Wednesday March 30, 2005
Dear Dr. Irene, I was married to a man for 16 years who has obsessions and compulsions with narcissistic traits. He left marriage counseling and further help when the therapist said he needs approx. 5yrs of therapy before she can help our marriage. Maybe she was trying to help you - leave.
She also said that most of the marriage issues he complained about would not even be an issue after they treated him. I tried to help him and our family, but he just blamed me, the kids and everyone else around him. "If only we would just do what he wanted he wouldn't have to be so abusive...." Really?
We have 5 children (15,11,8,7,7). The last years of our marriage was his punishing me for not being able to work a full time job due to daily "stress induced" migraines. Ironically my 15yr old had the same headaches. He dropped the bomb last year that he had found another woman who was very well off. “He was going to finally make a lot of money being with her”. He filed for divorced. It has been a year and I am so happy that he has done this. You're fortunate to be rid of him!
I hate to see any family break up but I think I would have been dead if I still lived with him. I had so many ills from stress from migraines to I.B.S. to TMJ. Verbal and emotional abuse literally makes people sick! Ironically me and my son have not had migraines since we no longer have to be with him daily! Exactly! Like in the marriage, he has been just as selfish and cruel in the divorce thinking he should have everything and I should have crumbs. He stole the family business which I helped make, took my home, ruined my credit, took any money we had etc. I'm sorry... This last year I have regained myself physically and mentally and am shocked at the hell that I endured for years! This is what I keep trying to tell those abused people who write me. It's HUGE!
I knew there was things wrong but never knew how bad it was even when everyone around me was sickened at how me and the kids lived! That's common. You just get used to the conditions and whatever they are become "normal." :(
My heartache is the children. My 15 yr old is very smart and sees his father for what he is. He asked me to file for full custody of him. Since the separation the court has allowed my husband to have 50% custody. I agreed in the beginning when I was still very controlled by him. My oldest son goes because he is afraid to confront his father and also wants to be by the smaller children which he should not have on his shoulders. He told me that his father has been placing terrible “guilt trips” on them in order for him to keep 50% custody and plans to ask for more!" Here is where the problem is: All but my oldest son are being convinced. He keeps asking them "why they want to be with dad when he is so abusive and selfish" and they just can’t see it. I was always there to “save” them from his angry outbursts. I raised them myself because he could never be bothered with them all those years. I want to help them and raise them in a healthy atmosphere. How can they fall for this when they see first hand how verbally abusive and controlling he is when they are there as opposed to the loving and peaceful time that they have with me? It's funny isn't it? Kids often identify with the parent they see as the "strongest, most powerful" one.
I am so petrified that he will fool the courts and then I will no longer be able to help them. Well, you can suggest that your 15 year old talk to the Court, on his behalf and for the kids. Perhaps the Court will consider appointing a Legal Guardian. Or, if an incident has taken place, perhaps your son can talk to Child Protective. There are lots of options, depending on what is going on.
I feel like I have been “saved” from a life of hell but I can’t save my children. No you can't. How can I help my children to see that he is manipulating them and that he will never change unless he gets help? You can't. If the situation is hurtful to them, it may help if you and their brother issue some sort of complaint. I explain this to them as does my son but they said they feel sorry for him and don't want him to be mad. Please keep in mind that the children may actually want to be with their dad half the time. It certainly is possible they feel sorry for him, etc., but it is also possible that they tell you those things because they don't want to hurt you by telling you they like dad. Kids need both parents, and they get different things from each. Keep in mind that young kids, who don't have their own mind yet, do OK with a controlling parent. They see this person as very strong, and they like that. It's as they get into their teens, as they develop their own minds, when control problems often start. So, you may have to wait, and keep your ears open meanwhile.
I thought as with my older son they would have wanted to be with me the majority of the time, and I feel like I have somehow failed them as mother! NO! Please don't personalize this! You are not the All Powerful Mom. No one is. The kids are doing what kids do: trying to negotiate keeping both parents in their lives, that's all. They love and need both of you! Can you please make some sense of this for me? Thank you, Carlie Dear Carlie, this is complicated stuff. You need to get some counseling around this issue. Especially if you feel like a failed mom, because you are certainly not! But you have to be engaging in codependent-type thinking to feel this way. Another excellent reason to get some counseling. Finally, the counselor can help you better accept the relationship the young ones have with their dad, as well as getting a better sense if what's going on is OK or not.
Good luck to you, and I'm glad he's no longer your daily problem! Dr. Irene
Dr. Irene, I wrote two letters to you about my boyfriend and I. One was Dec. 9 and one was Dec. 30. (content removed...) Any advice?
Yes! You bought a board! It's here! Doc.
Dr. Irene, I have done a great amount of work on myself regarding my abusive H. Excellent! We have two daughters, 2 years and 6 mos old. His specialty seems to be nothing less than emotional and psychological torture. Sounds as though he may have a sociopathic streak. This seems to come to him naturally, like breathing. I have gotten stronger now after 2.5 years of marriage, and find myself no longer needy of him at all. Excellent! I am keeping a regular diary, and reading and re-reading, and seeing the patterns of narcissism and cruelty on his part. Excellent! By the way, narcissism and sociopathy are closely related disorders. I am trying to detach myself emotionally from him first before taking any action to leave. This book may increase your understanding of him: Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft.
