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Doc@DrIrene.com

Interactive: There Goes The Bride

 Interactive Board:  Your ALT-Text here There Goes The Wife

December 29, 2005

I am starting to see who I am.

I want to change it. I know I can and have started to read about how to do it. It will take time and a lot of work but I can’t go on living a life where I treat the closest person to me poorly. Right on all counts, and good for you!

I have been emotionally abusing my wife for at least 8 years. I had no idea I was doing it. Yes! Too often people behave abusively without a clue that they're doing it, and don't really hear it or understand how big it is when it's expressed by the partner. Many of the men and women I work with who have been verbally / emotionally abused can't believe that the partner didn't know they were doing it or weren't being abusive on purpose. But, it is true! Many if not most abusive people have a hard time understanding that they are abusive! It wasn’t until she spoke up and left me that I started to even understand what the term meant. Yes. Now when I really look at it, I was constantly taking frustration out on her and yelling at her when she didn’t agree or do things my way. I have made her life a living hell, and she covered it up with smiles and love. I'm glad you see what you did in retrospect. She was likely hiding her feelings and smiling because she was trying to keep the peace. Although I thought I was returning the love, I know now that someone who loves someone doesn’t treat her (or him) with disrespect and control. You bet!

I was always controlling everything the food we ate, how it was cooked, the movies we watched, the money we spent, how she talked on the phone. I was always listening for mistakes and pointing them out to her. Thinking that you were helping her, no doubt. Correcting her. And I would get upset when she didn’t take my suggestions, as if I’m the only one that counted. Right. And her fear of your anger and/or her inability to speak up clearly and forcefully,  combined with your difficulty in hearing her kept things status quo.

My anger got the best of me at times and I would yell until the "walls shook". Yes, and since you got your way by doing this, you were unwittingly "reinforced" by your wife for your poor behavior. So the bad behavior would increase in frequency. A few times I even would hit the dashboard or steering wheel in an argument. I hate myself for this. Please hate your behavior instead of yourSelf. This is an important distinction to make in your recovery. Hating the self or being too hard and demanding of the self is part of the mentality you have to get rid of. Look at it this way: God/nature/whatever you believe in made you. There is nothing wrong with you per se. But behavior is a choice. You can choose to behave in ways that are ugly - or not. Behavior is a choice - even if it doesn't feel that way early on. (No such thing as "They made me do it.") So, you can be very, very angry (an internal feeling), but you don't have to act out that anger and behave abusively. 

I see I never respected myself at all. Yes! Now you get it: behaving badly is disrespecting the Self; kind of like "Who cares? Its just me.." Well, it is You and You need to care! Respect and caring for other begins with respect and caring for the Self.

I always saw how beautiful and full of love my wife was, and in return I took her for granted. I have read that abusers mistreat their partners because deep down they don’t think they should love them. Is this true? There are many reasons people abuse. The roots are often based in fear and insecurity. Abusive people are often internally very insecure. They may appear secure, or think they are secure, nevertheless these individuals do not own or admit their insecurities to themselves. They are often afraid to love because they feel too vulnerable. "What if my loved one left me? Oh no! I can't give them that kind of power over me, so I'd better not let myself get too dependent on my partner. OK to not let them know how much I really care." Some think if you treat your partner too lovingly, they will end up being taken advantage of, so they never really give of themselves out of fear. They internally keep their partner wanting so their partner can chase them. This helps their feelings of insecurity. Others take virtually no responsibility for themselves. They believe it is their partner's job to make sure all their needs are taken care of. Their partner should be able to intuit needs, or else they've somehow failed.

Psychology is strange why couldn’t I see this while it was happening? Why was I able to continue and never stop myself why did it take my wife leaving for it to slap me upside the head and shake me until I could see the truth right in front of me? Probably because you were the more overbearing one and your insecurities kept you from really hearing your partner. After all, you know better. Right? Wrong. You may have even thought, at some level, that it was your "job" to steer her. Work on yourself, and one day you will be able to tell us what was going on in the back of your mind.

And here I am. Deeply regretting my behavior over the past 8 years. Sick to my stomach over who I am (better to say over how I behave) and desperate for a change. Good! I looked up "verbal abuse" on the web to find so much literature and chat groups. I stumbled on Dr. Irene’s website and was astonished at the information and experiences. I couldn’t believe how many people go through this everyday. Amazing, isn't it?

This has been a quick crash course and I will continue to learn thank you all for your stories and advices. It hurts to see how many people are affected by controlling people out there. It is painful to see that many of the relationships are beyond repair. Often the victim, in their inability to make themselves heard or their fear of the abuser, keep them in a position where they see no option other than taking it and taking it - far longer than they should. Lots of anger builds up. Lots. Often the victims develop post-traumatic stress type symptoms that, for their own sake, let alone the marriage, they will need to overcome. It kills me that I couldn’t see it earlier - I want to stop it. I don’t know if my wife will ever trust me again. That depends on both of you. You will both likely need counseling. Please consider individual therapy to help you fix this.

