The Doc Answers 35

The Doc's Answers 35


Friday June 16, 2006
05:34 PM

Dr. Irene I was in a situation and would like to understand the BIG picture of what is going on. My husband and I were watching a movie that was just about over, and I realized that a TV show was coming on. I asked my husband if he could give me the TV remote just so I could check the TV show. Instead he just held it. I asked him again, "Can I have the remote?" He said, "Why do I have to give the remote to you?" Again I asked him, "Can you just give it to me?" It would have been OK her for you to tell him you wanted to check for the other show, etc.  And he said again, "Why do I have to give it to you?", and he changed the channel to the show he knew I was interested in. So, you're both a tad annoyed with each other…

We began to argue about why he was doing that to me and he stood up and eventually told me that he did that just to see if I would let him change the channel, or if I would throw a fit because I did not have control of the remote.

He left the room, ran up to his office where he shut the door, turned his music up real loud, and just stayed there for the rest of the night ignoring me. Yuk, but in his defense, you could have answered his question out of courtesy, if nothing else – despite whether or not you knew he knew the answer. Just as you have a right to be angry with him for giving you a hard time in handing over the remote, he has a right to be angry with your not responding to him.

I was still trying to confront him, Why??? Were you trying to score a point? Now the two of you are fully participating in a game that will lead to nothing good. and he asked, if I was saying something, like a jerk with his music up loud so he could not hear me.

This unfortunately is not the only time these situations happen. One other time while we were watching a movie and my husband asked me not to ask him questions about the movie while the movie was playing. Reasonable request. So I respected his request and waited until a commercial came on to ask. But after asking my question he stood up and said, “Fine I will watch the movie in my office!” He went to his office and locked the door. I did not understand what happened here, I waited and was respectful, but he STILL got angry and ran away. I don’t understand what he is doing to me in these situations. What is really going on?

I'm not sure what's going on in terms of victim/abuser because both of you are being just awful with each other. Granted in the last example you waited until a commercial to speak and you got an unreasonably angry response, but what interaction preceded this interaction? If you guys often treat each other as poorly as you indicate in the first example, you are both being contentious and disrespectful to other!  

In these pages, I repeatedly ask my abused readers to stop acting out and be respectful. Hold your tongue. Be mindful of what you are feeling without acting it out. Treat him instead as you did when you first met. In time you will be in a better position to ascertain whether or not he is picking on you, that is aggressing against you without provocation. Now, you are provoking each other!

 So, to get the big picture, see if you can clean up your act. Then ask these questions. Good luck! Doc

Sunday June 18, 2006
10:07 PM

Dear Doc

I left a very abusive husband seven years ago – the ex was verbally, emotionally, and sexually abusive.  Leaving him was the best gift I’ve ever given to myself! Great gift! 
I have no desire to be around him, ever, and have been very up-front with my family about that decision, and the reasons for that decision.  My sister cannot seem to get the message that I don’t want to be around my ex, or that I have a right to my feelings. 
My sister had a graduation party for her daughter, and I was invited and asked to bring a dish for thirty people.  I asked who would be attending, as 30 seemed like a fairly large get-together.  My sister told me the guest list, but “neglected” to mention that my ex was invited. 
When I arrived at the party and saw the ex’s car in her driveway, I felt like I’d been stabbed in the heart.  I felt so betrayed, and didn't know how to react. As one of my sons was coming to the party about a half hour after me, I didn’t want to leave and have him walk into whatever weirdness my leaving would create, so I went into her house, and acted like everything was ok. 
I thought about the situation for a week, and finally decided to speak with my sister about it.  I told her how hurt I was that she had not told me the ex would be there – and she said that if she told me I wouldn’t have come.  I said yes, that might be true, but that decision should be my choice, not yours. Correct. Then she said that her kids adored their uncle. I told her I wasn’t asking her not to invite him, but to tell me ahead of time so that I could make my own decision. At no point did she say those magic words, “I’m sorry” – nor did she say that she would respect my feelings in the future and tell me if he was invited.  She did not even seem to understand that I have a right to my feelings! 
I want to maintain a relationship with my sister, but how do I handle this in the future? Know you have no control over your sister, but that you do have control over you. 

