The Doc Answers 32

The Doc's Answers 32


Date: Monday August 22, 2005
Time: 09:36 PM

Dr. Irene, I was in a relationship for almost 6 years. When I met the woman, she had a lot of emotional issues. She had experienced panic attacks. She told me that other family members have had panic attacks. She was afraid of travel, heights and flying. She was afraid of change and basically anything that caused her to go out of her comfort zone. She was very afraid of any sort of confrontation or any situation where she might prove to herself that she was dumb or not good. She was depressed and felt like she was in her own personal hell. She had no self-esteem at all. She couldn’t say no to anyone, and she was afraid of having anyone not like her or think bad of her. She told me that she didn’t know her own personality and she essentially acted how people wanted her to act. She was full of fear, insecurities and guilt. She was extremely worried about what others thought of her and worried about people thinking bad of her about anything. Also, she would have outbursts of anger. She told me once how she threw her sweeper off of the porch and other such stories. She also was very sensitive to what other people said or did and would be deeply wounded by anything negative or what she felt to be negative. For example, my mom would buy her something, and it would make her feel bad. She would feel like my mom thought she was trashy or her stuff wasn’t good enough or something like that.

In general, I don’t think she loved herself, and she had all of these fears and insecurities piled up inside of her. She had never really had a loving relationship in her life. Her parents don’t love each other. They have an emotionally empty relationship. There was no love in the family growing up. Also, she never really had any friends growing up. She didn’t have any friend that she really counted on and could trust. She had one friend that ended up sort of betraying her. She really hasn’t had any close friends her entire life. She ended up marrying a guy that she, in my opinion, sort of used and never really loved. She had sexual relations with quite a few guys in her late teenage years, but never loved them and never really wanted the sex. Basically, she just had the sex because the guy wanted it or whatever. She would have brief relationships with these guys and then it would end. When it ended, she would go back to the guy that she ended up marrying. I think she went back and forth between a new guy and the guy she ended up marrying close to 10 times. Her marriage ended up being a completely emotionally empty relationship. Essentially, they functioned as roommates. She became completely repulsed by him physically and sexually. She has never had an orgasm during sexual intercourse her whole life, which I think might be linked to her emotional issues.

Our relationship started out great. We both revealed everything about ourselves to each other. We revealed secrets that we hadn’t told any other person. We knew each other completely. We trusted each other with all of our thoughts and feelings, and we developed a deep loving bond. My love and support helped her overcome some of her fears and insecurities.

However, problems started to arise, and she basically blames me for everything. And you wonder why she has no friends? She blames me for making her question her perceptions and feelings. She blames me for ruining her self-esteem. Even though she had none to begin with... She completely blames me for everything that she feels now. Wow! Talk about not taking responsibility for herself! But, I think the feelings she has now are really rooted in the emotional issues that she has had since long before she met me. Yes. All her issues are her issues alone. We never really went to counseling to help the relationship. And, the only time she went to counseling was to find out what was wrong with me. What is wrong with you - that you stay with her?

I will admit that I made mistakes. I will take responsibility for anything I did that was wrong.  I was 24 years old when I met her, and she was 32 with two kids. I will admit that I wasn’t mature enough to handle the relationship. And, I think that some of my youthful arrogance and immaturity sort of clashed with her issues. But, I made some pretty significant changes back in 2003. However, I still made mistakes, which I take full responsibility for. I feel horrible anytime that she feels bad. Your problem is you take on too much responsibility! You take on responsibility for her feelings. Her feelings are not your responsibility, nor can they ever be! She will admit that I never really called her names or anything. She will admit that I am not an angry man. She will admit that I didn’t really control her.  She even admitted that she didn’t know how I was making her feel bad. In my prior relationship, I had no problems whatsoever. In fact, I made her feel better about herself.

Towards the end she got so angry. She even started to sort of distort reality. Last year, she expressed the desire to marry me for a couple of months. She said that we would get married unless one of us cheated or something like that. We even started planning for the future and naming our kids. However, after she broke up with me, she said she basically only agreed to it one time. If I mention anything at all that suggests that she did something wrong, she goes into a rage. She starts saying that I am blaming her for everything. When you ask her, she only really has 3 things that happened last year. I will admit that I messed up. I apologized for what I did, and I even agreed with her. I would do anything and everything for her.

