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4/14 Interactive Board: Codependent Partners

3/23 Interactive Board: He's Changing... I'm Not...

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1/14 Interactive Board: My Purrrfect Husband

12/12 Interactive Board: What if He Could Have Changed?

10/23 Interactive Board: Quandary Revisited

8/24 Interactive Board: Quandary! What's Going On?

7/20: Dr. Irene on cognitive behavior therapy and mindfulness

6/12 Interactive Board: Unintentional Abuse

11/7 Interactive Board: Is This Abusive?

12/29 Interactive Board: There Goes the Wife...

11/4 Interactive Board: A New Me!

10/8 Interactive Board: Seeming Impossibility

9/8 Interactive Board: My Ex MisTreats Our Son

5/1 Interactive Board: I feel Dead - Towards Him

4/26 Interactive Board: Why is This So Hard?

4/19 Interactive Board: I Lost My Love...

4/7 Interactive Board: Too Guilty!

Doc@DrIrene.com

Comments for Can't Really Leave

Comments for Divorced and I Can't Really Leave

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

B1: Submit
Date: Thursday, March 23, 2000

S1

Hang in there...you'll make it. Change is hard and scary. It's human nature to stick with the evil we do know...than risk finding another evil we don't know. Also you were so young when you married...that's it like you grew up with him...so it makes it that much harder to leave him once and for all.

 B1: Submit
Date: Thursday, March 23, 2000

S1

Dina- You are on the right track. Please purchase the books by Dr. David Burns, Feeling Good, and the Feeling Good Handbook. They are excellent tools to help one's feelings and capacity for intimacy. You may also want to try Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend, and Overcoming Depression by Paul Hauck (even if you don't think your problem is depression--- this title may be hard to find but I believe it can be ordered on Amazon.) You may be wondering, how much can a book help, but I find when reading Dr. Burns work, it is like speaking to an old friend. Perhaps these voices will not resonate with you. If not, speak to those who have common interests with you, and seem to be doing well. Ask them what they like reading. You may want to become involved with a recovery group in your area, such as Codependents Anonymous or Emotions Anonymous. They may or may not be helpful to you. A final seminal text I would recommend is Codependent No More by Melody Beattie. I suspect you may have read this, but if not, do please dive in. Wonderful stuff for me. Most importantly, trust your judgment! No shaming, of yourself or others! Everyone's different, and there is a plan for us all. The expert on Dina is none other than Dina, not Dr. Irene, not me, not your husband, not any of the authors I mentioned. Dina. Enjoy the ride, kid! -CD

CD

B1: Submit
Date: Thursday, March 23, 2000

S1

Dear Dina,

Here is a quote from a book called The Battered Woman by Lenore E. Walker. "in many cases it seemed that living with the batterer produced less anxiety than living apart from him. Why? She often feels that she has the hope of some control if she is with him."

I don't know about you, but I have a strong need to be in the favor of my husband regardless of what he does to me. When I do what he wants there is peace. Now you have the chance to do what is best for you despite what he wants, needs, or thinks. This is hard for caretakers. Hold your ground and start living your life. Enjoy your life. You deserve it. You've given so much. Let him go. Try to detach from him and his feelings. There is a lot of living to do. Good luck and God Bless!

B1: Submit
Date: Friday, March 24, 2000

S1

Dina, apart from missing the real love, respect, support, and freedom you should have had in a marriage, you have also missed out on something else. It is called "adolescence," or as we say, "being a teenager."

No doubt humans developed originally to start marrying and having children at thirteen or so; but then, humans also developed originally to live together in small, tightly-knit tribes. Our own culture in centuries past has endorsed marriage at thirteen, as some other cultures in the world still do today. Many of these marriages were "arranged" between families (though not necessarily without the will of the couple). However, marriage at such a young age simply does not work very well without very close social support from an entire tribe or community, of a kind we typically don't get in the Western culture we all live in and are familiar with.

As we all know, we do things differently here. We expect young people to spend their teen years getting an education so that they can contribute to what we call our civilization. We expect them to marry later, but also give them the freedom to choose their own marriage partners. However young people cannot do this wisely without time to learn for themselves--about other people and how to interact with them as budding adults, about how to get on with the opposite sex in a newly sexualized social milieu--and about what kind of partners suit them and what kind do not.

