The Doc's Answers 38


Wednesday April 04, 2007
01:38 PM

Dear Dr. Irene,  I have been married for 17 years and we have a son and a daughter. My red flag came in a note left by my MIL when we returned from our honeymoon to live in their house on a 160 acre farm. "The honeymoon is over." And then a list of chores and bills to be paid. They went to their other home. His parents would show up unannounced, knock as they were walking in. He and his father would drink until late. For 12 years he worked the farm. Every penny went to them. We lasted one summer at the farm and moved into my Mom's home. We eventually got a place of our own. I tried talking about making our own way, the drinking, his family having no boundaries. I was insecure, immature, and afraid. We yelled and argued a lot. When I asked my husband to please tell his parents to call first before visiting us, his mother cried and said she would never call to come and see her son and stormed off to her bedroom and slammed the door. She never called after that, but they still stopped by, they just stayed outside in the yard and refused to come in when asked. Amazing...

I called my MIL to tell her that my FIL has offered his beer to our 18 month old son on several occasions and that I do not want our child to drink, fetch or have anything to do with alcohol. She said "What kind of a parent are you? You can't hide it from him!"  She was not nice to me after that. I'm sorry... The sisters too. I also said to her that my husband had a drinking problem and it would be helpful if they did not offer it to him. She was quick to tell me that in HER home it will always be offered to HER SON. Unfortunately, she's right... Right or wrong, it's her home... Believe me, they went above and beyond making that point! My husband has not had a drink in 5 years! YAY! We have been to counseling. He admits he has a problem "confronting" his parents and sisters. Yes. I understand I can't change him or his family. Yes!

For the past year his parents call him on his CELL phone. No calls to me. They stop by his business to visit and take him out to lunch. The business is located seconds from our home. His parents and sisters take him to lunch for his birthday, bring cake, and open gifts at his business.  They make an obvious difference with gift giving. They have never asked to come over or invite us over or to see the grandchildren. When they come over they are an hour late.  The only reason I invite them over for the children's birthdays and Easter is because it is the only time they ask my husband what I am doing. It is their way of demanding to come over for dinner. I feel bullied into having them over. Of course. You want them over more so you don't feel bullied, not because you want to see them more. This makes lots of sense. *Grin*

My husband has become a wonderful, caring, loving, romantic, giving, and successful man in the past 5 years. He is a great father. Wonderful! It was well worth growing together and sticking it out. He says his parents are jealous of me; they are rude; they are selfish. He has been in this mess for 40 years. I get that.  Do I have an obligation to have them over when they choose it to be Easter and the children's Birthdays only? Of course not. How do I tell them there are 363 other days in the year and all they need to do is pick up the phone and call? Just like that. Or don't bother saying anything at all. Why would you want them over more than twice a year? Sincerely, G Unfortunately your husband is unwilling to get involved and set limits with his family because he does not want to lose them altogether. That leaves you stuck. You want to maintain some contact for the family's sake, but are unhappy with the "rules" they set up. Who can blame you?

Unfortunately, as you know, you have no control over other people... You do have control over your own behavior and how you handle their difficult attitude. 

You need to learn to disengage from the idea that in order for you to feel that you are not being bullied, that they need to come over other days as well.

Do you really want them over more?

Your sense of control is in the realization that you don't have to have them over at all. They are over twice a year out of the generosity of your heart. And if you really, really wanted, you could cut off these visits altogether. And maybe you will.

And if you chose to cut them off and they retaliated, your husband would just have to deal with it. They are after all his family and he will find a way.

I hope this is clear: that they are over twice a year is because you permit it. Period. You don't have to have them there at all. And certainly, why would you want to see them more than that? They are over twice a year out of the generosity of your heart - because you have the power to toss them out altogether. At any time.

Hope this helps. Happy Easter! Dr. Irene


Wednesday April 25, 2007
10:57 AM

I am married with 2 children 10 & 11. My husband is verbally abusive and he’s beginning to get physical. Not OK. Physical abuse often begins insidiously: knocking into you "by mistake." Hurting a pet; damaging your property. If you feel frightened, call the police. You don't have to wait until someone gets hurt to call them. Feeling frightened is enough. It is also a good wake up call for hubby.

I’ve read a lot on verbal abuse and controlling behavior and he fits right in. I’ve told him in the past I wanted to leave when we are fighting, which is usually at night when the kids are in bed and he’s been drinking (which is every day). Not OK. Plus, drinking loosens cortical control over emotions and is associated with increased violence.

I get to the point that I tell him I’m leaving, but he won’t let me take the kids and I have to stay. Why do you have to tell him you're leaving? You can leave without saying anything!

