The Doc Answers 1

The Doc's Answers 1


Date: Friday, November 10, 2000
Time: 07:28 AM


Dr. Irene,

I want to know if I am doing the right thing with choosing to leave my husband. I don't want to regret something down the road. He has been yelling at me and the kids a lot, with a lot of foul language. (We have six kids.) I have two he has one, and we have 3 together. He has always targeted my son who is 9 years old. He also does a lot of covert abuse. I don't engage him, but I have always told him to stop it when "talking" mean to one of the kids. Last January we did go to a marriage counselor and the doctor told us we need separate counseling. He was originally my Dr. I called him back a few day's later and I asked him if he thought that I really need to see someone, He said, "yes for the support", but my husband needs it to come to terms with his behavior. What this tells me is that the counselor determined that your husband's behavior was out-of-bounds and you needed help in dealing with him. This is the same message I give to couples in an abusive situation when I am unable to "get through" to the angry person. The person being abused needs support to leave the abusive person since the abuse cannot be stopped any other way. In addition, losing a spouse is often the only way the angry person becomes motivated to change. I think your counselor gave you good advice; you need support. If you had it, it is unlikely you would be indecisive enough to write this question.  I went to my husband the other night and asked him for a separation, that I needed time away to get my bearings, and he said he would be willing to work on our problems. Of course; he does not want you to leave. I asked him if he would be willing to quit drinking, his response "No, my drinking doesn't affect anything." We all know that's not true. I asked him if he would be willing to go to anger management, "No, I will not do that." OK... I asked him if he would be willing to go to counseling, again he said no, they would not help. OK... My final question was what are you willing to do? His answer, "I guess I can start to try and deal with the kids like you do." My response, "And how do you plan on doing that?" Excellent line of questioning on your part. He doesn't know. 

At this point I told him that I would need to see effort on his part, that we need counseling, and that I would need to see action on his part that it was being worked on. His comments on this, "So I have to go to counseling or you will leave (not a question, the next part rolled out right away) - So it is your way or the highway!" I at this point said that I can not help him, that I need to work on myself and help the kids to come to terms and work on themselves, that I can not help him work on his things that he needs help with. Correct. So at this point he is being "nice again", but I am waiting to get some place to live. Good for you. I wanted validation that I am doing the right thing, I feel it is right even though it depresses me that it has not worked out. OK: VALIDATION, VALIDATION, VALIDATION, VALIDATION! 

Am I controlling him with the counselor, or I leave scenario. Absolutely not! You have asked him to take certain reasonable action that will help him stop hurting you and the kids. He has refused essentially saying, "My way or no way." When you remove yourself from an abusive situation, you are controlling yourself - the only person you have any real control over, the only person you should strive to control. I do not wish to control anyone. Just control yourself. Taking care of yourSelf automatically protects your kids as well. Once you are out, he may be more amenable to giving up running his own program, which he's demonstrated time and time again that he can't do. Also, no matter how much he wants to, he can't do it alone; he needs help. I just want peace. Love your site and thank you for all the Wonderful info contained here. Thank you. I hope you find the peace you seek. Dr. Irene


B1: Submit
Date: Sunday, November 12, 2000
Time: 02:30 PM


Dear Dr. Irene,

Do you remember me, my name is Faith of the Faith and Sky saga. Yes Faith. I remember you both well. I was wondering if you would write a letter for me or whatever you think would be best to try and communicate to this wonderful counselor we are seeing what verbal abuse really is and that it is not just yelling or name calling. The information is already available on-line. Here and here, along with their associated boards. You can send the counselor the links yourself, or, send him this url to start with.

I can't seem to convey to this counselor who Sky "really" is and that it is almost impossible to have a relationship with someone who uses communication like a club to beat you with. Faith: you don't have to sit around and get beat up. Why are you working so hard to help Sky and not helping Faith? Why do you care about Sky more than you care about yourSelf?

This counselor, Phil Rothman at is really wonderful. Excellent! He only sees Sky sitting quietly and never angry or raging like he is most times. 

Sky came to C...burg because he was evicted from our place because of his yelling and abusive temper. I worried when I heard him telling others what happened. He would say, "Yeah, I got evicted and I had no place to go but here." Ouch! Why are you putting up with his hurtful behavior? He put some money down for an attorney and put money in a trust fund to try and save the house. Good. After that he lived here and paid not one penny more and wouldn't lift a finger to help. I'm not adding to this; he literally just stayed here. What was the agreement you two had?

After being unemployed for 16 months he finally got a job. Yippeee! I bought him business clothes, got him ready every morning and cooked, cleaned and did whatever I could for him to show my support. You didn't have to do any of that. You give to him, which is fine, but it's not fine when you have expectations. That's why you two need an agreement ahead of time.

No matter what I tried to do, I was to blame and it was my fault, and if only I hadn't XYZ, it would be ok. Well, Sky did everything he could do to get me to throw my sons out of my house. He basically said it is me or them. Well, after so much abuse, I had little hope "getting rid" of my sons would fix his endless list. It would be something else. I said, "Why don't you leave?" I later apologized and told him he could stay. If I remember correctly, your sons are adults. 

One of Sky's "big threats" was leaving me. He criticized my helping him get ready; he would say, "Yes that is nice, but you just do it so I have to put up with your sh**t." What? Everything I did to show him love he twisted into something else. Why did you keep doing, knowing this is the pattern? He kept saying to me, "I think moving forward with you is repeating mistakes of the past." After that I did exactly as he did. I showed up only. No help, no food, no smiles. I just showed up and waited for him to respond. Barbara DeAnglis (spelling?) said relationships are like row boats: if you want to know if someone else is rowing, stop rowing and see. I did and in 4 days he got an apartment much nicer than the one he gave to me. (Huh? He gave you an apartment?)

Part of me is devastated, and part of me is relieved. We had a counseling session afterward and he actually showed up. Why, I can't imagine. He makes it sound like it is all my fault and if only I would do "whatever" it would be ok. Seems to me each of you is blaming the other. You want Sky to see that he is the problem - and that is the problem.

I'm proud of myself. I heard about his first wife calling him for favors and I was there when his last wife went nuts and followed and harassed him for 3 years. He left, and I have not called or had any contact with him. Nothing. My pride, which I didn't think I had, is back. GOOD! Don't let it out of your sight ever again!

