|February 22, 2000
Dear Dr. Irene:
My husband, like so many others has mentally abused me and the children for years. The controlling, criticism; unrealistic expectations, angry outbursts, you name it. He is text book material. I don't know how I got to where I am today. I came from a loving family and had a wonderful childhood. I know that you have stated that co dependants usually have some issues in their childhood which would result in them "putting up" with abuse. But I must say that for me it was different. I was very outgoing and popular and dated quite a bit. In my immaturity, I was very bored with the average nice guy who hung on my every word and need (if I knew now what I knew then...huh!). Then comes along my husband who gave me a run for my money. It was a game to me, I guess, to "capture" this man. Wish I could have seen the signs then.
All I can say is, my relationship with him is like being in a cult. Over the years he slowly brainwashed me and broke my spirit down little by little, so I didn't even see it coming!! (You let him...) I woke up 15 years later and said "How the heck did I get here?" A broken and depressed woman with every stress related medical condition you can imagine. Finally I just had enough, and for the sake of my children (who I now see were being very effected by the daily abuse), I said "NO MORE!" GOOD! The medication has helped me a great deal to crawl out of the pit that I have fallen into. Yes! Meds are the next best thing to chocolate. They are miracle drugs.
I gave my husband an ultimatum to either shape up or ship out. Good. He knew I was at the end of the rope and finally took me seriously. He is on medication, but has yet to seek therapy. I know he will need it in order to relearn the way his father has taught him to act/react. It will help, certainly. I am hoping he will agree to marriage counseling for both of us. This is my problem; I do not know how to handle it:
He agrees that he has a problem with him temper. I have set boundaries for him. Things seem to be going smoothly. OK.
He is also a neat freak. His biggest gripe is that the house is not clean enough and that I "spoiled" the children because I do not believe in spanking them. He was also brought up very rigidly; everything had to look perfect. We were brought up to run in the backyard in the summer with no shoes on or to dance in the rain; very easy going. Your poor husband grew up in a home where the white couch was more important than his feelings... At some level he feels that he suffered, why shouldn't they... Granted, he learned some good things growing up this way, but, I think, the bad outweighs the good.
Even though my husband knows he reacts improperly, he still can not get over the unrealistic expectations that he has for me. I have 4 children not even in school yet. I have tried but at this point in time, I can not keep up. We can not have a showroom house, spotless car, laundry always done (and all the other household duties) while the kids are still so young. Or even when they are older. Maybe once they've gone off to College... I have sacrificed myself to my "job" at home and work without rest. Stop it! Work hard, but leave time for play and rest too! I would have to stay up around the clock to keep up with these demands...it is IMPOSSIBLE. Yes.
I have set my boundaries with him and told him exactly this. His answer is that he is taking responsibility for his behavior and that if I want him to be happy at home I have to change "my part" with the house and children. No. His happiness resides within him. If he chooses to focus on the mess and make himself miserable, that is his prerogative. If he still wants the house to his standards, he can arrange to keep it that way himself - or hire somebody to do it for him. Also, if he pouts and is cranky because the house is a mess or the kids are free to play, he is not taking responsibility for his behavior. How can I do that when it is not possible? If I tell him a firm "no" and he still feels the way he does, how do you deal with this? Can't he see that his requests at this time are irrational. Who knows if he sees it or not. But it doesn't matter. He has no right to dictate how you do your duties any more than you have to dictate standards for his job. Remember: It is the person doing the complaining who has the problem. He can ask once, twice... And if what he asks for is not forthcoming, it is his job to responsibly and maturely deal with the fact that, for whatever reason, his request is denied. He can make himself miserable over this; he can act out - or not - over this. His happiness - and his behavior - is his responsibility. Put your foot down. He is in your boundaries, and it is your responsibility to get him of there. Try reading Boundaries: Where You End and I Begin by Anne Katherine.
It also distresses me because I have a feeling (as I have seen with him before) even if I could change this situation, he would find another thing to replace it. I would expect that. That's why the problem lies with the person who is doing the complaining. It seems there is always something that is not quite up to par for him that he focuses in on and obsesses to almost "get his way" with. Like his wants should always be met...never a sacrifice. That would be nice...what planet is that life on?
My mother had 7 children and when my dad came home he would say, "Sit down honey and rest...the work will be there tomorrow" or he would just jump in and start helping her without complaint. You were lucky to have 2 codependent parents who couldn't do enough for each other. (That's where you learned to be so giving, by the way.). I don't understand why my husband can't love me enough to realize I am doing the best that is humanly possible. He does love you. But, in his neediness, he is self-absorbed and is acting selfishly. What more can I do? Stand your ground. Insist he learn how to deal with life on life's terms (vs. his terms) if he wants to be part of your life. I am very curious because I have noticed with many of the postings that this is a problem with most of the abusers on the site, criticizing their mates housework and mothering abilities. Yes. And the victims let them get away with this kind of boundary violation all the time. Not OK! Anybody has the right to ask another person for what they want. Ask once; ask twice. After that, the asker has to assume that the other person does not want to give what was asked for - and needs to deal with that fact. Maybe separation is in order. Please help if you can. I am at a road block.
Thank you for all you have done for me already...you are in my prayers! Lora
Thank you for your kind words Lora. Let's see if other people have input for you too. Many regards & keep up the good work! Dr. Irene
I want to read others' comments.