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Perfectly Awful Abusive Mom & Wife

Perfectly Awful Abusive Mom & Wife

March 17, 2000

Dear Dr. Irene,
I have also stumbled across this site by accident.  After browsing through it, I just had to bookmark it and have anxiously returned at any chance I had.  I am pretty sure I am the verbal abuser.  

For the most part, I have always felt that I have a good marriage.  We have our fights, but I figured every relationship was like ours.  I am sure that we would have to go through much more devastating times before I would let our family be broken.  (I have three small children.)  After a long time of going back in forth in my mind trying to figure out exactly what that small irritating problem was, I think that I've got it.  I have just finished reading the verbal abuser's page and have found a lot of those qualities in myself.  

My main problem is the yelling and screaming.  Nothing is ever done good enough.  Not with my husband or my children.  I have this need to have everything perfect.  I would say I have a little bit of compulsiveness, but seem to think my problem is otherwise.  You do have a compulsive problem. Compulsive problems and abuse go hand in hand. Abuse, as I see it, is a type of compulsive problem.  Growing up I was the oldest child and expected to do everything right.  My mother was very detailed and if I folded one piece of clothes wrong, didn't dry one glass completely to perfection, I would be punished. Yuk. I was very shy around kids at school.  I lost lots of confidence in myself.  I felt like I just wanted to jump out of my skin and be someone more likeable, more easy going, etc., but I just couldn't.  

I know that I can't blame my mother for the way I am now. Well, mom taught you how to  be the way you are. You could "blame" her, but there's nothing to be gained by doing so. She was doing her best, and you can't change the past. That's why you want to "take responsibility" instead - you have control over yourself! I need to overcome my situation even though I do believe that my childhood experiences put me here. Yes. Your childhood experiences and your biology. I know I have to contain my letter, but I do want to mention that my parents were excellent parents and did what they could for us, and that I was never physically abused.  I will say that looking back, I would think that I was definitely verbally abused. And emotionally abused.  

I could never understand why my mom hated me so much.  Now I understand. She didn't hate me, she just wanted to teach me things in a perfect way, no mistakes made. Yes. But never forget the way how awful her perfection expectations made you feel - that is the emotional abuse! I know that because I feel myself doing that to my own children.  I go to bed crying at night because I have ridiculed and expected way more of my children than what they could probably give right now.  ( 7,5, and 3yrs)  I don't want to criticize any more. GOOD! That's what you need to stop it. But then again, that compulsive feeling comes back to where I need to teach them perfection and I want everything done RIGHT.  I tend to be critical of my husband also.  The yard work, his faults, (big and little), I let nothing get past me.  The perfectionism stuff is an obsessive-compulsive disorder - which is an anxiety problem. As I mentioned above, it is very common in abuse. There are excellent medications that can help you tremendously. An SSRI like Zoloft will make your work much, much easier. It won't be so hard to "let go" of your perfect, and intrusive expectations. If you are serious about your recovery, you will look into this option as well as the other suggestions I make. Start by talking to your internist.

 I very much want to be more relaxed and overcome this so that my children do not learn this from me.  I just can't understand why I get so angry at the things that my children do wrong when I know that they are just small children.  I have gotten one or two books from the bookstores to try to help me with Yelling, etc.  I couldn't find many more.  I tried to look under compulsive behavior, but could find no topics on what I was compulsive about.  (Which I wasn't sure I knew what that was myself) I didn't realize that the topic should have been about verbal abusers. Anger as compulsion, while not unheard of, is my conceptualization. Unlikely you will find many books on that specific topic. No matter. You still need anger management training to learn not to act out impulsively. You need skills to that will give you a chance to chill and think before you mis-behave in ways that you don't like. An easy to read book that will get you started is Ron Potter's Angry All the Time. A more comprehensive, somewhat technical, but excellent  you- can't- fail- if- you- make- it- your- business- book is 

You will also need to learn assertive skills to take care of yourself. This is an excellent book: Jean Baer's How to Be an Assertive (and Not Aggressive Woman in Life, Love, and on the Job: The Total Guide To Self-Assertiveness) Woman 

I would really like some advice and some help.  I recommend counseling, preferably with someone experienced in anger management and abuse issues.

I also have problems with the intimacy part that you've talked about.  Not wanting to get close to someone because of my imperfections.  I hadn't known that was the reason.  I've always wondered why I couldn't just go up to my husband and give him a hug like he would to me.  I would think about it  and say" NO WAY". I don't know why.  I love him.  I am a very, very sensitive person.  He knows that I love him to.  What is the problem with showing those little signs? There is no problem! I can't understand why I can't go with the flow and knock this wall down. 

You are the only one who can know what's going on inside you, so pay attention to yourself until your underlying thoughts become clearer.  My guess is that you are afraid he will reject you because you are so imperfect. Terrified actually. (You haven't yet figured out that you are perfectly imperfect, and that's perfectly OK. Nor have you figured out that he's already got your number.) Well, I only know one way to get over that: Just do it. Recognize your irrational fear, then challenge it! Start here: Show him this page! Talk to him about your fear. Doing so is a big positive step in the direction of intimacy

Please answer my letter.  I could use your advice.  I am hurting my husband and children and I don't know why.  I don't want my children to grow up feeling insecure, shy, like I did.  That is very important to me.  Help me to learn how to get better.

Thank You, Madelyn

OK. Good luck to you Madelyn! I can't tell you how much I enjoy hearing from angry people - who want to fix it!  Please keep us posted.  Dr. Irene