The Doc Answers 24

 The Doc Answers 24


Thursday June 17, 2004
03:47 PM

I have been married for 10 months to my wife and we've been together for 3 years prior to that. Since the beginning of this year things have gone south in a hurry. I am (confirmed by everyone I know) extremely patient. My in-laws love me (confirmed by my wife and one on one personal conversations with each of her parents). In fact, I love them too. The question that actually gets raised by them and others continuously is why I'm with my wife. "You deserve better..." They say this! And my wife used to tell me this too when we were dating. I am by nature a giver. It makes me feel good to do good for others I care for.

That has now changed where my marriage is concerned. Let me tell you that I am not perfect; nobody is. I have a problem remembering things. I'm a natural born scatterbrain. But I do try. There are things I do that get on my wife's nerves (such as forgetfulness) and, when we talk about it, (or she shouts at me to stop it), I try my best to resolve things. But I swear I don't think I'm bad at all. She has even told me that too. And she used to apologize for the shouting and again state "why do you stick around?" Right now this is a hard question to answer. I get criticized, called names (which has now stopped, but I suspect after putting my foot down she has gone to other measures, such as being cold). She talks bad about my possibly singing in the choir, talks bad about my faith, tells me if she calls me on the phone and it rings more than once (not jokingly but in an intimidating style) "What the hell took you so long?"! This is also if I answer the door in an untimely fashion. In her opinion, I should already be waiting at the door even if I don't know she is coming home!

I finally put my two cents in and told her (not yelled mind you) that I didn't like it and that it hurt me (on all these things). She waved it off and said I was too sensitive. I ate this too. I decided to try to see past these things. But I felt emotionally abused. And resentment grew.  Her words were not OK.

Earlier this year I had a bad nightmare of her hovering over me and telling me how to do things, putting me down. I woke up and broke down in next to her in bed. I told her the dream. She listened and I felt so accepted then. Then I told her that there were times during sex that I felt guilty for going on with the act because she would yell at me or put me down during the act. I told her that I still loved sex with her, and that she is very attractive to me. It was only when she would do those things that I didn't want it. The only reason I continued was because, as many times before, if she wanted it and I didn't, she would give me the silent treatment or be as mean and nasty to me as possible. Saying things like "Things aren't the same anymore...or you don't care" I wanted to avoid that.

Due to this statement that I made to her she is now sexually aversive to cold around me. I'm so very alone now. This has been going on for close to 6 months now. We’re going to counseling and we have for about 5 months so far. She’s not to receptive to it. Some times she doesn't wear the wedding ring. If I say anything about how it makes me feel, she tells me "Now you know how I feel after you told me about making guilty love to me! I will never forget that! EVER!" If your wife wants to hold on to her anger, that will not help the marriage.

Now it is very cold in our house. We hardly talk. I need to know is this a hopeless case? I think I need to go.

The counselor told me, I should tell her in no uncertain terms that this has gone on far too long. (Regarding sex). Yes! The counselor is right. I want to tell her father of the goings on Well, I understand why you think this may help, but can it really? What's he supposed to do? and that I'm going to leave. They have always cared about me and my family. Here is a letter she sent me 3 weeks ago:

"I can no longer tell where this relationship is going. I know things aren’t as bad as they were, but there are still so many things that I know will probably never change. I know we see a lot of things differently as to when things get done around the house or stuff like that, but I am sick and tired of feeling like I am the one doing most of the work still. Take yesterday for example, you knew we had the stuff for the lawn sitting in the garage and you knew it needed to be put out, but you never did, I did. You knew that the hose for the grill had been chewed threw and never once did you mention anything about getting it fixed. I am the one who took the initiative to do those things, not you. I purposefully waited to see how long it was going to take you to do it on your own, and you never did. You just sat there and watched. It’s things like this that really (poop) me off and make the decision to separate even easier.

"I know there’s a lot of things you don’t know how to do, but you only show a minute interest in learning at first, then you don’t care. Marriage is supposed to be an equal thing, but ours isn’t that way. I’m just so tired of feeling like I have to force you to do stuff. I want a husband who can give me all the things that I want and take care of things on his own, and not depend on his wife to do them. All of this is a huge part as to why I don’t have any desire to be intimate with you. It hurts me to feel that way, but I have learned to accept it. Also, I know that you do feel jealous when I hang out with some of the guys at work, but I can’t help that. Sometimes I don’t even tell you anymore about conversations that go on or if they invite me to go out after work because I know how you are going to react. You want me to have time to myself and be with my friends, but at the same time you want to be right there with me every step of the way, and that’s not what I want. I want to be able to go out with either just one or all of them and have a good time and not worry about what you think is going on or anything like that.

