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****UPDATE****How do you proceed when the spouse admits the abuse?

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#1 myohmy



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Posted 08 December 2010 - 08:14 AM


Edited by myohmy, 11 March 2011 - 09:59 PM.

#2 welfaremomma


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Posted 08 December 2010 - 02:42 PM

All I know is that when him and I went to a marriage counselor a couple years back he did everything that she suggested and we both worked hard on our marriage and that I was very happy and that we had an amazing sex life, and then he went manic and we never recovered from that.

That sounds very encouraging since you already know how hard he is willing to work on it. The part that I'm worried about is where you say that you don't think you could survive another manic episode.(!)
Maybe the thing to do would be to plan-on how you would survive? Like, can you speak to someone so that you can get power of attorney and all of that fun stuff? A plan to live at a vacation home, or have him hospitalized immediately until he stabilizes...
Maybe he will learn how to work his own way through it without collateral damage. But I do not think that saying that it won't happen is realistic. Since he's so receptive right now, it might even be a good-time to ask for any serious agreements that you could need in the event that he goes too far?

I don't know how much is chemical, and how much is mental in bi-polar, but I wonder if someone like that actually needs to head towards mania once in awhile, just to avoid depression? (which is less destructive to everyone else, but a miserable condition).

I would focus on the abuse stuff in the counseling. It could be really eye-opening for him. And even if he does have his problems, if he knows how to differentiate treating you badly from his own problems, I think that it could help a lot. And yeah if he took Lori's crash-course, that could help? I was kinda thinking the same thing. If someone who is being treated badly could absorb it so quickly, could it work like that for an abusive person? The only problem I see there is that it is harder to admit that you are doing it maybe?? But it wasn't any fun to admit that it was happening either.

#3 Tahwandaaa


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Posted 09 December 2010 - 12:57 PM

He was crying telling me how sorry he was that he was such a horrible husband and how he treats me poorly. He admitted to being VA and EA and said that he knew he needed help with how to handle disappointment, stress and life in general. He said he has always been this way his entire life and he doesn't want me to leave. Asked me that if there was a .01% chance that we can try to work this out he doesnt want me to go and that he will do whatever it takes to make things work. He admitted to being very unhappy for a long time and said that a lot of it has to do with not having sex. He listened to me and didnt argue when I explained why I feel his thinking is flawed. He was honest and told me he didnt see things my way but was willing to talk to a counselor to help him understand. The book, "Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay" by Myra Kirshenbaum helped me understand why it is that "he" didn't see things 'my way' and why it was so confusing to me to try and "see" things his way because I didn't think like him (control/manipulation/rages). I wanted mutuality in the relationship, he wanted control. That's an oil & water combination, eh?!

ITs almost like a flip of a switch. he can be fine for days and then something clicks off and he turns into a VA. This was my experience as well. You never knew when the switch would flip. 1 day? 5 days? 20 days? But, it did flip over and over and over ad nauseum.

I feel like I have such a dilemma. I know in my head that long term change is very rare. But in all honestly I dont know if I could live with myself if i dont let him try this last one chance. Then, you need to give it a go myohmy. I was where you are now. Dark Cloud recognized his abuse, cried to me, wanted things to work (so did I) and we had a short time of a wonderful marriage as we both made changes. Then, one day, the switch flipped and the poison that spilled out was very ugly (like a whole year's worth of VA). Very Ugly! They just don't get it, they really don't. The abuse is sooooooo deeply ingrained and I think sooooooo painful for them to face the changes to their core being.Allow him to put in the hard work it takes. Then find out if there is any way as a spouse for me to handle his bipolar moods in a more positive way and not take them so serious. Find out from a professional if that is even healthy to do. I think because he has bipolar and for the most part is very stable in all other parts of his life that he may be able to improve, but for how long? He didnt say that he blamed his bipolar for his outburst, in-fact he blamed his unhappiness and how miserable out relationship has been. I dont think he completely gets that he is the one that started the ball rolling. Any time an individual sees their misery to be caused by ANYthing external to the self, change is not going to be an individual core-change. I hope more than I can say that you have success and both of you can do what is necessary to save your marriage. The one caution I give is not to loose yourself in this quest. It is so easy to do and not know you are doing it (BTDT). The sacrifice of the self is done little-by-little. But, since you are aware of so this, you may be able to keep it from occurring.

