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Blame and Excuses

Blame and Excuses

January 13, 2000
Dear Dr. Irene,
 
Hello my name is Barnaby. I am a 30-year old male. My wife left me 2 weeks ago and took our 3 kids. They are in a shelter. She left me because of my abusive behavior. 

I need help to control my temper. I need to learn how to talk to my wife. You see, she has been diagnosed with depression and is on medication. The depression is probably my fault too. It seems like everything is my fault, but she has done some very hurtful things to me too. But, she can blame her bad behavior on her depression. I have no excuse for my behavior, at least that is what I'm told. I have accepted the fact that I should not have done the things I did: I broke a door, I called her names, and the physical abuse. I won't minimize the physical abuse by telling you where and how I hit her, the fact remains I hit her. It was wrong. I am now in counseling and trying to understand why I feel the way I do.

I guess the question I want to ask you is: can an abusive man be helped? I'm not a bad person. I love my wife and kids with all my heart. I'm doing everything I can to get better, but I keep being blamed for everything and being told I have no excuse. I know I have no excuse, but does she have an excuse for the things she did to me because she is depressed?

Dear Barnaby,

Your wife took your kids and left. You damaged property. You verbally and physically abused her, so she is in a shelter. 

I have a real problem with the fact that your question is about her! I think there are more constructive things to occupy your time and energy with! Like fixing yourself!

Bottom line: You are trying to take some of the responsibility off of yourself by making her responsible. This is a no-go and is the wrong attitude for recovery. 

I am not even going to address the question of whether her depression gives her the right to be abusive towards you because 1. I'm not sure that is what is really going on and, 2. I think you would probably misunderstand my position on this issue, and 3. Whatever her problems are, they are her problems. Not yours!

You also ask if an abusive man can be helped. The answer is yes. But, only if you stop playing tit-for-tat and focus on yourself, the only person you have any power over.  Good for you for being in counseling. Stay there.

Good luck to you in your recovery, Dr. Irene