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Doc@DrIrene.com

Not Always Abuse

Not Always Verbal Abuse

 

From: Tara Lee
Sent: Thursday, August 19, 1999 9:17 PM
Subject: E-Mail Advice

Dear Dr. Irene:  Am I the abuser or is he? (Or are we both)?  Here's the situation:  I recently married the man I've been living with for two years. During our courtship, he was affectionate and helpful, taking time to help cook and do foreplay, all the things that women like. After the first year, his attitude about taking time for "us" changed, to the point where he never seems to have time for sex unless it's for two minutes right before bed, or right when we wake up (of course at those times, I'm exhausted and there's
nothing in it for me). When I put my foot down and said I was unwilling to have sex or do household tasks unless he was willing to commit some time to these things, he repeatedly promised, but for the last 2 years has not pulled through with action.

Each time he breaks an agreement, such as a plan to take a half hour of special time before bed rather than a quickie, I share with him my hurt and let him know that he can tell me "no" if he feels he can't follow through. I tell him that since this has been a continuing pattern of broken promises, my trust in his actions is rapidly fading. He says he'd do anything to keep me and promises that this week it will be different, but each week he conveniently "forgets."  Of course our sex life and the household tasks
continue to be on hold until we work this out. 

My question is, am I the abuser here because I have started to express a lot of anger about this situation, while he acts calm and collected?  I have broken dishes and even squirted water and food over him upon finding another promise broken. He says that I have a problem with anger, and I agree, I do now, but isn't anger a normal reaction to passive-aggressive behavior such as breaking agreements for such a long period of time (weekly, sometimes daily, for 2 years)? 

At this point, I have hardly managed to get the foreplay or household help I have asked for in those 2 years, and at this point, this is not as crushing as the confusion over the broken promises.   I would not force him to give me what he didn't want to give--I would accept a no at any time, since I respect him as a separate person. Am I an abuser because I want to have occasional sex with my husband, and get mad about it sometimes?  Am I an abuser because I've started to throw things after two years of broken promises? I am so confused.  I  feel that he might be as angry as me, just acting it out in a less direct (and potentially more damaging) way.  He acts so calm and sometimes laughs at my anger.

Should I take an anger management course, or does he need counseling on passive-aggressive behavior?

A Concerned Newlywed

Dear Tara Lee,

 
Not everything is abuse. I am not sure where to draw the line, so I don't - and include most disrespectful verbal behavior under the "verbal abuse" umbrella. Abuse however, is about CONTROL. It is one person attempting to control their partner: to entice that person to meet all of his or her needs and wants, to control the intimacy level of the relationship so that the partner is kept at whatever distance the abusive person is comfortable with at a particular time.
 
You are not describing abuse. I am not saying that your relationship is or is not in the beginning stages of abuse. I cannot tell one way or the other. I am saying that you are not describing an abusive, controlling  relationship. You are talking about a guy who for whatever reason is very angry with his wife and who expresses his anger passive-aggressively. You are talking about and a gal who has no clue what she may be doing, if anything, that is getting him mad, but is getting pretty fed up with his behavior and is acting out.
 
So, is it an abuse relationship? I don't know. Are you abusing each other? Yes, in terms of the disrespect you show towards your partner. You are no longer on the same team. I think you guys need to enter into marital counseling so that you can nip this week in the bud before it takes over the whole garden.
 
Best wishes to you both,
 
Dr. Irene