I have only seen Sky once this week at counseling and he just walked in the door of my house ready to "get the rest of his things". No phone call. No knock; just come in and get. No knock? I am angry and scared. Sky has taught me about the dregs of human behavior. I don't want to be without him, but being with him is terrible. One day at a time. My worry is that I will repeat this lesson again. You may. I'm not sure how to stop this pattern. Take care of Faith: don't put up with pain. Walk when you need to.

I'm sorry I didn't mean to write so much. I really would like to communicate to this counselor what verbal abuse really is and how it destroys all hope of a relationship. Feel free to send his counselor to this site. If you need more money just ask and I will send it. No Faith; that's not necessary.

Thanks. God bless you because I do. Thank you too, but, what do you think I can do for you? If  you send me money, do you think I can somehow magically fix things? I know you are going to say, "No," but don't be so quick to speak. You want me to convince Sky's counselor that Sky is the problem; you are even willing to pay me to convince him, even though you don't really have the money. Why? What do you care if you are done with Sky? The answer is that you are not done with him in the back of your mind. You want the counselor to "fix" Sky so you two can be together. Wrong! Accept reality: he hurts you. Let him go... That is what you need to do.

Get your own therapist. Work on how difficult it is for you to accept what is and walk away from that which hurts. Work on the sacrifices you make for others, and how  disappointed and angry (yes, angry) you become when  your kindness is not appreciated nor returned in your eyes. Stop assuming that Sky is the problem is or that Sky can be "fixed." You are half the couple problem, and 100% of Your own problem! Spend your time, money and energy on YOU! Start to take care of Faith. Please. You deserve no less.  My very best wishes, Dr. Irene


In three weeks the house will be sold on the court house steps and I'm not sure what to do however I will figure it out.   


B1: Submit
Date: Sunday, November 19, 2000
Time: 12:32 AM


Please help me get some insight. I began to stand up to the verbal abuse in my marriage by saying "Stop!", etc. and it worked---for about two weeks, and then J. announced that he could no longer stand feeling as bad (anxious, depressed) as he felt, packed up his clothes, and left. I was surprised and devastated. My therapist says that when I stopped the verbal abuse, J. had no way left to discharge his anxiety. (J. is an attractive professional, well-known in our community, generous, etc.) It's been three weeks. J. calls daily, we meet for coffee several times each week. J. says he likes how he is treating me "respectfully", and is starting to feel better. I feel awful. Why are you feeling awful? Because somewhere in the back of your mind you feel you unfairly criticized a "good" man? Because this is a big change and you are not sure whether or not he will return home? Would you take it all back in an instant? Your turn to Stop!

He calls you daily and treats you more respectfully. That's great! That's just what you were after. It is likely that he respects you for being strong enough to stand up to him. And, he is feeling better about himself. It does not feel good to mistreat another out of frustrated and inability to exercise enough care in behavior. He is apparently regrouping.

It is likely that he became anxious and depressed at least in part due to his increasing awareness of his mis-behavior, as well as his inability to discharge his anxiety and frustration. 

The problem is that you didn't bank on his leaving, and you did not want him to leave.  In taking the initiative to leave, he took with him a good deal of his power in the relationship; certainly far more than he would have kept had you thrown him out, or had he remained home and requiring being "stopped." In other words, in taking off, he maximized his control over you and your relationship. I think you are feeling a bit insecure and a bit out of control. What if he decides to stay out of the home, etc., etc.!

As hard as you may find it, be strong. Otherwise he is likely to step all over you. Take this alone time to lose your neediness and enjoy your peace and quiet. Realize that whatever opportunities he creates for himself while he is on his own, you may create for yourself. Keep yourself busy with friends and family. Start that new hobby or activity you've been too busy for. Talk to your therapist and / or doc about trying St. John's wort if you think you're even mildly depressed. Read books like Are You The One For Me? By Barbara DeAngelis to determine if he has a fatal flaw. Read books like Boundary Power : How I Treat You, How I Let You Treat Me, How I Treat Myself  by O'Neil &  Newbold and Better Boundaries : Owning and Treasuring Your Life by Black and Enns to help you get a better handle on what's OK and what's not.

Do everything in your power to launch a full-speed-ahead self-improvement campaign to look your best, feel your best, and be your best. Let him work at winning you back. Suggest he get some professional guidance. Confidence and a sense of self-worth is attractive; insecurity isn't.

Each and every time you find yourself feeling "awful," remind yourself how poorly he treated you in the past and how badly his words made you feel. Compose a long list of incidents to help you vividly relive how you felt. Is this what you would want to go back to? 

You deserve respectful treatment, and he deserves to treat others respectfully. Good luck! Dr. Irene

B1: Submit
Date: Wednesday, November 22, 2000
Time: 06:26 PM


I entered my second marriage 5 years ago at age 49. My new wife worked full time for 20+ years until 2 years ago when she self-diagnosed herself with "chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)." Her symptoms are tiredness and occasional joint pain. She has had numerous tests including MRIs, cat scans, neurological exams, etc., all negative. She hasn't worked at all now for about 2 years. Neither has she applied for any unemployment or disability. She gets around OK, drives, feels good much of the time, shops, eats out, etc.

Since her unemployment, I've given her a $325 "expense account", in addition to paying all housing costs, medical costs, food, entertainment, etc. One year into our marriage, we bought a house together wherein we agreed to split mortgage costs 50/50 while she was still working. I bought a $300 Christmas gift for my two daughters that she didn't agree with and unilaterally decided to reduce her mortgage contribution from 50% to 40%, citing that if I can afford those kinds of Christmas gifts, she should reduce her mortgage commitment. I filed bankruptcy 1 year later, due primarily to overextending my credit, alimony payments, longer trip to work, lower salary. The shift in mortgage share hastened my demise. Six months ago I got a job opportunity in another state. During one of our house-hunting visits, my wife offered to contribute $20,000 toward a down payment on a new house for when we relocate (I have the income, she has her investments - $150,000 plus). For her reasons, after we arrived at the new location, she withdrew her down payment offer, but still expects the house. I feel I cannot afford to rely on her commitments with regard to financing, because she finds reasons to back out of them. She recently admitted to spending $4,000 of her investments on her 30-year old daughter to cover some of the costs of her irresponsible behaviors. I am feeling used (I question her "illness", lack of employment, and lack of initiative to seek unemployment, disability) but at the same time responsible. Question: Would I be manipulative, or just wise, to reduce my contribution to her expense account to the extent that her lack of down payment causes my (not our) mortgage payments to be higher? I think you need to put all of your concerns on the table. Tell her that you feel used. Tell her that it is not OK with you that she unilaterally reduce her contribution because of how you choose to spend your salary. Accept no "explanations". This was imposed on you. Tell her it is not OK that she promised funds and then withdrew her offer. Tell her it is not OK that she is not working, nor collecting disability of any sort, though that is her choice. Nevertheless, you acted in good will in establishing an expense account for her and agreed to cover the bulk of the other expenses. Also tell her that your good will has dwindled: Unless the two of you can renegotiate money issues, there will be no expense account and the medical, entertainment, etc. costs will be covered 50%. What's good for the goose is good for the gander.


