wonderful loving man that I had fallen in love with. He was so concerned, wanted to talk, wanted to make sure I was happy. All until began to feel better and be more like my old self again. Then he began to be a creep again. Big shock to me. I then realized that nothing was going to change with us together. Not me, not him, not us. So I told him I was leaving and why. Mr. Wonderful again right up to the day I left. So now he can throw all that up in my face and be angry at me because, according to his memory, he was being really nice, just not nice enough to suit me. 

And I still feel guilty about and question my judgment. I would love to not have any conversations with him for a while but I am pregnant with his child and it seems we are stuck having to communicate at least in some fashion. I know this post is long and somewhat confusing but I hope that someone somewhere can see the pattern here and realize what has seemed to elude me for so long! Our relationship may have changed in that he was not overtly abusive to my daughter and I, the real cycle of abuse was still there. Nothing had really changed. And it was only destined to get worse. At least it is crystal clear to you now. Stop questioning your judgment; you couldn't win.

Date: Thursday, August 17, 2000

This was his latest e-mail to me. Unfortunately, he still doesn't get it. I am very aware of the things that he is hurt about - I dated someone after we had split because he told me I wasn't enough of a woman for him, he had entered my house and was hiding in the closet when he heard me call him a coward for his behavior... "You may not realize it, but I too feel that there were painful and hurtful things done to me as well, and I loved you so. My health is in question but hopefully all will be ok. Hopefully, if anything crazy happens to either of us, we'll let the other know. Both of us should have left the relationship soon after it started. We stayed and tried to make it work. There were great times I'll never forget and sad times I've put to rest. Love and care for you ALWAYS!"

He never could take responsibility for his behavior without pointing out something I had done wrong.

I'm not even responding anymore to his e-mails - it just supports his denial. This is very sad for me!!   It is a very sad situation. But, for each door that closes, a new one opens.


Date: Thursday, August 17, 2000

Covert abuse examples:

Buys you sexy underwear for presents when you've told him you hate wearing it.

Volunteers to teach you how to drive but somehow in his opinion you're never quite ready for the driver's test.

Tape records the sounds of the two of you having sex and plays it back when friends come over to visit. How horribly disrespectful and humiliating!

Sits at the computer with the television on all the time, yet complains that you don't have time for him when you go about your own business.

Never cleans up after himself, promises to change whenever you bring it up, but never changes.

Lends your things to his friends and forgets to ask for them to be returned.

Makes a point of commenting on other women's good looks when you're out together.

Makes jokes about how stupid and incompetent you are, and accuses you of lacking humor if you object.


Date: Saturday, August 19, 2000

Twists your words to suit his needs, saying "But you said..."

Date: Sunday, August 20, 2000

Hi, Dr. Irene- This is Sunshine. Read your reply to me a few days ago-You were absolutely right-I was in an impulsive, angry place-but I held myself in check. Good! Writing to you was my "venting"-and it helped. I've got a post it on my computer screen: Don't Engage. Stop and Think First. Sit on Your Feelings for a While. :) 

Learning to not react to STBX, to realize he is just trying to push my "all too familiar buttons" has been challenging. But in some ways I'm starting to look at it as the "game" it is-actually kind of funny at times. :) When you can see it as a game and as kind of funny, you really are disengaging! Today was a tough day-our 21st anniversary. I took my younger son and his girlfriend out boating-fun for all of us, and also took my brand new copy of The Verbally Abusive Relationship. Good! Read it last summer and fall-good time to read it again! It helped. 

Also, some really interesting new "stuff": his "girlfriend" was described quite in detail to me today by son and girlfriend. STBX brought her "out of the closet" about a month ago, right after hearing I was dating-asked son a ton of questions about my "friend." Anyway, his friend is EVERYTHING I know he couldn't stand in women (things I was/am not)-big bushy hair (no offense anyone-just his preference), bright red lipstick and heavy eyeliner (he hates too much makeup-my style has always been light and natural); she's a stereotypic "dumb blond (again, no offense, I'm a blond-anyway, with the help of L'Oreal!); she struts around, breasts held high, wearing too tight clothes (she's 50 yrs. old), the same clothes over and over on boat outings (light black tank, dark black shorts-she asked him to buy her a present on a trip he took last month-he got her a white tank-hint, hint!) She's a total worry-wart, draws constant attention to his hairy chest (he's always been self conscious of this though I told him I loved it, but kept it private); always reaching out to hold his hand, scratch his back, kiss, etc (again-he's more private type with physical affection).

Also, she's recently started her divorce process after living past two years (and still) with her husband-separate bedrooms. So what is this-both of them just on the rebound. Apparently STBX often gets irritated with her behaviors, too. I feel he may just also be using her to flaunt at me-had told son to keep "her" a secret-yet knows our son doesn't keep secrets well. Trying to get me jealous, I believe. Told our son a few weeks ago he still loves me (out of the blue according to son-surprised him, too). Then he sends request/threat for bifurcation-I signed it-then all the false accusations I wrote to you about. I responded a few days later: addressed each one point by point, referring to specific emails and actions that totally discredited his accusations. He wrote back that HE WAS tired of all the email bantering and requested "as nicely as I know how" to stop emails (I said Okay-guess he's afraid his email intimidations are being saved by me for any more future needs!). 

But now the latest-haven't figured this one out yet. Back in early March, per his request-a 4way meeting with lawyers. I stated I would "buyout" our residence. We agreed to appraisal-I got this March 31-it comes within a few thousand of what he felt house would sell for. Now, I get "proposal for property settlement" and first item is that he wants house placed on market for sale-"believe it will sell for more" giving us both more "cash pot". How ludicrous! With repairs to be done, unfinished items, commissions which would be paid to realtors, market season on decline, etc-all this was definitely add to delay of setting financials. Not sure what he has to gain. Possibilities: 1) once he gets his money, his excuse for living with parents and blaming me that he "can't afford a place of his own is gone" 2)would girlfriend then pressure him? 3)Is he really so dumb about the financial part-if so, I know his lawyer isn't 4)???just adding to our "drama". 

I have an appointment with my lawyer next week. My STBX proposals contain many inaccuracies, incomplete info, etc-naturally only in his favor, making himself look "generous"-I can easily discount/prove all the "mistakes." Boy, this is like a game of "No peakie"-with your vast knowledge/experience-got any input for me? Something I'm possibly not seeing? No. You are handling it well, I think. As long as you don't react, you eventually figure it out. I don't trust anything with him-can't imagine why!!!! I believed from the start he didn't want this divorce-he did file in anger-I took away all his "control" over me and have actually been doing quite well, better than he has-independent in the past-before out last horrible year-and now more independent than ever. I do believe he is jealous. Probably. I now realize how so many things were his "games"-and now I kind of like being on the other side- a little mental challenge-showing him I'm not as stupid as he likes to make me think I am. :) Plus, all his actions have backfired on him. :) :)

I also wonder if he just keeps trying to stir things up to raise anger in me-he's been less and less successful at this. He wants you to engage in the fight. Don't. Counter by disengaged logic, as you have been. I feel like he keeps trying to do so to keep his own "fire" stirred up-justify his notion that I'm such a "bad person" and support his most recent notion (projection, rationalization, whatever) the "anyone would be crazy to want to return to such a dysfunctional environment"-like he left because I was dysfunctional/to blame. Yeah, right. Home hasn't been this calm in a few years. I actually feel myself as being really ALIVE again! Anyway-thoughts? Also, I was flattered, if that was you who asked about how I was doing-especially with some many people on the board. Made me feel special-I needed that! You are special! And, I see you are doing very, very well. Keep it up!

Date: Sunday, August 20, 2000

He looks at you with a look of disdain while his lips are mouthing the words "I love you"!!

Date: Monday, August 21, 2000

Deflection: Always trying to skirt the issue by bringing up things I've done in the past to justify his most recent inappropriate behavior. This has to be the single most frustrating thing for me to deal with. It's amazing that some people cant/wont take responsibility for their own actions.

Everyone else is the "reason,Problem,blame" EXCUSES!!!!


Date: Monday, August 21, 2000

Drops a verbal bomb, insulting remarks, then walks away

Date: Wednesday, August 23, 2000

1. I don't have energy for you. I only have enough energy for my work, my kids and directing my chorus (all women who think HE is the greatest). 2. 3-4 nights per week he would go to "the club" always at a different location to get a rub down from a friend he had met who would let him in after hours and worked at different locations throughout the city. Duh! 3. One Sunday night I came home from church to find him all dressed up and going out. I asked him where he was going all dressed up. "To the club." 4. He told me that I was not a good "Christian" because I did not accept his relationship with her--his friend. That was the final blow with me. I was a doormat until he judged my relationship with my God. Good Christians do not welcome sin in their homes! 5. He tried to make me so angry that I would throw him out--so it would look like he was the victim. I knew what he was doing so I did not react to anything. He finally left but came back to see the kids when I was not home. I finally changed the locks and made sure my kids were not alone at home. 6. It has been a year and a half since the divorce, foreclosure, bankruptcy of his business and I moved about 4 hours from him to escape the abuse. The newest tool is my daughter. He is behind thousands of dollars in child support--told my daughter that he would not buy her anything unless I would give him credit on past child support for whatever he chooses to purchase for her. She told me--"It's only fair Mom, that money is for me and my brother, not you." 7. Even with 250 miles between us-he still tries to push those old buttons. The difference is I have had the time and freedom from unwanted visits and calls to really recognize "the game" and to realize the I Do Not Have To Play.

Date: Wednesday, August 23, 2000

Lies, Deceit and Secrecy-Do I tell?

My STBX has become an "expert" or "pathological liar"-can't tell if it's covert abuse, vengence, shame or truly "sickness." Anyway, having read in emails to me some incredible accusations/lies about things he says I have done, I can only imagine what he is saying/has said to his family members. I am an "only child" (at 48!), and have been part of his family for nearly 23 years. We moved away from both our families 8 yrs. ago. Then, his mother/stepdad and aunt/uncle moved up here within 10 minutes of us (both getting new houses-we had just built ours-feel some "envy" was there). Well, in June 1999 I talked to my inlaws about the increasing incidences of verbal and emotional abuse, crazymaking, etc. I was going through (didn't realize it was "abuse" at the time). Also, another "physical" instance with our oldest son-dad's the one who really lost control. So, my inlaws listen, think their son is wrong, should clean up act or go. Mother-in-law even suggests some "mind game" ideas. Realize she was originally married to my husband's alcoholic, abusive dad. They also said hubby would not live with them! The whole family is "separated" and dysfunctional in so many ways. At that time, inlaws also apologized to me for not keeping in touch when hubby and I separated for first time 8 yrs. ago. (apology accepted). Well, here we go again, 6 months into divorce this time-I had written to inlaws telling all that happened-allthe "truths" and crazyness. Lo and behold, hubby goes and lives with them. And have I heard from inlaws-not a word from "Mother"-she even tells my younger son she doesn't want to call because she doesn't want something to start. Father in law came by on boys' birthday-no talk about "divorce" but I did state once more that hubby was abusive. Have been to their house twice to pick up our boat-they don't even come outside. My son goes in to say hello (for me, too)-some "lame" excuse why they don't come out. My anger is high today-and I'm very hurt that all my "family" on his side haven't called at all. Like I'm suddenly divorced from everyone-and he's the poor "victim." I know he has lied and distorted everything. I have tons of emails to give some really concrete examples. He's "involved" with someone, the same person I suspected when we were together-another "unhappy" married person, her husband is supposedly alcoholic. And now she's getting divorce, too. From descriptions from my son, she is exactly everything he couldn't stand-yakky, airhead, heavy makeup, 7 yrs. older than him, "big" curley hair, red lipstick, etc. He has become incredibly vindictive, obviously so far off course in his life and morals. My question, my thought: Should I send a brief note and some copies of emails to let "family" know some examples of the lies. I am so angry and hurt to being "cut out" because his lies are ruining/affecting my reputation and family connections. Granted, what kind of "family" could they possibly be? They've known me for so many years, saw how well I treated him, treated all of them. I have a tremendous need to feel "vindicated" from his "vindictiveness". What should I do? Can'T tell if this would just fuel the fire more-should I just leave well enough alone-consider the source(s)?

