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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!

Where Is My Anger

Where Is My Anger?

Dear Dr. Irene,

I've been reading and re-reading your site for the past two months. It helped me realize, that my ex-boyfriend has a very serious verbal abuse problem.

This is actually kind of strange, as I've always been considered intelligent . I'm an educated, 30 year-old professional female, self-conscious, and with some time in therapy. You would think I would have known better... Well, I didn't. Dear Roberta, Life is about lessons. Hopefully you learned this one and won't have to repeat it again!

It is funny, my boyfriend's pet names for me were "fatty," or "ugly." When I complained about it, he said it was only to get some attention from me, and that he calls his mom and sister by these names too, and that it didn't mean anything. If it means something to you, it means something - whether or not it means anything to him! He is inconsiderate since your feelings don't count or are less important than how he intends something.

He used to complain that my breasts are way too small, and on several occasions, suggested I get a breast implant. He is a very attractive man, and while I have always been considered pretty, I have been battling with those extra 6 pounds all my life. If he were truly an attractive man, he would not make you feel unattractive. Ever. Even if you were a Perfect Ten, an angry man will manage to find fault. Have you figured that out yet? 

When I told my friend about it, she said, "Hon, if he talks like that, he doesn't respect you". I didn't even understand what had made her think that. I hope you understand now. You owe it to yourself to understand.

After 16 months together, my boyfriend decided to leave. I thought I would be devastated, but instead, I felt a huge relief (no more criticism, no more yelling). A few days later, he already wanted to come back, but I, surprising both of us, wouldn't let him. Sanity!!! Did I also mention, that during most of the time we lived together, about a year, he was unemployed, so I supported us. When he finally got a job, he still didn't contribute anything to our household, and I was too scared to raise the subject to avoid possible injury to his male ego. How did you feel about his not working? How do you feel now about his not working? It seems to me you are angry since you highlight the fact that when he finally got a job, he still didn't contribute! You are angry, appropriately so. You just don't recognize it.

Well, to make a long story short - and this is the "clincher"- we didn't live together for 3 months, but we were constantly in touch. He told me that despite that  we had a serious problem with our sex life in that he had lost all of his desire for me, he remained faithful. If you were "careful" not to injure his male ego, is it possible he was being "careful" not to sever all ties with a woman who would have him? By the way, it is not uncommon for an angry person to lose their desire for you. Think of it: What a wonderful way to push away the partner, and, hurt them at the same time! Two for the price of one!

After our breakup, he became as sweet and loving as he never was during our entire time together. Sure. Now that he no longer "has" you, he no longer needs to push you away. You have become a challenge again. You will remain desirable until you have been conquered. After a while we resumed our sex life. Interesting. He got interested once he lost you. Predictable.

I have been faithful the entire time we've known each other. Yet, a few weeks ago I found out I contracted an STD (sexually transmitted disease). My doctor, who is considered very good, has assured me that the only way this could be transmitted is through sexual activity.

I confronted my (ex) boyfriend, and he has very adamantly stated that he never had sex with anyone else this entire time. He denies this with vigor and conviction. What do you expect him to say? We already know the only thing he cares even a little bit about is his ego. (Notice I said his "ego" and not "himself".) I promise you he is not likely to fess up, but you already know that.

Something illogical in me  actually believes him, while the logical part says "COME-ON !!!, Who's he kidding ????" He's kidding you! Obviously!

And the worst part - I don't even feel  angry at him!!!! I know this sounds sick, and it worries me - I just can't seem to feel anything about it! Help! Dr. Irene - can you tell me why can't I feel angry with him? My guess is, any sane woman, who would find out her boyfriend had infected her with an STD, which also means he had cheated on her, would be livid! The "why" is called "denial." But, you are angry, it comes across in your letter. Don't confuse normal anger with rage - you don't have to go around stomping (nor should you).

Why do I "believe" him, although logically, it is absurd ? Where is my anger ???? You believe him because that part of you which wants to see only what it wants to see, chooses to believe him, even though you know better. You don't want to risk losing him, even though you are clearly better off without him. You'll settle for any warm body. My question to you is when are you going to stop accepting crumbs?

If you come from a place of abuse, and you must have, you are used to poor  treatment. You are likely to ignore your anger - not recognize that it is there. You will ignore anger especially towards those whom you want love and self-esteem from. You learned to put up with an awful lot for some semblance of love and you continue to do this today. As a kid, you had no choice. Today, you do. This is one of the many ways you sell yourself short - and sell yourself out. 

Codependents with low self-esteem don't get angry where they should, and get angry where they shouldn't.  Codependents often don't recognize anger, thinking it has to look like rage. My guess is that there was a lot of anger in your home growing up. You were taught to fear anger. Anger is presented in a scary and explosive manner: anger is about rage. At least that is what you are taught.

It's not. Anger is not about rage. Anger is a necessary emotion. It tells you when something in your life needs your attention. Repeat: anger is a healthy signal that something is wrong and needs your attention.

So, to sum it up, why don't you feel anger? Well, you do, but you are emotionally invested in denying it. You are loath to threaten a source of (so-called) love and support. You are therefore likely to place your anger elsewhere. Your conception of anger is also distorted. You see anger as scary and unacceptable since you confuse it with rage. You may express your anger passively.

The anger is there. Try spending some time sitting with that feeling. Get to know it. Feel how it feels and hear what it tells you, whether you "like" its message or not. You are better off getting help doing this than going it alone.

As you begin to get in touch with your anger, you are likely to experience rage at all sorts of stuff that was done to you, past and present. If you go through this stage at all, it should be temporary. Competent professional counseling will help you pass through here and not get stuck in rage. Meanwhile, with anger or rage of any magnitude, do not react and do something dumb - until you know exactly what is bothering you and what, if anything, you can do about it, and how you will go about doing so. 

Read the Codependent and Love Addiction as well as the various Victim and Abuser sections, though I'm sure you already have. Read some of the self-help books. Read up on assertion. Attend Codependents Anonymous or ALANON or any similar meetings you feel comfortable in. Most of all, pay attention to yourself. You have all the answers.

Thanks for reading (sorry this is so long...)  Roberta     No, Roberta, its not "so long" and stop apologizing! OK?  Good luck to you, Dr. Irene

See Roberta's January 2000 update here!