April 17, 2002
My husband and I have been
together for 24 years, married for 19.We have a 28 year old son, from
my husband's first marriage, that we raised since he was 8, a 13 year
old son, and a 6 year old daughter. I first read about my life 2 years
ago, when I got my hands on Patricia Evans' "Verbal
books. Finally I began to understand what had been happening to me all
those years. There is no longer any doubt in my mind that my husband
is verbally abusive.
He has occasionally pushed or
hit me, but a year or 2 could go by before it would happen again. It
has not escalated as they say. He never comes after me, indeed his
favorite form of abuse is "withholding". He can go for days, weeks, or
months without speaking directly to me. If I speak, he would turn his
back to me, or leave the room .He would often frown when I was around,
making me wonder what he was mad about.
How awful! The other things
are well described in Patricia Evans' books.
It is weird for me to read
what I just wrote, because, though I am trying to remain detached,
detachment is different
from denial… Reread Beattie! and we are currently in a
"honeymoon period". During these times it is hard for me to connect
with the reality of the abuse.
Probably because you want things to be OK,
you tend to sweep them under the run, i.e., go into denial…
has always been a "Dr.Jekyl/Mr.Hyde". During the good times, I cannot
remember the bad times. It is like these memories go to a separate
compartment of my brain that I cannot
correction: don’t want to
access. I have tried keeping a journal and writing about the abuses so
that I could remind myself of them when I needed to take action. This
helps for awhile, but then I forget again or it just doesn't seem
real-more like it happened to someone else.
Here is my situation right
now. I filed for divorce over a year and a half ago. At the time I was
into the second year of homeschooling our younger son, who has bipolar
disorder, ADHD, and OCD. I was working part time as a nurse and
spending all of my energy trying to find resources to help my son. I
must have felt pretty desperate because I had been willing to go to
work full time and return my son to public school, even though he was
not yet medically stable. However, my husband and I talked and agreed
to give it another try, so that I could continue to homeschool our
My filing for divorce won me
7 months of good behavior from my husband. Then one day, for no
apparent reason, the abuse was back in full force. Meanwhile, I had
found a wonderful school for my son for ADHD/Bipolar children. My
daughter started kindergarten this last Sept. So, last Sept I went
back to my atty and asked my husband to leave the house. He told me at
that time that he needed to stay until late Dec, when he would
leave to go across the country on business. He told me that he would
probably move to this location because he could no longer make a
living here. He said that he would come back in March and we could do
divorce then. During this time, I packed a lot of his stuff. I wanted
to move it to storage and change the locks on the house so that he
would not come back in. My atty told me that I could not do this
because it was still his house.
I did not fear his violence.
What I feared was just what is happening right now-getting sucked back
in to this endless Jekyl/Hyde cycle of craziness. He is back in the
house, acting like nothing ever happened, being as nice, loving, and
helpful as possible. He apparently is no longer interested in
moving across the country. Even though he told everyone at my son's
school that he could no longer make a living here because I had
"ruined his reputation" in some inexplicable way. Now, he says the
only important thing is "family". I had him served within 10 minutes
of his return to the house.
I love this man
unconditionally. I have not been interested in any other men. He is
the father of my children. I want to do what is best for the children.
My friends and family all want me to divorce this man. My mother hates
him with a passion. I would probably lose some friends and support if
I don't go through with it this time, because everyone would be so
disgusted with me. So be
it; losing support is not grounds to determine what direction to take
is best for the children? People say "go with your intuition", but I
stifled my intuition for so many years, only in recent years have I
been trying to nurture it back. Right now, I can't seem to find it at
all .He even bought Patricia Evans books this time. Yesterday, he even
talked to me about them, like he was reading them. Is this just
another hook? Probably,
but less because he is playing mind games and more because he just
can’t keep it up. Or is it possible that this time
he really will change? This possibility is almost irresistible to me,
though I have spent 24 years being hooked by this possibility. Right
now, he has no job, though he is looking -this man has a post graduate
degree. He told me that he spent the kids college funds paying bills
last fall. He is now living on the IRA that he cashed. I went back to
work full time in Sept. Sorry my writing is so scattered, but I am
home with bronchitis today, and my thinking is not as clear as I would
like it to be. Thanks, Susan
Questions: What is
best for the children? Should I get him out of the house, and if so,
how? Is it possible that this experience could have shaken him up
enough that he could change and we could still have a marriage and
family? If so, is it worth the risk to try again?
Doc Has Questions
Is there any
psychological treatment history? Yourself, hubby or marital? The
About the kids,
any acting out? What's their take on the situation?