And so we have the teen years. For a young girl (though it's no different in principle for a young boy), these years should be a time, as I expect Dr. Irene would put it, of "slowly putting her feet into the water." It's a time of "dating," among other things--but not without a lot of informal socializing in mixed as well as same-sex groups prior to that. It's a time of experimenting with partners, often in rapid succession, trying on first one, then another--and preferably without having sex, certainly to begin with.

It's a time when a girl experiments by expressing different personalities, and slowly acquires confidence in herself, with the opposite sex as well as in other ways. This doesn't happen overnight. Whatever else we humans are, we're not fish. Nobody jumps into deep water for the first time and just swims--not without support, without floaties or a side to grab onto or a bottom to put a foot down on. When our own society works as it should, this support comes from family, emotional as well as material.

For a young girl, a vital member of the support system that enables her to step out into the world is a good father. A good father is a source of many things she looks for: material support, protection as she ventures out, the comfort of a long-familiar relationship, respect, listening, and many forms of guidance, admiration of a specifically male kind, and affection. Everything, in short, except sex, which is no part of a father-daughter relationship. A good father slowly lets his daughter go as she ventures out into the world, and applauds her progress, her growing independence and confidence. While moving into the background, he still remains part of her life.

When a good father is missing, a young girl is more likely to look around for a substitute male figure. Sadly, all too often he comes in the form of some young male less interested in "fathering" than in sex. Often pregnancy results. I wonder if anything like this happened to you, Dina. But whether it did or not is immaterial now.

You're 42 years old, but you haven't been wasting your time. Far from it. You've already attained many goals that people find important in their lives. You've raised three children. I hope (and gather) that you have good relationships with all of them. You've acquired adult social skills, However hard your marriage was, it gave you real life experience on which you've built a very worthwhile career. You can support yourself materially. And although you married so incredibly early, you've earned a college degree, in the teeth of all the difficulties, the competing demands on your time and money, and the outright opposition that faced you. Congratulations!

Yet in spite of all this, in many important respects you have never had an adolescence. You have never been a teenager, with the necessary freedom to experiment that the teen years bestow in our culture.

But let me say immediately that that doesn't mean you've missed the bus. While some things in our lives have to be done in a certain order, others do not. We can live some parts of our lives in any order we like. For instance, it has been fashionable in recent decades for women to postpone childbearing, and build a career first. There are advantages to that. Children get more mature parents who are also better established financially. As long as a woman doesn't run into that feminist nemesis of "slap forehead--duh! I forgot to have children! and now it's too late!" :) Yet I've spoken to many women who had their children while they were young. And while they may have struggled with motherhood in harder circumstances, they all said "I'm glad I did that. Now I've raised my children, and I'm still quite young. I've got the energy as well as the freedom (and, no doubt, the attractiveness) to enjoy doing something else with my life." It doesn't matter which way round we do these things. There is no "right" way. Just take what you want and pay for it, says God. Sometimes He lets us take it on credit, but we have to pay later. Sometimes we make an investment up front, as you've done, and take the rewards later.

So there's no reason why you shouldn't enjoy a postponed adolescence, as is your right--and also your need. But understand this about yourself. Part of you is a mature woman, an experienced, accomplished woman, a competent woman, a wise woman and a mother--perhaps even a grandmother, now or in the near future. Yet part of you must also be a young girl, a girl whose life stopped at thirteen, while also jumping ahead to fulfill adult responsibilities. You've got some catching up to do in that area, a gap to fill in.

What I want most to emphasize is that your present feelings are absolutely and entirely natural. "Why am I still here?" you ask. "I have no thoughts of getting back together with him," but "I do love him." And "I know now that it wasn't the sex I needed so much as the companionship." And while "enjoying your new freedom," you're also afraid to step boldly forward out of the old and into a new life, potentially with a more satisfying partner.

So what would we expect of a thirteen-year-old girl? While you took on responsibilities that were almost (though not quite!) beyond you at that age, your marriage with this six-years-older man still gave you a kind of security. You "knew," or thought you did, where your life was going. Well, you went further than you ever thought you would, and bully for you!--even if it wasn't what you predicted at that age. Yet the part of yourself that you left behind is still only thirteen. This little girl is very unsure of herself, as anyone would be at that age. She's only just embarking upon adolescence. The prospect of freedom to come is exciting, but also scary. She has many new feelings to explore, some of them worrying or turbulent. She needs to experiment with relationships--but safely, carefully, and above all, slowly, taking her time as she steps into the water. She feels shy many times, even if she's bold at others. And in the background, watching over her, is not only her mother, but her father, to whom she can retreat for protection, emotional and otherwise, when she needs to.

