Saturday December 17, 2005
Hello Dr. Irene, I came across your website and became totally aware of the reality that I have been living for 11 years. I am married to a verbal abuser and we have 2 small children. Basically, I had an epiphany you could say when he left for 4 days. You got to relax a little I bet...
My husband is a wonderful husband, provider and father and I am deeply in love with him and always have been. Which is why I am contacting you for help because I am very confused. There is no confusion. You love him, he is a good father, he is a good husband and a good provider, but he is also verbally abusive, which makes you very upset (to say the least). We have had several discussions about his anger and verbal abuse and it has gotten better but continues to happen once or twice a week. That's a lot! The fits consist of yelling, screaming, foul language (shut the f%$^ up or f&%$ you).
We went to counseling once but not for very long and the Dr. gave him a prescription for Zoloft but he did not like the side affects. Certainly he may be irritable because of a low level depression. There are other drugs that can help him, like Wellbutrin, which has no sexual side-effects.
I am so upset because I realized that I have been surrounding my life around making sure he doesn't get upset or have a rage fit. Exactly. It makes me feel is though I have lost who I truly am and I am not sure what to think. Yes, because you spend all your time worrying about him, neglecting yourself in the process, living your life for him, so to speak. This is very unhealthy for you and leads to bad things like great resentment towards him, depression, physical illness, etc. So you want to take care of this issue between you!
I wanted to know is it possible to help my husband because I really want my marriage to work because I felt at one time that we were meant to be. You can't help your husband. He has to help himself, and you have to help yourself. Right now you are hurting because of your codependent tendency to try to minimize his anger, etc.
What are the steps we need to take to get him help? He did read the information on your website and he knows that he has anger problems - I believe he is willing to help himself - so we wanted to know what is the next step? Thank you, Sheri It is excellent that your husband recognizes his issue and wants to fix it! You need to find a therapist who understands and works with abuse and is knowledgeable in anger management modalities. This individual should be able to make more detailed recommendations such as couple's counseling, counseling for you, etc. when the time is right. He can also recommend whether or not your husband may benefit from medication. Call your local Family Court or Domestic Violence center to see if they can make therapist referrals. If you two choose to return to the doctor who prescribed the Zoloft, please make sure he is familiar with verbal abuse issues and anger management in particular. If he's not, he can always handle just the medication end of things.
The point is that your husband will minimally need anger management training. Medication is very often a useful adjunct that will help him carry out his lessons, especially if a physician has seen the need to prescribe Zoloft in the past. It is very important that you deal with somebody who understands abuse; working in "regular" marital counseling is not the best approach for your situation.
As a last resort, if your husband doesn't follow through with counseling or prematurely ends treatment, go find yourself a good individual therapist. Wishing you and your family a calm and healthy 2006. Dr. Irene
I have a husband whom I believe is verbally/emotionally abusive. Everything revolves around him. I can never request anything without it being refuted. I can never ask question, for he answers a question with a question. Do you tell him that you'll get answer his question as soon as he answers yours? Stick to that point and see if it helps. Tell him, "Let's be fair to each other and do this in order. Answer my question and then I'll answer yours." Sometimes he is helpful, kind, loving. But most of the time everything is about him. We have to do everything around his schedule: he works a 10-12 hour shift. He takes off to sleep for himself and spends a little time with me. When I want sex he makes me wait. He often withholds sex and affection. This may be passive-aggressive. Is he angry with you? For good reason? For no reason? Every time I want to talk about our relationship, he says I want to fight. Do you? Maybe, because I talk about our relationship a lot! Sometimes people want to talk about their relationship because they don't feel their partner's actions are very loving, and they want reassurance. If your husband is withholding, you are likely to feel this way and chase him around for reassurance. Best not to chase him because he is likely to pull back even more. On the other hand, perhaps he is pulling away because he feels you ask too much of him. It may be his pulling away (if that's what it is) is justified, and the two of you need a little counseling to set some boundaries and promote understanding.
I ask for quality time and for him to bring me gifts sometimes - you know to show he loves me. You want reassurance. A couple of years ago, I was afraid, depressed, and gained weight - 30 lbs to be exact. When we did have sex, it was very rough and very aggressive. Often I was left very sore, torn, and bleeding. Are you suggesting that he treated you roughly once you gained weight? If so, perhaps he felt angry with you. Did you ask him about this? Did you ask him to be gentler with you?
