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Doc@DrIrene.com

How To Deal With An Abuser page 1

How To Deal With An Abuser page 1 

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  Copyrightę 2000. 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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B1: Submit
Date: Wednesday, March 08, 2000

S1

My husband and I went downstairs early this morning leaving our 19 month old in our bed asleep. We both happened to head up the stairs together after some morning chores and found that the baby had crawled out of bed and was sitting quietly at the top of the stairs. My husband said, "I can't believe you left the gate open. I'm glad he's still alive." He went on, but he was disgusted with me because I was the last one down the stairs. I replied, "I thought the bedroom door was closed, it must not have been latched". While I was glad that the baby was fine, I felt no guilt for this honest mistake. Yippee! You will never be perfect. And that's OK. Good for you for not personalizing your husband's problem.

That was a new and refreshing thing for me. Although, after reading Dr. Irene's advice I will waste even less energy trying to defend myself. Good! I just found this website 4 days ago after my sister saw a brochure on the signs of emotional abuse and thought of me. I've read almost everything on it, but this one has been the most helpful. We are in counseling, but I don't think it will be effective because my husband is so defensive. Everything is my fault in his mind. It's very sad, yet I am doing better than ever because of individual counseling, some Zoloft and encouragement from friends, family and this web site.  :)   Dr. Irene

B1: Submit
Date: Wednesday, March 08, 2000

S1

Thank you SO much for this new article. I especially like the response, "OK."

But how would you respond to this, especially if you're scared?

"The kitchen is a mess! Get in here RIGHT NOW and clean it up!!!" You don't stay anywhere where you are scared! If you are scared, leave. If you are not that scared, keep saying "OK" nicely and do what you want, when you want.

or this?

"So how come you never want to have sex with me?" said very angrily in bed -- as foreplay, perhaps? It has the opposite effect -- and no answer I've ever been able to come up with is the one he wants to hear. "Sex is about love. I don't want to have sex with you because I do not feel loving towards you." If your partner asks why, you can tell them that it does not feel loving to you to (fill in the last incident which hurt you).

Thank you, Dr. Irene, for this wonderful site. You've helped so many people. Bless you. :)

B1: Submit
Date: Wednesday, March 08, 2000

S1

Is there any hope for people in this situation? I read the other 2 posted messages (the question of how to relate to them when you are scared is one, and the other is that his defensiveness makes any discussion impossible), and they both apply to me. I feel that I am just lingering on, instead of forcing the issue. I can't sit down and have a discussion with him about this. I would like to write him a letter, but am afraid that once again it will be used against me. Do these relationship dynamics ever get resolved, and if so , what in your experience are the necessary ingredients? Many thanks. Ann Ann, you have to be much more specific. Quote what he says, she says...  Dr. Irene

B1: Submit
Date: Wednesday, March 08, 2000

S1

I call this "Don't feed the fire." Not a bad way of thinking about this.

B1: Submit
Date: Wednesday, March 08, 2000

S1

Thank you so much for this article. I wish I had read this about three years ago when things started escalating. We spent over a year in therapy with the therapist trying to work on "communication issues," which of course didn't work. (She never saw that my h. used communication to control, even when I found an article and took it in. Since reading Patricia Evans and your site I've managed to deal with the overt stuff, which has disappeared. Now what I have is the passive-aggressive insinuations. Example, when h. ran out of cornmeal while baking, "I just KNEW there was more in the freezer, because you ALWAYS put the cornmeal there." Somehow he was trying to shift the blame from himself for not checking first, to me, for putting the cornmeal in the freezer, where we have always kept it. (And who cares about "fault" anyway?) My response has been to just ignore this sort of thing--but of course it irritates me. I'd appreciate ideas on how to deal with this besides thinking to myself (depending on my mood) "poor insecure guy can never be wrong" or "what a jerk." The unfortunate reality, whether you like it or not, is that your husband is behaving like a jerk when he does this kind of stuff. You can ignore him or call him on his jerky behavior. "Don't bother trying to shift the blame dear. I ain't buying it." And STOP. No more explanation.

And then there are the comments that put him one-up by putting another person or group down, such as "Women all take off too fast when they start up in snow." My therapist has suggested that those cases I can counter with my own perception, and state things like, "That's your perception." That's good. After talking about this sort of thing, she pointed out that my h's perception of the world - his reality - is never challenged, so he of course thinks he is right. He'll think he is right anyway, but part of my standing up for myself is to state things the way I see them -  my reality. I keep saying that these things are OPINIONS - not facts, the way my h. seems to think they are. (Anything he believes is a FACT is stated so definitely that for years I believed him!) This is NOT EASY! Any hints on what to say in these situations? The best news is that you now realize that his reality is not your reality or fact! Can you fix his reality? No. Just worry about keeping your own reality clear and let the therapist worry about the rest. Keep up the good work.  Dr. Irene

B1: Submit
Date: Wednesday, March 08, 2000

S1

What about these? These are too defensive: DO YOU HAVE TO LOOK AT EVERY GIRL THAT WALKS BY? No.  HOW MANY TIMES ARE YOU GOING TO LOOK AT HER? CAN'T YOU CONTROL YOURSELF? YOU'RE JUST PRETENDING NOT TO LOOK!!  These are a little better since they are facetious & kind of funny: WHAT'S THE MATTER? DOES SHE MAKE YOU THAT NERVOUS? YOU CAN SPOT THEM A MILE AWAY. THERE ARE REALLY SOME GREAT BODIES IN HERE, AREN'T THEY? BOY, SHE HAS BIG BOOBS! This last one is defensive: WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU DON'T HAVE TO PRETEND NOT TO LOOK, I KNOW YOU ARE. This is a better solution: Without a word, why not quietly cut your walk short. After all, why in the world would you want to be with somebody who looks at girls - when he's got YOU by his side??? (I'm assuming that the comments come from a female victim to her male abuser.) Dr. Irene

B1: Submit
Date: Wednesday, March 08, 2000

S1

This is enlightening and inspiring - I'm going to put these responses to work immediately. But what's the goal? To try to have the abuser change or just survive while you're working things out? The goal is to take your power and not allow yourself to be intimidated.  I guess my frustration is that this is not a long term solution - That is, to live in a disengaged relationship. My abuser gets angry and more distant when I disengage. I know being defensive isn't going to help him or me either though. Yes. Hopefully, as you become stronger and less willing to put up with the lack of partnership, your abuser will become threatened - and seriously begin work on his or her recovery.

Let me try again to articulate my frustration. (Thanks for your patience!) Are you suggesting that disengaging is a solution for the relationship or just a stop-gap protection measure? I'm assuming it's not a solution - so I'm wondering what else I can do. Excellent question. Its a solution for victimhood. It may or may not affect your abuser in a way you consider favorable. Specifically, disengaging will help rescue your self-esteem. It will help take you out of victim role. As you take your personal power, your abuser will either get serious about recovery, or you may choose to leave your relationship.

I guess that's it - I want to make him stop abusing me, and I guess I can't. Right. You can't make him stop abusing you, but you don't have to accept his abuse. I'm frustrated with his abuse, denial and justification of it and his severe stubbornness about changing even with the help of a tough, insightful counselor. You are the one with the power over your abuser, not your counselor. I'm mad that my 1 1/2 year old has that for a father and maybe more scared that we may need to separate. Fear is a prison...        Good luck, Dr. Irene

Help!

B1: Submit
Date: Wednesday, March 08, 2000

S1

Am posting a second time. The first didn't seem to go through. What about body language? Suppose an abuser reacts to a victim's conversation by rolling the eyes or shaking the head as if the victim was pitiful. What is the best way to react to this? By not buying into the thinking of the abuser - because you know you are not pitiful and because you know the abuser is acting like a 2 year old. With the right frame of mind, you can ignore the misbehavior (since you really don't care) or you can call the abuser on it (e.g., "You are acting out again. It's very unattractive." Or, "Please knock it off. Act your age."). Dr. Irene

B1: Submit
Date: Wednesday, March 08, 2000

S1

You are never nice to me! "Ditto."

B1: Submit
Date: Wednesday, March 08, 2000

S1

OK, you go read. OK (and go do what you want.)

B1: Submit
Date: Wednesday, March 08, 2000

S1

Hello. He can't let go of my past and it's hard for one person to go forward. I am the bad wife. Help PLEASE! I don't understand what you are saying. Please repost and be much clearer.

Date: Wednesday, March 08, 2000

S1

I can't handle the stinging sarcasm...it really hurts. You are not being specific. However, recognize that the sarcasm is about him/her, its not about you!  Do not personalize your partner's sarcasm, which is a reflection of him/her!

B1: Submit
Date: Wednesday, March 08, 2000

S1

What a fantastic idea for an article. If I knew the answers, I wouldn't be in this type of relationship. I liked the question about whether or not this is a stop-gap response to get you through...it doesn't sound to me, either, like a long-term solution. These would be great responses for getting through abusive situations in life that we all encounter, like from doctors, teachers, bosses, etc., but what about when he's your husband?

What is a good way to respond to dismissive, contemptuous body language from my husband (hands making that yapping mouth motion when I'm talking, mimicking a wife who never shuts up, and shaking his head while saying, "You're repeating yourself, AGAIN! I'm NOT going to listen to you!" 

I assure you, I was speaking normally, not going on and on. But yeah, I did feel that I wasn't being listened to, so I did try to rephrase (ONE TIME), to "clarify." I now know that isn't effective, but what is?

Recognize that he has no intention of hearing you, so don't bother trying to be heard. 

Thank you!

B1: Submit
Date: Wednesday, March 08, 2000

S1

My husband's all time favorites that make my skin crawl:

"Your biggest problem is, is that you can't say you are sorry!" (Mind you he wants me to apologize for things he makes up in his mind - like when he doesn't talk to me - and then I get on the phone and he demands my attention, stating that I have time for everyone else but him. It is so absurd yet he insults me and wants me to apologize for it!) You say, "Yes, I cannot say I am sorry." And leave it at that. Do not explain that you cannot say you are sorry when you have nothing to apologize about!

"You want me to change my behavior? What are you going to do about the stuff you do wrong?" "Forgive me for having asked you to make changes. You do not need to change your behavior at all. Nor do I need to change mine. However, if you want cleaner closets, feel free to make them as clean as you wish." (He thinks it is a trade-off for him to stop his abusive behavior and compulsions, that I should change nonsense things that bother him like cleaner closets or some ridiculous pet peeves) I HATE when he says that to me. It makes me feel like there is NO HOPE! 

 

B1: Submit
Date: Wednesday, March 08, 2000

S1

I wish I could talk to you!

I only get half the message out and you decide what I am doing which is wrong. If I could get you to listen then you would hear all the things I want to do for you. "Apparently I'm not a good listener."

How can I compete with you for housework? "Perhaps you can't."

Every time I try to talk about money you start something. "Then it seems we can't talk about money."

Your meaning making is why I will end this relationship! (I say to him why are you angry? He is red faced and screaming and he tells me I am wrong to say he is angry! I don't know what he is. So then I ask are you angry? He blows up and leaves.) Why do you need to state the obvious? Either leave it alone or say, "Stop screaming." If he says "I'm not screaming," just walk away. You won't get anywhere.

I tired of listening to you complain about me and what I do. "I hear you." (Are you complaining? Save your breath if you are. It won't work and just makes you look bad.)

I think that you are a control freak! (This is new this week) "OK." (You probably are.)

I have the thinking of a child that if I only hope enough you would change. Huh?

I ask you what you want and I don't know what you want. Huh? If these are not phrased as statements, they make no sense to the reader, who has no context.

I listen to you tell me how I won't support you. Ditto.

I modify my behavior to obtain approval from others. I have tried to get approval from you by doing what you ask. (He excuses his behavior and puts me under the microscope. I asked him for one example of his approval seeking behaviors he just ignored me). Don't go there. Stop asking for things that he has shown you he will not give. Stop trying to get blood from a rock.

I have listened to your criticisms of me. I have given up the hope that I might be able to do something to get you to stop the criticism. You can't get anybody to stop or start doing anything. What I get from some of your statements is that you trying to get him to change his behavior. This won't work. Change your own expectations and behavior instead.

 

B1: Submit
Date: Thursday, March 09, 2000

S1

Sorry I wasn't more clear. These are comments that I (male) have endured for 20 years from my wife.

"DO YOU HAVE TO LOOK AT EVERY GIRL THAT WALKS BY?"  "Yes."

 "HOW MANY TIMES ARE YOU GOING TO LOOK AT HER?" "As many as I want."

"CAN'T YOU CONTROL YOURSELF?"  "Apparently not."

"YOU'RE JUST PRETENDING NOT TO LOOK!!"  "Yep."

"WHAT'S THE MATTER? DOES SHE MAKE YOU THAT NERVOUS?"  "I guess she must."

"YOU CAN SPOT THEM A MILE AWAY. " "I sure can."

"THERE ARE REALLY SOME GREAT BODIES IN HERE, AREN'T THEY?" "Yes!"

"BOY, SHE HAS BIG BOOBS! WHAT DO YOU THINK?" "I think she has big boobs." (If that's what you think.)

"YOU DON'T HAVE TO PRETEND NOT TO LOOK, I KNOW YOU ARE." "OK."

"WHY DON'T YOU JUST PULL IT OUT AND F*** HER?" "Dear, don't be so coarse."

 I don't dare look at anyone but get accused all the time. At times I thought I was going crazy and actually looking and then suppressing any memory of what I saw. Look all you want or as little as you want. The main thing is that you stop being intimidated by your wife and stop trying to protect her insecurities. You see this strategy does not work.

Notice the above replies make no effort to bow to your wife's intimidation or insecurities. The underlying mindset is: "I have the right to will look at women I find attractive. I will look all I want or don't want, and you have to deal with it. The subject is closed and there is no discussion." Allow no discussion!   