Accept people for what they are... You don't have to like the way your sister operates, but, so be it. You were 100% correct in asking her to let you know ahead of time whether or not he would be invited so you could choose whether or not to attend. 100% Correct! But your sister chose to make that decision for you. So be it.

You certainly do have a right to your feelings, and it doesn't matter whether or not she understands that, though it would be nice if she did. Oh well. So, feel your anger towards her - then let it go. And be forewarned: the next time she throws a party, you may want to ask her specifically if he's been invited, so you can exercise your option to attend - or not.
Between you and me - and this has nothing to do with the party and your sister: understand you still have emotional issues to work through vis a vis your ex... You'll know you've worked these issues through when it doesn't matter to you one way or the other where he is or isn't. Because you simply don't care. Be mindful of your feelings towards him (as well as towards your sister), give yourself time, and watch yourself heal... Dr. Irene

Sunday July 02, 2006
12:22 PM

Hi Dr. Irene. I have been married for four years. Just before we were married, my husband lost his temper while we were driving and slammed my head into the pedestrian side door. Not acceptable!!! Admittedly, we were having a heated verbal disagreement, but he was out of line and admitted it. Yes. Over time, he became increasingly violent; he took pride in the fact that he never "hit" me, but he would often shove me to the ground and pin me when I told him things that he didn't agree with or angered him. Not OK, as I'm sure you know. All these examples qualify for an emergency call to the police.

I finally called his family and threatened to call the police. His family helped intervene and he began anger management therapy (both individual and with me) with an excellent therapist who specializes in that area. Great! Here's my issue. His anger has dissipated and he hasn't acted violently towards me in almost 18 months. However, he continues to lose his temper. In recent weeks, his fuse has become shorter and shorter. He will set me up Not OK. Trying to provoke you so he can claim "no responsibility" since you did/said whatever to provoke him does not fly. by asking specific questions about his physique, his intelligence, etc. I will try to answer them as neutrally as possible but he gets very upset. These questions should be ignored, and he needs to agree that set-up questions should be ignored, whether or not he agrees that they're set ups.

When I let him know that I feel like I'm getting "set up" he uses the therapy-speak he learned from therapy (his therapist discharged him because he's "better", he's supposed to go back if he relapses on his own - having read ahead, he HAS relapsed, so much in fact, that he doesn't even realize it!) saying things like, "this is a pattern you learned from your family, they regularly set you up and now you feel like everybody else is setting you up, so get over it, you don't know what you're talking about" Tell him, "My family stuff is what it is, but you are setting me up and I'm not going there." And don't. Don't try to reason with him or defend yourself. He's better at this than you are. -- if I point out that he's hurting me and that this isn't necessarily true, he often deteriorates into telling me to "f--- off", or, he'll go through this litany where he screams "f---" everything that is important to me (f you, f your family, f your work etc). Call his family again and get them involved. He's out of control. Or simply call 911. Why are you protecting him?

Then, if I continue to interact with him, he'll start pointing out my "faults" That's why you don't interact. It's destructive and won't go anywhere good. -- I'm insecure, I was abused as a child (true) so I don't know how to be a good wife, I punish him for my "insecurities" and I need to have more confidence, he'll complain about the quality of our sex and how I'm "frigid" (not true, I just don't like to wake up in the middle of the night with a penis inside of me). He'll make statements and asks questions like, "I really hate these stupid f-ing magazines, they're useless, but you really love them, don't you?" If I don't answer, he asks me if I'm going to be pissed and him all day and ruin our relationship. If I do answer, he makes fun of me and talks about how it's a waste of money to buy certain magazines. I recognize that he's not better. He's just switched to a new way to abuse me. Right, and that is a very common problem. If I try to point this out, he gets really pissed and slams things around the house and tells me that if I get any closer he won't be able to control himself and he'll hurt me. That's a threat. That is 911 material.

He generally leaves, taking my car and doing something alone that we had planned to do together that day. He denies that this is his way of trying to punish me. He doesn't have to agree; you know what the score is.

