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!

Sharp Questions Deserve Answers

Sharp Questions Deserve Answers

I'll try to keep this brief.  Before all, however, I love your site. Certainly, I will think of others as well. I intend to print it out for my ex. I've sent it to my abusive, ex-boss anonymously, since he's extremely vindictive.  I hope it helps. Thanks.

Speaking of which, you seem to deal with verbal abuse almost entirely in the context of intimate relationships.  However, many of these same people create havoc at work as well (sometimes, because their spouses keep them in line at home, so they have to take it out somewhere....)  These people are very good at manipulating people, and so, often rise within organizations (my observation).  And they LOVE to take out their anger on employees, who are relatively powerless. It is far more pervasive than sexual abuse, although related. I'd love to see you deal with this directly. 

I agree with your observations. I don't deal with workplace abuse for a couple of reasons: I prefer to focus in areas I am most interested in since this site is my hobby & play time! Its also the topic I get the most requests about. Perhaps I am most interested in couples and families because I see couples and families - all the time. I've yet to have an employee bring in an abusive boss! I work best in the context of a relationship, where I know the players  - even if I'm doing individual therapy.

Comment: You cite the origin of anger as not having had one's needs met at an early age. The excellent psychologist with whom I work hypothesizes that, in my ex-husband's case, it was because he was not allowed to separate from his mother.  He was essentially smothered with devotion and never able to develop a whole self. He thinks his mother is a saint. (Every wish was his mother's command.) This may well fall within the scope of your definition, but it may not be apparent to many.  Also, it may manifest itself somewhat differently than you suggest as well: he has an overwhelming need to establish dependency (on me) then is furious for it and accuses me of being controlling, while he verbally, psychologically, sexually and finally, physically abusive.

Good point; your psychologist is correct. He or she is referring to "engulfment." I implicitly clump engulfment with neglect and abuse since the caretaker is oblivious to the needs of the child and is responding to the child based on their own needs. The child is imposed upon and used. My oversight in articulating the phenomena is primarily a function of my lack of emphasis in childhood events, though I may add it now that you point it out. 

There is more than enough material in present-day repetitions of past stuff. Excursions into the past are more for the client's benefit than for their contribution to recovery: to make the present-day repetitions "make sense;" to help them understand how they learned their present cognitive-affective-behavioral patterns (as opposed to being born somehow deficient); to increase their interest in their treatment; to help them get in touch with often denied anger at the caretaker, etc. Articulating the events of infancy and childhood much beyond this point is not useful in terms of the results-oriented work I do. The past more properly belongs to the psychodynamically oriented clinician, an orientation I am trained in yet reject in terms of how treatment is conducted. But, you can't beat their detailed descriptions of the phenomenology and  acquisition of psychopathology. (There is an informal theoretical war going on in the pseudo-science of psychology!)

Comment: The book, The Struggle for Intimacy, and revised, The Intimacy Struggle, was a turning point for me and finally lead me to my recovery-in-progress.  I strongly urge you to add it to your reading list.  It's short and very penetrable.  I think it also opens another set of reasons as to why some people become abusive or accept it: they don't know what healthy relationships are supposed to be, and may believe that turbulence is normal and to be expected. No news here: this is the message in most books. But, I'm always happy to hear about a book that works. I thank you for your suggestions of books on boundaries -- I've had a hard time finding any in the bookstores, but find it the critical topic for my own recovery as a tried-and-true martyr. I intend to read them.

Question: (If you choose to answer) Why wouldn't I? Why do you focus almost exclusively on verbal abuse? My understanding is that it often leads to additional, even more pernicious, forms of abuse.  I'd like to see more in your site on signs of escalation, what to do when it happens, etc. Your "I got flowers today" is great. (It was contributed by a support list  member) But I didn't recognize I was being abused until it turned physically violent.  If I'd known earlier signs, I might have avoided the nightmare. (Although, in many ways, the psychological abuse was much worse - the view of several other women I know, as well)

I am surprised by your question: almost the entire site is about earlier, more subtle abuse and escalation: verbal, emotional, control, withholding, etc.  My intent is to help people spot it early, well before it gets physical! Also, I don't focus on physical abuse because there is much material elsewhere.