Note:  While this position of personal responsibility assumes that you have the right to look when you want and all you want, it also assumes that you choose  not to hurt her by looking when you are together.             Dr. Irene

 

B1: Submit
Date: Thursday, March 09, 2000

S1

Dr. Irene,

I'm new to this site and feel as if I've found the pot of gold at the end of such a long, scary rainbow. I have so many questions but will start with one. My husband of 23 years is a very volatile verbal abuser who usually directs his barrages at me, but also includes my 3 children occasionally, especially our 20 year old daughter. She and I are both strong, assertive types who don't accept his demands and strong arm control tactics, which, of course, further enrages him. My boys are 17 and 14. All three are my best friends--all very socially adept and empathetic. I have been sharing my new wisdom about verbal abuse with them to educate them about why their Dad acts like he does and to help give them the tools to deal with him. In so doing, I fear I'm jeopardizing their future relationship with their father. Am I doing the right thing? My husband has become an outsider in his own family. It's so sad, even though he put himself there. My children and I also try to find humor in some of the absurd verbal assaults we're subjected to. Some of the things he says are so awful or off-the-wall it's almost funny. (To my sons and I, "Come on! Let's go! I can take all three of you on!") None of us ever laugh to his face. God, no!! Anyway, I feel like the most important thing I can do is protect them from him and from their own possible futures by educating them. I don't want my boys to follow in their father's footsteps. Because they are "on to him", he has accused me of "brainwashing" them. Instinctively, I feel like I'm doing the right thing, but would like your insight. Thanks, Debi

Dear Debi, This is a good question, but this is not the forum for this more complicated answer. Try email advice. Sorry, Dr. Irene

B1: Submit
Date: Thursday, March 09, 2000

S1

These are the things I can recall being said to me. Sometimes I could take it; a lot of times I couldn't handle it and I lost control of my emotions and myself. I was constantly reminded of when I lost control and never felt forgiven. Why are you looking for forgiveness? Forgive yourself and learn from your past mistakes. I never made mention of these:

"You will probably burn my things or cut my d**k off" "Sorry you feel that way." 

"You're crazy" "Totally crazy."

"You will stand over me with a knife" "Gee, I hope not!"

"I can get it from other woman if you won't do it" "Then do so." (And be prepared if he does; Ask yourself: Is he a loss of any kind?)

"I love you but I'm not in love with you" "I understand."

"You will come to my house at 3 in the morning to start shit" "No, 4 am..."

"You will trash my place" "Gee, sounds like you better not let me in again!"

"If you ever want to see me again, you will do what I want you to do" "Bye."

"I'll call the police on you and change the locks" "No problem. Bye"

"You will never find any one like me and the next m*&^&%er will beat your ass" "So be it."

"I wouldn't leave things because I knew I had to make a quick dash" "That is sad."

"I don't trust you" "I know."

"I'm afraid of you" "I am sorry."

"It's all your fault" "That's your perception."

"You f*&%^d this up" "That's your perception."  "I hate you" "Ouch!" "You're a bitch" "Bye"

"You're trying to be the victim"; "You want to act like a man, I'll treat you like one"; "Now you want to show out"; "I'll get somebody to come down and beat you ass on your job"; "I'll f*^k one of your friends"; "I might as well stick my d%&k in a light socket because you're not giving me any p^%$y"; "I'll get a retraining order against you" "I thank the Lord that you can't come to my house anymore"; "You're stalking me"; "I can say whatever I want"; "You think you got permission to do whatever you want"; "Tell it to the next m&^%$%^er"; "I can cut you off like you're nothing" "I told everyone so that I'll have a witness" "You don't know what you are talking about, you're crazy" "Get the f&%k out" "Don't ever come here again" "Do me a favor and stay home" "Go to hell" "You embarrass me in front of everyone" "I don't care" "If you don't like it, leave" "Get out of my life"

I stopped answering these because this person has gone too far. You don't need this in your life. Do yourself a favor and - RUN! Take a look at When Words Won't Work.

B1: Submit
Date: Thursday, March 09, 2000

S1

If you don't like it, hit the door do something about it. (Just take the good advice. Do something: leave!)

.. don't tell me what to do, say. "OK."  (And don't tell him what to do, say.)

.. get a divorce - you want every guy you see. "I'm sorry you feel like that." 

You &x*%# get in your new car and hit the road (Leave immediately and don't come back.)

Yak yak yak don't you ever shut up? (this is after I ask him to talk it out...) (Don't talk about it; it won't get you anywhere.)

Whaaaaaa damn cry baby (when I cry) (Don't give him the satisfaction of crying in front of him.)

Uses the f word and says G Damn because he knows I hate it. He's trying to push your buttons and is succeeding. (Let it go and recognize that his cursing is his problem.)

I was just joking (after making fun of me or belittling me to our grown children). "You need to respect that I have NO sense of humor."

I'm a grown man and I will drink a beer when I want. (He drinks after work at his office - he's the boss.) Then he drives home and is always sorry later! (This is none of your business. Let him deal with it.)

B1: Submit
Date: Thursday, March 09, 2000

S1

"You misinterpret everything I do so I look bad and you look like a #@#% martyr! Why don't you tell people what you did and that is why I got mad and lost my temper." "It's OK to get mad with me - I know I'm far from perfect. But you need to learn to control your temper regardless of what I do."

B1: Submit
Date: Thursday, March 09, 2000

S1

"You're missing the point!"

What do I say back? "Apparently I am." 

B1: Submit
Date: Friday, March 10, 2000

S1

Here's a few of my toughest to hear and respond to:

I'm the vice president of a company, you're nothing! Walk away.

Loudly, at a soccer game, after my daughter told him to shut up on the sidelines, "I hope she breaks her fucking neck!" Walk away and stay away.

Leaving on a business trip, "I'm just going to go get laid." Why are you with this person?

I had pneumonia and couldn't attend a company Christmas party--while driving home from the doctor's office, "Maybe I should just drop you off at the cemetery on the way home." Start thinking about packing your bags.

"You're a smart woman. Why don't YOU leave!" Why don't you? You're really not being given many choices you know.

"The only reason you haven't sought a divorce is because you think it would make you look bad." File immediately.

To both sons, as young as 10 years old, "We're going to come to blows one of these days." This is another one of those cases where the verbal abuse has gone too far. You need to back away. Far away. Take a look at When Words Won't Work.

B1: Submit
Date: Friday, March 10, 2000

S1

"What do you mean, you're tired, I'm tired, I work and worry all the time, you don't do anything and you're tired" (I work too, at my own business and in my husband's office which is his own business, as well as take care of our 3 children exclusively because he works all the time, and I do volunteer work because I love it and interacting with great people). "When I say I am tired, that is exactly what I mean."

What do you mean you didn't pay the bills yet this month (starts after they aren't done by the 1st of the month) you are ruining MY credit (I took over the bills because he didn't have time, the newspapers were always stopped and the cable TV shut off, and nothing was ever filed and couldn't be found if there was a problem. I do file everything nicely and take care of it all, although he's always yelling about it. Every single month he yells and says he can't depend on me. Hand him back the billing responsibilities.

I can't depend on you for anything. (Truth be told, I do plenty for him every day and do what I say. I can't depend on him. He rarely does what he says he's going to do.) Stop doing for him; don't do anything unless appreciation is shown.

B1: Submit
Date: Friday, March 10, 2000

S1

Whenever I try to talk about anything regarding my spouse that bothers me (could be a particular behavior or a decision he's unilaterally made or the way he treats me, for example) he gets angry with me, tells me either "I don't want to hear it!" or says "You're never happy, you're a pain in the a--" I feel totally unimportant when this happens. Back away. What are you doing with a person who thinks you are such a liability?

B1: Submit
Date: Friday, March 10, 2000

S1

Yeah, just walk away like you always do. "OK." And walk away. (No more discussion either.)

B1: Submit
Date: Friday, March 10, 2000

S1

My husband just stormed out of the house. He just found out that he has no health insurance. We applied last summer, but he and I were refused - me because I was pregnant, and he because he was/is overweight. When he was refused, I told him, and we had a discussion about it - so I know for sure that he understood that he had no insurance.

Once the baby was born, I re-applied for the baby and I. Today he found out (long story) that he is uninsured. He got really mad. I said calmly that I had told him about it initially, and that we'd had a discussion about it. He just kept picking at me, saying I'd handled it all wrong, telling me what I should've done, and saying he'd just have to "do it right" himself (I said, "Fine, you do that.") Good. And I kept saying basically that I did my best. Look, you know you did your best. Don't try to convince him. Just tell him "I'm sorry, it didn't work. You'd better handle your applications from now on." And do not apply for him or deal with this stuff again.  He tried to not yell, but was really angry and left in a "funk". That part was not so bad. What I am not looking forward to is the snapping, yelling, and ugly retorts that will probably follow this weekend. 

Tell him to knock it off. Tell him that you are upset too that he is left uninsured, but that you cannot do anything about it. Remind him you are both on the same side. Then tell him to try his luck in applying. I am glad I found this website. I was near tears, and my two best confidants were not at home, leaving me no one to cry to. At least I feel like I did the right thing - now if only I can bring myself out of this depressed and trapped feeling. We have been married for 13+ years, and "together" for almost 19. I just checked a book out at the library that suggested the same thing: don't defend yourself to someone who is living in a different reality. The part of this I hate the most is the thought of spending the rest of my life with someone who I feel is crazy and makes me feel so awful. It seems as though he hates me. Thanks for listening. Well, maybe you don't have to...  Good luck. Dr. Irene

B1: Submit
Date: Friday, March 10, 2000

S1

I guess another concern of mine is closure. I can't afford a therapist. If this advise about ignoring, just saying OK, etc. is correct, then how does one get past the fact that it is unlikely that you will ever be able to discuss things that have hurt you? I have so many old wounds!! I am a person that likes to have a good talk, then apologize, hug, etc., but do verbal abusers often get to this point? When I try to bring things up, he just gets mad so there is no point in even trying to discuss stuff. If I consistently use these techniques, might we ever have a "normal" relationship? The only emotion he seems to feel is anger!!!

You can't get someone to feel things he or she does not feel. Your hurt is however inside of you. Because it is yours, you can do something about it. Start by joining a support group, live and / or email, read some codependency books, and try to prioritize your spending. If you need therapy, find a way to get it! Look around for low cost clinic services or sliding fee scales. Good luck.

B1: Submit
Date: Friday, March 10, 2000

S1

You're worthless. You aren't ever going to be good for anything. You're a waste of time. "Sorry you feel that way." Then back off and don't come forward again until he or she approaches you. Let him or her know that you will not tolerate this type of character assassination. Suggest joint counseling if your partner can't do it alone.

B1: Submit
Date: Friday, March 10, 2000

S1

These are some of my guy's nasty phrases:

"There you go, getting mad again". (said with a smirk)

"F%^k off!"

Say nothing. Back off and wait until you are approached. Then do as advised above.

B1: Submit
Date: Friday, March 10, 2000

S1

What happens when your abuser calls you names? How do you deal with that? I think after awhile you tune it out (like I have), but once in awhile that name calling gets through, then what do you do? Tell him or her that you do not like it and to stop. Say this when you are both calm, not when you are being name called. Again, as above.

B1: Submit
Date: Saturday, March 11, 2000

S1

"You should have known what I meant!" No, I take you at your word. "If I could mind read, I would - since about the last thing I want to do is frustrate you. But, since I can't, you'll have to let me know what you mean."

B1: Submit
Date: Sunday, March 12, 2000

S1

HE TALKS ABUSIVELY....I TELL HIM "DON'T TALK TO ME LIKE THAT " ...HE SAYS "DON'T TELL ME WHAT TO DO" Back off. You have few sane choices.

B1: Submit
Date: Sunday, March 12, 2000

S1

HE TALKS ABUSIVELY....I TELL HIM "DON'T TALK TO ME LIKE THAT " ...HE SAYS "DON'T TELL ME WHAT TO DO" THEN HE WON'T TALK TO ME FOR WEEKS (TOTALLY IGNORES ME ). What are you doing there if you have a partner who totally ignores you??? 

B1: Submit
Date: Sunday, March 12, 2000

S1

I am getting much better at not engaging. However, I find it really hard not to engage when he raises his fists up to the dogs (doesn't hit them, just overbearing). He does this in front of me for a reaction. Don't give it to him! Control yourself! And I react! Stop.

Another thing is sex. I have refused to have sex for the last month as I said I have issues to deal with and preferred not to have sex simply out of obligation. OK. I have stood my ground and tried not to enter into any discussions on it...it is his problem. However, the last couple of days the pressure is back on. He is making a big effort (you can tell he thinks this) yet I still feel lousy inside. What do I say (if anything) to this? Say what you feel. If you don't feel that you want to be intimate, tell him. If he complains, ask about counseling.

Lastly, he is constantly saying I never want to discuss money (not true...he just chooses lousy times) and that all I want to do is run away from my problems. (I prefer to think of it as getting some space on my own...you know, going for a walk, reading a book etc.) This confusion makes me feel depressed and lethargic. Make an appointment ahead of time to talk about money. And keep it. If it gets broken, do not be the one who broke it.

B1: Submit
Date: Monday, March 13, 2000

S1

My husband could go on ( literally ) for hours and hours... sometimes even I am amazed at what he manages to come up with that are wrong with me. He goes at it from every angle. He particularly does this in the car( captive audience ) with the children present. It sickens me to think how this is going to affect them in their adult life ... that is what hurts me the most in all of this. I try to keep my words to a minimum ( you are right about every thing I say can and will be used against me ! ) The thing he often asks me is when am I going to start doing things the right way ( which is his way ) What a question! Who does EVERYTHING right in life? "Maybe never..."

B1: Submit
Date: Monday, March 13, 2000

S1

Oh, like YOU never yell at the kids, right? "We are discussing YOUR behavior, not mine."

Ok then, YOU deal with all the discipline from now on--I won't say a word. "OK."  Do it and hold him or her to it.