B1: Submit
Date: Thursday, November 30, 2000
Time: 08:42 PM


My husband is a verbal abuser--he came down to where I was taking care of the horses and when he saw that I was angry about a "near miss" with another person's unattended horse, he decided to "let it go". When I told him I needed him to fix the cross-ties and the lights in the wash area of the barn, he said "no way!!" I said that if he didn't want to do it for the rest of the people who share our equestrian center, then he should do it for my safety. He said he would do it for my safety, but I didn't let him finish and he had "let it go three times". (I guess he considered my behavior "punishable".) He always has to find a justification for his bad behavior. I left the barn immediately and went to the house. 

He eventually came up to the house and proceeded to fix himself something to eat, never asking or considering that I might want something also. He actually "shot himself in the foot", since I had gone shopping earlier in the day and found a particular bottle of wine we had been wanting to try and had planned a really nice meal, which, of course, I didn't cook. I withdrew to the upstairs so as to not give him an excuse to rant on and on. Is this the correct way to set boundaries?? I don't think "the correct way" is how you want to ask the question. There are many ways to set boundaries. Certainly, getting out of the line of fire is an excellent idea. Another method might be to ask him to STOP if he begins to rant. Certainly the worse thing you could do would be to allow yourself to become engaged in a fruitless argument.

We've been married almost 10 years and I have eventually learned to disengage before the argument escalates. Much better than engaging!. Nothing really seems to help. In the past I would try to make everything right!! I'm very tired of that and need to have some instruction on how to set all limits with him. He seems to want to try, but if he has a bad day at work, or someone cuts him off on the freeway and I say something to him--he says I "put my self in the middle of it" again, his justification for screaming at me. I'm not entirely sure of what you've tried, but you seem to get out of his way, which is fine. At least further escalation will likely be prevented. But, have you ever asked him to knock it off? Perhaps you can tell him it is OK for him to be angry at whomever, but YOU did not cut him off, YOU do not deserve his wrath - please STOP it. Say this calmly, but be prepared to escalate if your request does not work. By "escalate" I mean making the same statement again, with a firmer tone of voice. 

In frustration, I have become as verbal as he is once he starts on me and just don't know what to do anymore. Leave the house; get out of the line of fire. This behavior is very hurtful to me and is causing me to withdraw emotionally. He doesn't seem to understand the withdrawing and blames me for everything. Please Help!!! Engaging verbally is not a good option, as you know. Don't participate; you only demean yourself, and you fix nothing. Don't defend yourself. He doesn't have to understand; he refuses to understand. He will understand once you no longer come back for more.

Emotional (and later physical) disengagement is a natural progression, so accept what is happening to you. Your body is trying to protect you. Some spouses need a very loud call before they wake up and smell the coffee. Your leaving the home may prompt him to hear you. But, there are no guarantees. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.

Take a look here too, if you already haven't: How To Deal With An Abuser and When Words Won't Work . Good luck to you. Dr. Irene

B1:   Submit
Date: Sunday, December 03, 2000
Time: 01:14 PM


I have been reading your responses for about a month now.  I feel like I relate to so many of the others.  I want to know if I am causing my husband to treat me the way he does.  He says that I cause him to yell, cuss, and call me names. 

 You can’t “make” anyone do anything, let alone “make” him treat you poorly – or well for that matter. Even if you yell at him, whether or not he yells back at you is his choice.  He calls every female a b****, even if he does not know them.  He sounds frustrated. The last argument was yesterday because I asked him who brought him home. Then I asked something else about how he got home and he yelled at me and hung up on me. He must feel you are being intrusive or something along those lines.  He always hangs up on me when he gets mad and then won't answer if I call back.  When I got home he said it was because I was giving him the "third" about it and it was my tone. He probably feels controlled.

He has been physically abusive before, however he has not hit me in a while (probably six months). The fear of that is always there, but I can not just keep the way I feel to myself. He says it is always about my feelings and I am always feeling sorry for myself. I don't mean to come across that way, I am just trying to make him see how he makes me feel. If he hasn't yet, he won't. Don't waste your breath. Last night I would not have sex with him because he has not said anything about all the things he said to me, so this morning I told him why and that he acts like everything is okay and he said, "No, I just thought I would get me some." I told him that is exactly what I mean about using me. He can't use you - unless you let him.

I can not see how he can blame me for our fights and not see what he is doing. But he does... I feel like after he has attacked me, sometimes I lose my temper. I try not to call him names; I bet I call him a name after he has called me a hundred. Then he has the nerve to tell me I am childish because I get so mad. This is why it's important not to act out. He'll provoke you and when you react, he'll point a finger. I feel like I should leave but I feel miserable when I do leave and I just want to be with him. You will need to decide what you want to do since it's apparent you can't have it both ways. And it is usually better for at least a week, this last time it lasted a month. But he always goes back to the same thing. I came back home last month after I had started to go sleep the first night he whispered to me "I am sorry for all the things I did to you, I really love you. I hope you remember all this in the morning." How can someone say they love you one day and then hate you the next? He doesn't hate you. He feels hurt and is overly sensitive to your words and actions. He is the only one who can fix these problems he has.  He does not do any of this in front of other people, he acts like he is the nice guy, but other people in our families know that he has hit me and hurt me before. 

You are too dependent on him. Why can't I just leave him and be happy? Because, I think, you hope that this time, things will be different... At the same time, you do not give yourself time to adjust to living alone. Maybe the next time you walk out, you will give yourself 6 months. Why do I miss him so terribly when I do leave and feel like I can not live without him? You want it both ways - but, you can't have that right now. 

