The Doc Answers 3

The Doc's Answers 3


Tuesday, May 22, 2001
11:47:47 AM

Your site was invaluable to me while I was leaving, and after I had left, my narcissistic abuser last year - Thanks!! I started dating 6 months ago and I am feeling unsure of what I am experiencing. I am trying to not repeat codependent and passive-aggressive behaviors, but this is new territory for me. Sometimes I feel like such a b****. 

The man I am dating is by far the nicest man I've ever dated, but his codependent and passive-aggressive behaviors are concerning me. The good thing is that he is willing to talk things through, and he's not a yeller. He does hold onto past issues, even after we've talked them through. He'll bring up a situation that occurred 4 months ago, and it catches me off guard because I won't have thought about it in 4 months.

He has made some sexist comments and has very traditional ideas of male and female "roles" which I disagree with. (I don't mind disagreeing, but I'm concerned about the whole picture.) When we first became sexually involved, he asked for anal sex and I said no. He asked if I had done it with my ex-bf. He knows my abuser casually and always wants to talk about my relationship with him - although I have stopped responding. I said I had tried it, but didn't like it. He promised to be gentle and I agreed to try it 1ce. It still hurt and I said I wouldn't do it again. He pouted and said when a husband doesn't get it at home, he'll go elsewhere - porno, mistress… I thought this was very manipulative and didn't change my mind. This is the first thing you said that really really bothers me. Out-the-door level of bothering. He shows no concern for you. Very manipulative and childish.

Double standards - he told me he went to strip joints when he was first married because his wife said ok, but it made her feel insecure. At some point she was going out to the bar with her female friend. He didn't think she should have done this, and he can't see that's a double standard. He also doesn't see that it would be a sign of disrespect to go to a strip bar with "lap dances" when you're married - at least IMHO. Then he thinks my asking my ex-husband "How is work going?" is the same as him going to visit his ex in NYC. I don't mind considering that I might be making him feel bad and compromise, but I don't think they're comparable. If YOU don't think they're comparable, they're not comparable. Your opinion is the only opinion that counts. Trust it. Your body is talking to you!

He often analyzes what I say and do. Then he says how he would have said or done it differently. I told him it made me feel like I couldn't do anything right in his eyes. Ooops! Why are you buying into his paradigm? If somebody spent that much time criticizing me, I'd be out the door. Maybe this was insecure on my part, Why are you second-guessing yourself? but he said he didn't mean to make me feel that way Nevertheless he did! Rarely does the abusive person set out to hurt you! and maybe he just shouldn't say anything. I suggested there is a balance. The balance is to give you his feedback once and get out of your space. I doubt if your friend can do this. He is more concerned with fixing you than he is with fixing his inability to accept you as you are. When I tell him how I feel about something that bothers me, he grunts at me. I think it is his passive-aggressive way of saying I am over-reacting. I asked him to not grunt at me, but tell me what he's thinking. Look at this: you are trying to have a mature interaction, but takes on the role of the unruly child. This is likely to get worse, not better.

From what he's told me about his marriage - he was abusive verbally, but I also think he learned a lot from his mistakes. But apparently not enough. He's still making the same mistakes, notably taking care of his feelings by managing you. I think he needs some professional help to guide him over the inevitable bumps. When I told him I didn't like something he had done, he said "you're saying I'm abusive?", and he's used phrases and words that are common to abuser/victim lingo - "I feel like I'm walking on egg shells". I think he has a hard time that I stick up for myself and am not passive. At times I've felt he would like a more passive woman. But then I wonder if I'm protecting my boundaries too aggressively or reacting to past relationships. Oh boy, are you are confused... He's way out of his boundaries and into yours, caring way too much about what you do - and you think you may be reacting/over-reacting! I think you are not reacting enough!  You also could benefit from some guidance. You are not trusting your body. You are letting your codependent thinking twist your initial (and accurate) reaction. 

