The Doc Answers 33

The Doc's Answers 33


Monday October 31, 2005
01:22 PM

Dear Dr. Irene, I have been married to a verbally/emotionally abusive and controlling man for 17 years. We have two wonderful boys, ages 11 and 13. I have been mildly depressed for as long as I can remember, and don’t find a lot of joy in life. Lately I have been feeling so much anger, both toward myself for staying with this man, and toward him for treating me so poorly. Good! pay attention to your feelings. Your anger is talking to you! Sample quotes of his: “If you leave me you will never find anyone else, you aren’t like other people”, “Please don’t ask a question like that in public, you’re so dumb. It would be better if you just don’t open your mouth when we are out with friends”, and “You should get help, there’s something wrong with you”. I am very happy that you are ANGRY about these terribly verbally abusive comments.

For the first 5 years of our marriage I thought I was at fault, that there was something wrong with me, and I tried so hard to show him that I could be a good wife. Unfortunately, that is how most victim-types respond. Like yourself, they look inward wondering what they are doing wrong. In response to your question of "What is wrong with me," the answer is: "I don't value myself enough yet to recognize that there is absolutely nothing wrong with me (though I am far from purrfect)!"

It wasn’t until we had kids that my eyes were opened to the abuse. I finally saw what a selfish and mean person he truly was. Yes. The abusive one is the one who needs to ask themselves "What's wrong with me?" They typically don't though. He started to work later and later, and when he was home shut himself up in our bedroom watching TV. He would get mad if the baby cried too much, or disturbed his sleep. We have not been intimate in years; in fact he once told me that he was never sexually attracted to me.

I am filled with so much self-loathing, and anger toward him, that living with him and trying to pretend every day that everything is all right for the sake of the kids is eating me up inside. Of course it is! Living with all this would turn anybody's insides upside down! Let's break this down a bit though, OK: I can fully understand loathing him; feeling angry, furious, livid, etc. towards him. But why the self-loathing? Please re-examine this one because there is no reason in the world to hate the self. You've always done the best you could at the time. Please don't hate yourself for not being perfect. No one is.

I’m sure the example we have set for our kids as a married couple is terrible. I never told my family about the abuse, and they do not live close by. But you can tell them now. I don’t have close friends either, so no real support group. Please, do what you must to make some. Your local domestic violence shelter may have support groups you can join. Certainly, join The CatBox, the abuse forum attached to this site. Wonderful and knowledgeable volunteers from around the world moderate it to help it be the safest place it can be. I wish I had left when the kids were little and not so attached to their (abusive) dad. At least then we would have had a chance for a happier and healthier life. But you didn't, and since we can't change the past, there is no reason dwelling in a place that creates only agony. You can however change the future. Read this whole site; post on the forum. You will get there!

Why have I stayed? Help, I don’t know how much longer I can pretend. Kay Dear Kay, You have stayed because you didn't know any better. That simple. And once you knew better, kids and finances were usually in the way. But rest assured. You are in very good company; there are many men and women in your position. With education, you can free yourself.

You pretend because you fear the consequences of not pretending. What are the consequences? Is he likely to become violent? Has he ever been violent?

You have lots to learn. Take hope because detaching yourself from an abusive relationship is very do-able and doing it feels good. You may even lose the depression in the process...

Start here:

bullet Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and  Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft.
bullet The Secret of Overcoming Verbal Abuse: Getting Off the Emotional Roller Coaster and Regaining Control of Your Life by Albert Ellis

And, please consider counseling. Hang in there! Dr. Irene

Wednesday November 02, 2005
11:30 AM

Hello Dr. Irene. I have posted here many times. Yes, I know you. I have been married now for almost 3 and 1/2 years, and have two daughters 3 and 1. H is a narcissist based on what I can tell, and fits the bill with everything I have read here, on Dr. Vaknin's site, and elsewhere, regarding NPD. I won't get into the details, but I will mention his existence seems to be based on arrogance, entitlement, haughtiness, cruelty, one-upmanship, and humiliating, berating, criticizing and cheating others. You get the picture. Yes, I do I am getting ready to leave him Excellent!, and frankly, the only thing I care about now is the mental well being of myself and of my daughters. YES!

My question is this: for an abuser/NPD type of person, if I just get up, pack up, leave, and have him served with a filed divorce complaint at his work, then, that will create a huge narcissistic injury in him, promoting boundless rage, which he will visit on my children and on me. Granted, he has never hit me, but has blocked my path, pushed and shoved me, threatened to hit me, lunged and me and dared me to call the police, etc...

