Sent: Wednesday, May 19, 1999 11:07 PM
Subject: E-Mail Advice
Dear Dr. Irene-
I am under a domestic violence protective order issued after I chose to walk away
with my three children when ongoing verbal abuse from my husband of more than 16 years
worsened to such an extent that threats of physical harm and smashing of property
was the result. I and my children stayed in a "safe" place for nearly a week
before regaining the house under the temporary order. A housewife and home school
the past seven years, I am currently being advised by a Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis
Center in our county and am seeking to make permanent
the protective order, reenter the workforce and support my children and myself. My
question is this: Do you see that there might be any way to save our marriage?
According to my husband's family he has always been a controller and has had anger
problems even as a child (which they only just told me--AFTER I left him) ... he has shown
in conversations with mutual friends (I have had no direct contact with him since we left)
no realization that his behavior is out of line other than we had an "argument"
because I would not keep the house as he wanted or be responsive to his wishes. He is
currently pretty upset that I have not talked with him or accepted his apology for
"losing his temper" (he smashed things, ripped the phone lines out and
threatened to shoot me) . I tried for years and years to get him into counseling but he
always refused. Because he had a needy childhood, I always tried to be understanding
and kind even when he "lost it" over small things or was demanding. I am
not "sold" on divorce and going my own way, however, because he is my husband
and the father of our children, we have a lot in common and had a lot of experiences and
memories together. He can be a good father and considerate husband but has these
"spells" which escalated last month to the levels I just told you about.
However, because of this relief and calmness I and the children are experiencing in spite
of the fact we are not a complete family anymore, I realize that only if he can learn to
be "normal" and respect us will I be willing for us to reunite (on account of
the effect this has had on me and the children) How hard is that going to be for him, Dr.
Irene? Can men get themselves back into control? Can they recognize their abuse for what
it is after counseling? Change it? And finally, the kicker, should I undergo therapy so I
might learn to never allow my boundaries to be so breeched again? By becoming aware
am I there, yet? In hindsight I think I recognize an incredible selfishness in my husband
and am not entirely sure he can feel true love and/or compassion for another person. Is
that a result of having me as a codependent spouse perhaps or a bonafide personality
disorder? Can relationships such as this go on to become fruitful?
Thanks for any answers you might give, Doris
I am glad you and your children have found safety.
From what you tell me, neither you nor your husband are ready to begin making any amends.
You still appear to care more about the marriage than he does. That won't work for either
of you. Your job is to forget about your husband and his issues and get on with your own
life. This is not to say that he cannot be rehabilitated, just that at this point, he is
nowhere near where he needs to be to begin the process. And he probably will never get
there if you don't disengage. Not only do you need to act disengaged, you need to
MEAN IT! If you don't, it is too easy to go back to more of the same.
So Doris, my best advise is get on with your life. Get counseling and get moving Lady,
you're off to a good start.
Good luck to you. Dr. Irene
Dear Dr. Irene;
Thank you so much for your quick reply - it reinforces for me what my gut feelings were on
where my priorities should be. My attorney called this morning to say my husband is
already trying to wrangle overnight visitation this weekend with our child! I am glad that
I had already read on your site how abusers often are very good at manipulating the system
- as mine appears to be doing and I was thus prepared. My attorney is enlisting an expert
witness in the protection order hearing next week because I am still afraid he may try to
get at me through the children if visitation is not supervised. He also is putting
conditions on his getting counseling i.e., I will get it if she will get it, etc.
though my attorney, considered a very good domestic violence person (who has been through
it herself) has told me I don't need to feel forced to agree with anything - however
counseling with a domestic abuse expert (the same expert witness who will be testifying)
does sound as if it would be beneficial for me AND my attorney said we could link my
agreeing to go to insisting he continue health insurance coverage for myself and the
children which would definitely help me afford counseling for myself and the children.
God Bless You for your work through your site. It opened my eyes tremendously and has
helped me keep my sights on doing what I need to be doing for myself and my children.