At the same time, he is the most loving and supportive man. Not enough... I'm doing my best to maintain reasonable boundaries and be understanding, but something doesn't feel right. Trust yourself; it's not. I don't know if it's me, us or him. How do I know if these patterns are a sign of future problems? How do I sort through behaviors and choose who to spend the rest of my life with? Are these normal boundary issues to work through with a new relationship? Normal - for a codependent... I would greatly appreciate your insight and "advice". You are both repeating same ol', same ol'. Even if you are better than you were, you are both learning, so why expect anything else? This would be a wonderful time for each of you to get some guidance - simply because you can't see that which can't yet see. Good for you for asking. Warmly, Doc.

Thanks, SK

Tuesday, May 22, 2001
04:46:06 PM

This is a follow-up to my recent question about my airline pilot friend(s):

OK, I shouldn't expect them to take care of me as I would them or any other houseguest. Point taken, agreed, noted, and accepted for work on. Excellent.

I do/did give off signs of displeasure when I don't'/didn't get my way, felt bored, ignored etc...... point taken, agreed, noted ,accepted, and to be worked on. Great that you see it.

Ok - So I send out these signals...... they don't have to live by MY rules of etiquette (shoulds) on house guests. They don't "owe" me anything for past "good deeds" done by me. (shoulds). Sad but true.

But... many friends (who agree with your position btw on causality)( and I see it as an enlightening insight into myself who is not perfect and that's cool!) are saying "OK fine you do that... but you don't deserve "THIS!"  I wouldn't want them as friends", "they're bizarre" , " no excuse to attempt to trash your esteem," and I'm wondering...."

With so many people out there who think I'm great, and plan visits with me, and for me, with my input, and look out for my needs...  You are a rich man! Your friends love you! They empathize with you and take your side. But, that's neither here nor there.

Why would I want to be with people who trash my desires totally for the visit, refuse to discuss the visit with me ("What all would you like to do while you're here"), refuse to DISCUSS their displeasure with my "displeasure signals" assertively at the time it happened', punish me by further ignoring me ( knowing that's what drove me crazy the first 2 hours of the visit) and then scream at me ( vs. telling me in a normal tone whets bugging them.)?  Boy, are you mad! You think this is about you!

THEN go on to say: "Just ask all your other friends "pushing the shame button " they know I have? Going very well for the self esteem jugular so to speak! Well, now you have proof positive that they're human - and far from perfect. In the heat of the moment, we want to blame someone, hurt someone - because we hurt.

Other people say this is bizarre behavior on their part in no way justified by what I was shown by you that I did (and they agree with you). Ok, I did do the should thing I did set my expectations of a good visit by my definition ( too high for them). (Stop judging. Not too high, low, etc. Just different.)

BUT that's no excuse ( an explanation perhaps) to treat me as such! These people are doing the best they can, just like you are, as we all are. I doubt they set out to hurt you. Your friend misbehaved, there is no doubt; he even apologized at one point. Don't personalize this one. This is about them (him and her), not you! You are  consumed with their motives, their behavior. Why? It has nothing to do with you - other than your imperfections set off their own.  

Look at it this way: Had you asked your friend why specifically you are "his problem" and he pointed out every one of your yukky parts, you've given him the opportunity to help you by hearing how another person experiences you. Your yukky parts are not THE PROBLEM. Your yukky parts are certainly not "his problem!"  Your yukky parts are your problem since they get in your way, so it behooves you to know them and pull in the buttons. His yukky parts include his inability to tolerate imperfection in you. For his own sake, he needs to clear that up because it gets in his waySee, his stuff is not about you...

Of course, you can make his inability to tolerate your yukkiness your problem too. You can let his intolerance define your self esteem or push your buttons. You can let his intolerance crush you. You can get angry, or defensive and accuse him of misperceiving. Now, you're really lost since you're defending your yukky parts or you don't even own that you have yukky parts! Or, you can recognize that he's human, is messing up right now, but may have information you can use (or not). Can you imagine how you would disarm him if you approached him in this non-angry, truth-seeking way?  

Each of you are currently angry with the other for being imperfect. Makes no sense, does it?

HE fits with others "like his parents" into your "cycle of abuse" pattern like a favorite comfy shoe...... I'm not the only, I'm not the first.... 