Also, tell me
about your anger. How long does it take you to notice things are
getting un-OK? Do you get depressed or do you get angry? Best if you
can describe what went on for you internally the last time the problem
Also, tell me
what you tell him when he acts up and how he reacts to it. Does he
see that he has a problem? Does he have mood swings, black cloud
periods, changes in his sleep or eating patterns when he's acting out?
Does he drink, use drugs?
need to know more about the relationship.
My husband went in to
inpatient treatment for alcohol and drug abuse almost 10 years ago.
The psychiatrist at that time thought he was bipolar and placed him on
several different meds at once. Lithium, Prozac, and desyrel, I
believe. The desyrel made him comatose and one time he passed out on
the floor. Rather than get his meds adjusted he simply went off all of
them. I have often wondered if he was bipolar, particularly now that I
know more about it since our son has this diagnosis.
Bipolar disorder runs in
families. Nevertheless if hubby was dx’d bipolar, there is some mood
disorder and he needs treatment. Bipolar individuals who tend toward
the “high” end hate to be medicated. Feeling “normal” is not as much
fun! I have 2 siblings with bipolar also, though their
manifestations are different. Until recently, he has refused to
discuss this, telling me I am crazy if I bring it up.
Not true. In fact, if
there is a mood disorder, it will facilitate his acting out, or be
entirely responsible for it in some cases. He has
remained clean and sober for almost 10 years.
Excellent, but not a reason to spurn
treatment for a mood disorder, though drugs/alcohol will invariable
worsen it. He apparently spent all of our money on
cocaine back when our son was a baby.
Hmmmm… He was gone from the
house all the time, I thought because he was starting his own business
by the time he got to treatment, we were bankrupt and our house was
foreclosed on. Ouchhh!
may wonder how I didn't know this. We always have had separate
accounts and he would never discuss finances with me, kept things
secret, and I was always so busy and tired just trying to survive I
guess. This type of
individual also takes too much power, as in his refusal to discuss the
bipolar dx. Your job is to take your power back, and do it with
commitment. I also went in to recovery at that time. I
went to AA and NA meetings and later to outpatient treatment.
found I was addicted to alcohol and opiates.
Not to excuse your abuse, but you had a lot
to deal with… I’m glad you got help. When he became
abusive and or withdrawn, I would have my painkiller, and that is how
I dealt with it for many years.
Not uncommon. Just did not
deal with reality. Now, I have almost 7 years clean and sober. I am
still having problems dealing with reality.
You need to improve your coping skills, and
not rely on denial.
totally forget things. You have asked me to describe what went on for
me the last time he "acted up" and I am having trouble remembering him
acting up. Right now he is being perfect because he has a divorce
hanging over his head. I am supposed to call my atty today about going
to court on Tues to get Temp Orders signed by a judge with a definite
move out date for him on there. Right now he is being so kind and
helpful, giving me back massages, asking me how I feel, actually
making eye contact with me, helping with the kids, cleaning the
kitchen, etc. It makes me think "what did I want a divorce for?"
You know from the website
and the Evan’s books that this is roller coaster…
Without significant change, the abuse
I really can't remember when
I think about breaking up our family.
You must have tremendous guilt. But, hold
on: just who is it who is breaking up the family with what kind of
intermittent behavior? Asking him to clean up him act so that he does
not force your hand in breaking up the family is sane.
I just can't stop crying.
I try to remember what went on for me internally the last time things
escalated - I do remember that I would always get "fight or flight "
syndrome. I would get tachycardia, my palms would sweat and my hands
would shake. Wow! Sounds
like you may be bordering on panic… He gets this funny
look in his eyes and his face gets real flat and hostile and that’s
when I know he is gone. Since I have described him as "Jekyl/Hyde" I
would definitely say he has mood swings. You never knew which one
would be there. His sleep patterns can be rather erratic-there have
been times when I would wake up in the middle of the night and find
him in his office or watching TV. As for my anger - my problem is that
I can't stay angry long enough to take effective action.
Your dependency needs
“force” you to forgive and (literally) forget. You need to forgive,
but not forget! If I was angry now, it would be so much
easier to ask him to leave this house.
I think I get very angry at
the time he is mistreating me, but as soon as he is nice again, I
completely forget it. You
may want to be evaluated for an SSRI which will ease your depression
as well as help you with any anxiety that’s floating around. If you
are even mildly depressed (and why shouldn’t you be?), learning the
emotional skills you need will be more difficult. As for
how long it takes me to notice things are getting un-ok-I suppose I am
usually immediately aware of mood shifts, but I have been told that he
was abusive to me at times that I wasn't even aware of it. In other
words, I have become so used to certain things that I don't realize it
is abusive. Not unusual.
