The Doc Answers 13


The Doc's Answers 13


Monday January 20, 2003
04:55 PM         

Dear Doc, I wrote you back on July 26, 2002 (#8, I think). Here’s some follow-up questions. He doesn’t get blazingly angry anymore . . . he knows now I will call the cops and swear a complaint. Excellent! You've set limits. But we are still having heavy, heavy problems dealing with issues. Your 4 steps: don’t start if angry, discuss issues in order, one concern at time, immediately stop if either gets angry . . . don’t work. You're expecting him to follow the rules. When he doesn't, you need to stop and simply do what you need to do - since he won't cooperate. As soon as he realizes it’s an issue that he can’t “win”, he gets angry. Yes. When he does that, you must walk away. Ignore his mis-behavior. No reinforcement for behaviors you don't to continue. If we stop, he works really hard to not “get around to it” again . . . and makes sure he starts angry if I press. That's why his tactics often leave you no choice but to proceed alone. What other sane options do you have? Yelling at him sure isn't sane...

I just read the book “Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing” You must mean In Sheep's Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People  about manipulative people. Basically, he has removed 90% of the overt aggressive, abusive behavior, and is now well-into covert aggressive, abusive manipulation. Typical. Just because it's not overt does not make it OK, as I'm sure you know. Handle it as though the covert was overt. Eventually, maybe he'll get it, if he sees that those techniques won't work. Maybe he won't. {Whine on} If he calls me a name, and I tell him to stop it, no name calling; and he does it again in that nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah you-can’t-make-me-stop tone . . . May I say, “Whatever, fatso.”? Not a good idea; now you're playing his game and getting "engaged," just what he wants you to do. You're better off saying something like, "I'm sorry, but it's not OK to talk to me in that childish, disrespectful tone. Would you like me to respond in kind and say something like, "Whatever, fat-sooo? Where will that get us?" He'll probably say it's not a childish, disrespectful tone. Tell him, "It is, and we can't talk until you decide to clean it up." and exit. if he indicates that you should reply back in a childish, disrespectful way, tell him you don't want to go there and you won't have a discussion until he cleans it up, then exit. {Whine off} The bottom-line problem is that his childishness, his over-developed sense of entitlement, his failure to consult me in “we” matters like finance and developing “our” future, are stepping hard and heavily on my deeply ingrained need for fiscal security. If his failure to consult with you around WE issues which directly impact on you, why are you allowing yourself to stay in that place? The only control you have is to remove yourself. If he refuses to grow up enough for you to consult together, it seems to me that he leaves you few choices but to simply proceed with what you have to do for yourself. It also reinforces that he refuses to relinquish his “entitlement” to do what he wants.

I cannot trust him to maintain the budget . . . he keeps blowing it. (It was only $10; it was only $20, it was partly for you, too, then it’s $50). Of course, it keeps getting worse. Then when I put my foot down, he says I’m being petty . . . Of course, I guilt-trip that he’s right . . . No reason to guilt trip. Think about it, and you'll see the guilt is totally irrational. Instead, agree with him! "Yes, I am petty (and proud of it) and that is the only way I see our way out of this mess." but if I don’t put my foot down, it gets steadily worse! He hasn’t started counseling again – “we were in it for two years, and it didn’t work”. Maybe he's right. He promised me “us” time, to talk about what we want and read books, weekly . . . hasn’t happened, and I’ve brought it up three months in a row, now. That's enough. He must have heard you. I guess I don’t trust him. You have absolutely no reason to trust him! He hasn’t really done everything he said he would; he just throws me scraps from time to time. Isn't that a deal breaker? If you went to work and your employer didn't pay you, how long would you continue to go to that job? Can you love without trust? You tell me? Am I really, as my counselor told me, already emotionally divorced from him? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Only you know the answer to that. And, you know what? If you are, you are. So be it. Those are your feelings, and whatever you feel is information. Trust those feelings, like then or not.

Or can we find the spark that once was and rekindle a flame? I think you'd like to. Very much. But you can't do it alone... All you can do is set limits on reasonable, mature behavior and assume that your partner is willing to learn society's rules. When he ups and ups the ante, trying to "get away with it", and playing games, you have to wonder about what he really wants in a marriage, and whether he has both the desire and ability to be your partner - despite what he tells you. Actions speak louder than words, and codependent types often want it spelled out for them. Usually it's not, and that's one of the tactics people like your husband rely on. A lady I spoke with over the phone this week had a situation that made this very common dynamic crystal clear: He told her he wants her to be honest, but he doesn't want to have to be! That sure made it easier for her... You know, unconditional love is healthy only between a parent and a very young child. Adults have reciprocal responsibilities with other adults. You married him; you did not adopt him. He is not 3 1/2. My idea of a husband is a friend, partner, lover, and confidante . . . when you can’t trust, that pretty much knocks that all out. Yes it does. In time, if not immediately. :( Love and Hugs, JRT - PS thanks for all the work in getting me on-board again. (Pun not intended). I'm glad you're back with us, and I thank you for alerting me that some people were unable to access this site! Sorry things are where they are. Dr. Irene

Friday January 24, 2003
11:03 AM            

I left the US five months ago and returned to Cyprus with my toddler son. The abuse had got to a point where I had to do something. He told me he would break my neck, all during the course of his evening beer sessions.

