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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!

Barbara, Trust Thyself!

Barbara, Trust Thyself!

From: Barbara
To: <>
Sent: Thursday, August 05, 1999 12:49 AM

Dear Dr. Irene,
I came across your site today. It's hands down the best one I've found so far on the web--they seem to either be "it's all the man's fault, they're brutes who can't control themselves and women are just poor helpless victims," or  weird "backlash" sites that list links like "little girls who are sexual abusers!" Yuck!!! Yours is by far the sanest, most balanced source of information I have found, hands down. My bullshit meter didn't go off once.  

Dear Barbara,  

Thank you. This is the highest form of praise I can think of!

There is a reason I was trolling around the internet, typing "verbal abuse" into search engines. I will be getting couples' counseling next week--and in the meantime, I feel like I'm ready to implode...I can't take another month of this, it's unbearably miserable. On the other hand, if there is something I can do to modify my behavior and save the relationship, I am willing to work on myself to do that. The big question right now is whether my fiancée really wants to work on it as well--I can't tell. 

I've been working really hard on the things he's brought up as points of conflict, but it doesn't seem to be doing any good. I guess I need a sanity check, an opinion, because when these situations happen, I lose all perspective and can't tell what's real, or if I'm really doing the things he says I'm doing, etc. One thing I know for sure--he is much, much more likely to resort to fury and insults, which is what has me freaked out.  

Oh boy... Listen to yourself. You want to believe that he will work on it so much, you are willing to discount your feelings and to distort reality! You are already telling me he is doing zilch! Therefore, before I even read one more word, I know what you need to do: You back off. You get away. When you are so miserable and are about to explode, listen to your self and get away! don't discount your instincts! Nothing else matters. This is the way to fix yourself because your problem is your codependency! Doing so will also make him feel more attracted to you too, since he is probably feeling a bit choked right now. Never, ever put yourself in a situation where you are doing all the work, where you are working harder than the other person, where you are in big pain, where you are doing all the chasing.

This is the basic situation--we had a long distance relationship. He was pushing me to move to be with him in grad school. I found a job, packed up my stuff, and left--which was a codependent behavior on my part, because I told him that I felt uncomfortable moving so quickly. I just decided to do it because I was so exhausted after we argued and argued about it.  Again, you did not trust your impulses. Big mistake.  I felt bullied into moving. I felt he was dismissing my fears of moving away from my friends and family as foolish. Since I've moved, he's consistently put down my friends as "flaky," "foolish," "stupid," "disgusting," "hollow," "good-for-nothing" and "a bad influence" on me. He's also said similar things about my family. Part of the troubles we've had over the last two weeks have come about because we planned on going back home so I could see my parents and my friends. When I brought it up, he blew up at me, and said, "I thought we'd already talked about this. We can't go. And besides, all you want to do is go home and be a party girl and run around with your trashy friends. You have absolutely no devotion to this relationship. Here, I know--why don't you go home by yourself, and then you can party it up with your friends all you want, and flirt with guys, and have everyone back home just kiss your ass, because that's the only reason you like them, because they kiss your ass. The only reason you want to go back there is because you like the attention." Your reply to that should be, "Yes. I love the attention and I love having fun." if that's the case.  Or, "I'm sorry that's how you see what attracts me to my hometown." The end. No more. Use the "broken record" technique and keep repeating the same thing. Do not defend, do not explain, do not seek approval since you won't get it. Your partner's job is to accept all that you are. But he won't if you won't accept it first. The good and the bad.

But he gets mad at me because he is in school and doesn't have a job. I don't mind taking responsibility for a while, but he has been hanging it over my head. I know it feels to be financially dependent on someone, and it's awful, but it's only been for a few months. He'll be okay in a few months, but  he's using that as an excuse to lash out at me, i.e., saying I'm the reason he's not working!  The only reason he can dish is out is because you take it. Read "You Can't Say That to Me" immediately!

And now, he's trying to pressure me into cashing in my stock options at work--so that I I can pay off all his old debts, mostly from credit cards. We have been engaged, so it shouldn't bother me, since we'll be maintaining a household, but at this point I'm starting to have second thoughts about the whole thing, and the way that he talks about it just makes my warning bells go off. Then heed them. He yells at me, and tells me that I'm a selfish woman of the 90s. Maybe he's a selfish man. Seems to me that he accuses you of things he is guilty of. Whatever. Tell him that you are a "selfish 90s woman." End of story.

Not that I have been totally clean and innocent in this whole mess. I admit fully to co-dependent behavior (acting like a "Co Ho," as my old shrink put it--tho' I've only been realizing it since things have been going downhill so quickly) and I have not been straightforward with him. Stop being afraid of him. Concentrate on accepting who you are and how you feel, whether you like it or not, that's what is.

We got in a fight about smoking, and I told him I wouldn't smoke, and then I did. I break my promises, and I need to re-earn his trust again. No, no no! This has nothing to do with HIS trust. That doesn't matter. You must earn YOUR trust! 

