How to get Dr. Irene's Advice: Look here!

Ask The Doc Board

The CatBox Archives

 

(Archives)

4/14 Interactive Board: Codependent Partners

3/23 Interactive Board: He's Changing... I'm Not...

3/1 Interactive Board: D/s Lifestyle

1/14 Interactive Board: My Purrrfect Husband

12/12 Interactive Board: What if He Could Have Changed?

10/23 Interactive Board: Quandary Revisited

8/24 Interactive Board: Quandary! What's Going On?

7/20: Dr. Irene on cognitive behavior therapy and mindfulness

6/12 Interactive Board: Unintentional Abuse

11/7 Interactive Board: Is This Abusive?

12/29 Interactive Board: There Goes the Wife...

11/4 Interactive Board: A New Me!

10/8 Interactive Board: Seeming Impossibility

9/8 Interactive Board: My Ex MisTreats Our Son

5/1 Interactive Board: I feel Dead - Towards Him

4/26 Interactive Board: Why is This So Hard?

4/19 Interactive Board: I Lost My Love...

4/7 Interactive Board: Too Guilty!

Doc@DrIrene.com

Covert Abuse Survivor, May thru Aug

Covert Abuse Survivor: May to August

This email sequence starts with Dr. Irene's response to Amy's May, 1999 request for phone therapy and later, Amy's August update:


From: Amy

Sent: Tuesday, May 04, 1999 7:44 PM
Subject: Re: Services wanted-Reply

Dear Dr. Irene,

Thank you for getting back to me.  I thought you gave sessions over the phone. Anyway, thank you for the other ideas.  (Some reading & finding an abuse counselor.) I will do that.  I have already picked up Evans' book on survivors and am trying hard to locate "The Verbally Abusive Relationship".

But I am afraid of counseling because I had a counselor in high school who was obviously intimidated by me and who was rude in a sly way.  I think he soon realized he wasn't going to be able to get away with much because after 3 times he declared me "cured," even though I told him I didn't feel any better.

Shouldn't he have said something like there were connection problems between us and referred me to another person at the facility? Probably. Depends on how the school worked it. Many counseling departments are set up to handle crises and little else due to staffing. But, he could have offered a referral. Maybe he didn't because he felt you were not ready for it. Maybe he was just a rotten shrink. I really could have used help at that time and couldn't get any because of the way he ended it.  You'll never know what his problem was. Do you see how you gave away your power by stopping to look for help when he ended it? But, now, you realize you have the power to go elsewhere, right?

Also, it is obvious from the few people I've talked to and what I've read that this complex issue is very misunderstood Yes! and I don't want to make any more mistakes than necessary in getting through it and healing.  I went to a psychologist last week to see if I really was being abused (before I found your site).  Actually I was certain that I was, but I wanted to be able to say that I had a professional's confirmation (Look at how you could not trust yourself, even though you knew...) and I especially wanted to know if my husband could change and what it would take.  I found one who had been in practice 15 years and whom I though was the best I could get.  It never occurred to me to go to a domestic violence shelter (he's never hit me). Same types of issues. If he hits, it is just worse for you. Covert abuse is more confusing.

I told the psychologist I was being verbally abused.  He asked about the relationship and each of us.  Then he said "Tell me what kinds of things he says to you?"  I apologized and said I couldn't be specific.  He is very sly. He never comes right out with anything like "You're ugly"...  He doesn't tell me what to wear or anything so obvious.  But he lies often. Abuse. He says mean things and then when I call him on it he says he didn't mean it that way, that it was a joke or that he didn't even say "that" at all. Abuse. He always twists things around so that it's my fault and he is always angry. Abuse. 

The Dr. said he couldn't be sure by just hearing generalizations (He's right. You need more to make a definitive assessment.) but that if he says things to embarrass, belittle and insult, that is abuse.  Regardless, I am clearly upset (I was crying and had a hard time speaking) and should listen to my feelings. You will soon...

After reading your site I feel the Dr. should have known from what I said or at least been able to ask more questions. When you get to where you are headed, you won't need anybody to tell you about your experience. You will find that you are the only expert.  He did say that he didn't feel things would change, even if my husband agreed to get help (he has refused so far).  He said things will get a little better in a few areas and not others, and so on, and before I know it, years of my life will be gone.  I am 28. He is 30. Was he right? Probably. Most abusive men do not change, or are not sincere about treatment; some are. I think your psychologist did a pretty good job for one session, by the way.

I have accused my husband of verbal abuse for years and he has gotten better in some ways, or so I thought.  After reading your site.  I realize instead he has just found other ways of "controlling."  Speaking of which, while reading your site, I kept seeing that word "control" and thinking, he doesn't try to control me.  (NO one who knows us would ever buy that.)  But then I found the MANALIVE article and realized he only does the really "sly" stuff, VERY WELL.  He is a very smart person.  I almost wish he would hit me.  Then it would be easier (for me).  I would leave. Yes, emotional abuse is more difficult in some ways. There are no broken bones. The wounds are invisible. However, I believe that is precisely why he is so covert. Yes.