However, if I don't just pack up and leave without telling him, and tell him while living in this house, then, still, god knows what he may do to me, in front of my kids, or god knows what rage he will display then.

When women with difficult husbands leave, they usually have a safety plan if there is any chance of violence. That usually entails leaving when he is not home, not telling him that you are leaving ahead of time, and not telling him where you are after you've gone. With kids involved, you may need to involve an attorney knowledgeable in abuse issues, so that your plan is legally sound and ensures you and your kids are provided for. I know it can be difficult to find good attorneys let alone attorneys knowledgeable in abuse, but please contact your town's domestic violence center and/or family court system. They work with counselors and attorneys all the time; they should be able to help you locate professionals who deal with abuse issues.

The best situation is if he decides we should get divorced, but he never seems to suggest that. Countless times he complains about what a sh*t I am, and what a sh*tty life I have created for him, and how I've ruined his life. Right. All your doing; he has no responsibility in any of them. That tells me he has no personal power at all.

To which I have replied: "OK, so what do YOU think we should do?" hoping to hear he will say "we need to get a divorce" which he never says, so far. Given that he seems to have a mood disorder and be paranoid on top of that, he may not suggest divorce being afraid I might drain the savings account. In any event, I am in a quandary on HOW to leave, and think that, if I make right decisions, then I can minimize the amount of rage visited on me and on my daughters in the future. However, I don't know what is best way to leave an angry, dark-hearted, no-hearted, cruel, vengeful, manipulative, insecure, narcissist in a way that will not provoke his rage unnecessarily. Do you have any suggestions? You need a good attorney so that you and your children do not starve once you leave.

I cannot wait to get out but I need to resolve this. Is there a way to make him believe HE is the one who left? If so, how? If not, what do I do? You can't control him, and I'm not good at suggesting ways to try to do so. I am terrified of how he is going to get back at me (his forte in life is getting back at people and defeating and demeaning them). Thanks for your insight. Knowledge is power, and knowledge is what you need. While you may not be able to prevent his darkness, at least we do not live in a lawless land. Start interviewing attorneys now. I know from your email that you've not yet found a therapist, but keep looking. I am also available for Telephone Consultation  if you wish.

God bless you and hang in there; you've come a long way. Dr. Irene

Friday November 11, 2005
09:38 AM

Hi Dr. Irene. You know me already. Yes, I do. I am the one with two little girls and the abusive husband who can't keep his Viagra away from the kids' areas. Yessss... I have found a therapist, I have seen a divorce attorney, am looking at housing options. Good! I have not told H I am leaving, not yet.

I am dealing with something right now in terms of leaving that gets me fuming mad: my aunt's philosophy of my marriage and of why it's not working. She concedes that H is sick in the head, angry, controlling, narcissistic. We're all in agreement here.

BUT, she says, I could manage it by not letting it affect me. Her idea of "managing H" is that I should go ahead and live my life and not get rattled by the things he does and says (including staying out all night, sex may be once every 4-5 months, calling me names, sulking, withdrawing, telling me I shouldn't buy fresh flowers each week ($10/week) while he goes and spends $1000/month on his own divine self at luxury clothing stores, treating me like a servant, ignoring my needs and wishes, never using "we" but always always "I", etc etc).

She says the trouble is with ME, because I let this stuff affect me, and that I am to blame because I need his approval and love, and I should keep being married to him and be indifferent to his narcissistic self, and do what I need to do. She even says that if I show I do not need him, he will come around. She says if you gives you a hard time about buying flowers each week, ignore him and buy the flowers anyway. I want to say to her: "YOU IDIOT!! [sorry, I know, a little verbally abusive on my part!] DON'T YOU UNDERSTAND THAT THIS KIND OF DYNAMIC CAN BE SO INSIDIOUS NO MATTER HOW YOU TRY TO "MANAGE" IT THAT IT EATS AWAY AT YOUR SELF ESTEEM AND TEACHES YOUR DAUGHTERS THAT A RELATIONSHIP IS NOTHING BUT STRIFE???!!!" Anyway, am I missing something? Yes. Furiously. Me. Of course you are furious, and your fury is entirely normal!

OK,. here goes. First of all, I hope that when your aunt says these things to you, that she says them out of love and not in a blaming way.

