The Doc Answers 14

The Doc's Answers 14


Wednesday February 19, 2003
06:27 PM

I have a quick question for the Doc, I wrote you on February 17th, 2003, and my question was posted for a couple of days and now it's gone and I don't have an answer. Did I do anything wrong?

Friday March 28, 2003
11:52 AM

Dear Dr. Irene- I have been married about one year and I have been feeling a lot of resentment about being unable to come up with a way to divide household chores fairly. We both work full time and I find myself doing all of the housework. I find myself in the following situation frequently. Nothing I am doing is working and I would appreciate some advice. I made dinner on Monday night, after dinner I filled the sink up with soap and began washing dishes. My husband ran into the kitchen and insisted that I stop, that he would do them since I cooked. I thanked him and went to our room to read a book. The next morning I thanked him again and he said" Don't thank me yet, I haven't done them yet." Five days later the dishes were still in the sink, making it impossible to cook. In anger and frustration I did them and then went for a walk. The minute I walked back into the apartment my husband got up from his nap to say how awful he felt about not doing the dishes. Several days later he was lamenting about how he was feeling really bad about being so lazy and messy and how he could see that it was rubbing off on me. ( Namely, he was noticing that I wasn't quite so eager to be the maid.) I don't want to be mama/maid/doormat etc and realize that I have been perpetuating this. Good! Oh by the way, "talking" about it doesn't help at all! He is extremely difficult to pin down as he loathes accountability. Help!  You've already tried the reasonable: you've talked to him. He apparently agrees to help with the home (from what I can gather from your post, he's agreed to help) and even offers to do tasks, but somehow "forgets." I'm assuming you've even asked him what tasks he would prefer doing.

When talking does not work, you run the risk of becoming a nag. Don't.

Nevertheless, as long as you take responsibility for keeping the house clean, cooking, etc., he won't. Why should he? In fact, even if you let go of some housekeeping responsibility, he still may not pick it up if he's the kind of guy who is not much bothered by a mess.

But he may be bothered by some of the consequences of not doing his part, especially if you pick cleanup tasks whose incompletion will affect him. While it is likely to be difficult for you as well, allowing him to deal with the consequences of his acts may inspire him to clean up his act, literally!

For example, if  you can't cook because he agreed to wash the dishes and hasn't, don't cook! Let him fend for himself for dinner.  If he, for example, is assigned with the task of doing the laundry and doesn't, don't do his laundry! Let him go to work with a soiled shirt! Chances are he'll take you seriously now. Did he agree to take out the garbage? Let it pile up. If you get bugs, just call the exterminator, but leave the trash exactly where it is.

bulletVery important: don't be mean or angry as you carry this out. Be emotionally matter of fact and nicely let him know that the "new you" is sick and tired of broken promises and that you refuse to pick up the pieces. No more explanation. None.
bulletDon't go into mushy "Oh, I understand dear" mode when he apologizes profusely for not doing whatever. Actions speak louder than words. Stay matter of fact.
bulletCardinal rule for this approach: You cannot care more about his stuff (like his getting a home-cooked dinner, clean clothes, etc.) than he does!
bulletWhen he does do something he promised, praise him liberally! But continue to treat each of his other incomplete tasks in the manner above.

And if he still doesn't get it and you're going crazy with the mess, hire a housekeeper to come in weekly - out of his funds! 

Of course, if he really hates housework, talk to him about his hiring a housekeeper to do "his share." You can do the dishes as they pile up mid-week so you can cook, etc., but at least you will be freed from some of the routine clean up. Good luck! Doc

Friday April 18, 2003
11:51 PM

Dear Dr. Irene: I just destroyed my marriage with a word. I don’t know how it got this bad. In ten years, our relationship has never been smooth. I am hard to live with: I forget things, I don’t follow through well, I leave out details, Not good! You're telling me you don't behave in a dependable way.  I’m socially awkward. Well that part's OK. Worst, I have become so afraid of my wife’s temper that I don’t talk when I should, don’t stand up for myself when I should, even hide the truth (like when I got a speeding ticket). Well that's certainly not good! You've got to learn to stand up for yourself in a calm manner. Not in defense of your wife's temper, but if one's partner is chronically not dependable, are you surprised? 

