The Doc Answers 22

The Doc's Answers 22


Sunday March 21, 2004
05:37 PM

Hi Dr. Irene, Hi Annie. I wrote a letter on 3/19 and may be the one that you said you voided the payment for. I posted it twice by mistake. I am trying again. I thought I put my e-mail address in the payment part, but I do not know what an e-mail addy is. "Addy" is short for "Address." Meanwhile, it wasn't your credit that was voided. But I had mistakenly erased your Q and I couldn't find another copy, so I'm glad you re-posted. Now were back on track: I credited you back the extra $25 you paid today; you should have received an email receipt. Sorry about the mix-up.

I am in a committed same sex relationship of six years. I have felt that the relationship has been unbalanced, especially with regard to finances, household chores, and maintenance. We share a small farm that I own and lived on before she moved in with me. Though I was aware and was doing it, setting limits has been unsuccessful. It doesn't always work :(. I get lots of excuses and claims that I do not love her enough; if I did I would be more understanding. Having read through your post, I'd say she is the one with the excuses! Notice how she avoids your statements and twists them into you don't love her enough. She probably really believes that if you loved her enough, you would let her get away with murder. Good for you for not buying into this sillyness! By the way, the next time she tells you that if you loved her enough, you would be more understanding, tell her something like, "That is correct. I do not love you enough to tolerate your excuses and lack of responsibility. Furthermore, I never will love you or anybody that much!"

Recently a whole lot of past issues and a new one replayed themselves rapidly: I agreed to help her get another horse if she got rid of one (limiting herself to a total of two). She got rid of one, but brought it back after the new horse got here! It is finally is gone - after 4 months. She says couldn't help how things went. She borrowed some money and promised to pay me right back after a check for returned merchandise came in. When the money came, she said couldn't repay me because of a whole lot of debt that she hadn't mentioned. And lastly, after talking about all of this, she used my one and only horse (read: "baby") for a horse back riding lesson for a teenager when I wasn't around! She told me only when I came home early and she was about to do it again! Oh boy... Sounds like she thinks you're her free pony ride...

I had a long talk with her and told her that my trust was completely broken. Sure... I don't feel like sex or much physical affection, and I asked for time to sort out my feelings. Good for you for being true to yourSelf! She got crabby for a few days, but is now beginning to hang on me and want long kisses. She acts disgusted when I say I don't want to kiss long. She's trying to manipulate you emotionally: first by getting crabby so you would warm up to her and then by hanging on to warm you up. Yuk! Good book for you: Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation and Guilt to Manipulate You   by Dr. Susan Forward and Donna Frazier.

I read withholding sex and affection can be considered abusive. It can be, but not in this case. In fact, it is your partner is being abusive - by taking advantage of your goodness and barging into your space without your permission (i.e., your "baby). You are angry and you should be! Of course you don't feel affectionate towards her. Your body realizes you are being taken advantage of. 

I do not want anything specific but a break, I think. You think? I feel almost hateful at times. You are very angry with her and for good cause. There is no realistic way to physically separate right now other than this. Why isn't there? The farm is yours, and you are not her keeper. It is not your responsibility to help her get settled elsewhere; that's her problem. There is no reason why you can't give her a reasonable deadline to leave, if that is what you want. If she won't leave or tells you she has nowhere to go, you can take her to Tenancy or Small Claims Court. They can set a deadline for her and can enforce it. (Check with your local Court House which Court to file an application with.)

Is it unrealistic to have a civil existence for a while when one partner, me, is acting like this? Thanks, Annie Anything is possible, but...

Dear, dear Annie, How is it you are acting? What is "like this?" She is walking all over you and you think you are being abusive because you don't want to be affectionate with her? Duh?

It seems to me that she is walking all over you and you are listening to your body - who has the good sense to not want to deal with this lady right now, or perhaps ever. Stop enabling her lack of responsibility and take better care of yourSelf!  You deserve no less. Dr. Irene

Tuesday April 06, 2004
09:11 AM

Dr. Irene,What chance do I, as an admitted former emotional abuser, have of not “relapsing” into my old ways? I don't have any statistics on treatment success let alone recidivism for "abusers." That said, in my experience, while you will never become a totally different person, your chances of dropping that type of behavior / thinking has much to do with what is causing these behaviors.

Some details. I was a member of AA for 5 years. During that time, I did not going to many meetings, and my SO and I broke up over my poor treatment of her. We agreed to try again, and things were great for a long time (our son was conceived), until I decided I could somehow safely pick up pot. Ouchhh! Addiction is sooo sneaky.