"I love you Manny, and I know that I can’t change who you are, but if things don’t start to improve and I don’t start to see the husband I always wanted and I know that you could be, I’m afraid there won’t be much hope for us in the future. What hurts even more is that when we were over at mom & dad’s, my own mother told me that “I had better not (bad word!) it up.” They don’t even know what the hell is going on. I’m just tired of feeling like I have to please everyone and make everyone else happy, when I’m not even making myself happy. I can’t tell you how many times I have had to keep myself from crying today from just thinking about it. All of these little things are just building up inside of me and I’m at the point to where I can’t take it for much longer. I truly hope that when our anniversary gets here and we go on that cruise we are able to make amends. I haven’t said anything because I keep hoping it will all just magically fix itself, but that isn’t happening. I really don’t like saying it, but if things don’t start to improve, I’m not sure how much longer I will be around. I love you dearly, but we won’t be much longer if things do not dramatically improve."

Dear Manny, As you mentioned earlier, you are not perfect and neither is your wife. I'm glad you are in counseling because you guys need it! Yes, you certainly need to learn to be more assertive with your wife, and before you can do that, you'll need to better recognize your own anger/irritation/frustration. One of your hurdles will be to simply recognize the extent of your own anger! I think you let way too many things that bother you pass - and then you retaliate (yes, retaliate!) in a passive-aggressive manner. This means you forget, you are late, you don't do. This is more than being scatterbrained because you are likely to be scatterbrained especially when you are angry with her!

I also think you need to develop more of a sense of self, so that you live your own life rather than live your life through her.

Right now, it sounds as though there is a vicious cycle going on in your marriage. A particular "issue" may start with either one of you - because nobody is perfect. In this example, I'll have you "start" the problem: She goes out with her girlfriends one Saturday and stays out for what you think is too long; maybe she stayed out longer than planned - you've been stuck in the house all day!

Instead of taking responsibility for yourSelf and do something you like given this opportunity for "alone time," you feel unloved or neglected. Maybe you feel jealous and complain to her. Maybe you feel so down/sad/unloved/etc., you lose motivation to do stuff around the house, or you forget to take out the garbage. Maybe it takes you tooooo long to get something done, etc. It's kind of like you've dug your heels in, yet you're not really being mean. Meanwhile, she becomes frustrated with you and her voice becomes louder and louder and more critical. Now, if it takes you too long to open the door because you were at the other end of the house, she thinks you're just getting back at her! Ouchhh!

So while your wife is angry and does treat you badly, your inaction provokes her. Then her words or actions provoke you, and so on ... and on.

You will probably need your own therapy to help you recognize your passive-aggressive anger and learn how to assert yourself - and become more your own person. Depression may also be a contributing issue for you. I think if you seriously considerd getting some individual help to deal with some of these issues, your marriage need not end!

Please print out this entire question and answer and show it to your couple's therapist. This individual is in the best position to send you in the right direction. Good luck to you! Dr. Irene

Sunday June 20, 2004
12:58 PM

Hi there Doc! It's Manny again Hi Manny! (June 17th post) ...I also wanted to send you some more information regarding this situation. I wholeheartedly agree that I have anger and resentment issues, but I actually believe that I'm trying my best to prevent my wife's issues. You're working to prevent your wife's issues? You can't! You can prevent only your issues!

At home, she is very distant and so cold. I try to get close to her and just kiss her on the forehead goodbye when I leave for work. She pulls away. I don't even sleep in bed with her anymore, as my own resentment has grown badly. I have been doing most of the household chores while she, for instance, suntans. Though last week she busted her rear doing work at home...she had a party she was getting ready for and needed it done as soon as possible. I helped her out and pitched in. She saw but didn't acknowledge, that is until she saw me dusting and said "I've already done that stuff." (in an "are you stupid or something?" tone) I told her, "I'm just trying to help out for the party." (I wasn't there for the party and went to a friends home. My anger was kept in check but it was there because when my family came over to see our new home (my birthday), she saw me cleaning up and said "What the hell are you doing?, why are you cleaning up, it's just your family." I said, "I wanted to make it look neat since they hadn't seen it. I'd do the same for you." She said "That's stupid. I'm going to my parents; and she did. She wasn't there for my B-day. I cried and I let her know how I felt. She looked at me blankly and said, "Huh? You should have told me you wanted me here for it."

