|February 1, 2005
Dear Dr. Irene,
feel pretty desperate at this time so I really hope you can give me
some advice. After seven years of marriage and so many conflicting
emotions, it might be hard to keep it short and simple, but I will try.
I recently found out that I am married to a passive aggressive and
verbally abusive man. It took me long to figure it out; I always knew
something felt wrong, but I couldn't put my finger on it.
am from Europe and came to visit a friend in the US, and that is how I
met my husband. Five days after we met, he asked me to marry him. I
came to live here, giving up all that I had; my family, friends,
career, house, car, cat, and my foundation. I was OK with that but I
did feel like he was the only thing I could depend on here, and then
when he started to treat me disrespectfully, I felt so lost (we had
many fights about that in the beginning).
Everything I would say would
be taken as 'an opinion he couldn't agree with'. If I made the
slightest mistake, he would point it out. He would question why I did
certain things the way I did them and would make remarks about my
cooking or housekeeping, etc. skills that would really hurt. For
instance, I would be doing the laundry (something I have always done
since the day we married) and he would stand next to me and say
something about the soap container or the wash machine being dirty. Or,
no matter what I would be cooking he would tell me how to do it better,
turn down the gas or give advice I didn't ask for.
He contradicts me in public.
For example, in front of our children's pediatrician after I voiced a
concern he would say, well I don't think it's that way. And if I said
something about that later he would say, 'So I am not entitled to my
opinion? It is ok for you to say what you think but not for me?' And I
would be confused and think: well I guess I am wrong to feel this bad.
He has a lot of anger, which
scares me. If I bring up things that bothered me (like decisions he
made without consulting me or his passive aggressive traits) he would
blow up and I would be confused and hurt - and not know how to respond
- so in the end I just decided, "Well, I guess I won't bring it up
anymore." Now I understand that you pay a price for keeping silent.
I went on Zoloft because I
couldn't figure out why I felt so depressed, angry and anxious. Friends
started complaining that I wasn't the person they once new. I lost
interest in and got insecure over my appearance because I never heard
a pretty independent, self aware and self secure person, I became an
accessory to his life. I would have to tag along in the way he wanted
me too or we would have a problem. There were also physical signs that
clearly indicated that I was unhappy.
He can be aggressive to our
children, not physical, although he can't control himself very well
when they really make him mad. I guess dragging our son up by his ear
or leaving red marks on his arm should be considered physical?
Yes. Not OK. Sometimes
he yells at them and shows no patience or empathy (he is the same with
our dogs). He will be very sweet, gentle and understanding at one point
(almost fake, I sometimes think), and then when he has had enough, he
will blow up. If he had a bad day he can all of a sudden snap.
By no means is he a bad
father but we have many differences in how to raise the children. For
instance, he takes it personally when the children want me (or call out
for me) and not him. He has actually tried to keep them or me from each
other! It makes me feel like he is in competition with me or that he
has a hard time sharing. Trust your feelings! He spends
money the way he likes to, but complains if I spent too much (in his
eyes). I wanted to take up a hobby, so I started horseback riding at
his mom's farm. I had made it clear (so I thought) that I wanted to do
something just for me: no kids, no husband. Good! After I went twice, he all of
a sudden (after he had never shown any interest in horses) decided he
was also going to horseback ride! He would saddle up a horse at his
mom's farm while we were visiting and ride off without saying anything
and just assuming I would stay with the kids. His middle name is Control...
often makes family decisions without asking me first. He was raised by
a controlling and verbal abusive mom who is addicted to food. His
father was an alcoholic drug abuser who was in and out of his life. He
has no real friends and is an only child and grandchild.
still he says he has no problems at all and had the best childhood
anyone could ever wish and although he admits he is controlling and
verbal abusive, he says I am trying to make him deal with unresolved
issues he doesn't have; the only issues he has are the one's he has
with me(???). After I confronted him about how I felt and how angry
I've been over the past seven years given how he's treated me (and
still does), all he wants is for me to forgive him SO he can change.