This past year we stayed 2 months in a hotel while I became my mother's guardian, moved to PA to NC, then last month again to MI, and I started new team lead jobs twice. Three months ago I saw a psychologist and a psychiatrist who diagnosed me with Attention Deficit Disorder (I’m 34). Ahhhh! A medication was prescribed, Good!  but in the last three months, I have looked for and started a new job in a new city, moved all our belongings, and made tentative plans to move yet again because my wife is unhappy with the situation. I feel like a haven’t had a chance to catch a breath, let alone change my stupid, stupid, harmful behaviors that I finally owned up to after thirty years of believing everyone else was ‘too hard on me’. Excellent! I haven’t found a new doctor to check my dosage, because I don’t think the medication is working like it should.Why are you shooting yourself in the foot again? If it's not working like it should, you need a doctor to medicate you! Your actions are self-destructive and probably also passive aggressive.

This was supposed to be our fresh start. Am I hearing a pity party brewing? Within two days of arriving here she told me she wanted to separate, to go back to her family in PA, because I didn’t tell her about a phone call soon enough. Sounds like she's had it with your forgetfulness. Is it forgetfulness or is it passive aggressive tendencies on your part? Keep in mind that even if you correct the ADD, most often it manifests with co-morbid disorders that complicate your recovery. But I'm still wondering why you haven't made getting properly medicated your top priority?

We fought more often than not this past month because she hasn’t seen enough change in me. Well, can you blame her? You've been dragging your feet! Today I said I used cash at the when I used my credit card, and later admitted to it (I used it too much when we first married). Doesn't pay to lie, even if you're lying to avoid an argument. Then she can't trust you at all. She said she wanted me out in two days. We are in corporate housing, in a strange city, and she is not working, but she can't stand me here. I guess I’m writing to ask why, The why is pretty obvious to me, but you should probably ask her. if I’m such I bad husband and bad person (as I’m been told) do I feel like the victim? Because you keep screwing up and she can't trust your word or depend on you. I’ve always been the one to apologize, to make concessions. I can see why.

Our fights start and end when she wants them to, and I feel crushed and worthless at the end by what she says. She has threatened to leave during fights if I did not cave in enough. Co-morbid depression? I have grown more angry, and used her style of fighting, that I used to hate, in order to not get trampled. I know the abuser usually tells everyone that he’s the real victim, but I just wanted to do right by her. I want her to love me, I want to be good to her, but I always seem to do or say exactly the wrong thing. I see that. Am I that into sabotaging myself, I think so. that passive-aggressive probably, that abusive don't know about this one. I really don’t think I am, but I need someone else to say because I don't trust myself. I don’t want to lose her, she is the best thing to ever happen to me. Why do you think she's so wonderful if you are so frightened of her temper? I’m afraid its too late already, but any help would be appreciated, because I’ve never felt so lost. Please. Mark

Dear Mark, I don't know if you're abusive. That's when the passive aggressive stuff is about controlling her. I do think you are  behaving in passive-aggressive and self-sabotaging ways though. The tremendous stress in your lives is certainly making things worse. Everything gets worse with stressful moves and job changes! Take the time to chill out and take care of yourSelf. If you want to know if you are abusive, read this book, preferably with her: Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft. Hands down, the best abuse book I've ever seen.

For the rest of your problems, find yourself a good psychologist and psychiatrist and get the help you need to overcome the thinking and behaviors that get you into trubble. Certainly get the ADD under control because that can look like or add to your passive aggressive appearance. Learn to stand up for yourself and fight back fairly and cleanly instead of impulsively (assertion). This you can do!

I'm sorry you're feeling so badly right now. You're not going to like this, but your goal is to retrieve yourSelf right now, not the relationship. Do that and everything else falls into place. With warmest regards, Dr. Irene 


Thursday June 19, 2003
10:37 PM

Dear Irene, I've been involved with an emotionally abusive man for almost 12 years. He lives with me; it's my apartment, not his. I've been very unhappy and have sought help with many different therapists, have read almost all the current literature, and attend Coda meetings. I can't seem to extricate myself from this man. The few times I've had the courage to ask him to leave, I've then backed down. I don't enjoy his company. We have little communication. We have no sex life (my decision), and we no longer go out together. He has financial problems and now owes me money. I have allowed him to take over the apt., watch his shows on TV, and I no longer feel comfortable in my own home. He refuses to agree with me about anything, withholds validation or compliments, and constantly yells and criticizes me. I then feel hurt and revert to a little child inside and weep, often in silence. I feel that this relationship is destroying my life. What can you suggest?