Date: Wednesday, August 23, 2000

Dear Dr. Irene- Forgot to sign my post above- "Lies and Deceit" Sunshine

Date: Thursday, August 24, 2000

Perhaps the most crazy-making example of all of covert abuse:

(I've done this one and had it done to me -- it's bad no matter who is doing it)

"You're right, I'm a horrible person. Bad me." And tears. And beating self up, sometimes literally, in the presence of the other person. Especially in the middle of an argument, especially when the other person is trying to stick to the issues.

This completely derails communication.

Another one (actually this is pretty overt but it's the worst one from my childhood):

From parent to child: "You and your mother (or father) ..." followed by some complaint.

My father has learned to stop doing this, in fact he's pretty well cut the verbal abuse with me entirely. (He still does it to my mother on occasion, though.) My mother, by all outward appearances the "victim" in that situation, did a LOT of "you and your father ..." to me, and still does it on occasion. I have told her to stop it, but she forgets. :(

Date: Sunday, August 27, 2000

actions or subtle may convey a message to you however when you ask him about it he say' now did I say that?" you have to back down because he did not directly say it only refered to it such as; "watch the cookies meaning that will or are making you fat; but did not say you getting fat.

Date: Sunday, August 27, 2000

The covert abusive stuff I'm dealing right now:

Pushing the limits. Constantly. Living up to the "letter of the law" while breaking the spirit, and then saying "but I thought...."

My ex was here last night, and it soon became obvious he was high. He asked if I wanted to have sex, and I said, "Not really, and definitely not when you are stoned." (I thought I had already made this clear to him, but oh well.) We talked for a while, a decently productive conversation, and then he started trying to seduce me again. I told him "I already SAID NO!" and his response? "Well, I thought maybe it'd be ok to fool around as long as we didn't actually have sex." I told him that was not ok, and then (remember when you read this that we were in MY apartment) he said "Mind if I just sit here and masturbate, then?"

Um, yes. I mind. Blue balls won't kill you. I told him that, and he said "obviously I can't do anything right today for you so I'm going home."


Another bit of crazy-making that made me think I was the more abusive one for a LONG time: his friends. I am very uncomfortable around some of them and I made this clear. He continued to expect me to spend time around them. I started feeling like I was being verbally abused by proxy.

It is very rare that I have the urge to say "excuse me, there's a lady present," since I tend to be "one of the guys." But I started getting that urge more and more often. I don't want to hear crude commentary while I'm trying to watch a movie I enjoy. I don't think it's appropriate for his best buddy to ask if he'll take nude pictures of me for all of them to look at (and he thought ths was FUNNY!) and I don't like the assumption that my own bisexuality means I am equally willing to view women as pieces of meat. It makes me uncomfortable. That's leaving aside the issue of all the drug use that was going on.

But if I complained about any of this, I felt like I was being controlling or trying to start a problem between him and his friends. Some of that was in my own head, of course. :P


Date: Monday, August 28, 2000

I used to wonder if I was being abusive. I did start to fight back, and it made me lose my integrity. I have learned that it is ok and healthy to set boundaries which is different than abuse and controlling. I have the right, and responsibility, to say when something is bothering me or I feel disrespected. That is not abusive to protect myself. I can not make the other person stop behaving a certain way, but I can chose if I let it continue in my presence. I don't need anyone else's approval of what I want and don't want in my life. If someone says something disrespectful, in my opinion, I have to let them know!!


Date: Monday, August 28, 2000

1. project all the things they hate about themselves onto you. If they're cheating, then there are accusations of me cheating...if he's not doing his share around the house then I am a bad house keeper... 2. tells other people half truths and lies about the relationship and about you to make you look bad. 3. overly concerned about appearances - physical and situational 4. saysd people don't like you..."I don't think my mom likes you anymore" 5. shares private converstions with another person


Date: Monday, August 28, 2000

Devotes a lot of time and energy to finding out what makes you tick (what you need, what's important to you), which seems seductively nice until you feel like he's using the information to decide what to withhold.

Date: Tuesday, August 29, 2000

The phone would ring at his house, and he would say "mmmmmmmm, I wonder if its her??? (an ex girlfriend 25 years his junior)" right in front of me because he KNEW what I was thinking. (played up on my insecurities)

When I would be happy, feel secure, etc. he would say "don't get too secure with me - you know what happens when you do - I always pull the rug out from under you." (didn't like me when I was either insecure OR secure)

He would say, "OK, how would I know about your thought processes, I'm only a psychologist?" (he would say it very sarcastic, he really was a psychologist as his profession, and truly used it to his advantage)

He would say, "Wow, if only you'd lose 30 lbs."

He traced a finger on my face on my "smile line" and said, "oh, you have a wrinkle there." He would then look at the top of my head for grey hairs and would say, "well, you earned these too."

He would say, "I'm not going to tell you anything you want to hear - you'll have to get that from your next boyfriend." That would be said ever spending the entire weekend together.

He would say, "I don't like your outfit - please change it." And it would not be said in a loving way.

He would rage at me for no reason, "What are you looking at, get out of my face!!" "Go take a bath or something." (and this would be said to me in my own home)

My mother has cancer and one day when he and I were on the phone, I shared with him my sadness of losing him as a boyfriend, as well as the pending death of my mother. He quipped with "well, at least you have your 2 friends, Evelyn and Claire, unless they dump you too, but then, you'll always have your TV set." 

Date: Thursday, August 31, 2000

How about when he is insecure about Valentines Day, so he plans a wonderful dinner, you have a great night. You're both happy. Your bithday is a few weeks later and nothing! Not one thing to make you feel special. Then appologizes but, doesn't do anything to make up for it. He is so messed up and doesn't even realize it. Can only think of himself, does not know how to care for someone else.

Date: Thursday, August 31, 2000

Looks at other women when you are out together, and when you get mad trys to make you think the fight was your fault.

Date: Thursday, August 31, 2000

'Accidentally' letting you know he lied, a little slip in the conversation. Knowing how furious you will be when you find out. Then the BS later about how bad you made him feel when you got mad. If you weren't telling the truth, Goddamnit you were lying! Plain and simple and over and over.

Date: Friday, September 01, 2000

I don't have an example to add, I just wanted to say I can't believe how many of those examples apply to my situation. This is all very new to me, I'm just getting past the shock and denial of it all. But as early as when we were engaged, he bought me the one style of band I asked him not to. I always thought I was kind of a jerk for not being happy with it, although I told him I didn't like it BEFORE he bought it, when we were looking at different styles.

He lied so much to me, about everything and he made me think I was crazy because I doubted him so much, even when I had proof. I totally fell into the jealousy/insecurity trap. I didn't even know it was one. I thought he was right, that I was just insecure. God, I have been such a fool.

Date: Friday, September 01, 2000

O.K. How about this. "You should really be careful about denying sex. That's why a lot of men have affairs." "I'm going to help my friend's girlfriend build a gazebo." I say, "but honey, you're still working on this project at home, I would hope that you would finish that first." Response: "I wasn't asking you, I was telling you." "were there any calls for me." He says no. Later I get a phone call from my mother..."oh, by the way, your mom called." "I don't want to go to parties with you anymore. My friends are tired of your reaction to me."

...just snippets.

Date: Saturday, September 02, 2000

Always forgetting birthdays--or, unexpectedly going out to eat with friends leaving you (the birthday girl) home alone with the kids. . . . You'd even cooked a nice meal hoping for some sign that it was a special day.

Not hugging when returning from a trip--because he doesn't like public displays of affection. . . . It didn't bother him before we were married.

Date: Sunday, September 03, 2000

I love this information, it is what I having been trying to grasp hold of all these years (20 years) No-one ever hearing him abuse me this way and always giving the impression to the world that he was thoughtful, generous, warm and caring. Although people who have known us for years do believe me now we are seperated as they know me and some how have some insight into what he could be like. Only resent friends didn't beleive me when I would say I was afraid of what he might do now we are separted. My fears were founded as he tells lies about our finances and refuses to substantiate any of his claims. Yet he will pay for holidays if I ask for the children and myself but won't give us enough to live on each week. I am so grateful for this site and am hooked, reading it constantly which someimes makes me sad and like now reassures me I made the right decission to finish this long and destructive marriage. Now I realise, I still have to get passed the fact that when he has a girlfriend that its not becaue I am not good enough its because he can not be alone as he looses any identity. All our married life I felt not worthy enough or attractive enough as he never complimented my appearance and treated others much better than me. What a life saver this site is and much thanks goes to Irene.

Date: Sunday, September 03, 2000

The post with out a name is Lindy!

Date: Sunday, September 03, 2000

I just want to say that covert abuse, in my opinion, truly batters one spirit. I have been depressed with suffering from being verbally hit for months. I finally feel freedom from him - though its been hard - when things between us finally came to a head about 6 weeks ago.

If it wasn't for great friends - especially my girlfriends who have experienced the same treatment in their past with man - I don't know what I would have done.

Having supportive and loving and caring friends mean the difference between tragic endings and at least making it through some rough roads. May God Bless my friends - if you are reading this - you know who you are, Claire-Bear. :)

Date: Tuesday, September 05, 2000

The lies are huge and I've have discovered more since we split.

Another big thing I have discovered is that the things he criticized me about were the very things he is insecure about. If he was feeling insecure about the way he looked, he would say mean things about how I looked. Then it was my fault that I didn't have a lot of confidence and was insecure.


Date: Tuesday, September 05, 2000

comparing me to his chipmonk, his girlfriend ( I call her chipmonk) LOL not verbally doing it, but by his LOOKS, disapproving looks, and his actions.

Date: Tuesday, September 05, 2000

I feel so bad because of HIS lies. His affair. He projected that CRAP off onto ME.. saying I was the ONE doing it.. lying, and having boyfriends. I found out it was him the whole time after discovering a very neat trick on the computer that reveals a history. ALL you gotta do is hit "start" then find files.. click in modified then click during the past 2 days. You will see a folder marked "trash" its a notepad document.. open that. *L* You'll see .. it will ALL be revealed what your man is up to on the computer. He would accuse me of the very things HE was doing.. its nearly driven me MAD!! I recently found his "trash" file and suddenly he is bringing home flowers.. but as the old song goes *L* too much, too little too late.. I'm moving out ASAP after 24 years of abuseive behavior out of this man. I love this site! Just recently found it! Keep posting! Thanks

Date: Wednesday, September 06, 2000

Had a female friend that I met initially and then would hear from other people that he was visiting with her (he would not tell me when he visited with her). When I asked him how come he would tell me about all his visits with other "friends" but not with her, he would say because you don't like her. Everything was laid on me and I accepted it.

Date: Wednesday, September 06, 2000

What about the shadow? After years of covert abuse he switches to overt abuse due to fear of losing you.

He goes to bed when I go to bed. Gets up when I get up. Watches me put on my makeup. Comes by my work constantly with gifts, coffee, or to say hi. Stops his hobbies and all of the sudden enjoys mine. Asks many "innocent" questions on the rare occasion I go out. Shows up many times at the same place I am out at. Compliments me many times over on a daily basis. Tells me he will be my "doll" to do with as I please and says he loves it. Manages his time to always be around whenever I have free time. Does not respect my boundaries in regards to my space and privacy.