Second, she is essentially correct. You see, each of us creates our own experience. Each of us is entirely responsible for our own experience. Each of us is entirely responsible for our own joy and our own misery. Nobody can make us miserable unless we - wittingly or unwittingly - let them.

The problem is that you don't know how to manage your experience of him. You don't know how to not need his approval, you don't know how not to let this stuff affect you. You simply don't know how to disallow his abuse. There is no blame in not knowing; in fact there is no blame in anything... Instead of blame, think "responsibility."

Yes, the dynamic is very insidious; yes, his abuse does eat away at your self esteem; yes, you and your husband model a horrible relationship to your kids.

In a purrrfect world, you would first learn how not to let this man affect you emotionally, as he does. Then you would be in a better position to decide whether or not you want to remain in this marriage. You may still want out; you may find that the person you are simply is unwilling to deal with this person.

But this is not a purrrfect world, and if I understand all your communications to me correctly, this relationship is killing you. (More accurate: you are allowing this relationship to kill you.) More accurate: The way you experience your marriage is literally killing you: you are releasing all sorts of awful stress chemicals into your body and making yourself sick! This is not a good thing!

Hopefully, now you better understand why I've been suggesting you get a good attorney (knowledge is power) and a good therapist (guide).

More likely, I have totally confused you.

Please read this book to begin to get a better idea of what I mean when I say that you-create-your-own-experience (You can't be a victim unless you allow yourself to be one.) Wherever You Go, There You Are : Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn.  While this book won't teach you all the cognitive, verbal and emotional skills you need to accomplish not being a victim, it will get you started on taking personal responsibility and Taking your Personal Power!

Some of the skills you need are here: The Secret of Overcoming Verbal Abuse: Getting Off the Emotional Roller Coaster and Regaining Control of Your Life by Albert Ellis et al. (Of course, your therapist may suggest other reading, and I must defer to them. There are lots of roads to Rome.)

Please bring this Q & A to your therapist. This is excellent stuff to talk about!

Also, read Suzie's board  as well as the reply page (link to the replies at the bottom of the board).  She's in the process of taking responsibility.

Whew! Dr. Irene

Tuesday November 15, 2005
06:08 PM

Dear Dr. Irene,Me here from the old cat box. (The Original Cat Box was a forum begun by this lady's email that eventually turned into a 54-page board where many people got into the discussion and Dr. Irene answered everybody individually. Lots of good stuff there for those who haven't read it.)

Hi Old Timer! I sure did it this time, but I'm so glad you are still here. I wrote you a couple of years ago as we had been in therapy and working on the porn addiction and verbal abuse amongst other things. We were separated for about 2 years after living together for 12 and a half years and then we got married. Congratulations! This was 2 years ago.The last year has been real tough on me. I had to quit a great job due to my health. Nothing serious Whew!, but the job was physically demanding. Then my dad started slipping - at age 90, no surprise - and I would go in and spend about a week a month visiting him. He died and I was there with him when he died. My condolences... Cleaned out his house and found some gross porn tapes. Ugh...

I came home and had a 14 year old cat who needed to be put to sleep, I was with her when she died. :(  Meanwhile, the groom had applied for jobs in other areas and got accepted for one. Then one day I took a short bath. When I came out he quickly changed the computer to another screen. I didn't do or say anything. I just waited and watched, and then one day he didn't change screens quick enough. Porn again. I waited and then confronted him. Actually, I must be getting better because he was sadly funny. Yes. You are getting better. You can't change another person, so best to deal with it internally, i.e., inside your head.

He got a wistful look on his face, slackened his jaw and softly explained the facts of life to me. He guesses he's just a man and can't help himself. He loves to look at beautiful women. My response? I softly and quietly said, "Shut-up." A couple days down the road and I tell him that if he wants to fix it he can fix it; I'm through doing his work for him. He asked me why I married him in the first place ???, and then said if I didn't like it I could pack my poop and get my tushie out. Then he moves here and I get into stubborn.

We bought an older, but large house - and the home of my dreams. Been here 2 months. Of course you guys are fighting; you're in "moving stress!" Give yourselves 6 months to a year or so to settle in with the changes. I'm staying, I will not pack and get my stuff out. Good! I think you should both stay!