It's right that you should feel a little frightened of diving into your new life. You need to take it slowly. There are things you can enjoy exploring, but also things you have to learn. Everything Dr. Irene said about the legacy of your marriage is right on the nail, and what I'm saying is only making explicit that other, hidden part. Everything in your life is proceeding according to plan. It's just a different plan from the one most women follow.

It's even right that you should feel the need to hang on to your ex-husband for a time. He's still a father figure to you, just as he may have been when you were thirteen. However woefully inadequate he may have been in that role, with his excessively parental controlling, jealousy, and disdain for "stupid" children, he still provides companionship and familiarity; "the companionship was more important than sex," as you said. As it should be with a father. Even the information he inputs "for your own good" is a kind of guidance. And he's someone to run back to even as you step tentatively forward.

It's sad that the two of you couldn't make a permanent life together. Yet it's also right at the same time. If you had remained tied to him, you would never have had a shot at the adolescence you missed. If you "don't think you will ever be a couple again," it's also right that the father-daughter bond should take a back seat to new relationships.

And it's right that you should maintain an amicable relationship with him, however manipulative he is, "to keep things semi-together for the kids." The kids will appreciate this. You have balanced your life better than you know.

If you "don't think you will ever want to get married again," this feeling is right too for early adolescence. You don't know yet what the rest of your life holds for you. Above all, you sure don't want to rush into anything.

And if the attachment to your ex-husband holds you back a little from stepping out into the world, that's right too, just as a father attachment should restrain a daughter from going too far, too fast, or for the wrong reasons. There are pitfalls in front of you; but they're pitfalls you can safely avoid, as long as you're not in too much of a hurry. You have a social world to explore, a dating world to explore, a lot of people to explore before you decide where to go with your life--and whether you ever want to marry again, and if so, with whom. You don't want to hook up with someone who's the same as your husband (as too many people unwittingly do), or run to the other pole and tie yourself to someone with the opposite faults, as too many people also do. It can be a dangerous world, but also an exciting one, full of rewards.

So do step forward--but take your time. Adolescence can last, say, for five years. It's not unreasonable to give yourself that much time before you feel you know where your life is going. "Slow, but sure and steady progress," as Dr. Irene said. You're lucky too. In earlier decades, a 42-year-old left adrift could be isolated in a world of mainly married people. Today there are many single people out there. They all carry their baggage, yes; but are they any different from teenagers with classic problems of their own? At least you now have an insight into what that baggage might be.

You can negotiate this course. So step forward--but take your time. You have all the time in the world.

Good luck!

B1: Submit
Date: Friday, March 24, 2000

S1

Dear Dina,

You are NOT a control freak, as you call yourself, you are a SURVIVOR! You set a goal for yourself and against all odds, you reached it. CONGRATULATIONS! You are a winner and a terrific example to others that there IS a way out, even though it may take a while to get there.

Dr Irene hit the nail on the head about your husband (or a NEW abuser) being "comfortable". The safety and familiarity of what we KNOW appears safer emotionally than the fear of the unknown. That is why we keep going back for more or fall into the same type of relationship again. We naturally gravitate to what we know. It may be a bad place, but it is familiar territory.

I am personally working on breaking the cycle! Now that I know what abuse and codependency look like, I am striving to keep my discernment up so that I don't fall into the trap again. It has been too easy to settle for less than best just to have "company" as Dr Irene put it or to allow my time to be monopolized by one person to the exclusion of others. My low self-worth as a young girl made me think that "anybody" was better than "nobody". I know now that is not true.

Dina, don't settle for the familiar just to be "safe" by going back to your husband. Explore the adventure of other relationships. You still have a lot of life to live! You have proven that you are capable of taking risks and of taking care of yourself and your children. You are an achiever. Be blessed and don't be robbed again!

B1: Submit
Date: Friday, March 24, 2000

S1

Dina:

Wow, you have achieved some incredible things, swimming against the current for so long. Once that source of adversity was gone for me, it left me spinning, helplessly it felt like. I wanted so badly someone to fill the void created when I removed my abuser from my life. My whole world had revolved around him. Even during the separation. But I came to realize that unless there had been that farce of a marriage, I NEVER in a hundred years would chose to become friends with that man. Much less partners. I, too, was far too young to have entered into a relationship. I, too, have always done well at work. But for me, there can be no interactions with my ex. He can exert to much influence on me, and he is not seeking to improve himself through therapy. In one fight that I was trying to tell him what I could no longer tolerate from him, he viciously told me "You are NOT a princess." I retorted, "No, but I can find a man that will treat me like one!" Girl, you don't know how good that felt to say. I still believe it, but realize that I need a sabbatical from being in any relationship. I have to find myself before I commit to anyone else. I am rooting for you! You will find your path. Take care.

