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