How to get Dr. Irene's Advice: Look here!

Ask The Doc Board Archives

The CatBox Archives

Stories Archives


Below is an Interactive Board sampler. A fuller listing is found in the "Stories" menu above.

4/14 Interactive Board: Codependent Partners

3/23 Interactive Board: He's Changing... I'm Not...

3/1 Interactive Board: D/s Lifestyle

1/14 Interactive Board: My Purrrfect Husband

12/12 Interactive Board: What if He Could Have Changed?

10/23 Interactive Board: Quandary Revisited

8/24 Interactive Board: Quandary! What's Going On?

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

6/12 Interactive Board: Unintentional Abuse

11/7 Interactive Board: Is This Abusive?

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

11/4 Interactive Board: A New Me!

10/8 Interactive Board: Seeming Impossibility

9/8 Interactive Board: My Ex MisTreats Our Son

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

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

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

4/7 Interactive Board: Too Guilty!

Look What Happens When You Let Go...

Look What Happens When You Let Go...

July 16, 2000

Dear Dr. Irene,

Perhaps you won't choose to answer this letter but it will help me organize my thoughts to write it. Last December I asked my husband for a divorce. To my shock and surprise he didn't say, "Thank God - she was driving me crazy," and run to the lawyer's office. I truly thought by the way he treated me that I annoyed him on a regular basis, that he wasn't happy with me and that he'd jump at the chance to be rid of me. Nine months later and he's still fighting to win back my love - and I'm so conflicted. Amazing what happens - almost routinely - when the victim says, "Enough."

He's really doing good work examining himself and the reasons for his behavior and he's certainly not the angry, selfish person that he was - but I just don't love him. I find myself nervous and annoyed at his presence. There's this aura of 'please love me' about him. He's constantly rubbing my back, touching my shoulder or patting my thigh as if to reassure himself I'm still there. The instant he touches me I stiffen inside and feel like a boundary has been crossed....not really revolted by his touch, just made skittish by it. He's never hit me. Scorn, ridicule, intimidating anger, and unreasonable sexual demands were his thing. Yuk. That's enough! Essentially, with his poor behavior, he's trained you to pull away rather than pull towards him.

Our 20th anniversary was this June and the thought of doing something romantic for it was so hypocritical to me, for one because I just don't feel anything but compassion for him - not love - and two, because we've rarely in 20 years done anything remotely romantic. Sometimes we didn't celebrate our anniversaries at all! I feel like he's making all these changes, paying more attention to me to keep me, not because he loves me. Perhaps. It is unlikely that your husband knows how to love the way you know how to love... 

I know he's doing it because he wants to change himself for the better. He is a good man, just an angry one. Yes. The thought of having sex with him at this point feels like I'd be inflicting emotional distress on myself. Listen to your body. I just can't fake the love and passion anymore, now that I've recognized it for what it is. Do not force! I was able to force myself to feel desire and give him sex for the first few months after the big divorce announcement because he seemed to need it so much just to stay emotionally stable, but at age 39 I ended up with an unexpected pregnancy. Ooops! You sell yourself out when you "force" yourself to make love "because he seemed to need it..." Make love when you feel love!

I have a chronic medical condition and researched just what it would do to me or the baby if I tried to carry it to term (I had preterm labor with both of my sons). One of my specialists said, "I think you'll live through it, but I think you'll be sicker, and that it will take you a long time to recover from it. I don't have a good feeling about it". I have chronic fevers and an immune deficiency. Ouchhh... Sometimes you have to wonder about the timing of things... My husband was raised Catholic but always says he doesn't believe in it and has never gone to church, except for weddings and funerals. Yet, he has a serious moral problem with aborting the fetus if it wasn't a direct threat to my life.

When I told him what my doctor said, He said, "Well that sounds like an acceptable risk". It was the most difficult decision of my life, and I didn't want to abort it just because I didn't love the father. I just couldn't do it for birth control reasons; they had to be medical, or I was planning to keep it. Interesting, the way you call the fetus "it." Says a lot about how you feel.  See why it is a very, very bad idea to "force" the self to make love when it feels no love? 

I must admit the fear of being sicker than I already have been was the primary reason - also my fears about birth defects - but I also knew we would be financially ruined if I ended up not working for six months or more. My husband makes a little less than half of what I do. I asked every doctor I knew, researched on the internet.....agonized for 2 weeks then decided to abort it thinking the guilt might just kill me. Surprisingly, I'm ok with it. But I've been absolutely uninterested in sex ever since. I'm not surprised. You did not want the baby. Again, the mistake you made was forcing yourself to make love simply because you thought he needed it. Boy, is that skin off your back. 

We didn't think I could get pregnant because I had to use fertility drugs to get our 9 year-old son. My husband had a vasectomy not long after the abortion but we've probably only had sex 3 times since then. Amazing - things really do happen exactly as they are supposed to... The fact that something I give him just to make him happy could turn around and bite me has had me rethinking the sex just-to-keep-the-peace attitude I've always had. GOOD! This is part of your recovery from codependency. Never, ever sell out... 