( this has been going on for two years now ) Does all of the above ( and more ) under the pretense of his intense love for me. ( says NO ONE could ever love me the way HE does ) I hope not.

I could go on but I think you get the picture. I've recently told him I want a separation ( twice now in 15 months) and I allowed him to talk me out of it. I was pulled back under by his terror and his tears.


Date: Friday, September 08, 2000


I first posted on August 7th with a long list of my personal experiences with covert spousal abuse. I have a few more to add to your list. These recent experiences are a result of attempts to confront my husband with the fact that he has been verbally abusing me. I should have known that he would take my words and distort them. But it DOES NOT matter because I know that it is him, and not me. It is all he knows....

1. When I told him that he has been verbally abusing me all along and that it isn't any different than physical abuse he said: "It is not the same! It isn't a crime!!!" I just looked at him (no reaction) and walked away. Not a clue......

2. When he told me that the real reason for our "marital conflict" was that "we just don't get along anymore" and nothing else! He said "I hate conflict and you love it" and that was the reason we don't "get along"! Conflict to him was me standing up to him when he was verbally abusive, or being cruel or nasty and saying "stop it"! Or confronting his lies, half-truths, cheating, drinking, detachment, etc.......In other words, I wasn't a doormat and he could not handle that! I confronted him on everything......

3. He also said, "Well, if I abuse you then how come no one else says that about me or how come I don't do it to anyone else?" (i.e. his girlfriend!)

4. He tried to constantly turn the tables and blame me for his abuse, cheating, self-medicating, lying, etc. by saying that "he isn't able (or capable) to respect me or love me the way that he should!" He said that "he just can't meet up to my expectations (or anyone else for that matter) and be a perfect husband!" He admits that "you deserve to have a wonderful husband and I cannot be that!" How can you argue with that?

5. He said, "You don't need me and I need someone who needs me more than you. You are strong and independent and I am not. I have been just holding you back in life!" Just another way to justify and convince himself that his decision to cheat and lie was MY fault and not his!

Crazymaking.......that is all it is! Just distorted justifications to remove responsibility from himself for all the poor choices and bad behavior.

Dr. Irene, at some point, would you expand on passive-aggressive behavior by men and how it relates directly to covert verbal abuse?. It may be enlightening to everyone to know that covert abuse is deeply rooted in P/A behavior. Until a year ago, I never even heard of P/A! I see now how a P/A personality like my husband is capable of doing the things he has and I know how to respond (or not react) to it! It may help validate and put a lable on this type of behavior. Once I read Patricia Evan's book on P/A, I knew I wasn't all in my head! Once validated, I was able to remove "the blame" from myself for everything he was doing to me. That started my journey to healing. I would even use my own experience as an example if it would help!

Thank you again..... Knowledge is power and you have helped all of us gain our power back! For that, I am so very thankful.

Denise :)

Date: Wednesday, September 13, 2000

1. Said that if my son wasn't in the house he wouldn't have an anger problem. 2. Changes everything that was said. 3. If he threw something near me, "I just tossed it." 4. Doesn't need counseling, I do. Which I do need to get healthy and sane from dealing with his crazy thinking. 5. Blames me for past issue's, changes what I said. (He wanted to go to a wake and a funeral but only "stop in" because his Mom said he should at least be seen there. I said "why not go to one and stay the whole time to show support of the family". Later he changed it to that I didn't want him to go at all. (crazy thinking again) 6. If I forget to make a payment that he put out the night before, gets angry and stay's angry. I am human and forget. 7. States that "I am the one who is trying to control HIM" 8. Is happy one day that I will help with teaching at the church. But will have a tone about him, that he doesn't want me to after I have agreed to the church that I would. Then on the appointed day treat the kids badly so I don't want to go. 9. offer to take someone's dog they don't want, then constantly put the dog down. or yells at the dog for barking, threatens to hit the dog. 10. Wants me to do all the punishing so he doesn't look like a Jerk. 11. One time I did call him a name, and felt very badly that I went to that extrem. and told him that. I called him a looser. Now when ever I want to talk about something, he just say's that he is a looser. I walk away, but will keep going to the kids in the room that "Daddy is a Looser".

Thats it for now, Maybe, Therese

Date: Friday, September 15, 2000

I'm sure we all could go on and on, but here are a few that I can think of:

After we began dating fairly seriously, I told him that I had suffered from depression for at least 10 years and had just started taking anti-depressants when we met. He said things such as "perhaps that is one of your gifts-you know a lot of artists have been depressed and used it to make beautiful things." Later- "if you stop taking the drugs, I will support you and be here to make you happy."

I stopped taking them and he gave me no support. In fact, if I brought up anything that bothered me he would first attack and analyze the words that I used to express myself. Then we would sit and argue about what a bad communicator I was until I was too exhausted, confused, and upset to deal with the original issue. Once in a while, if I insisted on continuing even after this long, drawn out haggling, he would tell me that he originally knew what I meant and basically that I was wrong using reasons mentioned below.

He would say I was being a feminazi and overanalyzing what he contributed to the relationship because he was a man. Or that I had a persecution complex probably due to my depression. I misinterpreted everything he did and said because I was so negative about everything also probably b/c of my depression. Usually he would add that there are things that he contributes that I can't see. Huh?

There were many times where he was extremely condescending or patronizing, especially when I tried to make him understand why I was reacting the way that I was. Things like "Oh, I understand more than you think I do" as if he knew what was going on in my mind more than I did.

Some things were a little less subtle like, after we broke up and decided to still spend time together, I said that we couldn't have sex. He was completely perplexed and used all of the following to get me to have sex with him regardless of the fact that I told him it made me feel terrible.

"I have a very high sex drive and if I don't receive intimate contact from you, I will have to go somewhere else to get it."

"I can't spend time with you as a friend unless you give me a handjob and get some of this sexual frustration out of the way."

"There are a lot of other girls who would love to spend time with me."

"I've had female friends before that I didn't have sex with but we gave each other sexual relief sometimes. You know, like massages, handjobs, and cuddling. It's no big deal."

And one thing that someone mentioned but that was huge for me was that he would offer to do something for or with me and then not show up or say he would do it another time or he needed to take a nap. Basically, I was completely unable to rely on him in any way and was always getting my hopes up only to feel unimportant enough for him to do some little thing that I couldn't do alone.

Etc, etc. I've been reading a lot of much more overt abuse from other posts and know that it's a terrible, difficult thing to deal with, but I'm so glad that you have dedicated a spot to covert abuse, because I think it's more difficult to spot and easier to justify. Each of these things aren't necessarily damaging to a person's self-confidence if it happens alone or once in a great while. But they add up, especially when they are constant. I began to think, "maybe I am taking my feminist values too far" or "maybe I do misinterpret his statements as threats or attacks simply because I'm looking through a negative lens due to my depression." One thing that really helped me identify what was going on (besides my therapist) was writing down everything I could think of that had hurt, bothered, or confused me all in one place, kind of like this, only really extensive. The patterns become much more clear when all of these instances are right there, in your face. Hope this helps someone. M.

Date: Friday, September 15, 2000

I was thinking of all the past posts. And I saw a cycle there. How I don't engage with him anymore. but to the point of putting on blinders so I don't deal with it. The councilor I see wants me to leave him. I don't want to live in it anymore. He is playing these crazy games with my son also. How can he deal with it when I can't either. My son has rages towards my husband, whenever my husband talks to him. He cries about what he says to him. We have 6 children together. My two are 16 and 10 his is 15 and our together are 8, 5, and 17 months. You state not to engage. I do engage when he does after my 10 year old. He would glare at him at dinner, and just wait for him to eat with his mouth open. Then when my son gets mad at him, my husband will exagerate with a sigh, Like he is just the biggest problem. My husband will not go to counseling. Then he complains if I say, we need help, and I don't know what to do anymore. I am tired of living this way, that we get help or it will have to end. Then he say's to Me"It's your way or the highway." Which makes me feel like I am trying to controll him. When all I want is a sane house to live in. I told him to think of some things to help us, but we need to get better, or I will have to end the madness. I know that our children is very effected by this. I don't know how to disengage when he is after me son. For some reason he has always been upset by my 10 year old. Can not and will not show him any love, and it is getting worse, I have read Codependant no more, His needs her needs, Relationship Rescue. And countless other books. I have left when he would have tantrums, and tell the kids that we need to go to the park, because some things we don't need to be around. How do I help my son? And I worry that I will hurt our children by leaving. Our son who is 5 really took it hard when we left for a year, that is when my husband was overt and covert abuse. I had to put a restraining order on him to get him away from us. Now he makes sure he doesn't cross that line, to be able to put an other restraining order on him. The crazy thinking. My blinders are off now for about a week. I am planning our get away. And of course he is being nice right now, but he still is waiting to get angry and still looking at my son as thow it is all his fault. Not to mention, he blames me for not punishing him enough. I know I do the right things with the kids, with punishment and love, and respect. My fault is sticking around so long hoping it would work after he had changed. But he was changed back. Pray for my Childrens safety, and pray for my swittness to be able to provide for them a safe and HAPPY home.


Date: Thursday, September 21, 2000

When I ask him a question, he always states that why do you always ask me stuff? His mom called him at work to tell him she has some hamburger for us to pick up. Oh, how come she didn't call me? He had gotten very angery with me. Somethings do not make since. He made it bigger then who I ment it to be. Stayed angry for a long time and made the dinner time very hard.


Date: Friday, September 22, 2000

I found this site looking for support for emotional abuse. *whew*! So glad to have found it.

It took me a long time to realize the covert forms of abuse that Darren perpetrated, and a long time to admit to myself and others that was in an abusive relationship. (how could this happen to me?) I couldn't figure out why I was so *afraid* of him after the breakup - he was never ever violent towards me....

Anyways, as part of dealing with my anger and trying to heal, I wrote down a bunch of things so that I could direct friends who asked "what happened" to the page.

Also I felt compelled to add a few other things to this list

Things he said to keep me there after he lied and manipulated me and I had almost had enough:


"You are the best thing that ever happened to me and I haven't been treating you that way. I'm going to start treating you that way."

"I'm worried that if I can't make it work with you, I'll never be able to make a relationship work with ANYONE..."

"I want to stop feeling bad about myself" (Implying that it was MY fault that he was feeling bad about himself)

Other things he did that were really insidious:

Do something "nice" like buy a new comforter, but it's got feathers in it, and I'm allergic to feathers, but he "forgot"...

I ask him to go out to see movie X. He says he wants to wait until his son is over next week and we can all go. While I am out at work the next night, he goes to movie X with friends. He invalidates my feelings of hurt and implies that I am just feeling jealous (and that's an invalid emotion for me to feel). He cannot understand what my problem is...

Make jokes about you to friends, and encourage others to make fun of you, and then tell you about it. When you express that you are hurt by his behavior, he invalidates your feelings - you are just overreacting, it was all in fun, etc...

He behaves in a rude or disrespectful fashion. You tell him calmly how hurt and upset you are. He refuses to apologize, and invalidates your feelings in a patronizing and condescending way- you are being overly sensitive, overreacting, or just can't take a joke. When you burst into tears, he goes cold or accuses you of trying to manipulate him. He continues to treat you rudely and with disrespect. You get angry and start yelling. Now he gets angry with you, and goes even colder. Nothing gets resolved. The next day he is doing the cold-shoulder thing and you ask, "why are you so angry with me?" "because you yelled at me." "Yes, I yelled because you were rude, patronizing and you invalidated my feelings. Why are you angry with me?" "You yelled at me." (this is as far as you will get - it's best to stop there)

He projected his behavior onto me - blamed me for his behaviors and his fears: "What are you going to do when there is no one else to blame?"

"I'm not responsible for your feelings. There is nothing I can do about what I've done."

"I can't promise I'll never make the same mistake again."