Also, she didn’t communicate to me that she was continuing to have these feelings that she blames on me. It seems like she only truly expresses all of these feelings when she breaks up with me. I almost feel like I can’t believe anything that happened in the relationship these last couple of years because she makes it seem like it was horrible even though she never really expressed that to me and I remember mostly good times. But, she thinks she did. I know she didn’t because I would feel horrible if she told me what she has told me since she broke up with me. It absolutely kills me to see her in pain or to hurt her.

What do you think? I think you are permitting this lady to use you, like she used the men before you. I think you need to ask yourself what you are doing with a woman who has so many problems - and who blames you for them! You are allowing yourself to be emotionally blackmailed and controlled by her. It kills you to see her in pain; does it kill you to see yourSelf in pain? It should!

You're extremely codependent  and have virtually no emotional boundaries. You think it is your job to care for her emotionally, and you forget about your own inner life. She agrees. She thinks it is your job to care for her as well. Ouchhh! Double Ouchhh!! My advice: Get her out of your life and get yourself some help. Here are a few selections for you to read in the meantime:


Codependency section of this site


Facing Codependence : What It Is, Where It Comes From, How It Sabotages Our Lives by Pia Mellody


Susan Peabody's Addiction to Love : Overcoming Obsession and Dependency in Relationships.


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


Boundaries and Relationships: Knowing, Protecting, and Enjoying the Self.  Charles L. Whitfield, MD

Please get some help. You deserve no less. Dr. Irene

Saturday August 27, 2005
10:51 PM

Hi, I love your website. Thanks! I have been with my husband for 17 years (11 married). I always knew he had a temper, was selfish, explosive at times, passive aggressive. I have three small children I am so unhappy!

We kind of go thru phases: if he gets sex, he is pleasant, a great guy. When he hasn't had it, all his negative traits really show thru. Maybe that's normal for men; I don't know. Maybe it's "normal," but it certainly isn't healthy or indicative of a good relationship! I have tried to make the marriage work for the sake of my kids. I only think it affects them because they often will say, "Why don't your divorce him?" and things like that. That shows me they see us as unhappy most of the time. Their question also suggests they're not crazy about him! I feel very down on myself because I see all these happy couples, and I think what is wrong with me that we don't have that? What did I do wrong? Maybe you just married the wrong guy. It takes two to make a marriage. You can't hold yourself responsible for your partner.

I know I am a great mother, a very nice person. Everyone tells me so - but why does he take me for granted so much? Because he does; he would probably take any woman he was married to for a while for granted. Remember: how he sees you (or anybody or anything else) is about him. Not you. Am I going to have to leave for him to see? Don't know.

I really wanted another child. Not a great idea to have another child if the marriage is already straining!  He brings up all this crap about the house not being organized. Excuse me, but he does nothing. He thinks because he goes to work all day...  What I do isn't considered work? Of course it is! He always was that way, never gave me credit for anything, always criticizing, very infrequently would he complement me. This is not sounding very good... I have so much resentment that when he was sick a month ago and he was miserable, I acted like I didn't care. Yes, you certainly are angry! Your anger is a clear signal. You need to hear it; respect it. You must identify the messages. Exactly what things are going on that you don't like? Only after you've identified what you don't like can you plan on what action you will take in each circumstance. He was so shocked and hurt. Unless you have your head in the toilet, he never thinks anyone could really be sick. He is so selfish. He expected me to wait on him I guess and to feel bad for him. He doesn't see that his actions towards me cause me to hate him. How can I want another child? I must be crazy! You must be doing the wishful thinking thing. Hoping that a baby will magically make things better. I'm glad you know better.

