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Accepting Reality - Or Not

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#1 DrIrene


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Posted 14 August 2008 - 07:51 PM


Let me start off by saying that I am and abuser. I know this and I want help. Excellent! Oh, but do you think maybe you could stop labeling yourself? Not helpful!

I am a 28 year old male and have been married to my 27 year old wife for 5 years. The first part of our marriage was bliss. Sure, we had our fights, and ups and downs, but we had a great time together. We were best friends and did everything together.

Starting in about year four though our relationship started to become very strained. We both had work commitments that separated us for weeks at a time. There were also life's pressures that started to build up, like buying and remodeling our house. We began to fight. At first when we argued I view it as a challenge, and would get into shooting matches that I tried to "win." She would eventually drop the issue and we would move on till something else came up to fight about. Learn from viewing this stuff as a challenge. Ask yourself if this strategy works in the long-run...

The fights continued to get worse and we both began looking for ways to hurt each other in our fights. Ouch! We would say very hurtful things to each other, just to make the other angry. Because life at home wasn't pleasant for either of us she began to avoid me. She would spend a lot of time with other men. With other men??? I would become jealous and tell her she couldn't hang out with these men any more. In a purrrfect world, she would not choose to hang with men unless they were family members, etc. In a purrrfect world, if your angry wife were hanging out with "other men," you would simply back away. Why in the world would you want to be with a woman who wants to hang out with other guys? Think about it…why indeed?

She of course didn't listen, which would only further enrage me. More of the little throw sand in the other person's game the both of you were playing. And you thinking you could control another person... Another good lesson. She would also avoid me in public situations, because I took a sick glee in belittling her in front of others. Eventually we recognized that our marriage was in trouble and went to counseling. At counseling I called her a whore and accused her of cheating on me. I berated her in front of the councilor for an hour, who did nothing. Counselor doesn't have the power to stop you... She vowed to never go to counseling with me again.

Neither of us were willing to call it quits yet though. We began discussing things like having an open marriage or a trial separation. I wasn't fond of either idea, but didn't know what else to do to save my marriage. It never got to that point though. After a really bad fight, I lost my mind. I am ashamed to say I hit her. Lost your mind is a good way to put it. Even after I did it I didn't feel bad. I felt justified that maybe I've finally hurt her the way she hurts me. Yes, you were too angry, and that's what out-of-control anger does. Notice that you raised the stakes by giving her control over your happiness. She moved out the next day. She is still living with her uncle.

Since she has been gone I've been in counseling to learn to love myself again. I've been in counseling now for 6 months, and have made a lot of progress. I now know that I treated her badly because I hated myself. I have told her I am sorry for everything and that I am improving myself, and want to make things work. Yay!

My wife has seemed to continue to deteriorate emotionally. :( She still cries on an almost daily basis. She says she can never trust anyone ever again, and she'll never have a normal relationship. She refuses to go to counseling her self. She is demanding a divorce. There is nothing you can do about her thoughts and feelings. But you can accept that those are her thoughts and feelings, whether you like it or not. Take the time to feel your own pain, to learn from it, and to let it go. That you can do.

I need your help to know what to do. My counselor refuses to give me advice, and insists I figure it out on my own. Of course. Ultimately you will have to figure it our for yourself, because only you can take responsibility for your, but I'm happy to give you some suggestions and to look at what your options are… I do not want a divorce, and know we can be happy together again. I would do anything to have her back in my life. I realize I can't make her come back, and I might have to accept that. Even if she did come back she needs to fix herself before we can work on us. What I can't accept is that she will never be happy again. I want for nothing more than her happiness. How can I help her move on if reconciliation is not an option? You can't. Even if reconciliation were an option, you couldn't help her. She can only help herself. She still is my best friend. We both love each other dearly (she says she still loves me).

Thank you, Moose

Dear Moose,
First of all, good for you for searching. Just keep going! And I really hope your wife chooses to help herself at some point too.