B1: Submit
Date: Wednesday, March 29, 2000

S1

Thanks for all the encouragement.

B1: Submit
Date: Saturday, April 01, 2000

S1

Boy, I have no help for you (I'm sorry to say). However, I am in the same boat as you. I'm 32 and my husband (whom I still love terribly) is pushing for a divorce. He is very emotional abusive to me, goes and does and says whatever he chooses, and doesn't care when I cry. My heart is really broken. What's worse is the fact that I'm being PUSHED out of a marriage I don't want to leave (I MUST be a doormat). He wasn't always like this and I've tried for so long to get back the guy I lost. It isn't going to happen, though. I am so afraid of starting over. As Dr. Irene said, he is so FAMILIAR. I, too, am a control freak but I don't have ANY control in this re- lationship. I would love to get over this fear of loss, abandonment, and be able to move on. It's just so scary. Good luck to you. I'm sorry I couldn't help you, but it helps me to know that I'm not alone.

Kathi

B1: Submit
Date: Sunday, April 02, 2000

S1

Dina, having been where you are at I must say what Dr. Irene wrote is all so true. I would encourage you to take the time to really think through what the abusive behaviors have really felt like to you. It seems over time we no longer feel the depths of the pain involved, if ever) which leads us to continuing to tolerate it. I would also encourage you to search out and get involved in environments where you are treated with care and respect. The contrast between what you have lived with and the healthy environment can in my opinion, give you more confidence and a stronger sense to yourself. Don't be hard on yourself with all this. After so many years in this marriage it is understandable that you will have ambivalent feelings about yourself and your life at this point. I think you have done a great job of moving forward! It took a lot of wisdom and courage to go forward with school in the midst of that marriage. You are blessed with determination and I believe it will see you through one day at a time. I wish you well and admire all your hard work and efforts. L. Kay

B1: Submit
Date: Tuesday, April 04, 2000

S1

Dina, thanks for telling your story. I am now four months divorced and one year separated from a man who messed with my mind on a daily basis. He could at the same time, pull me in with his charm and his promises, and then tear my heart out with his cruelty. I now know that very few of the things he told me were ever true, they were always manipulations to get his own way. He has threatened to kill me, he has had me on the floor sobbing that I just want to die, and yet, even knowing all this, and even being truly glad to be out of there and able to breath again, I am also really struggling. I don't know who I am, I feel like I am no one. He can still yell at me and twist the truth and make me feel like I should die. And it breaks my heart to see him treating other women with charm and generosity. It truly does make me feel some days that I have gone insane and I am stuck there! Sometimes I wonder if I will ever feel better. I'm like the Velveteen Rabbit - I have convinced myself that he and his girlfriend are real and that I am not. I guess all I can say today is that at least I am aware, I see what I see and I know what I know, and even he can't take that away from me.

B1: Submit
Date: Thursday, April 06, 2000

S1

Dearest Dina,

Reading stories as yours only gives so many of us comfort in knowing we are not alone. I admire your strength in going to school WHILE in the relationship, but more importantly your determination to reach your goal in unhealthy conditions only proves one thing, and that is now that you have the freedom just imagine what you can do?? The other advantage is you are still young and have so much ahead of you to explore, especially yourself!! A lot of woman who go through the near thirty year marriages are well into their 50's and even though they are still young, I would imagine it would be harder. As far as your involvement with the ex now....I agree whole heartedly with Dr. Irene......take your time........explore your new found freedom and feel your independence for a couple years at least. Its a comfortable dependency issue regarding the past life. I really thought when i got away from my abuser that I was going to wallow in the serenity, but instead found it quite difficult to adjust to. My therapist explained that I had become addicted to the chaos, the drama, and the unpredictability of the past and it is like a drug. I am learning to reprogram my thinking and it is now feeling much better but I will admit being alone was very scary but once you make it past those fears it is the most wonderful freeing feeling you will ever have. Thank you for sharing your experience, strength and hope with us.......you are a rare and unique woman indeed!!! Love Deede

B1: Submit
Date: Thursday, April 06, 2000

S1

Dina I know exactly what you are going through! except it's my dad who verbally abuses me! I live in Texas with my dad and my stepmom! my real mom lives in California! My dad alwayz puts me down and does the worse things to me! He's told me to kill myself! he's wished me to death and I have never said anything back to him! I try to ignore it but I really don't it hurts! I don't know what to do! well if you have any info or comments or advice e-mail me back I can't really do anything about it because I'm only 15 years old but please e-mail me back Kkandi_6901@yahoo.com

B1: Submit
Date: Tuesday, April 11, 2000

S1

Dear Kkandi,

I am unable to E-mail you, but I hope you get this message.

