|March 29, 2000
First of all I want to thank you for this site; it has helped me understand more about the abusive relationship I was in than my therapist did. I never understood the cross-over , where the victim becomes the abuser after he/she has been cornered like a deer in headlights way too often. Well, I left my abuser over two years ago, but am still not totally free. He continues to withhold, this time by not signing the divorce papers. But despite that , I feel like a new woman, and I am intensely proud of myself. My 11 year old daughter tells me I am brave and wants to be like me. :)
On the other hand my 15 year old son treats me the way his dad did. He knows no boundaries. When he does not get his way, he calls me names, screams like a 2 year old, insults his sister (and others as well), etc. I feel like it's a repeat of the past. I tell him "stop" and I refuse to tolerate his behavior, but he runs to his dad and receives affirmation for his behavior. Even his words sound like his dad's, intonation, gestures and all. He is identified with his dad... I am about to throw him out and send him to live with dad, but it breaks my heart to do this. You may not have a choice. Once with dad full-time, there is a chance he may see what dad is really about! (We have joint custody...that was a mistake I allowed to happen in my victim days of 2 years ago...I thought my ex would change, and that the kids deserved two parents, so I agreed without much of a fight. Frankly I was scared!) Why are you apologizing? Your kids do need both of you! Our daughter is mostly with me since a physical abuse incident a few months ago. Her dad pulled her hair, slapped her ,pushed her, called her a bitch, all because she wanted to come back to my house one night when she was very tired. (He keeps them up late, since dinner doesn't happen till 9 at night!) Good for you for being able to arrange this.
Anyway, back to my son...I truly don't know what to do. I fear that he will become just like his father. Sounds like he's headed that way... His dad treats him like another adult in some situations; my ex is desperate for friendship. Other times if he senses that our son is pulling away to do his own thing, he screams at him irrationally with senseless threats (frequently of a material withholding nature). I should tell you that ex is a business owner and keeps our son busy learning the "family" business. In this way I guess he expects to keep our son in his grip. But sadly, EVERY significant relationship in my ex's life has been lost. Only his mother and brother remain of his support system, and I fear that someday, when he and our son come to blows (as I fully expect will happen when he matures and doesn't want to put up with the control any longer) that our son will suffer, as I have, from the "guilt" and emotional baggage that this dysfunctional mess will have created. Should that happen, he will have you to turn to.
If I went into the details of my ex's past life, it would be a novel...but I guess I should tell you too that the final straw in our 19 year marriage: was when I learned that my ex had "found a friend" in the newspaper personals; this friend turned out to be a gay man. (ex denies his own homosexuality...says he just needed a "friend"). I was his only girlfriend and after our son was adopted, all sexual contact ended between us. Since we had no need to try to get pregnant anymore, he said he had no interest in me in that way. Good for you for having the courage to leave - and stop selling yourself short.
Anyway, this rambling message is just a sample of the screwed up life we led and that still continues in some ways. The bottom line is , what should I do about my son? I have seen nothing anywhere about this problem in any web sites, just a brief mention in a book I read called Verbal Abuse Survivors Speak Out.
Thanks for listening and I hope you will reply. Maybe my experience and your advice can help others as well. (By the way I'm the one who wrote into the support line back in Jan., signed Deb)
I wish I could give you better news, but, as things stand now, your son is following in the footsteps of his dad. Interesting that despite no biological connection, your son is his father's kid.
He has identified with dad, whom he perceives as the "power" in the family. He has sold his budding integrity out. What can you do? Set limits. Do not put up with his misbehavior - for his sister's sake, as well as for his own and your own. Send him to live with dad if you need to. I know you are concerned that having him live with his needy dad will further corrupt him, but it's probably already be too late.
Unless something happens to snap your son out of anger mode, the best chance he may have for recovery would be to live with dad. Living with you and getting away with murder with a supportive dad rooting from a distance is a formula for disaster. Let them initially pal it up and triangulate you. It is only a matter of time before, as you predict, your son won't tolerate the control. That will be your opportunity to step in and offer to help him - if he'll have it.
He may be a minor in the eyes of the law, but this kid already is using his free will.
Tip: Drop the rest of the guilt. You didn't create this situation. Your ex did. Stop making yourself responsible for not knowing enough to get out sooner. Simply rejoice that you got out when you did and for providing a good role model for your daughter. Your son may catch on yet.
Best wishes, Dr. Irene
I want to read the posts.