All I know is that when him and I went to a marriage counselor a couple years back he did everything that she suggested and we both worked hard on our marriage and that I was very happy and that we had an amazing sex life, and then he went manic and we never recovered from that. I hear you ... TOTALLY hear you! Dark Cloud and I also went to counseling ... things were amazingly different and hopeful. Then, his switch flipped. He got darker and more covert in his abuse. It got very scary. Once they admit, humble-out and strive for change, I believe it is the road of no return. If this road is not continuously followed, and they fall from being able to maintain the change, they become darker than they were before. It is frightening. So, be aware and be careful. I'm all for putting your whole heart and soul into saving the relationship while being wise as to what can happen for good and for bad.

what are your feelings on this?

My thoughts/feelings are this; in the words of Matthew, as you go "forth as sheep in the middle of wolves: be you therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves." When I chose to give things a go after he confessed, one day I was perusing the Bible and this scripture jumped out at me like a neon sign. I believe when I want to talk to God, I pray and when I want God to talk to me, I read His holy word ... and I believe he spoke to me very clearly that day. I do not regret giving things a chance like I did. It kept me "in" for about 7 more years, but at least I can say I really tried and I followed what I felt I needed to do. I didn't have the Catbox at that time. I only found this awesome place a couple weeks after we separated for good. Wishing you the best in your endeavor myohmy. Keep us posted.

~Tah~ :Gift4U:

ETA: What you are wanting to do will take incredible strength from both of you. Make sure you keep yourself aware, very aware because you will be chipped at little-by-little and the loss of self can be a very slow death. (Death by a thousand papercuts.)

#4 welfaremomma


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Posted 09 December 2010 - 02:39 PM

I think that it still boils down to separate issues. And as T said, it could be so easy for you to get lost in his illness and his problems.
When he lost touch with reality, YOU were traumatized there too! Badly I would say! And I'm really sorry to hear that you've been warned that the condition escalates in a person's 40s. But that's the kind of info. that I guess that both of you need.
When both of you have the facts about his illness, if he decides not to do whatever he can to protect you from his manias, then you have all of that on you also.
You have to decide how you want to be treated. -It gets tricky if you think he should be trying different meds or treatments, because that has to be his decision. But if the both of you spend some time researching the different treatments available, maybe that would help?
With his condition, we can't say that he's checking-out of reality on purpose, so if his behaviors are related to his illness, how you deal with it is up to you.
I think you have to try and separate the illness from the abusiveness. And it probably could merge at some times, (like if he is delusional about you).
I wonder if they have any therapy that deals-with bi-polar people and relationships?
He can be Bi-polar and respect you. Be kind. Not be nasty... and unless he really has delusions going-on about you (and in that case he is ill and you have to activate your plan), I don't see how his condition has a whole lot to do with how you treat each other.
In one way it is a good thing for him to take responsibility for how he deals with the bi-polar. On the other hand, if he acts like it doesn't have a big effect on you and your family, then he's being pretty selfish in my opinion.
If he thought that you were an alien, or some other bizarre idea, that would be one thing, but he can still be wrong, and not be out of touch with reality.
Maybe if both of you deal with some of the abusiveness, he will have more consideration about how his condition affects you? So hopefully consideration would follow once he is able to see how he is hurting you.
I think that would even help in the event that you do decide to break-up because you just can't deal with the manias. Someone looking at it from a considerate viewpoint, would understand that you have a right not to have your life turn to chaos. That it might be too hard for you. Your life matters and you deserve consideration, (not contempt!).
I can see why you are worried that if things improve, that it will be too much for him somehow, and that it could cause another breakdown? But I think you just have to accept that it will happen sooner or later, or the illness will flare, and putting-up with abuse isn't going to avoid that.
Even-if it did work like that-are you chopped liver-as they say? But I think it would be better to just assume that he has that potential. (to go psychotic). And its just asking too much of you to sacrifice your own well-being on the superstition that you don't want to rock the boat.
Also-if having a respectfull relationship IS what drives him to psychosis, than what choice do you have anyhow?
(but again-I don't think it works like that even-though it is stressful to address the abuse and mistreatment, that in itself doesn't cause mania. Abusing someone is stressful too!).

