|December 29, 2005
I am starting to see who I am.
I want to change it.
I know I can and have started to read about how to do it. It will take
time and a lot of work but I can’t go on living a life where I treat the
closest person to me poorly. Right on all counts,
and good for you!
I have been emotionally abusing my wife for at least 8 years. I had
no idea I was doing it. Yes! Too often people
behave abusively without a clue that they're doing it, and don't really
hear it or understand how big it is when it's expressed by the partner.
Many of the men and women I work with who have been verbally /
emotionally abused can't believe that the partner didn't know they were
doing it or weren't being abusive on purpose. But, it is true! Many if
not most abusive people have a hard time understanding that they are
abusive! It wasn’t until she spoke up and left me that I
started to even understand what the term meant.
Yes. Now when I really look
at it, I was constantly taking frustration out on her and yelling at her
when she didn’t agree or do things my way. I have made her life a living
hell, and she covered it up with smiles and love.
I'm glad you see what you did in retrospect. She was likely hiding her
feelings and smiling because she was trying to keep the peace. Although I thought I
was returning the love, I know now that someone who loves someone doesn’t
treat her (or him) with disrespect and control.
I was always controlling everything
– the food we ate,
how it was cooked, the movies we watched, the money we spent, how she
talked on the phone. I was always listening for mistakes and pointing
them out to her. Thinking that you were helping
her, no doubt. Correcting her. And I would get upset when she didn’t take my
suggestions, as if I’m the only one that counted.
Right. And her fear of your anger and/or her inability to speak up
clearly and forcefully, combined with your difficulty in hearing
her kept things status quo.
My anger got the best
of me at times and I would yell until the "walls shook".
Yes, and since you got your way by doing this, you were unwittingly
"reinforced" by your wife for your poor behavior. So the bad behavior
would increase in frequency. A few times I
even would hit the dashboard or steering wheel in an argument. I hate
myself for this. Please hate your behavior
instead of yourSelf. This is an important distinction to make in
your recovery. Hating the self or being too hard and demanding of the
self is part of the mentality you have to get rid of. Look at it this
way: God/nature/whatever you believe in made you. There is nothing wrong
with you per se. But behavior is a choice. You can choose to
behave in ways that are ugly - or not. Behavior is a choice - even
if it doesn't feel that way early on. (No such thing as "They made
me do it.") So, you can be very, very angry (an internal feeling), but
you don't have to act out that anger and behave abusively.
I see I never respected myself at all.
Yes! Now you get it: behaving badly is
disrespecting the Self; kind of like "Who cares? Its just me.." Well, it
is You and You need to care! Respect and caring for other begins with
respect and caring for the Self.
I always saw how
beautiful and full of love my wife was, and in return I took her for
granted. I have read that abusers mistreat their partners because deep
down they don’t think they should love them. Is this true?
There are many reasons people abuse. The roots are
often based in fear and insecurity. Abusive people are often internally
very insecure. They may appear secure, or think they are secure,
nevertheless these individuals do not own or admit their insecurities to
themselves. They are often afraid to love because they feel too
vulnerable. "What if my loved one left me? Oh no! I can't give them that
kind of power over me, so I'd better not let myself get too dependent on
my partner. OK to not let them know how much I really care." Some think
if you treat your partner too lovingly, they will end up being taken
advantage of, so they never really give of themselves out of fear. They
internally keep their partner wanting so their partner can chase them.
This helps their feelings of insecurity. Others take virtually no
responsibility for themselves. They believe it is their partner's job to
make sure all their needs are taken care of. Their partner should be
able to intuit needs, or else they've somehow failed.
strange – why
couldn’t I see this while it was happening? Why was I able to continue
and never stop myself –
why did it take my wife leaving for it to slap me upside the head and
shake me until I could see the truth right in front of me?
Probably because you were the more overbearing one
and your insecurities kept you from really hearing your partner. After
all, you know better. Right? Wrong. You may have even thought, at some
level, that it was your "job" to steer her. Work on yourself, and one
day you will be able to tell us what was going on in the back of your
And here I am. Deeply regretting my behavior over the past 8 years.
Sick to my stomach over who I am (better to say
over how I behave) and desperate for a change.
Good! I looked up
"verbal abuse" on the web to find so much literature and chat groups. I
stumbled on Dr. Irene’s website and was astonished at the information
and experiences. I couldn’t believe how many people go through this
everyday. Amazing, isn't it?
This has been a quick crash course and I will continue to
learn – thank
you all for your stories and advices. It hurts to see how many people
are affected by controlling people out there. It is painful to see that
many of the relationships are beyond repair. Often
the victim, in their inability to make themselves heard or their fear of
the abuser, keep them in a position where they see no option other than
taking it and taking it - far longer than they should. Lots of anger
builds up. Lots. Often the victims develop post-traumatic stress type
symptoms that, for their own sake, let alone the marriage, they will
need to overcome. It kills me that I couldn’t
see it earlier - I want to stop it. I don’t know if my wife will ever
trust me again. That depends on both of you. You
will both likely need counseling. Please consider individual therapy to
help you fix this.
