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I'm Abusive...Help Me!

From: George

Sent: Friday, May 21, 1999 6:03 PM

Subject: Can you spare a second for a verbal abuser who actually wants to change?

Dear George,

I can spare more than a second, my friend. Forgive me for SHOUTING, but it is what works best for me as I comment throughout your email...

Dr. Matiatos,
My name is George and I have come seeking advice on how I might save a marriage that I have taken advantage of for a long time now.  I am married and a father of 3, about 2 months ago my wife informed me that she had endured my verbal abuse for several years and was now seeking to get out. She said she had gotten a book on verbal abuse and was also seeking counseling for abuse victims.
My initial reaction was one of disbelief, why would she consider herself an abuse victim; after all I had never hit her?  I found your web site via a search on abuse and I spend most of my time there now.  I have learned many things from your articles and I am going out to purchase several of the books you recommended this weekend.  I'm afraid it is too late. IT IS NEVER TOO LATE. DO IT! AND IF YOU WONDER WHY SHOULD YOU BOTHER, REMIND YOURSELF YOU HAVE NOTHING BETTER TO DO WITH YOUR TIME.


After reading much of your material I will freely admit that I do have an anger problem and I have been verbally abusive to my wife.  GREAT! YOU CAN'T CHANGE IT TILL YOU OWN IT. The effect your material has had on me is to bring forth a feeling of profuse shame. MOST ABUSIVE PEOPLE SHARE YOUR REACTION. YOU HAVE BEEN TRAINED TO FEEL NOT-OK SINCE YOU WERE A LITTLE KID. ENOUGH ALREADY! STOP JUDGING YOURSELF! YOU ARE NOT AN AWFUL PERSON, JUST A PERSON WHO HAS BEHAVED AWFULLY. AND THAT YOU CAN CHANGE. When she initially stated that I was verbally abusive 2 months ago I have endeavored to correct my behavior.  I tried to strike up a conversation the other night and during that conversation I asked her if she knew I still loved her?  Her response was she didn't really care. HER REPLY REFLECTS HER ANGER. SHE HAS A RIGHT TO BE ANGRY. I asked her as to what she felt about the past 2 months and she replied it was good but that she did not trust me. SHE HAS NO REASON TO TRUST YOU. JUST LET HER BE. THEN YOU WILL BECOME MORE "TRUSTABLE." Is there anything I can do? YES. ACCEPT THAT SHE IS WHERE SHE IS.

We have had many arguments in the past and things were said both ways that were meant to inflict severe pain.  I recently wasn't feeling well and I asked my wife if maybe I had cancer?  She responded that she did not really care if I did or not. SHE IS VERY ANGRY WITH YOU. DO YOU NOTICE THAT ASKING HER ABOUT CANCER IS MANIPULATIVE?  I PROMISE YOU SHE IS TIRED OF MANIPULATION. IT WILL ONLY MAKE HER ANGRIER. NOTICE IT SO YOU CAN STOP IT.  of course did not forget that statement.  STOP DWELLING. USE THE ENERGY TO FIX YOURSELF. Later the next month we had an argument and I made the statement that maybe she should just drive off a cliff somewhere.  Did I mean it?  No!  Why say it?  I was trying to inflict as much pain to her as she had to me.  THEN YOU UNDERSTAND WHY SHE SAID WHAT SHE SAID AND HOW MUCH SHE "MEANT" IT. WE SAY LOTS OF STUPID THINGS OUT OF ANGER, AND WE MEAN THEM ONLY FOR AS LONG AS WE ARE ANGRY. USE ANGER MANAGEMENT SKILLS TO HELP YOU NOT ACT OUT AND MAKE THINGS WORSE.