(Both of these are during a confrontation over husband screaming at the children)

B1: Submit
Date: Monday, March 13, 2000

S1

The interaction we do over and over is the "why game." I still can't figure out how to respond to it. For example, why did you leave that light on? why did you put the trash out there now? He doesn't really want to know why-he wants to make me feel bad for doing such a "nonsensical" thing. The answer is "Because." Become a broken record. "Because." "But why," says he. "Because." Give no other answer - he's not interested in understanding anyway...

B1: Submit
Date: Monday, March 13, 2000

S1

My mother is verbally abusive (my therapist said, and my father and I definitely agree), and many of these things I'm reading here ring true in our relationship. The problem however, was I didn't know what to do about it. Luckily my parents are going through a divorce, so I live with my father, but I am still supposed to visit my mother and my 11 year old brother who lives with her. My mother went to a therapist for a while, but when her therapist finally began to realize she was manipulative, she quit her sessions. Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for the suggestions on how to deal with abusive people! Sincerely Elizabeth Wolven Scottsadork123@aol.com You're welcome Elizabeth.

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Date: Monday, March 13, 2000

S1

"You are so stupid and I don't want to be with stupid people."....."Well you're entitled to your opinion......but I have an opinion of my own and I do not think or feel that I am stupid" Think: boy like you are a judge on peoples IQ'S eh? How about, "So, what are you doing here?" Think: I need this?

B1: Submit
Date: Monday, March 13, 2000

S1

You are so stupid and I don't want to be with stupid people......Ok (think: then leave). Well???

B1: Submit
Date: Monday, March 13, 2000

S1

'Are you having an affair? Are you sure there is no-one else?' (This is when I am happy ---- "glowing" he calls it --- at these times I am feeling "responsible") You are always (fill in the blank) and you never want to discuss anything (when I don't want to get "engaged"). "I'm having an affair with myself!" You're not married...what are you doing with this person?

B1: Submit
Date: Monday, March 13, 2000

S1

My husband gets very upset over every little thing that goes wrong and then gets angry at me if I don't react like he does. This morning... he opened an insurance statement that showed our insurance was canceled on the 6th because it was short $26.80. I said I don't know how it could have been short when on the first of every month I pay all the bills and the insurance. I usually pay a little more then the bill is for to make it an even number. And then, the last month of the policy is just a small payment, or the credit carries over to the next 6 month policy. He says, "You always have an excuse!" He starts to rant: "Oh my gosh, we have no insurance on any of our vehicles" Ahhhhhh! I read it and said, "Well I don't understand how that happened but I will just go in today and pay the $26.80 and it will be reinstated and taken care of. 

He gets mad at me because I am not freaking out like him and therefore I just don't care about how serious this is. And if you freaked out, he'd find something else to complain about. He then says any other husband and wife in this same situation, the husband would react like him. Its so serious!!!! "Well, I think you should take over paying the insurance then. This way, there won't be any more mistakes. In fact, you can straighten out the $26.80 too since only you will be able to get it right."

I have plenty of time to read my books (I read self help and growth books; I am a recovering codependent) but not go and pay a lousy $26.80 to keep our vehicles insured. Why are you taking this seriously? Don't you know he just needs something to complain about? Recognize this is about him, not you!  I say listen its not that I don't care, its that what will flipping out now do to rectify the situation? Any sane person already knows that; why bother explaining yourself? All I can do at this point is go in the office today and pay it and get it taken care of. Carrying on being an a** isn't going to make things better! 

Okay, yes I know I shouldn't have said that!!! I am just so tired of his excuses to blow up at me. He blows up at me and then always has the excuse of it was either something I said or did or he is under stress from something else and he is human and there is ups and downs in all marriages. Whenever he gets angry he makes snide insinuations and accusations of what I am 'really' up to. If you are not 'really' up to anything do you just say nothing? No matter what you say, you won't win.

My husband is an abusive alcoholic. Two years ago he got help and stayed sober for 10 months. But he was a dry drunk. The reason he got help was because I was talking to a male friend about the problems I was having with my husband, and our feelings grew for one another. We did not act on them. We kept our talks to the phone and email. My husband doesn't believe there was not an affair, and he is still giving me grief for it all the time. Any time I am on my computer he says, "What are you 'really' doing on there? You are living your life right huh?" He has insisted I get rid of my computer but I refused! Good! He tells me how lucky I am that he decided not to just destroy it. Any time I fall behind in housework he accuses me of having someone else. I cant say okay to that, its not true. if I say I do not have someone else, I am defending myself right? The point is that you've said that many times - and it made no difference. But what are you doing with an abusive active alcoholic anyway? 

During his 10 months of sobriety he was screaming at me daily for several hours over what I was really doing while he was at work and how I am not fooling him... I couldn't stand it, and I turned back to talking to my male friend again. My husband found out, became enraged, wanted to beat me but did not. He controlled himself physically and left. This time. You were lucky. He went back to drinking because sobriety didn't make me a faithful wife. So, it's your fault he's not sober...oh boy... He is no longer physically abusive and he thinks just because he no longer forces him self on me and no longer physically abuses me, that he is working really hard and things are so much better. Apparently you think so too - since you are still there...

He doesn't realize how awful his verbal abuse is. I did show him this site and he did a lot of reading. he did recognize many similar traits, but felt I was the abusive one. I am abusive to him by keeping my computer and using it even though I know how much it hurts him. What do you say to that? That he has no business dictating how you spend your time. If he doesn't like it. This is a boundary issue, and he's crossing into your space. And you are letting him! My behavior of using my computer triggers horrible feelings in him and makes him angry and insecure and he hurls mean accusations at me. You put up with that? Why? Then he gets mad that I don't reassure him and tell him how much I love him and he has nothing to worry about, when he is yelling at me. He's being ridiculous. I spent months doing everything he said would make him feel better even at the expense of myself and it didn't help his insecurity. It won't. He is the only one who can fix his insecurity. I am not comfortable going to him and telling him I love him and he has nothing to worry about when he is ranting at me. Good. I just listen and say I am not doing anything wrong. I am working on myself and healing myself, its up to you to take care of you and deal with your issues of insecurity I cant do it for you. No you can't, but why are you hanging around waiting for more?  Suz

B1: Submit
Date: Tuesday, March 14, 2000

S1

Dr Irene,

You asked: "Why are you taking this seriously? Don't you know he just needs something to complain about? Recognize this is about him, not you!"

Because so many people blame all their problems on everyone else - especially their spouses and I don't want to do that - I want to be responsible for myself. My husband and I are trying to make our marriage work and hold our family together. So I try to listen to his complaints to see what I need to change. It gets hard because I get confused when I am listening to him. I see that. You give him the benefit of the doubt repeatedly. Do you give it to yourself? ?  Well I think I do.

I hate to assume everything he says is irrational because occasionally he is right. Like when he kept telling me I was suffering from depression. I thought he was just trying to pull another manipulative move at blaming me for all our problems and not facing himself when I felt he was the source of my unhappiness he was screaming at me daily and I couldn't stand it. it did turn out I was suffering from depression and am now being treated for it.

"Any sane person already knows that; why bother explaining yourself?" I don't know! I feel if I don't explain myself then its like admitting he is right, and he is not. 

"But what are you doing with an abusive active alcoholic anyway?"

A year ago I finally got him to move out. I couldn't handle his emotional and verbal abuse, to me it was more difficult to handle then when he was physically abusive. Because it was more like now where there were ups and downs. but during that 10 months of sobriety he was very very verbally abusive every day there were no ups. he could yell at me for hours we had fights that lasted 12 hours. I didn't know about not engaging and the broken record technique, I felt like I was being brainwashed and felt so confused. His anger was my fault for having feelings for another man. I wanted out but was afraid of tearing my family apart. Since then I have learned a lot about staying together for the sake of the kids (not a good idea in a unhealthy relationship), the article here "Divorce: protecting the children" made a huge impact on me. We went to marriage counseling and he stopped his marathon yelling. 

He made a lot of positive changes as a result of marriage counseling, but I was still not happy with him. I was having a hard time letting go of the past it was haunting me daily. He was moved out for a week. I wish I would have known about this site at that time!!! During that week the children cried about how I was tearing our family apart. My oldest then 7 yo daughter was threatening suicide if we divorced. I told my husband he could come home and we could live under the same roof for the children to have both parents while we worked on ourselves and see if we can work things out- but there would be no fighting. The agreement was we would leave each other be to work on ourselves. Things went great for about a month. Then he found out that previous to our separation I was talking to my male friend, but I had stopped right before we separated.

I knew I needed time to myself to think with no outside influences. This I wrote about in my above post. We decided to still go ahead working on our selves and see what happens. I felt like I was getting much better. He was still suffering from his insecurities and trying to keep it to himself. We read the book "The Five Love Languages" by Dr Chapman. It was a very enlightening book. So we decided to try to fulfill each others' needs. The problem was my needs were only to just not abuse me and his needs were a mile long and never ending, he felt everything he wanted was his needs. This is one reason why ordinary marital solutions are inappropriate in abuse situations. You are not playing on even battlefields. .  Yes,  I am figuring that out. Are there appropriate solutions for an abuse situation, really? Or is it just that the only option is to leave because if you stay you are enabling? You behave and make reasonable requests and finally you put your foot down. Staying is less about enabling than about hurting yourself. 

There was just not enough I could do for him. he "needed" sex several times a day, to feel loved and secure. I couldn't stand to have sex with him because I wasn't over the sexual abuse of the past, but I did as an attempt to fulfill his needs and make him feel secure and loved so he would stop being such a jerk. But it didn't work! I got worse and he just became more demanding. Right. You don't have the power to make him feel loved - or secure - or anything else! He believes I do have that power - he told me once I was the "dictator of his happiness." I tried to explain to him I am not responsible for his happiness and  I am not responsible for how he feels. He said, "Well, if I walked over there and slapped you upside the head, you wouldn't be very happy and it would be because I did that - don't tell me others' actions are not responsible for your feelings." It really doesn't matter if he believes you are responsible for his feelings or not. The simple reality is that you can't do it, try as you might! By the way, you might have said something like, "But, if I was masochistic, I'd love it! How I feel about another's actions is subject to my interpretation of those actions."

I realized I was being controlling. Finally I got fed up and said I am no longer trying to fulfill your needs because there is never enough for you. I am going to take care of me. So now what I noticed that he does try to manipulate me is with guilt trips when ever I don't let him cross my boundaries. 

To him I am being cold and uncaring. That is how he sees it, distorted as his perception is. This is what's so sad - I know he truly believes the things he says. Sometimes I can get through to him, but I go through a lot to teach him something. When I told him to just leave; its all hopeless; I cant get over the past, he pointed out how far he had come and I see he is improving - but I am the one paying for his lessons - and I just cant take it anymore. Yes. I do feel like its still that way, and sometimes I think, well if I give up now its like all I went through for so long is wasted - like climbing a mountain and getting almost to the top and giving up because you are just too tired. But then I also think, well what if that climb in the end just didn't turn out to be worth it: you get to the top and lay down and die from exhaustion!  You are wonderful at analogies!

To me he is being unloving to expects me to do things that I don't feel good about - just because it would make him feel loved. Right. It is not OK to sell yourself out and do things that hurt you just because your partner would feel good. What about YOU feeling good? Why would any sane person want their partner to sacrifice themselves? To him the more you are willing to sacrifice for someone, the more that shows how much you love them. He feels he shows his love for our family by working an awful job he hates because it pays good money and takes good care of our family.  He has always been the this or me that or me type and of course I would have to say, "Well of course you are more important then this or that," but I have stopped giving things up for him because its the principal that he shouldn't ask me to give anything up like my computer.  Right.  

I am trying to learn to not be a victim and not have codependent behaviors. I don't feel like I know what to do about his drinking. Being there is nothing "I" can do. It needs to be his decision. So where does that leave me now? If I say anything at all about his drinking aren't I being controlling or codependent? Yes - unless his drinking directly impacts on you and the quality of your life or your children's' life.   I feel it does impact on the quality of our lives. He turns around onto me about the things I am doing that impacts the quality of our life. Like when I fall behind in housework that affects the quality of our life. I'm not surprised. These people are expert arguers. I would benignly smile and tell him you're looking for a good HA group (Housework Anonymous).

I had set the boundary that there would be no drinking in our house and I would not be around him when he is drinking. So if we go out with friends then he will not drink if I am there. Every night after the children go to bed, he sits outside in his car and gets drunk, then comes in and goes to bed. He doesn't bother me. So how can I complain? I really don't like that he is drunk every night. But whether he drinks or not is his decision to make not mine. That my husband spends time in his car getting drunk would have an impact on me (Where is my partner?). But I am me and you are you. Ever go to ALANON? Alanon has been very helpful in teaching me forgiveness and in detachment. Its helped me to go on living this way in away. Good!

The abusive part is confusing to me. Yes, I feel he is emotionally abusive but I don't know if I am just too sensitive. I never thought of my self as a very sensitive person. I can't imagine anybody not complaining about the types of things you put up with! ! THANK YOU!!!!! I don't know what a healthy relationship is like. I met my H when I was 16. 2 years ago when he went to rehab we found out he was already an alcoholic when I met him. I didn't know. To me all 18 yos drank and partied. My mother is in an alcoholic and my parents were divorced when I was 2. I believe my step father was an alcoholic as well. My husband's father was an abusive alcoholic and his parents divorced when he was 2; his mother never remarried. So now I find myself constantly wondering if the ups and downs that we are experiencing now are "normal" or not. I think the ups and downs are well beyond "normal", though you are in good company. Have you read Beattie's Codependent No More: How To Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself. ? ? THANK YOU!!!! Yes, I have read Codependent no more and Beyond Codependency. I thought they were great, but I guess I need to read them again!!! Yes. And get a copy of Pia Melody's Facing Codependence : What It Is, Where It Comes From, How It Sabotages Our Lives .

Regarding where he wanted to beat me but did not you said: "This time. You were lucky."

