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Doc@DrIrene.com

He Wants My Forgiveness

 Interactive Board:  Your ALT-Text here He Wants My Forgiveness

February 1, 2005

Dear Dr. Irene,

I 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.  

I 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 stimulating words. From 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...

He 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.

Yet, 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 this. But 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.

I 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

Dear 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 upset!

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:

bullet The Secret of Overcoming Verbal Abuse: Getting Off the Emotional Roller Coaster and Regaining Control of Your Life by Albert Ellis et al. Read it slowly and really think about and practice what it talks about.

Also:

bullet Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation and Guilt to Manipulate You   by Dr. Susan Forward and Donna Frazier.
bullet Men Who Hate Women and the Women Who Love Them by Susan Forward and Joan Torres.

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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