#5 PrudenceB


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Posted 09 December 2010 - 03:07 PM

I have been in your situation and I can only offer what I did and what I know- maybe that will help you...if nothing else realize you are not alone.

Remember that I don't know you or him or the dynamics of your relationship or what, if any, mental illness he may have. It seems from your post that H has bipolar disease?

Has he been diagnosed, when? Does the diagnosis make sense to him and to those around him who witness his behaviors and listen to his feelings. Could there be a comormbid or co occurring disorder like a personality disorder or sczitzoaffective disorder?

I can tell you from experience dealing with mental illness that if H has a brain disease, then Bancroft's books have nothing to do with anything you are dealing with. That doesn't mean what your H is doing may or may not be destructive to the relationship, or abusive, it means YOU need to approach this from the point of view of dealing with disease. It means your H needs to approach this in terms of dealing with disease.

One person I know with bi polar explained it this way "I NOW know I have a disease. I am NOW aware that my mood cycles are not helpful to me because they are extreme and lead me to do things which hurt myself and others. But the mania feels like nothing els and feels so good and empowering which is such a relief from the disempowering and shameful aspects of my down cycles. Medications temper those mood swings, but they come with side effects which are very hard to live with, especially as a man. BUT even though all of this is TRUE, I also know NOW, after THERAPY and getting EDUCATED about my illness, I have a CHOICE to either "go with" the illness and let it take me down the roads it wants and I can feed into and off of the illness, or I can choose to back away from the illness related stuff and not "go with it"- even though I know it feels great when I am in mania."

For YOU, check out signing up for the education classes and support groups at NAMI.

If HE is serious about change, then he will avail himself of the education and support groups there for people with disease.

I have met people who have been through hell with their spouses and, actually mostly men, who will not leave a wife with a diagnosed brain disease, even when it means forgiving infidelity and other abusive and destabilizing behaviors while OFF Meds. They love their spouses and want to stay because when the meds are on board, life is ok...Not IDEAL, in full, but, they have the perspective that it's an illness...

This is a choice.

I know that I have dealt with someone who has depression/anxiety and most certainly aspects of borderline personality disorder, which us a completely different animal than bi polar.

My own story is littered with guilt and questions similar to yours. I wound up 30 pounds heavier, literally pulled half my hair out, on anti anxiety meds, lost, feeling terrified, and miserable.

There came a point where he had eroded my trust so far with his abuse and erratic behaviors, that even when he was sincere, I couldn't believe it- I wouldn't allow myself. There is a reason for that- he had not goten into therapy, he was periodically bawling about what a jerk he was, would shame himself into anger and take it out on me...that's the abuse cycle from the abusers point of view...

so- f you have absolutely no more trust left- you don't have to stay and it would b ridiculous for you o lie to him and yourself.

Sometimes the answer is not "stay or go" sometimes the answer is - separate for a while, stop the damage, heal as individuals and come back together...

but if you have had enough- then go. If you know you can not take anymore and the apologies are resounding hollow in your heart (even if HE is sincere right now) and your life is suffering, it's time to go- for BOTH you sakes. Sometimes e all need to hit bottom to begin to get what we really need.

For someone with a mental illness or a cluster B disorder, here are very specific therapies and steps to take- saying "I'm sorry for being abusive" isn't one of them (I am not typing what it is because healthy people will know and unhealthy people have to learn it for themselves :spudnikheadstand: )there is no possibility of change with out those things.