You could be caving in for a number of reasons. First and foremost: are you depressed? (Keep in mind that you don't need to necessarily feel depressed to be diagnosed with depression.) If you are, you could be caving in because you lack the resources to get through the tougher moments. The weepyness suggests a depression, by the way. If this is the case, a little medication and a support system could help you tolerate doing what you know you need to do. 

Have you searched your soul? I mean really, really searched your soul. Do you really, really want him out? You've been together for a long time and old habits die hard. What good stuff are you getting out of your relationship with him? There must be some good stuff.  Try to imagine what your life would be like without him. What would it be like to come home to an empty apartment, have nobody criticizing you on weekends; nobody to argue with. Can you deal with it?

You are in charge of your life. Nobody else but you lives inside your skin. It is up to you to decide what you want to do and how to run your life. Once you rule out or treat depression (this part is very important), honestly ask yourself if having him around is 30% of what you want, or 70% or what you want, etc. No partner is 100%, but the only person who can judge whether a bird in hand in worth two in the bush (or none at all) is you.

I'm sorry I don't have a better answer; this is not cut and dry stuff... Good luck to you, Dr. Irene

Wednesday June 25, 2003 
12:39 PM

Eight years ago, my son walked out. I was discussing retirement and investing an equal amount to help him get started. He said to stop talking or he would leave. I would not relent to the control and ultimatums, and he left. Hmmm... Sounds like you both have some control issues. My son's girlfriend Michelle was with him; they have been off and on . He ignored me at my nephew's wedding last week. He was with his 19-year old pregnant girlfriend. For years Aaron has used the same techniques on me his biological father has: moving, leaving no address and phone number,  making ultimatums, and being demanding and threatening. His father abandoned me after a seven year relationship when I refused to have an abortion. How can he be so much like his biological father when he has only seen him three or four times? Because people are about nature/nurture. The experts figure it is about 50% biology and 50% upbringing. We do this by looking at twins who are split apart at birth and raised by different parents, and by other similar methods in countries where adoption records are open.  Aaron's recent girlfriend is pregnant with her second child. My son is refuses to let me see my grandchildren unless I take Paxil. He says he takes Paxil and it helps him with the bad days. He may think you are difficult to deal with. He told me he started when he woke up and his best friend was dead next to him... He tried inhalants at 14 years and later joined DARE. Aaron said taking Paxil is my last chance. I wrote back that there was never a last chance with me, that the door was open when he was ready - but I would not take Paxil. Why not ask him why he thinks you need Paxil? Paxil is a drug that has helped many, but if Aaron thinks you would be helped by one of these drugs, your doctor or a psychiatrist should make the determination based on your symptoms. We could meet at restaurants and begin again. If this did not work, we could go to family counseling. He did not write back. I think you offered a reasonable suggestion. Trubble is he doesn't like it, so that knocks that solution out. My sister who is dysfunctional and has problems with her own children wrote back when asked to stay out saying there is only one solution: anger control for Cynthia. Honestly I only lost it once with Aaron and I was crying. Considering the badgering from Aaron - he calls me "Cynthia," he does not keep in touch, he tells me he does not like me , etc. I have maintained good control. My sister is  party to blaming me. Aaron (who is unpredictable) called last summer out of the blue; he was friendly. We drove up in 2001 and 2002 and had a great dinner together; his siblings spent the night - all was OK! Yet if you invite him to a Xmas party or something, he can become insulting and hateful. He continues to provoke anger. I am not reacting, How can I help make him want to repair this relationship with his stepdad, mom, and siblings? Cynthia Dear Cynthia, you can't make him want to do anything! His wanting to do something is about him, not you. You have no control here, even though you are trying to exert control. The best you can do is accept that he is angry with you, for good reason, or for no reason, or for somewhere in-between. If your objective is to see your grandchildren, ask him to tell you exactly why he is reluctant to let you see them unless you take Paxil - and what it is that he thinks the Paxil will accomplish. Exactly what in your behavior is he objecting to? And, if he does tell you, don't argue or get defensive. Just listen. It is possible that you are more difficult to deal with than you think you are. It is also possible that you are not, though my impression is that (unbeknownst to you), you can be somewhat of a challenge, even if you keep your cool. Of course, you can always petition to see your grandkids through the Courts, but I sincerely hope it does not come to that. I get the impression you both have control issues. But, he is in control of his kids. Ask him what is bugging him - and listen to his answer instead of writing it off as wrong. He's holding the cards on this one. Good luck to you. Doc