Some background on myself.  I am a very gung-ho type person.  No, I am not a Marine but I go after things at work with the same go get-em attitude.  I recently started back to school to earn my 4-year degree.  GOOD FOR YOU! Having only a 2-year degree has always made me feel inferior.  STOP JUDGING AND COMPARING. I have driven myself hard and achieved a position where I am actually supervising others with 4-year degrees.  I still fell inferior though. I had a choice, remedy the situation or live with it.  I decided to remedy the situation and go back to school.  ALTHOUGH ITS GREAT THAT YOU WENT BACK TO SCHOOL, SINCE THAT IS WHAT YOU WANTED TO DO, YOU STILL NEED TO DEAL WITH THE INFERIORITY. YOU ARE NOT INFERIOR BECAUSE YOU ARE LESS EDUCATED. YOU FEEL INFERIOR BECAUSE THAT IS HOW YOU FEEL ABOUT YOURSELF. BUT THERE IS NO BASIS IN REALITY NOT TO FEEL OK ABOUT BEING WHO YOU ARE...BUT THAT'S A WHOLE OTHER TOPIC...

Do I feel inferior to my wife because of her higher education?  Yes. YOU WOULD FEEL INFERIOR ANYWAY, AND YOU WILL UNTIL YOU ACCEPT THAT IT IS OK TO BE IMPERFECT. STOP JUDGING YOURSELF!  Do I tend to overcompensate taking a superior position on most things because of this?  Yes.  I'M GLAD YOU SEE IT.  DO NOTHING ABOUT IT - THAT MEANS, STOP ACTING SUPERIOR. (TRY HUMBLE). Do I over emphasize even the smallest error she makes to try to make myself seem like the smart one?  Yes.  GOOD. NOW YOU CAN STOP IT SINCE IT DOES NOT ENDEAR HER TO TO YOU TO PUT HER DOWN. YOU ARE AS SMART AS YOU ARE, NO SMARTER & NO DUMBER. THERE IS NOTHING TO PROVE. My wife completed her education after we had gotten married.  We have been paying her student loan ever since (over 12 years).  When I told her I would have to get a student loan she became upset at increasing our debt.  I couldn't believe it!  After all of those years of paying hers I couldn't get one?  LOOK AT HOW YOU GO ON AUTOPILOT AND FOCUS ON UNFAIRNESS... Actually looking back at that argument though enlightened eyes created by your articles, I see now that maybe she was trying to recommend that we pay as much as we can before getting another loan. However, being as insecure as I am, I saw it as a threat and retorted in anger trying to do my best to hurt her feelings.  GOOD THAT YOU SEE IT. YOU CAN STOP IT. ALSO,  TELL HER. SHE WILL PROBABLY APPRECIATE YOUR GROWTH EVEN THOUGH SHE MAY BE TOO ANGRY TO LET YOU KNOW THAT SHE DOES

As for my childhood I had a fairly unstable family.  My mother and father fought a lot ever since I was very young.  I vividly remember a fight they had and my mother going out and sitting in the backyard with the car keys in her hand all night.  I was on my knees crying at the door yelling for her not to leave.  My father sat at the kitchen table chain smoking cigarettes and didn't even offer me any comfort.  My father was pretty much verbally abusive (now that I know what to look for) either not saying anything at all or only letting me know what I had done wrong.  The result of this childhood?  In my family I saw myself as the discipline and my wife as the love.  Pretty stupid eh?  I would severely punish my children when they made a mistake yelling loudly and spanking them.  In short I became my father. This has severely hurt my relationship with my children. ABUSE SPAWNS ABUSE. YOU CAN STOP THE CYCLE NOW SO YOUR CHILDREN DON'T REPEAT IT WITH THEIRS. START BY APOLOGIZING FOR HURTING THEM. MAKE IT YOUR BUSINESS TO TREAT THEM NOW AS YOU WISH HE HAD TREATED YOU THEN...

