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Doc@DrIrene.com


 

I Am Finally Free...

I was married young, and full of hopes and dreams.  What I ended up getting was a nightmare.  I was married for 24 years, and when I finally got the courage to leave, I was still not aware of what I had endured for years.  I did not know there was a word for it. I left and sought counseling and that is where I learned about emotional abuse.  It started slowly, and by the time I left it had escalated to  verbal abuse, physical abuse, and mind games.  He would scream at me when I least expected it, throwing me off balance and leaving me searching for reasons why it had occurred, and  how to avoid his outburst.  I would drive to work replaying the scene over and over in my head, trying to figure out what I could have done differently. It never changed.  His abuse always occurred in the privacy of our home or when I was trapped in a car with him.  Everyone else in the World thought he was a wonderful, kind person.  

He would wake me up out of a sound sleep, screaming because he could not find his socks, he would come home and throw the laundry that I had separated and ready to wash all over because it was in front of the washing machine, and not in baskets.  He showed me how to load the dishwasher because I did not do it correctly.  He even went as far as to show me how to use toilet paper because I used too much.  He took over the cooking because I did not know how to cook.  He started to take his clothes to the cleaners because I did not clean them correctly.....and of course everyone else in the world thought he was wonderful because he was doing all these things.....

 

If I started a project he would come home and tell me how I had done it wrong.
One day, his anger escalated to physical abuse and he threw me against a wall and started hitting me in the face and stomach.....It was after that, that I returned to college and got my degree because I knew I could not stay.  I finished my degree and in my sickness stayed another five years while my daughter was in college.  It was during these last five years that the mind games started, and I think we were on our way to physical abuse again.  One day I was painting the garage. He came out and told me to bring the paint sprayer to him so he could help, I guess I was  not quick enough. He grabbed it out of my hands and pushed me.  I confronted him and asked him why it pushed me. He stood there and said, "Whah whah whah, poor Doreen" .  Shortly after that, we moved our daughter to another city and I went to my first pro baseball game. I loved it!  I was so excited - I left elated and said I could hardly wait until the next game.  He stood there in the parking lot, red in the face, screaming at me that we were never going to another game.  It was there, right then and there, at that moment, that I knew it was over.  After 24 years of being yelled at, put down, hit, denied things I wanted, mind games (telling me I had said things I hadn't and looking at me like I was losing it) - I finally woke up.  I knew I had to get out.  I KNEW HE DID NOT WANT ME TO BE HAPPY. 

Thank God, I found a wonderful counselor who was well versed in emotional abuse.  I went to therapy and read and read and read.  I have come a long way.  I have God in my life. I have learned to love me. I refuse to accept abuse as a part of life.  My next challenge is my son.  He has learned some of his father's abuse patterns.  He is 23 and miles away.  The last time I saw him was two years ago. It was like being thrown back in with my ex.

 

My son wants to return to the city where I live and attend college, and live with me.  I am not sure how I will handle it if he still has his father's habits.  I left my ex, walked away, never had anymore contact with him, and failed terribly when my son was  here two years ago.  I felt like I was right back where I started. 

 

I think this is a topic that also needs to be addressed. Is this common when a father is emotionally abusive the kids continue the treatment.  I have a friend going through a divorce now, and her ten year old treats her like her soon to be ex does.  How do we stop these cycles? Thanks     Doreen
 
Dear Doreen,
 
Thank you for your story. I love to hear about successes, and so do the readers - judging by what they request more of. Good for you!
 
What to do with your son...how do we address such problems? Yes, Doreen, these problems are common in abusive families. A few thoughts come to mind.
 
The first thing is to remember that your son is likely to be predisposed to anger given his father's biology. As the old saying goes, "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree".  
 
But that's not the whole story. In order for the predisposition to actuate, psychologists believe that the environment the child grows up in must be abusive or neglectful. Whether your son was emotionally abused by your husband or was witness to your abuse at the hands of his father, dad taught him lessons: Both how to be a victim and how to be a perpetrator. Techno-babble: Your husband modeled abusive behavior and taught your son everything he knows. He also taught your son that the bully "wins," and that "weakness" (i.e., soft behavior) is contemptuous and is to be taken advantage of.
 
My next thought concerns your ability to handle abusive individuals since, while you walked away from your husband, you did not indicate that you learned how to negotiate him - or other abusive people in your present-day environment. While you give no specifics on how you "failed terribly" in the past with your son, my guess is that while you can handle high levels of abuse (you leave), you do not know how to deal with the minute to minute abusive interactions or subtle abusive interactions that don't even get noticed.
 
If you choose to allow your son to live with you, make up a set of bottom-line "rules" ahead of time. What are your expectations regarding housekeeping, rent, visitors, etc., etc.? What do you consider respectful behavior and disrespectful behavior? How will you handle disrespectful behavior? What are grounds for eviction? Make up a very, very detailed list of your expectations and articulate them to your son. Put them down in contract form and have him sign if you must. Be specific about what behaviors, attitudes, etc. you will not tolerate. Know how you will handle mis-behaviors. Once  you decide on a plan, stick with it. Don't let a mis-behavior slide under any circumstances, even if you think you are being "mean" or "unfair."  Never, ever forget, it is your house and you are the boss. It is OK to "pull rank." Your assignment, if you will, is to teach your son to respect you - instead of take advantage of you. You are doing this for his sake as well as for yours. 
 
Finally, (and do this whether your son comes to live with you or not), get a copy of Suzette Haden Elgin's You Can't Say That To Me!  and learn to recognize and counter abusive statements. Always keep in mind that you were never taught the skills you are learning now - the cognitive, emotional, and verbal skills you need to demand respect!
 
Again, thank you for your inspiring story...keep us posted if you want. 

 May God bless you and yours,      -Dr. Irene

 

Material posted here is intended for educational purposes only, and
must not be considered a substitute for informed advice from
your own health care provider.

Courtesy of Dr. Irene Matiatos, Copyright© 1999. The material on this website may be distributed freely for non-commercial or educational purposes provided that author credit is given. For commercial distribution, please contact the author at Doc@drirene.com.



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