He is highly intelligent, but I don't know whether he is normal or just being a nasty person. In a good relationship, you are not left wanting; you are not left in a position where you have to ask for little niceties. In a good relationship, when one partner wants to talk, the other person wants to listen - because they care very much about what is on their partner's mind. Each partner does not want the other person to feel insecure. But, sometimes a partner is at a loss as to what to say or do, so they don't talk. Sometimes the same stuff is discussed over and over with no progress and the partner does not want to go there again. I can't tell from what you say where your husband is coming from.
He doesn't drink, do drugs, or smoke. He has told me on several occasions that he uses his mind and mouth to win. He has said I don't act like a woman. I am always trying to show myself as a strong woman, but that isn't who I am. Why not be yourself? Then he becomes submissive with me. In public he is quiet. Other times he likes me to be sort of in control. He has driven me to tears, screaming, sobbing, and simply feeling like killing myself all the time. He doesn't drive you to those states, you drive yourself there. I have regressed back to behaviors of self-cutting; from fighting the urge to actually doing it. As I'm sure you know, this is not good at all. Certainly go for counseling, together or apart! I have said to myself that I must have a mental or emotional disorder. Please don't label yourself this way... When I say this to him, he says that is not what he saying. and that I am too hard on myself. Perhaps you are. Sometimes he is nice and loving; other times, he is quiet. Quiet, per se, is not a bad thing. Some people are just like that. I can't tell what his quietness is about.
We have been married for 5 years. Lately he has decided to control his own feelings, as he puts it. He says he doesn't like fighting. Well, that's a very good sign! Sometimes I feel like I am abusing him. Can you help me? With any advice. Is this an abusive situation. I mean I can be abusive too. I have yelled and screamed at him. Even pushed him. Help! It doesn't sound as though either one of you are nearly as respectful of yourselves or the other as you could be. You have described some behaviors on his part that are passive-aggressive. And, certainly you are being abusive as well if out of your frustration (to get more tenderness, talking, or caring from him), you scream or push.
Please don't let this type of stuff continue. You don't want to wake up some years from now with so much water under the bridge that one or both of you want to call it quits. Go see somebody. It seems you two certainly need to understand each other better, and talk without fighting.
For example, there is nothing wrong with his being quiet or not having sex with you if he's not in that space. There is something wrong if he is acting out his anger toward you in this way - and keep in mind that people who are passive-aggressive are often not fully aware of their anger. If for example, he's simply not in a sexual mood, you need to understand that and be OK with it because it's not his job to keep you sexually satisfied at your whim. Also keep in mind that a little of anything, including passive-aggressive behavior is normal. A lot of passive-aggressive stuff is not.
Ask him if he will join you in marital counseling. If he won't go, start with the counselor alone and work on your own issues. Often, the partner wonders what is going on and joins later. At the very least, you will understand your issues better. Certainly you need to learn how to deal with your frustration so that you don't reach the point of cutting yourself or fighting the urge to do it. For the record, a Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) approach is very effective in dealing with that type of stuff, and it is becoming more and more widely available. Check it out for yourself on an individual basis.
In sum, you are not giving me enough to diagnose the relationship, but you are giving me enough to strongly suggest you two seek counseling, and please consider a DBT evaluation for yourself. Good luck and may God bless you both in this New Year. Dr. Irene.
Thursday December 29, 2005
Hi it is me again Hi "Me"., and I wanted to answer your questions so maybe you can get a better picture of us. In regard to withholding sex, it has been like this for a long time. We only have sex when he wants to have sex. And when we do it is very rough and very angry. His aggression started after I told him I was medically still a virgin; he has been lashing out at me every since. He claims I never told him, and this was not the case. Whatever the reason he began acting out his anger at you sexually, whether he is withholding or being rough, this is not OK. NOT OK.
Regarding sex, he gives me signals (maybe I am misreading them) and then poof - he was "Just kidding." A while back he use to grope my breasts. I didn't like this, and he wouldn't stop. According to him, I am his wife and he can do as he pleases. This is very not OK. In fact, this is abusive. He tells me in his culture that a husband is allowed to sodomize his wife without regard for her - then he says he doesn't believe that. So, he sort of threatens you, then takes it away, which sets the stage for him to treat you poorly. I suppose he thinks you should be grateful he's not sodomizing you. This is verbal and emotional abuse.