I'm not blameless here. I get really frustrated and yell back. You're doing exactly what he wants you to do; you're buying into it. This is why you disengage from his junk and simply refuse to interact with him. I try hard not to attack him because I know he'll revert to the "I'm going to hurt you if you don't stop" thing. I have broken things in the house in my frustration (never in his presence). So I'm doing stuff as well that is feeding this. I'd like to get him back in therapy. Do you have any suggestions on how to work with this? Yes. This stuff is pretty bad! Simply tell him that he goes back to therapy or he goes. Period. Do not try to reason with him because you can't handle his baiting. Back up your words by calling 911 or having his family intervene, assuming they can bring swift action. You should go back to therapy as well because you've forgotten how to deal with him. You are engaging with him, buying into it. You can't go there. Your job is to learn when not to put up with this junk - and not put up with it! - instead of worry about how frustrated the stuff makes you. (Who wouldn't get frustrated?) Thank you.  Good wishes to you, Dr. Irene


Sunday July 16, 2006
12:37 PM

I was widowed 3 years ago. I was married to a wonderful man who treated me like gold. I’m sorry… I have two young children. I am 43. I met a young guy (who was performing in a band) a year and half ago when I was out with some girlfriends. He came up to me when he was performing and serenaded me. We started a relationship shortly after. It was fun at first. The sex was the best I ever had. But when we would have a disagreement he would blow up, yell at me and not call me. This is when you should have walked away. I would try to talk to him about the future of the relationship and he would get so angry. Right. You were doing exactly as he wanted you to do: overcompensate for him. In other words, you engaged in the game he set up.  He would say I was demanding, selfish, a princess etc.

When he would get angry, at first, I would try to fix things. I would call him and try to repair it. Setting the stage for a good one-way relationship. But recently on the 4th I was driving over to his place with my little one. He had mentioned to me that week that he would try to procure a guest parking space at his building so I wouldn't have to park my car way up the road and pay the meter every two hours. I asked him about this a couple times and he kept saying, "Don’t worry - we'll find you a space". This kind of irked me because I thought to myself that he didn't even attempt to try and find us a place to park. Good! You should be angry! So on the way over I got tense. He phoned and said, “Are you here?”  I said, "I was driving around trying to find a space". He said, just park up the road and I'll meet you. I got frustrated and said, "Why didn't you try and get me a space in your building?"

I knew that I was pushing his buttons by mentioning it again. And he went off on me and said, " I told you there weren't any spaces--you stupid f*&%ing bitch!" With this I hung up the phone. It's been two weeks now. It took me a while to realize it was verbal abuse and that verbal abuse is never acceptable. Correct. It took me almost 2 years to figure this out. But you did figure it out; that’s what counts!

I know that if I was to call him, it would be wrong and I would be tearing down my self esteem. This is this a no win situation in my case, isn't it???? Right. This man made it very clear from the very beginning that this was not going to be a two-way relationship. This relationship was to be you doing for him. Period.

How do you handle people with this disorder? You leave. I mean, do they have to come to an awareness of their problem to get help? That’s not an awareness most of these people reach. Typically, they don’t think they have a problem, and if they go for help, it’s because they know they need to do so to keep you from leaving. As soon as you relax, the old ways begin to return.  He seems to think that I am always the one in the wrong, and can never see the other side’s point of view. Correct. I've never encountered this type of person before. And I sincerely hope you never have to encounter this type of person again in the future! So it took me aback - not knowing how to handle this. Of course! This kind of behavior makes absolutely no sense to a “normal” person! The only thing I could figure was to finally get away from him (no matter how much I cared for him). Good for you! You did the right thing. There is no changing this person unless they really, really, really want to change. And very few of them sincerely do, though they may promise otherwise. Good luck to you, and the next time you find yourself giving and not getting, get away fast!  Dr. Irene

Friday August 11, 2006
07:28 AM

I have just been reading Patricia Evans' book on verbal abuse The Verbally Abusive Relationship . I feel as if it was written for me. I have been married 20 years to a man I feel somewhat connected with, but always as if something is odd. He is good to me most of the time, and the verbal abuse is covert.

I was the perfect mate for this man because my mother is abusive, so I do not recognize more subtle forms. My husband was always able to convince me I was wrong. He has never hit me or called me nasty names. The first 10 years together was a nightmare. He did almost everything in the book. Finally, I became clinically depressed. I had emotionally disengaged from the marriage, but stayed because I had a child with a disability. Then, he had an "epiphany" for no apparent reason, apologized and began to treat me better. This left me puzzled, since, if he could control it, why did he out me through it? Also, he expected me to forgive and forget immediately which I could not. We are still together. I am no longer depressed, but not exactly happy either. On a scale of 1-10 of verbal abuse, I would say he used to be an 8-9, and now he is a 3. He is completely resistant to counseling, refuses all together, but I go. To me, a 3 is not good enough.