I constantly wonder if I need to worry just because there was physical abuse in the past. He feels he will never go back to being the monster he once was, and I believe he truly means it. I believe he means it too...but does he have the requisite self control? Once the line has been crossed... When he found out just how bad things used to be, he wanted to commit suicide because he couldn't believe what a horrible person he was. How manipulative of him! I agree! Many times he lost control during rage and choked me until I started to pass out. He threw me around and into walls and to the floor but didn't "beat" me so he never thought of himself as abusive and still doesn't think it was as serious as what most people consider physical abuse. How convenient of him to think this way. This was serious. This was clearly physical abuse, don't kid yourself. He did punch my legs when he was forcing himself on me and I was trying to get away from him but that's the extent of "hitting" me. 

Now I just wonder if its possible to truly change. Now he does control himself much better when he feels rage. The most physical he has gotten now is not letting me leave when I try to get away when he is angry and yelling at me. When he blocks your way, it is serious. A couple months ago I was trying to leave and he squeezed my hand until I dropped my keys and he locked me in my bedroom and stood in front of the door. Then he started to smoke, breaking the boundary rule of no smoking in the house. I took the cigarette and said do not smoke in the house. He then in a very threatening voice, while posturing, said if you don't want me to lay hands on you don't lay hands on me. Then he left. 

The other incident that concerned me was about a month ago. He was yelling at our oldest daughter; she is 8 yo. I told him to stop yelling at her, that it was abusive and I would not tolerate it. So he sent her to her room. I heard him upstairs yelling and cussing at her, so I ran up to her room and told him to leave her alone now. He then started yelling at me about how she needs to be disciplined for what she did (she made a big mess in the family room spilling juice and cereal when there is no eating allowed in there, and she left it - didn't bother to clean it up.) I told him discipline is one thing; verbally abusing her is another. Yes. Leave her room now. He then pushed me at her and said, "Lets see how you handle it then."  We stepped out in to the hall and he was yelling and cussing at me. I said, "If you do not calm down and stop this yelling right now, I am going to ask you to move out of this house today." He then stepped towards her room. I was standing in her doorway because I didn't want him to go back in. He said, "Excuse me, get out of the way." I said, "No, I am not going to let you go back in there." He then pushed me out of the way and closed her door. I said, "You do not push me!" He said he didn't; that he moved me because he said "Excuse me" and I didn't move. I said you pushed me and I won't tolerate that behavior. 

The next day he explained he was at the boiling point over her behavior. I said well we need to figure out how to get through to her, but what you are doing is not right. You are behaving the way your parents treated you, and look at the problems you have now. We need to learn a better way. Yes. He doesn't feel I know what I am talking about as far as raising children because I was basically left to raise myself, and he thinks its just a fluke that I didn't end up messed up as far as kids that get into drugs etc. When I learned about the family of origin stuff I could see it was obvious I was the "hero child" and the "lost child" - so I don't think its such a fluke and obviously since I am married to an abusive alcoholic and am working hard to unlearn these codependent behaviors. Yes.  I wont say I turned out great, I just didn't take the path that's so obviously wrong like my sister did - who is a recovering alcoholic and drug addict. Good for you!

"He is no longer physically abusive and he thinks just because he no longer forces him self on me and no longer physically abuses me, that he is working really hard and things are so much better." ~ Apparently you think so too - since you are still there...

Yes you are right. I do think things are much better now. And since I can look back and see progress, I feel like I am still trying to work on things and move forward. But I also worry that this is as good as its going to get and that's not good enough. I don't know how you know when its time to quit trying and just get out.

"My behavior of using my computer triggers horrible feelings in him and makes him angry and insecure and he hurls mean accusations at me." ~ You put up with that? Why?

I am not sure. I think because I do feel like he does have the right to be upset with me, I did screw up, I was unfaithful in my heart. I have since dealt with what I thought my feelings were for my friend. My husband says I completely turned his world upside down with what I did. My male friend was my husband's best friend since they were small children. That was the reason why I was so comfortable talking to him about the problems I was having with my husband. I thought if anyone could get through to him he could. So I understand my husband's anger. He hasn't dealt with it and doesn't know how to let it go. My counselor said every one takes different amounts of time to heal. My husband says I have no right to tell him he doesn't have the right to hurt. Yes. I tell him I am not saying you don't have the right to hurt - its how you treat me with your hurt. Yes! 

I have forgiven myself and understand what happened with my feelings, and realize many people during very difficult times will think they are falling for someone else who is there for them. I realize now my feelings for my friend are just that of a very close friend. I don't feel right having to let him go as a friend because of my husband's insecurities. But then, how many spouses could be forgiving or understanding in that situation and let you to continue to be friends? I think your husband lost the right to tell you what you do a long time ago. But if we are trying to make our marriage work, don't we still need to respect one another's wishes? When you love someone, you respect their wishes, whether or not you agree with them. He feels I lost the right to expect trust etc...because of what I did. I hear about it a lot, and he insists I had an affair. The only compromise I will make is to say - technically - it could have been considered an emotional affair. If you and your husband want a marriage, you have to both leave the past where it belongs, in yesterday. 

To me the feelings were nothing we could control. But the actions were. And I feel we did not act on them, but we did lie about secretly talking.

What do I do to not put up with it? When he is spewing accusations I just say I am not doing anything wrong and I don't argue with him. He gets very angry when he can't engage me. He gets angry when I walk away too. But I do anyway. After a while it builds up and he blows up because he feels like I am not working things out when I refuse to "discuss" issues and I walk away.

"No you can't, but why are you hanging around waiting for more?"

I am trying to work things out but I don't know how long I wait. I make up my mind to leave and I feel better. Then we have some great days, and he is capable of being the most caring sensitive loving person you have ever met in your life. When he is angry he always has an excuse that he was angry and he is human and everyone gets angry, no one can be perfect all the time. Then I wonder if I am expecting too much or I have a false idea of what love and marriage is supposed to be. 

I am afraid of leaving to find things are no better and are actually worse. I also worry about being able to take care of my 3 little girls on my own. My oldest one has always been very advanced and all her teachers have always commented on what a sweet and wonderful little girl she is. This year is a whole different story. Now she is flunking because she refuses to do her work, doesn't pay attention, day dreams and is defiant. She says it's her teacher. But I know what her teacher is complaining about. I am having the same problems with her at home. She is angry all the time and can't stand her younger sisters. She's modeling after daddy, the "strong" one in her little eyes. This is exactly what I say too! He says she acts just like me! My counselor also felt she was modeling after him. Just yesterday she was talking about how big and strong her daddy is - he punched right through the door! I was very upset that this was something she found impressive because that was a horrible day. I was trying to get away from him, and he broke through my bedroom door - and threw me down and choked me and yelled in my face. The girls were standing in the broken-up door way, crying. Now she looks at that as strong? When she said that yesterday, I told him that really bothers me. She looks at that as a positive memory. He said, "Well, lets try to look at in a positive light, and know that she feels safe having a big strong daddy to keep her protected." Yeah, that's how I felt about him when we were first dating. I was raped just a few weeks before. I'm sorry... He made me feel safe because he was very large and very strong. Nice, until I had to protect myself from him, which I didn't do a very good job of. Ugh.

 

My husband says he noticed this behavior started when we were talking of getting a divorce and that she just never recovered from that. I get very worried about what if its me! What if I am one of those people who blame all their problems on their spouse. What if its not! What if you are one of those codependents who put up with too much garbage because they doubt themselves too much and don't know any better? YES THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT I AM!!!! I have been trying so hard to work on me and really examine myself. Good. That's the only way to get certain. Just don't let your over-responsibility and guilt cloud your view. I think that's what's happening! That's very common with victims.

My husband told me he was going to go back to counseling because he was having a hard time dealing with some issues, but he didn't talk to me much about it. Why not go with him? I feel like I don't want to go back to counseling with him again. Last time it really stirred up a lot for me. I couldn't stand listening to how hurt he was by me, and what I did to him - when I felt it was not all he was making it out to be. I felt his antics were a result or a symptom of his abuse. Yes. Abusive people are expert manipulators and can manipulate counselors who don't understand their number. It wasn't like I was some bored wife who decided to develop feelings for someone else; that was torture. I had a very hard time accepting my feelings. Pain is pain, and you can't measure it; we were both hurting. Yes. To me that was total crap. OK! I felt like we were in wreck and he was the drunk driver that hit me and only got a dent in his bumper - when my whole car was totaled - and we were standing there looking at the wreckage while he was yelling at me over this dent in his bumper - while I am thinking "Are you mad? My whole car is totaled and you want to whine about a dent when you are the one that hit me???"   Ohhhhhh... its so cool when you take your power and trust your feelings! Of course you don't want to go to counseling with him - so you can get manipulated some more. Good for you! By the way, there's another GREAT analogy! (I'm jealous, I'm so bad at them!)

Basically its not being able to trust me and always worried I have someone else. He has always accused me of having someone else and since the situation with my male friend happened. He now feels like he has reason to worry all the time. That's his insecurity. His issue; also, it's no excuse for abuse.  I keep telling him that; I guess I need to keep telling myself that! Yes.

Thank you! what should I do? What do you think my next steps should be?

Right now, I am planning to leave this summer. I have family out-of-state who said I could stay by them. And I am planning on going to school. The neat thing is my cousin is too, so we are hoping to go through it together. I would have some great support there. My husband knows I am working towards my degree, but doesn't know I am planning on leaving this summer. As a matter of fact, I am going this spring to look into everything and get my drivers license for that state.

I think you know exactly what you need to do. 

Thank you again so very much for your time and help!

Suz  Dear Suz, I'm glad you are in counseling. There is a lot wrong, and you don't have a handle on much of it yet - though you are going in the right direction. You still bear too much of the burden, let him step into your boundaries, and don't set enough limits.  You've come a long way, but are not home free yet. Keep on trekking! Best wishes, Dr. Irene

 

B1: Submit
Date: Tuesday, March 14, 2000

S1

On the phone, if I "call him" on some type of inappropriate behaviour, he hangs up on me. I then allow this to frustrate me. Don't let him push your buttons. Most times I just leave it alone, but sometimes I just can't and I call him back. Stop yourself. Go for a fast walk or jog instead! At this point, I'm so frustrated as I'm not being allowed to say what I need to, my voice raises. He says "Don't yell at me! I don't like being yelled at!" and hangs up. Bet ya after your exercise, you'll no longer feel the need to raise your voice. And, if you're real smart, you'll distance - and let him come after you!

Later, he'll reiterate "Don't yell at me, I don't like it when you yell". He's right. You can't be the pot calling the kettle black. You keep venturing too far from the original misbehavior. When you call him on an inappropriate behavior, don't let him pull you away from your focus. Do not allow yourself to be led elsewhere. Like a broken record, keep repeating your call. Do not react to anything else! Right now, you are letting him engage you elsewhere - and deflect the his misbehavior! This is best done when he calls to find out why you haven't called...

B1: Submit
Date: Tuesday, March 14, 2000

S1

I used to absolutely hate when my ex hung up the phone on me. He also never never took a good yelling at when I had gone to the edge of my patience. I guess no one deserves to be yelled at Yes but I would take it and take it and take it I hope you stopped taking it! and then I would just snap.......I was always very good at never having the children in the house when I tore into him. This use to make him really angry when he would scream at me and the children would always get around me to protect me (that was so sad) and then he would say "Dammit Deede, get those kids away from you.......jeez they act like you have never yelled at all" and I used to smile and say "According to them I haven't!!!!" Sorry I read these posts and all of this anger comes flooding out of me........I have never been an angry person and I do not know how to channel all of this new found anger..........you know when you are so angry you want to cry? You are each allowed to feel all the anger you feel. However, you diminish your own self esteem when you act that anger out inappropriately towards another - even though you may not realize how you've hurt yourself. Two wrongs don't make a right. You guys both have some work to do. Get to it! Good luck. Dr. Irene

B1: Submit
Date: Wednesday, March 15, 2000

S1

'What do you want from me?' Stop asking for things that are not forthcoming. 

'What am I suppose to do, put on a ball and chain and come directly home every day?' Stop caring when this person gets home. What difference does it make?

'You don't trust me, you have never trusted me and you never will. You haven't even tried after all the things I have done for you.' My sense is that you need to get a handle on your insecurities. Once you do that, you can say "Trust is earned." 

' I have tried to rebuild your trust, but you still don't trust me.'  Ditto above.

'You are so negative, you criticize everything, you never have anything nice to say.' Hear it. Make an effort to find the positive in things. This may be constructive criticism.

 'What am I suppose to do, give you a second by second run down of my day? If I did that, it would take me all day to tell you and I wouldn't get anything done.' Stop asking. What your partner does all day is your partner's business. It is intrusive of you - and indicative of your insecurities - to keep asking. If your partner is with holding, so be it; you can't change that. You cannot make anyone come forward. You can back off if you don't like it.

'She is a true friend, a nice person, and I will remain friends with her if I want. You cannot dictate who I am friends with.' This is true. All you can do is back off.

'I don't yell at you, I just raise my voice sometimes.' "OK. Please do not raise your voice anymore."

'Everyone else yells at their children too. You don't know because you don't have any children.' "Two wrongs don't make a right. Please don't yell or raise your voice towards any of us."

 'I have been faithful to you since that one and only incident, and you still don't believe me or trust me, no matter what. What do you want me to do about it? Why can't you trust and appreciate me?' "While I realize that my insecurity is inside of me, it is very hard to resolve it when it seems to me that I am always chasing you - in terms of what time you come home; how you talk to me; what you did all day... I also realize that I cannot make you give me what you do not want to give me, so I will back off and do what I must to take care of myself." And back off. Your partner is more likely to come forward once you back off, if he or she is sincere. If the with holding continues, you may want to ask yourself what you're doing in this relationship. Certainly, consider counseling! Dr. Irene

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Date: Thursday, March 16, 2000

S1

Dear Dr Irene,

I have a boundary question I would like to ask you.