I have tried some of Patricia Evans' methods in the last
couple years-telling him to stop, etc. It didn't seem to have much
effect-sometimes he would stop and or leave.
It won’t work unless it comes from a place
of uncompromising conviction. It also helps to have support while
favorite punishment was withholding anyway. He would speak to the kids
or anyone in the room except me.
This is abuse and grounds for you to ask him
to leave. This could go on for such long periods-like I
didn't even exist. Does he realize he has a problem? Only when the ax
is hanging right over his head, like it is right now.
Then perhaps you need to
find a way of keeping the ax right where it is. Now is the time you
can make demands, even though you lack the conviction or
follow-through. This is an excellent time for you to find a therapist
and join an abuse support group!
this he blamed everything on me, said I was crazy, etc. But now he has
gone and bought the Patricia Evans books and has given indications
that he is reading them. Whether this is just another gesture to
"honeymoon" me with I don't know.
It’s wonderful he’s reading the books, but
even if he’s dead serious, he does not have the capability to follow
through. He’s demonstrated that time and time again. He is no more
able to follow through than you are! You need support to help you both
get to where you would like to go.
kids - as I said my son is bipolar, adhd, has severe ocd and also
developed hallucinations this last fall - thought there were bugs
eating him and would not eat or sleep for weeks because he thought if
he ate, the bugs would go in his stomach etc.
Poor child… This disruptive home life can’t
be helping him, especially if he’s adhd. It has been
quite exhausting since he has been born. We got him on yet another
med, geodan, and this helped significantly with the psychotic
symptoms. He had improved enormously during the 2 months his father
was gone. Hmmmmm…
Now, everyday the school people tell me that he has regressed
severely since his father has been back.
What does this tell you? They
tell me this every day: he is acting out again. I know that my son has
some anger toward his father that has never been dealt with. He used
to bring up freq the time his dad pushed me down the stairs and I
sprained my wrist. Oh my
God! This is very serious; I take it you know that? (This kid’s got to
be mad at you too for taking daddy back…) That all got
brushed under the carpet. Also, now that he is older, his Dad uses
what I call the "bad dog" voice on him quite often. As for our
daughter, as I said, she is Daddy's little princess and is crazy for
him. She cried her little eyes out when he was gone, whereas son
seemed more peaceful. She has also witnessed abusive situations, but
she tends to create a different story for them in her mind.
She probably identifies
with her dad, aspiring to be like him, the “powerful” one. But, if you
could learn to take your power, she might reconsider. Right now, my
guess is she has some contempt for your “weakness.”
example, when we traveled in our van for our big vacation, my husband
became very irate with me because I wanted to know what the plans for
return were, as I had to be back at work by a certain date and I did
not want to have to go to work right after driving all night or
request. It is abusive to keep you in emotional upset by keeping you
guessing, even if he ends up returning you home in time for you to
rest up for work. He would not communicate with me, as
is typical and became extremely angry over my simple request. He ended
up driving me to the airport with the kids in the car and trying to
dump me out there, telling me that I had to go home. I refused to get
out and said if he tried to force me there was a policeman right
I made him take me to the hotel so that I could at least make a
reservation and pack my stuff. Turned out I couldn't get a flight back
until the next AM. My daughter sat on my lap and just sobbed, crying
"please don't go Mommy" .Now her memory of that is that I had to go
back "to take care of the cat and the fish."
She’s identified with daddy’s power,
for therapy, we went to years of marital counseling where none of the
real issues were ever addressed. Never touched on our addictions at
the time, never recognized that there was any abuse going on. I did a
lot of work on my codependency issues. I have since gone through
recovery with 12 step programs and have finally begun learning what it
means to be "true to myself" because I had lost myself for so long. I’m
glad you made progress, but you still need more work in this area.
I can usually write better
than this, but I am still not feeling well-home with bronchitis, my
head feels full of glue.
Your writing is fine. I have to call my atty by noon
today to give her the go ahead or not re going to court this Tues to
get these orders saying he has to get out of the house by a certain
date. I don't know if I can do it. I feel like a Judas. How can I kick
him out of his own house, the house we bought together? I felt it
would be much easier for the kids to stay in the same place, let alone
that it would cost more to rent an apt than what we pay for the
mortgage. It is so hard for me to give up on our family. It is hard
for me to remember that most of the time, things were not like they
are now, that usually there was this frequent hostility and total lack
of communication. We could talk about the kids, but that was about it.
I hope this helps. It
helps very much. If you’re not ready to call the dogs on him, be
prepared to cycle through again. At least get some individual therapy
and get yourSelf stronger for the next time.