"You just want me to say I'm sorry and I'll never do it again, so that when I screw up you can point a finger at me and say 'There! See?! You did it again when you promised you wouldn't!'" (I had NEVER done that...)

He insisted that I change my behavior - sleep habits, booking time with him, but admitted it was never enough.

Insisted that I had not shown enough attention to him and that he had been doing all the work. Convinced me that I had to book "dates" with him in order to spend time with him. Then he would reject my suggestions for activities and often we would sit around doing nothing.

Repeatedly rejected my suggestions for activities saying that he didn't like to this or that, but would go and do those things with other friends at some later date.

Periodically lost interest in sex with me until someone else showed an interest in me.

Expects my language to be precise, but he can say "You're not down" and invalidate my feelings and it's OK because he *meant* that I had lots of good things in my life.

Recounts warped, twisted or plainly untrue versions of events from emotionally charged situations, so that you are not certain what *really* happened. I.e. swears up and down that I came into the room yelling at him about the window. I DID yell, but only much later when he became patronizing and rude. I insist I DIDN'T come in yelling, he is shouting at me, "YES YOU DID", I am crying in horror and disbelief - "No I did not!" he berates me several times and then shouts, "You came in here yelling and TORE back the curtain". There was NO curtain on the window that day - it was brand new. I had to ask him to put one up later...

Breaks fundamental relationship agreements, or "forgets" that he made those agreements or promises

When caught in a lie or situation he can't pin on you, he starts telling sob stories about his childhood abuse or about his kids, trying to deflect and make you feel sorry for him.

When I tried to arrange or schedule some cuddle or intimate time, he said with a wry, patronizing look, "I don't see the point....we never seem to have much success in booking these things in advance..." - Implying that I am unreliable

Used my friends to try and hurt me.

Became "buddies" with a former friend of mine, claiming that he was "friends" with her too, before our friendship broke up. Participated in social outings with groups of mutual friends and my former friend, where I was explicitly excluded from the invitation (he told me I was not welcome to join them). Treated my upset at his going as MY problem, and that he had no responsibility to my feelings.

took the flowers from my hand and gave them to my friend in the hospital, making it look like they came from him. did not tell her that *I* brought the flowers until I asked him to.

Flirts heavily with your friends.

Tries to become buddies with your best female friends so they'll feel "caught in the middle" if you have a conflict and undermining and destabilizing your support network.

Acts like an inconsiderate asshole and then says that he was just "nurturing" himself and taking care of himself. Has no respect for boundaries, personal or otherwise.

Floated between martyr mode and asshole mode with no in between.

Gave conditionally. Expected things in return but never stated what it was - expected you to read his mind and know what he wanted....



Date: Saturday, September 23, 2000

I just found this site: what a Godsend. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I did not realize this problem was so common, and that so many women were having experiences just like mine! Some of the examples given almost make me wonder if you know my ex. . .

Examples? *called me a "fat whore" while 6 mo pregnant; then denied it, then claimed it was in jest. *rubbed my face in meeting another women (who "looked just like his beautiful ex") while I was pregnant and self concious of my own changing body, then claimed it was his friend who was interested in her! (LIAR) *constantly used my insecurities against me *constant withholding of affection, intimacy, emotions *constantly living in his own DENIAL *RARELY taking responsibility for his own actions I can't even go on. I just want to move on emotionally. How many people out there are emotional abusers? And how many people are victims? How common is this?


I want to tell every women on this site that by informing yourselves you are watching out for yourselves. You are taking your power back. And I am so proud of all of you.

Sunshine - don't fall into his traps. He is setting them up for you. Forget the "family." Their true loyalties will always lie with him - he is blood. (I know how you feel) Move on from here. Create your own world. You are doing great so far! GOOD JOB!

Date: Friday, September 29, 2000

Sees you upset, crying, depressed, whatever, but never offers any comfort -- no kind words, no hugs, nothing. Yet professes greats concern for your well-being.

Tells you something important as he is going out the door, or as you are. No chance to ask questions or express concern or state your own viewpoint.

Date: Friday, September 29, 2000

More examples of covert abuse: -You don't remember this, but when........(it can be anything from old songs, movies to things that we did together). -Deciding for me: "We are going to watch ....on TV." -Talking NON-STOP and ONLY about the past (20 years and more ago) about his friends, his childhood and his adolescent age. Everything BEFORE we met. -If he was talking about OUR past those were ONLY bad memories. -NOT discussing present problems and issues (kids' school, finances, social life, like we don't exist and we don't have any needs and we are not related to him, he avoids to participate in every day's activities) -Never wanting to discuss current problems, and acting like I am attacking him verbaly if I want to discuss what can we do about something. -Not discussing-refusing to-and/or being unrealistic and/or very consize in planning future for the family. Regarding my husband-to-be-ex, I was very surprised when he agread to participate in our son's school regular volunteer activity, every second week. I thought, at least, he loves his son and he is improving. After I kicked him out of the apartment (that's a long story) three days ago, I went to the volunteer's night at our son's school as a replacement. As I started to suspect lately, he was using that oportunity to get closer to other students' MOMS! They were aproaching me and asking me to many questions about him. I just said that he couldn't come. I did not tell them that we separated a day ago. I want to see their dissapointed faces when I come next time. I will tell them that he was escorted by the police (he is so nice to OTHER women that they won't believe me) and he had moved. Conclusion: if he improves in something suddenly and a great deal-something IS FISHY. -I discovered recently that he was going arround and bad-mouthing me to his friends. -Telling me through all those years "Yes, they were right when they told me about you. They have all told me that, they all know you, you are like that!" When I asked him who are "they", he said "everybody" and what "that" means-no answer. I was listening to that for years, trying to improve myself so I won't be like "that". Ironically, I did improve and I am not any longer like "that" (whatever "that" is). Now he must be very happy with improved wife-to-be-ex, kicked out of the apartment, with restraining order in his hands, no job, no money for his excessive drinking and smoking, nobody to yell at, nobody to hit and blame. I really hope that this is going to be a soul-clensing experience for him. Another hope I have is that he is not going to find another victim to terrorize so he can really improve and change. Not for my sake, but for his own. God bless you Dr. Irene. God bless Bill Gates for the Internet. A.

Date: Saturday, September 30, 2000

* Would tell me he was coming over to my house after work, and then never show up. When I'd call his house he wasn't there, and I couldn't find him. He wouldn't call and would leave me waiting and waiting wondering who he was with or what he was doing. He'd call me much later at night, when it was too late to come over. He'd make up some lame excuse about going out with friends or having work to do. Even though I didn't trust him, I never questioned what he did, otherwise I'd be an "over reactor." He did this several times to me, and every time it happened, I'd get upset and he would apologize for not calling me and promise to never do it again. But he continued to do this, either making me wait for his call or making me wait for him and it made me feel as if he was more important than me - after all I was the one waiting. * would tell me his ex-wife went "crazy." He would say when he first married her she was normal, but by the end of the marriage she went "crazy", stalking him and calling him all the time. Gee, I wonder why? * Proposed to me while I was driving (Yes, this really happened). Handed me his mother's hand-me-down engagement ring, the size of a promise ring, and said "I know you've been expecting this." First of all, I was not at all close to his mother and the ring was not an antique with special meaning. Secondly, I was driving! Lastly, what was I going to say to people, "Oh, it was so romantic I was driving to the store and he practically threw the ring at me." * When I questioned whether the degree I was pursuing was the right one and decided to take a semester off, he got mad at me and said I better find a job right away to pay off my student loans. I already felt bad about the decision, and he just made me feel worse. I expected him to be supportive, after all I was always supportive of his major decisions, but instead he just made me question my own ability to make my own decisions without consulting him first. It turns out it was him that was the bad decision, not my career choice. *Moved out of his parents house (Yes, he was 30 years old and still lived at home) and didn't bother to tell me he moved. I found out from his dad, who I guess felt sorry for me, that he had moved out. The real kicker - I had tried to break up with him a day before and he begged me not to leave him. When I figured out where he lived and confronted him about it (I just had to!) he said it was a surprise! * Denial, denial, denial. Not only me but him, too. He denied cheating on me, even when I found a condom wrapper in his bathroom trash. "I don't know how it got there. I had lots of friends over last night." First of all, he didn't invite me and second he slept with another girl while we were still intimate. *Raising his fist as if he was going to hit me. Raising his leg as if he was going to kick me. When I'd flinch at him for other things he'd get mad at me and say "I've never hit you before, you act like I'm abusive. Have I ever abused you?"

Dr. Irene, please post this. I think it would help other people. Since all this happened to me, my life has completely changed. I didn't even know the abuse was happening to me. Sometimes it amazes me all that I went through because now I feel like I'm who I was, if not better than I was before I met him. I wish the abuse never happened, but if it never did I would not be the person I am today. The little things make me happy now. In fact, I actually have the ability to be happy now.

September 29, 2000 Thanks for having such a great site, AR

Date: Sunday, October 01, 2000

Hey Dr. Irene,

Firstly I think this sight is wonderful and god bless you for all that you do.

John and I are separated and supposedly working it out. His sister has been very volitile to me in the past (shock, shock, they did grow up in the same environment) partly because of his demonizing. We are not living together so the overt abuse is a no no. However, when I pulled up in front of John's house and his sister was outside, he waved me away.!!!!!! Down low behind his back he waved his hand so I would keep driving and his sister wouldn't be upset.

I signed him up for food delivery, he asked my two times to do this. I signed him up had the food delivered and he was clearly agitated. He said he wasn't crazy about not having the controld over was food was bought. He told me he was going to have it charged to his mother's credit card (another one who hates my guts). I asked him if he mentioned that I was the one who set it up to his mother and he said no. You see John hides money and is a cash kinda guy. This was his reason for involving his mom.

Dr. Irene I am sad to say that I could go on and on filling this e-mail but I will leave some room for others. I wish more than anything that you were a doctor in Boston :). I could really use your help.




Date: Thursday, October 05, 2000

*goes out of his way to complain about trivial things, like food going bad in the refrigerator. *hurts you with the truth, like saying he is telling you you need to lose weight "for your own good, because I am concerned about your health". But, not offering to help you do it by not eating unhealthful things around you. "Don't you have any willpower?" *Blames anything your children do wrong on you because you were around more of the time than he was. *When you talk to other people casually about him, he gets mad at you for "telling other people my business". *Drives the car just recklessly enough to scare you, and then accuses you of being paranoid. *When at a company gathering, spends most of his time with other people and not with you.

Date: Friday, October 06, 2000

Acting distant the night before I would have a big presentation at work. He would say, "go ahead and do your work", but I would feel like we had unfinished business. It would be hard for me to concentrate on my work with him silently fuming. I came to realize that this was a pattern. He was never supportive of my work and always distracted me with acting wierd while I needed to concentrate.

When I needed his advice he said, "I never burden you with my problems."

When I said "I don't feel well" (I was pregnant with a high risk pregnancy) He said, "what does that mean for me?"

Date: Friday, October 06, 2000

Goes around changing your maiden name to the new married name (his) and then adding his name to items, goods, car, possessions you purchased well before you were married - - without asking you if it's okay. When questioned about it, he innocently says, "It's no big deal, we're married, I thought it would be okay."

Date: Saturday, October 07, 2000

Tells you no husband is as good as he is. Kills you with kindness then expects you to thank him for it.

Date: Thursday, October 12, 2000

My partner used to start a row with me then he would storm out saying i was insecure and mad and would disappear for the whole weekend where I couldn't get hold of him.

He used to take phone calls in the other room or pull the phone lead out of the socket every time i stayed over.

He would always say he'll ring at say 2 and then call at 6 or 7 and say that I was nagging him and i didn't understand if he couldn't get to the phone.

