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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!

Where Do You Draw The Abuse Line

Where Do You Draw The Abuse Line

Dear Dr. Irene,
My husband and I have been married for almost 3 years. We have two kids together and I have two that are not his. Four children between ages of 2 and 7. Very stressful, but I live for my children! 

My husband really sounds like a lot of these abusers! Calls me awful names, breaks anything in sight, threatens to leave, never leaves, threatens to kick me and my kids (not ours) out, throws away my clothes, drinks a lot of beer and goes nuts, but says he has no alcohol problem, on and on, etc. All of this happens in front of the children. 

The cycle seems to be: if we haven't had sex as much as he wants, he thinks he can do and say anything because he has to have sex-- so basically he thinks its my punishment for withholding! During the active abuse stage of the cycle he vows he'll continue his behavior until he gets what he wants, then during his calm stage he realizes he wrong and vows to control himself. 

Lets not leave out the fact that he has trouble holding a job, but people on the outside love him! They think he is wonderful! He attempted suicide one night in a hotel room because I feel asleep and didn't have sex with him. He spent a night in a mental hospital because of the suicide attempt! My husband is very selfish and would threaten to kill himself as a child if he did not get his way! I feel like he still hasn't grown up and he has a problem with control and with anger! 

I am aware of the abuse - I was abused as a child, physically and mentally, so believe me I know this is wrong - but when do you draw the line? It would hurt the our kids so bad to loose their father but It would be better for my kids! When does fighting to keep the family together become co-dependent and foolish?  We have tried counseling with no luck!  Can people change? I mean really change?? Or is that part of my co-dependency? I've put up with this for almost four years and I need some advice! I don't know that I love him anymore or If I'm just really angry at him for all of this turmoil.  I've been put up with a lot of hell and I am not too emotionally available! But I don't want to be selfish and take dad away! Help please!  I am really lost!!!!!!!    Betty

Dear Betty,

You are accurate in your observation that your husband becomes abusive - when the child inside  does not get the sex he thinks he should get. 

Minimally, you are describing the angry sex-addict. He lets sex run him. He not only thinks that you owe him sex, which you do not, he thinks he needs it, which he does not. He needs food, air, water, shelter... He would like sex, but he doesn't need it. 

I think you both may have forgotten that sex is not a "service" one spouse provides for the other. In a relationship that works, provision of requested sexual services may be a chapter, but not the whole story. Sex is about love and intimacy, and giving and mutuality. In case we need definitions, "mutuality" refers to each partner giving to the other. Mutuality assumes a two-way relationship. You guys are nowhere near there. Sexually or otherwise. 

I suggest a 12-Step Program for your husband for sex addiction - as well as treatment for his anger.

Are you codependent? You bet! Are you angry with him? You bet! You can't not be! Do you love him? Who knows, especially since "love" is one of the most misunderstood words we toss around. Are you selfish in thinking of taking dad away? Depends which two kids you ask.

Where to draw the line? I don't know where you draw the line, for each line is a personal choice with many elements weighing on it, but I would have drawn the line: at being unwilling to be a sex machine; at being unwilling to have my children witness out-of-control behavior; at being unwilling to have my children taught how to be abusive; at having them watch their mother be abused; at feeling there are "secrets" that I don't want outsiders to know about; at name-calling or any other form of disrespect towards myself. 

What to do? I don't know what you will choose to do. I would have left long ago, but that's me. There are an infinite number of places to go between putting up with it and divorcing him.

Remember: You owe him nothing, certainly not sex. You are being disrespected if you are expected to share your body in the absence of emotional mutuality. As far as I am concerned, your husband broke his marital vows long ago. You have absolutely no control over his behavior. Nothing you do has any bearing on what he does, though he would have you think otherwise. A 12-Step program would have him practice total sexual abstinence.

Remember: Treatment for abuse is aimed at stopping the abuse. You are advised to say something like "knock it off" and walk away, refusing to engage in any dramatics. Disengaging from these antics will bring you peace, at most. That may be enough for you.

Remember: Abused people are counseled not to put up with abuse, and to leave the partner if the abuse continues. There is really no other way to stop abuse that is within your control. Leaving is the slap-in-the-face wake-up call many abusers need in order to hear any sound outside of their own ego. Being left often leads to the abuser seeking treatment, if that is what the spouse demands.  Treatment is typically aborted prematurely. 

Remember: People change only when they really, really want to.

It seems to me that you need to ask yourself what you want. What are your limits. What are you willing to put up with, or not put up with? These decisions are personal choices. You have the right to choose whatever options feel right for you. 

Advice: Take the time to sit with yourself and figure out what you want. Don't act until you know where you want to go. Get some counseling. Try a support group too.      Good luck, Dr. Irene