I've read the Anne Katherine's book which your site recommended (Boundaries: Where You End and I Begin); it was excellent. I have seen much evidence of how people cross my boundaries recently.

There is one area though I am struggling with, The other night I was out with my H and his family. We all went for a drink in the bar before our meal. Anyway to cut a long story short, I had a glass of wine. Wine makes me go very flushed and it doesn't take too much before I feel tipsy. I kept knocking my glass as I put it down on the table. My H kept saying "Stop banging your glass". "Honey, don't waste your breath. I don't want to knock the glass any more than you want me to knock it. Apparently, I can't help it. Accept it and stop complaining." Then his sister kept getting up from the table, and I had to keep moving. Each time, I knocked the chair behind me, which was very close. My H kept saying "Stop knocking the persons chair behind you". "Dear, again, don't waste your breath. I don't want to knock the chair either, but it happens. Either deal with the fact that I am very good at knocking chairs, or suggest another solution. Perhaps you want to change seats with me?"

I felt like a child but I didn't know how to respond. I didn't want to cause a scene. Things like this happen a lot. Hope these suggestions help. Also, get the Elgin book, You Can't Say That To Me!  

There have been occasions when I'm chewing gum and my H, in company, will say "Stop slopping your chewing gum." Pull him over to the side and ask him to make his requests in private because it is humiliating to be treated like a child in public. Explain that he can make a request, however, his request does not guarantee your compliance. He may just have to deal with the fact that you will behave in ways he may not like.  If he continues to make public reprimands, just smile and calmly reply in public with something like, "Dear, I will be happy to stop slopping my gum once you stop telling me what to do - especially in public." 

I feel very embarrassed, the people around me must think I am like a child. You need to learn to verbally deal with his intrusive statements by calling him on them. The reply above is an example of such. You know the type of stuff that comes up. Practice answers so you have them when you need them.

How could I set my boundaries and stop him berating me in this way? By using good verbal skills. Am I over reacting, is it okay for him to point out things I do? You are not overreacting. It is OK for him to point out something - as long as he does it privately in a way that is not humiliating to you; it is not OK for him to expect compliance. Compliance is up to you.

I do hope you'll reply as I really do want to learn about boundaries, so much. You got it! Good luck.

Thanks so much Theressa

B1: Submit
Date: Thursday, March 16, 2000

S1

Dr Irene,

You say: "You're not wearing that!" and you say we should say "OK," isn't that meaning you are people pleasing by not wearing what you wish to wear? Not at all.  While a straight answer is appropriate for an individual who is not looking for a fight, your partner is.  "OK" is simply one way of not engaging in your partner's fight-seeking behavior. You wear what you want, but you will have to continue not to engage when and if the demands start up. Not engaging is a frame of mind. You can't do it in one situation and not the other. These responses are not meant to "fix" your issues, only to give you some ideas on how you can learn to respond differently. Should you choose to learn these verbal skills, like anything else, it will take time.

Also what if your partner says 1. "Don't bang that glass." or 2. "Don't chew you gum that way." or 3. "Watch how you get out of your chair; you're knocking them behind you." Is this not violating your boundaries! If it is how would one be able to respond? Yes. Ways of non engaging would be 1. ignore it,  2. ignore it or "OK", 3. "I'm sure they'll tell me if they are having a problem dear."

Finally, OK, so we set boundaries, we become assertive, then what? You will be healthier and have more skills to negotiate life with. Will our partner's ever become healthy so we can behave like a healthy couple? Only if they work really, really hard at fixing themselves. These techniques are no panacea. They are among the first of a series of steps you can take to dump victim role and increase your personal power. Your partner has to take their own steps.

Love T.

B1: Submit
Date: Friday, March 17, 2000

S1

The kids spilled dry cereal all over in the family room and didn't pick it up. When my husband discovered it, he got angry with them and yelled at them. He sent the younger two to their rooms and yelled more at the oldest about it, and made her clean it up. Just a little bit ago we sat down in the family room and discovered she had now spilled juice in the family room. They are not supposed to have juice or food outside of the kitchen. She didn't let us know juice had spilled, just put the pet traveler box over the top of it, which they were told not to play with. 

He blew up! Started cussing and yelling at her. I told him to calm down because he didn't appear very in control. He started yelling at her about "What the hell is wrong with you..." then grabbed her put her over his lap and spanked her several times, hard. I said "That's enough already" and he sent her to her room. I was cleaning the carpet with the machine and thought I heard him yelling. I went upstairs and she was cowering on her bed in the corner crying - she looked so scared. He was yelling at her like crazy and cussing her out, waving his arms around and pointing his finger at her. He looked like he was in a rage. I said, "That's enough leave her alone." He yelled at me. I said, "I wont allow you to yell at her and intimidate her and scare the hell out of her; that's not how you discipline." He kept yelling. I said, "If you do not stop yelling and scaring her, I will ask you to move out of this house today." He pushed me in front of her and yelled, "OK, I want to see how you are going to handle it." 

He walked out of her room, yelling at me, and I stood in her door way so he wouldn't walk back in. He stood in the hall yelling and cussing at me that her behavior is not normal It's very normal. and he is going to teach her to not do those things. I said, "Yes and there is a right and a wrong way to handle the situation." I felt he needed to calm down and get control of himself. Yes. He said there is something wrong with me three's a missing link. Our kids should be afraid of pissing us off - so they behave. He said, "When you were a kid and you really wanted to do something you knew was wrong, and you did not do it?" I said, "Yes." He said, "Why didn't you do it? Because you didn't want your parents to explode." I said, "No, because I knew it was wrong. I may not want them to think bad of me, but my ultimate reason was I didn't want to do something I felt was wrong." He said, "See, there's something wrong with you. That's not right!" He said most people when they were kids don't do things wrong because they didn't want their parents to explode. He said it was the way I was raised with no discipline, just raising myself. I am the only one that thought the way I did I wasn't normal to just want to do the right thing all the time and didn't do things because I felt they were wrong. He said to ask anyone with kids how they would react in this same scenario and they would all react the same way he did. Oh boy... And, he is teaching her how to behave just like him. 

"She has to be taught to not destroy our house." He then yelled at me to get out of the way. I said, "I will not let you go back in there and scare her some more." He pushed me out of the way, closed her door, and turned to go down stairs. I said, "Don't you ever push me like that." He said, "I told you to move; you didn't so I moved you." Your husband does not want to hear anything that opposes his unfortunate point of view.

I talked to her and asked what happened with the juice. She said she had left it in the kitchen, on top of the pet travel  box, and Munchy (5) pushed the box out to the family room - and accidentally spilled the juice. My oldest said she told Munchy to clean it up, and she thought she did. She was playing Nintendo and forgot about it.

My husband was laying in bed most of the day watching TV. He was hurting from drinking way too much when he went out last night. Ugh. I was doing laundry and putting it away, so the girls were unsupervised in the family room while they were playing Nintendo.

Now she is very upset over how she got in all this trouble and got blamed for her sisters doings. She is saying she hates her sisters now and Daddy is not fair and she hates her life. But she doesn't hate Daddy? Maybe because it's not safe to hate Daddy?

Am I overreacting? You already know you're not.

Should I have him move out now? This is a decision only you can make.

Later that night he had a long, calm talk with the girls about the messes they made. I don't want them to go through the scary intimidation then later hear the calm person, over and over... I don't want them to learn that's acceptable. Yes. Your husband needs anger management!

Did he cross the boundaries to the point that this is the measure I must take, have him move out. Again, I cannot answer that for you.

The next day he kept on at me in the morning, calling me names and expressing his frustration with me. He doesn't feel I have been doing good enough housework. He's out of line. Its not up to my standards either, but I have been really trying. I have a lot of laundry that's clean but not put away. I am so busy trying to stay on top of things, that I neglect putting away the laundry after washing it. So its been irritating to him. 

Anyway, he was speaking to me rudely and with a mean tone. I told him I would not listen to him while he is talking to me that way and I left the room. Good. I went downstairs and started doing the dishes and cleaning the kitchen. He came down and said he did a lot of thinking last night and wanted to tell me a lot of things he thought of. I said, "I will listen, but I am going to tell you right now, I will not stop cleaning and sit in front of you to look you in the eye the whole time as you prefer when you talk to me. I have too much to do and I don't want to fall further behind." He said, "Okay."

I listened to him. He knows I have been trying really hard on the house, but the kids keep wrecking it - and he can't stand living like this. He said yesterday he lost it because he was at the boiling point. He is so afraid our kids think its okay to live in a messy house and he is afraid that they will grow up to be total slobs because they don't care if they make a big mess and sit in it. He feels like he is trying to correct their behavior and I am stopping him. You might say, "I don't want our children to be OK with a mess either. But, if I had to choose between happy, healthy, messy kids and emotionally abused, angry, neat kids, I'll take the messy kids." 

I had a very long talk with him explaining that I realize he was reacting and at the boiling point with the children's destructive behavior, but we must find a better way of getting through to them then the way his parents dealt with him. Yes. He listened intently. Good! Give him a copy of Canter & Canter's Assertive Discipline for Children. I explained the whole working on yourself first thing and why: Yes we want to do the best for our kids and give them the best we have to offer. But we do need to work on ourselves enough that we do have something to offer rather then just going on reflex and making the same mistakes as our parents. 

I said, "Your parents yelled and cussed and hit you around. Now you have these issues to deal - you have all this anger and hurt in you, and you use alcohol to numb it. So they shamed you and frightened you into behaving, but where are you know? Is that what you want to give your kids?" I used the analogy of the flight attendants speech before the plane takes off. Excellent!

"In the unlikely event that cabin pressure fails during the flight, oxygen masks will drop down from the overhead compartments. Place the mask over your nose and mouth and pull on the tube to activate the flow of oxygen." Now here's the operative sentence: "If you have a small child with you, place the mask over your own nose and mouth first, before helping the child." YES...

If we put ourselves first:

We stand a good chance of being strong enough to save other people, along with ourselves: the best possible outcome. With the oxygen mask securely over our own nose and mouth, we can help the struggling child to breathe freely along with us.

Suppose we choose to put the oxygen mask over the child's face first. What happens then? We may only struggle to do it without success, and end up passing out for lack of oxygen ourselves. This is even more true when the child needs much more than just an oxygen mask - our continuing help as he or she grows. In the end, we lose the child along with ourselves." What an appropriate analogy!

 

My husband said, "Well in that situation, your instincts and reflexes would be to put the mask over your child first - if the plane is spiraling out of control and you think you are going to crash."

I said, "Yes, that would be the reflex. It's sad because given time to think things out clearly and to make the right choice we would handle it differently. Yes. "Think" and "choice" are the operate words. In our lives we can either go on spiraling out of control and do what our parents did, or we can stop reflect and figure out what might be the best thing to do in the long run. We can pass along what we have been given, or we can take the time to work on ourselves and have so much more to pass along to them."

I said, "I realize you were handling the situation in the best way you knew. But, maybe there are better ways that you don't know of; that I don't know of. All we have learned so far about abuse we can not deny." I brought up to him how he handled the girls one time when I was so impressed with him: He calmly talked to them. I said, "When I mentioned that to you, that time, you did tell me your reasons for handling them that way was because you wanted them to learn - and you knew if you were yelling and carrying on, they wouldn't hear you. They would be focused on your behavior and not the message." He kept saying, "I want you to understand that I was at the boiling point, I know what I did was wrong and I shouldn't have cussed at her." 

I said, "You are making an excuse for your behavior though. Yes, I understand you were out of control and angry, but that doesn't make it okay. That should tell you that is something you need to work on about yourself: your anger and control of your anger." Wow! Very well said!

I pointed out what kind of father he was many months ago, before he went back to drinking - when he was afraid he was going to lose his family - because I wanted a divorce. He threw himself into the kids and became the perfect father. He was learning so much and was so excited by it all. He said he couldn't believe how much he had been missing out - as much as you give to the kids, you get so much more back. I said, "Now look at where you are. Drinking every night, back to just napping after work, then when you get up you sit on the couch all grumpy, watching TV and telling everyone to shut up and leave you alone. You don't spend time with them anymore."

He said, "Well, I can't handle the way things are. The back yard's a mess; the garage is a mess; the house is a mess; and the kids think this is okay. It's driving me crazy. What am I supposed to do? How can I work on myself when life is driving me crazy?" Your husband also needs to learn to let go. Ask him to read Burney's book, Codependence: Dance of the Wounded Souls for starters - in addition to anger management training - in addition to AA. Counseling is also a good idea. Finally, he may benefit from some psychotropic meds. Have him ask his internist.

I said, "Well, you do what you can. What you have control over. Is drinking and sitting around yelling at everyone helping the situation? Go clean up the back yard if you don't like it a mess; go clean up the garage if you don't like it that way. Help me by spending quality time with the kids while I am cleaning so they aren't tearing the place apart. Get help for yourself and start facing your issues: the reasons you drink." Excellent.

In our conversation that day, I told him if life here at home was too much on him right now, then I think he needs to go and live by himself and work on himself. At least then he would not have the pressures of home. I will be fine because I can focus all my energy on what I am trying to accomplish with the girls, and I won't have to exert so much energy in trying to deal with the tension and problems between us. I think we both need space. He said he wants to be here and helping with the girls. He wants to be part of their lives. (I have heard this before.) I said when we were separated before, it wasn't long enough. We should have stayed apart for months! It's what we needed. If the stress of me, the kids, our home is too much to let you work on yourself, then you need to take care of you and get out for a while." Yes. Get out and go for a walk, or jog, or clean the yard. Physical exercise is the best medicine for stress, depression, and anger!

This was a month ago on Valentines day. I am still dealing with blow ups at least once a week. Yesterday we had a conference with my 8 yo daughter's teacher. She is testing at 6th grade levels but is flunking the 3rd grade! She doesn't pay attention in class or do her work. On a 30 min timed test, she did 6 out of 52 problems, and there were drawings all over her paper. When I ask her what's wrong, what's bothering her, she says she hates teacher and hates her life. She is so angry all the time. Kids react to parental problems by acting out. 