He would say I was holding him back from his life and his dreams.

Date: Thursday, October 12, 2000

Beverly Engel calls one form of covert abuse "Gaslighting", this is a form of emotional abuse in which the abuser makes the victim feels as though she can't remember things, is losing her mind, or is being insecure or jealous when she brings things to his attention THAT HE IS REALLY GUILTY OF. I experienced this all the time in my relationship, and I wish I could say it was the only form of mental abuse I suffered. I have a college degree, but my boyfriend always called me "dingy". He was a musician and did alot of gigs. When I got dates and places mixed up, he acted as if I should be as accurate as a secretary and became insulted that I didn't have his schedule memorized. How self-centered!!

Date: Friday, October 13, 2000

You ask a question, even something that directly concerns him (e.g. "Would you rather we go to visit your mother on Saturday or Sunday?), and you just get a shrug. No words....just a shrug that LOOKS like "I don't care", but really means "You decide, then I can hold it against you when it turns out to be the wrong decision."

Date: Saturday, October 14, 2000

He bought air tickets for a trip without telling me. When I asked on Mon. if he could watch the kids on Sat. morning, he said casually, "Oh, I will be in California."

When I try and tell him something about what I have been doing, he will start playing with and talking to the dogs, will not make eye contact with me. He gives me no response when I talk to him.

Date: Tuesday, October 17, 2000

Here's what she does that makes me feel crazy...

*If I forget a single detail about her work day, she says "You don't care about me, you don't know me well enough." *Sticks her tongue out at me and says f**k you for absolutely no reason. When I ask her to stop it, she says she can do whatever the hell she wants. *Grabs my crotch or my rear, when i respond, she backs away and says 'don't touch me'. I ask her to stop doing that because it's teasing me, she says she'll do whatever she wants and I'll like it. *When I tell her I'm not a toy, that I'm a human being with real feelings and needs, she replies "You're whatever I say you are. What I say, that's what you are." *I ask her to stop being abusive, she says "You can leave anytime you want." *Accuses me of having other girlfriends. I don't. *Insults me, then when I seem hurt, says I "need to lighten up." Help. I try the usual things to say. I always get right back, "you're wrong."

Date: Tuesday, October 24, 2000

Sound familiar, anyone?

I should avoid emotional closeness, because it leaves me vulnerable and open to hurt. I will adopt an attitude of aloofness and indifference to keep my partner from getting a piece of me. Besides, if I let my partner get into my head, I will be under her rule and will be smothered. I will lose myself. To prevent this, I will subconsciously and consciously distance myself from my partner to keep her from overtaking me, while giving her fleeting moments of tenderness to keep her near me.

Here's how I'll go about it.

I will put off her requests for closeness, for talks and for time alone together. I will interrupt her and dismiss her opinions. I will show little interest when she wants to share an insight or a story from her day, and I will not share mine. When she hears me share something with someone else and asks "Why didn't you tell me that?" I will say "I didn't think you'd be interested" or "I forgot." I will scoff at her interests as well as her choices and habits. Also, I will make sure I don't miss a chance to point out - with a tone of superiority and "rightness"-- how opposite or different her choices and habits are from mine. This helps prove that any attempts at "working" on our relationship will likely fail, since we are so different and thereby gives me more reason to distance myself.

I will spend my time at home on house projects, watching TV, reading magazines or playing with the kids - anything and everything to leave no time for us to have a private moment. I will stay up each night later than her to avoid any closeness when we go to bed, then tell her she needs too much sleep. If I want to have sex, I will wake her from her sleep and began touching her, knowing she'll respond because I've minimized affection and she's craving any intimacy I'll offer. When I am not at home avoiding her, I will pursue activities outside the home and not include her or "forget" to tell her about my activities until the day of the event, thereby leaving little possibility that she can attend with me.

To keep her within arm's reach, I will occasionally throw out a "we should do X…" I may even really mean to do something with her, but I won't ever make it a priority so that other "things" I have to do will always come first.. I will leave my schedule open to attend whatever event I want, work on any project I want, or go out with friends (without considering that I should find a sitter because I know she'll be home). But I will raise a fuss when she decides to take a night off from the house and the kids without getting my OK. After all, she always checks with me to see if I'll be home, so if she doesn't check, she must be punishing me, and I will call her on it. I will evade suggestion from her for a night out together or will commit to a night out grudgingly and without any sign of enthusiasm. When she stops initiating dates for us and then later complains about our lack of "fun time," I will (with irritation in my tone) remind her that she needs to initiate it - I can't always be the one initiating.

If she asks that we have a "talk," I will put on my game face of mild irritation at her demand that I share. I will let her run the talk, not offering much input and not validating her opinions. If she pushes ANY buttons or requests any changes in my behavior, I will unleash my rage and feel it is my entitlement to cut her, criticize, accuse her of "riding" me and then leave the room or the house, so that she can't continue "talking" to me. Her "talking" is just a cover to get a chance to bitch at me anyway. When she sets up a session with a counselor, I will go so that no one can place blame on me for not going. Then I will tell the counselor that the reasons we have problems is because we are "very different people so we can't communicate with each other."

Once in a while, I will throw her a crumb and share a thought or a hug with her. Or, at the spur of the moment, I will decide -- without asking her first -- to take her out to dinner so that she can't say to her friends or my family "He NEVER spends time alone with me." I will subvert any attempts from her to talk about us spending more time together during these rare occasions when I do spend a night with her.

I will show disgust at her lack of confidence and insecurities. Then I will bring up her tender spots (insecurities) whenever it helps me gain the upper hand or control in an uncomfortable situation. That way, the focus of whatever comes up is shifted away from me and onto her unreasonable insecurities.

When she reacts to any of this with anger or other high emotions (yelling, getting hysterical, crying, bawling, or walks around joyless and bitter), I will offer very little comfort, concern, reassurance or attention. After all, she is trying to punish me with all her hysterical and depressing emotions, and I don't need the hassle.

Her anger and emotional reactions provide "good reasons" to keep distancing myself from such an intentionally hurtful person. I will make sure I tell my friends and family that her only moods are depressed, hysterical, joyless and bitter, and nothing I do is ever enough for her. That way I can make an ironclad case that proves to everyone, including myself, that it is her fault when she leaves me. DJ

Date: Tuesday, October 24, 2000

Gets an attitude often after something you say and when you question him because you know you didn't say anything offensive his reply is constantly "as I always say it's not what you say, it's how you say it".

Date: Thursday, October 26, 2000

I am finally realizing I could write a book on covert abuse, having experienced it for nearly 20 years...

I express an opinion. "You don't think that, you think..."

I am oversensitive. I must be having my "period". Women sure are emotional. Can't I take a joke?

We are on our honeymoon. We are making love. He has finished but I have not. He completely withdraws and becomes angry. I ask what the matter is. "This is just pure sex to you." (Several affairs later I suddenly realize just how projective he is.) Thus the start of our married life is based on fear around sex. I buy skimpy nighties. He says that I look like a whore. He wakes me up masturbating in the toilet.

I say that I disagree on a family decision. Disaster is predicted.

I give a gift. "I think that in the future you should ask me what I want."

I write a poem for our anniversary about how much I love him and what I find special about him. He reads it. He tries to smile but the look is pain and hatred.

I buy a new dress. "Hmmm... I sure wouldn't have picked that one out."

I have friends over to dinner. He goes upstairs and falls asleep.

I am in consulting. He talks about how consultants are disgusting.

I read Redbook magazine. He says that he can't figure me out (not intellectual enough, you see). I discover him reading it in the basement (as with so many other things he criticized and then does).

I introduce him to a friend. When I mention her name later he casually says how weird she is.

I put on an a very special party for our only child's first birthday. All the guests come with an "offering" for the child (something symbolic to aid him on his journey). He pronounces the whole thing stupid and is 2 hours late because he was doing the oh-so-important work of skiing.

He agrees to be home at a certain time every day. Rarely is. Never calls. (And yeah, I have learned to let that food cool and just enjoy myself. But it does upset my son terribly.) Expects praise when he manages.

I am talking to small son trying to enlist his help in lighting the wood stove. He is reluctant. DH comes over and offers to do it, thereby undermining my parenting. Then *he* starts trying to enlist son's help, but son just heard him say that he'd do it, and he points this out. 7 year old son is then yelled at for never helping around the house. (not exactly covert, but until I began to get this abuse thing I wouldn't have even seen how sick this really was)

We are newly married and get out of the car. I lock the doors. Hubby reacts as if there is a choke chain around his neck. He does this every day. It is supposed to be funny apparently.

I set up a cabinet with special things from my mother and grandmother. He rearranges it.

He gives away the bike attachment son and I use to ride together, saying that "he's old enough to ride on his own." Son is six. We had 2 years left on that, at least, and no, he's not able to keep up in the least and starts to hate his bike.

He scowls when my mother calls and tells me how strange my family is. We go to visit his mother, who he hasn't seen for 2 years, and they don't touch each other.

I tell him I love him while he's on a business trip. Silence.

My parents and grandparents die. He never comes to help or comfort me.

He laughs that he's so forgetful of my birthday. I stop believing that anyone will ever do anything special for me on that day.

I calmly and politely tell him that his actions and words are painful to me, and that I want him to stop. He tells me to stop yelling at him.

This all very hard to write after 20 years and the list is long. We are separated but he is in therapy for sexual and work addiction (I didn't even get into the things he has said about other women and how he expected me to "be there for him" as he worked through his crap). I told him last night that I had been reading about abuse and how it all fit and that I needed to do a lot of work around it. He tells me that he cried all night. He didn't ask for anything, said that a dam had burst and he was in intense pain. He says that for the first time he had realized what deep pain he has caused me and others, and that he wants to stop but he is afraid. I am glad to hear it even though I know it hurts. Maybe if he can finally feel his own pain (much of which was a "gift" from his parents) there is a chance for him. I have never before heard him admit to any weakness. I don't know if it is too late for me and him or not, but I have enough pain of my own, thanks, and I'm done being the outlet for his.

I finally am beginning to understand that his need for control isn't about *me* at all. It's about a little (in his mid-fifties) boy whose life is out of control and who thereby must control what he can, because otherwise disaster will result (he will be beaten). The house will never look good enough, the child will never be perfect enough, sickness is weakness, don't give the child glasses because then his eyes will never strengthen, the wife (me) will never be right, the holidays can never be joyous, and jokes will always have a victim.


Date: Sunday, October 29, 2000

A wonderfully uplifting comment: You have a Masters degree. You should have known better. (Ahh, thanks for the support...) 

Date: Thursday, November 02, 2000

You make a great dinner that you are so very proud of, and you have to ask him if he likes it. Or, he says, "hey, this isn't bad!" He knows how proud you are of it, so that's why he holds back the compliment.

You make a great dinner that you are proud of, he comes in and you act excited about the dinner that you have prepared for him and he says he's not hungry.

Something HILARIOUS happened at work, and when you tell him about it he forces out a chuckle, completely disinterested.


Date: Thursday, November 02, 2000

I moved out and he is of course telling everyone that he "kicked me out". He kept all of the beautiful furniture that he supposedly bought for me, leaving me with nothing. I don't care - I'll live forever with no furniture as long as I don't have to live with him. I'm staying at my parents house now, and he knows I can't afford much. He told me where there was a house for rent, and I passed by there one day and it was a total rat trap that I would never live in. He asked me one day if I wanted him to look at Goodwill for a couch that I could buy. The furniture he "bought me" was new and beautiful.

Date: Thursday, November 02, 2000

I moved out and he is of course telling everyone that he "kicked me out". He kept all of the beautiful furniture that he supposedly bought for me, leaving me with nothing. I don't care - I'll live forever with no furniture as long as I don't have to live with him. I'm staying at my parents house now, and he knows I can't afford much. He told me where there was a house for rent, and I passed by there one day and it was a total rat trap that I would never live in. He asked me one day if I wanted him to look at Goodwill for a couch that I could buy. The furniture he "bought me" was new and beautiful.