Then my cat. Due to his negligence he killed a cat of mine. My negligence as I didn't watch and question. :(

After 2 weeks he told me the cat was missing. He didn't know how to tell you... A feral cat. I am finding it hard to forgive myself for this one. Well, get over it and forgive yourSelf and forgive him because life is too short. We all make mistakes. Go on helping feral kitties and continue to do your best, and when you mess up (because you will), learn from it, forgive, and move on. (Otherwise, you are beating yourself up, and as you may remember, that is one of my no-nos.)

I told him I was mentally shot and emotionally exhausted and that I couldn't function for the moment. I gave up my power and he zoomed in like a Kamikaze pilot. Confrontation. What are you going to do about this? You each do nothing. You both need to chill.

He doesn't know what to do. He can't find a web site or anything that will help him with the porn, blah, blah and blah. Anyhow, he really loves me and it will never happen again and he's really sorry about the cat. He wasn't thinking and how can I blame him??? He's Human.

Well, other than my former mother in law died and I went to her funeral and was gone for ten days, there we are.I have to get out. He's a liar and a cheat and I will not give up the house, period and I will fight this to the finish. Why do you insist on making this a war? You really don't have to you know...

Ah, poop. I really thought I was one of the ones who made it and am so disappointed and can't believe I was so stupid. You did make it. But, you'll never be purrfect dear. Get used to it.

PS He's good........I bought it all again and again and then again. I never checked the internet. I believed him. I never checked on the cat, I trusted him. I will get strong and I will get out, but it makes me oh so sad. We are of an age to be great grandparents and should be heading into our golden years. New house and new hopes and all that stuff that we codependents strive for. And especially, thanks to you, you do so good and help so many people. I don't know what I would have done if I didn't have you to turn to. I can find help and support when I need it. I think I will go back to my maiden name, too. Love to Trubble and I'm sending him a great big juicy salmon steak, yum.  

Aw Poop is right! Listen young lady, and listen good: You are no easy-going piece of cake to live with. You are creating a problem right now when you don't need to. You have the house of your dreams, you are married to a mostly wonderful unpurrrfect man who loves you - and whom you love (most of the time). He's not purrrfect. So what? Are you? Is he flinging porn in your face and making you act it out? NO. He's got his bad habits, granted, but so do you.

You,. my dear, dear very first CatBoxer, are a controlling lady. Yes, you heard me correctly. You had great difficulty in the past hearing that you tended to be the controlling one: you want him to change. Wrong move! You have no control over him, but you do have control over you. So, since he's not the most horrible awful person in the world (he gets passive-aggressive in response to your tendency to control him), why not just internally deal with the fact that he has a bit of a porn habit. Assuming he can keep it out of your face,. why not give the guy a break? Why create misery?

I'm not condoning his problem. I am suggesting that since he's not shoving it in your face, you let it go. Let him work on his issues his own way, in his own time. His bad habits are not your problems unless you make them your problems.

I've always advised that people don't waste energy in trying to change their partner - but to change themselves. You cannot change the groom. You can change you. You can learn to accept your partner's imperfections, and in so doing, you make yourSelf more purrrfect.

I can't tell you how much happier you would be if you would learn to accept the world - and your husband in particular - the way he/they are.

Hate me yet?

Lots of love, Doc.

Ps: Tell the groom the best way to handle the porn is to simply STOP it. Then he'll have to deal with the thoughts and feelings that come up for him.  I think the function the porn serves for him is part rebellion, part empowerment. Unfortunately, it is a disempowering way to seek empowerment. He may want to try a widely available 12-Step program. 

But remember, your job is to stay out of whatever he is or is not doing with it!   (Have I emphasized that point enough?)

Pps: Each of you would benefit by learning to be more mindful. A wonderful book for both of you is Wherever You Go, There You Are : Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn. It would teach you to be less judgmental and less controlling. It would teach him to become more aware of his anger so that he may direct it more constructively. Read this one very slowly to digest it.

The Groom may want to pick up one of these titles to work in conjunction with his 12-step program: Contrary to Love: Helping the Sexual Addict  by Patrick Carnes or Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction  by Patrick Carnes. Of course, there is the "Big Book," Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous: The Basic Text for the Augustine Fellowship, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous.

Ppps: "God, grant me the Serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the Courage to change the one I can, and the Wisdom to know it's ME!"