I am 35, a journalist, something which he always hated. My husband is 45, American. We met when I was in the US on a scholarship. I stood by him when he became critically ill with acute pancreatitis, and gave up a dream job to marry him. He promised we would move from the no opportunity southern town we lived to go somewhere better. Nothing.

From our wedding night, he started belittling me about my weight, (25 lbs overweight), my opinion “is like a… everyone has one”, I am “his Mexican maid" in a trailer who can clean toilets, no intimacy, no communication, always slept on the couch “because of his back,” lives off the government through SS disability and is trying to do an MBA, without even talking to me about it. He gave me very little money, no access to the bank account. He gets $750 monthly in my son’s name and me. In your name and your son's name? How is he cashing these checks? Perhaps you need to contact your bank, so you can put the sum into your account. Or, consult with an attorney. Or the Disability Office. Find out what your legal rights are!

While visiting my family overseas I found out the lump I had in my breast needed surgery, and  although I told H repeatedly to take me to the Health Department to have it looked at, he was “too busy,” so I decided to remain overseas. He says he can’t remember that. Since I returned he sends me the most abusive letters, hoping I will become 400 kilos and choke to death. Oh boy... I am working two jobs but I am supporting my son fine, and I am ready to move into an apartment. Good for you! He has sent no money, nor ever mentions it. I am about to get my old job back Great! and he is asking me to return, saying he will build a house with your money?; he wants me to change religion, (I am Orthodox) so we can go together to church Amazing... If going to church together is his reasoning, I question why he's asking you to make the change. He's the one who lacks the bargaining power, yet he doesn't offer to switch to your religion!  (Though going to church together is wonderful, it's not nearly enough to address the problems you two have.) I told him I am not returning, but he hasn't paid any attention whatsoever.

I want my son to grow up with his Dad. But I don’t see any room for change. He blames me for everything. He's not taking responsibility for himself. Not good. Can you me advise on how to be more assertive now?

Are you asking how to be more assertive so he HEARS you?  Yes. I want to make my H understand that I mean business when I say I want to stay in Cyprus and work. I am scared to abandon everything again in the hope our marriage will work. You should be scared! Past performance is the best predictor of future behavior, especially without significant therapeutic intervention in between. If he is willing to come here, then I would want the alcohol and abuse to stop. Good for you! I don't know if all this is realistic though. Thanks Emilia

Dear Emilia, Trust your excellent impulses!  You already know it's not realistic to expect him to become sober and non-abusive. I fully agree with you. First, he would need to achieve sobriety, a major accomplishment in itself. He would need lots and lots of therapy and support to learn to cope with life and take responsibility for his life. You are looking at years of work, assuming he's motivated and remains motivated over time.

How to make him hear you? You can't. You've done your part. It's clear he hears what he wants to hear and doesn't hear what he doesn't want to hear. That is not for you to change.

Ignore his not accepting your answer. At most, from time to time you may want to use the "broken record" technique when he brings up the topic. Just calmly repeat, "I'm staying here," over and over, and don't get pulled into side conversations - such as answering: "But why?" Or, "You can't do that!" Etcetera. He already knows the answers even though he won't acknowledge it. If you are waiting for him to say to you, "I understand. You want to stay in Cyprus and work there," you may be waiting an awfully long time. You've told him what you have decided; your part in his understanding is finished. Go ahead and do what you will do without another thought about whether or not he understands it.

You are a very brave and intelligent lady in deciding to cut your losses and return home. Your marriage sounded gravely ill.  

You may want to look at this book: The Secret of Overcoming Verbal Abuse: Getting Off the Emotional Roller Coaster and Regaining Control of Your Life .

God bless you and yours - and especially your young son.  Dr. Irene


Saturday February 01, 2003
09:49 PM

I have been diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder. My wife recently had a phone consultation with you, and you mentioned that it sounded like I needed a more "active" therapist. I'm going to a therapist who asks a lot of questions, but never challenges me and rarely gives advice. I've seen him off and on for several years, currently for about a year continuously twice a week, but nothing seems to be happening. I would like to find another therapist who can hopefully be more effective. What should I be looking for? What kind of questions can I ask? And can you recommend anybody in the San Francisco Bay area (preferably the northern part)?