Things went downhill from there. :( We’ve been mostly apart for the last 2 years, except casually. We have a 3 y/o son together. After the pot, and after I starting drinking again, things careened to the basement for me. I finally had my moment of clarity. I was miserable! I had done it to myself! My family was gone, and I had nothing. I ached to fix it, to stop drinking, to right my life, to make things well with my son and his mother. Good! I’m back in AA now (3 mo chip in my pocket ;P ) with a quiet determination I never had before. I do what my sponsor says without question. Your attitude is excellent. It is very important that when your sponsor asks you to jump out the window, you ask, "How high?" I have found God in AA. I am ready to rejoin the religion of my youth, and attend church (she is also religious). Excellent. Finding your spirituality will help you cope. I am seeing a psychiatrist, and taking antidepressants. Thumbs up. I have been reading anger management books lately, and going through a second time to highlight the important stuff. Excellent.

I am doing everything I can think of to get back to being the person I know I once was, before everything went bad (through my own actions – no doubt in my mind about that). My SO is with another man now, but had decided the relationship was ending. Then she changed her mind. It’s still probably ending with this new guy, but not yet. I’ve tried not to talk of reconciliation, but I fail a lot at that. She doesn’t want to talk about that either saying, “she can’t let that happen again” (us). Yet I know she is at least considering it as well.

Yesterday I got some information from her “proving” that we had an abusive relationship, and that things don’t get better. And yet! This information nowhere accounted for someone that accepts responsibility for what he did, and is more than willing to change with everything he’s got. And I really don’t expect reconciliation either. It’s too soon. However, if she does end the current relationship, we can spend the family time together that we both want, and that would be plenty for me. She’s also said that if she is single, we could seek counseling together. As of yesterday, she decided she needed to seek counseling over this on her own, and I think we agreed that we could see the same counselor, just separately. I want as much help as I can get. If something more is to happen later on... but I can’t think that far ahead now – my expectations about killed me when the breakup didn’t go through. Right. Stay in the here and now.

The main issue right now is our differing opinions on chances of permanent recovery through hard work. She thinks that no matter what, I am doomed to be the same person. You will be the same person. But you can drop most of your abusive behaviors. I know it isn’t true, based on what is inside of me right now, but I can’t prove it. So I wanted your opinion on the whole matter, and some direction. Is there anywhere that I can find success stories of former emotional abusers? Much like you’ll find in the AA big book over drinking. I’ve tried to no avail to find something to show her at least that it isn’t completely hopeless. Can you help? You've done the 90/90 thing; congratulations! But, you know that AA strongly recommends against entering into a relationship the first year to give your body and mind time to normalize. Family time, on the other hand, is a good thing. In addition to giving you an increased sense of purpose and stability, family time will benefit your baby. In terms of the current problem, this time also provides a forum for you to test your evolving skills and gives your SO a good opportunity to see where you go with it. It will take time for you to earn her trust back. I will remind you here that while the objective is to refrain from abusive behaviors,  if you see yourSelf slip or are reminded that you made an error,  take responsibility, use the situation to learn from it, and get back on the wagon immediately.

Regarding your prognosis:

bullet What contributed to your abusive behaviors? Drinking? There certainly is an association between drinking and violence. Alcohol disinhibits cortical control, making abusive behavior much more likely.
bulletYou are taking antidepressants; depression and/or anxiety often affect sobriety. Roughly a quarter of those who use do so in an attempt to medicate an underlying depression or an anxiety disorder.
bulletThe reverse is also true: some people who behave abusively do so because their fuse is too short (often due to depression), or because they are too rigid (anxiety), etc. In any case, normalizing your chemistry is a good thing and is likely to have a beneficial effect both on your sobriety as well as your tendency to engage in abusive behavior.
bulletIndividuals who are addiction-prone are conceptualized by behaviorists as lacking in coping skills.  Your spirituality will enhance your ability to cope. Each time you find yourself in a difficult place that you somehow work out, you develop new coping skills. Coping skills are mandatory in life.

Re: success stories, there are a bunch sprinkled around this site. But I wouldn't worry about finding them. Worry about creating your own - then submit it here. I'll print it!  There is a reason I'm not terribly concerned about this stuff and it's related to why I'm not gung-ho regarding your SO's statistics:

I don't know what information your SO gave you that "proves" that your relationship is abusive and that things won't get better, but please keep in mind that to my knowledge these studies are usually based on individuals referred from the criminal justice system - including repeat domestic violence offenders. The numbers are typically based on hard-core types who absolutely-refuse-to-change-no-matter-what.