Tuesday November 22, 2005
03:07 PM

Dear, dear Doc, No I don't hate you, I don't even hate him. I think I'm going back to when the porn was flung in my face and how insidious it was. That was then and this is now. Don't go there. Stay in the here and now. I think I'm so down because I believed him when he said it was over - with the help of a cognitive therapist. Two steps forward, one step back. We really did have some good moments. I feel like I'm living in a sewer now and some of that comes from the statement that he's just a man and can't help looking at beautiful women. This while I am sex free, and have been for a while. I feel like he has an active sex life while I have no intimacy.

Making excuses for me, I am so overloaded at the moment that I cry continually and this last porn episode has brought up all of the old garbage. These are not excuses. The reality is that stress can and does mess up our mental health. Yes, you are overloaded and very emotional. In fact, you sound depressed right now - and that will make everything worse. You see the glass half empty instead of half full.

I realize all the stress has included him, too, but the porn has pushed me over the edge. It's like flashbacks of how ugly it all was and now I don't know if I will ever trust him to stop, and that is not what I want in a relationship. I know I can't control him. But I can't live with anymore pornography in my life. I feel like it has eaten my soul. I find the thought of sex dirty and disgusting. I've seen more than I can bear and I can't erase the images. I wont be his policeman and watch the computer. Good!

I did order some books on recovery for me and I will get the one you suggested, too.I will get over the cat, but soooo hard. I feel like I could have prevented this. All of this sounds like clinical depression to me. Guilt and self-recrimination often present as part of the depressive picture. That's why it's so hard to forgive myself.You need to think of the depression (with the concomitant guilt and self-recrimination, and feelings of being overwhelmed) as a chemical imbalance that you can impact with talk therapy and/or medication. Most of the research that I am aware of supports the idea that doing both together will clear it up more quickly and help you learn how to not go back there in the future.

Doc, controlling or no, I have no control over what he's doing, but I can't control my feelings about the porn. I can't live with a little porn habit. I can't accept him watching it. I have been through this so many times with him that I am finding it hard to believe he will ever quit and it is tearing me apart. No. YOU are tearing yourself apart. You've given him way too much power. Recognize that only you create your thoughts and feelings. Do this and you begin to reclaim your personal power.

The episode where we split was after we were on the cat box, and it was dirty and terrible. And he got mad at me because I didn't like what I saw, he forgot to take a tape out of the vcr [vulgar and sickening, degrading and sick]. Took a lot of work to get over that one, with lots of help. I just can't take anymore. I'm the one that makes myself feels ugly and inadequate. I feel like he'd rather have this than me. Why are you taking his illness personally? He was like this way before he met you . He did not all of the sudden develop a taste for pornography when you two got together; he's harbored this for a long time, and his inability to remain abstinent has nothing to do with you!  This one is his issue and has nothing to do with you.

I feel like when the going gets tough, I deal with it and he goes off and satisfies himself on the internet. I feel like when I'm down he prefers a "beautiful" woman, as how this can be construed a beautiful is beyond me. I don't see how I can ever trust him again. I can't quit crying. PS I'm older than you :], but I hear ya. You are also more depressed than me, and I hope you hear that! Clinically depressed, I suspect, and you likely need a little professional help. Maybe you're having difficulty sleeping, or sleeping too much. Maybe your appetite is affected one way or another. Or maybe not. That you can't quit crying is disturbing to me.

Stress can do this to the best of us. Please see your internist. Ask him or her to evaluate you for depression. These days doctors are careful to evaluate individuals for even mild manic symptoms when evaluating depression. Depression is often missed in a medical doctor's office, and bipolary symptoms are missed even more since the manic stuff is often very subtle, but will affect the treatment. I am telling you this for your information, and so you can bring it to your doctor for discussion.

 See if you can locate a therapist as well, preferably somebody with a cognitive-behavioral slant. The move - and life - has stressed you out to the point where you sound clinically depressed to me. You are over-emotional, over-responsible, feel overwhelmed, everything seems awful; it feels as though it will never get better; you are being very hard on yourself. Depression is not "in your head." It is a physical illness where the brain chemistry is out of kilter. Before you make any important decisions that can affect your life, please get an in-person professional opinion. 

So, go talk to somebody, bring them these two Q & As and email me privately to let me know what happened. Hang in there.  Dr. Irene

Wednesday November 23, 2005
11:53 AM

Hi Dr. Irene. I'm back, the one with the two little girls and the NPD husband who can't keep his Viagra to himself. Anyway, I have set out the steps I need to take to leave. My first step is that I need to get a number of work projects due for my work for 2005. That's first, because without my job, I'm in limbo big time. Then, say by mid December, I need to start filing paperwork and getting my finances in order, including getting a snapshot of finances ready for the divorce attorney. Next, I need to copy a whole bunch of papers. The long and short of it is this: I have at the very least another month and a half of excruciating tension to live in with this person so I can get my ducks in a row and do this right. Sounds like a plan.