I am planning on leaving this summer, once the kids get out of school. Should I just leave sooner? That's your call. My 7 yo daughter has a great teacher who completely turned her around. She was my problem child before this teacher, and I wanted her to have the benefit of having her until the year was over.  I didn't want to completely disrupt their lives by leaving during the school year. My husband doesn't know I am planning on leaving, should I tell him or should I just up and leave when I have everything set? You would not tell him if you were worried about violence or other forms of control. Otherwise, it is up to you. You are handling things very well verbally. Your husband wants to do better. But, he can't sustain his efforts and slips back. This is very sad because you are left with few choices.

Suz

 

B1: Submit
Date: Friday, March 17, 2000

S1

Ooops! Sorry Dr Irene, I forgot I had already mentioned the incident with my daughter in my earlier post. That was a situation that was still bothering me, so I pretty much just copied it from the journal I keep to see if things are getting better or worse. At the time I wrote it, I was wondering if he was out of line. Today when I was reading through my journal, I couldn't believe I was questioning whether he was out of line! Now I wish I had forced him to move out that day. It was that talk we had the next day that made me think I had gotten through to him and he was learning - because he seemed so responsive to our talk. Yet, I am still adding to my journal - negative experiences at least once a week. That's why its so sad. You had gotten through. But he can't keep it up. This is unfortunately too common with anger and addiction.

I wrote you an email answering your questions to my last post I hope you got it. Yes. I just posted in your additional comments in red. Thanks for making it so easy for me. But, my questions are not for me. They are for you to think about...

Thanks again for all the great advice you give! Now to put it into action!

I was thinking about the family of origin stuff I learned at Betty Ford when I was there for family week when my husband was in rehab there. I had read "Sarah's" post here on your message board about what her definition of what "Family of Origin" is. about how its not enough to just change your mind and intellectualize the information. Her excellent Family of Origin Stuff post is now on-site too.

I stayed for so long because I thought it was the most important thing to keep a family together. Your priorities are on target! I was so set on having a "whole family," and I thought I was the only one suffering - and what sacrifices wouldn't you make for your children! I learned so much as to why I should leave and get my children out of this dysfunctional family system. Logically I knew it, but in my heart, my belief was strong that a family should be held together. I don't want to tear it apart. I couldn't accept it was my husband's behavior that was tearing it apart, because "I was the one with the problem" and wanted out. I want so much to have my family, not step- mothers and fathers, etc. But, I have to accept my husband is not the father or husband I want in my family. Some times we have to let go of our dreams and pursue them in a different way. We have to accept reality for what it is now. I have been holding on so long trying to make my marriage work, that I have not really faced how destructive it's been in the mean time. Life is not standing still for us.

Suz    No Suz, life does not stand still. You have to take care of yourself and your children - in that order. The only good news I can offer you should you leave, is that your husband's motivation for recovery will probably increase. Will it increase enough? Who knows. However, this time, should you reunite, and I hope you do, take your sweet time. He's got lots of work to do!  My very best wishes and may God bless you and yours, Dr. Irene

B1: Submit
Date: Saturday, March 18, 2000

S1

Why does he always tell me about all the 20 year old girls that want him when he is 41 years old. He tells me this quite often. Is he trying to make me mad? Maybe. More than likely, he is trying to make himself feel better by getting you upset and feeling insecure. Good for you for getting mad instead. Anger is a healthier reaction. He's not being a good partner when he behaves that way - for any reason!

B1: Submit
Date: Saturday, March 18, 2000

S1

Hello Dr. Irene, Suz again.

Well yesterday my husband and I had a talk about how I have been feeling regarding our marriage, his abuse, and how the children are affected. I went over my posts and your replies with him. I guess you're not done playing teacher yet.

He thinks I need to get out into the real world and talk to real people and listen to what goes on in other peoples homes. He says I have been home too long (8 yrs). It would be good for me to get out and go back to school or get a job so I can socialize and interact with real people. He says all this reading I do on line and in books is all a perfect, sterile environment and not reality. The average person can not hold up to what I read about. 

We live in a small town out in nowhere, and all my closest friends are long distance, so much of my communication is by phone or computer. He says that's not the same as interacting in person. He has been talking to his co-workers (he works in a prison) about situations that go on in our house regarding our children. His friends all agree it's not normal behavior - and his reactions are normal - and they can tell stories of their fathers or husbands reactions' that are similar. 

I said, "Well I have talked to my friends about the same things and they all say it's not okay; it's not normal - its way out!" One of my closest friends said there was no yelling or hitting in her family, and her parents were divorced and each remarried. There was still no yelling or hitting in these new families either. Also, she said her sister's marriage is the same thing. She lives with a family right now while she is finishing up her graduate program, and she said the same thing. She said the worst things can get is a respectful, calm disagreement that doesn't last long. 

My friends tell me once I get out of this relationship and see what's out there, I will be amazed at how much better it is - and how incredibly wrong the things that go on in my house are. Even my father would not yell or hit, ever. When my mother was berating him - and she could make anyone blow their top - he would calmly walk away from her and leave his own home. He didn't yell at my sister and myself, and he never spanked us. I never saw him explode. I always assumed he just didn't get mad. It turns out, yes he got upset, he just didn't make a display. My husband said he had a great deal of respect for my father, but he is who he is and not everyone is the same.

I told him he seeks his answers from people that work in the same environment, who most likely grew up in similar environments - and just because they do things wrong doesn't make it acceptable or the right. No, I don't expect perfection, but when I see we are making mistakes and our children are "acting out" because of our mistakes, we need to learn better ways. I seek answers from professionals like my counselor, books, and websites like Dr. Irene's. I then said, "Your friends and co-workers may choose to live with abuse, but I am choosing not to." He said, "Well, if you try to hold me up to the standards that you are reading about, we may as well call it quits right now - because I, nor any other average person, can compete with that. We are human with human reactions." He said he knows the incident that happened when he was yelling at our daughter will most likely happen again any time they do something so way out like that -  he will explode. He wants me to send you pictures of our home and how destructive our children are where they have made holes in the wall from banging the door open. Well geez he broke down the door to get at me, I wonder who their destructive behavior is mirroring?!

We were discussing how we are going to deal with our 8 yo's problems at school. We are having a difficult time agreeing. I tell him I believe her problems stem from our problems in our home. Just about any family therapist will agree with you. Yes, we do need to teach her she must behave and listen in school, but I also believe her problems in school are her "crying out for help". I believe her acting out is like a fever to an infection. The fever is merely a symptom of the problem (the infection). We can give Tylenol or a cool bath to bring down the fever, but that does not cure the infection, and the problems will keep resurfacing until the root of the problem is fixed: curing the infection. He doesn't agree at all. He thinks I am just frustrated that she is not like me. I never had to be taught to behave and get good grades; it was innate for me - and I am just not normal. 

He says with her we have to teach her. No matter what, she must do good in school and listen to her teacher. I tell him she needs counseling; he doesn't want her in counseling. He wants her grounded, no friends, no Nintendo until her grades are up where they should be - which will most likely be to the end of the school year. This is extreme for an 8 year old. I said at 8, she is too young for long term punishment. We must take it day by day - how she has behaved in school each day. Yes. Take a look at this wonderful book that teaches the skills for kind, but firm parenting without yelling or hitting: Canter & Canter's Assertive Discipline for Children. She still needs to have fun and play daily, and she could totally benefit from counseling. He disagrees. He's allowed to disagree.

I know in a relationship you respect each others opinions. One of the difficult issues is parenting the children and coming to an agreement. In my situation, I feel his opinion is negatively affected by his issues and all that comes with the mentality of an abuser. He says he is her father and therefore has just as much say in how she is dealt with and raised as I have. He is worried if we don't fix her attitude now, her life is going to be ruined. I tell him I agree, but I think there is more to it than saying its all about her and her attitude. I told him he is in denial of how his abusive behaviors and his issues affect our family that he is not willing to look at himself or take responsibility for himself in how HE affects the childrens' "acting out". Correct. He said I was just blaming him for all the problems. I told him that I saw how my problems negatively affected them - and I am doing all I can to work on me, unlearn my codependent behaviors, stop being a victim, and deal with my depression both medically and through personal therapy. I had problems and beliefs that needed to be changed. I BELIEVED it was the right thing to put up with abuse to hold my family together. I thought I was the only one being hurt. I was so wrong! Everyone got hurt, especially the kids. They lost me. Physically I was here, but I was not emotionally available for them. But I am now, and I am working darn hard to be all I can be.  I think you owe it to yourself as a person and them as a father to work darn hard too. You bet! 

What do you do in this situation? Do I just take control of the situation, take her to counseling, and handle the situation the way I see fit? He believes there is something wrong with me and he knows the best way to remedy this situation. I know parents need to be united when it comes to the children. Yes.  What do you do when you both are thinking the other one has problems and issues negatively affecting their perspective. I have pointed out in books like "Children are from Heaven" by John Gray about better ways and he just disagrees with the books, "they aren't real life".

Also I wanted to ask you your opinion on these books that were recommended: "How Alcoholics Anonymous Failed Me." "Emotional Intelligence" "Struggles for Intimacy." Sorry, I don't know them. I am open to recommendations of good books...

Thanks again so very much Suz    You're on the right track Suz, but you are twisting my arm to tell you what I think you should do. Since there are repercussions to every action, and since this is your life, you need to be comfortable with whatever action you take or do not take. Therefore, these are issues best dealt with your therapist. It sounds to me as though you are in good hands. Good luck to you Suz.

PS I also wanted to tell you I posted more "Family of Origin" information to Barbs thread asking Sarah what Family of Origin stuff is. I thought you might like to look at it and if you found it unacceptable for this site you could delete it. It was information given to me when I was in Family week at Betty Ford.  Thanks, but the only stuff I delete are unsolicited advertisements and foul language - when I catch it.

B1: Submit
Date: Monday, March 20, 2000


S1

Dr Irene,

Thanks very much. I have already ordered the book You Can't Say That To Me!  , it should be here in a few weeks from my local book shop. Good!

I do have a question, you said this in response to my last e-mail:

Theressa speaks: "Finally, OK, so we set boundaries, we become assertive, then what?"

Dr I says: "You will be healthier and have more skills to negotiate life with."

Theressa says: "Will our partner's ever become healthy so we can behave like a healthy couple?" 

Dr I says: "Only if they work really, really hard at fixing themselves."

 

Theressa "ASKS: WHAT IF THEY DON'T CAN I STILL BECOME EMOTIONALLY FIT!!!"

Dr I says: "These techniques are no panacea."

Theressa ASKS: "What do you mean by these techniques are no panacea?"

Dr I says: "They are among the first of a series of steps you can take to dump victim role and increase your personal power."

Theressa ASKS: "Dr I what are the other steps in the series that I need to take to dump the victim role and increase my personal power???????" 

Dr I says: "Your partner has to take their own steps."

Theressa Says: "I realize this. Thanks, I hope to receive your reply, I really want to stop being a victim."

Love Theressa

Theressa, I'm not sure what your new question is!

B1: Submit
Date: Monday, March 20, 2000

S1

When I look for my partner to respect me or apologize for attacking me, one of the standard apologies that I receive is, "Well, I'm sorry you feel you were hurt," or, "I'm sorry you feel that way." All apologies are what I term "reverse apologies," where my partner is apologizing for my feelings to me.....does this make sense? And what is an appropriate response? There is nothing wrong with these apologies. If you feel hurt, you are the one creating your hurt feelings. Your partner is telling you that they are sorry that whatever they did was processed by you in a way that made yourself feel hurt. You are not giving me enough information to give you any more of a response.  

B1: Submit
Date: Monday, March 20, 2000

S1

My boyfriend will ask me what is bothering me. As soon as I begin to reply, he gets defensive and turns the entire situation back at me. He is constantly putting words in my mouth and puts me in a no win situation. You let him put you there. The problem is that I truly care about him and feel that when he gets over his divorce (it has been 4 years since his wife left him) that he will then see that I am a good person and truly care about him. Good luck. Did you ever ask yourself why his wife left him? Often times, I feel that he is looking for the bad person in me and takes out his revenge (verbally) on me that he would otherwise like to say to his X. I am not so sure that he hears what I am saying... His abuse is not necessarily using bad words but more of "playing with my head". How do I handle this? You ask yourself why you are putting up with this! If you don't put statements in "quotes", I don't have enough information to give you a more specific answer.

B1: Submit
Date: Tuesday, March 21, 2000

S1

Theressa asked me for my comments on the events she described earlier. So here's my "humble opinion":

Oh, boy, more parent-child stuff, eh? "Sit on your seat, stop fidgeting, wash behind your ears, and eat your vegetables or you won't get any ice cream!" :) When dealing with that stuff it probably helps to make sure you're in the right frame of mind to start with. What I mean is that if somebody tries to treat us like a child, that can put us back mentally into the position of a child being lectured by a parent, with whatever "child" feelings went along with that. One feeling might be shame--so we might "feel embarrassed." Going along with that, naturally enough, is resentment at what we feel is "being done to us," which can lead to defensiveness--exactly the response that Dr. Irene was warning against in her article on how to deal with these interactions, because it keeps them stuck in the "parent-child" mode. We need to clear our heads of all that junk.

Actually a lot of the trouble is feeling that somehow your husband can "make you into a child" in front of other people. He can't really do anything of the kind without your cooperation, and in fact he's only embarrassing himself by carrying on in such a silly way.

Out of Dr. Irene's suggestions, yes, you can simply ignore these remarks, and that has the effect of not reinforcing your husband's habit of making them. When I say "ignore," I mean act as if you didn't even hear the remark, as if nothing at all had happened. He's got a choice then of shutting up or saying it again, and louder. If you continue to ignore it completely he's only going to make a fool of himself in public by ranting on and on about it, and he'll probably give up.