Please contact your local domestic violence shelter? You need a plan, probably a safety plan to leave - and leave with the kids, or better, find a way to have him removed from the house when he has been drinking and is at all threatening.

He blames everything on me and says I’m the one with the problem not him, and that he’s trying to make things better but I’m not giving it any effort. It doesn't matter what he says. Let him say what he wants. Work on emotionally disengaging, which is easier said than done. Nevertheless, there is no need for you to understand or agree with what he says. Also, you don't need to get him to agree with you. Just ignore him, don't try to tell him about what you're going to do. Contact your local domestic violence center and let them help you form a plan. They should be able to hook you up with some legal advice. 

He gets upset if I don’t do what he says and says I never think about him. Let him say what he wants. In one ear and out the other. All you need to do is make a pretense of understanding or agreeing with him until you get out of there. He’s a real good dad and loves the kids to death and believes we need to stay together for the sake of them. But I think it is being damaging to the kids. Correct. A "real good dad" does not disrespect the mother of his children! My daughter confronted us this weekend when we were fighting and said she puts earplugs in her ears so she won’t hear us, and told him he drinks too much. Oh yeah, "real good dads" don't drink either. :) He turned around and said I’m putting that in their head. He blames me for his drinking. He will blame you for the sun rising in the morning if he can. Let him. It doesn't matter. You know what you have to do. I’ve told my stepdaughter (20) about what’s going on and she’s told me I have to leave because it is not good for the kids. This certainly is not an emotionally safe home for them.

Every time I tell myself I’m going to tell him I have to leave, Again, why tell him? You can let him know once you've left. Much simpler. But you will need support if you're feeling this way. Other feelings will come flooding up and you will need some direction. And that is another good reason to contact domestic violence experts. I get myself all worked up, then he starts talking to me about how much he does for me and I don’t appreciate it and makes me feel bad - and then I just end up apologizing and telling him I’m going to change. Ouch! I get off the phone with him and I feel worthless. You're not!!! He's just much better with words than you are. This is why you don't engage in these conversations with him; you don't know how to handle them. So don't. For now, avoid talking to him about this stuff. If he wants to talk to you, let him. In one ear and out the other. Do not react. (Yes, you have to learn how to do this.) He always makes me say things he wants to hear not what I feel. I’m always sick to my stomach and stressed. The only way it is OK to say things he wants to hear that you don't believe is if you know you are saying these things just to buy a little time to figure out how to get out. Everybody tells me it is not going to change unless he wants to get help Correct. but he tells me I need help. Yep. It's your fault the sun rises in the morning.

I’m really unhappy. Of course you are! Who could be happy living in your shoes! I look at him sometimes and he’s the nicest caring person but then one word and it collapses. Right. And all the niceness in the world cannot compensate for the bad. I need strength and advice from someone I don’t know. HELPPP! Yes: HELPPP! This is not OK. You need to contact your local battered women's shelter and/or an attorney and find a therapist. An ALANON meeting can also be helpful, though a battered women's group is better - even if you haven't been battered - yet. As we all know, you need to end this situation. Now. Pick up the phone NOW and call the domestic violence center. No excuses. Not later. NOW. OK?

(Also, go to The CatBox and post. Free support from a wonderful bunch of caring people who understand where you are. But do that AFTER you make that call. Please.)

Wishing you strength. Dr. Irene

Monday April 30, 2007
12:26 PM

Very quick background - his 2nd marriage, my 3rd. Married almost 2 yrs. He is 60 and I am 50.

I definitely have been in verbally abusive relationships and marriages before. Both of us are Christian - divorce is not an option. I take anti-depressants and am your typical shy, reserved, passive, I don't like confrontation, a "victim."

He is a retired teacher, controlling, judgmental, negative, and as I like to put it, very black and white. Our first argument was whether or not to have a certain type of chairs at our wedding reception. His argument, why pay for them when we can get free ones. My answer was the white ones are prettier and the metal ones would take away from all the work I put into the tables. Him - The metals ones are fine! Me -Why do you care if I am paying for them? His answer - it is stupid to pay when we can get chairs free. I didn't give in and he told me later that I was right. But the whole process is exhausting. I got my hair permed one time and he hated it! It totally didn't turn out the way I wanted but he wouldn't let it go. I told him it didn't work out the way I wanted, it would grow out and I didn't like it anymore that he did and he seemed to accept that explanation. I was walking out the door to go to work the next morning and he said "I wouldn't go out in public looking like that!" with a very angry, belittling tone. I was dumbstruck! Yea... My knees got shaky and I just walked away and went to work.