He often makes claims that are untrue. He always tells me how I feel or think even when I tell him this is NOT the case. Again, not OK. This is control, as though you don't have the ability and right to have your own thoughts and feelings. If I ask him questions he is always suspicious that I have another motivation or agenda. Oh boy... Sometimes, Dr. Irene, I do, but often not. Sometimes most of us do, and there is no problem with a little of just about anything.
As for me wanting to fight. Sometimes I want a reaction from him when I am trying to gain his attention about something. You are "chasing" him and he withdraws. Often he will ignore me, get up and walk away, or simply tune me out. This is passive-aggressive. Please stop chasing; you give him satisfaction. Plus he'll never give you the emotional stuff you want; the idea is to keep you wanting. I have always sought two things: spending quality time together, and showing me he loves me. For him, I am just a wife, and he is the King. Believe me I treat him like a King, but I am never good enough. If he's The King, maybe it's time you started thinking of yourself as The Queen. Queens are treated well, not poorly!
He tells me I am 90% responsible for this relationship being where it is. Wrong. It's 50/50. While he's instigating most of the problem, your 50% is allowing him to continue mistreating you - because you don't know how to stop him! Most victims are frightened of and intimidated by their abuser. He tells me I don't ACT like a woman, so he doesn't treat me like one. Is he acting like a man? A civilized man?
He tells me I have issues Most people have "issues." You are no different. and that I always want to fight. Instead, most of the time I am just asking him a question about doing something together. You are chasing him, trying to get attention, assurance, etc. Don't bother because his pleasure is about not giving it to you, or giving you just a little so you will continue chasing hoping to get more. He wants you to chase him so he can shoo you away. I have only pushed him once in our relationship, because he was ignoring me and yelling at me, and blaming me for something I can't quite remember. OK, so you lost it. Join the club. That does not make you abusive. There is a difference between abusive behavior and being an abuser. And I just pushed him. I have asked him to be gentler with me. He does not comply. If your thoughts and feelings don't count as much as his, there is a big problem.
It has driven me to wanting to kill myself or have thoughts of it. Individuals in abusive relationships often become depressed and anxious, as well as otherwise ill, both physically and mentally. It is very stressful on the body to live this way. I cry a lot. As for me being who I am, I have been submissive towards him, giving in to his needs. Giving and taking should be a two-way street. But before meeting me, I was independent, living on my own and feeling good about myself. He told me one thing he loves is my independence. But when we disagree, I am being too strong; fighting him like a man. Sounds like no matter what you do, you can't win. This is one of the hallmarks of an abusive relationship. When I am simply upset and expressing my point of view as he does. I don't deserve to be hurt afterwards. You certainly do not deserve to hurt! Nobody does!
I have to make a stand sometimes. He wants me to be weak-minded, as I was in the beginning of our marriage. I said little and cried a lot. I GOT TIRED OF IT! GOOD! IT IS HEALTHY TO BE TIRED OF THIS! So I stand up and now I get punished for it. Ugh. Yes I will admit. I am an abuser. No. You are not an abuser. You are an angry victim, and why shouldn't you be? You are being abused! Anybody at all, even the nicest person in the world, can be abusive at times. Acting like a creep here and there does not make you an abuser. It just means that you are at your wit's end and are resorting to poor behavior. Abuse is about control. Abuse is when one person, through verbal, emotional, financial, physical, or other means, controls the other person. It sounds to me as though he controls you, that you don't know how to stop it, and that you are sick and tired of it. Good for you! It is purrrfectly sane to be sick and tired of abuse.
I have some responsibility in this relationship. But he hurts me a lot emotionally, mentally, and sometimes physically. You have to put a stop to this. Sometimes, I am afraid of him. Not good. Call the police if you are frightened. But I also know how good he is as well. Even serial killers can be good; certainly their mothers love them.