So I am this uncontrolled monster that thinks I can do no wrong and it is everyone else's fault right?  Wrong!  YOU BET! Actually, I love my wife very much. Not because she's easy to verbally abuse and I can take all of my aggression out on her, I actually love her as a person.  YEP. TELL HER THAT. She's really smart.  She finished   school ON TIME while having a baby in the middle of her final year!  TELL HER THIS TOO. She loves to work outside with plants and she has a really good green thumb. AND THIS. She has what I consider to be a gentle spirit. AND THIS. When she is around it is this gentle spirit that I feed off of like a starving animal. TELL HER. I wrap myself up in it like a warm blanket.  I feel that I am as addicted to
it as a drug addict.  What has my anger done to that spirit?  ASK HER. It doesn't shine as brightly as it used to.  She has one of the biggest and gentlest hearts I have ever encountered, and my anger has made that heart distrustful and spiteful.  Like the song says, when she shines, she shines so bright! Thanks to me there isn't much left but a glimmer.  It's too late isn't it? ITS NEVER TOO LATE.

As I mentioned earlier I have made extreme strides in taking control of my behavior in the last 2 months.  I was attempting to achieve general behavioral improvements but after locating your web site I now know specifically what to do.  Do I really want to?  Absolutely!  I pride myself
on always wanting to learn.  It's too late though isn't it? ABSOLUTELY NOT!

One of the things that used to anger me the most was my wife and I would go through long periods of sexual inactivity.  She would ignore or avoid my advances. SEX IS ABOUT LOVE. IF SHE IS NOT FEELING LOVING TOWARDS YOU, WHY WOULD SHE WANT TO HAVE SEX? I accused her of alienation of affection all the time.  I accused her of having affairs and being interested in other men and that was the reason for avoiding me (I do believe she did have an affair last year).   Finally she would give in to my gestures just so my mood would improve.  The results of this pattern?  Recently she told me that having sex with me made her feel dirty, and that she could never be intimate with me again.  It's over isn't it? NOT NECESSARILY. BUT YOU NEED TO EXAMINE YOURSELF: IT IS OK TO HAVE NEEDS (FOR SEX OR ANYTHING ELSE) AND TO MAKE A REQUEST. ONCE, TWICE. THEN STOP. IF THE OTHER PERSON DOES NOT WANT TO GO THERE, YOU NEED TO ACCEPT THAT. ASK YOURSELF WHY YOU WOULD WANT TO FORCE ANYBODY TO DO SOMETHING THEY DON'T WANT TO DO. WHAT DOES IT DO TO HOW THEY FEEL ABOUT YOU IN THE LONG RUN?


So here I am opening up my heart to you look for any glimmer of hope and feeling pretty confident that I will receive none in return.  Mainly from what I saw on your web site was that you were saying "round up the verbal abusers and nuke them all!"  OH BOY, ARE YOU OFF BASE! THAT CARTOON IS A TAKEOFF ON HOW THE ABUSER NUKES HIM OR HERSELF!

Question, what do you do with a verbal abuser  who genuinely wants to change?  ITS NOT WHAT I DO; IT IS WHAT YOU DO. YOU NEED TO BE ABLE TO OWN THE AWFUL WAYS YOU HAVE BEHAVED IN THE PAST, APOLOGIZE TO THOSE YOU HAVE HURT FOR HURTING THEM, AND FORGIVE YOURSELF FOR YOUR BEHAVIOR AND FOR HAVING ALL THESE THINGS WRONG WITH YOU. REALIZE THAT YOU ARE HUMAN AND  IMPERFECT. THAT IS A SIMPLE FACT. DON'T WASTE YOUR TIME DWELLING IN SHAME OR DEPRESSION. SPEND THAT ENERGY ON REDIRECTING YOUR BEHAVIOR. SEPARATE WHO YOU ARE FROM HOW YOU BEHAVE. NEVER FORGET THAT YOU CAN HAVE WHATEVER FEELINGS YOU HAVE. BUT, REMEMBER, WHAT YOU DO WITH THOSE FEELINGS IS YOUR CHOICE.

