Sent: Thursday, July 01, 1999
Subject: E-mail advice
Dear Dr. Irene,
I have recently ended my marriage of 5 years because of verbal abuse.
I had become afraid that the rages would escalate to physical violence.
Not an unrealistic fear. I am struggling with
the idea that I did not give it my all and I am still trying to understand
what happened. Have you yet understood that your
ex-husband's rages had absolutely nothing to do with you? Please try to
realize that in an abusive marriage it is "damned if you do, damned
if you don't." No matter what you do, you can't win. You will always
be wrong. I need to understand in order to move on. Your site
has been extremely helpful to me in this regard. However there is
one subject that does not seem to be discussed:
One of the ways that my husband controlled me (I think) was to demand sex
at least twice a day. He told me that he told his friends that one
of the reasons he got married was so that he could have sex any time he
wanted. If he wanted to have sex anytime he
wants, he should have made sure he was born to a Sultan years ago. Today,
he could hire somebody to service him. Different individual's have
different sex-drive levels. His is high. Even if your ex- married a woman
whose sexual appetite matched his, if for any reason she did not want sex,
there is no sex - out of consideration to her. Rule of thumb in marriage:
If both people want to do something, great. If one does and one does not,
the couple does not engage. While I have always enjoyed sex, I
could not keep up the pace. Any time that I declined sex (whether I
was tired, didn't feel well, had a broken leg(!), or was just burned out),
he stomped, pouted, sighed, etc. Ohhhh boy...
This is a man who would eventually turn any woman off. A good sex
life cannot be demanded. Demands and inconsiderate behavior undermine the
trust required for sexual intimacy. Every instance where I declined
resulted in a lengthy discussion which usually ended with him shouting,
concerned that I didn't love him, would rather be with other men, missed
my old boyfriends, etc. "Seek and ye shall
find," goes the old saying. It looks to me as though your husband drove
you out of his arms! He allowed his insecurities to rule him, and/or his
lack of consideration and integrity allowed him to resort to any
manipulative ploy that would get him what he wanted. How unfortunate for
him (and for you). One of the main reasons I repeat and re-repeat that it
makes no sense to defend yourself or try to get your angry partner to see
the world from your eyes - is that you won't win. Promise. None of
this was the case. Of course not.
When sex 3 times per week wasn't enough for him, he started complaining
that I was a control freak, and that we only had sex when I wanted it. You can only have sex when
you want it. If you and he want sex at the same time, great. Otherwise, it
is a no go. The sex problems that you were experiencing in your marriage
were indicative of the underlying emotional problems between you.
Problems, which by the way, your husband had no interest in solving from
what you tell me. By the way, it is common for angry people to accuse
loved ones of acts they themselves commit! This is called "projective
identification" in psychobabble and is often accompanied by paranoia,
as it was with your ex. I had to explain to him that this
wasn't true, since he had put so much pressure on me to have sex all the
time, that I didn't even want it any more! Of
course not. What a turn-off! I was only doing it because I didn't
want to have the arguments. When a man who knows how
to love hears that his partner is conceding to sex to avoid arguments, he
is more than likely turned off to sex! (Sometimes he would wake me
from a sound sleep at 2am to fight about our "crummy" sex life).
I'm sure it never occurred to your husband that all
he had to do to make you want to have sex with him would be to take your
feelings seriously...at the expense of (gasp) his own. I finally
got to the point where I didn't want to have sex and he quit asking.
It took one month without a sex life for the temper rages to escalate to
the point that I had to get out. Sounds like he
gave you few other options.
My question (s) is this - Was this demand for sex a form of abuse? Yes. Here is how it works: You are expected to perfectly
take care of all of the angry person's needs and wants at all times. You
are dealing with a very selfish individual who cares about meeting his own
needs, and not caring about yours. For your husband, taking care of
included a good deal of sex. Your feelings don't count and he gets angry
when you cannot or will not meet his needs, no matter what your reason.
This outrages him and he gets angry.
Your case is
a little more complicated because your husband sounds like a sex addict,
or individual who engages in compulsive sex as a means of dealing with his
life and particularly his anger. This individual's idea of sex has nothing
to do with intimacy and everything to do with anger, power and control. I find a significant
association between anger addiction and sex addiction (as well as other
addictions) in my practice. In my opinion, all these compulsive behaviors
are rooted in rage. He said that my withholding was a form of abuse
and control. No. You did not engage in sex
because sex was not being used as an intimate means of communication,
where both partner's feelings count. You were being treated as a
sex-on-demand object. Can this kind of
need for sex be a result of sexual abuse as a child? Possibly.
Is verbal abuse in general in any way linked to child abuse? We believe that an individual with a propensity to
abuse/violence inherits a particular biological predisposition that requires
some form of childhood abuse or neglect to lead to adult abusive behavior.
Other research suggests that an abusive early childhood can actually alter
the child's physiology to predispose to particular problems in adulthood.
Thanks for helping people like me - in many ways. Thank
you! -Dr. Irene