The situation is difficult. For what it's worth, you were not the only culprit. You both did this one. Not to blame the victim, but what business does a married lady have hanging out with other guys… I understand why her behavior was passive-aggressive; she just didn't know what else to do. She felt as trapped as you did. And, what business does a married guy have trying to dictate (control) what his wife should or should not do? You were both angry with each other, and rightfully so. The two of you ended up in a horrific retaliatory cycle until it got too carried away. The point is that you both contributed to this situation, but you took it one notch too far. And there is no blame here. You each did the best you could. And yes, things do happen for a reason: this is an opportunity for each of you to grow. I think each of you have lessons to learn.

But this is about you.

You said: "What I can't accept is that she will never be happy again." You can't fix her. You can't ease her pain. You can't assist her recovery. You can't make her happy. Only she can do that. And that holds whether she knows how to do that or not; it holds whether she's aware of that fact or not.

You can choose to accept that you can't make her happy. Or not. If you think you can make her happy, you miss the importance of interdependence (vs. codependence) in marriage.

Your marriage was codependent. Each individual was somehow expected to complete the other. You insisted that she do this and that. She bucked, fought back, and tried to get back at/ control you in her own way. She could have walked away earlier too. Codependency demands that the other person supply their partner with a sense of security, belonginess, love, whatever it is that is needed. Each person attempts to elicit behavior from the other that the individual thinks they need in order to feel whatever they want to feel. The codependent does not recognize that feeling loved, feeling happy, feeling whatever, is within the Self, and not outside.

If you could stand on your own emotional feet, you would understand that your wife had a Godgiven right to choose her path, and you had a right to accept this path - or not. If you could stand on your own emotional feet, you would not "need" her to behave like a wife, or love you, or cherish you, or anything you – because you would understand that her direction had to meet her needs, not yours. And if you could stand on your emotional feet and truly loved her, you would understand that she was the only one to dictate her direction. And you would encourage her to find it.

If you could have stood on your own emotional feet, and if your wife's direction was in synch with your direction or otherwise unsatisfactory, you would either simply let it be or you would begin to back away. She would then respond to where you are, and a direction is taken, whichever way it goes. You would do this, because, if you love her, you would want her to pursue that which is important to her, regardless of how her behavior affects you. Doing this does a few things. It gives the other person nothing to rebel against since you offer no resistance. It helps you further develop your emotional strength in dealing with what is. It gives the marriage a chance to grow or falter. Loving someone is about wanting then to go in the direction they choose, whether you like it or not, whether you are included or not. And, if you find you are not included, perhaps this is not the partnership for you. Perhaps you deserve a parnter whose objectives are closer to yours. This scenario sounds simple. It is not. There are so many zillions of decision points and emotional changes that occur in both partners during this process, it is impossible to predict where things will go. It is unlikely that control, emotional retribution, or violence will play any part.

If you love her, why would you want to change her? If you try to change her, do you accept her? If you do not accept her, do you love her?

You said: "What I can't accept is that she will never be happy again." Acceptance is not about liking, agreeing with, judging or doing anything about the notion that she may or may not ever be happy again. It is about recognizing that it is what it is, and no more. As an analogy, it is abouting accept the fact that you cannot walk through a wall. No matter how much you may want to walk through this wall as if it is phantom – simply because you cannot. Such are the laws of physics. You don't have to like that fact. You don't have to agree with that fact. You don't even have to accept the validity of that fact of physics. Of course you could blast the wall down or cut a hole, but that is not walking through it. Feel free in fact to walk through or blast through as many walls as you want. You will only hurt yourself in the process.

You said: "What I can't accept is that she will never be happy again." Acceptance is about understanding that there is nothing you can do about that which upsets you regarding another person. It is certainly understandable that her unhappiness saddens you and that you would do anything could to assist its transformation, but that's it. You can't do more. And if you try, you are only blasting through the wall. She is responsible for her own happiness – as you are for your own.