In addition, the statistics clump everybody together. So, while Subject #1 may have been abusive because she had a bipolar disorder, she succeeded when properly medicated. On the other hand, Subject #2, with an underlying sociopathy, failed. Thus, while your SO is correct that the overall prognosis is not good, to my knowledge, those statistics do not take into account underlying issues - or motivational level, intelligence, etc. The abusive people I have worked with who did best were motivated enough to freely seek out treatment, they controlled addiction issues, they were willing to be psychiatrically medicated, and, like yourself, were highly motivated for success. In other words, you've stacked the deck in your favor. 

My suggestion is that you guys spend the next year becoming friends and bonding with your child. That's a good amount of time for each of you to get a pretty good read on the abuse situation and how the inevitable little "slips" are handled.

Just because a woman's life expectancy is 74 and a man's is 79 does not mean that some men and women won't live into their 90s or die in their 30s.  So, keep doing what you're doing and go for The Gold!  Best wishes and may God bless you and yours. Dr. Irene

Sunday April 11, 2004
09:31 AM

Good morning Doc;It's been approximately 8 months since I wrote and, weeks later, we had our one hour phone session. Hi "Phil." I remember you. I still love my married friend who is the victim of extreme verbal abuse. To be honest, I am still co-dependent on her and have not figured out another choice for what I need. When we spoke, I tried to tell you that you need YourSelf, first and foremost. I must be playing this mental game of denial the same as she does because after over four years our relationship is becoming more one sided. Her words are more convincing. Her actions are not. Maybe, it has always been this way. It just seems like her wants are more evident, which makes the staying part more confusing to me. I believe she understands "emotional manipulation." She continues to see a good therapist and continues to read books. The latest: "Too Good To Leave; Too Bad To Stay: A Step-by-step Guide to Help You Decide Whether to Stay In or Get Out of Your Relationship". Hmmmm...

Doc......she is so unassuming, lovable and caring. I have never met another woman that fits my needs as perfectly as she does. Or, who appears to. Recently, I read about how damaging the verbal abuse and emotional manipulation is to the victim. "Damaging" like it's broken and can't be fixed. She lives this nightmare and can't wake up. Recently, I was in the hospital and when the doctor said they would put me to sleep, I tried to mentally see how long I could stay awake. Obviously, it wasn't very long. This constant emotional manipulation and brain washing seems like the same sedative. No matter how hard she tries it is too powerful.

I know I am jumping around from her needs to my needs and I remember your suggestion to just "let it go". So, I guess I am writing to you on Easter Sunday to let you know, even though, those thoughts of "letting go" are sad, it is the reality that is real. I can wish and hope for another 4 years and it doesn't help this woman. I will conclude by saying I am convinced as long as a woman stays in the abusive environment she will continue to lose more of herself. The abuser is more powerful than the therapist or knowledge from the books. More time with an abuser is always a bad thing. I hear her say "I am a failure", "I am mad at myself", "My brain is numb", "I just give in to him". I, also, remember you asking me "What's going on in my life that keeps me attached to this woman?" Either, I don't know or don't want to know. It always feels good to be me when I am with her, both mentally and physically.

Since I was reminded, recently, 55 years old makes me a senior citizen, I hope I can trust my emotions. I always ask myself "Do I love her because I hate him?" "Do I want something I can't have?" I am very critical of myself. I always feel better about me thinking about loving and wanting to be with her. That emotion has always felt real. Well, thanks for listening. I hope you are all settled in after your move.

The first thing that struck me Phil is her choice of books. Too Good to Leave? Is there something she's not telling you? Is it possible that while she appreciates your love, she loves him?  While your presence comforts her, especially during their low times, she loves him and not you - at least in "that way"?  Don't be too shocked. This is a scenario I hear from time to time from some of my victim clients. Don't think she would tell you either! She wants you around. Just in case. And she really does love you, just not the way she loves him... Think about it.

You love this lovable, caring, unassuming woman whom you want to rescue. You want to save her from her awful life and make her yours. Lots of guys feel this way, and it's not the worse thing in the world. 

I'm not suggesting your feelings of love are not real. I am suggesting that there may be more than love going on here. Each of you may be getting your various needs met in different ways. While she is comforted and feels secure in your presence, you have found your Perfect Love. Perhaps certain needs of yours are best met with this woman and within this context. If that's the case, you might be better off working to accept the relationship as it is rather than to try to change it.