Dear Amy,

You have your whole life ahead of you; you are so young! Trust yourself. If something feels rotten, it is rotten. Find a therapist you like. No therapist knows it all. Don't be afraid to disagree with him or her. Never forget: YOU ARE THE CONSUMER. YOU ARE HIRING A CONSULTANT! In fact, when you meet with someone the first time, INTERVIEW THEM! as though you are the employer who is hiring. You are, you know. So, take responsibility. If you can't talk or are dismissed, go elsewhere. My very best wishes. Let me know how things go.

Sincerely, -Dr. Irene

Sent: Sunday, August 29, 1999 8:01 AM
Subject: Amy's Survivor story-Response
From:   drirene@drirene.com (Dr. Irene)
To: Amy

Dear Dr. Irene,
I thought I'd let you know what has happened since I wrote to you in May.  I'd just found out how seriously and covertly my husband was abusing me by reading your web site and your recommendations of the Evans' books.  I wanted to know if he could change etc...  I really appreciate your honesty and EVERYTHING you do through your site.

Dear Amy,

You made the first major step in a long series of steps you need to make to reclaim your life. It is not the easiest direction, but it is the only one that works. I am very touched by your letter, your strength, your candor. I wish you the very best. Please look for my comments in the text:


I started "going" with him when I was 15 and he was 17, I married him at 23.  I broke up with him for 1 year and 8 months before we got married.  I assumed he'd just needed to grow up (it was abuse then too).  When we got back together, after almost no contact in-between, he seemed all better. Everything was great.  Within a year of getting married everything started again and got worse than before.  Things continued to get worse until I ended it. Typical pattern.

I knew he wasn't treating me right, suspected abuse and told him so. He  said "NO, it's not..." I really thought verbal abuse was just name calling and real obvious stuff, like "Your so ugly!" or "Why don't you loose some weight, you're fat!" or "I want you to wear this, do this...."  Since he never did these things I had a hard time figuring out what was going on.  He did connive and lie a lot.  When I would find out, he would confuse me and somehow turn everything into my fault.  Because I was in love with him, had pledged my love to him, I  was not "on guard" about these things. It just didn't occur to me that he would be doing this kind of stuff on purpose.  He also spent all the money, didn't pay the bills he'd agreed to and took the money I used to buy food, household things like toilet paper, tooth paste etc ... and to pay other  bills.  He also often took what little fun money I had and even money I'd specifically been saving to do some things with a friend who was visiting from out of town.  Boy, he sure had a nice "deal" there. He started fights constantly and was short, irritated and angry with me most of the time.  Basically he's used all the covert forms of abuse on me.  Whenever I would call him on a certain tactic he'd move on to another.

As I started to read your site I had such a happy, excited feeling.  I knew it was because I finally had conformation of what I'd suspected all along.  I was eager to show him all the information so he could see and understand what he was doing, how it hurt, that it was wrong and so he could fix it.  I even thought he'd be somewhat grateful (he'd always wanted "proof")! I thought that after he finished reading everything he would say something like "Wow, I'm so sorry.  I had no idea things were this bad and not how they are supposed to be." (YES, I see how REALLY stupid that sounds!) Not really stupid; just wishful thinking. Most abused people feel exactly the same way!

When I printed out your pages for him to read his response was to  sarcastically comment on all the abuser characteristics (he found it to be funny). And the final kicker?  He said, "You shouldn't have shown me this. Now I have more ideas to use on you."  I told him I had already considered that and had decided not to stay with him if he choose to use that information destructively.  Then he said "Well, I think you do some of those things and that you are abusive."  I said "And it says you'll try to say that".  He just said "Well...." and nothing more.  I think he was shocked. There it was, real and in print.  It was ALL documented, everything he'd been doing, what it does to me and how I'd respond every step of the way.  How sometimes I look like the abuser, a nut, or even crazy.  EVERYTHING WAS RIGHT THERE IN FULL COMPUTER COLOR!

That was really the end of everything.  I finally knew what he was doing without a doubt. He knew I knew what he was doing without a doubt, AND he knew I knew he knew what he was doing without a doubt.  Since his style was very covert, the gig was up.  I struggled with my feelings because I love him so much. He was my first and only love, my high school sweetheart and we could have such fun sometimes.  

I corresponded with you, went to a woman's shelter, and to see a psychologist here in my town.  All of you, trying hard not to TELL me what to do, basically said he wouldn't change.  You all said he especially wouldn't if he were not willing to admit to it, accept it, and work on it specifically with counseling.  All of you said that even if he agreed to counseling chances were slim.  He has major anger problems.  He is almost always angry.

I went and got Patricia Evans' books.  I started to read the 2nd one first (the only one I found at the library RIGHT AWAY) I read late into the night.  Slept a full 8 hours but the next day while going about my business, I  was numb, distracted and had a lot of accidents.  I kept spilling things, tripping and running into things.  The next four days I read as much as I could and became so sick with grief, I could not eat or sleep.  I had a headache like NEVER before and my stomach hurt and hurt.  All of this because I KNEW what I had to do.  I knew it was over.  I knew I had to end my marriage.  I did not want to do this so badly, it hurt all over. But I knew as I read and learned about his reality that to leave was the only way to save myself.

