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

4/14 Interactive Board: Codependent Partners

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

3/1 Interactive Board: D/s Lifestyle

1/14 Interactive Board: My Purrrfect Husband

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

10/23 Interactive Board: Quandary Revisited

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

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

6/12 Interactive Board: Unintentional Abuse

11/7 Interactive Board: Is This Abusive?

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

11/4 Interactive Board: A New Me!

10/8 Interactive Board: Seeming Impossibility

9/8 Interactive Board: My Ex MisTreats Our Son

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

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

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

4/7 Interactive Board: Too Guilty!

After Divorce: Am I On Track?

After Divorce: Am I On Track?


12/8/00  covering October to December 2000

Dear Dr. Irene,  Hi M.,

I'm not sure what I'm hoping to gain by writing this.  It must be
something important because I'm spending the money even though I feel guilty about spending it. Guilty about doing something for yourself? Hmmm…  Yes, especially when it costs money.  Things have gotten much easier financially, so I’m seriously considering some ‘just because I wanna’ purchases.  Hmm.. OK, I've just realized what I hope to gain:  I want some feedback on whether I'm steering my life in a healthy direction. 

I left an abusive marriage on November 1, 1999.   At the time, I didn’t know it was an abusive relationship. Not unusual.  I only knew that I was  terribly unhappy and lonely.  I was always telling myself that I  should be happy because B. did housework and the laundry and how many men did that for their families?  (Never mind that he was compulsive to the point of picking up lint from the floor constantly and angry with me for not doing what 'I should' to keep the house up.) Ouchhh!

I first asked for a separation in February of 1999.  We had an
argument over something that I don't even remember now. It started of with something very small (as most of them did) and escalated from there.   I told him that I wanted a separation and he said, "fine", until he realized that I was serious.  I didn't want a divorce at that time. I just wanted some room to exist w/o having to deal with him.  I felt so trapped and as if nothing was my own.  When I refused to back down, we sat the children down to tell them that we were going to separate for a while.  B. told them, "your mother wants to leave me and she won't give me a chance".  Not OK, but you already know that… No matter who does what, the kids should be protected from it. They need to love both of you.  (I had refused to go to counseling with him before leaving but said that I would like to go back to dating and have counseling to try to reestablish our relationship on a different basis.)  

Of course, this upset the children.  So, in an effort to be fair (I thought), I agreed to the counseling before trying the separation. You’d already made up your mind to get out. You’d had it.  Yes, but I hated the idea of hurting him and my children so I put what I needed aside for what I thought that they needed. That was a mistake.  I can’t be anything for anyone until I can be what I need to be.  Also, I never want my girls to accept these things in a relationship.  It also sounds like there was too much water under the bridge - you were far too angry for counseling to work. You already knew what you needed and you were being denied it.

It was a nightmare for me.  These counselors wanted me to open myself back up to B..  Which, to me, was the equivalent of exposing my neck to a man with a knife.  Feelings and pain that I divulged in counseling became weapons to use against me later. Did the counselors know that? I tried to tell them in every way that I knew how.  B. would tell the counselors that he would agree to whatever I needed to be happy, even if it meant ending the marriage.  One counselor told B (so B. says) that he was being too accommodating.  That I didn’t respect him because he was being ‘wishy washy’.  Great!  :-/  I can see how that can be true. B. was apparently doing everything he could think of that you were asking for. The problem is that the stuff you were asking for is the subtle, little stuff you don't even notice. The stuff that shows you in countless little ways that you are friends... B. doesn't know how to operate at this level.

I had learned through the years to keep up a shield in order not to show hurt over what he said or did.. because somehow I instinctively knew but refused to consciously acknowledge that that causing me pain was a goal for him.  Ouchhh! But now, it felt like I'd handed over the key to unlock those defenses.  I cried often but tried to keep it for when I was alone.  I spent 8 months crying in my car on the way to and from work (1 hour each way).  I was in deep emotional pain and was afraid to face whatever it was that was causing the pain. So I couldn't get past it.  We only spent a couple of months in counseling because we were mature adults after all…able to handle our own problems (yeah, right).  Yeah.

Just a couple of weeks prior to my asking for a separation, I
became attracted to a man online.  He was a member of a larger chat group that I frequented.  I realized that this was not an attraction that I should pursue, that I wasn't free to have those kinds of relationships outside of my marriage.  That my husband should be my best friend.  This realization provided the 'kick' that I needed to get some perspective in my marriage.  I was surprised that I could feel this kind of attraction and emotion for someone that I'd never met.  I realized that I was so hungry for love and acceptance, having this man be part of my life was too important to me. I had to do something to make B. that center of my life. (Yes, I see this for what it is. Now.) OK. You realized what you missed was that intangible sense of support, partnership and comradie.