I voided the charge on this question because I can't make a referral. Twice weekly for a year is a lot of therapy, especially when "nothing seems to be happening." Talk with your therapist about this; get their take. E.g., are you following through?

If you want a referral, ask your therapist and ask your friends. Then interview, interview, interview! Check out the resources here too, though I don't know who has a very active orientation/ personality style.

 Sorry I can't be of more help. Good luck!  Doc

Monday February 17, 2003
08:56 PM                               

I came from a family in which my mother was verbally and physically abusive and narcissistic, as was my twin sister and my younger sister (all three diagnosed by a psychologist). My younger brother was drug addicted and scared to death of the other three, my father was alcoholic and a womanizer, and I was the scapegoat for my sisters and mother because I refused to hate my father.

Perhaps the above explains why I have been married three times to three verbal abusers. Yes. It's what you knew. That type of relationship felt "normal" to you. The first was also alcoholic, the second had violent tendencies, and the third was addicted to sex with prostitutes. Now for the first time I realize that my son who is 22 is even more verbally abusive that his father (husband no. 2) and that he is also narcissistic like his father and husband no. 3.

I have been subjected to years of criticism and I have finally had it. Good! My son blames every one of his failures whether large or small on me. He says his father had a right to cheat on me and that I am "crazy" like his father said. I now am reading a book that says that mothers who over-mother, over-cherish, and dote on a son create narcissistic men who hate women. Over-doting is not a good practice, but the child has to have the genetic predisposition to step into the shoes of the narcissist. Nature and nurture. Obviously, he didn't inherit your genes.

My son has given me an ultimatum to reconnect with my sisters and mother or he will not speak to me anymore. He is aware of the abuse that they heaped on me for years. They were not even nice to him. I feel that he is doing this because I am finally feeling happy, although my current situation is not perfect. I am in a new city that I like very much, I am underemployed and have faith that this is just a steppingstone, and my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is now in remission so that I can work. Good for you! I am putting my past behind me and I have new hopes and dreams for the first time in years. I no longer need a man to make me whole. I enjoy my own company and I am selective as to the persons I regard as "friends". Excellent!

I thought he would be happy about that and instead he has escalated his verbal abuse and now is making those demands. He has also said that I was "lucky" that he was so patient with me before and maybe he should not have been. I think that refers to the fact that he has been violent to my property but not to me. He is living in another state where his deceased father's family lives and he just announced to me last week that he is quitting college and going into the military because I made him "too soft". I am so brokenhearted over all of this. Please comment. Thank you.

While the situation with your son is sad, why are you so broken hearted over something you have absolutely no control? Seems to me you've got your life - finally - in a place you like. Your health is in a better place too. All good stuff!

Your son has free will. He chooses to blame you for whatever. His choice. You don't have to take on that blame, as I'm sure you realize - but still continue to do because when you don't catch yourself, you still buy into this way of thinking. And while it's sad that he sees the world the way he sees the world, that's the way he sees the world. Only he can change that view.

Why not stop blaming yourself for over-mothering, over-doting, etc., etc. You did the best you knew how to do. That's all any of us can do because nobody is purrrfect and we all learn from looking back at what we did that didn't work too well. If you continue to blame yourself for making him turn out the way he did, you will be engaged in the same kind of thinking that got you into your series of abusive relationships to begin with!

Think about this: Does every kid you know who was doted on as a child grow up like your son? Look around, because the answer is a resounding no! Many people who were doted on can't dote enough on those they love!

So, time to stop wishing you did things differently, recognize that each person's biology predisposes them greatly to fill the shoes they walk in, and stop taking responsibility for his mis-behaviors. Time to enjoy the life you built for yourself now and make the most of it. Relish in your hopes and dreams; enjoy the company of your friends; enjoy being whole! And stop laying all your son's troubles on how you brought him up!

Finally, it's time for YOU!

Oh, and, I'd ignore any ultimatums. You don't owe your son or anybody else any explanations. Refuse to address the topic. Your son has no business intruding into space that belongs only to you. When and if the day comes that you choose to reconnect with your family, you will - or you won't.

A few book titles you may want to check out:

bullet Forgiveness: How to make peace with your past and get on with your life, by Sidney B Simon and Suzanne Simon.
bullet Boundaries and Relationships: Knowing, Protecting, and Enjoying the Self.  Charles L. Whitfield, MD.
bulletEllis and Lange's How To Keep People From Pushing Your Buttons,

Good luck! Doc