In other words, I should get feedback to explore not screaming to abuse. Huh? 

Is there any chance to salvage? ( How? When?) Should I want to salvage this 15 year basically good friendship (for the good parts)? Seems you want to salvage the friendship even though you're not sure you should want to.. You're outraged that you were abused, you want validation that you were indeed abused, and want tips in dealing with such in the future - but you aren't sure if you should permit a future, despite wanting one. You want to forgive them/ excuse them, hence your brief don't-forget-their-future-is-in-jeopardy email. But don't know if you should, will let yourself, etc. You don't even know if you should try, since he may reject your attempt again (which would be OK, BTW. His timing is not likely to coincide with yours.). 

Then you ask "How? When?" Don't know. You have a myriad of mixed feelings that you cannot reconcile. Let it be; you are the only one who can reconcile your feelings. As a "direction," I suggest you forgive their behavior as well learn the verbal skills and coping skills you need to deal with being treated badly. 

The coping skills  I'm talking about are dealing with your mixed feelings. Take care not to gloss over this very important part. Even though it doesn't sound like much, you develop coping skills when you tolerate reality, such as not getting answers to reasonable requests. So:  Try not to force resolution given the  anxiety/discomfort you feel. Sit with your discomfort and tolerate/cope with it, while you do nothing but let your feelings wash over you as you notice what you are thinking. Take care to clear up irrational thinking. BTW, facial expressions and body language "counts" as acting out, not as "doing nothing." As your head clears, see if any solutions well up within you, if the Universe is pointing you towards answers. As you do all this, you fix your buttons. Look here too.

And as one person put it: "It could all be that darn strike at XYZ airlines. Pilots are going through hell right now - it ends... normality resumes". ?? ??????? ( It isn't ending soon if you know the airline and I'm sure you and the readers do by now.) I know this is devastating for your friends, but what's your rush? Don't you see, your feelings of "I can't stand this" are your problem!  That discomfort or press you feel is your problem! The sense of not knowing how you feel (relying instead on how you should feel) is the problem!

Yes, stress brings out the very worst in most of us and is no doubt a factor in/ the cause of your friends' behavior. Who knows what else they may also be dealing with. Nevertheless, life dealt you this blow. The only (sane) option you have is to use these events to better yourSelf, i.e., pull in your buttons, deal with your tendency to judge, take offense, personalize, etc. . . You are being offered an opportunity to right some of the patterns in your life that don't work.  

Had your friend written me, rest assured that I would have blasted his/her thinking and behavior, not yours.  Why? Because the only person each of us has any real control over - is the Self.  Struggle through this stuff - and watch how much clearer, and easier, life gets...  I hope I answered your question... Doc. 


Friday, May 25, 2001
01:12:03 PM

I am involved with a man who was married for 20 years in a very sadistic relation ship with a wife who was so sadistic and controlling sexually. emotionally etc., that I wonder if he can ever accommodate to a normal relationship.  I had come out of a mildly abusive relationship at a similar time I believed his true self was prior to this relationship due to the things he stated about this relationship in causing him pain. AT present he has problems with alcoholism, slow pacing in defending himself against her most recent tactics etc. and making lasting breaks with her. After 20 years of this previous relationship is he ever likely to really want to change. I doubt he does not want to change; he is in pain. It's just hard to pick up the cognitive, verbal, and emotional skills he needs to overcome his auto pilot habits.   

If I want to discuss anything with him, despite some protectiveness and underlying feeling for me, which he avoids, is there any chance he wants or is comfortable with working in a two way street with some one who wants to discuss current realities? Or is the magnitude of such a relationship always going to dominate? 

Please me with a realistic outcome. Yours sincerely, Brigita.

Dear Brigita, you're asking the wrong question. You're asking if he will change. Who knows? I have no statistics, nor do I have enough information, and my crystal ball is in the repair shop. He is probably suffering from some variation of PTSD and self-medicating with ETOH. (Ouchhhh! ) I do however have enough information to ask you what you are doing in a relationship that you find so frustrating?