Maybe it is my fault NO! Please don't go there. and I should work on being a better wife. Not so strong. More submissive. More receptive to his needs. No, no, NO! Then maybe things will be better. Things will become worse. Much worse over time. You can never please him. Victims make the mistake of thinking they are not working hard enough, not pleasing the other person enough. They think if they could only get it right, their partner would love them and treat them better. NO! It doesn't work that way. I am sorry for posting again...but I really want more advice from you. I will also look at DBT as well. Thank you very much.
You are describing a verbally, physically, and emotionally abusive marriage. And you are falling apart emotionally because that's what happens to abused Human Beings. Good for you for being tired of being treated like an old shoe! The problem is with your husband. Your 50% of the problem is figuring out how to handle this mess. Please, please, please seek call your local domestic violence hotline now. Call now, even if things are OK right now. Don't wait until things escalate. Seek counseling now from a provider who understands abuse.
And get this book: Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft. May God bless you and yours. Dr. Irene
Dear Dr Irene I consider myself to be a capable, big hearted and loving female who ALWAYS attracts emotionally unavailable men into my life. Let me make a wild guess: You wait until someone shows interest in you. Maybe you would attract a different sort of guy if you did some of the picking instead. Just a thought for you to keep in mind.
I have just finished a relationship with a person (8 months) that I would call passive agressive....so, so angry but not overt. He is overly kind and so wonderfully generous but a slippery eel. He was always too busy, too sick, or too tired to engage in an intimate relationship. Sounds like you need a guy more like yourself. If I challenged him in any way he would become angry, shut down and with draw and become an ice maiden. I was constantly told that I was reading everything wrong or I was totally wrong.That caused me confusion. I felt like a nuf nuf.....I started counselling again to get me "right," so the relationship would be ok. You entered counseling to make you OK so the relationship would be OK? This is not OK.
We could never talk at an emotional level. My last long term relationship of 21 years was full of physical, emotional and verbal abuse and affairs. I took a brave step 5 years ago to step up and out. Good for you! It was hard but liberating. Five years down the track here I am in a lonely and sad place even though I have worked hard on myself to resolve my patterns. Its still the same. I need help. I so desparately want love and connection, acceptance of who I am. I have lost hope, faith and my spirit. Regards Di Dear Di, You are mixing up wanting love and affection in your life, and being whole within yourself. While it is wonderful to be in a loving relationship, a prerequisite to having a loving relationship is often having a loving relationship with yourSelf first. You are making the classic mistake of wanting the relationship to complete you - instead of realizing that you are already complete; you don't need a relationship, though it would certainly add to your life.
When looking so hard for love, you tend to ignore the little, tiny things your partner may do that you find upsetting. Instead of backing away from the relationship at those times, you chase emotionally. This is the beginning of the end because you begin to lose yourself and become dependent on your partner. This dynamic increases the odds of waking up one day to find yourself in an abusive, controlling relationship - because a controller wants you to be dependent on him. This dynamic also increases the odds of finding yourself in a relationship where your partner backs away more and more. A less dependent partner, who can stand on his own two feet as well as commit emotionally, is likely to feel engulfed by you, as though you ask too much. Please don't take this to mean that there is something "wrong" with you, only that you are on shakier ground in finding a compatible match.
A relationship can work with an equally dependent partner. But unless you start doing some of the "selecting," you're not likely to end up with one of these guys. They are less likely to approach you; like yourself, they are waiting to be approached because they tend to be on the shy or insecure side, at least early on.
One of the problems you're likely to encounter in approaching more dependent guys is you are less likely to be attracted to them off the bat because people often feel contempt/disrespect towards others when they encounter unwanted traits they recognize in themselves. (Another reason to work on yourSelf.)
While there is nothing "wrong" with you, certainly continue to work on yourself so that you are less in need of love in order to feel OK. At the same time, keep an eye out for men whose personality is more like your own. While opposites may attract, like stays together. This is particularly true in terms of personality style.
It is not all about you. It is hard to find a good partner! Think of trying to find a needle in a haystack; he's there somewhere, so don't give up. Giving up hope won't get you anywhere. Use your time to work on yourself and keep your eyes open - you'll be killing two birds with one constructive stone. Print this out and bring it to your therapist; it should make for some good discussion.
