covering October to December 2000
Dear Dr. Irene,
I'm not sure what I'm hoping to gain by writing this. It must
something important because I'm spending the money even though I feel
guilty about spending it. Guilty about
doing something for yourself? Hmmm… Yes,
especially when it costs money.
Things have gotten much easier financially, so I’m
seriously considering some ‘just because I wanna’ purchases.
Hmm.. OK, I've just realized what I hope to gain:
I want some feedback on whether I'm steering my life in a healthy
I left an abusive marriage on November 1, 1999. At the
time, I didn’t know it was an abusive relationship. Not
unusual. I only knew that I was
terribly unhappy and lonely. I was always telling
myself that I should be
happy because B. did housework and the laundry and how many men did
that for their families? (Never mind that he was compulsive to
the point of picking up lint from the floor constantly and angry
with me for not doing what 'I should' to keep the house
I first asked for a separation
in February of 1999. We had an
argument over something that I don't even remember now. It started
of with something very small (as most of them did) and escalated
there. I told him that I wanted a separation and he
until he realized that I was serious. I didn't want a divorce
that time. I just wanted some room to exist w/o having to deal with
him. I felt so trapped and as if nothing was my own.
When I refused
to back down, we sat the children down to tell them that we were
going to separate for a while. B. told them, "your mother
to leave me and she won't give me a chance". Not OK, but you already know that…
No matter who does what, the kids should be protected from it. They
need to love both of you. (I had refused to go to
counseling with him before leaving but said that I would like to go
back to dating and have counseling to try to reestablish our
relationship on a different basis.)
Of course, this upset the
children. So, in an effort to be fair (I thought), I agreed to
counseling before trying the separation. You’d
already made up your mind to get out. You’d had it. Yes,
but I hated the idea of hurting him and my children so I put what I
needed aside for what I thought that they needed. That was a
mistake. I can’t be
anything for anyone until I can be what I need to be.
Also, I never want my girls to accept these things in a
also sounds like there was too much water under the bridge - you
were far too angry for counseling to work. You already knew what you
needed and you were being denied it.
was a nightmare for me. These counselors wanted me to open myself back up to B..
to me, was the equivalent of exposing my neck to a man with a knife.
Feelings and pain that I divulged in counseling became weapons to
against me later. Did the counselors
know that? I tried to tell them in
every way that I knew how. B.
would tell the counselors that he would agree to whatever I needed
to be happy, even if it meant ending the marriage.
One counselor told B (so B. says) that he was being too
accommodating. That I
didn’t respect him because he was being ‘wishy washy’.
I can see how that can be true. B. was
apparently doing everything he could think of that you were asking
for. The problem is that the stuff you were asking for is the
subtle, little stuff you don't even notice. The stuff that shows you
in countless little ways that you are friends... B. doesn't know how
to operate at this level.
had learned through the years to keep up a
shield in order not to show hurt over what he said or did.. because
somehow I instinctively knew but refused to consciously acknowledge
that that causing me pain was a goal for him. Ouchhh!
But now, it felt
I'd handed over the key to unlock those defenses. I cried
tried to keep it for when I was alone. I spent 8 months crying
car on the way to and from work (1 ½ hour each way). I was in
emotional pain and was afraid to face whatever it was that was
causing the pain. So I couldn't get past it. We only spent a
of months in counseling because we were mature adults after
all…able to handle our own problems (yeah, right). Yeah.
Just a couple of weeks prior to my asking for a separation, I
became attracted to a man online. He was a member of a larger
group that I frequented. I realized that this was not an
that I should pursue, that I wasn't free to have those kinds of
relationships outside of my marriage. That my husband should
best friend. This realization provided the 'kick' that
needed to get some perspective in my marriage. I was surprised
I could feel this kind of attraction and emotion for someone that
never met. I realized that I was so hungry for love and
acceptance, having this man be part of my life was too important to me. I
had to do something to make B. that center of my life. (Yes, I see
this for what it is. Now.) OK.
You realized what you missed was that intangible sense of support,
partnership and comradie.
B. eventually asked me if there
someone else that I had strong feelings for (he snooped on the
computer) and I confessed that there was. I told him that I'd
this man that I loved him, that he was my best friend. B. told
that he should be my best friend (though by the time I left the
marriage he'd told me that I had unrealistic expectations. That no
husband and wife were best friends). Perhaps
no wife married to him!
He remarried in October 2000.