I have three adult children (not his) who are on their own. He believes that my son, 24 years old is an alcoholic. We got in such a heated argument one night and he wouldn't let up. I kept trying to stay away from him and staying in my room but he kept coming in and literally getting right in my face yelling "your son is an alcoholic!" over and over and over again. In one year he probably only saw my son 2 or 3 times. He will say things like, "you should eat more salads like I do", "I can't believe you put horseradish on your meat", "you use way too much salt", "you never put your coffee cup in the dishwasher", "I'm not apologizing, I didn't do anything wrong". If I catch him in a hypocritical situation, he always justifies it in some way. Confrontation and arguments WEAR me out. I can never win, or do anything right. I just ordered Patricia Evans' The Verbally Abusive Relationship  and want to start there.

I just want to know how to deal with him without losing myself. The book describes abuse extremely well but is not good, in my opinion, in teaching you how to deal with it. I just wanted to confirm that this is verbal abuse and get started on mending.Thanks for your website and insight.Karen

Your husband is controlling and verbally abusive. He thinks he knows how things should be, even things that are about you and not him. Not OK. So, you want to move on? Great! Learn to stand up for yourself verbally - and most important, learn how not to give him the power to upset yourself. You create your own upset.

He is what he is. Maybe he'll back down as you stand up, maybe he won't. Nevertheless, knowing this is how he is and knowing that you do not want to divorce, consider disengaging emotionally and accepting him as is, whether you like it or not.

"Radical Acceptance" is a term popularized by Marsha Linehan in her groundbreaking work. It means to learn how to feel the immediate pain of the moment, and let it go - for the next moment is waiting. It means getting out of yourself, or rather your ego, so that you can observe - and choose how to react. Or, not react - both internally and externally - to your husband's control because there is nothing you can do about it except create agony and suffering for yourself!  It means that he could think or say what he wants about your children, and you, knowing that you will not change his mind, simply let him go on talking to himself. It means you accept what is, and that he is the way he is - is what is.

"freedom from suffering requires ACCEPTANCE from deep within of what is. Let yourself go completely with what is. Let go of fighting reality." Marsha Linehan

"Radical Acceptance offers gentle wisdom and tender healing, a most excellent medicine for our unworthiness and longing. Breathe, soften, and let these compassionate teachings bless your heart." — Jack Kornfield

All this is easier said than done. But you can do it. Find a therapist who practices one of the "mindfulness" therapies and take it from there.

Wishing you the best, Dr. Irene


Sunday May 06, 2007
12:15 PM

Hi. I posted last year about what to do with an abusive person I became friends with and your advice was most helpful. Anyway I didn't make any contact with this person and put my energy in to the non men areas of my life that are very happy and successful. Happiness and self esteem returned. To my surprise he kept calling and being interesting, charming, intelligent conversation etc - the side of him that attracted me to him in the first place. I remembered your words and didn't bite what I felt might be bait. The bait is tempting-he seems to be offering all the things I would like but don't have (for example a child) but I'm ok about this as I can be content with what I do have.

So far I've politely declined and kept being distant. Great! Any tips on closing this for good? Backing off hasn't worked and thinking through what to do is taking mental energy and time that I would like to spend on other areas of my life. I'm scared of giving in, behaving like he did towards me (an abusive tirade ) and of provoking a violent response. Why is he so motivated to be friends (and more) when he was so destructive. This has gone on now for 6 months following 7 months silence. Because he's come back for a second round, the conquest is the objective, and your heart is the prize. Once he's achieved his objective, the games begin. Good for you for recognizing that once a snake, always a snake. Many women would have folded long ago when wishful thinking and the promise of meeting dependency longings is awakened by the serpent. Please be careful because he knows exactly what carrots to put on your stick. Remain scared of giving in because past behavior is the best predictor of future performance. He will court you until he has your heart, and will then turn around.

Why is he so motivated to court you? In a nutshell: you offer him the promise of meeting all of his needs (his wishful thinking). He knows you can anticipate his wants and will intuitively meet them. You hold the promise of taking care of him emotionally. He may or may not be aware that he is looking to have his needs met, but he follows the caretaker like a hungry person is drawn to the aroma of freshly baked bread. Unfortunately, once the bread is firmly in hand, the hungry person realizes that the bread does not satisfy. They need vegetables! They need protein! And water! Take a bite out of the bread and throw it on the floor, in anger for not satiating the need! Pick it back up, it is after all better than nothing, but kick it around a bit for not being The Perfect Food.

Get it?

And good for you for wanting to close the door and not tempting fate. You've been strong, but tread on dangerous ground.