Two books I think may help you are He's Just Not That Into You: The No-Excuses Truth to Understanding Guys by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo for obvious reasons and Why Men Love Bitches: From Doormat to Dreamgirl-A Woman's Guide to Holding Her Own in a Relationship by Sherry Argov - to give you a "road mad" of what a woman with high self-esteem looks like.
Warmest wishes to you in this New Year. Dr. Irene.
Thursday January 26, 2006
I am a 49 y.o. male with no children. I was introduced to Jill, 29, and her 2 y.o. son when I was 36 in 1993. I found her interesting and we seriously dated for several months during which her short fuse and temper kept me from considering marriage.
Stuck in a “dating relationship” "Stuck?", I hoped with the passage of time, she would mellow out. I am frequently yelled at, criticized, told I am stupid, childish, and always to blame during weekly outbreaks. I never feel the anger towards Jill that she displays towards me. I am just as disappointed that I have no wife & child as she is, but Jill tells me “You don’t want children… marriage… sex”. Jill always has to have the last word and it is frequently caustic. . Old grievances from childhood involving her brothers and mother are brought up in complaints of how badly she was treated growing up and how poorly they and everyone else treat her.
Jill and I do not live together and do not have intercourse outside of marriage. I do not spend as much time with her as I should because of the criticism. We cannot discuss “us” without Jill becoming defensive, critical and angry. Jill never admits any fault, it is always someone or something else at fault. We have seen a counselor ~15 times over the last year. He says to me that she is angry over her past, at men, and is throwing up a shield for protection by becoming overweight. He tells me “ I can see why you don’t want to marry Jill”.
Jill tells me that he tells her that “I am the problem”. I don’t know who to believe. I would like for Jill to admit that the problem cannot be all mine. The Question; Our counselor believes that Jill's anger comes from a fear of rejection. He believes that I should set a wedding date 4 to 6 months out. He says I will see a huge change in Jill's anger and attitude. Your comments?
I have a few comments. First of all, you write as though you want to leave this relationship but somehow cannot. You say you are "stuck," yet nothing is keeping you from leaving if the relationship is really so miserable. Since you've stuck it out for the past 13 years, perhaps you need to take a second and closer look inside. Why are you there? There must be more good than you talk about...
If your counselor told Jill that you are the problem, why aren't you asking this counselor what he means by this? Certainly he understands your difficulty with Jill's issues; the obstacles she puts up and why marrying her may be difficult. However, have you considered what you may be bringing to the relationship? Sounds to me like you are frightened and are putting up your own blocks by avoiding her. That avoidance is probably putting her in a position where she sees no option than to become incited and more critical.
So, from what you are telling me, you've both got issues and you are both bouncing off each other's issues. Not that it "starts" with any particular person, but for the sake of argument, picture this: She is more emotional than you are by nature; she is comfortable with her emotionality while you are not. It is hard to be around her emotionality, especially when it is negatively directed at you, so you want space. You take it. She complains louder. You "can't stand" the complaint, and so you distance further. She complains and criticizes even more, and so you avoid more. Get it? This is probably what the counselor means when he tells you that a wedding date would calm her. But, you've got to ask him. I don't live in your counselor's head and he's got a much better take on this than I do.
If in fact you are "the problem," that is probably because avoidance is often a more difficult problem to work with than her problem. Again, you have to ask him what he means by that.
When your counselor explains her problems to you and empathizes with the difficulty they create, rather than insinuating that she is the problem, he is trying to get you to understand where she is coming from - so that you can hopefully develop more tolerance for her behavior.
In a purrrfect world, Jill would not act out her upset, and you would not act out on your fears - even if she did act out on hers.
Good luck to both of you, Dr. Irene
Hi, I'm not sure what to do about a recent relationship with a man. I previously had a 20 year marriage to a man that I love dearly. Early on in this relationship my husband became severely depressed due to a personal crises and had a near successful suicide attempt. From then my role was a care taker but later as he recovered our relationship became brother sister to the point of although loving each other it was strange to live in the same home. It was also a sexless marriage due to his illness. I'm sorry.
Ironically, I wasn't looking, but 2 years ago I became very close friends with a man that I came to regard as very dear - and felt attracted to. I hope you are no longer married... This seemed mutual. He was prone to the odd spontaneous outburst of anger and verbal abuse and periods of being non-communicable, but the good bits seemed to outweigh this. Then there was a very sudden outburst towards me. Amongst this tirade the main comments were: "You're too close...Women always want more...I can't afford to get that involved with someone...You need to find yourself...You never wear a skirt and high heels...I deliberately decided not to get sexually involved with you!" Ouchhh!!!
