|March 10, 2005
Dear Dr. Irene,
I have been in a verbally and physically abusive relationship for almost 10
years, married to him for 7. I'm sorry...This past October I finally said enough is
enough. He had to change or I was done. I could no longer take the insults,
jealousy, controlling behavior, criticisms, accusations or physical attacks
(which he has pointed out didn’t happen very often – somehow that it makes
it okay? Yeah, right. That is about as OK as putting
just a tiny amount of poison in your dinner guests' food on those
evenings you wish you hadn't invited them!) We have four children and all of us have been subject to his high
standards that apply to everyone but him. He has gone so far as to call our
children losers, morons, stupid and a variety of other unacceptable names
when they don’t act in ways that he feels that they should. This past
summer our 5 year old daughter, who has an exceptionally loud voice and
outgoing personality, was held under pillow to “Shut her up while I am on
the phone.” This very brief account of his behaviors leads me up to where
I’m at now. And you certainly have come a long way!
After two months of repeatedly requesting him to get help and acknowledge
what he was doing to myself and our children. I finally told him that I
needed space, I couldn’t live under the same roof with him anymore. He
reluctantly went, but constantly called me at work and in the evenings
begging to come home and wanting timelines for when that would happen. He
let me know how depressed he was, that he couldn’t eat or sleep and was
losing weight. Why was I doing this to him.
Is "Manipulative" his middle name?
What about what he did to you and your family?
Three weeks after he moved out, he came by the house to
talk to me about what it was I wanted from him. I told him that I didn’t
want to do this anymore, I wanted my life back. He proceeded to plead with
me, I said "No." Smart lady. He went on to say
anything he could think of to make me angry – he succeeded, and let me know
how well he knew how to push my buttons. I still didn’t give in.
Very smart lady. His next move was to overdose
on alcohol and pain killers. Very manipulative; very
dangerous. It's too bad he doesn't understand the only person who can help
him is himself. By morning he was in the hospital begging me not to
make him stay. He loved me and wanted to just get away somewhere with me.
This was in January.
He came back from the hospital and moved back home. I know that I did this
out of guilt and some twisted thought process that it was my fault he did
this. Many people stay in relationships out of guilt;
nobody wants to feel responsible for another individual's possible suicide.
He spent two weeks in a partial hospitalization program for depression,
started counseling and joined a men’s anger management group. He also is on
medication for his depression. By the end of January he appeared to be
making progress and was actually participating in the kids lives. They are
loving their father’s attention, but I’m wary of his actions.
Stay wary. At this time I thought that maybe
he was actually changing and that we could work through this, although I
still wanted a physical separation. I spoke to him about it and he was
excited, but unsure about the separation, why couldn’t he just be at home.
Four days later I was subject to an awful verbal assault when he came back
from his friend’s house. He said his friend told him that I didn’t really
want a separation, I wanted a divorce and was just looking to get him out
of the house and then claim that he had abandoned his property. So much for
change. So much for change...
Since this episode, he has gotten his own apartment and continues with
counseling and his group. I have also been seeing a counselor who is
helping me learn to set boundaries and work through all the conflicting
feelings that I have. Excellent! I started
attending a group for abused women, it helps keep my perspective on the
situation. Yes! You certainly seem to be doing all
the right things. Good for you!
In the six weeks since he moved out I have told him that in no uncertain
terms that I have to be done with this relationship, for my own self
preservation and for the kids. I am finding that I do not miss him, I feel
better about myself every day, but feel bad each time he is here to get
something or see the kids. Your reaction is
common. Once the abused person recognizes there is really no change on the
partner's part and has gotten some distance and support, each day feels
lighter and lighter. He has been relentless in his efforts to tell
me how he is changing and that he can promise me it will never happen
again. And I'm sure he means what he's saying - at
the moment he's saying it. Unfortunately, his ability to follow through at
the critical moments is w whole 'nother story.
He tells me how awful he feels
about what he has done and why can’t I see that. I'd
rather hear him say how awful he feels about what he's done to you and the
kids, and why can't he see that!? Answer: Because his motivation is
to show you his pain. Your pain is less important. He says that he still loves me and
he can forgive me for this. He can forgive you?
Excuse me, but I may be a little confused here. Seems to me that it's
you who may consider forgiving him! His train of
thought (MeMeMe) indicates to me that nothing has changed. Be careful!
I’m making a mistake and I’m just too stubborn to admit it to him.
This is where my question comes in…is it possible for an abusive person to
try to manipulate you with kindness?
