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Doc@DrIrene.com


 

My Difficult Wife

"Know thyself." -Delphic Oracle, cited by Plutarch

June 10, 2000

Dr Irene,

 
Hello, I have been a reader on your site for a year or so now and want to start off with a big THANK YOU! Your site and the recommended reading list has helped tremendously in recognition of the abusive marriage I have been in. My problem feels huge and sometimes insurmountable. Nothing except death and taxes is insurmountable!
 
I have been married for nearly four years, but in a relationship with my wife for a little more than five. The first three I felt so lost and confused. I felt like I was trying, but would almost always be told in subtle (and not so subtle) ways that I was not acceptable. From being on family vacations and reaching for my wife's hand and being refused. To flat out and out ridicule in the bedroom. The first thing you have to do is stop giving her so much power. Recognize that she will think what she thinks, and it will have virtually nothing to do with you - and everything to do with her.
 
I began journaling my feelings and the daily interactions in an attempt to find the "problem". I have journals three years and older which I have recently reread, and can see how I questioned everything - and then over time came to accept much of the abuse. Isn't it funny how the person who is most self-reflective, who turns inside to look for the source of his or her problems - which is what we all need to do - gets "blamed" when married to a partner who does not look inside as much? Keep up the self-reflection, but don't rely on her for your self-esteem. 

We have three children. Hers from a prior marriage (14), our daughter (4) and our son (3). From the moment our daughter was born she was my baby, she has been a pure joy.:) I was up in the middle of the night walking with her, bathing her, feeding her, reading stories, playing ... and did likewise with our son. All the while working full time while my wife was an "at home mom." Most weekdays I would get up with the kids, get them dressed and breakfast at least started before going to work. On the weekends I would get up with them and allow my wife to "catch up on her sleep," convinced that she was doing the lions share. Even at-home moms need some help from dad, otherwise there is no down time, and the kids and daddy don't get the benefit of being with each other, but I will assume there really was a discrepancy in who did what...

 
I became very concerned when the "punishments" my children were receiving included hair-pulling to get their attention, a smack across the mouth, pokes, jabs and other assorted actions. Spankings were becoming a daily activity and the source of many arguments between us. Ooops! Teaching the kids violence... The older child would occasionally get more physical punishments, all the while I fell deeper and deeper into denial that I could make a difference. The spankings and such ceased, at least while I was present, but my daughter would tell me much when I got home from work. Even though the spankings lessened, the verbal assaults continued ... a three year old being called a b*tch and told she is lazy and fat. The older often referred to as a f***ing little p***y. Verbal abuse... While I don't know the whole story, what you're talking about is unacceptable.
 
I suggested counseling and was rebuked many times. When I started counseling on my own, it would be demanded that I tell her what we talked about. She can demand all she wants. Tell her, if she really wants to know, you may allow her to join you. She wanted to know if all this money being spent on therapy was "fixing me." Tell her that this is an inappropriate comment. She wanted to know if we were addressing my problems. Tell her that is not her concern. She had total control over the money and basically my life - the time it took me to travel to and from work was calculated and I was required to account for any deviation from her schedule. Why would you allow this craziness? 
 
I left our house after a huge fight one evening when things were getting smashed - the time for separation was here. By this point I was being awoken at night while sleeping because either she went through my wallet, the car or had a thought that I was "up to something". Ugh. The police were called that night by myself. Good. I did not feel safe returning because by this point she was talking about buying a gun. Oh boy... I moved directly into an apartment. Unfortunately, I left the children there. Yes, that is unfortunate... 

 It has been nearly two months now and we continue this "dance". We had mediation scheduled and she asked if she should cancel it and maybe work on our relationship. I told her yes that we should through counseling - *poof* that weekend she ran off on a date to the beach. Mediation was still approaching and she asked again - a little more cautiously I agree to counseling. This time I was accused of an affair - she broke into my vehicle and then had me arrested when I attempted to get back what she stole! This is a sick woman. Protective orders have been issued keeping me away from her and the children. We have since had a preliminary custody hearing and the judge dissolved the protective order on the children. I hope you are documenting all of this.