He doesn't know yet I 'm planning this, but he may suspect it, somehow. He can suspect all he wants. You're not admitting to anything. Act as nice-normal as possible, whatever that is. You want to avoid tipping your hand or confronting him, which are likely to escalate his antics. In any event, I am ignoring him, but being cordial and cooperative whenever he needs help with something. Good. I am trying not to react to his abuse in any way, because things could blow up, he could get violent, and then I would have to leave with the kids in a turmoil state and the shirt on my back. Not desirable. No, certainly not desirable. 

My question is this: how do I go through this very difficult period? With difficulty. He is being so unpleasant and abusive sometimes, it is hard not to get angry, but I try hard to let it roll off my back. He walks away when I need to tell him something, cuts me off on the phone, puts me down in front of people, criticizes almost everything I decide in front of the kids, and sometimes gets in my space physically, so that if I don't pay attention, I could bump into him by "accident," and then he can start something. How do I go through this period without reacting? Just ignore it? Certainly ignore his antics if you can. It is hard, and I am continuously p*ss*d off at his ugliness. Thanks! You need to continually remind yourself that you have a plan and that you are leaving. You can even start to count the days. Each time he does something that upsets you, remind yourself that this too shall end. And soon!

You are the only person who can control your thoughts and feelings. His bad behavior itself won't make you hopping mad, your interpretation of his repeatedly awful behavior will incite your anger. That's where your power lies.

Internally, consistently reminding yourself that you are almost out will help you cope. Remind yourself too that he's a sick puppy and his behavior is more a statement about who he is than about who you are. Remind yourself that you don't have to all his antics to ruin your peace of mind and your health.

Remind yourself that you are leaving soon; you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Remind yourself that soon you won't have to deal with him; soon you will have a more peaceful life; soon you will be able to breath easier because your interaction with him will be greatly curtailed.

This technique will help because it is a fact that what we think governs how we feel to a great extent. Cognitive behavior therapy is based upon this premise. You have to impose the healthier thinking on yourself over and over and over. Expect to find yourself auto-piloting back into the usual awful places. Notice your thoughts - you must be saying things to yourself along the lines of "I can't stand this/ why does he do this to me/ it is not right or fair/ nobody understand how awful he is to me/ how can he do that, etc. " which is naturally making you feel very helpless, angry, hateful, and the like. So, each and every time you catch yourself feeling awful, make an honest attempt to recognize what you are thinking. Then impose the healthier thoughts - and watch yourself begin to feel better.

Ellis' book, which I've suggested to you in the past, The Secret of Overcoming Verbal Abuse: Getting Off the Emotional Roller Coaster and Regaining Control of Your Life  shows you how to do this type of thing in much greater detail than I can get into here. Good luck! Dr. Irene

Monday December 05, 2005
08:33 PM

Dr. Irene. Me again. Planning to leave. 2 girls. Viagra husband. Anyway, I appreciate your support on this website! Very helpful. I have reached many epiphanies now and it feels great! I cannot wait to leave, and can clearly see in my mind's eye my beautiful life after I leave this man.

One nagging question remains: if I didn't have kids with this man, I would be gone yesterday. Nothing else would matter. Of course! Now that I have kids, it looks like I may still have to act “politically” in order to not piss him off too much so that he doesn't use the kids against me, or so that he doesn't take his rage out on the kids later on. My kids to me are #1.

I have gone through the "Tips for Leaving" sections of your site, and have talked to a number of attorneys who advise to pack up and leave. However, it would seem that doing that would create such a gaping narcissistic wound in this person that it would be hard to imagine this wound would not be visited on my children. If it were myself alone, wound I would, and wouldn't blink doing it. But I need to protect my children.

In all of the advice you give for leaving, would you modify that advice, even slightly, when children are involved such that the abuser is kept at a temperature below his boiling point? Of course. The tips I've given won't fit everybody. Each situation is different and there is no hard and fast "right" way to leave - or in fact do anything at all! Many of those tips are not applicable to you because you are not a battered wife. If so, how would you modify your advice? Are there ways to temper the leaving approach in a way that serves the interests of the leaving party while minimizing the potential of damage to the children down the line? This abuser is a highly entitled one. Am I just trying to control things that are not within my control? Certainly, you can't control his reaction, but you can do what you can to minimize the damage. Am I still "under his grip" by even asking these questions? I think that even if I do temper myself, this character could still make a lot of trouble for the girls, but I don't know that, and it's hard to predict. Any advice? Thanks.