Finally, and most important to me: You give the sense to abusers (as far as I've read) that there is hope for recovery.  Your word to recipients seems to be "get out and don't look back."  This is the issue I'm really struggling with. (I had the double whammy -- abusive boss and husband, simultaneously!) 

Yes. First the victim's advice: Get out and don't look back if you can  - and hopefully your abuser will get very motivated for recovery. For younger victims with no children: Get out and don't look back. Run as fast as you can.  

For the abuser: highly motivated abusers can and do recover. This is my clinical experience. I am not talking about "in remission" or "in recovery". I am talking recovered as in philosophical and personality change. Most won't make it for a number of reasons, degree of sociopathy among them. The victim partner who won't put up with it can increase the abuser's motivation for recovery as well.

First, you seem to belittle the possibility that a victim could truly LOVE her (his) abuser.  Yes, they have the ability to make you feel wonderful. But, speaking for myself, my ex and I seemed to really 'click' on many levels -- whether it came to making breakfast together, tastes, values, etc.  

Have you noticed that I repeatedly define the word "love" throughout the site? The distinction between love and infatuation is one example. Love is about friendship - partnership. Your best friend and interdependent partner. The person who cares about your feelings more than anything, except as much as you care about theirs. Having like values and enjoying time together is wonderful; these may well be necessary prerequisites to an interdependent partnership.

The problem (symptom) was his impulsiveness. The more I understand what drives his behavior, I find it doesn't really change what I love about him, but it explains his bad behavior. 

Exactly my point. His impulsivity and bad behavior prevent him from being a loving, unselfish, emotionally giving interdependent partner. You love him; yet, he cannot love you as selflessly as you love him. The caring is one-sided if he behaves impulsively and badly.

 I feel as if I know him (and myself) much more, and I hate his abusiveness, but it hasn't really diminished the love I felt for him. My walls are up high, however. 

Another example of how the word "love" is used to mean so many different kinds of affection. You seem to love him as a child you wish would grow up into a partner. You seem to love the potential inside of him - which he has not realized. Partnership is about trust. How can you love someone you cannot trust?

We are in the final stage of divorce - he only needs to sign the paper, but pleads with me to give him some hope that we can work it out. Tell him you want him to get serious about recovery. I think he understands how awful his behavior has been and what constitutes 'foul play.' On my side, my self esteem is pretty good. Good. I've had a brief and very positive transitional relationship and got out with the first signs of abusiveness. Good. It's too early for you to be dating. Too emotionally confusing, though your need to increase your sense of being attractive is understandable. I don't mind being single. I've met lots of men and considered many, more on a theoretical level, and several have made it clear they'd like to spend more time with me. I'm not interested right now. I'm not lonely - although I crave the real intimacy we shared in the marriage. 

I should mention we have 2 little kids that keep me very busy (and aware). En fin, here's the question: Before I cut the chord completely, is it really better that I assume he will not be able to gain control of his acting out? I have no crystal ball. The costs to our children will be high (he will move out of the area), and I can't help but grieve the positive elements of our marriage.  Of course. But the risks of EVER trusting him  again are extremely high.  What do you think? I guess I will proceed with the divorce. 

I have a hard time knowing whether it's codependency or love. Your love is clearly of a codependent nature: you give; he takes, emotionally that is. And if, with the degree of recovery I've made, it's just codependency, I don't know how I could ever trust my own feelings and judgment in a future relationship. 

You can and you will. When you are good and ready. You are what I call "relationship-ready". From what you convey, you know how to give and give. You need to find a man who knows how to give and give - and not abuse. (You could however use a few lessons on taking.) Its a crying shame that your husband is not hell-bent on recovery. At the very least, recovery is his responsibility to his children, let alone to you, to himself and to his Maker. Did you ever ask yourself why he has taken it upon himself to leave the area - and his children - should you divorce? Is any reason really good enough?

With much appreciation for the difference you'll make in peoples' live,  Jaqueline

 I'd like to read the replies!