Do not look to the other person to change; you must change. Either come to terms with the fact that this man is where he is, dealing with all the discomfort, frustration, emptiness, etc. his behavior brings up in you -  or leave him. If he's reluctant to cut ties with ex-wifey, if he's unable or unwilling to connect emotionally with you, it's got to be painful for you, especially since there is no end in sight.

If you really care about this individual, and you must since you wrote me, consider changing the "relationship" with him into a "friendship" with him. A friendship is the cornerstone of any love relationship. Friendship is particularly important  in your case: he's not yet on his feet, is not whole, and is emotionally unable or unwilling to meet normal expectations associated with a "relationship," So, take the pressure off!   

A "friendship"  - assuming you can handle it, but then again, handling it is your goal -  is likely to create a safer space for both of you to heal. Let's leave him out of it now since you have no control over his healing. A  "friendship" is likely to create the time and space you need to develop your ability to tolerate and cope with your feelings of not being cared for, etc., as well as the room to question and deal with your tendency to get involved with men who are emotionally unavailable.  In other words, you need to stop  hoping to feel better as he changes, and instead find your own Center. Do not rely on his meeting his potential in order to meet yours! Your body is already talking to you: your frustration is a signal that something is wrong.  Don't react to your frustration by expecting him to meet you emotionally. Just listen to it. Feel the feeling - and let it go. Don't DO anything about it. Just pay attention to the message your body is trying to communicate...

Look here for help on doing this: Wherever You Go, There You Are. And good luck to you!    Doc.

Wednesday, June 13, 2001
11:49:22 AM

Dear Doc, I am a 38 year old mom with three children ages 12, 11 and 7. I am divorced after 16 years of marriage. I wasn't married to a verbally or physically abusive man. He was "absent" emotionally. He was a workaholic who wanted no part of any kind of intimacy so I (after sleeping on a sofa for three years) divorced him. You are describing neglect, a form of emotional abuse.

Shortly after, (like one month) Hmmm... Rebound? I met my boyfriend. He was the total opposite. He showered me with affection, attention and constantly told me how beautiful I was (I was starving). Rebound. Then the incidences started. The first was on a vacation to Canada. We were coming back from dinner and he forgot his credit card at the restaurant so he went back, and I went to our room. He came back 20 min later and burst into the room (I was asleep) and stood over me with an angry face and called me an "F****** B****". I was mortified and scared. I packed my things and told him I wanted to leave. He apologized and begged. I went back to him. Yuk...

The second time was when we were at a bar and a guy was flirting with me (I was NOT flirting back). When we got in the car he said "You are a loser; I don't know who would want someone like you; you are a slut." His insecurities are showing in that he had to put you down... I got hysterical and cried and broke up with him. He begged forgiveness said he had drank too much and I went back. "Hurt me once, shame on you. Hurt me twice, shame on me!" Why would you possibly accept drinking too much as an excuse? That's another very, difficult problem, which is by the way, often related to abuse phenomena.

He wants sex constantly. Anger addict, possible alcoholic, and now sex addict. This guy is not feeling OK internally. He's seems to resort to "feel good" stuff to escape from himself. For instance we will go to sleep at 1 am. after being intimate and he will wake me from a sound sleep at 4 am for more. He will pout if I say no. Let him pout all he wants. Shame on him for waking you up. He doesn't know how to handle his money and constantly is in a jam. He is trying to get out of debt but this also concerns me. Good. Be concerned; very concerned. Unless you want to be his caretaker. He laced into his ex-wife verbally last week and that is when I said that's it. I told him he was a verbal abuser/controlling and angry and I could not be with him. He got very upset with himself and said he didn't want to lose me. Of course. You're a good deal! I told him it was over. He said he admits he has a problem and started counseling with a therapist to get over his anger and resolve his issues. He said he will do anything to keep our relationship. He bought a book on relationships with a workbook, he is going to a counselor and he says he is determined to change. He also admitted to his ex wife and father that he is verbally abusive. He has made so many promises that he has failed to keep I don't know if I believe he will follow through. Well, time will tell. Typically, this type of person really means it when in pain, but the more comfortable he gets, watch the motivation drop. You're not even married yet. Imagine what it would be like if you were!