But some of her other suggestions were just as useful, if not more; they're in the form of challenges. I particularly liked "I'll stop slopping my gum when you stop telling me what to do in public!" That way you get your concern on the table and put him on the defensive instead. Another idea: Take the gum out of your mouth, offer it to him, and say "Since you don't like the way I'm chewing it, why don't you chew it for me instead, dear?" You could even get really daring. Clap your hands to get attention, look around at everybody, and say "Gather round, everyone. Jack is going to give us a demonstration of how to chew gum in total silence." :) He may get the point that you don't like attempts to embarrass you in public. He could laugh though. He's not devoid of humor, after all.

There are all kinds of variations on this approach. "Next time, if you don't want me to bang my glass, you shouldn't get me so drunk, dear." There's a bit of subtlety behind that. If he thinks he's responsible for "correcting" your behavior all the time, maybe he should be responsible for everything you do! ;) The more you can say things like this in a kind of casually ironic tone, the better, I'd say--rather than an angry tone. Do smile when you can--or look serious while saying something intentionally absurd. I liked the seat swapping suggestion too: that's "solution-oriented"! "Since I'm having so much difficulty having to move my chair all the time without banging into people, maybe you'd like to sit here instead and show me how to do it properly." Try rising from the chair to emphasize your offer. I'll bet he declines it! :)

Whatever you say, the whole point is not to get bent out of shape. If he gets bent out of shape when you don't, that's his problem. By treating you as a child, he directs the interaction into a parent-child mode. But he can't belittle you if you refuse to be belittled. The goal is to derail that mode of interaction completely and switch it into some other mode: a challenge, a demand for help with a solution (ironic or not), a humorous exchange, whatever. He keeps dumping things on you to "deal with." Ignore them and give him something to "deal with" instead! But even silence is at least a refusal to engage in that parent-child mode.

Very, very nice! Dr. Irene

B1: Submit
Date: Tuesday, March 21, 2000

S1

Dr I,

My question is: What other steps does a victim need to take to increase personal power and get rid of victim role????? I am learning to be Assertive and to set boundaries. It depends on the individual. In my practice, I use cognitive therapy techniques to help victims deal with guilt, shame, and over-responsibility and the like combined with teaching skills such as assertion, distancing, etc. Its not unusual that I ask a client to visit an MD for adjunctive medication management. 

I know this is not the kind of answer you were looking for, but I cannot be more specific since I don't have the information I need to answer this question.

Love T

B1: Submit
Date: Wednesday, March 22, 2000

S1

How about if they say: "Low down common cheat." Say, "Yeah? Where?"

B1: Submit
Date: Tuesday, March 28, 2000

S1

As a background to this I need to add that Linda and I have been in a struggle for years over my changing and being more spiritual and thus caring of her. Lately, the issue is over my use of tobacco. She has let me know that dipping snuff is unacceptable and won't be tolerated. In a passive-aggressive response, I have continued to use snuff and have been caught by Linda many times. She says that I am an addict. That if I loved her I would stop. She goes on and on about it. And I continue to use. I confessed to her my affairs over 15 years ago in hopes that I would be relieved of the tremendous burden that it has caused me only to find that I am not immediately healed. After a couple of weeks of abstinence I proceeded to use again one night. Linda got up and found me. She flew into a rage. I tried to get her to talk to me and finally when she was in front of me she hit me several times. One blow bent my glasses and caused a brief momentary light flash in the corner of my left eye.

Later she hit me repeatedly, in the face. I don't bruise easily and so there was only the slightest mark on the side of me left eye. This is not the first time she has hit me. It's happened at least three other times in the last two years. I actually felt nervous when she was holding a knife one evening and yelling at me. Each time I have believed that I was at fault for bringing her to such a rage. I would turn complicit believing that if I could find a source of love big enough that I could love Linda and then she would be happy.

I had promised Linda that I would attend a 12-step group meeting by today or I would go out the door. The meeting I chose was Nicotine Anonymous in Renton at Renton Lutheran Church. The time according to the website was 7:00 p.m. I drove to the church and arrive on time. The church building was locked and no lights were on. I walked around the building and found no other door open. I left at approximately 7:30 p.m.

When I arrived home I explained to Linda that there was no meeting at the site. She said several things like: "That's very convenient. You could have tried harder. You should have checked" and other similar statements. I said I was sorry and said I would try again tomorrow. I sensed from her body language that she was on the verge of a rage.

About ten minutes later she walked into the kitchen and began to yell at me and demand that I be more contrite, saying things like "If one was really sorry how would one have told me that you miss this meeting. I think you have your ego all in check and that you are safe. You came in and acted cocky. You don't get it, Mike! I think you need to leave."

I agreed to leave and with the exception of Rachel all wailed as Linda yelled incrimination after incrimination at me over their heads and voices in an act of self-justification and working to get my children to side with her. "It's his fault!" Has been repeated over and over again.

After spending the night on a couch at my church for which I am a pastor, I am much calmer. In some ways I am relieved. I never thought I would leave. But being away from Linda is actually peaceful. She said that I could come back after I had attended a meeting. Agreed that for my own health I need to kick this habit. And I have been resisting her demands. But I had resolved to stop using tobacco on my own. I now don't want to quit yet. I believe I am doing so to please her. She has my oldest daughter believing that I am some sort of demon drug user. I am a drug user. I use a legal substance that's all. But our marriage has been all about control and demands on my behavior.

I try to disengage but Linda, who is a psychologist, calls me on my techniques and disavows my actions as "method." And she "won't be controlled by a method from some pop psychologist." She is a brilliant woman with an IQ in the genius range with a will of iron.

I don't know if I want to go home to her. Basically after she caught me using tobacco again she has claimed that I have so severely violated her trust that I have no rights to ask her to behave differently. "The ball's in your court." I am miserable that my children are caught in between. She has always raged at me with them present and when I ask her not to do this in front of the kids she claims that she is not going to keep secrets from them. "They need to know what's happening with you so they don't make the same mistakes I did." It would only be for the sake of my kids that I would go back. But is that better. Even if I stop using tobacco I feel that there will be another issue arise that will displease her. But for my children I would walk on hot coals.

Oh boy... Why do you let this woman trample on your boundaries? If you want to chew tobacco, chew it. As long as you don't spit it out on the floor, it's your health and has no effect on your behavior. Nothing to defend. I agree with you that if it wasn't the tobacco, it would be something else. Dr. Irene

 

B1: Submit
Date: Tuesday, March 28, 2000

S1

Here is a question: What should I do when there are things which HAVE to be discussed - like money, children, sex, etc. It seems that whenever I bring up ANYTHING that puts him "on the spot" or even seems to him that it might, he becomes defensive. I know that he really doesn't like to deal with anything that makes him uncomfortable or inconvenienced, or might make him look bad, but life goes on, whether he wants to deal with it or not. I have brought things up, because they have to be dealt with. (Recent examples: where the money was to come from for a down payment on a house, dealing with bad plumbing in said house because he pushed me away - verbally - when I tried to talk to him about getting the plumbing inspected before we signed the papers; spending money on one of the children to get a recurring ingrown toenail condition fixed; things like that...life!) He usually gets angry, no matter how I bring it up, so I ignore the blustering, keep him on track, and plough through. He often gets so out of sorts, that he makes asinine statements, which don't help in the least, or goes ahead and makes decisions without me, and without thinking about the consequences to anyone but himself. I am not trying to control everything, as he claims, but I feel that a decision which involves me and our children should also involve me in the decision-making process. It seems that he would just like to make all the decisions regarding our life on his own, but he rarely sees the "big picture". He has his own reality, even admits it. The problem is, that I happen to live with him, and we have a family. No matter how much he blusters and yells or screams at me to push me away, I am involved in his life, and the choices he makes directly affect me and our children. We have to live with the consequences, like bankruptcy, of things he's chosen to do on his own. How can I disengage, when he will go ahead and do whatever he wants, or yell in anger when I ask a simple, calm question because I don't understand what he is doing? He will "turn" on me when I ask for an explanation on how, for example, if we don't have a lot of money in the bank, the money will "show up" for the down payment when it's time. Sorry that this is so long. Thank you again, for this comforting site!! He is giving you few options: go along with his ways, or ignore him and do what you will. Have you tried backing away? Dr. Irene

B1: Submit
Date: Wednesday, March 29, 2000

S1

This is an interaction that I had this evening with my wife. How'd I do? It felt very empowering to not get defensive. Sounds good to me! I wanted to engage but after spending last night on your website I collected some tools. It shut down her attempts to draw me into a fight. You pulled in your buttons...nothing to push!

"You are really smug!" "I'm sorry you feel that way."

"I don't feel any love coming from you. You can stay here as long as you ----" OK (I'm thinking I plan to be out of here.)

"We (meaning the kids and I) don't think you care. You've already lost two of us (meaning my wife and my oldest daughter)" "I'm sorry that's so." (thinking: You've worked her into codependence. I can't stop you from that).

"You can stay here but I'm making plans." "OK" (Thinking: You aren't the only one.)

B1: Submit
Date: Wednesday, March 29, 2000

S1

Dr. Irene

What should I say or do in response to these comments:

(While driving home from a social event), he says, "Could you hold my coffee? Oh, and try not to pour it lushily over your tits." (When I tell him that kind of comment hurts me, he says he was only joking, and that I can't take a joke and am too sensitive.) "No, I can't hold your coffee. I might find myself pouring it lushily over your head."

In the middle of an argument, he says, "You are not worthy to hear my voice, get away from me." "Yes, you are too worthy; too worthy for this place. Let me help you pack." Or, go away and calmly go about your business until he figures it out and apologizes.

During a discussion, (while he is explaining that assumptions are ok, but expectations are not, and after I ask what he means by these two and how he is using them differently), "Don't be stupid, you know what they mean. Look them up in a f*&*ing dictionary if you want to know." "No point looking them up; I'm too stupid. After all, I married you..." 

(While his parents are over at our house, and sports are on the TV), "yeah, that guy's a &*^(! (racial slur)." I respond, honey you know I don't like that language. He says (loud enough to make sure everyone hears), "Yeah, she likes it better when I call them &*^$^$# (an even worse racial slur). Later he admitted he did the second just to show off in front of his father. "Don't be jealous dear. You know I love you even though you're (his race)." 

"You a a f&*@!$g b&*^%. I hate you. Go to hell." "Haven't you noticed? We're already there."

"I am so sick of you, you are always upset about something. I can't stand it." "If you're sick of me, just think how I must feel about you!" Or, "Feel free not to stand it."

By the way, what are you doing with this person?

B1: Submit
Date: Thursday, March 30, 2000

S1

My husband tonight snapped over my plans to visit my family for a week in my holidays saying that it should be something we both discuss...the point is I did tell him, but I did not ask him! I mentioned this to him, he swore a bit and then had a shower and went to bed. I felt okay, because it did not erupt into a huge fight, and I had a couple of hours alone. Am I right in doing what I did? I think so!  Me too. You told him YOU were going; you were not making HIM go, though I assume if he wanted to, he could.

B1: Submit
Date: Thursday, March 30, 2000

S1

My husband is constantly pointing out things that I do that he is annoyed by. For example, I get home from work and he is upstairs. He yells in a mean tone, "Anne, Come here and look at this." I reply, "I'm busy, what do you want." He says that I left the closet light on all day and I do it often. I think I replied, "Oh what a crime!" More recently I've been just saying,"OK". Should I try to discuss this with him or is it hopeless. If a discussion works, by all means discuss it. If a discussion consistently becomes an excuse for him to criticize you, why put yourself in that position over and over again? 

B1: Submit
Date: Thursday, March 30, 2000

S1

I have the most trouble with my husband's omission and withdrawal of affection toward me. I love him so completely, and I know I'm doing myself an injustice by constantly going to him to beg him and hug on him and try to get things "right" and "okay" again. But at the same time it's the only reaction that I know. How is the best way to handle it? Just walking away? -- I'm sooo scared this will end up making the situation worse... Move away emotionally by not begging him to have things be OK when he has instigated the pulling away. See if he will come to you instead. This may in fact make the situation worse. It is up to you to decide if you are willing to keep things as they are. If it does not bother you much, why change it? The only reason to back off is because you can't stand the way things are and are willing to risk what you have for the sake of your self-esteem. 

 

B1: Submit
Date: Thursday, March 30, 2000

S1

Yes, the withdrawal of love and care hurts the worst.

ANY thing can set him off. I walk on eggshells all day long. I do what I know he would like and refrain from saying my point of view or wishes as much as possible to avoid this withdrawal. It feels so terrible. I can't handle it. 

He will get busy with something suddenly, pretend to be suddenly immersed in a television show or throw himself in bed with his back toward me. He won't look at me, touch me, talk to me. If I go to hug him or kiss him he is rigid and unmoving. Keeps looking straight ahead of him. When I begin talking, he sighs loudly and he never replies/responds.

My usual reaction is to go to him. Even if the other kids are asking for me. I go to him, hold him, touch him, talk to him, try to make him see that things are not the way he sees them. That I'm not trying to hurt him or that I didn't mean it the way he thought. Whatever.

There have been times when I've been so angry I've left, frustrated. He then leaves, period.

There have been times when I've "bothered him" by trying to get him to show affection and attention toward me again to such a degree he'll go to sleep on the couch or the like.

We are married, and I hate these times he withholds! Since we lost our baby I'm so sorry... this stuff has increased tremendously, and I walk on eggshells all day to avoid it. Usually it happens anyway. At least once every other day. Things get twisted or whatever, and he shuts himself down/off from me. I think you need to start by talking to him about the loss of the child. Ask him why he seems to be blaming you for it by his withdrawal. Remind him you both lost the child. In an abusive relationship, this won't work, but you have to give it the benefit of the doubt.

If *I* ever storm away or leave, he will lock the door for an example.