How can I stop the jealous feelings I have when I see other moms that seem to get everything they want: more kids, nice furniture, whatever, but I have to beg him for him to let me do anything. He is very controlling. I know I rambled on but I just didn't know where to start or end. Thank you, Jenny in NJ. Dear Jenny, It seems that over time you have become more and more fed up with your husband's behavior. He didn't change; you did! You are waking up, and you don't like what you see. As a result, you are understandably miserable and very angry with him.

What do do? You've started. You are questioning things; questioning his behavior; identifying his verbal and emotional abuse; you are feeling your justified anger. You will need to sort through all of this. For starters, stop holding yourself responsible for his failings! His failings are his, and there is nothing you can do to remedy his stuff. You have no control over him. You can however work your issues, such as your jealousy, your resentment, your self-recrimination, your fear, etc.

By improving your boundaries you won't be inclined to blame yourself and take responsibility for his stuff. There are many good boundaries books on the market. One of them is: 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.

Then you can learn how to better identify (e.g., Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and
Controlling Men
by Lundy Bancroft) and respond to his verbal and emotional mis-behavior without mis-behaving yourself! Read through the site. Read some of the books listed on The Bookshelf. Join The CatBox and post there. I strongly suggest you get some individual counseling to help you sort through all of this. 

You want to take your power in this relationship, if, in fact you choose to be in this relationship at all. Good luck to you and may God bless. Dr. Irene

Thursday September 22, 2005
07:35 AM                       

Dear Dr. Irene Hi from UK. Hi from the US! The problem is that my sister-in-law (s-i-l), my wife's sister, is married to a man who verbally abuses her and who controls her life. Their daughter was recently admitted to a hospital and my s-i-l is stopping in hospital to be with her. The husband has insisted that nobody from his wife's family (her mom, her sister - my wife and brother) phone to speak to her or visit her and their daughter. This has been advised to hospital staff. Advised to hospital staff by him I presume. He has however asked his mother to fly over from Spain to stop at their house to look after their other child. This controlling behaviour has brought out several other examples of previous control which other members of the family knew about.

Looking at you website's profile of an abuser and his abuse is like looking at a personal description of the husband. Ick! My wife and her sister are "close" but it transpires that my s-i-l has not confided in my wife about the problems at home, although she has spoken to her brother. We think this is because my wife would want to get involved and sort the problem out (bit of co-dependency or just sisterly love? Does it really matter?) and her sister is fearful of the repercussions. The situation is now causing great distress to my wife's family. I'm sure it is! We keep mentally rehearsing how we can help my s-i-l get out of the situation (I know it's her decision. Unfortunately, yes.) but at the moment we cannot even get to see her, although I intend to visit the hospital tonight against their wishes - we are all being controlled by the husband and my instinct is to just go and visit. Yes! Go visit!

We are communicating "covertly" with the nurses at the hospital who we have informed of the situation and they have advised that my s-i-l thinks things will improve once home (IMHO that is unlikely?) Right. Well, once the stress eases when the daughter is out of the hospital, things should improve somewhat. Go back to "normal," whatever that is.

Can you give some advice on what to do - it's all very frustrating. Andy Oh Andy... The webs we weave... Your wife's sister has certainly gotten herself into a pickle, and you are wise to understand that her situation cannot be sorted out without her very active participation. She is probably in a bit of denial or otherwise not ready to deal with her controlling husband, so of course, she is not willing to confide in your wife, who will push the situation further than she can handle. Good for you that you understand that while this is an unfortunate situation, only your sister-in-law can fix her life. :(   It is harder for your wife to "get" because sisters are, well, sisters.  So be it.

Now we have a new situation: their child, your niece, is hospitalized and her controlling daddy is trying to keep his wife's side of the family out.  Yuk!

Unless Mr. Control has conned the hospital staff to the extent that they will not permit you and your wife's family to visit, you are free to do as you see fit.  Be ready however for possible fallout later.

How each unwanted family member handles the situation depends entirely on how each individual weighs wanting to see the daughter vs. their concern/ability to handle making waves and dealing with possible repercussions. 