These are your options: Stay and accept that the two of you are unlikely to get along, overlook his transgressions, or start to care for yourself. Stop doing doing doing for him. Watch how much his misses the “nothing” you do. Watch how much he misses you if leave the house and stay strong!  If you are unhappy in your marriage, do what you must to start making your life better.

Don't return 

 Take a look at the email archive. You will find that you are in good company. Or, join us in the CatBox and get some more suggestions on what to do. Good luck to both of you. Dr. Irene


B1: Submit
Date: Friday, December 08, 2000
Time: 08:24 AM


Dear Doc, I am unclear as to whether I am a victim of emotional and verbal abuse. I have been married for 9 years, my first. My husband was married before to an extremely abusive woman. He is a workaholic, and I went from being a career woman to a stay at home mom. I have become increasingly more depressed over the last 5 or 6 years, and just recently I read "Living With the Passive Aggressive Male" and for the first time, I realized it wasn't "me"! Good!  One issue I have is: I used to love sex, and now I dread it because it has always been about satisfying him. Anytime I bring up the subject (which isn't often) his reply is "I know, I have to work on that". And guess what? He never does. I am not exaggerating when I say we have sex 3-4 times a week (after I have gone to sleep) and I have had 2 orgasms this year. If I refuse he just forces me into it. Forced sex is rape! I should be happy About getting raped? I have a nice home, 2 beautiful children, and our health. I have been shopping for a therapist but it is an expensive way to window shop. What do I do? You are going to have to force the sex issue since you are the one who is most unhappy. As long as hubby doesn't have to, he won't deal with the issues. He doesn't know how to. Neither of you do, it's been much simpler to simply close your eyes. 

I do hear your reluctance in rocking the boat. You don't want to "risk" your marriage since you have lots of good to lose. 

Knowing you don't know how to fix it yourselves, your objective to get hubby into counseling with you is excellent. When you say you've been "shopping" for a therapist, I suspect you're asking if you need someone knowledgeable in abuse. Your husband is passive aggressive, so yes, he is emotionally abusive, but I think any good marital therapist can handle it, especially now that you are aware that it's not all you. If you've met with two or three counselors already, go with the one you feel most comfortable with. 

If hubby won't come to therapy with you, go alone. That's one of the best ways I know to get him to eventually join. Good luck!

B1: Submit
Date: Wednesday, December 13, 2000
Time: 02:36 PM


Dr. Irene,

I don't even know if I can fit it all in one page, but here goes: I am afraid that I am an emotional abuser. Problem is, my fiancée is so passive-aggressive that it usually takes a heated and bitter argument to pry his feelings out of him. Problem is you let his passivity get to you. If It's not important enough for him to share, it's not important enough for you to hear. 

I am 21 and have been to three different therapists in my short life. I grew up in an abusive house, but it all flowed from my Mom, who had been severely abused by her father. She is Vietnamese, my father is white. Her weapon of choice was a broomstick or closed fist, the bouts of insanity were pretty regular. My Dad always turned the other way and when my sister and I sought guidance, he would tell us that that is just how Mom is and we have to learn to live with it. Ouchhh!  Later, in college, I realized that she had all the symptoms of bipolar mood disorder, along with the lessening of symptom severity after menopause. Yes... I was molested at age 5, but Mom didn't talk about it with me. All I remember is being pulled from the swimming class (it was the instructor who had touched me inappropriately) without a word. I was relieved, I remember. I was sexually assaulted twice more, at ages 12 and 19. I never told my parents about these incidents. By virtue of this, I think I purposely chose men who weren't physically intimidating to date. I also developed a drinking problem which led to a drug problem in college. This is why I was sent to the first therapist, who prescribe me whatever, from antidepressants to sleeping pills to benzodiazepines (xanax, valium). I stopped seeing her because I saw this contributing to my drug problem. 

I met my fiancée while on a sort of drug binge, going from party to club to party to party, doing whatever drugs were put in front of me. For me, it wasn't about a specific drug, but ANY drug - I just wanted to forget who I was for a few hours. I had had many sexual partners, most of them one-night stands, I think because I had a lot of hostility and distrust towards all men. Yes. I didn't know that I was only his second partner. We got close very quickly. We basically lived together after only 2 months, and got engaged after only 7 months. On a positive note, we helped each other kick our drug habits. Wonderful! But our life together has been characterized by terrible arguments which punctuate periods of intense closeness. I love him, but I think I am a bad partner. As we've been together (almost 2 years now), and I have become more and more cruel in our arguments. At one point I revealed an affair I had early in our relationship, even though I knew it wouldn't help. It's like I'm 2 different people, just like my Mom was. On one hand I love him and would never leave him or want to hurt him. But when we argue, he often cries. When he cries, I get filled with disgust and bitterness and I push him away from me. He wants me to explain myself and I find that I have no way to express why I feel like I do. Stick to the feelings, not the facts: the bitterness and the disgust. This stuff is about your dad and the molesters... While he has never raised his hand to me, I have shoved, pushed and hit him several times, never in the face, but out of frustration, because when I get angry I am unable to utter anything with coherence. I just cry uncontrollably and gasp for breath. It almost feels like a panic attack, my whole body shakes and shivers. It's like I get panic attacks when I'm angry. After my outbursts, I feel completely numb inside. Don't get me wrong, these incidents happen with a lot less frequency now, probably once a month or even less. But the numbness is also disturbing in and of itself. I feel absolutely nothing, for myself or anyone else, for about 2-3 hours after an outburst. This reaction seems almost appropriate following rape... It a depressing numbness, not comforting at all, but better than incoherent rage at a low-level stimulus. After reading about emotional abusers, I am afraid I am one of them. But I also see little hope for getting better. We disagree. Strongly. I have been through counseling about the rapes and molestation, but I can't seem to ever open up about it. I still have a lot of anger, but also a lot of fear. If I saw one of my attackers in the street, I would probably fall apart. Sounds like PTSD stuff. You have no dealt with it, and you must.