I lost interest in risking my own health any further, and could never trust his "happiness" because it could flip into rage and sulking and blame in a split second. Any question he asked about me an my life, to show h isn't a totally self focused child and to "take an interest and acknowledge me" was met by me with social grace lies and positive affirmations...why? because having a person with an abusive personality ask me if I am "happy over-all" while I am on the brink of suicidal depression because of the abuse, is sickening to me first of all, and secondly...I knew ht he answer was SUPPOSED to be. If I told the truth, his image of himself as the careing person who asked me would b shattered and he would shame spiral and abuse that minute.

There is no way to explain to a person with mental illness that their behavior is abusive. Mental illness is by definition - distorted perceptions of reality and most often is narcicistically based. Admitting we have a brain diseas is not easy because of stigma and it is very difficult because it would be lik me telling you the sky is puce, you just have perception difficultis when you say it is blue. Arguing reality NEVER works. A person has to be in enough EMOTIONAL pain and have nough things in thier life not work to be able to WANT to feel better.

I realized that I needed a vacation from the abuse. That meant not being around him. When a person is mentally ill and is not in treatment, they can no control certain things. It is their choice to get the treatment.

What do you need to do for yourself?
What happened in the mania episode you never recovered from?
are these issues you need to work on in yourself because it is YOUR stuff not his? Or vice versa?
Is he on meds now?
Are you addicted to drama?
Are you not trusting him anymore?
If you could come up with a creative solution (if you wanted to stay) based in reality- not a fantasy, what would you do?

#6 Kilroy



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Posted 09 December 2010 - 03:24 PM

How do you proceed after a spouse "admits abuse"? Well, the question I'd ask is whether this "admission," and the attitude your H is displaying along with it, is a NEW behavior for him--or has he done it all before? In other words, does this represent some kind of BREAKTHROUGH in his attitude and awareness... or is it all part of the same-old same-old?

Here's the way I look at it. Many abusers go on abusing for years without ever admitting any kind of "fault." Many are hardly aware themselves of what they're doing wrong. They're stumbling around in what I call "the abuser's fog." The Doc too has pointed out in her article on The Verbally Abusive Partner that very often, abusers themselves "tend to have little or no clue that they have a problem." Then one day, something MAY "wake them up" in a big way. Typically (though not always) it's when a partner threatens to leave, or actually does leave. At that point SOME abusers (not all) have a colossal epiphany and really start looking at themselves, promising to change, even taking action to follow through on it.

When it's the first time that breakthrough occurs, other things being equal, there's much to be said for giving the relationship a chance. That's if there's already a lot invested it, particularly when there are children.

Of course, there's no guarantee the abusive spouse WILL make decisive changes, but some certainly do. What's more, for reasons I won't go into here, the probability of change is routinely underestimated on abuse-related boards. The claim that abusers "very rarely" change is a myth. The bottom line is that every relationship is individual and deserves to be treated as such--your own no less than anybody's.

However, a lot of abusers DO "admit fault" and make promises to change... then relapse over time. Sometimes they relapse rapidly, and sometimes they relapse slowly; either way, the result is the same. You just end up back where you started.

With people like that, "admitting abuse" is NOT a new behavior, not a "breakthrough" at all. Far from breaking the pattern, it IS part of the pattern!--the same old "cycle of abuse." Unless it's accompanied by some other truly radical change--like resolving to get help, DOING it, and continuing to follow through--there's nothing "new" happening, and nothing in the long run is likely to change.

Unfortunately one factor that keeps some people in abusive relationships is becoming ADDICTED to the "reward" of hearing apologies and promises to change. They stay as if "trapped" in their cage of an abusive relationship, like rats who have learned to keep pushing the same lever to get the trivial reward of a food pellet, when the door to freedom was open all the time.