You are probably being too nice. Kindness and nicety is often interpreted as a green light; as playing it coy. He needs to understand you mean business. So, if you've asked him to leave and he hasn't, you must escalate. Do not return calls or correspondence. Ignore email. If you accidentally pick up the phone and it is him, hang up. NO explanations are required. None. If he calls back, hang up again. He'll get the message eventually; its no fun talking to a wall. Don't worry about being "rude." He didn't! Ignoring usually works. However, if he continues to contact you after you've asked him not to, sternly threatening to call the police for harassment will generally do the trick.

Good luck to you! Dr. Irene

Sunday May 20, 2007
10:37 PM

Hi Dr. Irene, I have a feeling I’m married (common law) to an abuser but I’ve also been behaving like one lately! I’m really confused. Our relationship started 4 years ago when I was a single mom just recovering from a past relationship of six years (a peaceful but very emotionally ‘disconnected’ one). My new love was a ‘cool’ bright open-minded kind who fell for me right away and hooked me up on the whole ‘family and kids’ idea. So it started off quickly and wonderfully.

Then after a short while (I was pregnant already) I started to feel like something was wrong. He started to raise his voice at me, criticize and humiliate me – something no one has ever done to me before. Nor should do again... He’d go into rage outbursts if his eggs were too cold, slam the door on me if there was no dinner etc. I was trying to do my best to please and show my affection because well that’s what you do when you love someone, right?Yes.  His mom was sick at that point so I thought he was under a lot of stress. (He freaks out when something bad happens to her and he usually vents it on me. You need to have a chat and tell him this is not OK!) Then I found out that he smokes pot. He’s been smoking it for years and never told me, and I was too na´ve to know. He’s been getting stoned every day since then. :( We’ve had discussions about it and I asked him to stop on a couple of occasions. He admits the problem but he also admits that he doesn’t want to stop.

Lately, I decided to let it go because he gets really irritable when he’s sober. You need to let it go simply because you have absolutely no control over his smoking. Our relationship has become really messy within the last year. I finished school and found a good job and started to behave more independently. He thinks that I’ve started to become ‘too full of myself’ and maybe I have but I always liked who I was and even more so now when my life is progressing in a more successful way (professionally). Good for you!

He’s gradually become more abusive – mostly verbally, he has pushed me a few times; he’s thrown things at me, punched walls, and threw furniture around. This is serious. Any pushing at all, any throwing things at you at all, any "accidental" hits - all these are preludes to physical abuse. He always does it ‘in my face’; it looks so violent that I get paralyzed with fear and get a nervous breakdown afterwards. You can't let this continue! Please call the police the next time you are frightened. Certainly call if you are pushed or have things thrown at you!

And then he’s the most apologetic sweet person he tells me he will never let me go because we’re a family and we’re supposed to work problems out. Even sincere apologies don't wash - because without intervention, it will happen again, and likely escalate. If I disengage and keep my cool, he’ll bug me until I lose it. Yes. He's looking for a fight. Then I’ll start yelling and behaving in a really obscene way and then he’ll tell me I’m sick and I need a therapist Exactly. He's looking to blow some steam so he will provoke you until you blow - and then blame you for it...; or he’ll lose it first and start to yell and intimidate me.

I have become a very ugly person Unfortunately, this happens; but you can reverse it. ...I’ve had an affair...I started to vent my anger on my kids...I’ve become a workaholic. I used to hurt myself physically after his attacks just to numb down the emotional pain – I didn’t know what else to do about it - but I can’t hold it locked up inside anymore. Good. Don't!

I have lost any kind of respect and patience; he annoys me constantly even if he doesn’t do anything. All I want to do now is hurt him just the way he hurt remorse. I pick up fights, I criticize, I ignore him. I’m unhappy. I want to leave him. Under the circumstances, being under two roofs is not a bad idea. At least for now.

Is it all my fault? There is no "fault" here. Each of you is doing the best you can, and, frankly, it is not good. Please get help immediately. Contact your domestic violence center. They may have some ideas, or therapist names. This situation is not good for you or your children. Am I really the abuser? From what you write, he is demonstrating many, many abusive behaviors - and provoking you - and you are biting. So far you've bit enough to do some significant damage to your self-esteem. You are so angry, you're taking on his behaviors. Not OK. This will drop your self-esteem even more...

Remember: you have no control over another person's behavior, but you have full control over your own.

True abuse is about control; you don't indicate control issues, though he did seem to get insecure when your career progressed, but it doesn't matter. This is a very out-of-control and dangerous marital situation. If yes, I’d be happy to work on it in order for my kids’ sake. I don’t know what to do. Thank you for listening. M. Yes M, work on it: You both need help. Try to drag him into marital counseling. Go to a therapist alone if he won't come. Find a therapist who understands abuse (one reason to go through the domestic violence center). Your marital situation is severe. Don't let it reach critical proportions... Join The CatBox too. The posters understand... Just get started now.