I am trying hard to move on. I don't want my past to interfere with my present relationship. I have mended things with my Mom as much as I could, but she still hasn't admitted fault. She's old, she probably never will Correct., I accept her crotchety nature, and I can laugh at her, now. My older sister was a big help in this. What the hell is wrong with me? Why can't I just have normal reactions to things instead of blowing everything out of proportion? It's like I have a big bag of burdens and whenever I trip and fall, everything comes tumbling out of the bag. I want to just get rid of that friggin' bag. A few things come to mind: If your your mom suffers from a bipolar-type disorder, there is an increased chance of your having a mood disorder. A mild mood disorder may be why you "blow everything out of proportion." You also likely suffer from some PTSD related symptoms given your inability to open up and face the molestation, even in counseling.  Plus, mom abused you and dad didn't protect you, more trauma. If you weren't feeling helpless and rageful, you'd be dead or crazy. The emotional stuff is working correctly, you just don't know what acts to attach it all to and current day events trigger you to re-experience your traumas.

Don't waste time hung up on being an "abuser." Even though you can behave abusively and  have elements of abuser/victim, other syndromes better account for the present data. You are in way too much pain and are asking too many questions, whereas "abusers" are typically oblivious. Also, I don't see much narcissism. Don't worry about diagnoses, but do ask a crack psychiatrist to evaluate you.  Appropriate meds can help smooth your recovery road (especially with mood disorders). 

Make it your business to find a therapist you can stick with. You need to look at your abuse, rape, and relationship with men. You don't trust men, and why should you? They are either too weak and lacking in backbone to protect you, or they are dangerous molesters. You've made progress in dealing with mom issues, but dad stuff? Your fiancée is your dad stand-in. And, boy are you mad with him! 

Now, here's some good news: You are in lots of pain, you are asking excellent questions, you're already tried to fix it, and you are very, very young. Personality doesn't "gel" until around age 30. Face your fears. You can pull this together. 


B1: Submit
Date: Wednesday, December 20, 2000
Time: 06:19 PM


I have been married for almost one year, and I'm more miserable than happy in this union. To begin with, on the night of my honeymoon, my husband announced that he wasn't sexually interested in me (we are Christians, so we had stopped sex early in our courtship - but we had no problems then). Come to find out, my husband was impotent, and blamed me by saying "I didn't overly excite him enough to keep an erection". Ouchhh! I take it you realize his impotence has nothing to do with you. This blame went on for months. However, he got mad at me when I didn't want to have sex with him anymore. He wanted me to keep trying until I got it right. You got it right... I told him that was too much pressure because every time he failed to perform, he conveniently made it my fault. He would tell me constantly it was me, that I forced him to marry me, etc. Ouchhh! Recently, he found out he was sick. So he started building his body up and taking Viagra and finally can perform again. Now there is no mention nor apology for the mental abuse I've been through. During those months and even now, whenever he gets angry with me (over little things and anything) he constantly tells me he wants a divorce, he's going to lock my son and me out the house, and throws my clothes down the steps. Not OK. Awful in fact.

Once he told me this, and I got so angry, I retaliated, and hit him with our phone. Engaging, huh? Without turning around or even being affected, he began abusing me more and shouting, "You forced me to marry you, and everyone knows it." The pain became so unbearable for me, I threw a shoe at him. He then walked towards me (I was at the top of the steps) and he pushed me down the steps. This is serious. You two have crossed the physical abuse line. He provoked you until you fell for it and hit him first. Lets him justify his violence. (I ended up with a split toe, and had to be taken to the hospital). You were very lucky. 

With no remorse, he continues to verbally abuse me, although has not physically attacked me since. Yet. The things he says to me, even about my son are so hurtful, I can't bare it. He recently told me I should find another man. In response, I said I had (I really hadn't), and he said I knew it because you smell like fish when you come home. I know I shouldn't get angry and respond to him because it always makes him verbally assault me more. I have smashed his CD player after one one these episodes, and he tore up our living room. When I tried to call for help, he yanked the phone off the wall, he does this often. My son (18yrs old) stayed home from school with me for three days, so he wouldn't attack me again. 

My husband will not bother me in front of my son since he threatened my husband. I could go on and on with stories. I feel trapped. I'm out of work, (I was making 60K and him about 45K) and now I have no means of support. When I was working everything was fine, I paid most of all the bills and always, and still do pay the mortgage (through unemployment and severance pay). Recently he told me "I do nothing around the house, and what I do, he can do for himself." Ouch! When I think of leaving, I feel guilty because, I know he can't handle the mortgage alone. Why do I care? Yes. Why do you care? Is it caring, or is it wishful thinking that somehow he will change? Do you think that he will wake up one day and appreciate your kindness and selflessness?  Won't happen. He is however likely to feel even more contempt for you that you put up with his antics - and pay the mortgage to boot!. Also, what are you doing to your son, who has to stay home to protect you? Your current situation is not only destroying you, it is destroying him. Your son must hate living in your home. But how can he entertain going off on his own with you in danger? 

We're at the Remorse stage of abuse cycle, and he is trying to be so nice now. He keeps saying we have a "communication problem". Help me. He calls me a liar, and denies his part in verbal and mental abuse. You don't need his agreement to know you are hurting. Save your breath; he won't see it now. Why am I still here? Probably because you hope he'll somehow become the guy you fell in love with again, especially when he acts nicely. Also, you lost your job. I feel bad because I am becoming more like him when I retaliate. You are correct. Of course you feel bad. You don't like the person you are becoming, nor should you!  I need your advice. You already know my advice: Stop reacting to provocation, stop paying the mortgage (bite the bullet on your "caring" and guilt), and get out. This is about survival: yours and your son's. Your situation is unlikely to get better on its own; once physical violence has taken place, it is likely to reoccur. Right now, not only have you lost your power, you are losing your self-control and your dignity. 

You empower yourself when you've had enough. Leave. If he loves you, he will give you the power to call the shots. Call your local domestic violence center today for support and info. For starters: Get help for yourself and insist he get treatment.  If you haven't already read The Verbally Abusive Relationship, read it now. For your marriage to have a shot at success, you can't allow the current situation to continue. Good luck.  

BrokenHearted  (better than BrokenBoned...)

B1: Submit
Date: Sunday, December 31, 2000
Time: 01:06 AM


Dear Dr. Irene: I want to protect myself (age 54) from my abusive brother (age 48) without excessively upsetting my parents (age 85). I try to minimize contact with my brother K, because I find him so hostile, critical and controlling. I made a commitment to myself to try to get along with him better, for my parents’ sake. I recently worked on my resentments toward K, and apologized in writing for a childhood incident in which he says I hit him. That's all good, especially examining your resentments, though I have questions about the apology note, but your job in protecting yourself is learning how to calmly and firmly set boundaries and not react emotionally to his stuff.