Good for you for not being intimidated by Mr. Control!  My sympathy and warm wishes to your wife's poor sister, her children,  and the rest of the family.  Dr. Irene

Thursday September 22, 2005
01:05 PM

Hi Doc,Hi! I have been emotionally numb for quite some time. Not sure how long, but possibly for the last 10 years or more. Ouchhh! I grew up with a verbally and emotionally abusive mother. I have been involved with an emotionally abusive woman (on and off over an 11 year period), whom I haven’t been around for about two and a half years now. I have had severe bouts of depression in the past. I attended counseling (and took antidepressants) and was able to work through the major issues I have had and have been depression-free and off antidepressants for probably about a year and a half now. Wow! That's excellent!

The new thinking patterns aren’t automatic for me yet and I still have codependent tendencies, but I am much better off than I once was. Practice makes purrrfect. If you've been engaging in destructive thinking for most of your life, don't be surprised that it takes some time to clean up your bad habits. Especially when you don't have very frequent opportunities to practice your thinking style, it takes longer to become automatic with the new patterns. For example, had your abusive lady been around more, she probably would have given you many, many more opportunities to practice your new skills than you have now. (Count your blessings!) Your site also played a large part in my recovery and I am very grateful for that, thank you very much. Thank you! It's good to hear that.

Emotionally, I don’t feel very much or don’t feel as much as I think I should. Should? A good, recent example would be the tragedy in New Orleans. While I know a terrible and life altering set of events have happened to people, I don’t feel bad about it. Logically, I know how bad it was, but I don’t feel it. However, when I see what has happened to the pets that people have had and what they have been through, it gets to me pretty bad. OK, you just said a lot!

First of all, you are still engaging in your "shoulds" here. What you feel is what you feel; what you don't feel is what you don't feel. You need to stop judging yourself! Behavior therapy's third wave (I think we now have it about purrrfect) includes mindfulness. When you are being mindful, you are aware of your thoughts and feelings in the present moment. You are not living in the past nor in the future. You are simply being. And you are not judging. You allow yourself to be simply what you are; no more, no less. And not only is all of that OK, it just is (you can't change these things outside of you). Mindfulness skills should be applied as rigorously as cognitive skills so that in time, you habitually are more mindful. Great book to get you started by one of the prominent figures in mindfulness research today: Wherever You Go, There You Are : Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn.  

You judge yourself for caring about the pets and not the people. You forget that we are all different, and that there is plenty of room for each of us to care most about what we care about.  It just is. Some people will accept families into their homes; others have gone down there to look for friends and family, or to volunteer their services. My husband immediately sent money to the Red Cross. I immediately donated to Alley Cat Allies, because I, like you, "feel" more for the pets (cats in my case) than for the people. Is this right? Wrong? Neither, the way I see things. It just is. Each of us will do what fits with our values and with who we are. Mindfulness practice will help you to accept who you are, like it or not.

Second, people with a history of depression - who are used to experiencing very strong and painful feelings - sometimes think their feelings are flat compared to the suffering they remember. This may be in part what is going on with you, especially since you think you should be feeling more upset than you are.

The feelings are still there, just not always available. OK. I will see real world stories on the news that don’t faze me, but certain parts of movies will make me want to cry. Great! Feel it, then let it go. The next moment has new feelings for you! Allowing yourSelf to feel what you feel, whether it hurts or feels good is healthy. Let yourSelf feel what you feel; cry when you want, and please stop judging yourself!   Of course, I don’t cry because I am a man, lol. Yeah, guys don't cry, lol. Alcohol seems to make me be able to feel more, though it is not a healthy way to be able to feel. Correct. Alcohol exaggerates feelings because it loosens your cortical control; we don't want to go there. That's about getting into bad habits for feeling, but you already know that. It is not limited to feelings of sorrow; I have trouble feeling happiness and everything else also. Any insight or advice you can offer would be greatly appreciated. Thank you  Happiness (as well as sadness) is what you make it. You bring happiness to a situation, just as you bring sadness. You bring everything you experience with you, all the time, every time. Practicing mindfulness will help you pay more attention to ALL your feelings. So will "meaning making," skills where you learn to direct your attention to those things in your life which you find meaningful; which create pleasure. A wonderful DBT (Dialectic Behavior Therapy) workbook I absolutely love has a chapter on meaning making as well as on mindfulness. You may want to work these chapters (as well as the rest) in Dr. Thomas Marra's Depressed & Anxious: The Dialectic Behavior Therapy Workbook for Overcoming Depression & Anxiety.