He lives 350 miles away so it is a long distance relationship which has been going on for a little over two years. Those were the only two verbal incidences. However, he TRIES to control sometimes what I wear, how I wear my hair etc.. I usually don't give in but sometimes I do. He is also bipolar (on medication for 6 plus years). Why have I stayed? There is so much good in the relationship too. The moment I met him I thought "he is my soul mate". We laugh till the wee hours of the morning, he is loving, affectionate and always listens when I have a problem with him. He never denies what he has done wrong. I have never had such a close, fun and intimate relationship with anyone. He is my best friend.  Is there any way if he is truly committed that he will change his bad behaviors?   I told him I will talk to him on the phone but not see him as I don't want to be hurt anymore. He wants to know if I will ever see him again if he does "get better". How can I know he is if he is so far away? I am confused and don't know what to do. Is there any hope for this relationship? Please give me your advice! I'm sure he's a great guy, but, for your own sake, I would not advise you to continue to see him, or (gasp!) marry him, but it's your life. Take a look at your codependency since this is the second relationship you refer to with a man who is abusive in one way or another. These individuals don't want to hurt you, they just can't help it. Don't believe promises. He's not lying, but he can't follow through. If you insist, give yourself a 6-month or a year-long break while he's in treatment. Then expect things to be perfect - until you begin to feel comfortable in the relationship. That's when the trubble would be expected to slowly start.

Start educating yourself by looking here and here and here as well as throughout the rest of the site - since you seem to gravitate towards men who are abusive in one way or another. You may need counseling as well. Your expectations of how a "best friend" treats you are rather low. Though the odds are clearly against him, he can get better, but it's a long road and is likely to take years. That's the best possible outcome. Is that what you want?  Good luck to you. Dr. Irene


Thursday, June 21, 2001
01:33:56 AM

Dear Dr. Irene,

I have been married for 6 years. Since the beginning of our marriage, my husband has been very controlling and verbally abusive. The abuse was the worst when we were first married, I didn't leave because of the insecurities I had. Six years later, I feel like I am a lot stronger from the trials I have experienced. However, the abuse is still continues. The big blow-ups happen every other month when he yells belittling remarks and calls me a "f###ing b*&ch", "idiot", "baby". He yells over issues that seem trivial. I am embarrassed to see my neighbors the next day, I know they have heard him yelling. I hardly ever yell back. He is a business owner and I started working at the business in Feb, which hasn't been a good situation. Sometimes the yelling even occurs around the children. He is bossy and I hear "put downs" ALL the time. I do have the gift of dis-engaging and can blow off whatever he has to say. Recently, I have reached my breaking point, enough is enough! My concerns are: We are in a lot of debt. However, I am at the point where I don't care about my credit, I just want out. But ruining my credit does not give me much of a future as a single mom. I have 2 small children ages 4 and 1. I wonder if it is worse for them to stay or divorce. He doesn't verbally abuse the kids or yell at them like he does to me. Although I know this will have a devastating effect eventually, if not already. He occasionally teases my 4 yr old to the point of tears and doesn't let up. When I intervene, I am told to "but out, I am playing with my kid." For some reason, he seems to be a better parent when I am not around. Sure. He knows it irks you to treat the child this way, so he does, and plays innocent, banking on your inability to do anything about it but buy into his "face story." I worry about regrets...things have gotten better since the beginning or maybe I could try harder. Well, you certainly haven't tried nearly enough to pull yourSelf together. Stop worrying about him and the marriage! He has not really been interested in counseling in the past. How effective is counseling for someone who has been an abuser for years and years and who also grew up around it? Looking on the outside it probably seems obvious to just get out. I guess my problem is that we have a fight and then things blow over and everything is fine until the next blow up. I forget how mad and angry I am. Where do I go from here? Is it fair to say, "go to counseling with me or I am leaving?" Should I just go myself? Yes! He knows he has a problem, but all I ever get are broken promises. Exactly. And unless you fix yourself, that's all you will continue to get. Thanks for your time and input.

