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Doc@DrIrene.com

Abuser Appreciates Advice

Abuser Appreciates Advice

January 27, 2001 
Dear Dr. Irene
My partner and I have been together 6 years. She has bipolar affective disorder and although her illness is well controlled she is very sensitive and emotionally labile, feeling incredibly good when all is well and is devastated when things are bad. I am being treated for chronic depression (reactive to severe back pain and the limitations and changes the pain has caused to my life) I also have a mild Acquired brain injury (due to hypoxic event with suicide attempt in 1984)  Recently I began taking a new  antidepressant and I have literally 'woken up' after a 'sleep' since 1984.

I look back now at the last 6 years with the woman I love very deeply and clearly see the emotional carnage I have caused to our relationship. I am an only child from a broken marriage with an alcoholic physically abusive father (deceased) and a mother who doted on me but was not around due to shift work during my late childhood and adolescence (also deceased). I too am a recovering alcoholic 6 yrs sober and my partner also a recovering alcoholic 13 yrs sober.  You both certainly have had your share of pain and trauma.

I don't actually 'abuse' her with foul language or name calling. My abuse is more subtle and I believe much more insidious and cruel than outright verbal or physical abuse. The pattern is that most times my partner has something good happen to her or receives a good surprise, I manage to invalidate her happiness by either giving mixed messages. Example: She recently received an Email  from a friend she had not seen in 8 years. I acknowledged that this was great and suggested she Email her friend back. My partner and I had previously organized to watch a video together. Instead of leaving my partner to write the rather long Email back to her friend and enjoy the moment, I said "Are we going to watch this video or not?" after about 15 minutes. This had the effect of distressing my partner and invalidated her happiness which I had encouraged only 15 min's earlier.  This example is a little trite but is indicative of the subtlety of my emotional abuse which occurs very frequently. Excellent that you see it!

I also find it incredibly frustrating that I am not able to console my partner when I am the one who has caused the harm. Very common, by the way. If she is hurt by someone else I am very capable of providing loving, caring support.  I know that abuse is about power and I find it impossible to look deeply enough inside myself to discover why I need power. "Power" is too abstract. That's what she gives away. More basic: It is about your anger and frustration that you are not feeling as good as you want to feel and your expectation that you should or that she should help you feel better. Essentially you're telling me you're saying something like: "How dare you be happy and forget about me!" 

My conscious mind believes we are equals and individuals who walk through life side by side. I am also divorced with 3 daughters and a granddaughter. I believe I was subservient in the marriage preferring the wife to take charge. I am now much more responsible for myself and I don't believe my behaviour in the marriage is relevant to my current situation. The common thread is the lack of a centered Self, a calm, firm "base". First by having the wife "take over," and now by expecting that your partner be available at all times, you indicate the lack of an internal good space. I have done some reading on abuse and have University training in psychosocial, social and psychological spheres. I am also an ex cop and have dealt with hundreds of abusive situations. Despite deep introspection I cannot identify my 'Demon' and intend to seek psychotherapy before I destroy our relationship. I would greatly value your opinion. Yours sincerely D.G.

You are way ahead of the game. Your self-awareness is excellent, and you are searching how to get out of this destructive maze. While many roads lead to Rome, I suggest you start by examining your expectations. At those moments she is content though removed from you, what are you feeling? Is there a sense of resentment that she is happy or absorbed in something other than you? Do you think she you "should" notice that she's not paying attention to you? How many minutes of letter writing did you implicitly give her "permission" to write?  Why do you think you have a right to make these determinations?

Look at these specifics and examine your underlying belief that her world has to revolve around yours. It can't and it won't. Never, ever - because it is impossible, let alone unhealthy. Yet, you continue to implicitly expect that it does, and become resentful each time she "disappoints" you... You will be in pain and you will create pain as long as you are focused on her, expecting her to focus on you.

Time to stop expecting the impossible and accept reality...

Good luck to you!

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