Warmest wishes, Doc

Sunday May 27, 2007
05:06 AM

Problem: I have been hit.Oh no! Background: My husband of seven years is bi-polar. He works faithfully at taking medicine and therapy. Admirably consistent. But lately available care has diminished. As a couple we have been very close, spent more time together than many, but had more problems, too, especially health problems.. He is needy, but also very loving, and generous in many ways. He could hold up his end better around the house on a daily basis, but he works hard at projects Some relatives thought they had noticed some deterioration, but I did not. I knew he wasn’t doing well, insofar as he had to endure therapy that lasted several weeks for two retina surgeries, that created very frequent migraines. Two weeks ago after a mild disagreement he gave me a weird look, went in and smashed my computer! Then he said “there, I took care of that!” And “we’re done!” Oh boy...

Furious, I agreed, and that shocked him. Bad move. When somebody is violent, do not challenge them! He asked “What are we going to do?” And I said, you will hare to find another placer to live. He said no, you are, and then blindsided me in the side of the head! Punched me in the eye, sat on me and toyed with choke holds, but no bruises, and wielded a 25 lb metal chair over my head. Then took a bunch of pills, while I called 911, said he didn’t want to live without me and kissed me gently goodbye. We both went to the ER, and he on to the psych ward. I was horrified. Scared too, and sad. Got a PPO. Won't allow him home. He is charged with two felonies and DV. Out on bond, he may serve time This is all awful. Some sort of psychotic blip plus abuse.. I believe my life either was in danger or seconds away from that. He is very remorseful, seems to have stabilized, everyone says. I first thought divorce, but am now wavering. Is there any hope here, with learning about abuse, and mutual counseling? First time he’s smashed something of mine, or hit me. This is a tricky one. Clearly you love him and want to stay married, but you are realistically extremely concerned.  Some things to think about:

That you were hit is not your fault in any way, but it is a dangerous idea to challenge someone in a violent place in any way. If you choose to stay, you will need to learn to instead back off under such circumstances.

Fact: Once the physical barrier has been crossed, it is more likely that it will be crossed again. Your experience was no joke. History is the best predictor of future performance.

Again, not your fault, but how is it that others saw the deterioration and you didn't? If you stay, you will need to get feedback from those who see any deterioration - and heed it.

The problem is that your husband is Bipolar I, the more severe form of the illness given the psychotic component. He is compliant with his treatment, which is good, yet this incident still occurred given the added stress in his life. Are you absolutely positive he is compliant with meds? A big problem with individuals with bipolar disorder is they often want off the meds that lower the high. The high feels good.

Compliant or not, stuff happens. In Bipolar disorder it is absolutely mandatory to get in to see the prescribing doctor at any sign of deterioration, especially when there are psychotic tendencies or violent tendencies. The afflicted individual usually does not see the deterioration, but those who know him/her do. Professionals counsel the individual to listen to trusted others to see their doctor at the first sign of deterioration.

So, there is no clear cut advice here. Just some things to think about and discuss with your doctors.

Wishing both of you the very best. Doc

Saturday June 23, 2007
01:45 PM

My girlfriend broke up with me 5 months ago and I believe I acted abusively in reaction. Basically, she was distant when I was away for 1.5 weeks, and when I got back she had things to do and couldn’t see me for a couple days. We talked it out and everything seemed ok. We hung out one day, and then the next weekend she came over on a Saturday. We spent the day together, holding hands, flirting, her saying things like, “If you can find this fish (at the aquarium), I’ll give you a kiss.”

Six hours together. Back at my place, I initiate sex and “We need to talk.” “It’s not you, it’s me, I don’t know who I am and need to find myself. I’m not emotionally ready for a relationship; Please don’t think I don’t have feelings for you; if I wanted a relationship with anyone it would be with you. All the chemistry, romance, and passion are there, and I’m giving up the most amazing relationship of my life, but it is something selfish I need to do.” I was floored, and she was a broken record repeating the same things when I tried to ask questions. I'm sorry... :(

We dated for 6 months.At first I was ok. I politely asked her to give me space several times and not contact me. She violated it 3 times. "Violated?" Strong word... The third time she violated it 1.5 weeks later inviting me to a “mutual” friend's birthday. I reasserted myself respectfully and politely to her, saying it was too soon, and that we might not ever be friends, but if it does happen, it will be months down the road once all pain, anger, bitterness, attraction and desire are gone. Her response was “I understand, let me know when you are down for a ‘friends with benefits’ relationship.” I lost it, and basically replied “Sorry, we both know I deserve more than 'friends with benefits.' When you broke up with me you broke up with my c*&k. I’m not going to whore myself out to you, and that’s not going to change 1 week or 1 year from now.” Oh my... She pays you a humerous little compliment and you flip out!