K was at my parents, installing cabinets, when I arrived for an 11-day Christmas visit. He had said he was going home before Christmas. I would have shortened my trip had I known he'd be there the whole time. You could still have shortened your trip. A polite excuse...

Besides a constant barrage of general ill-will (about people on television Ignore and disengage; who cares., my nephew who is well liked A simple "We disagree" or "I really don't want to hear it" without getting emotionally wrenched, minorities, women, Etc.. etc.), he informed me that I am a "light-bulb shaped" "Thank you!" (as though he gave you a great compliment) "violent person" who "drove away two husbands" with my "incessant talking" and whose "destiny is to be an old maid."  "And a happy old maid at that!" (again, as though complimented, no sarcasm). I thought I was doing well to have snapped at him only three times. My dad was pleased that the whole family was together for Christmas and that "everyone got along." It's less the words out of your mouth than the underlying thinking. You let him engage you. You forget he's a nut whose objective is to rile you - and you take him seriously.

Back home, I woke up at 2:30 a.m., agitated and feeling abused by all the mean, hateful things K had said to me. My family does not know this yet. My father will probably say (again) that I am too sensitive and shouldn’t feel that way. If I am around K in the future, I need better protection. Right. Your "protection" is inside. You are no longer the helpless little kid he can push around. He cannot hurt you anymore. Look at how you take him seriously - and stop! 

Occasionally I travel to my brother’s area (my home town) or he comes here. I know to NEVER be dependent upon him for transportation. Also, I will not stay at his house or let him stay here unless something changes. Of course. Why set yourself up? What would I ask for? He wouldn’t do counseling. Ask for him to be "nicer"? Try to negotiate a limit on how many mean things he can say to me in a day? Thank you! None of the above. Instead, check out your underlying thinking and examine it's basis in reality today. Short of setting yourself up for transportation, house visits, etc. that are unpleasant so you wouldn't, he can no longer hurt you. A book recommendation: The Secret of Overcoming Verbal Abuse: Getting Off the Emotional Roller Coaster and Regaining Control of Your Life  will help you do all of the above. Treat it like a guide, study it and master the principles. Good luck to you and Happy New Year!   Dr. Irene

B1: Submit
Date: Wednesday, January 03, 2001
Time: 07:59 AM


Dr. Irene,    

I have received advice from you, but things are driving me crazy. Right now I am waiting to get a house through "transitional housing". One week before Christmas my husband called our daughter a "little bitch". I told him to leave, that I can not "let him" talk this way to our daughter. He asked me if I was still looking for a house, and I said yes, things aren't changing. I left for the day with all the kids, came home about 11pm (Christmas with my family). He had spray painted a wall in the living room with chrome spray paint. Ooops! I asked him what else did he damage while I was gone? He woke up the next day and was happy, had a really good week. Then on Christmas morning my son had gotten up at 3:45 am to open presents (he turned 10 in December).

I was sleeping. When I got up at 6:30am with the kids, my 10 year old told me that H pushed on his head really hard, and told him that he would "f&*^ing kill him" if he woke up our youngest son. My son had a hicky mark on his ear lobe. I called his sister and asked her to come out because H had to leave or I was going to call the police. She said she would be able to come out that afternoon. H slept until 11am. When he woke up he was happy as a lamb. His sister hadn't called or come out by 3:30pm. 

I talked with my H, and he states he didn't say that he didn't agree to leave to keep me from calling the police. He picked up the phone and threatened to throw it at me. I ducked. He didn't throw it; he gave me the phone and I called the police. The police came out, said they couldn't do anything because the mark was gone by then and it had been over 12 hours, but that they would let social services know. 

I called social services the next day and they had reviewed the case. There is a closed case already with them on H, and they weren't going to re-open it. I told them what had happened, and they said this wasn't in the police report. My husband has been OK since then. The funny part, is that my H said to me while we were waiting for the police, "If they arrest me, it is over between us." That struck me as really sad, funny, and weird. He actually believes that I will not leave him! 

It makes me wonder about myself and my follow-through. Yes. My guess is that your feelings about leaving him are ambivalent, or mixed. If you were really, really ready to get out, you would have done so by calling the police when he hit your son. You gave him an out, so things will continue as usual for a while. How do I get out. Do I leave and let him know so I can get everything out?  Or do I try and leave when he is gone during the day? If you fear what he might do, leave with the kids and whatever you are going to take when he is not home. Do not give him notice. Look here. If you tell him you are leaving, for example, Saturday at 3 pm., what are you really doing? Giving him time to find some way to convince you to stay? I think that's what you may want at some level. And who could blame you... I feel sad for him, that he wants to be this way. But I feel more upset about the kids living this way. Just needed to vent and more validation from you. My H is always saying that the kids don't listen, we do have a hard time with this. But that doesn't excuse the behavior. Like I said before my H doesn't want to go to counseling. I worry about not being able to handle all 5 kids, but I also believe that God will help me on this endeavor. God helps those who help themselves. Your husband's behavior is not likely to clean up without intervention and some real motivation on his part. In other words, your husband probably won't do what he needs to do until you and the kids walk out the door. The problem is, as yukky as you find his behavior, your actions suggest that you are hoping against hope that somehow if he really, really, really knew how much you meant it, he would clean up his act. Of course you want him to...

Spend a little time with yourself and get honest about your feelings. It is OK to have mixed feelings. It is OK not to know what to do. Best to start by being honest than trying to deceive yourself. 

Warmest Thoughts for you and this wonderful site. Thank you Tree. And warmest wishes to you and yours.


