Sent: Saturday, July 31, 1999
Subject: do the abusers ever
I will contribute my story to
your web site soon (I'm working on a book right now, new job, you know the story), and I'm going
through a lot of grief about my marriage to a viciously verbally and
Great! I look forward to it! You
write so well!
My ALANON sponsor had me do a 4th step on my obsession with my
ex-wife's treatment of me. My sponsor heard me list my part, how I
"volunteered" for the abuse by ignoring my own gut feelings, Yep. by ignoring the warning signs. Yep. Then she heard my list of the
many cruel and unfair things my wife said, and did, while we were married.
My sponsor gave me an assignment,
to get in touch with the fact that I was an abused husband. Your sponsor is doing a great job.
Naturally, my chickenshit wife never laid a hand on me, but the
marks she left on my heart and soul still burn.
The invisible bruises are the most
difficult to deal with. Not only is the victim confused, there is also
little sympathy for wounds that cannot be seen.
I was very angry at her treatment, her accusations, her double
standards for a long time, but only now am I really coming to terms
with the real pain beneath the anger: the hurt, the deep deep
sadness that this woman I loved, who said she loved me, would treat me
so terribly. Yes. Read everything
on the abuser pages., particularly The Verbally Abusive Partner.
not know how to love the way you do. She loved you the best she could.
(I kept telling her,
"Just treat me like you treat
your friends! You don't call them names, mock and belittle
them." She interpreted that to mean I had to be treated better than her
friends. But I digress.)
As a divorced father, I've also been getting in touch with how much
I hate this "shift-change" life with my son. And my
sadness has precipitated now that my ex has a new boyfriend. Of course, I find myself
asking, "What does
this guy have that I don't?" Probably a bleak future, or
maybe not if he is angrier than she is.
I swear to you, Dr. Irene, I was a decent guy. I didn't
cheat, beat, drink up the rent money, or any of that crap. I worked hard
around the house, cooked, cleaned, yard work, house maintenance. I believe you. But
so what. This is not about getting Brownie points. You did what you
did because that is what you believed would gain her favor. The problem is that
you did so much, tried too hard to get her love and approval. No matter what you did, it would
not have been enough not be enough in part because of your attitude, in
part because of hers.
Not enough for her.
Sure, once the stuff got escalated, I began to respond with some verbal
backlash of my own...but nothing, nothing like the way she treated me.
And I ask, how can she be nice to him, and she wasn't able to give me those
wonderful parts of herself? Get out of the
pity pot. Once upon a time she was nice to you too. You married her,
didn't you? Hell, because I had this stupid expectation
that my dreams were as important as hers, she denied me affection,
emotional support, sex, and respect. It hurts to see her offering that
else. She did the best she could. Why are you
comparing? Who cares? (I know, you do...)
Anyway, I've been weeping a bit almost every day.
What are you lamenting? Not having a
rotten wife? Not being abused? You sound depressed and it seems to be going on for a
while. You may want to call your family doc and ask for a meds
evaluation. Sometimes a little chemical help can really give you the
boost you need to learn the lessons you need to implement.
Saturday last, she called. It was my day with my son.
I was going to do
something with him differently than she would. She began to demand I do it
"her" way. I hung up. Then the escalation of
aggression, threat, name-calling
on her part started. I hung up three times. Next time,
don't even pick up the phone when you know she is calling and is in a
mood. When you are with your kid, you run
the show, not her. You don't need her permission or her OK to do things
your way. Don't defend, don't explain.
My slip came on Monday night. She called to speak to my son
(we share custody, I live 4 blocks away, have my son almost every other day),
and I asked Katie if she was going to apologize for the way she
spoke to me on Saturday. It went nowhere. It will go nowhere. She does not
feel she has anything to apologize for. Stop trying to get what you need
from her. She won't give it. Accept that.
I kind of unloaded about my
feelings on her, that she was abusive to me when we were married. Her response
was that whatever she did to me, I did to her in spades. I suggested,
make a list, and we'll compare. She didn't want to make a list (and I damn
well know why), and then, in classic abuser fashion, made it my fault.
"If you'd only do what you're supposed to...if you hadn't of (not lived my life
the way she wanted me to)", then, of course, she wouldn't have done it.
So what! You
dumped her. Get out of the pity pot & get on with life!
On one hand, she has apologized, sort of.
sorry." Sorry for what? Sorry that I called her on her bullshit?
Sorry I'm not being
a good sport about everything? Let it go! You
don't need an apology! Stop being so codependent that you are trying to
change her to give you what you want. Instead, change yourself. Deal
with the fact that you will not get an apology. Your other option is
what you are doing now: needless dwelling and obsessing over something
you have no control over, which you give the power to make you
miserable. Stop it, unless you choose to continue feeling yukky.
Nor does she admit she was abusive to me. That's her problem.
You don't have to make it yours.