The last bit hurt, but it was what he wanted. The feeling was mutual. I had invited him to my home but at the last minute, he wasn't able to visit.
The confusion? I respect his view and I don't think I could put myself up to be rejected again, not even with him. I want to maintain a friendship/contact, as I do love him What do you love? Being treated poorly - and without love?, and don't think its right to be unkind to people. But a bit of me is angry, upset Just a bit of you?, and keeping well away to concentrate on the non-men areas of my life that are very successful. Good! That's the smartest thing you've said so far!
Is he abusive or am I too sensitive? You are not too sensitive. Leave the door open or close it? Slam it shut and turn the double lock. Please. This person cannot handle an intimate relationship. Look at the statements, "You're too close"; "Women always want more", etc. The control: "You never wear a skirt and high heels."
If this is what he said to you, why don't you believe him?
And take a little time to look at your life and how you are handling it. Was being with him good or bad for your self-esteem? How is your self-esteem now that you're concentrating on more successful areas of your life? Ask yourself what you want out of life; if your internal navigation system objects, heed the warning.
Good luck to you. Dr. Irene
June 02, 2006
I have been in my relationship for four years, married for two, I am 30, he is 26. The first year with my husband I noticed that he would throw the shift gear in the car when upset, slam doors, and he once grabbed my arm blocking me from walking away from him. None of this is good... I was freaked out, he told me I was over reacting. Nobody wants to be in the car with an angry driver, and certainly nobody has the right to physically block you! In this relationship he has punched the steering wheel in his truck, threatened to get rid of my cat, thrown his wedding ring at me, left home for many hours, thrown things across the room, hits a chair or keyboard, and slams his fist down on tables. All unacceptable behavior, that possibly may escalate to hitting you! Notice he’s threatening to harm things you love, and he expresses his anger physically against objects. This has improved, but this year he has begun telling me to shut up , also saying “I don’t F****** care”, when I ask him not to yell. He needs to get a handle! Arguments happen 4-8 times a month. He yells, or locks himself in his room refusing to open the door and communicate until I tell him what I want to talk about. Did you say he was 6 years old?
He is in the Marine Corp (six years) I think he wants me to just listen and follow him. Control. I told him there are men out there who don’t yell. True. He said that that is called the perfect man and there is no such thing. False. He said because of my mild autism (Aspergers Syndrome) he has to yell and scream. It’s the only way for me to “take him seriously.” Not true. Like the boy crying wolf, you’ll never take him seriously!
Once I asked for more space for fishing. He said I had enough, when ordering food he makes comments like I won’t finish it or my eyes are bigger than my stomach, Ignore these comments; not worth getting upset about. if I ask him to do something he says that I can wait on him to do it, if I decide to do it he seems to get upset.
I am not happy. He dismisses my feelings and tells me that I only say this when something bad is happening, because overall we are good. We have been to counseling, and he has been to anger management. Do you see a power struggle here? How can I empower myself? If you’re not happy, you’re not happy, and that’s not good. What he thinks about the relationship need matter only to him, not to you. And vice-versa. It is unlikely he is in a place where he will benefit from marital counseling given what you say, but that’s OK.
Please strongly consider your own individual counseling instead. You need support and guidance. Right now, you care too much about what he thinks and does. You allow him to incite you with his threatening comments and behavior. This keeps his comments up, the opposite of what you want! You want him to change so he will accept you the way you are, and to behave in a more caring manner. This is unlikely to happen - and you need to understand that. Unfortunately, I don’t think you do – or you wouldn’t be writing this note.
Certainly read through this entire site and read the book recommendations that seem most meaningful to you. Join The CatBox and benefit from the wisdom of others a few steps ahead of you.
Empowerment is about taking responsibility for yourself, and overcoming the fear that prevents you from taking the initiative to simply do what will work for you - instead of wasting your energy scrambling to survive in a hurtful, abusive marriage, while hoping he will somehow change.
Good luck to you. You can do this. Dr. Irene