Well, it's up to you whether or not you want to try harder. I think you should try harder to learn to give yourSelf a break. If the marriage is to improve, it's because you have become much more Selfish (Self-caring). 

A big part of your problem is that you still put up with way too much and repeatedly give him the benefit of the doubt - when he has clearly demonstrated, over and over, that he does not deserve your trust. Your husband will give you exactly the minimum amount possible to placate you. Not one drop more.  So, if you feel somewhat encouraged by a crumb here and there, that's exactly what you will get. That's what you have gotten. 

I think you need to re-evaluate just what you've been putting up with. Pay attention to your anger because it's trying to talk to you. This re-evaluation of how you think is best done in counseling. Because you are used to so much junk, junk is "normal" to you. Another individual can speed up the process of "junk identification." Go for help alone. Your goal is to get stronger and  even more fed up. If there is any chance of your husband becoming less abusive, it is because you absolutely refuse to put up with his junk - and are prepared to leave the marriage with no explanations if he doles any out.

Also, take a look at this excellent book: The Secret of Overcoming Verbal Abuse: Getting Off the Emotional Roller Coaster and Regaining Control of Your Life . The cognitive approach Dr. Ellis et al use will help you get on track in identifying the needy, co-dependent thoughts that keep you stuck. Good luck to you... Dr. Irene

Thursday, June 28, 2001
07:46:44 PM

I am so distressed! I have been married for 13 years now - and only now do I feel like I'm losing my sanity! I realize that not many people have this problem, but nevertheless it IS a problem. My husband is obsessed with me, sexually, as well as being love addicted! He brings me coffee every morning and he waits on me hand and foot. He treats me like a god! He buys me anything I want, too. Only recently have I tried to become my own person with my own identity, and he doesn't like it. Hmmm... How does he express his displeasure? He is very insecure and doesn't want ANY friends of his own, and has absolutely no interests except what I'm interested in. He is not physically or "emotionally" abusive Hmmmmm..., but I can't help but think that not allowing someone to be their "own person" isn't some form of neglect or abuse. You are describing "engulfment," a form of emotional abuse where the other person impinges upon you when (s)he feels like it, without much awareness or regard for your boundaries or feelings. I can't help but wonder if he would became more overtly or covertly "abusive" if you became insistent on being your own person. In any case, this is not OK because in order for him to be happy, you have to be available, sexually, emotionally, and otherwise when he needs you to be. I feel like I have a shadow, and feel so trapped and suffocated that I want to do anything just to get away. I want to leave....but, would I be in my right mind to leave a person who treats me so "good"? Can you see my dilemma? Certainly. But, you don't seem to think "good" is so good. The sense of entrapment and suffocation you complain of is a normal reaction and is trying to tell you something.  Please help!!!!! None of this is OK. Treat his tendency towards engulfment as you would any form of abuse. You are responsible for caring for yourSelf. You need to get a handle on your boundaries and begin to set limits as well as learn to handle his reaction.

I also hear how angry you are, and with good reason. So angry, you want to walk out! Why not take a more moderate position and learn how to get him off your back instead. Go into counseling with him, or go alone if you don't yet know how to tell him how you feel. Meanwhile, take a look at the Codependency pages for yourself. Learn how you habitually put other's feelings ahead of your own - until you are ready to bust! There are a number of good books on codependency in the Book Shelf. See if any grab your fancy.  By the way, this page on codependency symptoms is from Melodie Beattie's , Codependent No More. Good luck to finding yourSelf. Dr. Irene


Friday, July 06, 2001
12:49:43 PM

Dear Doc, I have been dating a fellow for a year. He is loving, kind, fun, involved with my son (who adores him), helpful in every way, BUT, when he gets mad, he is very, very mean. There is no talking things out when he is angry The worse time to talk is when either partner is angry! You wait until you both chill; he escalates quickly and intensely and there is no talking calmly. He must explode, leave, cool off, and come back later. He could use an anger management workbook. In addition, if something he says hurts my feelings and I try to tell him (nicely), if he does not think he did anything wrong, He tells me I am ridiculous, that he has nothing to apologize for, and that he doesn't want to waste time talking about it. He prefers not to talk through problems... just vent, cool off, come back and ignore it. 90% of life is fine, but I dread these situations and feel we cannot work through problems rationally and calmly. He is satisfied with this reaction and tells me he is sure he can find someone who it works just fine for. Is the 90% worth the 10%? Am I being too picky? You are describing a problem situation, but I can't tell how much of it can be handled by changing your own strategy. We all know nobody's purrfect, but there isn't enough information for me to get a sense of what's going on. It takes me a week to recover from any fight. Ideas?  