Date: Friday, November 10, 2000

Constantly telling me to watch my f&*^g mouth. (Only, when "I" cuss its disgusting. )


Date: Tuesday, November 21, 2000

makes you take out the garbage when you are 9 months pregnant

Date: Wednesday, November 22, 2000

Here's my list - I've realized, after the Paxil helped him with the overt stuff (rages), that a lot if his junk is covert... Mothers Day: first one after the birth of the 7th child: He gives me a vacuum cleaner, then is upset because I don't fall all over myself in gratitude. Same Mothers Day: I asked him to take the younger children shopping so that they can get me something. They spend HOURS, then on the day, the 9 year old is almost in tears, and he and his sister apologize to me because they didn't "have time" to get me a gift. Huh? Apparently he spent all the time picking out just the right household appliance to give me on a day to honor me as a mother. YUK! I think he was honoring my slavehood! This will not happen again. Either their big brothers will take them (who have a great deal of savvy in how to treat a woman well, thanks to them watching their father act like a jerk, and seeing him for who and what he is) or I will take them shopping. Making rude comments and facial expressions when I am on the phone with my mother or friends when he is or comes home. Spending most of his spare time remodeling a new office building - for the last 6 months, and giving us the left-overs in time and attention, then saying when confronted with this fact "But it's for you and the kids" HA Buying me a bunch of flowers, a rarity, then sitting on his butt while I have to empty the garbage in order to get rid of the "dead" flowers (bought myself) to make room for the new ones. Mothers Day reprise: In September, he goes to a garage sale down the street, buys tacky earrings and a broken watch, gives them to me at the garage sale in front of the neighbors and says "Happy Mothers Day" along with a cutesy kiss. Yeesh! OK Dr. Irene, this is only the tip of the iceberg. This is only a few of the things from the past few months. I asked him to leave in May because of the rages, and he was close enough to ask which computer he could take to his sisters house. I chose, yes, perhaps naively, to let him stay on the conditions that the rages stop (which they did) and he would be held accountable by me for his behavior. I have held him to account for the overt stuff, but the covert is really tough. He stopped going to counseling with me, said he couldn't see any point in going by himself because he knows he would just sit there and not say anything. He acknowledges that there is stuff he needs to deal with. I have told him repeatedly that if he won't deal with it, I am going to continue to grow and improve myself, and we won't (and don't) have much of an intimate relationship. We exist on a surface level. I am considering telling him that we have to go to counseling or he has to move out. BUT, here is my covert abuse can I point to these behaviors as anything more that "stress" or him just being a jerk, and get him to leave? Keep in mind, he's not threatening me physically, I have 7 children, and as would be typical, no money; we just finally moved in to a home of our own, and I think that him leaving would be less traumatic on the children (and me) than having to leave our home with their new friends and sense of security. I feel very trapped right now. On the outside, it all looks "not all that bad", but I know better. I also know that if he doesn't truly change, it's only a matter of time before something sets him off on a overt tantrum (he's come close a few times). Is is just that after 20 years, I don't have the momentum I need to boot him? He's the jerk - I think he should be the one to leave, not me and the kids. Sorry this is so long!


Date: Sunday, November 26, 2000

Your mother has become ill over the weekend. The "on-call" doc has called. He AND YOUR MOTHER continue to carry on a conversation even after you have ask them to be quiet so you can hear the doc. You have a space heater (which has a pilot light). The one night you go over to a friend's house to play Scrabble (first time in ten years!), he cuts pilot light off so you come home to a cold house. Has never cut pilot light off before! Your father has just died after a year-long illness (you were primary care-giver), he (hubby) gets mad when you tell him that only your bothers and you will be going to make arrangements and sulks for next 2 days! You are short, he is tall. You can only reach the first shelf of any of the kitchen cabinets. He pushes YOUR coffee mug way to the back of first shelf or puts it on second shelf! You smoke, he doesn't. He HATES the smell (he's an ex-smoker. )He buys a new car and announces, "And it DOES NOT have an ashtray!) You have to borrow his car and promise not to smoke in it and he says, "If you DO, I'll sell that S--O- a B-----! Your father is dying. Hubby tells his children to bring their children by the farm to choose the horse they want. These are registered horses that will have to be sold in order to care for your mother! You live a "stone's throw" from your dying father's house. You are back and forth between your house and his. You've never locked the doors. You come home in the middle of the day and THE DOOR IS LOCKED! You have no keys, they are inside your house! You are taking a hot shower. He flushes other toilet or starts the washing machine, or starts washes dishes. Now you are taking a cold shower!

  Date: Monday, November 27, 2000

Is it abuse? I'm still not sure. My last boyfriend was a prince, so this is new to me.

Sweeps me off my feet in the first blush of romance. Rushes the relationship, then slows it down, saying it's because of what I need, not what he needs.

Withdraws emotionally.

Isn't there when I need him--that is, when I'm upset or hurt by him. Actually says people don't hurt each other, they hurt themselves. Huh?

Says he doesn't have time for me, but makes time for his friends.

Offers me what I need, then cancels or disappoints. Example: early in the week, plans a special weekend day for us--his idea. Then cancels at the last minute, saying he has to work. Or grudgingly accepts alternate plans suggested by me. It feels like he is building my hopes up just so that he can disappoint me.

Doesn't even try to make it up to me any more. Doesn't apologize for the disappointments (see above on "we hurt ourselves.")

Won't let me see where he lives.

Tells me there are things I'll never know about him, because that's just how he is--he doesn't open up to people easily.

Works 18 hours a day sometimes.

Cuts off communication if he feels jealous.


  Date: Wednesday, November 29, 2000

Believe me, she actually did these things:

She's away on business, I call. I tell her I miss her and am looking forward to seeing her again. She replies, "I miss you, but I don't miss you." Another call; I say "I miss you, sweetie." She says "God, you're such a pushover." When she was kind, we talked about past relationships. I told her some hurtful things people had said to me. She remembered them all, and at times will begin saying them to me in a teasing manner. I feel hurt, and when I look confused, she says I can't take a joke. She initiates intimacy in a very sexual and seductive manner. When I respond, she tells me to stop, and says I'm sexually harassing her. Incidentally, if I try to initiate, she says stop immediately. I tell her I miss making love with her, and I want to feel closeness with her, as gently as possible. She replies "All the mushy rationalizations in the world can't hide that you just want to f**k me." When I feel hurt and withdraw, she acts extremely seductive. When I respond, she stops immediately. She will extend her arms and ask for a hug. I embrace her, and she drops her arms and stands like a statue. We go driving; she begins telling me about how someday a real man who knows how to spoil her will come along. She kisses me and embraces me, then whispers in my ear: "Someday I'm going to leave you." I'm speechless. I try to talk to her about things, and tell her I'm hurting and how much I miss how sweet and kind she used to be. I tell her I wish we could be close and that I love her. She moves to the edge of the couch, and snaps "F**k you! Bastard!" I say, "Please don't talk to me like that!" She replies, "God, you have no sense of humor." She starves me of affection and warmth. I can't keep away. She calls, and says if I buy her dinner, she'll sleep with me tonight. She's being playful and laughing, and I think it's OK. So I buy her dinner. She's very kind and affectionate. We go home and get into bed. She turns over and says "HA HA! You get NOTHING tonight!" Is this an abusive personality? Someone tell me please. I'm so confused.

  Date: Thursday, November 30, 2000

Asking me " Do you think that's OK?" in front of the children at the dinner table upon learning for the first time from our son that he lost a tooth the night before. In this question he is referring to my not telling him the news myself and in neglecting to, not keeping him abreast of important things that he should be told about. He had only been home for less than a half an hour and the tooth fell out the night before when he wasn't home. I told him all this, hating myself for explaining and hating him for making me feel like i had to explain, but he said that I should have known enough to leave him a note then.

  Date: Friday, December 01, 2000

Decorating for the Holidays just for you as a couple is "too much trouble", but if his family is visiting---then all of the stops are pulled out.

B1: Submit
Date: Friday, December 08, 2000

Giving me guilt trips about not wanting sex.

B1: Submit
Date: Friday, December 08, 2000

Telling me that I don't do anything all day because I stay home with our children. (I also babysit 3 other children to help us have a little extra income) Telling me that I have it so easy, that I should be grateful and that I don't know how good I've got it. Telling me that I should go to work at a real job so I'd know what its like. Then getting totally mad and verbally abusive when after working an additional job after his first job, I don't fall all over myself to stroke him and praise him for his hard work! I happen to think that my husband deserves to be acknowledged for this and I have always admired him for this principle. But I'll be damned if I'm going to praise him because he worked extra hard one day when i work very very hard every day and am told that i dont do anything and that I should be GRATEFUL to him for my "easy" life.

  Date: Friday, December 08, 2000

Apologizes by saying "I'm sorry you feel that way."

  Date: Friday, December 15, 2000

More covert abuses:

(Or perhaps not so covert):

You get a gift that is exactly what was asked for, and it lies unused.

Accuses you of most of the Doc's list of covert abuses, in spite of any and all external evidence to the contrary. e.g., says that you _never_ make time to do what he or she wants to do, when you've spent almost the time you weren't at work doing things with/for them. (And time at work was not extreme.)

You're asked a question about your profession, but the partner (not in that profession) interrupts you to answer.

In addition to being late themselves, partner belittles you for being on time or at least trying to.

Claims to have done alone things that you did together, or that you did alone.


Overt: Partner says that you _never_ do anything good together. All times together you thought were good, partner says were 'spoiled' because you didn't _also_ do X. (Bad move on your part anyhow. Pointing to something you thought was good is defending a position, and the abuser _will_ attack. Second bad move buried in there of trying to _make_ your partner happy.)

All activities you did in free time had to include your partner, _and_ they had to be things that the partner already did and liked. You, on the other hand, were to be engaging in new act ivies (i.e., partner's). Surprise -- you wound up doing a lot of things you weren't very good at, partner then talking much about how bad you were at them. Conversely, a lot of those things you are good at, you didn't do because your partner didn't like them. (Another offshoot of trying to _make_ the partner happy.)


Side note: anniversary's should be anniversaries birthday's should be birthdays

  Date: Tuesday, December 19, 2000

Dear Dr. Irene,

My name is Scott and I have really appreciated your site. I want to thank Richard for his great article on Passive-Aggressive behavior. I related to that story more than I've related to any books or therapy so far. My therapist has told me this very indirectly so far and I am bringing his story to her on our next visit. I have read most of the victim and the abuser sections in this site and I don't know which category my wife and I fall into. Is it possible that we are both abusers and both victims? We have been married for two and a half years and we have been separated for two months. She told me that I should just leave the house for a while and I blew it (her) off for a couple of days. So, she threatened that if I didn't leave the house I would have hell to pay. I left the house and didn't quite know how to react to my situation.

After we dated for a while we did find real happiness and love for each other. I was really and truly in love. Early on, she sometimes didn't like my pursuit and even told me that she liked her single life. I backed off a little, but eventually started pursuing again. She was more receptive to the pursuit after I would back off, but she always had doubts about my sincerity and I never felt a real sense of trust. I would tell her over and over again that I was not the cheating kind and I don’t have the heart to do that. I know now that I was being weak with these remarks. I had never been married, much less lived with someone and she had been married twice before. Her first husband was physically abusive and her second husband had cheated on her.