You see, I checked out the book from Beverly Engel "The Emotionally Abusive Relationship: How to Stop Being Abused and How to Stop Abusing " I started setting boundaries since the beginning of the year. Good for you!!! I'm not the best at it, but practice makes perfect and I am vigilant in using it. Good! When I first used it she told me, "I'm proud you stood up to me, I've been testing you to see when you were going to do this." (Testing me??? Why didn't she ask or tell me this was a problem?) But since this time she has been very defensive about it. She tells me "I only yell at you because (whatever)" or, "You make me say this because (whatever)". Both of you have poor boundaries, though I see from what you say below, that you're working on it. She doesn't apologize (I can't make her Correct.) and she's been distant. (I refuse to make her do anything she doesn't want to do Good!). Make sure though that you ask for what you want. Don't assume she can read your mind.

Her parents tell me now, she is very difficult to deal with. That they had a hard time with her, that she gets her way or, if not, she is VERY unpleasant to deal with. I've never dealt with this before. It must have been subtle when it came up in the past.   

Anyhow she lived with her parents up until the day of our wedding. Perhaps I never really dealt with her anger because she was using her family to dump on. Now that it's just me, I see it all the time. Oh, and I encourage her to go out and do things on her own too. When she's gone, I do my own thing and go out. She knows this. The only reason I got jealous (truly only once) was because we were together and she got drunk at her company's picnic and was flirting with the men at work. I told her I didn't like it. That I got jealous, but that it was for me to deal with. Right. She said "I wouldn't sleep with those guys. I work with them; that would be too uncomfortable" (as opposed to being married being the reason not to). You are right Manny.

But since I told her that, she refuses to talk to me about work. She has no girlfriends, just guy friends. Cool... cuz I know them and they're good guys, old enough to be her father. I have no problem with her alone with them, but that night was terrible to see her flirting like that. And now she accuses me of being jealous all the time! She provokes you; you fall for it, now she's found something to constantly call you on. Hmmmm... Not OK.

And yes, I am depressed, according to my counselor. She wanted me on Meds. But my wife told me "if you go on those drugs, I'm leaving you...I will not put up with moodiness." Yikes. Yikes is right! If you took them, you would likely no longer be moody, though Manny, the situation you're in is enough to make anybody depressed. I had a panic attack some time before that The same meds (antidepressants) will also keep you from having panic attacks. and I went to the hospital. It felt like a heart attack. She told me, "If you ever feel like that again, you're staying home and I'm not calling anyone." Yikes! again. Yikes again is right again! I suggest you do what you think is the right thing for yourself regarding meds (and anything else), and let her chips fall where they may.

I truly ask and see what I'm doing wrong to her and she won't give me a straight answer. The passive-aggressive stuff is clearly wrong, and so is her behavior towards you. She threatens to leave all the time. I'm confused. Especially if I do what she asks of me and she finds something else wrong. If she doesn't let go of her anger, I'm afraid I will have to tell her I'm gone. Is it me??? Or is it that she is controlling and abusive? I don't know.

Manny, you're both acting out, so it's difficult to tell what's going on! While showing your partner just how angry you are feels good momentarily, kind of like a "win," your self-esteem suffers in the long run. You slowly begin to turn into a person you don't know or even like! Of course, neither does your partner, and the relationship as well as the each person's self-esteem suffers. A triple downer!

However, your acting out also contributes to your confusion. You feel confused because when you act out in response to something she's done to you, you can never really be clear inside if the problem is more about her provoking you for no reason, or because she's acting out in response to you! Both of you guys are just taking turns batting the other person over the head, in your own ways.

It sounds as though she has a little more power in the relationship than you do right now, since she seems to be the one calling the shots. And it sounds as though your marriage has the potential to turn into an abusive relationship if you give her much more of your power. But I wouldn't classify her as "The Abuser" yet. Nor do I see you as "The Victim" yet. Even though I won't classify you guys as Victim/Abuser, I do think find books on the topic helpful since the tendencies are there.

Think dominance and pecking order. It's universal in Nature! Mary may be dominant with Sam, and if she has anger issues (as you and your wife apparently both do), she may become contemptuous and abusive towards him. But if you pair Mary with Tom, she may become his victim. Abuse is about a gross imbalance of power. Abusive behavior is much more common and is about what you and your wife are doing to each other. You are both very angry with each other. You are both abusive, you passively and she actively. A relationship becomes truly abusive when one partner consistently sacrifices his or her own emotional/physical integrity for the sake of the partner. Your relationship sounds like more of a mutual power struggle.