My question for you is: Have you seen these "epiphanies' before, where the husband suddenly changes?  Yes. Sometimes they read a novel, or see a TV show, or talk to a friend and they recognize themselves. More often the wife (or husband) leaves, and they suddenly "get it." Since they obviously know what they are doing, what is the motive for this? Apparently your husband "sees" it now, or admits to seeing it now, or was too dimly aware of his actions to see it before his epiphany. Before the epiphany, your husband apparently did not see his actions, at least as clearly as he sees them now. Lets put it this way: he was unable to drop his defenses enough to recognize his behavior.

His main tactics now are withholding, confusing facts - cutting me off during conversations to argue, where he assumes he knows what I am thinking. I can see why you are still not happy. Everything I ask him not to do, he accuses me of doing, and often denies what he is doing. Accusing you of what he's doing is called "projection" in my field, and its not a good sign. It means that he is so guarded and so defensive over the parts of his behavior that does not see, that not only does he not see these behaviors as part of self, they are so cast off he sees them as external and being inflicted on self. Taken to an extreme, you're talking paranoia. He is re-writing reality. Your husband is "distorting reality" or "bending reality." Taken to an extreme this becomes "delusional" or "psychotic."

He likely distorts his reality to see the world the way he needs to see it to maintain his self image/a semblance of personal power. It is possible that he sees his stuff dimly, but is too defensive to  own it. It may also be that he doesn't see it at all; sees it but won't admit that he sees it; or that he's simply evil and enjoys watching you squirm. In any case, he's found that accusing you of his actions accomplish his purposes, whatever they are. There is really no way to know.

I have stopped explaining myself, and disengage from the conversation. Good! Sometimes after a single conversation with him, I feel horrible. You are unlikely to have a real conversation with a guy like this, and no doubt, while your disengagement skills are improved, you need to do more work on disengaging. What does feeling "horrible" mean to you? Are you angry that he's dong this again?  Are you lamenting how awful your situation is, or how trapped you are? Do you feel guilty because you said "No?" If you were disengaged, you would not feel horrible. You would perhaps feel sad or mad or whatever over the whole rotten situation, but you would not feel horrible - because you no longer give him the power to make you feel horrible. You fully understand that this stuff is entirely about him and has nothing to do with you. You know that so well, you no longer care what he thinks, and you no longer seek to get him to understand or see things from your perspective. Because you know he won't.

I do not feel talking is effective since we rarely resolve conflict without my feeling bad. It's not. Talking will get you nowhere fast. It just give him more opportunities to find opportunities to entice you to engage. He (verbally) fights to win, and winning seems to be the goal. Winning is usually the goal with guys like this. I don't even like being around him sometimes, and other times he is fine. The problem is you never know when it's coming, and you end up on guard most of the time. That's stressful. He does seem to respond to my refusal to engage in these games with him, and seems invested in our family and marriage. He may be getting your message! Good! But if he gets it, its also likely that he'll find new, more creative ways to play this same game. Most of these guys, like your husband, are highly invested in their families and their marriages. In most cases, he needs you more than you need him.

Still, something about him seems "off" to me. I would like to hear your thoughts on this. Thanks! He is "off." While he may be doing the best he can, his best is simply not good enough. He is unable to interact with you in a reciprocal relationship; he does not know how to be a partner. Furthermore, there is a very good chance that he will never understand how to be an emotional partner because he is too damaged, too selfish, too  needy, too evil, too whatever, to routinely remain mindful of your feelings. He is way too caught up in doing what he has to do to get some "emotional supplies." So, instead of respecting your thoughts and feelings, he is preoccupied with his. To meet his needs he lies to you and often to himself. Sometimes these people start our knowing they are lying but eventually come to believe their own lies! In any event, he distorts reality and blames you for whatever irks him. Doing this provides him with a fleeting sense of OK-ness or personal power.

He needs. His emotions are certainly more important than yours! So, he takes at your expense. Arg!