You two are clearly getting into a control battle over talking/not talking.  If he doesn't want to/ know how to talk, are you insisting he talk? Try letting it go and tolerate not talking. If you let the minor stuff go ("Will this matter in five years?"), he might be more willing to talk when something really matters. Also, let him know his explosiveness wears you down. Ask him if he would be willing to work on leaving before he explodes. If he can't or won't, let him know you'll leave. If and when the time comes, do it! 

But, why does it take you a week to recover? What are you telling yourself that enables you to hang onto your pain and anger for so long? This  you can do something about. Pay attention and notice what's on your mind.

What does he get explosive about? For example: Does he get upset because you want him to do stuff a certain way? (Anger would be an appropriate reaction, though he needs to learn to handle it better.) Or, does he get mad when you won't do stuff his way?  Does he pout/ explode when you won't give into him? Control stuff is more serious.   So: pay attention to you; notice what's going on and you're on your way to figuring out what's going on. Good luck to you both! Doc.


Tuesday, July 10, 2001
10:08:43 PM

Dear Dr. Irene: I am writing to ask you for some suggestions on how to begin digging out of a 16 year verbally abusive marriage. By day, I am a professional upper manager and professor at a Chicago university; living in a beautiful home with two beautiful boys and a husband with a Ph.D. in Counseling Psych - everyone loves him. By night and weekends, I live in a home that is filled with anger, raging and verbal abuse towards myself and my sons. Ouchhh!

I have lived the better part of this life with my head buried in the sand, refusing to look at the abuse. As I have said to others, when something triggers me to pop my head out of the sand (usually in the form of pulling out my books on Verbal Abuse and calling a close girl friend), it does not last. It's like looking in the mirror is so painful that I have no choice but to put my head back in the sand and numb out. Yes, coming out of denial and wishful thinking is painful. Otherwise, you'd have no need to go there...

Although my husband has never physically abused me, he has often done strong-arm tactics on the boys (12 & 13) like squeezing their arm, pulling their hair, backing them into a wall or corner and threatening to "break their f...g legs...". Hmmmm....

His profanity is endless and relentless. His alternating kindness, little sweet actions and periods of playfulness with the boys are equally confusing and crazymaking. His kindness and sweetness is real; he does love you and your children... The problem is he's out of control of himself; he can't help his moods despite his good intentions and despite whether or not he recognizes his poor behavior.

I have spent 16 years thinking he must be ok since he is the psychologist and focusing on his kindness and good side. Gee, it would be nice if certain professions were immune from psychological problems! However....lately, it's becoming increasingly hard to overlook the effects his anger and meanness is having on my sons and myself.

Where do I start and how do I find support with others that can help me not only help myself, but more importantly - my sons? You know your situation is abusive and you know you'd rather have it all go away, but it won't. You are basically asking me how to prevent yourself from lapsing into the denial - which does nothing but maintain the status quo and increasingly threatens your children's well-being. (Which is predictable since the older they get, the more they have their own mind, the more likely they are to clash with his.)

First of all, never forget that you can do anything you want to do. If you want to prevent yourself from lapsing into denial, you will. If you're not ready to yet, you won't. But each time you go there, you are a little bit more ready...