Her response: “I was just joking.” Me: “You have no right to joke, you are selfish and cruel,” repeatedly in a 3 page email, basically making myself a victim and NOT resolving the conflict, telling her the reasons for the breakup felt like lies, etc. The worst I did was call her selfish and tell her I felt used, like a rebound, and that her professions of love for me were lies. I apologized the next day. Ouch. Hard to create words like that. Hard to take back words like that. Why so hard?

One week later, a mutual friend informs me her ex proposed to her 2 weeks before the breakup, coinciding with when she acted all distant. Still wanting an apology Why? She was only trying to let you down gently..., I fired off another angry email calling her selfish, passive, and pathetic, and I even threatened to tell her ex about me in detail if she couldn’t tell me the truth. Yikes! I apologized the next day, later that week, and a month later to no response. She doesn't want to get into it with you, which is smart on her part.

I told some mutual friends what I did and they ostracized me. I expressed my anger in a really unhealthy way. I abused as a kid, I know all about receiving it, and I am horrified at how I reacted. I rarely expressed anger during the relationship, but when she left me, I couldn’t cope with my feelings of betrayal. I want to better myself so I can effectively deal with my anger in moments of intense pain. I am not abusive until I am severely pushed, but the consequences last for months. I don’t want to become the people who abused me and I’m scared of my actions months later. You say you are not abusive until you are pushed, but your tone is harsh - throughout this entire letter, it is harsh and judgmental; very black and white, all of which suggests lots of anger on your part.  Much more than you think, and I'd bet money that you not aware of just how angry you are! Well, I'm glad you're scared about becoming like your keepers. Go get yourself some professional help. And stick with it, no matter what. It's time to find your softer parts, to learn to roll with the punches, and even to appreciate them. Good for you for having the guts to write this letter. Now go find yourself a good therapist now. Good luck and God bless. Dr. Irene

Sunday July 22, 2007
01:16 PM

I am a 27 year old person that needs some advice. I was in an abusive relationship 5 years ago where I was verbally abusive. A few years after leaving that relationship and being a total emotional cripple, things began to change. I began to challenge my entire negative self-talk and facing my demons, I really changed as a person, my self-esteem was great and I felt really good about myself. Great!!!

However this change was not to last as about 18 months ago I went into a new job where I was working in a team and the same demons crept back in insidiously… need for approval, seething anger at others getting attention. Yes! This is a new situation, and a stressful one at that! Expect to deal with the same issues in multiple situations - and at multiple levels, becoming more and more subtle over time. This is a process and you have to go through all the "layers" :(  .   You may want to focus on learning to enjoy the ride while you're at it, even the rough parts. Pain is a part of life. It is just suffering that is optional.

Again I battled for a little while and even became a little disheartened and depressed because I could not get back to the same frame of mind that I had before. Sure. It's fine that you felt disheartened and depressed. Those feelings are a normal part of the process. Feel the feeling, and let it go. It's fine that you could not get back into the same frame of mind. You have to deal with "it" from within many frames of mind!

Then my grandmother died I'm sorry... and I promised myself that whatever it took I would really change!!!! for about 6 months I did, working hard at mindfulness therapy (I tend to fantasize a ridiculous amount Pay attention to the fantasies. Begin to understand them to understand yourself. Are they about what you strive for? What you're angry at? Etc.) and working towards being able to stand and be able to act on a sincere level, as opposed to any action dictated by fear, or insecurity or the need for attention. Great! Each time you recognize that you were not true to self, figure out how you would handled the situation if you had a do-over. This repeated practice sets the stage for good future behavior.

About a year ago I had a chat with a close friend who said that I had changed for the worse since my break-up with my ex-girlfriend, and it really hurt, so much that the old demons came back, the confidence disappeared, the old habits reappeared, and as much as I have tried it has been a slippery slope since. Wow! You gave your friend a lot of power to push you over the edge like that. Also makes me wonder if you're not clinically depressed, which just makes the going soooooo much harder. Get yourself evaluated because a medical quick fix can help you get on your way much more easily, and you can taper once you're well on your way.