B. eventually asked me if there was someone else that I had strong feelings for (he snooped on the computer) and I confessed that there was.  I told him that I'd told this man that I loved him, that he was my best friend.  B. told me that he should be my best friend (though by the time I left the marriage he'd told me that I had unrealistic expectations. That no husband and wife were best friends). Perhaps no wife married to him!  He remarried in October 2000.  His new wife seems to be a very nice woman and the children like her.  I'm sure he picks very lovely women, just like yourself. Unless he changes his ways, or unless she is extremely codependent, he will eventually wear her down too. The saddest thing is that he has no clue that he does it, how he does it - nor does he want to do it.

The counselors assured us that my emotional affair was a symptom of what was wrong in our marriage. Yes.  They told me that I had to allow B. the same access to me (this part that I'd been keeping from him) as I had given my online friends. But you had given him access in the past…Didn't the counselors also say that a best friend has this information, but won’t use it against you, even though he could? No, I didn’t realize this until finding your site.  

This terrified me.  I refused to give up my online friendships even though B. was having a fit about it.  I felt that I'd given up enough; I absolutely put my foot down on this.  I refused to give up the comfort that those people provided me.  B.'s behavior became more and more vocal and aggressive.  He made sure our children knew that I'd told another man that I loved him. Dirty play – one of the reasons, I’m sure, you could not love him. (Our girls are now 10 and 13.)  

He told his friends and both of our families that I'd cheated on him.  Finally, on November 1, 1999 he had a blow up that I was afraid would lead to physical violence.  I left that morning for work and never spent another night with him. Good. B. has no clue how to be your friend. By that time nor did he have any interest in it either. I got a lawyer and filed for divorce. I never turned back.   I let him know that divorce was the only option for me and that I hoped that somehow, someday we could manage some kind of friendship.  He did try to get me back several times (I know now that he was seeing someone else at the same time that he was trying to get me to date or have sex with him.  I'm so glad that I never gave in to that.) 

Our divorce was final in April of this year.  I thought that the
divorce would break his control over me, but it's been slow in
coming.  He uses finances and the children to try push and pull at
me.  He threatens to take me to court to gain custody of the kids,
often, saying that he will expose my 'affair' to the world. Don’t let him hold you hostage. Tell him to put it in skywriting if he wants. “Yes B... I had an affair. If it makes you feel better, tell the world. And I will tell them WHY I had to go online to have my emotional needs met.” Don’t let him intimidate you any more! I've had
enough of the threats and financial games.  I've gotten a lawyer and have filed for a modification of child support.  We had agreed to a deviation from the state mandated guidelines because he was to have significant access to the children and so would be providing for more of their upkeep than in a traditional visitation schedule. 

During his visitation time, he has consumed alcohol while driving with them in the car and has cursed out my oldest daughter (saying d* you and f* you).  I took them to counseling and was very relieved to hear the counselor tell them that it sounded as if their father had an anger management problem and that they weren't at fault for these outbursts. Thank God you finally got a knowledgeable counselor!   He'd probably do it no matter what they did. Exactly.  

Three weeks after the divorce was final, he moved to another state, taking a woman that he'd met here to live with him.  He has since failed to make child support and his court ordered part of the mortgage on a second house that we own in a timely manner. And because of the distance (1600 mi.), is unable to make even the minimum visitation.  He has even bounced checks to me.  I have taken care of the debts that would affect my credit.  Until recently, I would only have contact with him through email.  I got caller id so that I don't even answer the phone when he calls, which he does daily.  Because of a recent incident with him in email, I have cut off all contact unless it is strictly legal in nature.  Good for you. His behavior has been unconscionable. I can't help but wonder how his lovely new wife feels about how he handles his life. Or, perhaps she denies it...

Also, I have pursued a relationship with the man (D.) that I met
online since leaving the marriage.  We talk often on the phone and
have met several times now.  I've met his family and friends and he's met mine.  Even though I had an emotional affair while I was married, I never met this man in person until I'd left my husband. Good!

He is a very nice man and is still my best friend.  We are aware that our relationship developed at a risky time emotionally for both of us and are taking it very slow. I am glad for you; you deserve some happiness. But, this is a horrible time for you; you’ve got to be an emotional wreck. Anybody would be. You are wise to go very, very slowly. There is none of the desperation to be together that I felt in my marriage. Good. It's nice to have a relationship that doesn't have that nervous feeling of fear running through it. That feeling that I had mistaken in the past for excitement.  That feeling of infatuation, of not knowing… It is very exciting. But, it is not love. If you are lucky, it may turn into love. In your marriage, it clearly did not.  

