April 19, 2000
Hello Dr. Irene:
I will try to sum up 20+ years in as little space as possible.
Here is my description of my husband: 44 year old male. High
school dropout. He never knew his father. His mother died on
his 14th birthday. He has no brothers or sisters; no known family
anywhere. (I know there are some abandonment issues here!) He
basically raised himself - lived on the streets - played pool - shined
shoes, etc. Much drinking and drugs. No self esteem --
although his reputation as a teenager was a "bully".
Enter me: raised by my Southern Baptist Grandma ; very strict.
Country Girl. Studying psychology. Meets Mr. Big City -
feel so sorry for him. (thought it was love!) Poor guy, no home - no
family. I want to take him in and take care of him. That was
my first mistake!
20 years later: 3 children (17, 15, 11)
He is obsessive/compulsive - he is a fanatic about the house and the yard
looking like something out of "Better Homes and Gardens".
The weird part is it only has to LOOK good - it really doesn't have to be
clean. That is one of our ongoing battles. He yells and screams at
everyone to do this and do that - pick this up - pick that up. But,
underneath all the "LOOK GOOD" is germs and filth!
Hard to explain. Here's an example: After supper,
I load the dishwasher - wipe down the counters with a hot soapy dish
cloth. OH MY - there is a STREAK on the counter. So he will
grab a nasty rag from underneath the sink that is filthy - germy - and
proceed to re-wipe all the counters so that there is no STREAK!
Doesn't matter that he just spread germs all over - it LOOKS CLEAN.
OK, so you get my point. He binds his anxiety and
feels "settled" when everything his eyes rest on is in place and
On to the kids. He has to control everything, especially in their
rooms. Oh boy... They have no privacy:
he goes in their rooms probably 10 to
20 (I'm not exaggerating!) times a day to see if everything is
"straightened up". He makes all 4 beds every morning
- no one could make one to suit him.
Then, no one can even sit on their
bed. They might mess it up! No one can have friends over (without
a big fight, anyway)! No friends can spend the night (he might
have to control his yelling and screaming - can't have that!)! Besides, they might make a
James (15) is ADHD/Bi-Polar (no wonder!) Has always had behavior
problems in school! He has never been able to please his dad.
Poor James has taken the brunt of most of the verbal abuse over the years.
James might have not wiped off his feet and drug in a leaf. James might have left a glass in the sink, rather than put in in the
dishwasher. Whatever it is - it turns into a 30 - 40 minute lecture-screaming session.
No matter what happened, James probably did it!
Whether or not he actually did it doesn't matter: "Well, if you didn't do
this, then you probably did something else
that you just didn't get caught on!" (What logic!!!! Yuk. ) James has so much pent up rage against his
father; rage he's never been allowed to
vent. He beat James once. I came so unglued, it's never
happened again. He left bruises up and down the backs of his legs
and butt! James has an IQ of about 120! He is a
computer/ math/ mechanical genius. Too bad Dad won't let Joey touch
any of his tools in the garage - he's not allowed to go in there. Granted
City Boy dad wouldn't know what to do with any of the tools - they
are just for looks! Never been touched!
Marty (17) was an outstanding basketball player. But, after years
of the pressure from dad for perfection, he quit the team and gave up a
basketball scholarship! Marty has anger control problems himself.
I have talked to Marty about his dad's abuse, and he knows it's wrong.
But he's just a kid; he can't understand WHY! WHY is dad this way?
WHY can't dad see it? I don't know either, Marty!
Karen (11) is quite fickle. She knows how to play both
sides of the fence. She uses either me or dad, depending on who she
can manipulate! She comes crying to me when dad is in one of "his
moods", but then if dad and I are into it, she sides with dad! She knows you will forgive her... Oh, she's good at
manipulation! But, she also has ulcers, IBS,
and a host of other stress related problems! Ouchhh!
Too, too young for all that!
What about me? I've left him a half dozen or so times. He gets
suicidal. He cries, loses weight, can't go to work, follows me around, leaves
presents and notes on my car! That's his problem.
Why make it yours - and be manipulated by him? "I have no family - no friends. All
I have is you and the kids! You can't leave me! I'll end up in
the gutter!" "I can and I
will." "I'll change! I know a home isn't a home
without you and the
kids in it!" BLAH BLAH BLAH. So, we go back and within 6
months, its to the same old s*&t!