Her realization came suddenly. 4 months after our wedding this summer. It hit her like a brick. Confusion, isolation, crying all the time and distancing herself. When I saw how serious it was, we immediately went for counseling. Again, part of the problem is that the person who is abusive doesn't understand how much the partner is putting up with until there is a sort of break down.

After talking some more she started to remember every single fight we ever had and started to remember how I treated her each of those times. Yes. It hits many victims as a "Realization." The look in her eye changed from Love and sparkle to coldness and loss. It was so painful to see the only woman I ever really love stop loving me in an instant.

We tried therapy once a week for four weeks but her need to get away and be on her own became too strong. Yes; and you had no sane choice but to give her the space she wanted. Anything else would have been controlling behavior on your part. So much so that we had to book two flights; one leaving the day after Christmas and then a few days later we had to make one leaving immediately (this was last week) as she could not stay any longer. The damage was already done and there was no turning back. But there was also some good: she spoke up and you heard her loud and clear.

As soon as she returned back to her parents' house (in another Country) the memories flooded her. Yes. Over the past few days she sent several hateful e-mails and one phone call that made my stomach curdle. She compared our relationship to eating a great banana pie and finding a toe at the bottom of it. She yelled at me and reminded me of several times when I miss-treated her. I'm glad she's telling you this stuff. And you're listening. That is very good. I have never heard my wife this angry. She needed to vent. I needed to hear it. At times I tried to respond but then I realized I should stop talking and only listen. Correct.

This has been the most painful experience of my life and I wish I could turn back time to stop myself 8 years ago - but I know I cant. My wife is filled with rage and it is directed towards me, and although it is hard to hear I can’t imagine how hard it is for her to feel these feelings. I am reading about Reality 2 in Patricia Evans book "Verbally Abusive Relationships" Look at this one:  Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and  Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft. and I realize that I had the privilege of spending the last 8 years of my life with the most beautiful, nurturing, mutually supportive and co-creative woman. I threw it all away because I could not see and control my behavior. Now I sleep alone and this is the loneliest place to be after sharing your bed for 8 years.

It makes me sick but I know I have to fix it before it gets the worst of me or hurts my wife further if she ever chooses to look this way again. I don’t know if there is hope at the end of this long road to recovery but I guess the realization although too late will make us both better people to exist in this Reality 1 world! No matter what happens between you two, you will be in a much better space in life once you begin to master these concepts.

Is there anything you recommend I concentrate more on in these weeks to come? Alan

Yes Alan. A few things. First you need to understand what you're doing, then you need to find ways to fix it. Anger management should help you learn some needed cognitive and behavioral skills, while some of the more spiritually oriented books will help you learn to be kinder and gentler to the Self, as well as less judgmental and and more tolerant of the totality of you. You may not like parts of yourself (such as your fears, your insecurities, your biases, etc.), but you do need to accept these pieces.

Becoming less judgmental and loving towards yourself makes it easier to be more tolerate and accepting of other.

You want to get to where you are not only accepting of the Self, but accepting and respectful of the other person's Self. Their right to make their own choices. Loving someone is allowing them to grow in their own direction, even if -  especially if  - you think they are wrong or if you think you know a better way for them. Loving is about encouraging your partner's growth without reacting to your own fear of how their growth may affect you. Live and let live.

There are lots of great books on the market. My picks:

To help you see it clearly:

bullet Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and  Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft.

To teach you to control the angry behavior, pick one of the below. Look inside both of them; pick the one that feels more in tune with you.

bullet When Anger Hurts: Quieting the Storm Within, by McKay and Rogers.
bullet The Angry Self: A Comprehensive Approach to Anger Management by Miriam Gottlieb. Also to help you control the angry behavior.

A very good compliment to the anger management books; this one will help you focus even more on the angry thinking that fuels the angry behavior.

bulletEllis and Lange's How To Keep People From Pushing Your Buttons.

The one below will help you become more mindful of your anger as well as more accepting and less judgmental of who you are. Read slowly and practice a few minutes a day. Make this one part of your lifestyle, like brushing your teeth.

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

Another learn-to-love-yourself book. This one is great for men.

bulletM. Scott Peck's bestseller, The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values, and Spiritual Growth.

I also invite you to send this page to your wife, and I invite her to post. Not only will I comment on your posts, but also on hers. I will be back in probably a little more than a week to reply. 

My very warmest wishes to you and your wife. I wish you both peace, health, and happiness for the New Year.

Readers: is there anything you would like to say to Alan - or his wife? Please type your comments below and press "Submit" ONCE - and wait. And wait some more. You will get to the comments page.

No more posting, but please read the comments here.

Warmest regards, Dr. Irene