So, lets get back to your options:

You can accept that you are responsible for your thoughts, feelings, behavior, sleeping habits, favorite colors, and happiness. Or you can continue to make your wife, your mom, your boss, your kid, your therapist, me, or another person responsible for those parts of you in an ill-fated attempt to get them to meet your needs, even for a little while. (Because if you can manipulate another into meeting your needs, your satisfaction is short-lived and not real.)

You can take responsibility for understanding the difference between the angry feelings and angry behavior. Or you can continue refusing to accept what is and put yourself at risk of over reacting again.

You can accept that only she is responsible for her own happiness, her own mental health, her own choices, etc. etc. Or you can continue walking into that wall until you're bleeding. Because that's just the way it is. That is reality. Laws of nature.

You can even continue beating yourself up for all you've done and dwelling on it and making yourself miserable. You can continue to worry about how you can help her, instead of dealing with yourself, i.e., you can remain codependent.

These are some of the choices you can make. Or not.

I suggest you choose to take control of the only thing you have any control over: you! Isn't that what loving yourself is all about? Moose, I'll be back next week. Post all you want. I will reply to you. Readers, anything you want to say to Moose?

Sending you all loving wishes and hugs, Dr. Irene
, Aug 14, 2008

Suggested Reading:

ACT on Life, Not on Anger by Eifert, McKay, Forsyth, and Forsyth.

Facing Codependence : What It Is, Where It Comes From, How It Sabotages Our Lives by Pia Mellody

Wherever You Go, There You Are : Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn.

#2 GuestCat_Ray_*

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Posted 15 August 2008 - 03:50 PM

You seem to have an interest in a perfect marriage but you dont want to share in an honest way with your spouse. Why the power games? Sometimes a little flirting and humor can go a lot further towards happiness than anger and belittlement. You shouldn't need to put down your partner in a mean way, it implies a lot of insecurity on your part. Better to be confident and secure than to win all the time. If you dont feel secure than you should learn to develop that part of yourself that will help you feel secure. This can be difficult and hopefully your counselor can help you with this.

I think you are putting too much pressure on your wife and she needs a release, and one of the ways she finds it is to associate with other men. If you and her have a loving, trusting relationship then this shouldnt be a problem because she wouldn't want to do anything that would hurt you. If she is doing something you dont approve of, then you should discuss it with her. If her interest is in continuing to keep the company of other men, then you may not be able to stop her and you might consider moving on and concentrating on your own life. Getting control of yourself and making yourself something that YOU want to be will also make you more attractive and your wife may become interested again. If not, then others will.

#3 GuestCat_Mrs. nobody_*

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Posted 16 August 2008 - 04:26 AM

I'm not sure if I'm doing this right but here goes. :blink:

I have to totally agree with Mopus on this one, I’m sorry Dr, Irene but you missed this one. I noticed that he includes her whenever he makes a statement about his motives behind his bad behavior; he’s forcing her to share in his guilt. Since he’s an abuser, he NEEDS to admit it, own it, I’m glad for labels, labels protect us. When he’s no longer an abuser, then he can take the label off.

I recently have gone semi-No Contact. I say semi because we are still living together, I am cordial and polite but if he tries to engage me, I try to walk away, or ignore, or politely answer, if I can (I’m not always successful) but I am trying not to fight any longer. And even after months of hardly any fights, I overheard him telling his mother that all we do is argue and fight about everything. Wha???

I also wouldn’t believe moose about the other men. His wife may have been talking to the grocery guy, or maybe a neighbor for protection, because she was afraid moose would hit her again. I've noticed that men will make this accusation because they believe that it justifies the abuse.

Moose said: [We began to fight. At first when we argued I view it as a challenge, and would get into shooting matches that I tried to "win." She would eventually drop the issue and we would move on till something else came up to fight about.]

I remember those shooting matches, my husband would start an argument and he was relentless until I gave in.

Your wife may go to a counselor, just not one that you hand-picked and who could sit there mute, while you verbally abused her. I don’t blame her for not going to that guy. You claim to love her, then prove it and go away quietly.