Is this relationship "working" for you because you feel better about yourself when you have someone you can love? Would you be able to so fully love as the day-to-day frustrations pile up? If her needs clash with yours?

I've presented a few hypotheses for you to consider since you seem to be going around in circles, not knowing exactly where you stand. It seems to me that you need to better understand and know yourSelf. Like it or not, we are who we are. Spend some time with these thoughts and use them to explore what is inside you. But keep in mind, this exploration is best accomplished in counseling. Only when you know what you want can you know where to steer. Good luck to you Phil. Dr. Irene

Ps: The move is finished. Finally. Thanks for asking.

Sunday April 18, 2004
02:32 AM

Dear Dr. Irene,
I have been reading your site for a while. It is very good and has helped me a lot. Thank you!

Last year, my husband had another "episode" of being explosively angry and being overtly verbally abusive and threatening. We went to therapy separately; we had gone together a few years ago - a total disaster. I learned how this could be awful for a verbally abused person from the Patricia Evan's books. Yes, it can be bad news when the therapist is not knowledgeable in the dynamics of abuse.

I am convinced that my husband is manic depressive. He does irresponsible things with money and seems to be always in a down state in the house. In public, he is Mr. Nice. I could go on with this, but your site has it all. 

OK- a month ago, I came home from a class and noticed his car was gone. I went into the house and found a 2 page letter on the table calling me names and telling me how much he "misses" his family. Mom is an abusive alcoholic who was sexually insane when he was growing up, and his father is a pedophile with young girls. (They have been divorced since he was 7.) Oh boy... Nevertheless, it is the only family of origin he has... - and I have "ruined" his life and taken away his "soul". Ouchhh! I'm glad you know this one's not yours!

He had taken a bed and his dresser. He did taxes electronically and took 5000 dollars with him to his new apartment. He is just insane, but a high functioning insane. He's not alone...

I went to see a lawyer Friday- he seemed very good and professional. I have been told that it can run a lot of money to use litigation instead of mediation. Yes. I am feeling that I am not up to dealing with the madness of trying to mediate with someone who is brutally cruel and manipulative. I think I would rather pay for a lawyer for ten years to do the job professionally than try to deal with this crazy abusive man about property. We have been married 19 years; the law is on my side about a lot of the equitable issues. I just do not think I want to waste any more of my life being sucked into this vortex. I could go on for a week about his abuse, but you have all the stories on your boards, which have saved my sanity.

If you could address this question or refer me to some reading about this problem in this situation- I would like to know how people deal with this.
Thanks- and keep up the good work.

You are so stressed out right now (and who wouldn't be!), that you don't want to mediate! That's good enough reason not to mediate. Right now. As time goes on and as you get further from him, your stress level may change. So, the good news is that any decision you make today is not written in stone. As you gain distance as well as get a sense of his cooperation level, you can take it from there. My suggestion to you is to work with your attorney to begin the divorce proceedings. Draw up your version of what you and your attorney feel is equitable. Your husband may become more amenable to mediation down the line, once he sees that you are serious. 

Unfortunately, I don't know of any reading specific to mediating/ litigating an abusive divorce, but some divorce books have a chapter or section on abuse/domestic violence. What Every Woman Should Know About Divorce, and Custody: Judges, Lawyers, and Therapists Share Winning Strategies on How to Keep the Kids, the Cash, and Your Sanity by Gayle Rosenwald Smith and Sally Abrams and Divorce War! 50 Strategies Every Woman Needs to Know to Win  by Bradley Pistotnik, ESQ are both highly recommended by one of my mediator colleagues. Both have domestic violence chapters (yes, I know: domestic violence is not exactly emotional/verbal abuse...). She also highly recommends  Divorce Empowerment: What You Need to Know, Do, And Say  by Linda Powers, an excellent divorce guide.

My best advice to you is that you take good care of yourSelf during this difficult transition time, recognize that it's normal to be purrrfectly stressed out now, start working with your attorney towards divorce, read up on divorce and mediation, and keep an open mind for down the road. The good news is that your life should start improving soon. Good luck to you! Dr. Irene

Friday April 23, 2004
10:12 PM

HI Dr. Irene,

I have been involved with my bf for 5.5yrs. We've lived together for the past 3. He has always been verbally abusive. sometimes aggressively, sometimes subtlety. About 3.5 weeks ago he got violent during an argument and literally shoved me out of the house and threw my belongings into the street. He told me it was over and that I should go and "fix" myself. He did not hit or strike me. however, I was terrified.