She considered herself a good, liberal feminist, and a lot of crap we went through was about her
totalitarian thinking around her "principles" (principles
that somehow never extended to me and my identity, fancy that). And in her mind,
women like her aren't abusive...that's for men to do, or drunken trailer
My question to you, more than do they ever apologize and change
their behavior Each
"they" is different. From what you tell me about your ex-wife,
it is unlikely she will apologize and it is unlikely she will change her
behavior towards you. My advice: stop looking for an apology, and you
change your behavior towards her! (Maybe, maybe then, she will change
towards you!) is "How do I get past my
desire for justice, and let the past go?" You have to realize that you script
your life and you make choices. Right now you are choosing to dwell on
all this stuff and make yourself miserable. You will get past this when you decide that what happened happened,
you can't change it, but you can learn from
it. You will get past this when you realize that there are better ways
of spending your time and energy rather than on her. You will get past
this when you are willing to do anything in your power to let this go,
including checking out if you are an antidepressant (or St. John's Wort)
I want her hurt, you know? Yeah. And I want to be
able to eat anything I want and lose weight. But no matter how much I
want it, I cannot make it true, even if it is unfair. So, I accept that
I will forever have to pick and
choose what I eat if I want to look reasonable. I am also grateful, cuz,
you know, it ain't so bad! You have to do same. You
must accept that you cannot get what you want, so stop barking
up the wrong tree.
It is my (God forgive me) strong
wish that her boyfriend treat her exactly the way she treated me (list attached,
just so you know the kind of crap she did and said to me), so SHE KNOWS HOW
IT FEELS. Instead of asking for His
forgiveness, why not ask for the strength to help yourself?
But more than that, I want to
let it go, let her go to her own destiny. Now
you're on the right thinking track.
I still weep for the family and home that I was denied. So that's what you
want! Go find a
nice codependent sweetie, like you are...and get it!
I weep for what I fear this is doing to my son (although his mom and I are very
concerned about him, and have never used him as a pawn in our battles),
Good! I'm glad you both love him
more than you hate each other. I weep for everything I was denied. Enough weeping already. Its time to
go out and get it.
Finally, I worry about my son, because I just two weeks ago heard his mom speaking to
him the way she spoke to me.... Thanks for your web site, and I will write to the survivors page,
because I personally am tired of the plethora of "Domestic Abuse"
writing in which the villain is 95% of the time a man. My ex says all
things, has all the right politics, and I'm just the dumb-f..k ex-husband, the jerk
who left her...
I'm glad to hear you left her!
I really do hope you send in your story. I am particularly interested in
hearing if and how you implemented any of my feedback.
My very best
wishes, -Dr. Irene
Print this out and bring it to your Sponsor...
To: Dr. Irene
Sent: Sunday, August 01, 1999
Subject: RE: do the abusers ever
Obviously, you come from the tough love school. Nope.
Cognitive behavioral. We look for things to make sense.
Thanks for your reply, even though
some of it stung. I know. Sorry.
I will write my story for your web page. Great!
The pity-pot...possibly. The other part is simply me feeling the
stuff that was stuffed, you know? Instead of covering up my
feelings with, oh, say, VERBAL ABUSE OF ANOTHER HUMAN BEING, I am
actually experiencing them, and learning from them. Finding
out, more clearly, what I do really want, and, as you suggested, going
out and getting it.
I don't know
how long you've been feeling it. You do need some time to do that. My
concern is that you not stay there too long because it can be a trap
if you are not also moving in the direction you need to go in. What's
too long? I don't know. Stay there as long as feels right for you, but
just know at some point, you have to move on. OK?
And my son. Yeah, I'm modeling like a m-----f-----. My vow
is that he won't grow up feeling the way I did (like, hearing my father
tell me he loved me once, and that was when he was drunk), that he
won't grow up feeling invisible. I am trying to teach him the
stuff I learned in ALANON, and to give him all kinds of good memories,
to honor who he is, and to encourage him to find out who he is.
To not pass on the garbage I got ("You don't hurt" "Stop crying
or I'll give you something to cry about", "You don't feel that
way," etc.), but to let him know and experience his own
reality...and to know, without a doubt, that he's loved.
to me that you're doing such a bad job...especially under the
circumstances. But that's also part of the modeling. Life has
You sound a heck of a lot like my sponsor in trying to get me off the
"fairness/justice" kick. Hey, we all have our little
quirks, that is one of mine I'm working hard on dumping. It's not a quirk...it's an "irrational
belief" straight out of the textbooks. Very common one too, so
rest assured. Bottom line: It is not true, life is not fair, your
belief just doesn't work.
I wanted to disagree with your "Brownie Points" comment, but
on honest reflection, I can see that I was trying to buy some peace
and piece (if you'll excuse a crude allusion). It didn't work in
achieving either goal. But the good part is, I learned to cook!
Silver lining to every cloud!
other good part of putting myself in that furnace (and staying, even
though I could open the door and walk right out) is that I finally,
completely confirmed for myself that I wasn't an alcoholic (like most
of the men in my family). No matter how wretched I felt, I never
wanted to go out and get blasted... Honestly, you sounded pretty blasted
in your letter...but what the heck.
Good from the bad, I guess. That would have to include my son,
who I love more than anything or anyone in the world.
And you. Looking
forward to getting your story, when you have the time. My best, -Dr.