Sent: Sunday, August 15, 1999 2:32
Subject: Am I the abuser????
I think I am on the brink of a failed marriage. I have been to several
counselors who act like I'm the innocent one and my husband is the
monster. I don't know what to believe - maybe we are both the monsters.
I will try to keep my story short.
I was reading about the 'Will the real victim please stand up', and it
hit home with me. If I am the abuser, if I am causing this - I need to
know, I want to save my marriage badly!
reaction is more typical of one in the victim camp.
About the last thing
I want to do is confuse people. Though, sometimes confusion is a
necessary step in getting to know oneself...
A quick tutorial:
The abuser is the person trying to impose the most control over the
other in the relationship. The abuser is the person who would be
described as most "selfish". The victim tends to give
emotionally. The abuser tends to pay little attention to the other
person's feelings. If they give, it is usually material.
It is often hard to
figure out who is who because both partners may be verbally abusive
and controlling - but, where is the power?
In truly abusive
marriages, one person has most if not all of the power. In general, this
individual feels that their emotional well-being is their partner's
obligation. The partner's feelings don't count. How the partner
"should" behave matters more than how that person feels.
In more ordinary
marriages, the power is roughly evenly distributed, even though each
partner may behave abusively towards the other.
Now, about you in
It started after we got married. I
was pregnant. It was a difficult one and he would get angry if I asked
him to sit with me while I was sick. Could it be
he was jealous of the child - who would soon get more of your attention
than he would? I felt so alone. Codependent
victim camp stuff on your part; abuser stuff on his. After I had
the baby, I would get mad at him for being 5 mins late from work. I
would sit there staring at the clock. More
codependent stuff on your part...but I wonder...would he come home late
on purpose? I stopped that Good., we
went to counseling. It was hard but I stopped. He would tell me I was
crazy, a crazy b----, that I need serious help. He told me 'No wonder
what happened to you in your past happened' (I was abused). That is very cruel phrasing, even though he was right
that you needed help.
Now, where are we? I decided to leave my husband after he got mad
because the computer room was messy. How mad did
he get that you decided to leave? Seems to me there must be more to your
leaving than what you put down in this brief account. I tried so hard to keep the house clean
for him, he didn't want me taking my daughter out (she's 21 months now)
to play a lot because I should be at home cleaning. OK, now it makes more sense. His reaction is typical of
those in the abuser camp. He is trying to restrict your world, define
your role. Not at all OK.
He said a stay at home mom was
another way of saying lazy housewife. Wrong!
Abuser camp. He accused me of letting my daughter play with the
computer disks and was saying she would break them. Abuser camp. (Feelings
don't count.) He didn't believe me that she didn't. He was
yelling and I picked up a disk and broke it, and said, there now I broke
it. He slammed his fist into my scanner and started to rage, knocking
pictures off the walls. My daughter was scared and I begged him to
stopped. I was pushed, he said he knocked me accidentally but she hit
her head against the wall. I was holding her. Whoa...not
good stuff. Can you imagine anything your husband could possibly
do that you would "accidentally" push him while he was holding
When I left him I started to see someone. I thought I needed that. You sound so codependent, you probably did think that is
what you needed - to reaffirm your self-worth. He was threatening
to call cps and lie to them if I left him. Abuser
camp. He thinks you are property he owns. He started to withhold
money from me. I hired a lawyer. He found out about the affair and I
dropped the lawyer. I felt so guilty about it. I don't know what to do
now. Guilt is part and parcel of typical victim
behavior. Stop with the guilt. You've got enough stuff to deal with -
like why aren't you mad at him and insisting that he shape up? He
talks to me sarcastically about how I am soooo abused. Tells me to go f---
the guy every time we fight. Has called me a stupid b----, a fat wh---,
refused to let me have my car keys to leave, threw them in the street
and told me to fetch them because that is where I belong. Threatens
divorce if I don't move back in with him. No good!