Sent: Friday, January 05, 2001 7:19 AM

Dr. Irene,
This is Tree.  I looked at your response to me and I agree with most of it.  I am moving.  It is hard, but we are leaving next week.  I am scared to leave, part of it is dealing with him after the fact.  A bigger part is being able to handle all the responsibility by my self.  I am glad you opened my eyes to that.  I don't want him to fight back for me.  I would be happier (if there is such a word) if he just lets me go.  Then I don't have to think about it.  Feeling guilty, ect.  When he is really sad and crying. (That is what brought me back before).  I should have called the police right away, but the last time I did that his family got down on me very hard.  And to this day they do not like me for it. (another thing I didn't want to deal with).  I need to work on not worrying about people liking me.  Because you can't please all the people all the time.  I need to stop being so selfish and think about the kids, because I do not want to repeat this, ever.  I am past the point of hoping he will clean up his act.  I have come to a conclusion that I will be leaving when he is gone during the day.  I just didn't want him coming home and being shocked.  So I thought that after I get everything out that I would call him at work and let him know what is going on. 
    One thing I am not comfortable with is that the lady who is getting me the house, transitional housing, is pushing me to get a restraining order against him.  I didn't want to get that messy with all of this.  But I fear that I will loose the house if I don't do this.  I know it will work out, I just need to let go, and God is opening doors for me to get help.  Thanks again,


Dear Tree,
Don't you dare feel guilty about doing what you HAVE to do to care for yourself and your kids! It's totally irrational! (You might consider feeling guilty if you DON'T leave!) Look here and here.
When he starts crying, and he will, don't fold. The pain that he is feeling is exactly what he needs to feel to motivate him to change. Tell him you don't want to break up your family either, but he's forced your hand. Tell him to get help and get healthy, and then you'll talk about getting together again.
Do your job meanwhile. Get assertive, dump the guilt, learn not to put up with junk you or your kids don't deserve whether or not his family support you. And learn to do it calmly and respectfully, in a way that increases your integrity rather than puts you closer to the level of your husband.  Anger is not "bad." It means you don't like something. You can say anything you feel; it's just a matter of HOW you (and he) say it. 
You can do this, and so can hubby - if he cares about you guys more than he cares about his ego...  

Dr. Irene

 B1: Submit
Date: Tuesday, January 16, 2001
Time: 06:57 PM


I recently remarried. During the cake cutting ceremony at the reception, the ceremony where the bride and groom feed each other a bite of cake to symbolize the couple's willingness and pledge to share life together, my new husband "slipped" with the fork full of cake depositing it on my nose rather than feeding it to me. I was shocked and embarrassed, but I think I managed to hide it. It was something I never imagined he would do. It turns out that someone we barely know dared him to do it! Oh boy...

When I later expressed that it upset me he responded that it was a dare and challenge  he must meet and felt it was not an important matter. This bothers me even more. I wonder if I'm being too sensitive. No. Is it really meaningless? Obviously, it is meaningful to you. I always have felt that couples who shove cake into each others face at such an important event as a marriage show a great deal of rudeness, and disrespect for one another. Yes, unless they are both OK with clowning around this way. I think he does not understand my feelings on the matter and I surely don't understand his. I'm afraid to bring the matter up to him again though. Why? Because he'll tell you that it's over and why are you still harping? The answer to that is because you did not get closure on the incident. 

Since you don't indicate that anything like this has ever happened before, decide whether you will broach the subject again or wait to see if he behaves insensitively in the future. Should you choose to talk now, tell him you are as anxious to put it behind you as he is, but you need to rest assured that he will make every effort never to hurt your feelings again. 

Explain to him that he does not have to agree with you that the incident was meaningful and embarrassing. He simply needs to respect that you feel the way you feel. From your perspective, incidents that  compromise your feelings or are at your expense in any way are off limits. Tell him he is free to think what he wants: that you are too sensitive, silly, have no sense of humor, etc. Nevertheless, let him know that he needs to respect your feelings if the marriage is to succeed. 

We work together and now I worry about him accepting dares from co-workers to do unpleasant things to me. Let this incident go. Don't look for trouble; you'll make yourself crazy, and he may have already gotten the message. He may simply have been very nervous about getting married. Even my almost perfect hubby was acting like a bit of a goon back then (and, so was I, I am sure). 

These things were done to me by my ex-husband. My ex rarely missed an opportunity to embarrass me in public. OK. Don't convict new hubby because the old one was a dud. Deal with your expectation that the other shoe is going to drop. If you look for Trubble, ye shall find it...

Thank You, "Starting off on the wrong foot?" Hopefully, you're signing off as "New Marriage Jitters."  Best wishes to you both, Dr. Irene


B1: Submit
Date: Monday, January 22, 2001
Time: 10:35 PM


Dear Dr. Irene,

I am currently in the process of deciding whether or not I want/can continue with my wife after learning that she had been cheating on me (third time around). Whoops! My therapist clearly thinks that - even worse that the infidelity itself - (could it be something worse than it? Yes!) my marriage's biggest problem is that I have been manipulated by my wife all this time and that I am not even able to see it. Yesterday I finally started to detect some conduct that make me realize how she was able to do such control. I hope this message makes sense, there are many things in my head right now. You are making perfect sense.

I guess I’ve been misdirected by the expression “verbal abuse” or related ones. My wife was not regularly and “abusive” or wicked person, she did not yell and only until recently did not put me down in front of other people. Actually she was the other way around, very sweet and delicate almost as she would break if not treated carefully. Anyway, what she did, as a pro I might add, was always appear as the victim (please note that most of these times I was not the aggressor, it was someone else) and I felt that my duty was to protect her and try, in any possible way, make her feel better. Some examples may help illustrate this: She traveled a lot, therefore she was not at home for long, when we talked about it, she always told me how tired she was of traveling and how bad she felt that she was not with me (she might have felt it, but never did nothing to change that situation!) My response was that I tried to make her feel better by telling her that it did not matter, that I could handle things by myself, so she should not worry nor feel guilty. Excellent, giving reply, respecting her right to do what she needs to do for herself. (I was feeling bad about her absence, but since I did not want to make her feel worse, I supported her, that way she could keep traveling without feeling guilty). Ooops! Not so excellent response - because you did not feel OK about her absence. What would have happened if you said something like, "Dear, I'm glad to hear that you don't feel OK about being home. I don't like it when you're gone so much either." She used similar strategies in many different circumstances, and, since I felt (and somehow still feel) that my duty was to support her and try to make things for her as easy as possible, kept agreeing with everything she wanted (although she always made me clear that she did not want them, but could do nothing to avoid them). This is so complicated! Your job is to support your wife. But your job is also to support yourself. Make your own feelings known, always, of course, leaving the decision of what she does with her life up to her. Sounds as though she's not taking responsibility for her actions however. If she's saying that she wants to be home but cannot, your next question might be something like, "You are tired of traveling, I am tired of your being away... Why then continue this position?" She may have a valid reason (e.g., financial) or a reason only she finds valid - which is valid, but is something she can work with, if she wants (e.g., "I can't leave; what would they do?").  At least you are talking.