I am observing him resort to new methods of getting to me now that he sees me being detached from him, and as I detach, I am seeing him for what he is: an impaired, inhuman, cruel, pitiful person who never had anything to offer to keep my interest except for mind f*** (excuse my French). I think though that I am coming now to the core of my co-dependency, which is scary. Yes it is. Keep in mind that it is OK to do things even if you feel frightened, and that as you master each task, the fear will evaporate. And you will feel very, very good about yourSelf!
KNOWING who he is and how he is, why do I STILL hope? Because you are Human. By hoping that things will change, you don't have to face your fear of doing all the things life without him would entail. This seems ludicrous to me. It is ludicrous, but we're all a little ludicrous at times. The good news is that this is something that you can change! There are times when I find myself still going into the land of make believe, where I want to believe that there is hope for the marriage, that he is going to change, etc etc. You go there to find comfort from your fear of changing. Seeing yourSelf make the same mistake over and over again is also part of the process of change, so don't get too upset with yourself.
Dr. Irene, I want to kill this hope, because it is unhealthy for me and my kids to keep going through the torture that he puts me through. Your hope is only a feeling. It is not a bad feeling, but you are using it as an escape mechanism, so it slows you down. Once the girls develop a mind of their own, I am afraid he will abuse them emotionally as well. Probably. Why do I have hope? Because you are frightened and Human. Where does it come from? You.
How do I make it go away, and get hope for something POSSIBLE for a change? See below. How do I forgive myself for having the hope still? There is nothing to forgive. Each of us does the best we can do. Sometimes we're lucky enough to spot a problem area, as you have. So now, we go about changing it. But I really really want to leave this horrible, torturous life where I continuously have to walk on eggshells, and am continuously criticized, ordered around, my plans undermined, my thoughts and beliefs undermined, ignored, demeaned. Of course you do.
Look at it this way: you use your hope to keep you from having to experience the fear you associate with things you fear doing/ haven't done/ etc. It's an automatic reaction; a bad habit; a coping mechanism. You CAN work your way through this because you KNOW your wishful thinking just keeps you stuck.
Make a list of all the things you know you have to do to move on. Add to it all the time. Everything from finding an attorney to an apartment to grocery shopping to paying the bills to daycare to getting through tomorrow to spending a Holiday alone. It will be a long list. As you accomplish each item, cross it off. Do what you have to do even if you feel frightened doing it. Notice yourself lapsing into hope from time to time instead of dealing with all this stuff! That's OK. Just take yourself out of there and get back to work as soon as you are ready. The more you face the things you fear or overwhelm you, the more mastery you will feel; the more you will like yourSelf.
This is a good book for you: When Hope Can Kill: Reclaiming Your Soul in a Romantic Relationship by Lucy Papillon. You will recognize even more ways your hope stands in your way. Also, please consider finding a counselor. You likely feel overwhelmed by all this. Support and guidance can be invaluable.
Overcoming fear and transforming your hope into dreams of a calmer, more fulfilling life is something you can do. My warmest wishes, Dr. Irene
Suzie: look on your board: http://drirene.com/forms/comments_eeek.php
One more option that may help is for you to disengage from the arguments. Emotionally disengage. Don't go there. Stop caring what he thinks so much. Stop trying to change what he thinks. Stop trying to get him to understand; to apologize; stop trying to reason with him, since all these things you've tried lead to more arguments. Begin to disengage emotionally so that you no longer seek his approval, his permission, his apology, you no longer need him to understand, etc. When he gets mad, just acknowledge that he's angry and don't do anything about it. After all, it's his anger, not yours. If he starts yelling, leave the house. Much easier said than done.
ALANON helps codependents disengage from their addict; helps them to care less and get more into taking care of the self. Melody Beatty writes books from a 12-Step tradition to help codependents disengage emotionally from their addicts. (Even though she refers to alcohol addicts, you can change the word "alcohol" to "anger" and it's the same thing.) Codependent No More: How To Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself.
Albert Ellis helps people to disengage from their abusive relationships by helping you take back your personal power and take responsibility for yourself. This is a powerful book: The Secret of Overcoming Verbal Abuse: Getting Off the Emotional Roller Coaster and Regaining Control of Your Life
Why not try this direction first if you're not sure which way to go? Good luck to you, Dr. Irene
Dear Dr. Irene:
The only way to respond to this is something along the
lines of, "First, we talk about my complaint because I brought it up
first. When we're done, we can talk about your complaint." But good luck
getting your partner to stick to this outline. You will have difficulty
sticking to this outline as well. So maybe you would "win" an argument if you
just stuck to logic, and didn't let yourself be sidetracked. But, so what? What
will that accomplish? He will find other ways to obfuscate. But it probably
won't work because your partner's memory and your memory are 180 degrees apart.
The "techniques" your partner uses to obfuscate are not planned out and
conscious. They are part of his survival mechanisms. Part of sick thoughts and
feelings that you can't fix. I said I only said that after he became
angry. He then argued that I had said that first and that since I had been in
therapy, I should know better. (I can never win any argument with him, because
he always turns it around). He also never apologizes for his behaviour.
This book will help you change you to deal with him more effectively (though I think you're already doing a pretty good job). And it will help you understand that you can only do so much - and then the only choice you have for sanity in your life - is to leave. God bless you. Dr. Irene