His new wife seems to be a very nice woman and the children
I'm sure he picks very
lovely women, just like yourself. Unless he changes his ways, or
unless she is extremely codependent, he will eventually wear her
down too. The saddest thing is that he has no clue that he does it,
how he does it - nor does he want to do it.
The counselors assured us that my emotional affair was a symptom of
what was wrong in our marriage. Yes. They
told me that I had to allow
B. the same access to me (this part that I'd been keeping from
him) as I had given my online friends. But
you had given him access in the past…Didn't the counselors also say that a best friend
has this information, but
won’t use it against you, even though he could? No,
I didn’t realize this until finding your site.
This terrified me. I refused
to give up my online friendships even though B. was having a fit
about it. I felt that I'd given up enough; I absolutely put my
down on this. I refused to give up the comfort that those
provided me. B.'s behavior became more and more vocal and
aggressive. He made sure our children knew that I'd told
that I loved him. Dirty play – one of the
reasons, I’m sure, you could not love him. (Our girls are
now 10 and 13.)
He told his friends
and both of our families that I'd cheated on him. Finally, on
November 1, 1999 he had a blow up that I was afraid would lead to
physical violence. I left that morning for work and never
another night with him. Good. B. has no
clue how to be your friend. By that time nor did he have any
interest in it either. I got a lawyer
and filed for divorce. I
never turned back. I let him know that divorce was the
for me and that I hoped that somehow, someday we could manage some
kind of friendship. He did try to get me back several times (I
now that he was seeing someone else at the same time that he was
trying to get me to date or have sex with him. I'm so glad
never gave in to that.)
Our divorce was final in April of this year. I thought that
divorce would break his control over me, but it's been slow in
coming. He uses finances and the children to try push and pull
me. He threatens to take me to court to gain custody of the
often, saying that he will expose my 'affair' to the world. Don’t
let him hold you hostage. Tell him to put it in skywriting if he
wants. “Yes B... I had an affair. If it makes you feel better, tell
the world. And I will tell them WHY I had to go online to have my
emotional needs met.” Don’t let him intimidate you any more!
enough of the threats and financial games. I've gotten a
have filed for a modification of child support. We had agreed
deviation from the state mandated guidelines because he was to have
significant access to the children and so would be providing for
of their upkeep than in a traditional visitation schedule.
visitation time, he has consumed alcohol while driving with
in the car and has cursed out my oldest daughter (saying d* you and
f* you). I took them to counseling and was very relieved to
counselor tell them that it sounded as if their father had an anger
management problem and that they weren't at fault for these
outbursts. Thank God you finally got a
knowledgeable counselor! He'd probably do it no
matter what they did.
after the divorce was final, he moved to another state, taking a woman
that he'd met here to live with him. He has since failed to
child support and his court ordered part of the mortgage on a second
house that we own in a timely manner. And because of the distance
(1600 mi.), is unable to make even the minimum visitation. He
even bounced checks to me. I have taken care of the debts that
affect my credit. Until recently, I would only have contact
through email. I got caller id so that I don't even answer the
when he calls, which he does daily. Because of a recent
with him in email, I have cut off all contact unless it is strictly
legal in nature. Good for you. His
behavior has been unconscionable. I can't help but wonder how his
lovely new wife feels about how he handles his life. Or, perhaps she
Also, I have pursued a relationship with the man (D.) that I met
online since leaving the marriage. We talk often on the phone
have met several times now. I've met his family and friends
met mine. Even though I had an emotional affair while I was
I never met this man in person until I'd left my husband. Good!
very nice man and is still my best friend. We are aware that
relationship developed at a risky time emotionally for both of us
are taking it very slow. I am glad for
you; you deserve some happiness. But, this is a horrible time for
you; you’ve got to be an emotional wreck. Anybody would be. You
are wise to go very, very slowly. There is none of the
desperation to be
together that I felt in my marriage. Good.
It's nice to have a
relationship that doesn't have that nervous feeling of fear running
through it. That feeling that I had mistaken in the past for
excitement. That feeling of
infatuation, of not knowing… It is very exciting. But, it is not
love. If you are lucky, it may turn into love. In your marriage, it
clearly did not.