My therapist, from the outset, told me that our marriage had a real control issue. Until now I was not aware of it, but now I am starting to realize what she means. To control me, my Wife exploited my desire of protecting her, but each time she kept asking for more and more exceptions and I kept agreeing in a (naïve) attempt to make her happy. Ouchhh!  Many times, when I held my position, we would argue and she would cry. The crying occurred so often and for so many different reasons that eventually I became immune to it Good!; however, all such arguments were very emotionally tiring, so I also began to let her get away with what she wanted in order to maintain the peace in our home. In other words, you sold yourself short, sold out... Maybe you should have walked out instead...

The irony, is that the whole control scheme backfired on her. By making me more and more agreeable, she diminished my own personality (we even start having serious problems in bed, since the guilt and pressure on me was unbearable). I guess that feeling herself almighty and looking at me so diminished, she soon got bored and decided to look for someone more challenging as she had done in the past, when we had about a year and a half of marriage; (but I guess she still loved me, since she did not leave me and even made some efforts – don’t know how sincere those were, since she never ended the affair – to save our marriage), she never thought that I would discovered her. My interpretation: She lost respect for you when you lost respect for yourself...

What do you think? I emphatically agree with your therapist. Run, and don't look back. Three times and an inability to give the affair up??? The only circumstances under which I think you might entertain reconciliation is if she were willing to move mountains for you. And, I suggest you not entertain reconciliation unless enough time has passed and therapy has taught you to understand how you allowed her to do this to you, and know how to prevent same in the future.  You deserve no less. Dr. Irene

 B1: Submit
Date: Tuesday, January 23, 2001
Time: 05:03 PM


I am 37, my wife 38. We have a six year old boy, we are separated, going on five months. In the midst of our separation she had an affair with her married boss, the second she has had. She is a teacher, he a principal. (He was fired). I desperately want my marriage and family back. I am an abuser, verbal-emotional. She wanted me in anger management classes, I'm in. They have really helped, I see so many things I did and said to push her away. Lately she said that she did not want me to touch her, at all, that it felt "bad", short of groveling for my marriage back with her, I have been very supportive. Can she ever feel safe with me again, how, what do I do? She says she loves me. We are to date but with no contact. Good. I will try anything, for I deeply love her. Excellent. Please advise. She was molested as a youngster, and my counselor feels that may have an effect. Excellent that you are in counseling. But I want to fix my part and be there for her and my son. What can I do? Become the best YOU can be. Can She get past this feeling? Yes, most likely. She has to trust you. She did once in that she married you. Learn to trust yourself and respect yourself, and she will too.  

You are in an excellent space, but you said a few things that, given your background, cause me concern: She had an affair with her boss, who is not only married, he is enough of a no-goodnick to get fired! And, you, her husband, cannot touch her! (Roar!) Can you hear the outrage? What injustice! And don't tell me it's not important, etc. It is; you allocated to him 2 of the 11 lines of your short inquiry! You are basically telling me that you want her back so much, you are willing to put up with her stuff and sacrifice aspects of yourSelf, etc. - which, by the way, you're not doing. But, by thinking this way you set yourself up for anger and resentment towards her in the future, especially if you feel she hasn't reciprocated your favors. 

You also hint that her abuse may have somehow affected her ability to trust. That may be, but you are on the wrong track. The implication is that her lack of trust, not to mention her affair, suggest that she has "the problem." Wrong. 

Right: She may have twenty zillion problems, but it doesn't matter. What matters is that I have such and such issues and I need to overcome them for my own sake as well for the sake of my family. The good news is she loves me and I love her, and all this is do-able. I will take responsibility for my life, and my life alone, and let integrity be my guide. 

Stay in counseling, and continue to educate yourself. There are many resources on this site for abusive guys in recovery. Start with the Abuser Section and go on to some of the Advice threads like Buddha and Catbox, Also stop by the bookshelf for reading recommendations that go beyond anger management. Grow Up! is one excellent example that stresses taking responsibility and letting integrity rule.

Keep up the good work!   Dr. Irene


B1: Submit
Date: Monday, February 19, 2001
Time: 10:37 PM


Dear Dr. Irene,

I lived with a very disturbed and abusive partner for 8 years and I became very depressed and had many suicidal thoughts during this time. Finally, in October '99, I could not take his lies, withholding and anger towards me any longer. I thought something was wrong with me and that I was not good enough, until I read the book The Verbally Abusive Relationship by Patricia Evans. This book validated everything I was living...but could not identify and helped clear my confusion.

I bought my own place and moved out January 2000!!! Yippeee! Then in May 2000, guess who finally proposed? Un-yippeee... Yes, I know dumb move...but the engagement only lasted 18 hours. Apparently, his mother thought she was rid of me when I moved out and did not know that her son was still courting me. One month later June 2000, he calls me and asks for the ring back. I gave his ring back, heartbroken and devastated and I have tried very hard to move on. Now 7 months have passed and on January 25, 2001, he had his sister call me to tell me that he is going to give the ring back. His story for this is that he does not want to sell the ring and he has no use for it.

Dr. Irene this is a $5,000 platinum ring, what is he really up to? If he wants to give you the ring back, take the ring back. As long as neither of you interpret his giving back your ring as meaningful in any way, keep it. Certainly you've earned it. But, that's not what's going on here, is it? You are still pining for him, I think. Are you hoping that this is his way of mending fences

Does he feel you slipping away? Is he trying to reel you back in? Are you hoping that he is trying to reel you back...

I wouldn't be surprised if this is his way of mending fences with you. 

But, so what? Nothing's changed. That's evident by his rejecting approach. Do you need this painful roller coaster in your life again? (For another 18 hours...)  It won't get better, that's for sure.

Let's say he's not interested in a reconciliation. Perhaps he is returning the ring out of sorrow, guilt, even caring. Well, then why hasn't he already done so? Why have sis call to tell you about it? Did he think you would toss it out had he sent it? And, so what if you had; it's your ring. Sounds like another carrot on a stick to me. How many carrots can you recall?  

Think back: Has this man ever given freely to you without some reciprocal expectation?

Good luck to you.  Dr. Irene