Good for you Manny for reading books like Engle's. Good for you for changing your behavior and confronting her calmly (keeping in mind that no techniques come with a guarantee). Revisit medication with your counselor. Work also on curbing your acting out. Become assertive instead. The goal: If (behavior, act, etc.) does not raise my self-esteem, don't do/say/etc. it.  Do this (even if she doesn't) simply because its good for You!  Good luck to you Manny! Dr. Irene


Thursday June 24, 2004
09:58 PM

This is 'Ted' from the interactive boardHi Ted!
I pushed my significant other to see her anger. She is very very very
very angry these days. Try not to "push" in the future as much as to "let be." The reason: I 'see'. Oh man this hurts! Even a simple innocent understanding things to get her out of her anger (My attempt "If you had a child that didn't see something ... (Interupt) "I HAVE TWO KIDS!" (with fire in her eyes) ... "No I meant if you were trying to explain something to a child ... (Interupt) "I'M NOT A CHILD!" (more fire) ... "No, not you, me. (Gesture waving at her no and then pointing to me) Would you be angry because they didn't understand something you were trying to get them to understand? Help me understand. I then said, you are just angry, and she then threatened to have me arrested if I didn't leave. No anger from me whatsoever. Good for you for not making yourSelf angry! Don't push her so much. Don't try to show her things if she doesn't want to see something or gets defensive. Yes, she is angry. Your job is simply to allow her to be what she is without retaliating. Stated another way, your goal is to accept what is.

I  have been absolutely amazed at how fast and easy the change has been for me. I have very quickly learned to recognize the underneath emotion that is there. I also started practicing 'my issue', 'not my issue'. Excellent! Sometimes I'm not sure if it's really 'my issue', 'not my issue'. Good for you that you can own your not knowing. I will talk that one over with my counselor. But one thing I tried to share with her is that I now understand that not only is my anger my anger, but so is my fear, my happiness and every other emotion I possess. Yes! And ironically, part of the 'I see' is that I've now seen my anger from outside of me. WOW is that a trip! A real eye opener. The ironic part was that when I really looked at my spouse's anger objectively, I could immediately flip it around and look at my own (maybe for the very first time)! I thank you for helping get me started! (I am sobbing right now by the way! I'm not religious but if you are - BLESS YOU!) Thank you Ted! You are more in touch with your spirituality, your connection to the universe, to yourSelf. Bless you too! And for the record, you can be extremely spiritual without being at all religious.

I am very very very very sad right now and alternately on cloud nine. Cloud 9 is the good stuff you are seeing. The sadness may be about the grief you never let yourself feel in the past. You just got angry instead. Plus, your marital separation is reason enough for your sadness. My son has been very supportive. He is a very good kid coming from a couple of formerly - much better lately - screwed-up parents! But I also worry that I shouldn't be involving him in all my pain. I know it can't be this easy ... or can it? Why can't it? Sounds like it is. Two steps forward, one step back. I ordered a couple of the books you recommended. Any others you know that specifically address recovering abusers? I see you already picked up Loving What Is: Four questions that can change your life by Byron Katie, one of my favorites! This is another of those books that you have to practice, as you are doing. Read and re-read it. Also, she gives seminars; you may want to track her down. Look at The BookShelf, especially the Acceptance /Spirituality and Mindfulness sections. See if anything catches your eye. Books with a spiritual twist are very good for you in the space you're in these days.

Another question: Does all this seem real? Very. Sometimes I wonder. Are my wheels gonna come off at some point? (They already did!)VERY SCARY! Yes! I feel like like I'm way, way, way, way out in the middle of the ocean, and it's a very long way to shore sometimes. This is all OK. Changing the way you see the world often feels like the rug has been pulled out from under you. Your old ways, while hurtful to you, helped you cope. You are learning new coping mechanisms now; it's normal to feel this sort of anxiety/fear. UP and down. Highs and lows. I don't like that feeling very much. But I have also been practicing being nice to everybody (not forced, it doesn't seem to be particularly hard these days - but I just find myself wanting to be that way - It's genuinely weird - I don't think about it at the time - I keep telling myself to just keep communicating without anger - and then when I've looked back at the conversations and things with the people that I do communicate with - it works!). EXCELLENT! Keep it up, and keep reminding yourSelf to keep it up. The newness will eventually wear off and you will feel more comfortable. Keep reminding yourSelf when you get there too, so you don't get complacent.

