Wednesday August 11, 2004
Dear Dr Irene I have been married for nearly a year. 70 percent of the time my H is a good partner. He takes care of me financially, takes me out. He doesn’t stop me from seeing my friends or pursuing activities. 30 percent of the time he is moody and can be angry and critical. He will dump all of his anger onto me after coming home from work. He will criticize the way I have cleaned the house, or have not been helpful. After these outbursts he will say he is sorry and say he didn’t mean to take his bad day out on me. He also withholds when he is like this.
H binge drinks at the weekends and becomes drunk once, maybe twice a week. He says this is ok because he rarely drinks during the week. He most often becomes very sentimental but a few times he has become very angry and pushed me. This is clearly not OK. Alcohol is known to facilitate violence! One night earlier this year he put me through 4 hours of torment (telling me to get the f out of his house, to sleep in the garage). He also banged his fist on my computer table. He was angry because I wouldn’t touch him down below, the night before. I’ve rarely been this scared in my life. If anything like this ever happens again, please call the police. You want to file a report in case you need it one day, plus the "reality" of his having to deal with the incident may propel him to get help. Plus, I don't need to tell you that nobody has the right to intimidate you into having sex or demand sex - at least in the Western World. He didn’t remember most of this though, when I told him the next day and was in fact still mad at me for not touching him! He is more abusive when he has a hangover. You are describing a blackout, loss of memory while drinking. This is symptomatic of alcoholism.
He has called me a B*** and a C***. I’ve asked him if he would consider counseling but he sees this as failure. So what? Go by yourSelf! And let him know you're going to talk about your relationship with him. We also have a problem sexually. He has a high sex drive and wants sex very often. I dread going into the bedroom. Sometimes when I don’t give him what he wants he wont talk to me to punish me. This isn't OK either! I explain to him that it would be nice if we just cuddled sometimes but he just gets angry. See how he blocks reasonable requests you make when they fall short of giving him what he wants? A healthy guy would have empathy for you and be happy to cuddle! When he gets really mad he often tells me to leave his house. The next time he asks you to leave, consider taking him up on it. Permanently. The last time he said this to me I said ‘OK’ but I didn’t leave. He says he doesn’t mean it when he says it. Of course he doesn't mean it. Unfortunately, you are the chosen target for his frustrations...
The rest of the time he is a good husband, but this bad part is taking over. Yes. That's exactly what happens over time if left to its natural course. I don’t even want to have children with him any more because I don’t feel secure and don’t want to put my children in this situation. Any advice would be great. Trust your instincts. Certainly don't have children at this point!
Your husband has problems and over time they are likely to get worse. Is his 30% bad behavior acceptable to you? The only way you'll stop this (because only you can stop your treatment - since he won't) is by realizing that you have a right to be treated well all the time. It doesn't matter whether or not he's been drinking. It doesn't matter whether or not he's got a hangover, is blacked out, or had a rough day. It doesn't matter if you've disappointed him/upset him! It doesn't matter that he does not agree with you! YOU don't like it!
Please get yourself into therapy asap. 30% of this is 30% too much. And it will be 40% in no time...
A little reading for you:
Good luck to you; please get yourself some help. Dr. Irene
Help! I am the abuser and a mean one at that. I have been verbally abusing the goddess of my life for the past 8 years and have not known it. Well, I do now. She's leaving on Sept 2. I don't want her to go. She wants a separation for 3 months or more. I know I am wrong but don't know what to do. I have often been very articulate with words making her hear exactly what she wants to but not meaning it. BUT I WANT TO CHANGE I want to give up controlling her and just want to enjoy her. Please help! Your web site was heaven sent. Bless you, Dr. TTK
Dear TTK, I emailed you on the 25th with this request: "You're off to a good start! Now your email is a tad short. Add a little bit by asking her to write me a few sentences on EXACTLY what she would like you to change (be specific), or if you know, you tell me (be specific). Doc" Unfortunately, I did not hear from you, so I will not be as specific as I would like to be.
You say, "I know I am wrong but don't know what to do. I have often been very articulate with words making her hear exactly what she wants to but not meaning it. BUT I WANT TO CHANGE I want to give up controlling her and just want to enjoy her." Start there. She wants to go. Let her go; do not give her a hard time. Give her the temporary separation she wants, without giving her a hard time.