How any of this applies to your own situation is up to you to judge. On the one hand I know you've talked before about going through endless cycles of the kind I mentioned. On the other hand I realize your husband's behavior is complicated by his bipolar disorder. If I understand correctly, he's been using no medication for a year or two--so getting regularly medicated would be a "new" behavior for him. I also don't know what prompted this recent confession of his about being a "horrible husband."

If I understand your story correctly from previous posts, the underlying problem has always been his bipolar disorder, but after his behavior had done some damage to the marriage, the two of you were able to recover the first time with the help of marital counseling alone. However, he then had a huge manic blowup that landed him in the hospital. That was controlled initially with medication, but he soon went off it. His behavior during that manic episode did further damage to the marriage, but more to the point, he hasn't been "right" since then and his moody behavior has seriously eroded much of the feeling that was left in the relationship. You've also been on tenterhooks in case he has another manic blowup like the one before, which can't be helping matters any.

The good thing about bipolar disorder as a cause of abusiveness is that medication CAN make a world of difference. We've had contact with bipolar abusers here for whom medication helped to turn their marriage right around.

The bad thing about bipolar disorder is that success IS largely dependent on medication. It can be tricky to manage, and a number of sufferers do go off their medication, due to side effects or for whatever reason.

If your marriage is ever to succeed, in addition to WelfareMomma's good advice, your husband has GOT to accept that medication is NECESSARY for him, follow through and STICK to the régime. You're living a miserable life right now, constantly "walking on eggshells" around him--or "oviputamenambulating," to use a grander term. Either way it's intolerably stressful for you, and you need to look after yourSELF as well as your son. Constantly watching out for your H's possible reactions, even giving him "status reports" on the housework you've done each day so that he won't criticize you--why should you put up with this? It's no way for anyone to live.

So my simple answer to "how to proceed"--that's if you do want to give your marriage one final shot, which is entirely your choice--is to demand specific action from your husband in that area at minimum. And see that he follows through with it. Otherwise all bets are off. You should never have to live with fear.

#7 welfaremomma


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Posted 09 December 2010 - 04:48 PM

We have seen people here who have seen night & day changes with the meds.
In your situation, I would almost think it would be scary to try and work on the relationship without meds!
If you knew that he had some protection from his illness with the meds, doing the work to address the abuse might not be so scary?

#8 SoulfulLori


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Posted 09 December 2010 - 09:39 PM

Thanks for the kind words "My"! For my situation this was the best move. Everyone is different I believe.

Before I go to bed I wanted to give my 2 cents. First, I've dated a man in the past who was bipolar. We dated for many months. While on his meds he was very kind and considerate but something always bugged me and I couldn't pinpoint it. While on his meds he did not share the bipolar diagnosis. Then he was missing the manic period and hated some of the med side effects and stopped his meds completely. He was like a different person and it wasn't pretty. At first I took it personally but the issues became so clearly not me that when I asked him what the deal was he shared that he was bipolar. I immediately broke up with him because I knew that was more than I was willing to deal with. I knew I couldn't be the partner he would want.

So, what am I getting at here? Well, I read you thoughts and what rang out to me was what got others. You stated you couldn't imagine not giving him a chance if he went on meds and worked on this. If my H would have gone to counseling WITHOUT me having to leave I would still be in that house. The fact he had an appointment the night before the movers showed up was not acceptable. The only real reason for my H to be interested in change was not just a threat of me leaving but me actually leaving! Frankly I doubt my H can change and I do believe he suffers some sort of personality disorder. His father was bipolar and the men in his family ALL have a history of being hot headed. I can't stand his uncle and I find that man insulting. His wife looks exhausted btw.

I think your plan for the "if he goes manic" is the key to this hope for change. YOu can't do it blindly and must have safety plans all over the place. The work ahead is going to be HUGE! However, without meds and keeping him on his meds I don't think you guys really stand a chance unless you sacrifice living your life in a healthy way.