One more thing, I don’t think you treated her badly because you hated yourself moose, IMO, you did it because you THINK you have every right to do it, like it is your way or else. You have Caveman mentality; me want woman, me bored, me have fun with woman, woman not play right, me hit woman....ugh….woman broke*boo hoo*…..fix woman so me can play some more, or me will get VERY angry again…..ugh.

I could go on but I better stop now.
Mrs. Nobody

#4 DrIrene


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Posted 16 August 2008 - 03:41 PM

Dear Posters,

I felt the need to make a few comments:

The reason I suggest Moose not call himself an abuser is because if he does, he is likely to define himself as one. This self-judgment will help him maintain where he is; it will not help his recovery.

I am not interested in encouraging Moose to judge and condemn himself any more than I am interested in anybody else judge and condemn themselves, or others for that matter. That is not about recovery. That is about retribution. We seek to forgive - and never forget.

The reason I take Moose at face value is because that is what he puts on the table. That does not mean there is not another side to the story. There always is.
Nevertheless, I am glad you guys are "representing her" in one way or another because it is all part of the story. Use this time to touch, feel, and let go of your own feelings of pain over what has happened to you... Feel it; let it go. Because you are not there anymore...

Perhaps Moose's wife will pipe in. I'm sure much of her experience has been expressed by you wonderful posters.

So Moose, there's not a thing that was said that I disagree with. I do feel the posters' contained outrage and feel for what they have been through. There is no doubt in my mind that your wife experienced much of what they talk about. Nevertheless, do try and take the content so that you can learn from it. Will you feel awful? Absolutely! Pain is a part of life. Pain teaches. Pain helps us grow. Allow the pain to touch you, feel it, and put it behind along with any judgment you make of yourself. Judgment, whether you judge yourself or other, will only promote your tendency to abuse and will help you stay where you are. Learn from what is said and strive for a NOW that takes you closer to the man you want to be. Move forward with your pain.

Hugs, Doc

#5 whisker



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Posted 16 August 2008 - 05:46 PM

Dear Moose,

There is a saying that love and fear cannot coexist.

This may sound obvious or cliche, so lets break it down. Your desires regarding your wifes behavior sound like they have often taken the form of expectation. Expectations very easily, often without intention, become so strong that they manifest as control. A person who is experiencing control receives the message, either spoken or not, "do what I say or else..." I will be displeased, hurt you emotionally or physically, withhold something that you want and/or need. The result is anxiety. Anxiety is a form of fear. These are all behaviors that everyone is guilty of from time to time. But when this feeling of fear, of being controlled, becomes more familiar in a relationship than a feeling of being loved and supported unconditionally, love loses.

I think that the mistake abusive people make is confusing love and control. For example, in your current situation,
  • You would do anything to make the relationship work.
  • You wish your wife would be happy.
These statements could be confused with love when in reality, they are control. For one thing, they both begin with You. What you don't hear in these statements is what she wants and your respect for that, meaning your willingness to allow her to define what happiness is to and for her. It is as though you have decided what will or won't make her happy. On some level I believe that this is in part because you love her and want to make her happy, and yet that is very tragic, because an approach such as these is likely to prevent that happiness and that love.

In conclusion, when your wife agreed to marry you, she entrusted you with the opportunity to treat her fairly and with respect. You repeatedly violated that trust but now hope that she will take your word for it that you can once again be trusted. Supporting her right to draw her own conclusions, and respecting them, is the only hope that you have of regaining her trust. But that is entirely her experience and therefore her decision. The best that you can do right now is to tell her that you respect her choices and mean it.

Good luck to you,

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Posted 16 August 2008 - 08:18 PM

This is Moose.

Thank you for all the feed back. Some of the comments were very hard fpr me to read, but I did need to read them. Since my original post I have read the book "The Emotionally Abusive Relationship: How to Stop being abused and How to Stop Abusing" by Beverly Engel. This was the hardest book I've ever had to read. I often would have to put the book down after just a paragraph because I found myself enraged or denial about the topics discussed. My desire to heal kept me at it though, and I finished.