What do you do with a verbal abuser who has a proven history of learning and being able to change?  Too bad he's a verbal abuser just kill him? YOU MIGHT KILL HIM; I WOULDN'T. Already I have made improvements.  I will continue to do so if for no other reason than for my children and myself.  GOOD! YOU'VE GOT NOTHING TO LOSE AND EVERYTHING TO GAIN. Even if my wife and I do get divorced I will continue to visit your web site, read the
books you recommend and strive to become a better person and achieve inner peace.  Life is not much good without inner peace, as you pointed out. 

But what about my marriage?  Too bad you verbally abused your wife; one strike and you're out? YOU DESCRIBE MUCH MORE THAN ONE STRIKE. Is there nothing that can be done? YES. YOU CAN ACCEPT THAT SHE FEELS THE WAY SHE FEELS AND RESPECT HER FEELINGS EVEN THOUGH YOU DO NOT LIKE THEM OR AGREE WITH THEM. I feel so  ashamed that I don't even talk to her unless she says something first.  TELL HER THIS. In a
way I feel as though the roles have reversed with me becoming the victim and she becoming the abuser.  NOT BY A LONG SHOT!  BUT, SHE IS FED UP AND ANGRY RIGHT NOW. I guess it is poetic justice right? NOPE. JUST PART OF THE DANCE. IF SHE HADN'T GOTTEN FED UP, YOU WOULD NOT BE EXAMINING YOUR BEHAVIOR. How can I even talk to her without her feeling I am trying to manipulate her words and use them against her?  YOU CAN'T. SO, JUST LISTEN. DO NOT TRY TO CHANGE HER MIND OR TEACH HER SOMETHING. JUST LISTEN TO WHAT SHE HAS TO SAY, NO MATTER HOW YOU FEEL ABOUT IT OR HOW IT AFFECTS YOU. DO NOTHING. LISTEN AND SAY NOTHING, EVEN IF YOU FEEL YOU ARE GOING TO BURST. The last time I asked her to give me an honest answer she said "why so you can use it against me?" YOU HAVE TO ACCEPT THAT BECAUSE YOU HAVE USED HER WORDS AGAINST HER IN THE PAST. SHE DOES NOT TRUST YOU NOW. NOR SHOULD SHE. TRUST IS EARNED. YOU WILL BECOME MORE TRUSTWORTHY AS YOU SHOW HER THAT YOU CAN ACCEPT HER FEELINGS.

Isn't there some sort of checklist or signs you can tell verbal abuse victims to look for if their verbally abusive partner indicates that he actually Wants to Change? GREAT IDEA. I WILL POST A LIST - BUT IT WILL BE A TIP SHEET FOR THE ABUSER TO CHECK THEMSELVES ON  (THE PARTNER CAN USE IT OR NOT-THIS IS NOT ABOUT CONVINCING THE PARTNER). MEANWHILE, CHECK OUT THE MANALIVE LIST).

Is there no other option other than Get Out, Run Away?  THERE ARE MANY OPTIONS. Is there no type of counseling we can take together to improve things? IF YOUR WIFE IS NOT INTERESTED IN COUPLES COUNSELING, THEN COUPLES COUNSELING IS NOT AN OPTION. ACCEPT IT. SHE WANTS HER OWN COUNSELING. YOU SHOULD CONSIDER THERAPY AS WELL. ASK HER FOR A REFERRAL THROUGH HER SUPPORT NETWORK.

There are 3 precious little lives at stake here.  Do you think the kids want the weekend mom and dad routine?  The youngest is only 1 year old, she'll probably think her father is just some kind of weekend daycare worker. KIDS WANT MOM & DAD TOGETHER; THEY LOVE BOTH OF YOU. That is not the main reason I want the marriage to work.  I actually am in love with my wife. TELL HER THIS. Can you imagine the pain it inflicts on me to hear her say, "I don't really care how you feel?"  Sometimes I wonder if she is speaking honestly or simply trying to inflict pain.  SHE IS VERY, VERY ANGRY. YOU HAVE TO RESPECT THAT SHE FEELS THE WAY SHE FEELS. YOU REALLY HAVE NO OTHER WISE OPTION. NOT ACCEPTING HER THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS IS WHAT GOT YOU WHERE YOU ARE TODAY.