We dated for over a year and she became a little more trusting. We were married and only 2 months later the problems began. I didn’t recognize it at the time, but I was being slowly pushed down. “You work to much”, “are you going to ever take out the trash”, “Why didn’t you tell me that there was a new girl in your office”. She always wanted to know where I was, how long I was going to be there and when I would be home. She would become annoyed at my driving, my spending time on the computer for a while each day. She was doing everything she could to change me and she kept saying that it wasn’t like this when we were dating. I saw changes in her that affected my feelings toward her. I didn’t realize it then, but I started to distance myself a little at a time.

I am not saying that she is completely to blame here. I did my share of bad things too. I was on the computer more than I should have been. The same month we were married, I started a new job with an Internet company and was learning everything I could about programming and computer technology. I also had a bad addiction that she was not aware of. The addiction was revealed in the first couple of months of marriage. I was addicted to pornography. I believe that I set myself up to get caught so that she would know and I wouldn’t do it anymore. She took that really hard. I don’t blame her for her reaction to that, but I did want to stop doing it. She reacted harshly and told me that she would have never married me if she had known that I had that problem. I could only agree with her and tell her that I understood that feeling. I apologized profusely, but even today I have not been forgiven for that or any mistake since then.

During the course of our relationship we continued to have really good times, but somehow almost every good time was marred by a mistake. I didn’t even realize that I had made a mistake until sometime after the event when she would cry and tell me how awful it was. It would be something as minor as not opening her car door when we went to dinner or as major as dancing with another woman. She danced with other men. I started seeing more and more hypocritical behavior and I never knew how to deal with it, so I pushed feelings deeper inside and tried to hide from them. Over time I also made more mistakes, I would lie about being at work when I had been out with co-workers having a beer. It was always innocent and I wanted to tell her that I was going out with a group from work that had invited me, but from experience I knew that she would tell me that I couldn’t and that I had better come home. I tried at first to invite her to several of these get-togethers and she always declined. Everyone at work started seeing a pattern and asking me “Who wears the pants in your family?” I succumbed to peer pressure and finally went out a few times with the group. EVERY TIME I did, my wife would find out about it. It was like she had hired a Private Investigator to trail me. I was caught again and again. There has never been a mistake that I have made that has not been found out in some way. I also tried telling her the truth about some of my mistakes, but she never saw it fit to forgive me. For each successive mistake, I was reminded of each one before it. Having to relive all of my mistakes every time made me not want to make mistakes, so I started coming home and staying home and doing nothing but what she wanted to do. After a while of only going her way, I started going my own way again. This time I was planning on not making mistakes as I went my way though. I really don’t want to make her sound like she was the abuser or the abused. I believe that each of us played the role equally well.

Over time, I stopped doing what she wanted me to do. I never watched TV with her. I wouldn’t take out the trash, I wouldn’t do the dishes and I wouldn’t come to dinner right when it was ready. I would eat and talk about my crappy day at work and then go back to work in my home office. She would ask me to go for a walk and I would say that I am just to busy. She would want me to go to the beach and I just had to many other things to do around the house. I hardly ever left the safety of the house. I knew that I couldn’t possibly get in trouble if I stay home all the time. I understand that this next part is strange for a man to do, but I even withheld sex sometimes. No more cards, no more flowers, I even forgot her birthday. When I would do these things, I couldn’t explain to myself why I did them. I knew there was a problem, but I couldn’t figure out what the problem was. I assumed that it must be her problem and I really believe that I had convinced myself of that. I felt bad for forgetting her birthday, but I just wanted to be at home, I couldn’t go out shopping for her, I might make a mistake. When I was hiding in my office and would get up to stretch or get a drink, I would sometimes see her sitting on the couch or on the bed crying. Again I reassured myself that she has a problem and I don’t know how to fix it. She told me after some time that she was going to give up. She just didn’t care anymore. I could go do whatever I wanted to do and she didn’t care. I told her that I didn’t want to do anything but stay home and I wanted us to work things out, whatever they were. In making the mistake of becoming passive-aggressive, I was told that I was a bad person and again reminded very frequently of all of my past mistakes and I feel that every time that happened it pushed me a little farther away. After time she started sleeping on the couch or in the guest bed. I knew the problem was getting worse, but still had no way of knowing what to do about it. I didn’t have time to deal with her problem and I still didn’t see my fault in anything but my past mistakes. I was trying not to make the same mistakes, so I tried to let them go. She couldn’t let them go or let me let them go.

After we separated, I became weak and made more mistakes. I would go to the house and cry and ask to talk. I would call her and give her theories to my problems. I blamed myself for everything and I was really miserable without her. Do you sense an abundance of co-dependency here? I kept on sticking the wrong key in and instead of trying a new key I would force the key that wasn’t working. She even called the police on me one evening when I thought that she had let me in, but she had accidentally hit the garage door button in her panic. I wasn’t arrested, but they warned me about what I was doing and even though it was my house, I could get into trouble. I never would have hurt her, but she thought that I was going to physically harm her in some way. She was placing me in the shoes of her first husband. I just wanted to talk and talk and explain myself back into her life. I didn’t realize that I was doing the opposite of what I should be doing. She wanted me to go away and I should have respected that desire, just like she wanted me to go for walks and I should have respected that desire.

I found a good therapist and though it is expensive, I am going to try to budget for her for a long time to come. She has helped me see many of my problems and we are working on my childhood now. My mom and biological father were never married and he ran away like a scared kid. I guess he was, I think they were both 17 when I came along. I do remember meeting him when I was 2. He gave me some toy cars that I still have today. At the age of 2, my mother left me in the care of my great-grandmother and left the state to go to school and be with another man she had met. When I was 5, my mom was ready for me and came back to get me. My great-grandmother wouldn’t have that, so we left town ran away for months. I actually remember more of my life from 2 years old to 5 years old than any other part. The legal system finally caught up with my great-grandmother and a big legal battle was waged over my custody. In a strange twist of events, my great-grandmother won and I was to visit my parents during holidays and summer breaks. I still think that the courts decision was based on the coaxing my great-grandmother placed on me. I told the judge exactly what I had heard her tell me over and over again. Growing up with a great-grandparent was not very easy. I had a great deal of independence, but I also had to worry about her health and my security. I also grew up with a double life, my great-grandmother was poor and we lived in government housing. My parents were upper middle class and I had everything I ever wanted when I would visit them. I could never fall for the bribery of unlimited toys and fun, when my great-grandmother needed me so much. While living with my great-grandmother I would often want to talk to her and I was often met with “Not now, I am watching TV”. If she did talk to me about the past, I was always reminded that my mother and father didn’t want me and that she was the only person that loved me. I really am that scared hurt little kid that never knew how to deal with so much internal turmoil.

When my wife and I separated, I really hurt like I’ve never hurt before. Someone I loved was again rejecting me. This pain was almost completely overwhelming and I now think that I was kind of dumb for not taking anti-depressants. I did find another way to deal with the pain. I started reading everything I could find about relationships and about psychological conditions. I somehow came across this site and for 3 days, I have been relating to many stories in here. Richards story about Passive-Aggression was the best thing I could relate to though.

My wife still holds on to her anger and I have played a trick on her. I asked her to please go to my therapist and help me figure out all of my problems. She agreed and after 2 sessions about me, she asked if she could come in for private counseling also. This has been a big step for her and possibly she will be able to see her mistakes as well as let go of my mistakes. We may not be right for each other, but I don’t think about the outcome of us anymore as much I think of the outcome of me. She may not be able to forgive. She still hasn’t showed any intention of letting go of my mistakes. I was reminded of a couple of old mistakes just this afternoon. She did later call me and tell me that she apologized for “being an ass”. I am learning to become more assertive and I am learning to deal with my passive-aggressive feelings. I do feel good about myself and I want to feel good about my wife and her progress.

Another thing that I have learned from all of this is the difference in wanting and needing something. I needed my wife to take me back right after the separation and now it is only a preference. If I need something, I am going to become ill and sick if I don’t get it, but if I prefer something, I can deal with not getting it or not getting it right away. I wanted to share my story in hopes that there may be other abuser/victim vs. abuser/victim scenarios going on in the world that can learn how they can better deal with this situation. The one thing that saddens me the most is that most people don’t seem to be able to find this information until it is to late.

Thank you, Scott

  Date: Tuesday, December 19, 2000

saying things like "If we broke up, there are a lot of things I'd miss about you, but there are DEFINITELY a lot of things I won't miss!"

Turning the TV or radio up LOUD when you are crying so he/she can't hear you.

Date: Wednesday, December 20, 2000


Can somebody please tell me if I'm overreacting or crazy?? Lately my boyfriend has been acting extremely cold and detached in private - and admits to me that he does it intentionally so he won't become 'close' enough to me again to get hurt (I haven't hurt him in the past, in fact, he cheated on ME - we've worked very hard and for a long time to rebuild the trust and move on). Then we go to his company party and he is very affectionate and attentive. When I ask him why he acted that way (hoping to hear something postitive), instead he tells me "Yeah, it's so you can't bitch at me for not being nice (holding my hand, or being attentive), and you won't throw a fit about things when everybody else is around." He is always making sure to point out to me all of the women we see out who are wearing thongs - acts as if it's a special skill he has finding them...and then when I point out that it's rude and I don't care what he THINKS, but he shouldn't be TELLING me that stuff, he says "I thought I could tell you everything. I'm just being honest - sorry if the truth hurts. I guess I just won't tell you things then" and the line he uses to explain this - the one I hate the most: "I appreciate all forms of beauty - see I'm able to admire something beautiful about everybody" He tells me how bad he feels for a female friend who is having problems with her abusive ex-boyfriend. He's so concerned about her, but when I bring up to him that it feels like he cares more about his friends and other people's relationships than his own, he calls me insecure and jealous. His 'disclaimer' for not listening to me is if I can't fit whatever I need to say into a couple of sentences and keep all of the details out of it, then I can't get upset when he drifts off because I'm supposed to 'know' that he has a short attention span and his mind will wander after that and I'll lose him. One more thing: I was at his house and we got into an argument because I got upset over something very insensitive that he said. He accused me of overreacting and got angry and bitter about our relationship. I was so upset, I slammed the door and went outside to sit in my car and cool down. When I knocked on his door again to come in and talk, he wouldn't let me in and yelled from the inside "You shouldn't have slammed the door in the first place. According to me, that means you lose your right to come back in. This is the punishment." I really feel like I'm going crazy sometimes, and I just cry myself to sleep a lot. Am I overreacting to his words/actions, or is this a typical covert abuse situation? Any feedback would be great. Thanks!

Date: Wednesday, December 20, 2000


I don't think you are overreacting at all, personally. He's being a jerk, and is obviously enjoying his power trip, and when you are upset, he's shifting the blame to you. I know that from experience, sister. The thing I think you both need to realize is that if you are upset by something he's done, you're upset, and you must tell him. You can't change his behavior, but you can always ask for change. If he's not willing to make an effort, you've got to get away. Don't fall into the trap where he'll walk all over you and then tell you that you're too sensitive, that you're taking it all wrong, that you're making a big deal out of nothing. Read my post above (11/29). This is what I put up with, what I allowed. I believed her when she said I was too sensitive, that I had no sense of humor...I believed her because I trusted her initially. Don't you believe it. If it hurts...get out before it gets worse, or make a stand and say you won't tolerate it. If you get told you're making a mountain out of a molehill, walk away. Perhaps, if you're not busy elsewhere, you could respond to my above post.

  Date: Wednesday, December 20, 2000

This is in response to the post on 11/29 - first of all, thank you for taking the time to respond to me so quickly (12/19). I commend you for taking a stand and not putting up with your girlfriend's behavior - even though she's somebody you've put a lot of trust in. My heart ached when I read your post, because everything I have felt with dealing with my boyfriend came rushing to the surface. How long have you been in this relationship? I remember back when I used to be *shocked* at the things he would say to me, and now I think this has gone on so long (3 1/2 years) that it's become a 'normal' part of our relationship. Sometimes I just feel numb to it all, but I hate the fact that I've let him ruin my positive outlook on relationships and love. He's killed my spirit and made me to believe that it's my fault. The hardest part for me is going to be letting go because there are many good things about him that I do love, but I know he won't change, and I'm not willing to put up with the b.s. anymore.

