Dear Dr. Irene,
I don't have so much a question, as I do a success story. I noticed you
had been asking for them, so I thought I'd share the work in process
called this marriage. Thank you! Actually,
this might be considered two success stories in process, since my parents
are still working through their issues, and their story had such a
profound impact on the decisions I made in my own marriage... Absolutely...
My husband and I celebrated our 16th anniversary this past summer. Congratulations! The most meaningful, remarkable
thing I can see in reaching this milestone was in what we have overcome
together. Our healing has involved mental, emotional, and spiritual
healing. We continue to work on the physical part; for me, overcoming
years of overworking myself and for him, finding a bio-chemical balance to
compensate for bi-polar disorder, a pre-disposition to diabetes and
Our marriage was doomed many times. It was a my, his, and our creation. It always is!
I grew up in a violent home. On a weekly basis, my mother was
physically abused: i.e., pushing, shoving, pinning against a wall, and
sometimes worse. Frequently she was verbally abused - very ugly and
profane. I never knew when or if this would escalate into violence. I
remember many such occasions, so I knew it was ever possible. What a horror show for a kid. You can never just let go
and be - a kid... When he wasn't threatening my mother, myself, my
brothers or sisters, he abused the animals. Ugh! This
occurred with much more regularity - almost nightly. My father also forced
my mother into having sex at least once a week, which I couldn't help but
hear through the thin bedroom wall separating us. The father of my
childhood was a monster. I am so sorry...
When I was 17, he beat her up while I was at a school function. I came
home to find her doing the laundry in the dark at 2 a.m., bruised hip to
shoulder, etc. The next morning, I have no idea what she said to him, but
he was never physically violent toward her again. Probably
something on the order of, "If you ever touch me again..." But
the verbal abuse continued. And she was a shrew, verbally slicing and
dicing him down to nothing. It went
both ways. Yuk...
But things began to change for my father. I don't think
it was any single event or thing that occurred, but they have volunteered
over two years of their lives in the last ten years serving in different
areas of the country for their church: helping dig out flood-damaged
houses in the Mississippi river valleys in 1993 and other projects in
other places. Excellent! I've watched my dad
soften and become respectful and patient with my mother, even while she
continues in her shredder behavior toward him. Amazing,
no? She's still so angry... He doesn't verbally retaliate - ever to
my surprise as my gut instinctively tenses when she does it - that kind of
provocation used to create an all-out war in my home. Apparently, your mom took her power, sort of. Sounds like
she flipped to the other side, that of enraged victim, taming him but at
her own expense...
I learned the hiding reflexes, never standing up for myself; the fear of
sexual intimacy, never speaking my feelings; compulsively cleaning the
house during a fight; never setting any boundaries - I mean, what child
establishes boundaries for her parents??? Not a
Over the next year our lives and marriage went through
"melt down". We had only been married 3 years when I went
through the training. Three months after our 4th anniversary - I had stood
my ground and said "NO" to sex. Physically it was painful and I
went to an OB/GYN who bluntly told me there was nothing wrong with me
except my head. Somewhere in that same time line, Kurt crossed a line with
me I had vowed I would never tolerate - the one I saw my father cross
regularly with my mother before I was 17 years old. We argued one morning
about sex, and he slapped me, knocking me backwards. There was no mark,
except that my cheekbone and the area around my eye felt like it was going
to explode for two weeks. The headache was awful. I shut down emotionally
and prepared to leave him. The physical abuse line
had been crossed...
Even though his remorse was instant, I couldn't bring
myself to even think about him - my feelings were dead. In fact within two
weeks, we got stranded up in a mountain wilderness, miles from the nearest
dirt road. It was October - temperatures from the teens to low 20's that
night, and I wound up in hypothermia. The thing that came to me during the
crisis was that I wasn't afraid to die. Kurt panicked. He had once been an
EMT and knew the will to live was crucial to survival - and that he had
everything to do with my lack of will. Wake up call?