Her realization came suddenly. 4 months after our wedding this
summer. It hit her like a brick. Confusion, isolation, crying all the
time and distancing herself. When I saw how serious it was, we
immediately went for counseling. Again, part of
the problem is that the person who is abusive doesn't understand how
much the partner is putting up with until there is a sort of break down.
After talking some more she started to
remember every single fight we ever had and started to remember how I
treated her each of those times. Yes. It hits many
victims as a "Realization." The look in her eye changed from Love
and sparkle to coldness and loss. It was so painful to see the only
woman I ever really love stop loving me in an instant.
We tried therapy once a week for four weeks but her need to get away
and be on her own became too strong. Yes; and you
had no sane choice but to give her the space she wanted. Anything else
would have been controlling behavior on your part. So much so that we had to book two
flights; one leaving the day after Christmas and then a few days later
we had to make one leaving immediately (this was last week) as she could
not stay any longer. The damage was already done and there was no
turning back. But there was also some good: she
spoke up and you heard her loud and clear.
As soon as she returned back to her parents' house (in another
Country) the memories flooded her. Yes. Over the past few days she sent
several hateful e-mails and one phone call that made my stomach curdle.
She compared our relationship to eating a great banana pie and finding a
toe at the bottom of it. She yelled at me and reminded me of several
times when I miss-treated her. I'm glad she's
telling you this stuff. And you're listening. That is very good. I have never heard my wife this angry.
She needed to vent. I needed to hear it. At times I tried to respond but
then I realized I should stop talking and only listen.
This has been the most painful experience of my life and I wish I
could turn back time to stop myself 8 years ago - but I know I cant. My
wife is filled with rage and it is directed towards me, and although it
is hard to hear –
I can’t imagine how hard it is for her to feel these feelings. I am
reading about Reality 2 in Patricia Evans book
– "Verbally Abusive
Relationships" Look at this one:
Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry
and Controlling Men
by Lundy Bancroft.
and I realize that I had the privilege of spending the
last 8 years of my life with the most beautiful, nurturing, mutually
supportive and co-creative woman. I threw it all away because I could
not see and control my behavior. Now I sleep alone and this is the
loneliest place to be after sharing your bed for 8 years.
It makes me sick but I know I have to fix it before it gets the worst
of me or hurts my wife further if she ever chooses to look this way
again. I don’t know if there is hope at the end of this long road to
recovery – but
I guess the realization although too late will make us both better
people to exist in this Reality 1 world!
what happens between you two, you will be in a much better space in life
once you begin to master these concepts.
Is there anything you recommend I concentrate more on in these weeks
to come? Alan
Yes Alan. A few things. First you need to
understand what you're doing, then you need to find ways to fix it.
Anger management should help you learn some needed cognitive and
behavioral skills, while some of the more spiritually oriented books
will help you learn to be kinder and gentler to the Self, as well as
less judgmental and and more tolerant of the totality of you. You may
not like parts of yourself (such as your fears, your insecurities, your
biases, etc.), but you do need to accept these pieces.
Becoming less judgmental and loving towards
yourself makes it easier to be more tolerate and accepting of other.
You want to get to where you are not only
accepting of the Self, but accepting and respectful of the other
person's Self. Their right to make their own choices. Loving someone is
allowing them to grow in their own direction, even if -
especially if - you think they are wrong or if you think you
know a better way for them. Loving is about encouraging your partner's
growth without reacting to your own fear of how their growth may affect
you. Live and let live.
There are lots of great books on the market. My
To help you see
To teach you to
control the angry behavior, pick one of the below. Look inside
both of them; pick the one that feels more in tune with you.
A very good compliment to the anger management
books; this one will help you focus even more on the angry thinking that
fuels the angry behavior.
The one below will help you become more mindful
of your anger as well as more accepting and less judgmental of who you
are. Read slowly and practice a few minutes a day. Make this one part of
your lifestyle, like brushing your teeth.
Another learn-to-love-yourself book.
This one is great for men.
I also invite you to send this
page to your wife, and I invite her to post. Not only will I comment
on your posts, but also on hers. I will be back in probably a little
more than a week to reply.
My very warmest wishes to you and
your wife. I wish you both peace, health, and happiness for the New
Readers: is there anything you
would like to say to Alan - or his wife? Please type your comments
below and press "Submit" ONCE - and wait. And wait some more. You
will get to the comments page.
No more posting, but please read the
Warmest regards, Dr. Irene