 
Now again, she wants to drop the charges against me and "work on our relationship". But at the same time preaches to me that I need anger management classes because of my alleged "assault" on her. Yuk. She admits no wrong doings - she does say she mistreated me but that is in the past and I need to "get over it". She is the perfect mommy and sets limits as the what I need to do for her to take me back ... AND ... I find myself considering IT!!!!  HELP!!! First of all, what are these things she is asking? Are they reasonable? Why am I doing this? You really, really want the marriage to work; you want your kids back. I know the minute I agree to working on our marriage something else will come at me again. Then use it to fight back. If, for example, her "limits" are reasonable and you agree to work things out, wait for her to provoke you again. Then, don't react! This will be hard since you are outraged at her incredible behavior; she is likely to do something equally stupid like steal stuff from your car. Instead of reacting to her provocation, call the police. You remain calm and behave in an assertive manner no matter what!

 I am stuck. I love my children dearly and I feel they are being held captive. I am not sure which way to turn. I am seeing a counselor and she has helped, but I am becoming more and more financially strapped and cannot seem to break this codependent thinking ... that only if ... and if she would just ... No counselor can break it for you. You are the only one who has to realize that the if onlys are only in your wishful thinking. If you go back, go back because you've changed how you handle her provocation, not because you think she will change.

 
I am not claiming to be an angel throughout ... many times we have switched roles from abuser to victim and back again. This is probably why she feels justified in requesting you take anger management classes, which in no way means she doesn't need them too (though, honestly, she sounds as though she needs letting-go-of-control classes). Many victims need them since nobody ever taught them how to appropriately handle anger. Of course you will be livid if you so-called partner treats you as your wife has treated you, but you will get nowhere if you behave in kind. In fact, it will be used against you - and, you won't feel good about how you handled yourself.

This alone factored into me leaving as I did not like what I was becoming. Of course. But, you can learn to do nothing until  you've figured out how you want to handle the situation and how you will put it across. I recognize it yet cannot seem to move forward. I have court dates coming up and seriously need to clear my head ... yet I continually find myself having to jump through hoops to be able to see my children. I am  tired, confused, stressed out and feel seriously on the edge. Talk to your internist. The ongoing stress may have messed up your brain chemistry. A course of antidepressant medication will help normalize you and help you cope during this very trying time. I can also see it in my children's eyes and hear it in their voices how much this is affecting them. I have very little proof that this has been going on, and what I do have, I do not know if it will hold up in court. This is why you want to document, document, document. This is also why you want to display exemplary behavior especially when she doesn't. Your good behavior will provoke her to provoke you even more. Its only a matter of time until she loses it and does something stupid that will make her look really bad. I keep finding myself wanting to "change her" and sometimes still feel like I can. Don't bother. Spend all your energy changing yourself in the direction I suggested. Truly, the only way to change her, and it won't really be you doing it, is to change yourself. She will behave differently towards a person who will not put up with her stuff and who will not play her sandbox game. How can I know what to do next when I do not feel I can trust myself or the decisions I make? Tonight I am being pulled back into the dance once again and seriously want to stop, but how? This is where the antidepressant comes in handy. It's a great kick start. You will no longer feel overwhelmed and hopeless; you will not react as much to her stuff. Now you are in a better position to learn the lessons you still need to learn.

 
Thanks ... even if this does not get a response thank you for letting me vent. My family is tired of hearing it and does not understand what I have been living. You've been living in Hell. By taking you power, you will be on your way out.  I have very few friends as I have been living in a shell for years. Get a support circle! Try CODA.  Again, thank you and God Bless. Steven

Steven, Take another look on the Bookshelf for assertion books to help you manage your anger and then teach you appropriate assertive responses. You've probably read enough codependency books; you need to learn some skills.  A few books that come to mind are When Words Hurt- How to Keep Criticism From Undermining Your Self-Esteem, Don't Say Yes When You Want to Say No (my personal favorite) and Asserting Your-Self- A Practical Guide for Positive Change. Good luck. You can do this! 

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