Will the highs and lows level off or are we now talking about a possible physical or biological problem? This one is important enough
that I wanted to ask you. Overall, being a bit whacked these days sounds OK to me. Of course it's biological; your brain chemistry is adjusting too! You may simply be feeling plain, old anxiety. I think you are instead asking if this state will go on forever... The best question to ask yourself is if you have experienced the highs and lows before? Perhaps when stressed? If you have, it's probably your biological reaction to stress. If you haven't, either this is likely a temporary state and/or may be related to your medication. (If you are taking an SSRI and you have a tendency towards hypomania, the drug may shoot you up.)  Please talk with your prescribing doctor about the highs and lows so he or she can assess what's going on and what to do, if anything.


Ted, you are truly doing very, very well. Yes, it's frightening - and exhilarating! But in time, you will level out. Keep in mind that you will likely go through a few "layers" of this change. You think you really "got it" only to feel you are back to square one. Well, you're really not, but you're not finished either. You will need to use the tools you are using now for a long time. One day, you'll no longer even remember what you used to be like! Keep up the excellent work! Dr.Irene

Tuesday July 06, 2004
07:13 PM

Stupid question time. How often does it turn out that the abuser ends up being the abused? Often enough. My wife will not talk to anyone (no counseling, no third party), says it is still all my responsibility but offers no way to make amends, and says "I'm still angry and always will be." OK. She's pretty clear she has HAD IT! Is it time for me to now consider just the opposite? Like what?

She never has been to a counselor with any prior relationship, except with her second husband (from her own words, she showed up, read an angry letter aloud and then left). I thought the reasons that she gave for these relationships ending seemed justified before, but now I am seeing that perhaps they all have been at least some measure of 'her anger' (speaking not in 'I' mode for a minute - speaking in reality).

How can someone do this at the same time that they demanded that I get help? She will demand that you get help either because she wants you to get better so you can get on with your lives; she wants you to get better so you can have a better life (without her) in the future; she doesn't care what happens to you, she just wants to throw a jab.

I have. I get it. Excellent! Getting it is a Win-Win, no matter where life takes you.

Is it now time for me to realize that what is really going on here is that (she wants money after a divorce - divorce without any counseling is the only answer - for a 3 month long marriage) Is it? You're only married 3 months. Unlikely she'd get money for such a short marriage. Check your assumptions. Maybe she is just really, really fed up and wants to cut her losses. that she will never see her own anger Some former victim types either do not see their own anger, or see it and don't care. They've gotten stuck in their own recovery process. and since I have 'seen the light' to my own anger, that she can no longer control me anymore by using that as the reason for not wanting to be with me Or, maybe you're not as recovered as you think? If you were, you wouldn't think so angrily (yes!) regarding her motives. It's an educated guess that you're not as recovered as she would like. or is everything she has said about loving me essentially been a lie (I stopped playing!)? Unless she's a sociopath, it's unlikely she's been lying about love. She may however have talked in the past of love from a position of wishful thinking.

Do I start looking for the words 'stupid' on my forehead? Absolutely not, since if you were to do that, I'd have to write those words on my forehead too. Neither of us can know where she's coming from; all we can do is make guesses. Has she told you? Have you asked her?

I don't mean have you asked her during a heated talk or otherwise adversarial encounter, but have you asked her during a quiet time - and out of a heartfelt need to know? While I know you're able to pull off off-handed affect, as in this letter, I don't know if you know how to tap into your vulnerability and approach her while both of you are in a softer mood.

A safe way to approach this may be to write her a note or an email, something like: "I understand you are very angry with me, and even though I've gotten help, as you asked - and I thank you for insisting I go - you remain angry. It doesn't seem you want to work things out anymore.

"Please help me understand your change of heart. I'm very confused and am trying to understand what's happening. Did you have a change of heart? If you did, why?"

Hopefully she can explain; that's if she understands herself and is able to verbalize her feelings.

Meanwhile, work on your own stuff. Your email is slick and your assumptions regarding her actions are negative - how she somehow has taken advantage of you. I think your attitude may be the problem because your underlying thinking suggests an abusive process. While I'm sure you've made giant strides, you're not done yet. Keep at it; your recovery will take a long time. Good luck to you. Dr. Irene