Stay Focused Tips:

bulletNo more secrets! Bring abuse into the open. Let hubby know you know. Let him know it's not OK!
bulletKeep your abuse books out
bulletStay in touch with the friend you talk to
bulletSee an abuse counselor and/or join a domestic violence group
bulletRemember: Feeling pain is OK. It's information. You CAN stand it. It's about reality.
bulletDumping abuse doesn't have to mean divorce (though it's often necessary to be fed up enough that you're willing to consider it...)!
bulletPost in the CatBox; there's a whole bunch of wonderful people there who know exactly what you're talking about, or post elsewhere. Look here for more site-sponsored Boards. Boards can help you clarify your position.
bulletJoin a support email list.
bulletKeep an abuse diary. Write down the time and date that each abusive behavior occurred, in detail. When you start to put your head back in the sand, look at it.
bulletHubby doesn't want to hurt you guys; he doesn't realize he's doing it or doesn't know how to stop. Help him stop by pointing out what hurts. Then, you've done your part.
bulletLook at The Secret of Overcoming Verbal Abuse: Getting Off the Emotional Roller Coaster and Regaining Control of Your Life to help you get a handle on the stuff that gets in your way.


Friday, July 13, 2001
01:01:38 PM

I have written to you before.. the March 1 post... briefly again, I endured 13 years of emotional abuse. My husband did everything he could to change me; make me who he wanted me to be. He cut me down, encouraged me to dress certain ways, berated me for not being "outgoing" enough, etc. He had me convinced by last spring that something was wrong with me. I did everything to keep him as happy as I could to keep the peace. I ended up having an affair, which was wrong, but I did. I posted to you before that he was throwing in my face constantly and still attacking me. It has been eight months now; we're still hanging in there, but barely. Here's my question/dilemma.. Every single day, he reminds me how I lied, cheated and deceived him for five months.  This is the updated expression of his abuse. You treat this statement the same as any other abusive statement and tell him something like, "OK. I heard it. I'm sorry I did it. I can't undo it. You have to deal with the fact that what happened happened. Constantly bringing the topic up is abusive in itself. So, choose whether we will go on or whether you will continue to drag up something neither of us can do anything about. That's the best option I can offer you." (His words every time.) He expects me to do everything in my power to make him happy. He wants me to spend everyday keeping in contact with him surprising him, and "rekindling" the early romance. He has always been in extreme demand of attention.. more than I could possibly give anyone. Exactly. Which is why the above statement won't get you too far: there is really nothing you can say that will allow the two of you to get on with your lives. He's always depressed. He does nothing but wait to see what I will do.. to see how much I'm willing to do to save our marriage. He says I couldn't possibly love him because I don't do things for him all the time. I have two kids and a full-time job. If we talk, and an hour or two goes by, he'll call me and ask if I'm busy.. then want to know if I'm so busy that I can't take time to call him, even though it has only been two hours. He went on a business trip for a week.. I paged and called him every day, I packed some sweet notes and cookies in his suitcase, and I mailed him two cards.. yet he called me, depressed because I didn't "surprise him and show up" and because I didn't "pack my panties in his suitcase." No matter what I do, it isn't right, it isn't enough. Right. And his underlying irrational thinking keeps him in a place where he will continue to do this, no matter what you do. Got that? He blames me for everything and says I owe him. Two counselors have said that he has unrealistic expectations. I'm at my breaking point. Is this what I should say to him? " I cannot be what you want. I cannot love you the way you want me to. I love you more than anything, but I cannot live like this. I cannot live day by day wondering what I need to do to make you happy. I can't be berated and belittled everyday over the affair that ended eight months ago. I am an emotional wreck and I am depressed. You are also depressed. Maybe we need to separate for a while." That is what is on my mind. I'm scared to death, but I cannot go on like this. He constantly "scripts" my life, but claims he doesn't. He claims I would do all those things if I really cared. Help. Why not? I don't know how you can say much else, since that's exactly what's on your mind; it is reality. He's got to get a grip. But, he probably won't, and you should keep that in mind. Or, he will try and do OK for a while and then begin to fail again. The bottom line is that once you have decided you can no longer live like this, make your statement and follow through. Insist he get treatment. This is the time you'll need much support and help yourself. You are likely to cave in at the slightest gesture of effort he makes. Don't.

You see, knowing what you know about your husband, the problem is now yours. But, you just don't like what you know: that the only person who can help hubby become reasonable - is hubby. Doc