Think of a man who has a knife, and keeps stabbing himself in the foot. Holy crow! He's bleeding! How is he supposed to pay attention to you  when He's Bleeding! And, don't you know it - shame on you - you made him do it!  Other people's feelings, especially yours, are usually a foreign language to him. He really doesn't get it.

So, forget about a mutual conversation. It's not going to happen, at least at this stage of the game, if ever. The basic personality hasn't changed. He's just changed his most obvious tactics. 

Some books to help you better pinpoint and understand what's going on:

bullet Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and  Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft.
bullet Angry Men and the Women Who Love Them : Breaking the Cycle of Physical and Emotional Abuse by Paul Hegstrom
bulletMalignant Self Love: Narcissism Revisited by Sam Vaknin (Search the title to find the book on Sam's site.)

Print this out and bring it to your therapist to talk about. Good luck to you. Dr. Irene

Saturday September 02, 2006
05:43 PM

I started doing some research online about abusive relationships, and the more I read, I wonder if I’m the abused, or the abuser! LOL! Many people ask the same question! We’ve only been married six months (we’re both 24), and things are miserable. I have a tender heart; but when I tell my husband that he has hurt my feelings, he either ignores me entirely or tells me that he didn’t really hurt my feelings. He needs to understand that your feelings count, whether they are seen as justified or not in his book. He doesn’t acknowledge or apologize, even when I explain my viewpoint. He has apologized literally TWICE in the entire 2 years I’ve known him. When he ignores how I feel, I tend to act out - namely, yelling. That won't work; it will only damage your self esteem. I know this doesn’t solve anything, however I seem to have no control over my anger (this is where my concern about being the abuser stems from). You are reacting to his stuff. I haven’t hit him, but I have barred his exit from a room during an argument (his way of dealing with conflict is to ignore it - he has outright stated this) or removed things from his hands amidst arguments (he just continues to read the newspaper or watch TV during discussions). He is acting out passive-aggressively. I know this is very bad; does it qualify me as the abuser? No. While your behavior is abusive, your behavior is in response to his passive-aggressive or active abuse. Examples of things about him that concern me: if we’re arguing in the car, he will drive recklessly (in excess of 90mph). Road rage. When we argue, he doesn’t forgive me and will outright punish me (he’s kicked me out of our bed twice in our short marriage). Why do you keep coming back? That's really the only control you have in this marriage. I’ve told him two specific things he does during foreplay that I don’t like, and consistently asked that he stop - he ignores my requests, and gets upset that I don’t enjoy it! Ick. Another concern is how he grew up: his father is an alcoholic and physically/emotionally abused him; his mother is mentally unstable, and abandoned him at the age of 3 (although she’s resurfaced several times since then). He left home at the age of 16 and has supported himself since then. One last thing - he’s a police officer (3yrs), and progressively seems to be developing need for control of people. Well, he's an angry guy, which would be fine if he confined it to nabbing criminals. Unfortunately, he's letting it spill into his personal life - and he's taking it out on you. Not OK.

Right now, you are setting yourself up for a lifetime of misery with this guy. Your husband should be the one person who cares most about your feelings, your ideas, your dreams. Your guy doesn't. He punishes you when you haven't met his needs, or if he's simply in a bad mood. Is this what you want in your life?

To top things off, you are playing the game with him by reacting to his onslaught. In an effort to get him to hear how you feel, you are acting out abusively towards him! This will go nowhere and in time you will hate him and yourself. Stop this right now before you become any more confused. You know his behavior is not OK, yet you already wonder if you are "the abuser!" The last thing you want is to find yourself arrested one day by his buddies because you did something stupid in response to his endless angry provocation!

Spend your energy on figuring out how you are going to stop his abuse. He won't change, so you'll have to. It's a new marriage; consider leaving while its still easy. That is the only power you really have. You can't change him, but you can change yourself. Read everything on this site. Everything. Post on our forum, The Catbox. Get some counseling. The only way you can help yourself is by refusing to be his victim.

Two books for you:

bullet The Emotionally Abusive Relationship: How to Stop Being Abused and How to Stop Abusing by Beverly Engle
bullet The Secret of Overcoming Verbal Abuse: Getting Off the Emotional Roller Coaster and Regaining Control of Your Life by Albert Ellis et al.

Good luck to you. Doc.