No matter how you leave, it will be devastating to him. You have yanked his control as well as his children - and have blackened his image of himself in the community. He will be shocked and upset. This is normal. The leaving tips are designed to prevent violence and stalking in violent relationships, so feel free to modify them in consultation with your therapist and your attorney. That said, there is never a good way to leave that will ensure a smooth road ahead. But you can take some steps to mitigate his reaction:

Let him know, perhaps through a note:

bulletthat you have no intention of keeping the children from him
bulletthat you want him to be in their lives; he is their father
bullettell him you will be in touch very soon (and get in touch through your attorney to set up visitation, finances, etc.)
bullettell him that while you don't expect him to understand, that you are sorry that things have come to this

Work closely with your attorney and therapist. Certainly have your attorney contact him (or his attorney), feel him out, and arrange whatever contact he will have with the children. Do this legally.

If the kids are in school, etc. and there is a chance he can take them back from there, take appropriate steps to prevent this. Talk to your attorney.

Perhaps you have a mutual friend or relative you can trust who is willing to help ease him through the transition and to reassure him that he will have access to his children, etc.

There is no magic bullet. The rest is pretty much up to him. Expect some kind of initial  emotional reaction / blow up, and see where he goes from there. Whether or not he takes it out on the kids in the future is not anything you can control. What you can control is your tongue.

Hold your tongue. You are out now; there is no reason to make things worse, especially when you can have your attorney communicate for you. If, for whatever reason, you do speak with him, be as kind as you can without compromising your plan. Don't try to explain or defend yourself at this point. Explaining will only invite argument. Simply say something like you had to go. Be kind. Explanations are best left for later. Best not to talk with him at all early on since you are not good at managing him.

Then let time take its course and begin the healing process.

Good luck to you and may God bless all of you. Dr. Irene

Thursday December 08, 2005
09:20 AM

Hi. I'm 26 and been married for about 2 1/2 years. I've always loved playing role-playing games, and after about 9 months of marriage, I started playing a MMORPG (a massive multiplayer online game). Over time I spent more and more time playing the game than I did doing anything else, kinda got addicted to it, I guess. I guess.

Got involved in an internet affair with a man who played the game as well. Sent each other pictures, talked dirty and such. It ended after a while, months later. On Sept 11 of all days, my husband found one of the pictures of me I had sent the other man. I was asleep when he did, and I woke up being hit in the face. He was upset, and over the next two days beat me, hitting my arms and stomach but mostly my legs, my thighs were just one big bruise. Ouchhh! Literally. I hope you filed a police report...

After the second day he stopped because I tried to get in my car and go to my parents house. He wouldn't let me go, crying, putting his head under the tire, jumping in the passenger seat. Eventually I gave in and let him take me back inside. That was September; it is December now, and he hasn't hit me again, but I almost wish he would. I've since, on his insistence, stopped pretty much doing everything.

First he wanted me to stop playing that game, and then stop going to any web sites about it, then stop playing all online games, then stop even talking to any of the friends I had made, calling them bad people, even my best friend for over a year. He found my web log, saw how I vented my frustration with him, and my sadness, and was furious.

The few friends we jointly have he lies to about our problems, and since all my friends are forbidden to me, I have to one to talk to. More to say, but no room...He says he loves me, calls me his everything and his soul mate, and calls me pretty and sexy all the time. Is it just me, being a horrible wife? I try to do everything he wants, is it selfish of me to want more for myself?

This is a very sad situation, and two wrongs don't make a right.

As I'm sure you know, you were on really thin ice starting a relationship with another man, even online. What was/is wrong with your marriage that you felt the need to escape into cyberspace? My thinking is that if your marriage were strong to begin with, you would have never engaged in emotional infidelity.

Of course your husband has reason not to trust you and to be angry, but that does not give him license to beat you or to control your life and who your friends are. This is not OK and is a terrible precedent.

Of course it is not selfish to want more for yourself - and to resist being controlled! You need need some individual counseling to help you figure out why you went where you did in the first place, and to help you figure out how you feel now. Is your guilt so great that you are making things worse by allowing yourself to be controlled - to somehow "make up" for your blunder?