As far as how to handle his bipolar episodes...well, put on your angel wings. You will need to protect yourself so that when his brain chemicals are a mess you don't get hurt in the process. You can't do him any good or yourself for that matter if you are emotionally destroyed during those periods. During those periods I think you will have to work hard to detatch and stay safe and keep the money tight. Is the marriage worth it to you? It may very well be. I can't judge that. Our situations are slightly different I think.

If you give this a shot you should have a game plan for signs that it is too much for your own health. You will need to be solid to hold up to that storm. In my situation I know how beaten I become by VA/EA or even odd words from a stranger. I need "me" time to learn to deal in the world and not be so raw and hand my heart for everyone to cut.

Remember too that this is not my first abusive relationship. I know it looks like I did this in less than a month but really it was 3 marriages coming and quite a few abusive boyfriends before that! I'm so embarrassed to admit that but I do it so that you can see it isn't overnight. Also, when I survived such an aggressive cancer I realized that at the end of the day nobody but you can save yourself. Nobody could take that needle in my arm for 7 hours for me. I had to do that with everyone just cheering me on. The job was mine. Therefore I realized in the end the only one I have to answer to is myself and my maker. I forget that now and then but this situation woke me up again.

So again...I can't tell u what to do but if in your heart you need to go one more round do it but do it differently. Have your safety plans. Make sure it is meds and counseling or bust. Set those boundaries and let him know this is it.

I wish you much peace in your decision making. Hugs. Big ones.

#9 Chelli


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Posted 09 December 2010 - 10:00 PM

My ex was bi-polar.

My daughter is bi-polar.

My grandson is bi-polar.

My ex chose to self medicate and pretend he was fine. Sometimes he'd take his meds and then when he felt better he would stop and Wham! A HUGE manic/depressive suicidal to being almost catatonic episode. I had a newborn and was unable to deal with his manic rages and frightning depressive epiosodes. I left him.

I had lived with my daughter and her children for all of her life and fifteen years of her children's lives. When the eldest granddaughter, who has a totally differnent mental illness began assaulting me and I was left with ALL of the responsiblity and NO authority of taking care of her, I walked. I moved to a place where NONE of them can assault me any longer and where I have peace and sanity. I can NOW deal with the mania in the daughter, the depression in the grandson and the crazies of the eldest granddaughter now because I am not mired in the day to day drama of the cycling.

It's been a year since I seperated households, and SIX months since I became no longer available for daughter to dump her kids on me. However. There has been *significant* growth in the awareness of just what h 3 ll I had been through on the part of my daughter, a significant change in how she approaches me and has begun to respect the boundaries I have set and maintain. Is she perfect? No? Neither am I. I am willing to work with what I have been given and have hope that she will continue to work through her issues. Grandson is JUST beginning his life with bi-polar. Hopefully, seeing HER example and knowing that he can talk with me and his therapist, gives me hope that he, too, will address that he has an illness that requires that HE be aware of the impact his illness has on others and not just himself.

It's NOT easy. The best thing you can do for your family is to take care of yourself, keep clear boundaries, not get sucked into HIS drama and lay out what you expect him to do to manage HIS illness. Then let HIM handle his illness. If his illness interferes with your boundaries, DO what you said you will do. Which means if he goes of his meds, and you tell him you will leave, then LEAVE! Allow him the time he needs to get himself back under control. Make sure you have therapy for yourself.

And hang in there! Bi-polar is a gutwrenching disorder, however, these folks DO have empathy and feelings towards others as well as harboring humongous abandonment issues along with all of the other emotional junk.
I've found that folks with bi-polar are often passionate and caring people and get bogged down in their sometimes, self inflicted, dramas. It takes someone with a lot of discipline and self awareness to be able to withstand the sometimes unrelenting literal mindedness of folks with this disorder. And the seemingly Jekyyl and Hyde personalites.


#10 SoulfulLori


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Posted 10 December 2010 - 07:30 PM

Don't forget that. You're runnin'/shoppin' and he's a complainin'. Didn't take long now did it? How much effort is he giving? How much effort are you giving? I think you know...

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