I've gotten terribly afraid of these times...

And I can't seem to get away from them.

Divorce is not an option to me... PERIOD. But I need to learn how to deal with this so I can survive and so my children don't think that this is okay, or that they're less important in worth than my husband. The only other option you have is to recognize that this is his problem, has nothing to do with you per se, and not take his withdrawing behavior to heart. 

I don't know how to handle this. I'm afraid when he withholds. It scares me. It will also help you to confront your irrational fear over why you think it is so awful when he withholds.

B1: Submit
Date: Thursday, March 30, 2000

S1

Any time I tell him that he hurts me with the things he says, he always says, "Well you hurt me too, you are abusive to me, too; it takes two people to have an argument, you know." So then I feel guilty for thinking it's abuse. You need to realize that he is entitled to his feelings, but when he counters your complaint with a complaint, your initial problem never gets addressed. Tell him to deal with your upset first, and then you will both talk about his upset. Also, never ever forget that two wrongs don't make a right. If he is simply retaliating because you are upset, you need to point that out to him. If he is very set in his ways, he'll turn this one around on you too unless you are very skillful in your presentation. I get so upset that he doesn't acknowledge what he does, he just turns it all around and tells me that I'm upsetting him and that I've turned it all around. I know I get angry at him and I've said hurtful things, it's just that I don't call him names and I analyze everything in my head before I say it to make sure it won't cause an argument. He's called me a lot of names. bitch, f*&ing pathetic, a miserable drip, a liar. Many, many things and a lot I forget, but I remember the tone of voice and the yelling. He makes me feel that just because I don't remember the exact words that it shouldn't have upset me so much, that it's obviously not significant because I can't remember. Don't let him put words in your mouth. Tell him that name calling and yelling are entirely unacceptable, and back off if he won't listen. Get Elgin's You Can't Say That To Me! You need to sharpen your verbal skills. 

B1: Submit
Date: Thursday, March 30, 2000

S1

In one of the posts, a woman writes:

>>I guess my frustration is that this is not a long term solution >>- That is, to live in a disengaged relationship. My abuser gets >>angry and more distant when I disengage.

YES!

To disengage is to invite fear.

The response to verbal abuse would be "Disengage!" but if one does this, then the threat of losing their husband (or significant other) increases... right? I DON'T WANT THAT. It can go both ways: some abusers will huff and puff and then see things your way; others will not.

I'm still having trouble accepting the fact that I'm in an abusive situation... although I know the way things are, aren't normal. Aren't right. They're hurtful, and although I know he's only reacting out of his own pain, he's creating pain in me. It's almost like he's doing it purposely for that reason. So I'll hurt too. 

You're going to scold me for saying this, but I have a good marriage. A wonderful one! I am happy you feel this way, though you've contradicted yourself with the above paragraph.

I still look at my husband and feel head over heels in love with him. I've been married before, once to a physically, emotionally, and sexually abusive man. I didn't feel any strong emotion but hate toward them. The "infatuation" I felt left within a matter of weeks. I've been with my husband for a long time, and I still love him. I care about him. When he hurts, I hurt. When he needs, I want to give. Etc... And I do believe he loves me in return. He isn't always ignoring me or being angry with me. And when things are good, like the majority of the time, they're really, truly good. He always apologizes and recognizes when he does hurt me. He's said "You are so wonderful to me, you don't deserve any of this". We've got no other problems in the marriage. Not that this isn't a serious issue. But it isn't one (for me, in MY situation) where divorce would even enter the picture. We love each other and we want to make things better, and we're constantly growing together emotionally... but we're both locked in these reflexive actions/reactions. It sounds as though your husband is willing to work with you. That's good. You two should consider counseling.

The thing is when things are "good"... they're REALLY good. But anything might set him off, and "upset" him to the degree he'll react angrily with words and just ignore me, period. Pretend I'm not there or something. So I'm careful. Especially if he's worked both jobs that day, or is hungry or otherwise stressed. We've had crises after crises in our family this past year. Two deaths, financial problems, health problems, one car after another breaking down, you name it...

But, It's like a light switch. He's either "off" or "on". He's either "okay" or "hell" to be around.

His moods rule the house. He may need a mood-stabilizing drug. Talk to your doctor.

Everything takes on sort of a domino reaction:

If he's upset, he takes it out on me. He clams up, accuses, or complains. Usually he ignores. I react by getting panicked and begging him to forgive me ... and until he does... I am unhappy, crying and crabby toward the kids. They get the brunt of things. Ugh. Don't do this to your kids. If you know he is upset, accept the fact that he is upset, and remember, it is temporary. He may take it out on you, but you don't have to take it to heart.

I know I need to control how I deal with this... so I can be a better wife and a better mommy. But I'm scared to. If I disengage, he gets madder. You need to explain to him that just as he feels the need to clam up when he is angry, you need space to pull away from him when you feel attacked. You may even say something like, "I love you, but right now, I can't handle this."

I'm afraid. I don't know what else to say. If I "numb" myself and "walk away" from the tension/anger/ignoring/argument... pretty soon I'll stop *caring*... and our marriage will really erode. I don't want to be in a marriage where I don't *care*. Where I've "shut myself off" from my feelings of affection toward him. I don't want to live in a dead relationship. You are talking about the resentment that sets in after years of putting up with abuse. I think that's where you are headed now. Nip it early; get some counseling. You don't understand what I am saying by walking away if you think its about "numbing." 

My Mother In Law (MIL) has a marriage I'm afraid of... She doesn't see or talk to her husband, doesn't know where he is or what he's doing for days or sometimes weeks at a time. When he comes home, she later laments about it. Complains about it. About him. They haven't slept together in the same bed for years. She knows he's been home by the pillow and blankets strewn about the couch... Etc... etc...

I DON'T WANT THAT. Talk to your husband about that; get some help. I doubt that is what he wants either.

Steve came home from work, today, after I'd found your site and had read through it. I was looking at him, without knowing I was doing it at the time, feeling angry. Disgusted. And sort of in shock. "He's not abusive! No!" I kept thinking. And then I'd swing over to the other extreme and think, "WHY!? Why does he do this!" and "How did I get myself into this!?" He's just doing the best he can. That's what mom and dad taught him. He can, however, learn to do much better.

The word "abusive"... it's just ... I don't know. Terrifying.

So what about disengaging... is there a possibility or any circumstance when this is NOT the best way to go? You always start by discussing the problem together first. Disengaging is where a victim is forced to go when rational discussion doesn't work. Talk to him about your feelings. In fact, show him this.

 

B1: Submit
Date: Thursday, March 30, 2000

S1

My abuser makes me afraid to do things. If he hears I've talked to my mother, he wants to know the whole conversation word for word. Nope. You are entitled to talk to your mom. He's sure I've said bad things about him. When I haven't. If I forget to do something, I get reamed. If he runs out in anger and I call a friend because I need someone to talk to and cry on their shoulder, I'm afraid that he'll come in again and be mad at me for having called to talk to them. If he calls from work and the line is busy, he comes home and grills me asking why I'm always online (it's where I get my adult contact being home with my children out in the boonies) or who I've been talking to and why. If he asks what I want to do that night, I'm afraid to tell him because he probably won't like it, and I don't want to upset him because when he gets mad, the whole mood changes. I always feel like I have to watch what I say and do so I don't upset him. If he were to find out I was on this site, he would be so mad at me. I hear the door open as I type. the kids are coming in and out of the house, but I keep yelling down the stairs to them so I can hear their voice and know who is coming in. My heart starts pounding every time. I worry it will be him and he'll see I'm on the computer on an abuse site. I don't want to upset him. Tell me how to handle this situation, short of leaving. I am not leaving him. Like some of the other ladies on the list, I'm married. My kids and I love and need him. He is not physically violent. but says and does stuff to hurt us in the heart. Doesn't let go of the past. Broods. The first thing you have to do is deal with your intimidation. You have painted yourself into a corner.

B1: Submit
Date: Thursday, March 30, 2000

S1

I'm the lady to whom you suggested "backing away". I don't know which of the backing away advice ladies you are! The problem is if I back away, these things may never get dealt with, or dealt with so late that they have turned into much bigger issues. This is not just fear, it has happened. Is this a control issue? It is your husband's control issue. If he wants to keep things the way he wants to keep them, he will refuse to talk about them. So, things that you want to deal with will not get dealt with because he does not want to deal with them. It is never right to start by backing away. You only back away when left with few other options. I have long known that he is controlling, but I'm not sure how to not let him control, or attempt to control, everything. He controls when he will not discuss an issue. Of course, when I attempt to tell him that we need to do something about a particular thing he has done or is doing, he accuses ME of being controlling or manipulating.  I don't have enough info. It is not OK to allow abuse or to be abusive. Generally, it is also not OK to insist that somebody change their behavior because you don't like it. You can make a request, and if change is not forthcoming, you have to deal with that fact. I'm just blowing that off now, though. I see now that statements he makes like these are just his trying to throw me off guard. Sometimes it works, but I'm on to him. BTW, our pastor is willing to counsel us, and H said that he will go, but I'm not going to hold my breath - I've heard it before, and I'm going to start counseling on my own next week; if H comes, fine, but if not, I will do this for me. Good start! Thank you again, Dr. Irene. I feel so much better and not alone, just reading through the posts here. I'm not crazy!!! One more question: above, there was a question about "why" questions, and how to respond. How about "who?" questions: "Who left this light on again?, "Whose library book is this?" The kids and I have simply stopped answering - the kids because they know if they admit to it, they will get blasted, and me because, then he will demand an explanation, and I might get an implication that I'm not raising them right. But if we ignore him, he gets angry. What would be a good way to answer but not engage? "I'm not sure dear." "Oh gee, the light is on. That's terrible!"  In other words, you can try empathizing with his distress and "joining" him.

B1: Submit
Date: Friday, March 31, 2000

S1

Please: answers to when they ask "who did...?" and "why did you..." but also "so, what are YOU planning to do now?" This is in response to my setting limits, refusing to be drawn in and disengaging. I fear that if I start explaining, it will all go downhill. Right. Say, "Gee, I'm not sure... I'll have to think about it...", which is probably true. Yet, is silence appropriate?? I have been walking around the house for a great number of days and the only conversation we can have is a basic exchange of factual information. Cold war. Also, don't forget there is a difference between explaining yourself / defending yourself and honestly beginning to answer his question, but stopping when he begins to blast you or control you. Then you can stop answering and say something like, "It doesn't seem you want to know what I'm thinking as much as you want to criticize my position. Let me know when you really want to hear what I have to say." Sounds like you two need counseling; go alone if he won't come.

Lisa

B1: Submit
Date: Friday, March 31, 2000

S1

After I had our baby, my mate wanted sex soon afterward. He waited for two weeks, but then I felt compelled to give myself to him again. I still was sore, and I wasn't interested but I pretended to be okay with it. I didn't want to upset him. Ugh. He feels rejected easily, and it hurts me when he takes out his own insecurities on me. I've got my period now, and the same thing. I don't feel anywhere near interested in sex. But he wanted it. So I gave myself to him. When he withdrew and saw the blood on himself THEN he realized, gee maybe she really is bleeding pretty heavily, and ran to the bathroom to wash up. Now *I* am the one feeling rejected. Like I'm nothing more than sex toy or something. When he was interested in making love, he was interested in me. Suddenly all he could think about was washing up... and then realized he was late for work and ran out. That was it. And he was snapping at me on the way out too! -- Couldn't find his belt. My question: what do you recommend I do to avoid "confrontations" when circumstances just don't "allow" sex? I love him and I love making love to him... but there are times when it's not something I want... and he doesn't *get* it. I'm not rejecting "HIM" ... just the act right then. And I'm not frigid... there are just times, like after having the baby... and during menstruation... or when terribly sick... that it's just not something to do! I can't deal with his silent treatments and snapping at me... but I don't want to feel like some concubine either! Talk to him about it. Then the next time you find yourself in that position, tell him, "Honey, you know I love you so very much. I want you to understand that I am not rejecting you sexually, but right now I am in pain / discomfort / whatever." Start there.

 

B1: Submit
Date: Monday, April 03, 2000

S1

HI I WANTED TO ASK. MY HUSBAND IS AN ALCHOHOLIC HE DRINKS ALOT,BUT HE DOESENT GET VERBALLY ABUSIVEMOST OF THE TIME. MOST OF THE TIME ITS ME THAT GETS VERBALLY ABUSIVE BECAUSE IT MAKES ME ANGRY THAT HE SITS AROUND ALL DAY DRINKING. IVE BEEN DEALING WITH IT FOR 9 YEARS NOW AND I,M ANGRY THAT HE DOESENT FEEL LIKE \ITS IMPORTANT ENOUGH FOR THE KIDS AND MYSELF NOT TO BE AROUND IT OR TO CHANGE SO I GET MAD AND START IN ON HIM EVEN THOUGH I KNOW IT WONT HELP I JUST GET SOOOOOO ANGRY. You need to go to ALANON.

 B1: Submit
Date: Tuesday, April 04, 2000

S1

First of all, I am finding this site really helpful!!!

Okay...the question...what do you do when your partner spends money or makes some financial decisions without you? This happened yesterday and I was really surprised at the way I reacted. I felt angry because I feel he is sometimes irresponsible with money, but I couldn't pin-point whether I was angry about this or really angry about not being in control. Why would you question whether or not you are angry if your partner makes financial decisions without you? I found it very hard to feel close to my partner yesterday and he has assumed that I was "punishing" him. However, I felt like I was "detaching" myself so I could think about things. Why don't you allow yourself to be angry with him? He misbehaved. Are these codependency issues seeping back in? The codependency issues are your doubting yourself and doubting your right to be angry with him! How do you have financial boundaries? (If at all.) In some ways, I think I was using the situation to have control because he had done something that was beyond my control initially. I think we were playing "control tennis". Could be, but I always start at the simplest explanation before getting more intricate.

Cheers, Bec