I do recognize that my behavior was unacceptable, and I am totally responsible for it. I am trying everyday to become the man I'm supposed to be. It is not easy for me to admit that I am a flawed human being. I've always been "The Best" at whatever it is I did.

Just for clarification purposes on my "preceptions" about her being with other men. Here is an example. She went to Mardi Gras for 4 days with a male friend and shared a hotel with him. I don't think I've misinturpreted that one.

I do understand that I can only work on myself and my own behavior. I have called her and apologized for my behavior, and swore it would never happen again (that was VERY hard for me to do). I didn't ask what I could do to make amends however. That is a good suggestion and I will do that thank you. From here I am going to give her as much space as she needs (after I send her the book, witha written apology), even if that means weeks without talking to her.

I appreciate all the feed back, even if some of it was a bit to the point. Being called a caveman was a new one. I look forward hearing anymore of your thoughts!

#7 DVonnah



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Posted 17 August 2008 - 04:11 AM

I'm new here and this is my first post. My husband is going through a lot of the things you are emotionally. We're both Christians, and I don't believe in close friendships with other men. But we are having problems communicating, and he has an explosive, quick temper. Our first year of marriage has been unbelievable. I went on our local library's website and searched all the books on verbal abuse, marriage, temper, anger, etc. and right now am going through about 15 book with more on the way. Some are not helpful, others are amazingly insightful. The biggest thing for me is prayer, and having friends pray for me and him. I'll be keeping you and your wife in my prayers. God Bless! :)

#8 GuestCat_butterflygirl_*

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Posted 17 August 2008 - 02:12 PM


If you really love her you will let her go!!

Sometimes the overwhelming love of someone who needs to posses you is more than a person can handle. And if you do love her, then you in your heart you should want nothing more than to see her heal and feel confident again. Love is not about what another person can do for us in order to fill that gaping hole inside, but what we can do for another that somehow fills the hole without us trying. She is wounded. She needs space. She needs to feel her wings again and she needs to find a way to do it without you. Not because of you. This is her journey. This is her healing and from what I am reading, although you say that you have changed and that you want to give her time, you are still trying to dictate how much time. Your statement of "even if it means you don't get to talk to her for weeks" tells me that.

I have been there Moose. I am still there. And my husband couldn't be playing the same script more perfectly to yours if you wrote it for him. And, unlike your wife, I bought into it and went back. Only it didn't take long for the old ways and habits to surface again, and his control and his needs became the forefront of our marriage again.

Now, I sit here in my house and he is on his way home to "our" house from an abruptly ended vacation. The "book" he read was not enough. It takes time to put those things into practice, and it is the heart issues that need to change.

Moose, you need to take a long look inside of yourself. Not just to "love" yourself, but to be honest with yourself. You have reasons whey you feel you "need to win" and why it is okay for you to "say things that belittled her in public". Face those.

I applaud you for searching, and for reacting on this blog, not out of anger, but appreciation.

Change takes time and if hurried it never really becomes what it could be. Be patient and have faith.

And again, let her go. Focus on you and aspire to be the wonderful man in your heart that you aspire to be.

Good luck!!

#9 gr8rn


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Posted 17 August 2008 - 08:32 PM

Let her go, you've done enough. The majority of catboxers here have been through the same things you have done with their abusers and to tell the truth, most of us are well aware the abuser can beg and plead as much as he wants, he is not going to change, and we have finally accepted that. Hopefully your ex can move on with her life and make better choices in partners, like we all here hope to do or have done.

I have no space to rent in my head or sympathy in my heart for any man who has abused a woman. My scars are still healing and they are very deep.

#10 DrIrene


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Posted 17 August 2008 - 10:30 PM

I feel the need to pipe in again.

I respect what you're saying gr8rn and understand where you are coming from. But you can never predict what direction an individual is going to take his or her life in.

Please don't punish Moose because you are angry with the person who abused you.


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