I don't feel that I am adequate to give you or any one else advise. As I said, it took me 28 1/2 years to get up enough courage to get out of an abusive relationship.

I have never had abusive parents so I don't know what I would do. You didn't say a lot about what was going on so I am doubly unable to give you words of comfort. I can tell you that when I was 15 I was alone most of my time - crying with a 1 year old crying child. My husband fussed terribly if I went to my parents house (They were nosey and liked to cause trouble between us. 'His version'). I have been fortunate though, in that, I have always had people who cared about me - Maybe you have people you can turn to. Not teenage friends but more mature friends (i.e. at church, grandparents, teachers, school counselors, coach, etc.)

You need to talk about the abuse. The not talking is what allows the abuse to continue. Also, I can't say enough for writing your thoughts down. It helps you to see what you are thinking because, believe it or not, most of us don't know what we are thinking most of the time. It also helps us to see it from a perspective of someone else - Sort of removes it a little. Maybe you could talk to your father. Sometimes the abuser doesn't realize what he/she is doing. When things are going good (not during a heated argument) speak to your father about how you feel.

We are told that all parents love their children. The sad truth is that is not always true. However, sometimes, the abuse we get is abuse carried over from generations of not knowing how to give or show affection. I don't know anything about you or your father, but maybe some of these things will help.

Most important - DON'T GIVE UP!! YOU ARE NOT ALONE - DON'T ALLOW YOURSELF TO FEEL ALONE. Seek out "healthy" people. Don't only speak to people who say what you want to hear, but listen to "healthy" people who see both sides and truly want to help.

My thoughts and prayers are with you. I hope this helped. Sorry I couldn't be of more assistance. I guess if I had any wise advise it would be: BE PROUD OF WHO AND WHAT YOU ARE AND DON'T LET WHAT ANYONE SAYS ABOUT YOU CHANGE HOW PROUD YOU ARE OF YOU.

I read the following statement on the church bulletin board and it has always given me inspiration, "Lord help me to live my life so that if anyone says something bad about me no one will believe it." I don't know who wrote it but it has always been a measurement for me. When my husband said bad things to or about me I would go to the measurement and see where I was in reference to where I wanted to be.

No one can make you be less or feel less than you allow them to. I know that seems frivolous when you are in pain, but say positive things to yourself everyday. Eventually, you will believe your good over your father's bad.

Good Luck, and GOD Bless. Dina

B1: Submit
Date: Friday, July 25, 2003

S1

Dina, I have been married for 27 years and we dated for 5 years previous to that. I am 48 so I have been with the same man for 2/3 of my life. We also have 3 children and they are grown. None married. My husband had 2 affairs over the past 10 years and I still tried to keep our marriage. In that time I got my drivers license, a job, and did not have too many friends to turn too. My husband takes a lot of medication for RA and has recently been spending HIS friday nights getting bombed. He would go out with my oldest son and his friends. He would get verbally abusive with only an occasion physical abuse with according to him was always provoked by me. I admit he would really anger me and if I got really riled I would throw something at him or even hit him. Well at least six months ago, I went to a neighbors house who had been a friend of mine for better than twenty years. I cried and revealed my life to her. She was amazed. She told me she had a summer home I could stay in and just pay for the utilities. I went for a ride to see how far from work it was and my daughter, who was supportive of this, went with me. I could not do it and when he realized I was planning on moving out he told me he loved me and did not want me to go. I stuck it out until June of this year and my friend and I left our homes together. My husband accuses me of abandonment of him and his kids. Thankfully, my oldest son who would never want to hear about his "dad" is accepting what I have done, agrees his father is acting like a child and thinks he needs to grow up. He still antagonizes me on the phone and tells me I belong at home even though he is making no attempt to come around. I must admit I am very confused and a little scared. I am now starting to think about domestic violence counseling because even though it is not physical it is still abuse. He is beating me up all the time. I actually think I am starting to fall out of love with him. Karen Wilkes Barre, PA