Finally, you owe yourSelf a look at the psychology of Authentic Happiness by the renowned Dr. Martin Seligman, an energetic and involved psychologist who just loves to interact with his audience. This is not some self-proclaimed guru that too often is found on the net, but like (Dr. Marsha Linehan's) DBT, is part of the research-based third wave of behavior therapy. Great stuff! One of Dr. Seligman's wonderful books is Authentic Happiness: Using the new positive psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment.

The behavioral therapies differ from most other approaches (such as psychodynamic, 12-step,  self-proclaimed guru, etc.) in that they are "evidence based." Remember this word; you'll be hearing it a lot. Evidence-based means that a bunch of positive testimonials is not sufficient to demonstrate efficacy. What if for every 5 people who had good results, 10 had bad results/no results? You would never hear about the 10 with the testimonial approach. Evidence-based approaches are effective because numerous studies have compared treatment modalities using appropriate experimental and statistical methodology - and found them to work! Really!

Of course, please consider working with a guide (a therapist) familiar with these approaches. Good luck to you, Dr. Irene

Friday September 30, 2005
12:54 PM

I have been in a verbally abusive relationship for (only) ten months. My boyfriend is critical, insulting, demanding, and often irrationally angry. It is becoming worse over time. Not good. He has admitted that he has anger management problems, that he is difficult to date, that he realizes he verbally abuses me at times. Well, it's good that he sees it; unfortunately for both of you, he has not stopped it.

We have talked about this many times (though in the end he usually gets frustrated and starts putting the blame on me Yes. This is very common.) and he will apologize. This too is very common. He recently asked me if our relationship had less fighting than any other relationship I’ve been in. I said, "No, we fight more than anything I’ve ever experienced. " I asked him the same question, and he said that this was the least he’s ever fought with anyone. He told me that he is trying to not verbally abuse me. I believe him that he wants a calmer relationship. I believe him too.

I am a self assured, independent woman. I am not afraid of leaving him. I am not financially dependent on him. I am not afraid that I won’t find someone else. Good for you! But I do love this man. Before I just walk away, out of respect for him (because there are ways in which he does deserve respect), I wanted to ask you for advice. I want to talk to him soon, confront him. Any advice on how I can approach the subject? Honestly, and from your point of view. I have read about setting limits and I do…….but he complains that when he crosses the line, I leave. Yes. Which is true. But I leave after trying to reason with him (impossible Impossible.), trying to reassure him (because I think he feels insecure Probably, but this is his problem, not yours, and you can't sooth him. He must learn to do this for himself.). If he won’t listen, won’t be respectful, then I leave the house. Or leave the restaurant and call a cab. Not so much fun being unable to trust that an ordinary evening out will end up being an ordinary evening out, is it? Do you really want to stick around when it takes so much effort and upset on your part to get him to move just a couple inches in the "right" direction?

Any advice for working with someone who admits he has a problem but doesn’t seem to be changing? I saw in an earlier letter you wrote that you would post a list of signs that a verbal abuser is trying to change (requested by a verbal abuser). Is that available? Hmmm... I thought you were going to ask me if I thought you should leave or stay. (I certainly would advise you to leave this relationship; no ties, no kids, why do this to yourSelf?) But, instead you ask me what assistance I can give you that you can offer to him!  Hmmmm... Very codependent of you, don't you think? Perhaps you are not as easily able to walk away as you may think?

I'm not sure what exactly was being referred to in the pages you read, but he can certainly look at Abuse Signs.  He really needs to look at the whole site, beginning probably with the section for The Abuser. On these pages he will learn about thoughts and behaviors he needs to be mindful of - so he can choose whether or not he will continue bringing this stuff with him.

Word of advice to you: Don't let your wishful thinking get in your way!  My best wishes to both of you. Dr. Irene.