I choose to believe he thinks he can't help it, and if he thought he could change he would for me (maybe I'll get over this someday too)? Maybe. But, you are probably right. I asked him to leave and just finished with him via our divorce last week.  I was proud to discover I'd done all that you and Patricia Evans had recommend already. 

There really were no other options.  He refused counseling.  He also knew I'd tried everything and he had successfully countered all of it.  He let me go and was amazingly cooperative.  Probably because he knew he was killing me (I got very sick these last few years, mentally and physically) and because I no longer played his games. He couldn't get the "wins" he so desperately needs.

There is still love between us and will likely be forever.  I have only talked to him very briefly about 8 times.  Mostly about material things. One time I cried (could not help it) and told him I missed him, was scared etc... He knew this did not mean I wanted to get back together though and said, "I know Amy, me too.  But you're going to be OK.  Better than OK.  You have to. Now you can do all that you've ever wanted and you'll be better off."  I knew this was as close to an apology and an admission as I'd ever get and I cherish it. Amy: This is manipulation. Look how he's pulling on your heart strings...be careful! Expect that he will continue to "work" on you and edge his toe back in the door over time! I also know from reading other's stories that this almost never happens.  It wasn't much, but it was all he was capable of and I know it was hard for him. Yes. But highly spiced with manipulation.

You love; I doubt he does.  As I read over this many times making corrections and get to this comment, I always wince and go "Ouchhh" inside.  I know you're probably right.  Certainly his love is not the real, healthy kind. No. It is selfish I-am-the-only-one-who-counts love.

 I have been on Ouchhh for several weeks and enjoy it very much. Thank you for that also.  Being in the on-line support group has helped me a lot and has so many advantages.  It's anonymous, there are always new posts to read and almost always someone posting.  You can go to it anytime your schedule permits, even when you can't sleep at 4am and you don't even have to leave your house.  Everyone is very supportive of each other and in all different stages of dealing with abuse.  They offer many different perspectives and suggestions.

I am doing OK.  Having a lot of weird, messed up, stressed feelings even  though I know I did everything I had too.  I am again following your advice and just letting those feelings be, just as they are.  I assume they will pass with time? Your feelings are trying to tell you what's going on inside of you. Just listen to them. Don't act out on them because you risk impulsive action. Sit  with them and look at their message. Tolerate them. Keep a journal. Read this.

If you do have time to respond, a question I have is, should I seek counseling?  Yes, After so many years of abuse, counseling will help you sort through all that is going on within you.

I know I did the right thing etc. I have many codependent qualities and scars inside from 12 years of abuse.  However, I think I'm pretty healthy and dealing with it OK as it comes.  Actually, besides the weird, messed up, stressed feelings that seem to be stuck just under my surface, I'm shocked at how well I'm handling things!  Since separating I've had 4 months of MAJOR problems that I almost had to sue over and a big problem with a neighbor in addition to dealing with the divorce (I handled everything myself) as well as all the adjustments that come with being on your own.

When I think about it, I'm sure I'm dealing with everything so well because I don't have the daily abuse and drainage that comes from it.  Yes! And look what good stuff dealing with things is doing to your self-esteem! I would not change the peace I have in my head, heart (most of the time) or home for that sort of abuse ever again.

I think you are doing great too. But you are a survivor and there is pain and rage. I'm having a difficult time feeling rage.  It worries me a little because I think I should be more angry? Don't worry. Just be. Recovery occurs in stages. You have experienced the first of many breakthroughs. The  more you learn to expect from others for yourself, the more anger you will feel. As you distance from him and get on with your life, you are likely to get angrier and angrier at the gall he has shown. You are likely to get mad at yourself for falling for it...don't hate me now: stuff like interpreting his manipulation as the best apology he could come up with may tick you off one day. Maybe one day you will also see that while such was the best apology he chose to offer, his gig is really less about  "I can't" than it is about "I won't." Your ex-hubby is a hard-core abuser.

A sincere thank you.  What you do with your website is truly an act of love  and I love you for it!   - Amy

August 29, 1999


Dr. Irene,
I am incredibly flattered you would want to include my letter in your site.  My favorite part of your site is the personal e-mails.  I check it all the time for new ones.  I never think I write very well.  I have dyslexia.  I like the long e-mails you post. Especially when they write you back and so on.  It really gives me comfort to know others struggle with MANY things too. I would be honored to be on your site.  I just got so excited at the chance to tell my story.  I am so proud of myself and when I feel sad, that is what I cling to.

Dear Amy,

Give yourself credit where credit is due! You write very well - better than most in fact! Probably because you have learned to automatically apply extra effort. Anyway, please stop labeling  yourself...

You are an incredible lady. Thank you so very much for your feedback. It makes all the time and energy I put into this site worthwhile. Your story is so telling of abuse, yet there is a happy ending. You got out of hell; your quiet strength will inspire many.  -Dr. Irene

Ps:  I mix up my letters & words too when I'm tired (Ask my poor husband, when he has no clue what I'm trying to say!), and I couldn't write to save my life until grad school forced me to learn. It is amazing what application and perseverance will accomplish.