Absolutely! In fact, this is exactly what's happening, and his behavior is totally "normal" and in line with all
the rest of the abusive stuff. His actions clearly demonstrate that the only person he really
cares about is himself, and he is attempting to control the situation around him to best
care for his needs, as he sees them, with no regard for your
feelings. This is why abusive people are often
called "Jekyll and Hyde" types; two personalities rolled into one.
He's in the good boy,
I am most disturbed about his
line that he could forgive you, that you are making a mistake - and most
upsetting - that you are not seeing this clearly. I am concerned
that you have lost some of the clarity you had earlier, and are instead doubting
yourself again - and are close to allowing yourself to be emotionally manipulated.
He tells me so much and so often, what he is doing to change and how he
doesn’t want his kids to see their father treat their mother that way
anymore. He’s going to be a better person, with me or without me.
Well, that's excellent! That's what we all
want for him! So, let him continue with his quest, you continue with your
life, and when and if you no longer sense manipulative, MeMe actions, you
can determine if you want to work things out.
I’m going to realize too late that I made a mistake and
someone else is going to benefit from his changes.
This is very controlling and manipulative.
If he really had grown to the extend he thinks he has grown, he would never
make such a statement. I
would be more encouraged had he said something like: "I want to change and
be a better husband to you and better father to our children. I understand
that you don't trust me now, and I don't expect
you to trust me overnight. Gainining your trust will take time, and if I am a very
lucky man, you will notice the changes. I want you back
very much, but only because you are sure I have become the person you want to spend your
life with." You see, this shows concern for your feelings (remember, you
have feelings too) - not just his! Should he ever make such a
statement, you would expect to see him carry out this behavior over time
without attempting to manipulate your feelings.
Instead, he persists viewing the world
from his perspective only. He can make all the promises he wants, and he
will kill you with kindness. But unfortunately, given the direction he's
going in right now, it will be your slow death indeed.
I feel like he’s trying to plant seeds of doubt in my
mind about the decisions I feel I have to make.
Correct. Trust your feelings. I still feel that I see the same
abusive behaviors, just more subtle. Correct. Trust
your feelings. It scares me to think what that means. He will call
me and ask me to have lunch with him. When I say “No thank you.” He
responds with “You’re so mean, if you would just try this would all be
fine.” Sounds like control and manipulation attempt
to me. The right answer would be more like, "OK."
All this is sprinkled with an occasional, “I just wish I
could hold you. I miss you so much.” MeMeMe! What
about what you feel? Do you want to hold him? I feel like I’m
losing my mind some days. Hmmmm... That doesn't sound
consistent with wanting to hold him.
How do I know when he’s being sincere or just playing
games when it’s not accompanied by screaming, name-calling, breaking
furniture or physical threats? You know because it
feels right. You know because you don't feel confused.
Still letting guilt and self-doubt creep in. Karin
Yeah. Because you're letting him manipulate
you by giving you the words you want to hear. Words and promises, yet when
push comes to shove, he doesn't deliver. Your feelings are not in his
picture. No room for you!
Dear Karin, Think about it: if he's for real (which
I'm sure he wants to be),
wouldn't he be more concerned about your feelings? If you were in his
position, having put your spouse and kids so much over the years, what
would you say? In the same sentence that you tell him you want to change
and be a better partner and father, would you tell him that he is making a
mistake to leave - and that someone else will benefit from it?
Somehow I doubt that. It's a mind-clarifying little trick to put yourself
in his position, and using your ordinary compassion, think about what you
would say to the other person.
And he should be able to carry out what
he says he will carry out over time. No ultimatum, no implied threat, no
pressure, consideration for your feelings. That's what you're looking for.
Parenthetically, keep in mind that it's
not your job to help him fix himself. How he does it, what he needs to do,
etc., etc. are not your concern. Your job is simply to keep yourSelf safe
and comfortable. Your second (yes, second; you first) job is to take care
of your kids. And it ends there.
Do you see why I say your clarity has
slipped a little from how well you started out? (Which is normal, by the
way, since this is just a new level you need to master.) He's become more subtle, so
have to identify and put a stop to this level of stuff. Then, be prepared to deal
with the next level - and the next - should you choose to hang around.
Here's some reading you may want to do:
I'll be back next week, so please post
your questions. Good luck to you! Dr. Irene
Dear Readers, do you have any feedback
for Karin? Please type it in below and hit "Submit." It may take a while,
but don't press "Submit" again.
If you don't have any comments, but just want to read the replies,