Sunday October 02, 2005
02:23 PM

At work, there is a tall woman, Sara, who is about 45 with two boys and a weight problem. I am one of the older staff. Most of the staff are under 28. She is like a mother to most people. My own mother was emotionally abusive and my father was schizophrenic. Sara has implied I was anorexic because I go down stairs to eat or I eat with the guys. I didn’t eat with her. I am 5 pounds overweight for my height and I love food. She finally got on my nerves and I mentioned to one of the guys that I thought she was obese and it would be nice if she took care of her own problems first. The problem is that you expressed your anger to a third person - instead of to the source - and it got back to her.

She didn't speak to me for two months. Later, I asked her to look at a document. It was just easier to explain stuff that way. She implied twice that I was talking down to her. You could have told her, "I'm sorry if it seems to you that I am talking down to you. I'm not. It is just easier for me to explain the job if you read the document than if I try to get it across myself." The next day, I was called into an owner’s office and she again implied I was talking down to her. The owner backed me up and explained why I was asking her to look at the paper. Recently, an Asian student was fired from our office. If she didn’t get her way, she would either yell or cry. She blamed me for being fired. It's OK that she blamed you. Nothing you can do about it other than not take her comments to heart. The owners wanted her fired in April.

Sara started asking me questions about my mother etc. Inappropriate. This line of questioning with a co-worker is out of bounds unless you invite her to go there, or you are close friends, etc. We were alone in the office. I answered her. Why not just nicely tell her that your mom has nothing to do with work? She mentioned to me that she thinks I don’t get along with women because I don’t trust them. Out of line. You cannot allow her to have these conversations with you. She is taking advantage of your inability to be assertive. She mentioned that she thought I had a problem with her. I said I didn’t. I would have told her, "I certainly do have a problem with this conversation! Let's stick to work topics, please." If she persisted on your relationship with her, you could have replied along the lines of, "It doesn't matter whether or not I have a problem with you or don't have a problem with you. What matters is that we respect each other enough so that we can work together to get the job done." Period. The End. She warned me that I will likely become very lonely. I said I had friends. When you defend yourself like that, you give her credence. Better to just say something like, "Oh, OK, thanks. I'll keep that in mind," while you switch the topic and pay her absolutely no mind. Or, say, "Thank you for your concern, but my mother and my friends are not your concern." Or, "Sara, when I want your input and advice in my personal life, I will ask you for it. Otherwise, please, let's just stick to work topics." She looked at me with this pouty face and said “Oh do you?” I sent an e-mail to her and the owners saying I wasn’t comfortable with the situation. Of course! Her conversation was extremely inappropriate.

I told her I just want to enjoy life. I enjoy spending time with people who are fun and positive to be with. Is this enough? I guess you'll find out.

You have a very hard time dealing with people who impose themselves into your space. You need to learn some assertion skills.  Learning to be assertive is like learning a foreign language: it is difficult at first, and gets easier and easier with practice. When you get really good at it, you know how to reply to people like Sara on the spot without getting angry and without avoiding what needs to be said. Being assertive is a prerequisite in taking good care of yourSelf, so I strongly suggest you start learning.

There are many wonderful books and workbooks on the market that will help you. You nay even be able to find a course or two in your community if you look around; start with the local high school, community college, or hospital. Of course, many therapists can teach you assertion skills as well. Below find some books on assertion or on related topics:

bullet The Assertiveness Workbook: How to Express Your Ideas and Stand Up for Yourself at Work and in Relationships by Randy J. Paterson
bullet Tongue Fu! How to Deflect, Disarm, and Defuse any Verbal Conflict by Sam Horn
bullet Ellis and Lange's How To Keep People From Pushing Your Buttons,
bulletDr. Albert Ellis' How to Make Yourself Happy and Remarkably Less Disturbable  

Good luck! Dr. Irene

Friday October 07, 2005
08:12 AM

Dear Dr. Irene,

I have been in several relationships in my life. I am in my early 40's now and just spent the last few years in a relationship that recently ended. In all but one of my previous relationships there wasn't any violence or abuse present that I can identify. In one, I was subjected to all kinds of abuse, including physical abuse. That was over 10 years ago, but I still have bad memories of it. Ouchhh!