He makes me feel bad for being bitter and resentful -
after all he is trying to change. Recovery 101: Don't you dare feel
bad! Or guilty! You have a right to feel angry and hurt! Recovery 301: You
allow him to manipulate you so that you feel bad, and you don't have to do
I feel broken, tired, angry, my self esteem is out the door, and I feel
so bad that I can't go on anymore. I don’t feel I can trust him to
change and I can’t trust myself to really forgive him and therefore
give him a fair chance. Yes. Well said.
am scared and feel defeated and all he can do is blame me for being
cold, resentful and he says we will never be happy again if I don't
change. This is silly. It places all the responsibility on
you. It is normal for you to feel badly if you've been treated poorly. The
fix isn't for you to make yourself feel a way you don't feel. The fix is
for him to change his treatment of you, despite your resentment, to try to
win you over. I
am desperate for your opinion because I feel so confused. I know I seem
to be rambling on and focusing on a lot of negative stuff but lately I
feel that is all I can do. I almost feel like I need permission to feel
this way and get maybe getting a divorce is the only way for me to
become myself again and to heal and learn to feel good again. I really
want to become me again, and right now I don’t know how I can. I will
be glad with any advice you can give me.. Eva
You feel terrible because for seven years
your husband has been tearing away at you, trying to control you - so that
he can feel more secure/ powerful/ whatever he needs to feel. You see this
now. Good. There is
nothing wrong with you for feeling the way you feel. It is perfectly normal
to feel awful when you are being treated badly. It is perfectly normal to
be furious with him. There would be something wrong with you if you weren't
Do not take responsibility for his
happiness. You've been doing that far too long. It is illogical for him to
blame you for being cold and resentful. If you are cold and resentful, he
must accept that you are feeling cold and resentful towards him. It is not
your job to overcome your feelings so that your husband can feel better!
This is more of the same kind of control and emotional blackmail that he's
been pulling on you since the beginning.
There are two sides of you fighting each
other right now: the part that feels the pain and anger and anguish over
your treatment, and the part that still feels responsible for his
happiness. You need to separate these two sides. There is no confusion,
because it is OK to feel both ways. You have to let the side that is trying
to save yourself win.
The part of you that takes care of him
and feels responsible for him is your codependent side. That part is
codependent because you place his feelings above yours. To your own
detriment, and you give and give and give. This would not be a big problem
if you were married to a man who was the same way, or at least didn't take
advantage of your goodness. But you married a man
who only knows how to take and take and take. He does not give emotionally.
So, with this man, this side of you is a big problem. Whether you stay with
him or not (but especially if you decide to stay with him), you need
to learn to trust your feelings and not allow another person to hurt you.
You cannot allow this very soft side of you to be manipulated by his
discomfort, which is what you've been doing: sacrificing yourself for his
feelings. Not OK!
The angry side of you has welled up now.
You've had it! It is essentially telling you that if you stay in this
relationship, you will die.
Will he get better? Hard to know, but I'm
not encouraged to hear him insist you forgive him - so he can get better!
This is just more selfish control stuff on his part. This guy is not likely
to get any better than you require him to. So, you better learn how
to see through his manipulations. Your current dilemma is just one more of
the same ol' same ol'.
You need to understand that what he's
requesting of you now is dead wrong. From deep down you need to
understand that you
are angry because of how he's treated you and that you will stay angry
until he treats you much, much better. You will forgive him when and if
he deserves to be forgiven, and not one second before. It is ridiculous
that you should forgive him immediately. He has to earn your forgiveness
over time with his good behavior. And, my most important advice to you: you
may forgive, but never, ever forget!
It is troublesome to me that you feel
confused over this very basic stuff and are so very susceptible to his
manipulations. You need counseling so you can sort through this stuff. You need a little
help so you don't feel so guilty in asserting your interests. This is your
life! Only you can fend for yourSelf. Especially with this husband, but get
some counseling and support whether you stay with him or not. Keep in mind
that you are not crazy in any way. But you are in an abusive relationship.
Your husband is very good at controlling you emotionally, and you don't
really see it clearly - or see it quickly enough without confusion.
You have permitted your husband to treat you badly - because you did not
know any better. You have to learn how to know better and learn the skills
you need to set down firm limits.
For starters, study this book:
The good news: you're at that stage where
you're just about to turn the corner.
The CatBox is a purrrfect
place for you too now. A little empowerment is what you need! Hang in there,
and I'll be back to answer your questions next week. Dr. irene
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