With the divorce rate as high as it is today and the emotional damage it causes to children, can we not find a way to fix relationships rather than abandon them? YES. FIX YOURSELF FIRST. I know it is harmful for children to be in a verbally abusive relationship with a parent.  I am the product of one. YES. But imagine the lesson I would have learned to see my father change and my mother and he develop a truly loving relationship both between themselves and with me. YES! THAT WOULD BE THE BEST LESSON IN THE WORLD! I would have endeavored to become the person he became, rather than the person he remained. 

I know you really hate to respond in any positive way to an admitted verbal abuser EXCUSE ME, WHERE DO YOU GET THAT FROM?  YOU'VE READ THROUGH THE SITE.  HAVEN'T YOU FIGURED OUT YET THAT I'M NOT HERE TO PUNISH YOU?  I TELL IT AS I SEE IT. I DO NOT JUDGE YOU IN TERMS OF GOOD OR BAD.  I ASK YOU TO STOP JUDGING YOURSELF - FOR YOU ARE FAR TOO PUNITIVE A JUDGE, AND THIS IS NOT ABOUT JUDGMENT ANYWAY. I SUGGEST THAT INSTEAD YOU ASK YOURSELF IF YOUR STRATEGY WORKS, AND OFFER SUGGESTIONS TO CHANGE IT IF IT DOESN'T. MY GOAL IS TO HELP YOU OWN YOUR BEHAVIOR WITHOUT BEATING YOURSELF UP. MY GOAL IS TO HELP YOU ACCEPT  WHAT YOU CANNOT CHANGE (ANYBODY ELSE, ANYTHING OUTSIDE OF YOURSELF) AND CHANGE WHAT YOU CAN (YOUR THINKING & BEHAVIOR, ASPECTS OF YOURSELF). but there are a few of us who are ashamed at what we have become and are so personally offended by what we've become that we will do anything to change. GOOD. NOW YOU'VE GOT A REAL SHOT AT CHANGE.

The last time I asked my wife do you want to leave, she said she didn't know.  I don't know how to take that. JUST ACCEPT THAT SHE DOESN'T KNOW. Is she simply afraid? PROBABLY. Is she simply worried about the financial impact? PROBABLY. MAYBE UNDER THE ANGER SHE ALSO LOVES YOU. I'm too scared to have any hope. FEAR IS A NORMAL FEELING UNDER THE CIRCUMSTANCES. JUST SIT WITH IT. BUT THERE IS ALWAYS HOPE.

Please, respond when you get a chance. I plan on joining the GRRRR forum and corresponding with other reforming abusers but I would rather not have my email address posted on the web site for the entire world to see.  Gee, that sounds like someone who is embarrassed and ashamed at what he has become doesn't it? NOPE. SOUNDS LIKE A NORMAL PERSON WITH NORMAL CONFIDENTIALITY CONCERNS.
Thanks for listening,
George

George,

I think you are in a good place, as painful as it may be. Allow your wife to be angry. You really have no other choice, since she is angry. Learn to tolerate that people feel the way they feel whether you like it or not, your children included.  Stop judging yourself. Stop beating yourself up. Separate who you are from how you behave. Take responsibility for your past mis-behavior and forgive yourself for being human. Apologize to those you have inadvertently hurt, and figure out how to do it differently next time. You may even want to share this email with your wife. But only if she wants to.

Naturally, you are very concerned about your wife leaving and proving to her that you have changed and will change more. Stop talking about your changes and demonstrate them. Acceptance is a key change in showing her that you can be trusted. Including accepting her leaving you. You may have to show her that you will let her go, if doing so may help her come back.

Keep up the wonderful work you are doing.

My warmest regards and may God bless,

Dr. Irene

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

Courtesy of Dr. Irene Matiatos, Copyright© 1998- 1999. The material on this website may be distributed freely for non-commercial or educational purposes provided that author credit is given. For commercial distribution, please contact the author at Doc@drirene.com.


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