Doesn’t matter how much I have tried last year I wasn’t able to go back to how I was, and this year I feel like I've taken 100 steps back, insecure…really angry…procrastinating…at the moment I feel like I am just wandering along with no choice in my actions merely just acting out. I have been at home for the last 6 months and don’t know how to get out from this place I am, how to change and sustain change. Well, two things stand out: Are you depressed? It may be hard for you to get off the ground if you are. Second, recognize that your recovery is a process. Two steps forward, one step back. Recognize that you don't have to "feel like it" to "do it." Feel the way you feel and do "it" anyway!

Why not get some professional help? Any "third wave behaviorist" understands mindfulness and how powerful these and complimentary technique are. You are looking for an ACT therapist, a DBT therapist, a mindfulness-based cognitive behaviorist, etc. They will be able to assess whether or not depression is a factor as well.

The important thing is that you have seen just how much you can change. Your feelings of discouragement are totally normal, and while its harder to feel discouraged and "do it anyway," that's exactly what you have to do. Do yourself a favor: Get some help - and - keep up the good work! Dr. Irene

Thursday July 26, 2007
08:32 AM

I have emailed you in the past and have felt your responses to be so liberating. Thank you for having such a wonderful website! My husband has been verbally abusive in the past and there are still occasional outbursts, but for the most part it has worked itself out. But even as I write this letter, I see that he is still manipulative. We have been married for 12 years with 3 children. He likes drinking and he likes women and they are usually combined. He has secretly looked at porn off and on during the marriage, was with a prostitute 7 years ago when I was pregnant, had what I call an emotional affair with an old girlfriend through email, spent 4K on strippers 2 years ago. Recently, he went through a major repentance process with clergy and cleaned up (which wasn’t the first time, but this time seemed progressive). He accepted a job out of state for a senior corporate position which was offered to him by a friend who also engages in drinking and strip bars. He told his friends he has changed and that he no longer drinks, etc and his friends respect that, they accept him if he parties or not—it is him that has the problem. I was away from him for 2 1/2 months while our house sold. There was a corporate party where we both knew there would be drinking. I said, “Are you going to be ok there with everyone drinking?” He acted extremely offended and ridiculed me saying, “Do you really think I want to go through that again?!!” Well, he did drink and was sorry about it. He said someone told him he was square and he felt out of place and so he drank to liven up. He also said he suffers from low self esteem—I agree---seems so juvenile. I was of course disappointed but since he was sorry about it, I told him he just slipped up and to start over. Then in phone conversations while we were still apart he started saying how he wanted me to get a boob job. :( After it persisted, I said, “You don’t act like this unless you have jumped the track and I am willing to bet you are looking at porn.” Once again I was chastised for even thinking he was doing that. Well, we have been moved in for a month now, a few nights ago he went to a business dinner. I talked to him around 9:00PM and he said he would be home in an hour. I said I was going to bed. I woke up at 2:30 AM and he wasn’t home. I was worried he had been in an accident since he was not answering his phone. He came home at 3:30 AM on a weeknight, had been drinking and to a strip bar. I also found out he had been to a strip bar 2 other times in the past few months, over 1K down the drain. Ouch!

We talked for a long time and he agreed to everything I said. Except I wanted him to leave the next day, he would not. He said you just want to punish me----and yes, I want him punished! Sure you do! I feel like I am too easy on him so it keeps occurring. Some negative consequences are not a bad idea.

He said he wants to change, just needs time. I have given him 12 years worth of time! It’s a vicious cycle, the best predictor of the future is the past. I told him he is self gratifying and he has to figure out what he wants most in life as opposed to what he wants right now. He agrees. It’s almost like he gets bored being “good” so he flips to the other side but then after so long he is not happy doing that either. How do you live with someone who flip flops like that?? I think if the drinking stopped so would the strip bars. Is it reasonable to give 3 options 1- stop drinking cold turkey Sure. 2- Go to counseling Yep. I think stop drinking and counseling and AA are a good single option.  While AA is no miracle cure, middle aged married middle class men tend to do best there. Different people drink for different underlying reasons and AA does not address these reasons, even though they think they do. Yet, he'll find comeradie and a way to blow off steam by talking. Sounds a little like your husband has some underlying personality issues since no matter what he does he's not "happy." 3- Divorce-- after all if he wants to live a players lifestyle he needs to go back to the playing field. If this is what you want; this one is up to you. He always makes me feel I am overreacting---and claims he has never had an affair. I told him there are other ways to cheat…Assures me he is happy with his life with me, I said, “Of course you are, you get the best of both worlds.” Anyways, I am so looking forward to your thoughts! Thanks!

Over-reacting? Hardly, unless you are OK with it, which you're not. (And it's fine that you're not.) In this culture marriage and strip bars don't usually go together, especially when it drains the family pocketbook.