From there, things plateaued. They didn't get worse. The hitting boundary
eventually became a "no physical restraint" when a clergyman
intervened and helped me set some boundaries during a separation. Within a
couple of years of that boundary being in place, Kurt started 12 step
recovery. The inspiration for that was that we read "His Needs, Her Needs" by Willard Harley, and
followed that up by reading "Love Busters" by the same author.
Although I nearly tossed "His Needs, Her Needs" out the car window based on
Harley's premise that one of a man's five most basic needs is sex - and
I'd had it up to You Know WHERE with the books Kurt brought home trying to
fix my sexual aversion giggle! , I'm really
glad we read it. His presentation of love busters in that first book led
us to read up in more detail in the Love Busters book. An open mind
It sunk in to Kurt that the angry outbursts he used to
control situations were killing my sexual desire. Actually - this aversion
was also kindled by his "selfish demands", "annoying
behaviors", "dishonesty" (that I was the cause of all his
problems), and "disrespectful judgments" (too many to mention). No kidding?
stay put. Thanks for the input on the books. They're on order for
We went through a second mini-melt-down in 1996 - Kurt had gone on the
phen/fen diet. I was cutting the dosages in half, but they still
amplified the angry, agitated part of his manic-depression. At a critical
point, he put me in a headlock and I left him with a dental tattoo. Go girl!
Trubble: You're in the cat house. Go cat! He called the cops,
and I got written up on a domestic violence charge, issued a no-contact
order for 24 hours. Shades of mom, huh? That's
ok - I stayed away for a week. I stayed at his parents' house that first
night, and he violated that no-contact order almost immediately. I
hung up on him, telling him that I was under a restriction and that I
wasn't willing to break the law. He made more outrageous demands as we met
with clergy and therapists to see if reconciliation was possible. At this
point, I was firmly standing my ground. Living in a shelter for a month
was more favorable than dealing with his abuse. I knew I did not NEED to
be married any more. No, you did not need
He lost his job over the phen/fen influence (angry at work, short with
customers and co-workers, not a good situation). Ouchhh!
He went back to school. He lived downstairs in the basement while I lived
upstairs. Through therapy, and my standing my ground, and him getting off
the bad meds, we were able to reconcile.
I took a sales course that proved as valuable as the training I took in
the third year of our marriage. It taught me that "I" am a
perfect ten, valuable and separate from my role performance. :) It also taught me that other people's
anger is not about me - it's about them. :) :) A
lot of the co-dependent and rescuing behaviors that were left over were
eliminated through taking this sales course. It didn't hurt that my income
doubled either - so it would be very easy for me to walk away without the
financial hardships some women face. Yes. Money is
So I got to be married by choice. The thing is, Kurt
can't give me self-worth. That is something I either believe I have or I
don't have; and I allow others to treat me according to my beliefs. Yes. You married by choice. Self-worth is yours only if
you take it. It is up to you how you allow yourself to be treated. Good,
Things are still rough at times. He is sometimes brusk with our son, but
he is listening to me. We have worked out a code-word so that I don't
undermine his discipline, but at the same time I can protect our son
emotionally and physically. You are working as a
team! Despite your personal issues, you two are pulling together! Yippeee!
Extra good stuff!
There is still rough ground ahead. But I work on my issues and he works on
his. Excellent! His 12 step recovery has
included Sexaholics Anonymous, Sexual Compulsives Anonymous, and a few
others - but his focusing on the incorrect patterns he learned as a child
has helped him deal with the anger the most. You
picked a great guy. (And he picked a great gal.) Despite coming from
backgrounds where each of you had less than a chance, each of you overcame
the odds. Bless you...
He no longer looks for sex to solve his problems. He doesn't try to
emotionally manipulate me like he used to - he knows full well I won't
take it anymore. :)
There will be more to this recovery story as it evolves. Like I said, a
work in process. I don't take any healing for granted that it is
permanent. It must be on-going to be preserved.
Thanks for your website. It has really helped me in this journey. Thanks for your wonderful, encouraging letter. You two
should have failed. But...you didn't!
My very best wishes, Dr. Irene
and Love and purrs
from ME ,
cuz what duz the doc know anyway. Doncha hate "professionals?"
Yuks from the cat house.
You guys got comments for Carol and