I don't feel that I have to be with him. I do enjoy him, his companionship, his ideas,  and yes, I enjoy him physically too.  I trust him to be my friend before all else. No such thing as instant best friend. A friendship takes time to develop. See him as your friend for he behaves as your friend. Just know the jury is still out for quite a while. I know you already know that. I also enjoy living my life, taking care of my house and of my children on my own.  I am amazed at what I am capable of, of how strong I am. You are becoming your best friend! J Of course, my family is always there for me when I need help as I am there for them.   I like this… 

So.. my main areas of concern are:  Am I engaging B. by taking
legal action against him? B. is not paying his child support; there are laws against non-payment. Whether or not you pursue it I think is a personal choice: If you don’t need the income and the headache is more than it’s worth, it’s not worth the energy.

On the other hand, you may feel that perhaps it is time this man stopped getting away with murder and you feel the need to stand up to him. This is not engaging; this is standing up to him  If you have the emotional energy, and you seem to, by all means, go for it! You owe it to yourself and your kids.  I have pursued court action on the modification and enforcement of child support.  Good! 

Will going after him encourage him to fight back? Yes, he did attempt to intimidate me and has filed counter-suits.  The counter-suits have no merit and are just attempts to intimidate me, but I think I’m well past that now. Yippeee! I’ve overcome a lot of the anger that I used to feel towards him. Excellent. I recognize his games for what they are and I know that I don’t have to play. 

Am I doing myself harm by maintaining this relationship with D.?  How? By spending time getting to know a man who apparently knows how to be your friend, whom you don’t fear, and who respects your desire to take it slowly? Just go slow. Know friendship is earned. You will have a better sense of whether or not he is your friend as your relationship develops and as you watch how he handles your friendship when he is mad with you. Especially watch what happens when things don't go his way. You want a two-way street, your way and his way, with no retaliation in-between.  J Things are going very well between us. Still taking it slow and easy.. no need to rush.

I think that I'm doing the right thing.   I feel good. Excellent. I feel safe.  Wait.. I don't feel safe.. I feel like I'm waiting for the ax to fall, specifically... regarding the court action against B.. How would the court action affect your relationship with D.? B. has used my relationship with D. several times to threaten me.  One of his counter-suits was an attempt to prevent my seeing D. in the presence of the children (not something that the court is likely to entertain). This no longer concerns me.  I have a right to my own friendships and relationships.  His approval and/or acceptance are not relevant.  You're less and less intimidated. Good. 

Sounds like you feel the need to put B. in his place for reasons of your own sense of mastery and esteem. Nothing wrong with that other than the possibility than his side may prevail, so you should be prepared for that event. (But, at least you stood up to him.) Yes.

Oh, I did finally realize why I was crying all the time.. what I was
afraid to face.  B. wanted to hurt me.  The man that I wanted to
love and care for me.. to comfort me, couldn't.  Because he
needed/wanted to hurt me.  That realization struck me to my very
center! . Ouchhhh! But good for you for facing it. B. wanted to hurt you when you hurt him by not giving him whatever it was he thought he was entitled to. In the beginning, when things were still OK, he likely did not feel as hateful towards you. My guess is his wanting to hurt you developed as his unrealistic expectations of marriage were dashed.

One more thing: Are you sure the ax you are waiting to fall isn’t that D. may turn on you and become a B.? Could be.   Could that be a secret little fear that you don’t want to face? Yes, I’ve been thinking about that.  I feel secure now (though wasn’t sure at the time that I first wrote to you) that I would walk away from any abusive relationship.  D. and I are in a long-distance relationship and while I enjoy my time with him, I also enjoy my time alone.  I can envision myself growing older without a life partner and there is no fear there.   Good! Only time will tell.

By the way, having a fear and the fear having a basis in reality are two separate things.  Apples and oranges…  So, face the fear and the fear will disappear. Denial doesn't work. You wake up one day and say, "Yikes!"

Meanwhile, you are doing what you have to do to be your own best friend. You are contesting your ex and you are getting on with your life. Don’t be afraid to entertain what would happen if D. turned out to be another B.. Even if he is the most wonderful man in the world, entertain the possibility that he is not and deal with it.  

You don’t need D. to get on with your life or to fight B., though it's really nice to have a companion. You need You.  

Should D. turn into a dud, I am 99% sure that you will deal with it. Because that’s what becoming your own person is all about: facing each and every one of your fears and dealing with them..   

Thank you! M.

I think you are in a good place. Scared, yes, but that’s OK. You’ll never get over your fear until you face it and see that it won’t harm you. Are there any guarantees in life? Other than you, can you really count on anyone 100% ? Nope. 

My very best wishes, Dr. Irene

Thank you again.  Your site has been a wonderful tool for me.  M.  

I want to read the posts.