I believe him that he is happy with you, but you are asking him to grow up and be more emotionally responsible. Strip bars are typically experienced by the partner as emotional betrayal, though for him it probably is no more than stress release. That still doesn't make it OK; our culture does not sanction these places, nor does it expect you to be OK with them. He could go to balls games and blow off steam instead, but the ingrained perceived stress reducer for him is what it is... Old habits die hard.

I agree with your assessment that the alcohol and strip bars are probably paired. One goes with the other, just like for many smokers a cigarette goes with a drink. Alcohol disinhibits. Cortical control goes out the window.

Consider asking him to stop drinking, go back to counseling, and attend AA meetings all in one fell swoop. The good thing is how readily available the meetings are. And consider ALANON for yourself, because you can't be policing his drinking. Consider counseling for yourself as well because he'll never be perfect. Can you deal with that? How will it be for you if this see saw continues for another 12 years? Is he that awful? Do you really want a divorce?

It is probably a good idea to write up a contract that spells out drinking/spending consequences. For example, if caught drinking (guilty until proven innocent) he would have to do X. If caught spending big bucks/going to a strip bar, he would do Y. Consequence X could be leaving the home for a set period of time, or losing some other privilege; Consequence Y could be having to turn over $X to you, etc. Figure out what works for you two. You both sign it. This way you have agreed ahead of time regarding what to expect; you don't have to argue; DO NOT ARGUE. Simply follow the contract unemotionally. You may even want to build in incentives for good behavior over Z period of time that he can earn.

His behavior is a choice; the consequences should encourage him to move in a productive direction. You can't talk him into sobriety any more than you can control his behavior. 

Wishing both of you the best, Dr. Irene


Saturday August 04, 2007
03:07 AM

Dear Dr Irene. I wrote to you a few years ago when my H was very verbally abusive and threatening. I left but he got counseling so I returned. His behaviour has improved but recently I see his old ways returning. When you see that happening, it is time to put your foot down, just as you did around the time you left. My situation is different now as we have a beautiful baby daughter. It isn't just me I am concerned about. A recent problem is that we had our house up for sale (it is in his name). He decided to pull out of the sale because he was worried about money (understandable). However, he didn't consult me and just said that is the way it is and since now that I don't make any financial contribution, I don't have a say in the matter. Time to let him know that being dictatorial and controlling is a return to his old ways and you won't have it.

This has really hurt me. Don't take it personally. This is about his desire for control, it is not a commentary about you. Even though it perhaps wasn't the right time to move, I would have liked to have been spoken to about it. Of course! He said that he was making the decision for both of us. When he was getting his point across though he was very angry and kicked the back door. Not OK. I have asked him why he feels as though he must behave in this way and he says that it is the only way he can get me to understand. Rephrased: This is the only way he can feel a sense of power, but intimidating and controlling you. Don't go there.

This isn't true, I am an intelligent lady and want to be spoken to in a reasonable way. Absolutely! I was scared when he kicked the door so I ran into the back garden. He just said 'thats right run away.'  I was so upset about the whole situation I tried to question him about it and he said 'if I don't like it I can leave'. Take him up on his threat. Take your daughter. Go to a friend or family member. Do what you have to do.

This has hurt me really badly, I don't have a job now and just keep thinking about our daughter. I did think about leaving but I am financially secure here (although not emotionally). He is also a very good dad.... but saying that when our daughter is old enough to understand what he says that will effect her as well won't it? YES!!!! Very good dads don't behave like 5 year olds. He is NOT a very good dad. Of course he says he doesn't mean that he wants me to leave, but that doesn't make it right. Correct. Now I am so upset and he is just telling me to 'get over it'. No, you should not 'get over it.' Treating you like chattel is not what marriage is about. Things are just going back to how they were when he was very VA and I guess fundamentally he hasn't changed at all. I just need some validation please. Thanks. Now that you no longer have a job and are less able to leave, his confidence is up that he can control you. What you don't realize is that you are the one that holds all the cards. He wants you and your daughter with him - so he has power over both of you and can feel like "a man." Go. The heck with financial comfort. And don't come back easily. Insist he return to counseling. That's probably the quickest way to get him back to his senses. And if you do come back, be ready to leave whenever this starts up again because once you let your guard down, it will start again. Do NOT come back without his giving you sufficient funds to bank in your name ahead of time - so you can leave again should you need to. This will help keep him in line.

Tigers usually don't change their stripes - but their masters can learn to control the beast. Get counseling yourself if you need to learn to emotionally put your foot down. Good luck. Dr. Irene