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4/14 Interactive Board: Codependent Partners

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7/20: Dr. Irene on cognitive behavior therapy and mindfulness

6/12 Interactive Board: Unintentional Abuse

11/7 Interactive Board: Is This Abusive?

12/29 Interactive Board: There Goes the Wife...

11/4 Interactive Board: A New Me!

10/8 Interactive Board: Seeming Impossibility

9/8 Interactive Board: My Ex MisTreats Our Son

5/1 Interactive Board: I feel Dead - Towards Him

4/26 Interactive Board: Why is This So Hard?

4/19 Interactive Board: I Lost My Love...

4/7 Interactive Board: Too Guilty!

I've Had Enough

I Think I've Had Enough...

From: Janet
Sent: Wednesday, July 14, 1999 12:04 PM
Subject: I think I've had enough...
I've been married almost 3 years and I'm seriously thinking of calling it quits.  I'm tired of his constant criticism, advice-giving, his need to be right about everything, blaming, etc.  I thought that things were getting better (we've been going to counseling and it's helped decrease the number of arguments), but after this weekend I have my doubts.
Dear Janet,

Angry people - perhaps I should call them "closeness phobes" - since that is what the phenomenon really amounts to - tend to stir up trouble just when things are going well, just when things are getting better. It is frightening for them to feel close to their partner. With closeness they confer to you the power to devastate them. They are inclined to push you away before you hurt them. Rotten strategy.

We had some really good times together this past week-we went on vacation and enjoyed hiking, being outdoors together, relaxing, etc. But towards the end of the week, he started telling me that I shouldn't talk about some of the places I've visited because that's bragging, Nope. that I was selfish because I stood in front of someone's car when I took a photo of Mt. McKinley (he's says I blocked their view, (Why should he care; it's not his view!) but I was standing near their trunk and if by chance I was in their way, they  could have asked me to move), Absolutely...don't defend yourself! This puts you in a one-down position, though I understand you are trying to explain the circumstances. and that saying "no" to sex after having sex four days in a row was "ignoring his needs", and trying to have total control over our sex life" (never mind that I was satiated).  Exactly. If both people don't want to do something, the "something" is not done. HE is selfish if he expects you to have sex when you do not want to - for any reason! A more caring individual would not want to have sex if you did not want to. And after the second night when I wasn't interested in sex (no surprise when he'd been sniping at me all day), Yes, one of the first things to go under conflict is sex. he really got going on the blaming-"I'm killing his career," and "I'm not willing to sacrifice my career for the sake of our marriage," and on and on ad nauseam. A partner would not want you to "sacrifice" anything. A partner is interested in your well-being and your self-actualization.

"Destroying his career" is his favorite accusation.  In fact, he's started almost 80 arguments over the last 10 months on that issue. He can't argue alone. Don't participate. Last fall, I was "killing his career" by leaving a job that I had been dissatisfied with for several years - he's known for over two years that I've been looking around for something different.  Don't defend it! But my dissatisfaction didn't matter Nope, he's plain selfish. , he wanted access to the computers where I worked. After I changed jobs in March, his complaint changed: the commuting each weekend is killing his career (I find it strange that commuting is harmful to his career now that I have a better job, but that it wasn't harmful to his career last fall when he accepted the only position he was offered, even though it meant several hours round-trip drive each week). Boy, you are angry at him! Because I'm established and he's not, he believes I owe him extra consideration or "compensation," so he can get established.  No dear, you owe him nothing.  

My reasons for refusing to do all  the travel next year are nothing but "trivial  excuses" (my 2 hr commute to work is "my choice" and therefore not relevant  since I get child support and make more money than he does, Lucky you! He should be happy for you and proud of your accomplishments! I can afford to buy two plane tickets each week; visiting his home each week wouldn't disrupt my daughter's social life because she doesn't go out with friends every weekend anyway; if you don't want to put the dog in kennel every weekend, just get rid of him, etc.).  Yuk, ugh, no, no no! Put him in the dog house! I was also accused of persuading my daughter to sign up for cheerleading this fall, just so I'd have a reason for not visiting him. He is competing with her for your attention. You really have two children, don't you?

He's currently threatening not to go to our next counseling appointment (we're not making fast enough progress to suit him). Your progress is to not tolerate his ridiculous impositions. His progress is about taking responsibility for his own life. He's also told me that he wouldn't come to visit me until we have a plan in place for dealing with the commute and that plan must include a way to compensate him for the damage that's been done to his career. Oh my! I guess he won't be over for a while.  I'm agreeable to reworking our arrangements for commuting, but I do not believe I owe him any compensation (and that I do not agree that I'm "killing his career").
You can't kill his career. No matter how hard you try. His career is HIS career and only he can "kill" it. If he is failing, he is making choices that are leading him to fail. If he truly believes that his choice to stay with you is detrimental to his career, he must make the decision whether or not your marriage is worth it  and stop complaining.  (Next time he tries this, thank him for the power he's given you - Almighty status - and remind him you are mortal.)  