My mother doesn't understand
my anguish. Your anguish
is very understandable; your behavior is not. Your dependency, guilt,
and possible depression is keeping you prisoner. She
says she felt complete relief when she left my father.
Didn’t you feel any
relief when he left after a bout? She doesn't understand
why I love someone who has treated me the way he has. I don't
understand either, but sometimes my heart hurts so badly that I have
wondered if I am having a heart attack.
More likely a panic attack.
Yet I want to break this cycle. I want to change things for my kids. I
don't want to role model this dysfunction for them anymore.
don’t think you’ll be able to either leave your marriage or help
change your marriage unless you make some changes within yourSelf
first. You are telling me you cope by going into denial because you
really, really, really can’t stand the idea of breaking up your
family. You take responsibility for his misbehavior because you see
yourself as breaking up the family by filing for divorce, when he’s
the one who is messing things up. You also need to get a much better
handle on what abuse is: emotional as well as verbal. While you make
very much sense when taken from the perspective of an abused
individual, your behavior makes no sense when viewed from a healthier,
more logical perspective.
Yet, I’m not
suggesting you run into Court. You will probably recant at some
point. I am suggesting you learn to face reality as well as learn to
take your power. You need to get some counseling to help you own your
personal power, and insist he do same. You need to be evaluated for
depression and anxiety and insist that be evaluated for any mood
disorder may contribute to his periodic flare-ups. You guys need
marital counseling if you are to make a go of it, but I think you in
particular need some individual work first/at the same time. You are
the type of client I get in marital and find myself feeling angrier
than the client feels! That’s when I throw hubby out for a little
while. But each therapist works differently. Please look for a good
counselor knowledgeable in abuse as well as in mood disorders,
personality disorders, etc. Perhaps you can send them this letter and
ask how they want to proceed.
OK, back to your questions:
is best for the children?
Two healthy parents. People
say "go with your intuition", but I stifled my intuition for so many
years, only in recent years have I been trying to nurture it back.
Right now, I can't seem to find it at all .He even bought Patricia
Evans books this time. Yesterday, he even talked to me about them,
like he was reading them. Is this just another hook?
Probably, but less
because he is playing mind games and more because he just can’t keep
it up. Or is it possible that this time he really will
change? Perhaps, with
therapy and medication, if indicated. This possibility
is almost irresistible to me, though I have spent 24 years being
hooked by this possibility.
How many more are you going to spend?
Right now, he has no job, though he is looking -. He spent all
of the kids’ college funds on bills last fall, and now is paying bills
with the IRA that he cashed.
This man is incredibly irresponsible. Sounds
like he subbed one addiction for another. I went back to
work full time in Sept. The
good news is working where you work, you probably have good
Get yourself evaluated for
depression and anxiety
Insist he be evaluated for
Find a therapist versed in
abuse issues and go (my personal bias is a cognitive behavioral
therapist because they target the thinking that gets you into
Become more sensitive to
what constitutes abuse
Examine how your dependent
thinking style gets you in trouble. A very good book for you is
(cognitive behavioral) is by the father of cognitive therapy, Albert
The Secret of Overcoming Verbal Abuse: Getting Off the Emotional
Roller Coaster and Regaining Control of Your Life
One to help you recognize
stuff that’s not ok, and stop it:
Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear,
Obligation and Guilt to Manipulate You
Susan Writes Back
and Doc Replies
Okay, here is my
question re "taking my power back". I must have sounded pretty
pathetic. I a haven't been depressed in a while. I usually do really
well by avoiding drugs and alcohol, eating well and exercising,
getting enough rest etc. But things really got out of balance for me
last week-I was ill, taking antihistamines, exhausted and stressed
re the legal/living situation. Plus PMS. I can usually recognize
when I am getting off balanced and correct it-usually a good run
does the trick- but I was too ill last week to do that.
I can’t tell you how many people I see in my office who are mildly
to moderately depressed – and have NO CLUE they are! They
don’t feel depressed,
nor does one have to according to the DSM4 to qualify for Major
Depression! I haven’t seen you; I don’t know that you’re depressed
or not. But, I do know that the circumstances you live under are
enough to kill anybody’s spirit! I understand what you are saying
about feeling ill and not being able to utilize your ordinary coping
mechanisms. I am asking you to keep a depression hypothesis in mind.
Anyway, my position now is, I have asked for the abuse to stop and
he crossed the line anyway. so my next move was to go back to my
atty and ask him to leave.
Good for you!
Okay, I admit, that part I am having
trouble committing to, even though I am going through the motions of
making it happen. I do not take responsibility for his abuse or the
failure of our marriage. It is just so hard to give up on the idea
that we could make it work, make it better.