I don't feel that I have to be with
him. I do enjoy
him, his companionship, his ideas,
and yes, I enjoy him physically
too. I trust him to be my friend before all else. No
such thing as instant best friend. A friendship takes time to
develop. See him as your friend for he behaves as your friend. Just
know the jury is still out for quite a while. I know you already
know that. I also enjoy
living my life, taking care of my house and of my children on my
own. I am amazed at what I am capable of, of how strong I am. You
are becoming your best friend! J
course, my family is always there for me when I need help as I am
there for them. I
So.. my main areas of concern are: Am I engaging B. by taking
legal action against him? B. is not
paying his child support; there are laws
against non-payment. Whether or not you pursue it I think is a
personal choice: If you don’t need the income and the headache is
more than it’s worth, it’s not worth the energy.
On the other hand, you may
feel that perhaps it is time this man stopped getting away with
murder and you feel the need to stand up to him. This is not
engaging; this is standing up to him If you have the emotional energy, and you seem to, by all
means, go for it! You owe it to yourself and your kids. I have pursued court action on the
modification and enforcement of child support.
going after him encourage him to fight back?
he did attempt to intimidate me and has filed counter-suits.
The counter-suits have no merit and are just attempts to
intimidate me, but I think I’m well past that now. Yippeee!
I’ve overcome a lot of the anger that I used to feel
towards him. Excellent. I
recognize his games for what they are and I know that I don’t have
Am I doing myself harm by
relationship with D.? How? By spending
time getting to know a man who apparently knows how to be your
friend, whom you don’t fear, and who respects your desire to take
it slowly? Just go slow. Know friendship is earned. You will have a
better sense of whether or not he is your friend as your
relationship develops and as you watch how he handles your
friendship when he is mad with you. Especially
watch what happens when things don't go his way. You want a two-way
street, your way and his way, with no retaliation in-between.
Things are going very well between us. Still taking it slow and
easy.. no need to rush.
I think that I'm doing the right thing. I feel good. Excellent.
I feel safe.
Wait.. I don't feel safe.. I feel like I'm waiting for the ax to
fall, specifically... regarding the court action against B.. How
would the court action affect your relationship with D.? B.
has used my relationship with D. several times to threaten me.
One of his counter-suits was an attempt to prevent my seeing
D. in the presence of the children (not something that the court is
likely to entertain). This no longer concerns me.
I have a right to my own friendships and relationships.
His approval and/or acceptance are not relevant. You're
less and less intimidated. Good.
Sounds like you feel the need to put
B. in his place for reasons of your own sense of mastery and esteem.
Nothing wrong with that other than the possibility than his side may
prevail, so you should be prepared for that event. (But, at least
you stood up to him.) Yes.
Oh, I did finally realize why I was crying all the time.. what I was
afraid to face. B. wanted to hurt me. The man that I
love and care for me.. to comfort me, couldn't. Because he
needed/wanted to hurt me. That realization struck me to my
Ouchhhh! But good for you for
B. wanted to hurt you when you hurt him by not giving him whatever
it was he thought he was entitled to. In the beginning, when things
were still OK, he likely did not feel as hateful towards you. My
guess is his wanting to hurt you developed as his unrealistic
expectations of marriage were dashed.
you sure the ax you are waiting to fall isn’t that D. may turn on
you and become a B.? Could be.
that be a secret little fear that you don’t want to face?
Yes, I’ve been thinking about
that. I feel secure now
(though wasn’t sure at the time that I first wrote to you) that I
would walk away from any abusive relationship.
D. and I are in a long-distance relationship and while I
enjoy my time with him, I also enjoy my time alone.
I can envision myself growing older without a life partner
and there is no fear there.
Good! Only time will tell.
way, having a fear and the fear having a basis in reality are two
separate things. Apples
So, face the fear and the fear will
disappear. Denial doesn't work. You wake up one day and say,
you are doing what you have to do to be your own best friend. You
are contesting your ex and you are getting on with your life. Don’t
be afraid to entertain what would happen if D. turned out to be
another B.. Even if he is the most wonderful man in the world,
entertain the possibility that he is not and deal with it.
don’t need D. to
get on with your life or to fight B., though it's really nice to
have a companion. You need You.
Should D. turn
into a dud, I am 99% sure that you will deal with it. Because
that’s what becoming your own person is all about: facing each and
every one of your fears and dealing with them..
I think you are in a good
place. Scared, yes, but that’s OK. You’ll never get over your
fear until you face it and see that it won’t harm you. Are there
any guarantees in life? Other than you, can you really count on
anyone 100% ? Nope.
best wishes, Dr. Irene
you again. Your site
has been a wonderful tool for me.