Now I only see him at work (we are both professional musicians). He has told no one about our "break-up" and says he is seeing what I'm going to do. I keep trying to make contact on the phone, and I'm not sure why. I still love him. and I'm no sure why. I don't know what to do.

I should mention he did this almost exact same thing about a year ago and swore he'd never kick me out again. but he did. I'm not sure how to proceed. Because of the verbal abuse I pretty much built my world around him and now I feel lost and very afraid. I don't know how to rebuild my world. Why do I still need him even though I recognize he is no good for me? And why does he give me just enough hope that we might get back together? Thank you for any help. sunshine Dear Sunshine, You made this guy your world; last year he kicked you out; he kicked you out again now. You love him and you are calling him. My guess is that you two will end up back together again very soon. He's not told anybody he threw you out. It's unfortunate that  you will end up together again because it is likely that you will have a repeat performance next year, and the year after, and the year after that.

I understand he is your whole world and that you love him. So, it's time now to start educating yourSelf for next year's kick-out.

bulletBegin by making a life for yourSelf. Make friends or renew old friendships. Renew old interests. Do this whether you are with him or without him. You need to become your own person again.
bulletSee a therapist.
bulletWhy in the world would you trust your future to a man who is verbally abusive, puts the blame on you (I promise you, no matter how many problems you may have, he has more.), and kicks you out from time to time? Love does not hurt. If it hurts so much, maybe it's not love...

Some suggested reading for you:

bulletThe codependency section and victim section of this site and elsewhere.
bullet The Emotionally Abusive Relationship: How to Stop Being Abused and How to Stop Abusing by Beverly Engle.
bullet Boundary Power : How I Treat You, How I Let You Treat Me, How I Treat Myself by Mike S. O'Neil & Charles E., Jr. Newbold
bullet The Secret of Overcoming Verbal Abuse: Getting Off the Emotional Roller Coaster and Regaining Control of Your Life by Albert Ellis et al.
bullet Change Your Life Now: Powerful Techniques for Positive Change by Knaus & Ellis.

Don't worry about doing all of it this minute. Just start doing this stuff. Before you know it, it will be next year. And you will have already begun to transform - into You!  Good luck to you. Dr. Irene

Monday April 26, 2004
10:18 AM

Hi Doctor,

I'm new to this website, but am really glad I found it. I grew up in house where verbal abuse was a daily occurrence for my brother and I. I also dealt with my parents divorce and my birth father's mental illness. For years, I suffered from low-self esteem and blamed myself for my mother's constant abuse and control. :(

My question now, is how do I deal with her when she starts it now. I'm a grown adult, who is married with my own two children and occasionally my mother is still verbally abusive. How do I handle this? All I feel is deep hurt when this occurs. She is abusive to my new dad too and justifies it, as always. It seems she thinks it's everyone else's problem, not hers.

Good for you that you no longer make yourself responsible for your mom's abuse and control! But do keep in mind that your mom's style is not going to change. She's been abusive and controlling for as long as you know her. Unfortunately, she behaves this way towards the people she loves most and is most comfortable with. The good news is that you're not married to her and can get off the phone or end your visit. Your new dad has to find his own solution. You worry about yours.

While she hurt you in childhood, during a time that you were very vulnerable to her words, and these words did impact your self esteem - now, you are now an adult! You are no longer under her control; you don't need her anymore to survive.

As an adult, you understand that her communication style is her communication style. You understand that with those she is comfortable, she will vent. You know it's about her; you know it's not about you or because you deserve it.

The more you can understand the abuse and control is her problem, the less you will personalize the hurtful words and make them your problem. Each and every time  you notice her words pinching, remind yourSelf that the abuse is about her and not about you. Write this down on a flashcard if you want. When you get that upset feeling from her words, pull the card out and read and re-read it. You need to train your body and mind at very deep levels that her abuse is NOT ABOUT YOU!  Notice your anger too; it is there, as it should be, and will diminish as you learn better ways to think about what she's saying or doing.

This book will give you additional tools to help you retrain your thinking so you no longer give her so much power: The Secret of Overcoming Verbal Abuse: Getting Off the Emotional Roller Coaster and Regaining Control of Your Life by Albert Ellis et al.

You can do this! Dr. Irene