But don’t you see: you ARE doing your part here. He’s not doing his!
In that way, the “wishful thinking,” a classic feature in abused
people, is keeping you hostage. You ARE taking responsibility for
him by hoping he will
get it, somehow, some way. You are banking on his potential instead
of his history with you. I
feel such grief and also sadness for him-I want him to be okay, I
don't want to hurt him.
I understand that! That empathy on your part (when you keep getting
hit on the head over and over), is holding you hostage. Your
thinking is based on wishful thinking and not on logic and
experience. You are also making another classic codependent error:
assuming you have the power
to take care of him/ keep him from experiencing pain. I
know he is a big boy and he will be fine. But for some reason, I
love him. anyway,
I understand and have no problem with this. My concern is what
happens when you love him and try to protect him from pain and/or
try to otherwise facilitate things working out: you get hurt. Over
and over and over…
I digress the question is, how do I take
my power back?
First, I doubt you’ve ever had it, at least in this marriage. This
is why I suggest therapy and support. Correction: I doubt you’ve had
it and been able to sustain it in this marriage. I
have tried, seriously I am not a total codependent wimp anymore-I
have my own interests-though not much time to pursue them due to
work and having special needs kid etc.
have asked for change and been refused. It seems to me that the only
way for me to take my power back would be to stick to my guns and
make him leave the house?
Yes. Definitely. Can you do this? And stick with it through the
divorce? Wouldn’t you like some support in this process? (There will
be very sticky moments…)
I already have a hearing set up for April
16 for temporary orders that include a move out date of April26
(my atty came up with that date). My heart is not in it. But I had
decided I want my "power" back and I do not want to rollercoaster
anymore-I want stability for the kids. so do I go through the
motions and just do it anyway-is that taking my power back? Or do I
call the thing off, thus wasting more time and money, and insist now
that he get the therapy and evals you mentioned?
I’m glad you ask this. Your question was basically how can I give
this marriage a chance. The evals and the therapy, etc. were
directed at that question. If you can stick to your guns, all the
better. I was responding to your near plea to suggest ways to save
the marriage. If you have the wherewithal to pull it off, the BEST
solution is to force him out, follow through with the divorce, while
at the same time getting some treatment to help you stop enabling
others at your own expense. Trust me, you still do this, otherwise
you would have had no need to write me because there would be
absolutely NO question in your mind. You would never, ever permit
anybody to repeatedly hurt you!
even though he
wouldn't do it before-now he possible would because his head has
been under the ax? Thinking about it, I realize that you can't
really answer this question for me, no one can. I just wish I could
get over feeling so completely torn.
Let me help: History is the best predictor of future performance.
Keep in mind that his arsenal for keeping you hostage includes new
and creative carrots on the stick. Now he’s got Evan’s books on the
stick. Good start, not nearly enough because he simply
can’t do it no matter
how many books he reads. If he were to embark on recovery, at best,
it would take years. I can almost guarantee that he will revert once
he’s comfortable and you’ve relaxed your guard. That’s why
you need treatment. You
think keeping up a guard is “work.” People who don’t have dependency
issues have this type of guard up naturally, not even realizing it!
It is adaptive. Dependent people need to learn the skills to do
this, and it feels yukky at first; like you can never relax, not
love the way you want. It’s a
process that takes time and attention.
i know that at some point one just has to get to the place where one
decides enough is enough, and give up. I really, really, thought I
was there when I initiated these legal precedings and let people
know what was going on.
You’ve certainly come closer than you’ve ever been before, but the
“enough” realization is also a process.
Now, once again
I feel torn apart, instead of calm with conviction. Oh well, it
"takes what it takes" as they say in recovery. I always have such a
hard time letting go. Thanks for all your help and all that you do.
It is important you
You apparently wrote to affirm your
conviction to leave. If you really, really internalized that even
subtle abuse is not OK, your conviction would not have been shaken.
I did not read between the lines and instead responded to your
request to come up with suggestions to save the marriage. If I can
knock down your conviction, you need to engage in the rethinking
process again - because YOU are responsible for YOUR life! YOU are
the ONLY ONE who can decide whether or not you are willing to
continue putting up with same ol’ same ol’. YOU need to take
responsibility for recognizing how his “I am getting better” games
have to date resulted in…no lasting change.
you’re making this interactive. I think you need to hear it from the
gang too! Plus, you get to have me poke at you for another month.
(Did anyone ever tell you part of a therapist’s job is to knock you
off balance – so that you can gain even more conviction of what is
right for you?)
I’m glad you wrote back. Now I think we
may be on the same page.
Best regards, Doc