In the most recent relationship that ended, I became someone that I didn't know I was capable of being. I verbally abused my partner many times. I did things that were emotionally abusive as well. I can honestly say that I didn't intentionally set out to do those things and I still don't know why I did. Basically, you're telling me you are not mindful of what is going on inside of yourself. You don't have a clue regarding your inner experience. Let's say that you are feeling angry, for example, with your partner - without realizing that you are angry! If you don't recognize your feelings, you are at a distinct disadvantage. How can you address an issue if you are denying your feelings around that issue? Anger is a viable directional signal, just like joy and vision and taste, etc. Deny anger and you are likely to act those feelings out - becoming passive-aggressive or otherwise abusive instead!

Also, many, many people with abuse problems have no clue that they're being abusive, they and are shocked when they figure it out. Notice the disconnect between behavior and consciousness. Nevertheless, from their point of view, these individuals are just trying to get a point across - or something like that. Part of the problem is that they are so wound up in their own stuff (even though they don't understand what it is they're feeling), that they are self-absorbed and not good at putting themselves in the other person's shoes to understand what their partner's experience of them may feel like.

I guess I am hoping you might be able to provide some insight. I am really sorry for what I did to my recent partner and I feel ill over it. Some days I can't stand it. I really do love this person very much but I wonder sometimes how could I love my partner if I did these awful things? I would wonder how could you love yourSelf if you chose to act in ways that demean your spirit and lower your self-esteem? If you can't revere yourself enough to choose to behave in ways that increase your feelings of well-being, why should you be able to behave lovingly towards another? You see, it all starts with the Self. You have to learn what it means to love the Self before you can truly love another...

Why would I do these things in this relationship but not others? For whatever reasons, you had more of the power in this relationship than you had in the others. In other words, you were more "dominant" in this relationship than your partner was. In relationships where you were more abused, your partner was more dominant. The balance of power can shift across partners, even across time with the same partner. I know there were times in the relationship that I felt I was being treated badly. I have no doubt that at times you were treated badly. In virtually no relationship is any one person 100% abusive and the other person 0% abusive! When I spoke of my feelings I felt they were not taken seriously and were rejected by my partner. Perhaps. I say "perhaps" because it may be that your partner, angry with you, did reject you/not take you seriously; stuff that is not OK. On the other hand, it may be that you were making requests of your partner that were unreasonable (outside of your personal boundaries and into theirs), in which case your partner would have little reason to take you seriously and should reject the requests. My partner would deny doing those things that hurt me or would have excuses that seemed to come back to being my fault. Excuses and denials are common when there is little understanding of emotional boundaries in a relationship. There are some things that one person simply should not request of the other. For example, you would really be out of bounds if you were to insist that your partner dress a certain way when they did not want to. Also, I think we need to stop talking about "fault" and blame and talk instead about responsibility and choice. Fault and blame are inconsistent with loving the Self, with loving another. I am so lost trying to find the answers, I hope you can help me. Thank you. I can see you are lost. You are very disconnected from your Self; you are not mindful of your Self. That's the bad news. The good news is that you are in good company and that you can learn learn to find your Way. Read the whole site. Go to the top links and read all the articles in the Verbal Abuse, The Abuser, The Victim, and Codependency sections. Many of your questions are more fully addressed within these pages. Also, you would really benefit from therapy - think of having a guide to help you sort through the chaos. Please seriously professional help.

Meanwhile, you would also benefit from those books that help you gain self-awareness and help you embrace - and love - all that you are. Three of my favorites are below. Don't just read the first; make sure you practice what it preaches at least a few minutes each day:

bullet Wherever You Go, There You Are : Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn.  
bullet The Seat of the Soul  by Gary Zukav
bullet The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values, and Spiritual Growth.

