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Patience & Fortitude

Patience & Fortitude

12/17/99

Basically, I have a very long story, but wanted to tell one part of it - since I haven't heard of much about it on your website. But, I haven't read the entire site yet since it is so big, so maybe I missed something. But I am really getting a lot out of it and intend to read it all.

My husband was horribly abused by his parents. When I became involved with him, they were horribly abusive to me too. Then, my husband became abusive to me, but it was all in the name of his parents. He made excuses for everything. His mom was odd. She would say something horrible to me, like she wants me dead, or wants to beat me, or hates my children and wants them gone (her son's biological children), and then later, she would call talking nicely and sweetly. She would tell my husband that she couldn't understand why I was "so horrible" to her, because she was always "great" towards me. Even when she was abusive and threatening, I was still very nice to her. 

It really bothered me that she would call and threaten me. I would be nice to her and she would turn around to call my husband and tell him that I was being mean. She would do this out of the blue, not out of defense as my husband did. My husband would get angry with me and tell me he knew she was telling the truth and I was lying, and that because she was his mother, that I had better just apologize, and accept that she will always be right and come first, etc. He also told me that he would always consider me the liar until I taped what was going on.  

Finally, I did start recording conversations. My husband was part of these conversations, so he knew what was said. We'd already had many incidents where his mother did something horrible in front of him, and he would tell me it never happened - even though he was right there! I was actually beginning to think that I was crazy. That's what happens when you disbelieve your own reality. That's what happens when you allow yourself to be put in a position where you have to "prove" yourself. The structure of your family relationships was dreadfully askew. The primary bond must be between man and wife.

I listened to the conversations between my husband and his mother. She would scream, threaten to hurt me, and demand that my husband kidnap my children. She would call me many horrible names, etc. While my husband had given me permission to record the conversations, he had apparently forgotten. I know you must think I was the crazy one to be recording this stuff, but I was desperate. I don't think you were crazy, just abused. Now...this is where the really weird thing happened that I haven't heard much about:

I asked my husband about things mom said in one recorded conversation. He got angry with me and told me I was imagining things, and that his mother never said such things. He said that she was very nice to me and wants to get along with me. He said that I was the bad one causing problems. I presented him with the tape - and he got angry at me. He was caught in a lie. He didn't address the fact that he was caught in a lie. He fell into one of his angry moods where he throws a tantrum, screaming foul language, but not really saying anything. Then he ordered me to erase the tape.  Sure. If you erase it, then the abuse won't exist. This is called "denial."

A week later, we were in the car together and he made remarks about my being mean to his poor, poor mother, who has done nothing wrong but trying to get along with horrible me. I told him that is not true and reminded him of the conversation from the week before. He insisted that she never said those things and I was crazy and imagining things. I asked him if he wanted to listen to the tape. Then he got angry and screamed that he ordered me to erase the tape. This told me he did remember the conversation yet wanted to make me think I was crazy and imagining it. What is good is that although he ordered you to erase the tape, you did not. You stood up to him and were not intimidated by his anger. Your strength helped him feel safer. He did not want to believe that his mom was abusive for whatever reason. It may be that his mom's anger didn't bother him much - since it was not directed against him at least during that time. Also, having you in the picture allowed this pair to "bond." They created a common "enemy." It may be that this mother and son never shared much closeness before you became the "enemy." I notice you never really acted out. You stood up to him quietly and never attacked his mother. It doesn't sound as though you attacked him much either. Wow! You have lots of good stuff lady. You handled this well.

Have you heard of someone trying to make someone think they are imagining things like that? It's common. He wants to believe it, so you should. I mean, he would tell me that I was imagining things when his mother had specifically said or had done something. Such as she told me she was going to take my baby and I would never see him again. My husband was there when she said it, but then told me I was imagining things and I need to stop being mean to his mother. I wanted to tell you also that I did record those conversations because my husband and I were on the verge of divorce and I feared horribly that he would try to get custody of my child. His parents had way more money than me and threatened many times to take my child away from me. His parents are horribly abusive and alcoholics and drug users, but, they look good and have way more money for a lawyer than I do. I wanted to be able to show proof to the judge of what was really happening if it should ever come to that. Good for you. That was another way you took your power and became stronger.

An update to what is happening today: my husband has no contact with his parents anymore, or any of his family members. He and I have both come a long way. Also, for the one person who wrote that her counselor told her it was her fault, I saw a counselor who also told me our problems were my fault! I left him and found a great counselor and was able to get the strength to work through my own issues and live my life as a person, not a victim. You found the strength to leave the counselor who blamed you. Wow! I would like feedback on the above problem as I haven't seen it addressed on your site, but have heard it happening to others. Thank you!

Dear Strong Lady,

Your problem is really no different from the other verbal abuse issues addressed here. Your husband sided with his mom during a time they made you the target of their joint aggression. Angry people frequently "side" with one another. It lends them a measure of mutual support. Apparently, something happened to break that bond. Either your firm, quiet, unwillingness to take it forced your husband to abandon mom's side, or the bond between them was weaker than the anger between them - that could not withstand your "passive resistance." Or something like that. I think you demonstrated a tremendous amount of strength, fortitude, patience, and self-control. You stayed with your husband through the bad times and did what you had to.  You didn't act out much, you persisted, and you stood up to him. Finally, he realized he had a real partner he could put some trust in. Your marriage probably survived because of your special qualities. That's the part you haven't heard too much of on this site. Keep up the good work!

My very best wishes,  Dr. Irene