You also need marital counseling. While your husband has reason not to trust you, the way he has handled your blunder from the beginning to the present is entirely wrong.  Wrong, wrong, wrong. Abuse and control is never a healthy response to infidelity. Go get some professional help now, before you two dig yourselves in even deeper.

Good luck to both of you, Dr. Irene

Sunday December 11, 2005
03:11 PM

Hi, Dr. Irene, I am going on 42 years old and I am wondering how much more verbal abuse from my mother I can take. I realized this abuse was taking place a few years ago when I started crying and just could not stop. I went to both a psychiatrist and psychologist and they both mentioned "abuse" within the first few minutes of my consultations with them. They ran separate practices and did not consult each other. I had suspicions about this before, but I never was completely sure.

I was diagnosed with major depression and anxiety disorder and have been on medication ever since. It has helped me remain calm and keep it together at work. I am a physical therapist and I do fairly well at it, so I can take care of myself. I am married and my husband is supportive and quite frankly gets quite angry at my mother, but I never allow him to say anything to her. That's good because you should be the one to say something to her. Maybe you can ask him what he's angry about; that will give you a clue as to what you should be angry about - and thus talking to him about. I try to call my mother once every few weeks just to check in because I feel some sense of responsibility to her. Ok to check in with her, but you don't have to take any abuse.

I am the only child and my mom is 72. She does have a boyfriend, however, who is healthy, and my mother is in good health as well. My father died when I was 28. I have helped her through some rough times, got her a doctor, and provided professional care for her when she needed back surgery. I also helped and was with her when my grandmother died. I stopped talking to her for a year, however, when I began to get mentally ill.

This was after doing some letter writing and seeing the therapist, I just couldn't get her to stop with the upsetting comments and needed a break. I started talking to her last mother's day and I was planning on visiting her in January. The problem lies in the fact that after going through all this and seeing her write letters of apology to both myself and my husband, she seems to be reverting to her old ways. Won't be the first time. You may want to tell her, and gently hang up if she starts arguing or defending her antics.

I talked to her yesterday and it pretty much ruined my weekend. Plus, you give her waaayyyy too much power. Get some more counseling to help you here in future interactions. She said some awful things, i.e. her friends tell her she looks better, now that my grandmother died and my dad threatened to cut off my education and was not really good to her when he was alive. She called me a professional student, because I want to go on a 6 month fellowship for hand therapy, which we can afford, and which I am paying for myself.

In the past she has called me a fool, she has called me a slut, and told me I was "shacking up" when I lived with my husband before marriage. It seems almost every time I talk to her I start feeling bad. Am I really obligated to take care of this woman or can I just cut off our relationship like before, because I am so tired of feeling lousy about myself for dealing with her? Thanks, Karrie  Karrie, of course you are not obligated to deal with her! It's the other way around, in fact. Parents are obligated to care for their children until those children reach adulthood. It doesn't necessarily work the other way around. But you already know that, and are apparently feeling guilty for wanting a break.

Until (and if) you learn how to better manage a conversation with her, why not take a conservative approach and see how that works: Call her very infrequently. Since you initiated the call, you can decide when to end it ("Oh, I think I hear the doorbell", for example. Have a few things jotted down on a piece of paper in front of you that you can say to quickly get off the phone.) This way you can control the length of the  conversation, and cut it short if she begins to insult you or your husband. You may even want to tell her what she said that bothered you, but from the tone of this note, I'm not sure if you're ready to do that yet.

In a purrrfect world you would learn the verbal and cognitive skills you need to manage her; to not allow yourself to go to a guilty place; to keep yourself from taking her words to heart (Her words speak volumes about her, and nothing about you!) and reacting emotionally to them.

Verbal and cognitive skills are just that: things to learn. Learning to speak a new language can be seen as a verbal skill. You have to learn how to do it. Same thing with emotional skills. There are techniques you can use to help you keep yourself from taking her words to heart and reacting to them. A behaviorally-oriented therapist can help you perhaps most directly.

So, the bad news is that your mom is probably not going to make real changes at her age, but the good news is that you can learn to manage her "stuff" better, or certainly you can learn to better control the frequency and length of your phone calls.  Please seek out some professional counseling. If your mom can wear you down like this, so can others. You don't have to give your Personal Power away!

Good luck to you, Dr. Irene 

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