If he thinks coercion is going to work, or that I'm going to miss his criticism, advice-giving, having sex with him, etc. so much that I'll be willing to do what he wants - he's crazy. At this point, I'm inclined to let him stay where he's at - I don't like threatened or coerced into a course of action that I don't think is appropriate. Good for you. If he cancels our upcoming counseling session, I suspect my next step will be to file for divorce - I just don't see us having any future together as long as he continues to believe that most of our problems are either due to commuting and/or my fault. If he truly cares about you, your distancing may force him rethink his position. Unfortunately, he has a history of upping the ante, leaving you with few rational options. 
 He is frightened of intimacy, so he pushes you away by making you responsible for stuff that is his. The only way he is likely to get the message, if he ever gets it at all, is for you to take a stand. Every single opportunity you get, stand up and do not accept his impositions.

 Your outrage and anger are appropriate. You should not have sex when you don't want to. You do not have the power to "kill" his career. You certainly do not owe your partner compensation! He demands the unreasonable to push you away. While his fear provides an "excuse" for his mis-behavior, the excuse doesn't wash. It hurts you, and it hurts him. Enabling him through your kindness or understanding gives him license to act out more. Watch out for the cyclical pattern of abuse. As soon as you distance, he feels safer and is likely to charm you back. You can spend years on this roller coaster ride.  

Should you fall victim to your kindness, forgiveness and short memory, he is likely to take advantage. He will feel contempt towards you for your "weakness."

Insist he get treatment. Whether you attend as a couple or he goes alone, he needs help. You already have the right attitude. Your problem is that you doubt it enough to write this letter. Make sure your therapist is familiar with verbal abuse phenomena so he or she is not manipulated by your husband's distortions. 

Ideas and encouragement are appreciated. -Janet

So is the time and energy you spent writing this letter. I hope I've confirmed your intuitive good sense and appropriate anger. Good luck to you. -Dr. Irene


Thanks for your thoughtful reply.  A lot has happened since I wrote to you a few days ago.  And most of my indecision has vanished.

A telephone conversation Wednesday night really triggered a lot of thinking.  We've recently come up with some novel and workable solutions to a couple of long-standing problems, but within a couple of days, he's either managed to find something wrong with the proposed solution or make something else into a huge problem. And the issue he picked Wednesday night was a good one!

He really thinks that 80-85% of our problems are caused because of the commuting - so therefore, my daughter and I should just pick up and move across the country  again and live with him by fall (an option that was never mentioned until after my daughter and I were
happily settled into our new home).  Not only did he once again dismiss my reasons not to move as trivial, he told me that I didn't have the right to analyze the situation and draw my own conclusions.  Excuse me, no one can take away my right to think for myself and act in a way that I think is appropriate!  And that no matter what his desires are, I am not going to do something that I consider to be wrong!
You bet!

A more caring person might have asked me about what I perceived to be the risks, considered that my desire not to move my daughter in the next few years is valid (for the first time in her life she is attending a school that really meets her needs, and she loves fitting in), and that
I've never liked his town (and love where I'm living).  But no, he told me that I did not have the right to make that decision-it should be a joint decision, not a "unilateral decision" (any decision that I make for myself and he doesn't like gets label a unilateral decision even if
its as trivial as choosing where to open my personal checking account or what color to paint the walls of my study). 

After that conversation, I began realizing how much of my time and energy he soaks up.  He tries to monopolize my time when he visits on the weekend and gets resentful if I have errands to run or have planned something with my daughter (I'm realizing that he can't stand it if he's
not center of attention at all times). Even when he's not around, the relationship is very draining.  I've not been working as much as usual because I find it harder to concentrate.  I've also realized that I've needed more time to myself for reading and relaxing than usual - I suspect because it's takes  a lot of energy to remind myself that I'm not "selfish", that I'm not "raising a spoiled brat "just because I have a teenager who occasionally mouths off and balks at doing chores, that I've accomplished a great deal professionally in a field that's far more complex and demanding than he thinks, etc.

Last night and this morning he tried to convince me that if I really cared about him and our marriage, I could easily rearrange my plans and hop on a plane this afternoon and visit him for the weekend.  He's not exactly happy with me right now (I stayed home), but that's his problem, not mine. But I expect he'll have a bigger problem to cope with in the fall - I'm going to file for divorce as soon as I've met my State's residency requirements.

I wasn't my usual active self today-but I sure feel better about our relationship than I have in a long time. -Janet

Dear Janet,

Good for you. You sound much more in control of your life. My very best wishes, -Dr. Irene

Subject: Thanks for the reminder re:

the cyclic nature of abuse.  As might be expected he started calling and emailing me last night.  No remorse for his actions, but all sorts of nonsense about how we could have a wonderful future together I would only learn to be comfortable with "joint decision-making."   I got some practice at being assertive and when he got out of line, I told him I was not going to continue the conversation and hung up the phone (Yea me!!).  And as for his emails, I'm going to thank him for sharing his thoughts but indicate that I have some thinking to do and until I'm clearer about my thoughts, I'm not going to make any commitments or respond the the things he wants to discuss.

My thoughts are clear-but I want to get some support in place for my daughter and I before I act. When I told my daughter yesterday that I've decided to get a divorce, she asked to talk to our counselor about her feelings.  I told her that I didn't know how our counselor would feel about working with a kid, but that I would ask and if not, I would find someone that could help her. Even if she hadn't asked, I think I'd tried to get her hooked up with someone
before I spring the bad news on my husband (he can be very  manipulative and I wouldn't put it past him to try to involve her in our problems). I need to set up some individual therapy for myself too-to help be cope with the nastiness that's likely to result in my decision and to work on the things that made me attracted to someone like him in the first place.


See a reader's follow-up to Janet's correspondence