I don't know how to have a relationship that doesn't involve counting the times we've had sex this week and giving in to avoid a fight (anything less that 3/week for longer than a few weeks would provoke and incredible fight). I know I could have wanted it more, been more open to it if he hadn't made it a requirement for the job of being his wife....if he hadn't gotten so angry when I didn't want it. You need to confront your husband with your feelings. You feel no affection. You have no interest in making love. Why should you? He has not treated you lovingly. This is reality. His task is to tolerate your feelings for as long as it takes for you to overcome them - if  you do. Never forget, it took you 20 years to get to where you are.

Last night I brought up an incident that happened several years ago. I'd been to a convention and flown back home at about 1am, but had to be up by 5:30 the next morning to return to work. He'd sent roses to my hotel room. How sweet! We fought because I didn't want sex that night, and wanted to go directly to sleep because I had to get up so early the next day. Of course! He got angry because he sent me roses and I wasn't even appreciative enough to give him sex for them. The roses lost their meaning because they were an attempt to manipulate you into having sex. Not OK. In fact, total YUK! 

Last night he admitted getting angry about it was wrong. Good. But I also tried to make him see that asking at all for sex under those circumstances was selfish. Yes. Asking for anything that is not freely offered is selfish. No matter what! That if he were truly selfless he wouldn't have even thought to ask. Am I wrong in that? No way! He said he'd gone a week without sex and that it was selfish of me not to want to give it to him. Garbage. I really don't see the correlation between the two points. That's because there is none. He couldn't wait until the next night? Exactly. Or the next week... Or until you wanted to make love to him, whenever that may be. I was going to try and work on 4 1/2 hours sleep as it was. He understands getting angry at refusal was wrong, but I was trying to make him see that it was selfish to ask under certain circumstances and he doesn't get that one. He thinks sex in marriage is an obligation. It is not. Sex is an expression of love.

I've been sick with chronic sinusitis and yearly bronchitis for years (averaging 290 days/year on antibiotics including IV antibiotics twice in the last 5 years). doubt your immune system is weakened by the stress you experience in your marriage.  Many days the only way I can work is to alternate Tylenol and ibuprofen every 3 hours to keep the fevers down. Your body is trying to give you a wake-up call and you are trying to tell it to be quiet. Please stop! 

I also have seasonal depression which was pretty major several years ago but is pretty well controlled now with medication. Good. He's always been impatient with my problems and acted like if I had better self-control it would be better. Wrong! Treated me like my illnesses were psychosomatic. So what if they were? There should be consideration on his part. There would be consideration, I am sure, if the tables were turned. I was actually suicidal at one point....stayed up counting pills and decided not to do it because I just couldn't do it to my children. GOOD! I never told him I was at that point because I didn't trust him to be supportive. He probably would not have been from what you say. I went through it basically alone. I'm so sorry... 

Now all of the sudden he asks how I'm feeling, worries about the fevers like it's a new thing (it's not). Because he realizes he might lose you. He asked me last night why I can't come to him for comfort. Why should you? Whenever I showed any weakness to him in the past, he pounced on it and pointed it out like a character flaw, or used it later if he was losing an argument. Exactly. And now all of the sudden he wants me to go to him for comfort??? I just can't. Correct. He must earn your trust. 

I'm used to being my own support. He wants to prove to me that he can be supportive, but all I want is for him to take these lessons he's learned and apply them to a new relationship with another woman. I just think there has been too much for us to ever get over with each other, and I'd truly like to try and start over elsewhere,  or even alone. I guess what I want to know is, am I being unreasonable by not wanting to give him another not wanting to love him? How can you possibly think you can force yourself to love a person you don't love? You are not being unreasonable at all. You being unreasonable towards yourself all the years you were selling out. For your marriage to have a hope, your husband has to understand all that he has done. He has to accept that he must demonstrate loving behavior and patience towards you, as you have towards him, for however long it takes. He must also realize that there are no guarantees that you will love him again (except, if he were to do all this, I'm pretty sure you would...). But, can he? Will he? The only chance he has at attempting to give you this patience (which he desperately needs for his own development, by the way), is if you demand no less!

I've been holding off on the divorce because I don't think our youngest son can handle it right now, and my husband has been very good with the kids since December. They still walk on eggshells around him not OK, but there is a less atmosphere of tension than there used to be. You need to demand no tension. You need to demand an atmosphere of tenderness and love. The guilt I feel for hurting him when I told him how I feel when he touches me.....and some of the first thoughts that fly through my head when he tries to show caring is tremendous. I told him that I know some of my thoughts do him a disservice, and that I know they weren't true, but I guess I was trying to illustrate just how badly my feelings for him have deteriorated. He was crying in the shower this morning and it hurts me.. Dear, dear Susan: You are such a compassionate, loving soul. That is a wonderful thing, but you need to develop the ability to care for yourself. I know it hurts, but the reality is that he hurt you - or rather, you let him hurt you because you put up with so much junk for so many years. Stop selling yourself short! It is OK to expect the same love and compassion that you give - and to settle for no less! Don't let guilt, one of the most destructive emotions I can think of for an individual such as yourself, get in your way. A healthier and more appropriate emotion is anger. Learn to love yourself! Look here for some ideas to apply to yourself. Learn to expect what you give.

Suggested Reading: Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation and Guilt to Manipulate You by Dr. Susan Forward and Donna Frazier and When I say No, I Feel Guilty by Manuel J. Smith or Don't Say Yes When You Want to Say No by Jean Baer and Herbert Fensterheim.

Thanks for listening, Susan    Thanks for writing. Dr. Irene

I want to read the posts.