He knows my love is gone. We haven't had "relations" in
over 3 years. I have tried to explain to him what verbal abuse is - what
Obsessive/ Compulsive Personality Disorder is. The last time I came
back, I told him I would stay until the children are raised. Why did you say that? Did he promise he would behave?
Don't give away the store!
my co-dependency keeps me there. Question: Is this
what your kids want? Ask them.
Now, he thinks everything is my problem. He is in such denial about his
problems, I can't get thru to him. He has a way of turning
everything back onto me. If I tell him about obsessive/compulsive,
says "Oh, you just hate me so much, I can't do anything right.
Everything I do is wrong." "Dear, it
just happens that much of what you do IS wrong."
If I tell him about Verbal
Abuse - he calls James "Pig boy" or "Slob boy" and a host
of other horrible names, he says that I have brainwashed the kids so
that they don't listen to him. "Yes. I
want our children never to tolerate being called names."
He accuses me of "never backing
him up". "Correct. And I will not
back you up." When he has to "get onto" the kids for
something (verbally abusive), then I just "run in and save the
day" and make him look like the bad guy! "Yes dear, when you scream at them, you are
the bad guy. Expect me to rush in and save the day. Like clockwork." If I object to
his yelling/screaming he says "Well what am I suppose to do. These
kids won't listen unless you scream at them." "Start by not screaming or making impossible demands
of them." "Why don't
YOU ever say anything to them! You always make me be the bad guy". "You make yourself the bad guy." I've tried to tell him that I CAN'T back him up when I don't agree with
what he is doing. Parenting is about agreeing on
what you are going to do ahead of time; behind closed doors. Optimally,
the parents present a united front - and give the kids choices and
consequences. Super how-to book: Canter & Canter's Assertive Discipline for Children. You need
to be very unemotional and clear with him about not wanting to back
him up (a simple, assertive statement like, "I will not back up
abusive parenting." Period. End of Story.) as opposed to trying to
get him to understand, which he won't do. Set behavioral limits
I don't know where to go from here. He won't go for counseling.
"He doesn't believe in 'psychobabble bullshit." You've lost your power. Here you are, a woman living with
a man you do not love who is mistreating your children. He won't accept
your feedback, and he won't hear of counseling. You had power before,
when you left him. But, you were unable to hold onto it in the
months following your reunion. I suspect you lost your power because you
are not setting clear, simple limits. You don't want to call the kettle
black, which it is. That's essentially what my answers do above. Also, I
don't try to make him understand or see the light. I am only
interested in setting limits on what I perceive as abusive behavior. Take
a look at this reader's
letter. Clear limit setting may work; on the other hand, you may need
to leave again to reclaim your power.
I'm leading a double life! I'm a counselor (imagine that!) I help people that
choose their career path!
I'm in Rotary, Chamber of Commerce, PTO, Booster Club, you name it -
I'm there. Mrs. Organized ! What a JOKE! No joke. You are organized! And very
competent, I'm sure. I'm dying
inside - I'm screaming inside! Yes.
Loudly! I work 2 jobs -
still in school; I'm on the 70 Year Bachelor Degree Program! Yikes!
just got into another big blow-out this weekend. (He screamed at James for
45 minutes because he "left a CD on his dresser"!) I
AGAIN explained what the signs of verbal abuse are; what
obsessive/compulsive personality disorder is. "It
is not a crime to leave a CD around. Kids do that. Stop it." Now he has
"pouted" for 2 days, like he is the one that has been hurt! Let him pout all he wants. Don't let the pouting
manipulate you. "How could I say such terrible things to him, when all
I ask for
is a nice clean home and for everyone to pick up after themselves!" "Because dear, you ask for way too much." How do I get
thru? You may not. I think medication might help, if
you could get him to your internist, or, better yet, a psychiatrist.
One last thing: In addition to the above problems, I recently read the
book "Obsessive Love." The book could have been written
about my husband! He thinks that he "knows me better than
I know myself." I bet! The times that I left him,
"You are just
going thru a phase! You'll return to your senses and realize that
better off with him". (Just thought I'd throw that in!) Which makes me wonder, just why are you with him?
Should you go through a separation / reunion again, I suggest you
implement a signed contract which includes marital counseling, parenting
training, ongoing psychiatric evaluation. Tip: Get your hands on every assertiveness
training book you can find! Memorize them! Good luck to you! Dr. Irene
I want to read the posts.