  Date: Friday, December 22, 2000

I read threw all the examples of covert abuse. I went from a verbally abusive relationship to a covert. Some of the things I read are funny, And we all make fun of each other. But when there is no balance of positive comments and negative. You don't know what to believe! You are totally bewildered. What did he/she mean by that? You lose a since of reality. I can relate to so many of the comments made by the abuser it's scary. Ya want to laugh and say ok. Man was that a stupid comment. But maybe by the time u realize what has went on there is no spirit left? I think covert behavior is what an abuser thinks he can get away with! After all you have told him to stop yelling and calling you names! And he has. for the most part right? I went from a verbally, and slight abusive relationship <hair pulling slaps on the azz> to covert and pretty much us verbally and physically hitting each other in arguments. Because my anger is so bad. I am going for help Jan 4th Wish me luck. <I am going for help cause only I can help me> Mara


Date: Tuesday, December 26, 2000

To 12/20: It's 11/29 again... My relationship lasted one year exactly. I tried to break away from her many times, but each time I did, she'd act seductive and "normal", until she knew I was where she wanted me to be, and then she'd turn to stone again. I think you will find that he may do the same thing, many times. So watch out. It means nothing, and he'll really have to have a taste of life without you if he's going to change one iota. He won't want you, but he will do anything in his power to keep you being with someone new. My ex finally ended things herself, saying I was too sensitive for her (when before I was the perfect person), that she lost all her attraction for me (when before I was the perfect lover who finally showed her true loving, passionate sex), and basically because she couldn't get me to fight with her. At times I swear she was trying to get me to "be bad" to her. But I couldn't do it...when we first were together she would cry in my arms and beg me never to hurt her or leave her, and I kept my promise. As soon as she was convinced that I was sincere...the abuse slowly began. We used to make love everyday, then she cut it off to nothing. She used to do such sweet things for me; little notes, happy faces on my door, etc. This same person, who I believed wanted love and affection, who stole my heart, who I used to cradle and watch her sleep, and was so scared and vulnerable, became the total opposite. I knew it was over when I remembered that she always would greet me at the door with a kiss, and the last time I saw her, she greeted me by saying "God, you are such a f**king idiot!!! Go sit down now!! You are so god**mn annoying!!!"

  Date: Tuesday, December 26, 2000

he knows you like to cuddle when he does cuddle he says it's only cause it's cold. Ur talking and u notice he is ignoring you. You say did ya hear me. He looks at you and says.. Did you say something? Knowing he heard every word.

  Date: Thursday, December 28, 2000

Comes in the bedroom after I have been asleep for an hour and asks "What are you doing? Are you awake?" Wakes me from nap because he wants to have sex Nudges/pushes me out of the way when I am using the bathroom sink or I am standing at the kitchen counter eating something.

  Date: Thursday, December 28, 2000

 When I asked him if he liked my body also (after both looking at a calendar of a model) he got annoyed and asked me why I had this need to always be comparing myself to others. This led to a big argument which culminated in him telling me "of course she has a better body, she's a model!" (When I never asked if my body was better...all I did was ask him if he liked the way I look.)

  Date: Monday, January 01, 2001

Here is a strange one that I always had a hard time figuring out in my no-more relationship. It involved a strange double standard, centered around possessiveness. At least a few times a week, she would for no apparent reason, accuse me of seeing someone else. Usually when the phone rang, I'd talk briefly, say "hey I'll call ya back tomorrow". (Because I was with her, and it was our time together. When I'd hang up she'd say "Who was that? Your other girlfriend?" I'd say no, it was so-and-so; there was nothing to worry about. Another time, we pulled up to my house, and the landlord had left a note on the door. "Is that from your other girlfriend?" she'd ask. "No, I don't have another girlfriend. Only you." She never seemed to believe me. Things like this happened quite often, even though I always assured her I was totally monogamous with her, many times. And I was. Little did I know, she was secretly pursuing someone else behind my back. Sometimes she'd go on a date with him and then come sleep with me. I never asked her if she had another boyfriend. When the truth came out, I told her I felt deceived...but she insisted that I had no right to "keep her from pursuing her dreams." I felt really hurt by that. I'm just the stable, always-there-for-you boyfriend, but you can pursue anyone else anytime you want. I began to lose trust in her. And worse yet, she expected me to feel sorry for her that the other guy ultimately rejected her!!! I asked her what happened, and she said "I don't have to tell you anything." Still, she always accused me of having affairs. I would caution anyone in an abusive relationship: They often accuse you of doing things they know they are totally capable of. Pushing the guilt away, shifting the blame....



Date: Saturday, January 13, 2001

Dr. Irene

I have so many. I am 46 years old and was married when I was 16, had 2 children and divorced after 11 years to a man that everyone wanted to be married to. Kind, considerate, respectful, loving and caring. (Examples: opening doors, lighting my cigarettes, making me feel like I am on a pedestal, working two jobs to live a comfortable middle-class life). Then boom, I was devastated. He was trying to take advantage of three of my nieces. I divorced him and survived and supported my children and bought my own home. Some people had said I could fall into a bowl of whatever and come out smelling like a rose. I feel I have been very fortunate, it could have always been worse. Met a man, and found him in bed with another woman after five years, but stayed with him for 17 years, never married. My children grew up and I knew I wouldn't marry him so I ended it. Met another man through a mutual friend almost 3 years ago and we married after a year. He was so kind and thoughtful and giving, and then we married. I knew he had a lot of anger and hate in him but it was never directed at me. But after we were married it was directed at me and I was in denial. I never had experienced this kind of abuse in my life. Name calling was the most apparent. But then after I read Patricia Evans Book on Abuse I knew it was what I was living. I have had to listen to him telling me there were a few times when he was out that he had to tell a woman that he was married and how it killed him that he was married, and asked me how many times I had to tell someone that I was? He told me he saved me, saved me from my life, and how much better off I was financially now. I owned my own home for 15 years, and it was a nice home. But I moved into his home, and he gave everything in my home away, mostly to his friend. He even sold my lawnmower before the house was sold and I had to hire a Lawn Service to cut my lawn. He has told me don't you think you should listen to me since I know how to cook and you don't. You don't want to make mistakes since I know what I am doing. You spend too much money on your hair, when in fact he had well water and my hair turned orange because I frosted it and I was trying to get it back to normal. You spend too much money at Kmart or Sams Club after we decided that I would start doing the shopping (which he loves). When you are with your best friends (they are married and I am living with them now since I left) we always end up in a fight. But yet he was the one always calling them up and inviting them over to the house. Questions why I don't do things a certain way. Tells me I don't know how to balance a check book. Slams the front door in my face because he had a bad day at work. Tells me "didn't I tell you when you go to the grocery store to get paper and not plastic". I am a fixer upper. I would rather do things that a man does than to cook, clean and do laundry. Well then its "you don't know how to paint". You don't do the laundry (his way). You don't clean the TV screen the right way (and this was said finally after 1 year of marriage). Tells me I have no clue as to how much money we spend when we go on vacation. How can I, he's the one in control of the money. After about 14 months of marriage he brings up that he paid for the flowers for the wedding (which were silk, and which he did not) and I lost it. Why would someone bring this up after all this time? Proceeded to tell me he paid for everything for the wedding. I proved this wrong because I have it all in black and white. It was very close to equal what we each paid for, but yet when he asked me to marry him he said he would pay for everything except my dress, the church, and the flowers. Then I find out there is a $15,000 home equity loan that he has acquired since about 2 months before he asked me to marry him and I question him. He has no clue! I said well maybe that is how you paid for my engagement ring and the rest of the things you supposedly bought for the wedding? And now I am supposed to help pay this off? Or maybe he used for his gambling account? And now I am supposed to help pay this off? So the bottom line is I did something very, very bad to hurt him one night after he had turned to me and called me a b...., and then proceeded to say how stupid he was, look who he married (no infidelity, but letting someone flirt with me to an extreme)! Well that started everything to come to the surface, and I knew then this is not the life I wanted to live. I really don't blame him for my actions, but I also don't like myself very much at all for I did. All I know is that what I did is not the person that I am, but the person I became in the life I was living. I needed to get out and I did. We went for counseling and he only went 3 times, he didn't like the counselor, but I continued. I moved back after he told me he was in the the hospital for 3 days. I knew he wasn't in the hospital, but I needed to catch him in that lie. I called the hospital two times and they told me the same thing, he was never admitted. I confronted him and he said he could prove it to me, I said go ahead I need it, but of course he couldn't. After about a week the counselor advised me to get him to prove to me that he was in the hospital. I did, and the response was I don't have to prove to you a f....... thing. I don't have to answer to you or prove a f...... thing to you. At that point I knew there was no chance this could work out after initially him telling me I had to leave because he didn't know what he would do, and he didn't want to go back to jail. The Saturday before I met with my lawyer he decides to go out at 7:30 PM and kisses me goodbye and says he has to go out for awhile. That nite I spent reading Patricia Evans book on verbal relationships. At about 4 AM I awaken and wonder where he is. He is sleeping in the other bedroom. I approach him and say, Oh I see you are home, but of course I can't leave it at that and I go back and ask why he is sleeping there, and he says because he has a lot on his mind, and I respond well good for you and I go back to bed, when he comes in and starts apologizing, and I ask what for he says I thought you were going over to Ellens for dinner. I say, well did you ever ask me? No he just made an assumption, so he has a reaction and I am supposed to just accept that. His famous words are "every action has a reaction" but to me my actions don't deserve the reactions he gives me, he gets completely out of control. So we talk till about 9 AM and finally he says whatever will make you happy is what I want. I say for the fourth time in about 2 months, what will make me happy is for us to be apart. I tell him I will get a hold of a lawyer this week. So on Friday I see a lawyer, and he tells me its OK to leave. I have friends and family come with me to try and get the things that are mine (my personal items) but to not much success. He had already removed my children and family pictures and videos, parents portrait, my dresses, my shoes, my coats and everything else personally belonging to me after the first time I left. When I asked him where these things were 3 times, his answer was "THERE GONE" except one time he told me if I did a load of laundry maybe they would just magically appear. He also reported my car stolen which is in his name only, put an alarm system on the house, changed all the locks on the house and the garage, changed the garage door opener code, supposedly filed an order of protection against me because he said I trashed the house (he said he could say anything on the report, because they don't care), reported my cell phone stolen because it was also in his name because it was a gift for Mothers Day, picked up the fur that he gave me for Christmas and my Birthday in storage, which $1500 dollars came out of our checking account to pay for it. Well the bad news to most would be... I sold my house, he gave all my household items away, and I have nothing except only about 3 suitcases full of my personal things and I am 46 years old starting over...



I can start over because I can, and because I am alive and well, not only mentally, and physically but best of all emotionally.


Date: Thursday, January 18, 2001

I find a list of these things a bit distracting; after all, there can be a lack of clarity between the abuser and victim, as this site has highlighted. Is "needing space" a sign of an abuser or a need of the victim? Or... if any of us has read something like John Gray's "Venus and Mars", it needing space a normal need to "retreat to a cave"? Is failure to recognize this abusive? I feel that counting up these issues may make us feel better (I have my own list) but at the risk of diverting us from the bigger issues of invasions of boundaries and ownership of responsibility.

Date: Friday, January 19, 2001

Dr. Irene, How about his boss being an abuser like him and standing up for the wife to get out and listening and validating her feelings but but not mine. 

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