As you grow in self-awareness and begin to make more sense of the chaos, re-read this answer; re-read the pages you read before; re-read the books. Watch your understanding increase. Good luck to you, and Bravo for asking these wonderful questions! Dr. Irene

Monday October 24, 2005
10:45 AM

Dr. Irene,

I have been seeing my ex for 4 yrs. He had a drinking problem from he get-go. It would take 10 pages to tell you everything, but what I need to understand is why this man who told me he loved me - and I did feel it for a time, would tell me periodically, usually under the influence, that he did not care if I dated other guys, and did not mind if I was intimate with others. Why would you believe anything anybody under the influence says? Raw emotion speaks then, and the words are not governed by the cortex! (The cortex is the part of the brain that is unique to the Human species.) All his insecurities, jealousy, anger - and everything else may come out under the influence -  such as a desire to get back at you, or show you who is boss, or attempt to manipulate you, etc. And when I (This is a humiliating thing to write ) mentioned that I wanted someone to care about me he said, "your ex does." Please, be kinder to yourSelf! Almost all of us want someone to care about us!

Half the time he would not remember saying these things and then he would say he meant the total opposite. This totally confused me. People under the influence - and some people not under the influence who are impulsive or otherwise overcome by emotion - will say opposing things. Almost all of us have done some of this from time to time. This happens generally when the individual hasn't taken the time to sit with his or her feelings to integrate the raw emotionality with reason. Bottom line, you can't trust anything said under the influence or in the heat of the moment. These statements are more reflective of transient moods rather than true feelings or values. (Like when you are so angry, you just hate somebody you really love.) A steady, if intermittent, diet of this type of behavior is not conducive to any relationship.

One day he came over and out of the blue said he wanted to "just be friends, and no sex." I was dumbfounded. I was so upset, but I agreed. Then a couple of hours later he was tying to have sex with me. Nuts, isn't it! He was always good about calling, showing up and being there, but he words have been just so bizarre lately (over the last year). He is a drinker and I attribute that to drinking. Of course the alcohol will not help. Alcoholism itself, as I'm sure you know, is a serious condition. His words indicate that he has mixed feelings he does not know how to handle. Certainly, this is emotionally immature behavior, and generally, alcoholic individuals are emotionally immature. Even if he is OK when he is not drinking, simply stopping the drink will not fix the underlying issues. For example, I'm sure you've heard about the "dry drunk," the alcoholic individual who is sober but is still acting out.  Do you think he was trying to get out of the relationship by driving me away? Perhaps. He may be scared of intimacy, so he feels the need to push you away. Or he wants to push you away so you can object and show him you care. Or, there may be no rhyme and reason at all! My question to you is: why would you want to be with someone who is so mixed up, he doesn't know what he wants? Certainly the drinking should be a GIANT red flag to you!

I did end the relationship when he had a drinking binge and was emotionally abusive. Good! I hope you demand more from a boyfriend in the future. He did not call me names, but he blamed me for the way the weekend went and then said he needed a 2-week break. Blame is emotional abuse. I hope you find that you need a 2-century break! What was so disturbing was he drank from morning, all day long, did not eat, drank himself sick and after he got sick continued to drink. I guess that was my "wake-up" call. Good for you!

Please tell me why he behaved this way. I know I am co-dependent.  I think I already addressed why I think he may have behaved like that. It is far more important for you to understand why you care so much that he behaved this way. My advice to you is to sit with your own feelings. Figure out how/why is it that you are willing to put up with so much junk. Does his mis-behavior feel good? (I doubt it.) Why is it that you have a tendency to forget about his mis-behavior so quickly? Hurt me once, shame on you. Hurt me twice, shame on me.

Some reading for you:

bullet Facing Codependence : What It Is, Where It Comes From, How It Sabotages Our Lives by Pia Mellody. An excellent book on codependency of all types.
bulletMelody Beattie's classic bestseller, Codependent No More: How To Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself.
bullet Facing Love Addiction : Giving Yourself the Power to Change the Way You Love --The Love Connection to Codependence by Pia Mellody, et al. All about love addiction. A favorite book on the topic.
bulletSusan Peabody's Addiction to Love : Overcoming Obsession and Dependency in Relationships. Especially good for love addicts. Another favorite.

Good luck! Dr. Irene