And I'm a terrible driver, he's had to go beyond the call of duty to help me in my driving. I think I'm not as bad a driver as he tells me I am. On the way to work in the morning, he's constantly grabbing the wheel to steer for me, sighing, making sarcastic little comments, telling me I'm "hopeless," and yelling at me to stop way before I need to and was going to anyway. Of course you are not a great are inexperienced! Beginning drivers need YEARS of experience - and confidence, something your loved one wants to make sure you don't achieve. Tell him to stop being the back seat driver.

This whole thing is just so miserable, it's given me plenty of motivation to look hard at myself and work on these things; but it seems like every time I address one thing, something else goes wrong. My driving has gotten better, and then it's that I spend too much money on shampoo. Exactly. It is one thing after the other. You will always have deficits and he will always pick on them. Learn to accept your imperfections so you are no longer defensive about them. Tell him to take it or leave it. Privately, fix what you want, but leave him out of it. You don't need his approval. You are allowing him to control you.

I don't know what to do. I just want to work on my part of it and make it better, but I can't tell if he wants to do the same thing, every time he gets upset he says, "I think you should go home. You don't belong in the adult world, why don't you go home to your little dream world, with your little friends, and just get out of my life, because you're ruining it." He wants to blame you, and he doesn't care what he will blame you about. Leaving is the one piece of his advice that you should take! Why are you allowing this to continue as though it is a normal state of affairs?

I feel like the whole relationship is held together with band-aids and paper clips, and that the whole thing could blow up at any minute. It could. He listens in on my phone calls, goes through my purse and then uses what he finds there (one time cigarettes, one time a little sampler of lotion that I bought at the health food store over my lunch hour that I hadn't told him about--he yelled at me about wasting money (!!) and whenever I have my email up he, comes over my shoulder to see who I'm writing to--and though ninety percent of it is work related, he accuses me of flirting by email with mysterious men in other places. He accuses me of flirting with other men at work (I don't truck in any of those waters, thank you very much) and wanting to have an affair on him. Part of it is that he feels very insecure about his weight, which doesn't bother me--what I love about him is how his soul animates his body, how his self shines through (at least when he's not screaming at me!) Control & anger. Control & anger. Yuk.

I've been having trouble getting motivated to have sex with him, which he thinks has to do with his weight. It's not that! I don't feel SAFE around him--which makes it hard to make yourself vulnerable that way. Plus, he won't take no for an answer. LISTEN TO YOURSELF! GET OUT! What are you waiting for? Banners in the sky? If I feel bad, he tells me I'm making excuses and that the reason his self esteem is so low is because I won't sleep with him every time he gets the urge--which is all the time. So things are very complicated here. Actually, things are very simple... 

This seems to be a major part of the whole problem. I think he doesn't want sex as an intimacy builder, but as a way to validate his own self-worth--which is why it feels so yucky. It's like I'm being used, or at least that's how I feel. If that is how you feel, that is what is. Trust it.

He's also told me that the whole thing is my fault, in much fancier terms. He spins words around me faster than I can blink, uses logic tricks and huge arguments to prove his points. That's why you never defend, never try to prove your point. Just stop the ridiculous interaction.

He says that he's not doing anything wrong because he doesn't hit me, but when things don't go his way, I swear to God, he uses his very large brain to manufacture the most horrible, hurtful awful things he can think of--things he know will get me right in the heart.  This is the worst kind of pain. There is also a chance that in the future it will escalate to physical abuse. 

I know that I have big time problems coping with certain things, and that I need to learn to draw boundaries, YES! (and to drive better) and that I need to open up more, but it's very, very hard when he's telling me horrible things like that all the time. I've been fighting like crazy to keep my head straight, but I'm totally isolated from my normal support system. I guess I broke down and wrote to you because I felt desperately sad and confused. Are you really confused? Or is it that you don't like what you know is the truth? 

I go to work and can't even concentrate because my hands are shaking and my stomach is churning and I have to keep pretending that everything is ok at home, because I'm at work. One girl at work has expressed interest in wanting to be my friend, and has even made comments about him (I think she sees through the fake cheeriness) but right now, I'm just so afraid that the whole thing is going to explode. And the worst part--the sick part--is I still want to make it work! I still feel like I love him, and I still want to work on it. So, you are determined to control everything, but yourself... If that is your choice, go ahead. But, it is unlikely you will lead a charmed life.

Ugh. This is too long. Yes, but you already knew that. Trust your instincts. Anyway,  I've cut parts...  Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. I feel so paranoid at home that I haven't called anyone.  I haven't said anything is that some part of me has this sneaking suspicion that the things he criticizes me for are real, just spoken in harsh language. Not OK.

They probably are real. So what? We are all perfectly imperfect. You will never be perfect. Before you do anything else, I suggest you learn to accept your imperfections. Then, do with them what you want - not what anybody else wants! 

 I guess that's all...I didn't mean to go on forever, but this is the first time I've really talked about this. I think you should go to the counselor alone. Print this out and give it to him or her. I'm going to sign off now--grazie for your groovy website, & good luck, -Barbara

Do yourself a favor and spend some time alone learning to love yourself. Remember, you are in charge of your life. Good luck! Dr. Irene

Read Barbara's January 2000 update here!