Despite the fact that you do not want her to go, you must not block her from doing what she wants to do. So stop blocking her now. It is OK to tell her that you want to change your ways, and that your letting her go is her evidence of that. Then let her go and do not try to talk her into staying, giving you another chance, etc., etc. If you try to talk her into why she should stay once you told her she can go, you are not changing anything and you will only harden her heart further against you.
You cannot do this alone. If you are indeed serious about changing your ways, get some help now! It is unlikely you will be able to make changes or sustain them alone because you will constantly talk yourself into why you need to implement control just this last time. Without help, you are also likely to experience increased emotional backlash as you try to do the work.
In short, to change: Let her go and get yourself professional help immediately.
Good luck to you TTK! Dr. Irene
Dear Doctor, Am I in a verbally abusive relationship? A typical example of what frequently happens in my relationship with my husband:
This morning, he stormed into the kitchen and began very angrily accusing me of putting a poisonous substance in the baby’s way. I had placed a caustic substance, used to open clogged drains, above the bathroom sink so that I could use it later to unclog the drain. It is far above the reach of our 21-month, and I had placed it there on purpose to keep it out of her reach. I asked him calmly to control his voice in front of the baby, who was nearby, and who was beginning to cry. He said, angrily, “How can I control my voice when you put this right where the baby can get it, and when you are pregnant? It’s a poisonous substance!” I again asked him to control his voice and informed him that it is not within the baby’s reach. He yelled that it could fall down.
At first, I tried to shrug it off, but this kind of thing happens too often and is getting tiring. I approached him and said that he is going to have to learn to control his voice and not speak to me like that. He again got angry and, yelling something, stormed off into another room, slamming the door.
Now he will give me the silent treatment for days, until I can’t stand it any longer and try to broach conversation. He has never apologized for an outbreak and has said that I am too sensitive and get my feelings hurt too easily. Am I too sensitive? No! Absolutely, positively not! Nobody wants to be treated that way!
Am I putting myself and my daughter in harm’s way by leaving the solution above the sink (in a closed container, out of reach)? It really bothers me that you are questioning yourself so. No you are not too sensitive. Your husband has a point in his concern about the drain cleaner, but there was absolutely no reason to approach you with such disregard for your feelings. A more normal guy would have said something like, "Honey, please don't leave that jar there..." There is no reason to treat you as though you are thoughtless or out to hurt your child.
Any constructive message he may have wanted to convey was lost in his need to dump his anger and frustration on you - anger and frustration that no doubt have absolutely nothing to do with you! He needed to dump and you conveniently provided the excuse. Understand that whether or not your actions were 100% perfect is not important. Nobody is perfect, so stop questioning your actions and start questioning his! (Of course you would be better off with the solution totally out of harm's way, but that is not the point.) If you don't confront his tendency to dump on you each time he's looking for a hook to hang his anger on, you'll find there will be very little you do right. Are his actions always 100% correct? Do you jump on him for every little action of his you disagree with? Somehow I doubt it.
You are not a vessel that contains his unborn child and cares for his baby. You are his wife, a human being with feelings deserving of his respect and consideration. He is not an affectionate person, nor is he supportive of my career goals. He does not compliment me at all, or in my raising of our daughter, which I do almost single-handedly, and I know I am doing a great job with her. Good for you for knowing that about yourSelf! Your husband's attitude is troubling. He treats you with disdain and is slowly sapping your confidence. He has no awareness of you as an emotional being. He is passive-aggressive. Those are all very bad signs are are part of the picture in verbal and emotional abuse.
He doesn't sound absolutely horrible and controlling; that's good. Plus, even though you are beginning to doubt yourself, he's not broken you yet. You may want to get some help now. You will need support to make it absolutely clear to him that his behavior is not OK in private and not OK in front of your children. If he doesn't do something about it (like get professional help now, since these things tend to worsen over time), he's likely to talk to his kids that way - assuming he's lucky enough to still have them around!
Get help for yourself now, before things deteriorate further and his bad behavior saps your confidence, as well as your physical and emotional health!
Good luck to you. Dr. Irene