Abuser stuff! He gets so nasty and I am so sad and I don't know
what to do. Get out before it gets any worse...and
don't go back until he acknowledges his horrible, selfish behavior and
agrees to treatment. I know what I did was wrong. I know how
serious it is. I have read about the effects it has on a spouse. Excuse me. You keep focusing on your wrong. What about
his? You left him & had an affair - not right, but under the
circumstances...well, you're not perfect. Furthermore, you acknowledge
that you did a wrong, and hopefully have learned from it. Has he
acknowledged his many misbehaviors? I know why he has his anger
about it but he had this temper before that happened. Yes. I don't know what to do. Please help me. Stop harping on your wrongs and start getting angry
about his. Stop putting up with his acting out, which is probably why
you had the affair to begin with. Tell him the affair is over, it was a
mistake and that he needs to drop it. Tell him you will no longer defend
yourself or discuss it, but you are interested in discussing his seeming
need to hurt your feelings and his assumption that you are his
possession. I know I'm not perfect...I know *I* need to work on
being a wife, but I don't know how to stop these angry outbursts. Could
I be causing them? -Sandra
No dear. You
sound very much like the victim who has poor self-control skills and
acts impulsively and abusively in response to provocation. Yes, you
acted out. So, you have some work to do. But you are not causing any of
his behavior. Not one drop of his behavior has anything to do with you.
You can misbehave, but your husband creates his behavior all by himself.
He has no business "accidentally" pushing you while you are
holding a child - or not! Your husband has no business worrying about
the child breaking the disks. Buy her more to break! What is more
important, keeping the disks pristine or the child having fun and
learning? Also, since when is a full time mom a "lazy wife?"
If he feels the family income needs your contribution, there are ways he
can discuss same with you without putting you down. And if you feel a
commitment to your child to be a full-time mom, a sensitive husband
would respect your wishes - whether he agrees with your decision or not.
So, Sandra, I
am in full agreement with your counselors. I hope this helps. Best
regards, Dr. Irene
Dear Dr. Irene,
Thank you for your response. My husband has never said he wants me to
work. He wants me to stay home. He can want
whatever he wants. He is allowed. That doesn't mean you have to do it.
He just wants me to stay home and clean more, instead of taking my
daughter to so many functions. What about you?.
Don't your feelings count? I feel it is important to her
development. I know I have to work on how I react to his outbursts. Yes. I have to realize I am in control of how I
act, and take control of how I respond. Yes. I
have been working on that. Good. It is your job to
appropriately communicate your limits to your husband, and it is his job
to accept the limits you have set for yourself.
Despite everything, I love my husband dearly. He has agreed to
counseling but doesn't believe he is abusive in any way. He is controlling at the very least. Even though he is
dictating things that he thinks are in your best interest, he is still
dictating your life. You need to clarify your role. If you accept his
idea of what you should do when it is not what you want to do, you are
likely to become more and more resentful towards him. Then you are
likely to mistreat him. He says to say things you regret is
normal in a relationship. I don't think it is. No.
It is not OK, though it is not uncommon. Sounds like you could both use
some self-control skills. I cry and he thinks I am pathetic, and
gets angry. That he sees your crying as pathetic
suggests contempt on his part. Contempt is consistent with an abusive
picture. I don't know how to help him see that this behavior
isn't normal and shouldn't be accepted. You can't
get him to see if if he won't. However, you don't have to tolerate it. I
don't know if it is important to see it as abusive. You don't have to put a label on it; just stop it.
Except that 'abusive' means you have overstepped boundaries. Yes. He has told me if I am not moved in by the
30th of this month he will divorce me. For my child's sake I can't. I
don't want her to see this. I've watched her be scared enough. I do not think it is wise to accept ultimatums. If you
mean so little to him, let him go.
I fear if I purposefully find a counselor who works with verbal abuse my
affair will be minimized, and it is something I think needs to be
addressed. Stop with the guilt. Your affair is not
the prominent issue. The prominent issue is the abuse and control on
your husband's part. The last counselor we had told him he
couldn't treat me like he was and he now says he is stupid, doesn't know
what he is talking about, and probably isn't married. Should I show him
a book or something so that he can recognize our marriage is not healthy
at this point? You can try, but it probably won't
help. The only thing that will help is your not going back. Maybe then,
when you stand up to him, he will wake up. But first, I think you need
to wake up, that is, stop blaming yourself and stop allowing abuse.)
Good luck, -Dr. Irene
This is my last email to you. I
just wanted to say thank you. You really gave me a wake up call. I
know I still need a lot of work, and I need to go through with it, but I
am starting to realize it is my responsibility to myself to not let
anyone treat me the way I am letting him treat me. If he goes, that is
his choice and I cannot do anything about it. I realize I need to be
more scared about continuing to live like this than I am of losing him.
I am still scared of losing him, so I am not there yet but I will work
on that. I still don't feel anger, I have a hard time getting angry and
this is probably because of my own abandonment of myself. As far
as my guilt, God has forgiven me, I will now work on forgiving myself.
Now you're on the right track! Dr. Irene
Thank you, -Sandra