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Doc@DrIrene.com

The Restraining Order Worked

The Restraining Order Worked! Now what do I do?

If you haven't read Monica's initial email, read it now!

November 18, 1999

Dr. Irene,
    I wrote to you about 6 weeks ago about my situation, and things have taken a dramatic turn. My husband tried to fight the restraining order by filing for divorce and consolidating the two, by recommendation of counsel. We were within inches of signing the divorce paperwork - when my husband miraculously went into counseling! 

   This has been the guy who thought, no offense, that therapists were all quacks and full of sexist male bashing. Now all of a sudden he is excited about counseling and begging me to hear what he has to say about it. Out of curiosity I obliged and was shocked to find him admitting that he has behaved badly and abusively!!!! He says that he was terrified of the deterioration apparent in the marriage and of losing me. He admits that he was pushing me away out of fear and he is stunned with how he behaved, as well as embarrassed and horrified. He is saying that he got into therapy because he could not deal with his life and was desperate for some help. He says that he feels so bad about the way he treated me that he has a hard time eating, sleeping or functioning at work.

    He is seeing a therapist with a sterling reputation in our community - who helped to set up the local women's shelter and develop anger management programs here. My husband says that he is going to see him no matter what because he feels lost. He is even seeing how his behavior has effected his relationships with people at work and others in the family. 

   He is asking me for a chance and I am cautiously going to give him one. He wants to see a marriage counselor in addition to our own therapists that we are currently seeing. He is also going into an anger management group after the beginning of the year. I have told him that I do not feel safe physically or emotionally around him and that I do not see us living together any time soon, maybe never. I have told him that I don't trust him and that we will need to take things very slow. 

    I know that there is the possibility that this is his last, desperate attempt to regain control. How can I tell if this is the case? I read your site over and over hoping that this will help me see through any future control or abuse. I have grown so much as a result, but realistically I am still vulnerable to abuse and will be for some time. What can I do to establish my boundaries firmly with him? What kinds of things can I look for as true evidence of change. It all sounds so good but I know what manipulators these abusers are. I don't want to get hurt more, but we have a beautiful child together and if there is a chance that he will work his butt off to change, I want to be there with him. -Monica

Dear Monica,

   While no one has an unobstructed view into his mind, your husband appears serious. Your actions may have shocked some sense into him! If he's up to no good, you will know it soon enough. Pay attention inside; don't fall victim to your denial, your worst enemy.

   If you love this man, by all means give your marriage a shot. Your family deserves the benefit of the doubt. But don't give away the store. This will be the hard part for you. You have such a need to make things "nice," that you are likely to believe him too quickly, to trust him before he has had a chance to trust himself, to be lulled into a false sense of security.

  If you truly value your marriage, concentrate only on yourself. Don't look for signs within him; look inside you. Is he hurting you? You cannot allow this. Get very, very tough. Do not allow one single molecule of abuse or control. Guard your boundaries fiercely. Do not allow yourself to be lulled into a false sense of security by his current actions. If you do, he will step all over you again (promise), not because he wants to, but because he cannot help it. Never, ever forget that his actions can reverse at a moment's notice. Well, maybe not never, ever, but at least for the next few years.

   His recovery is a process that will take a long time. My guess, knowing nothing about him per se but about abusers in general, is that although he is serious now, he will get cocky as soon as you start feeling comfortable. When you reach out to him with your dependency needs, he will hurt you. When you pull back, he will seek to grow towards your expectations. If he sticks with recovery, expect growth - and, expect natural setbacks. If he can "get away" with it, he will. However, if he is so threatened by your loss that he would jump off the Golden Gate Bridge if his therapist asked him to, he's in good shape.  

  You maximize the probability of his success by getting healthy yourself. Be real tough in protecting your own boundaries. If you're not sure where they are, find some good boundary books here (and then give them to him to read). Under no circumstance do you allow him (or anybody, for that matter) to trample onto your space. In fixing your own codependence so that you are secure in your own personhood, you create the safe space he needs to implement his own recovery.

  In a nutshell: Give him a shot, but don't give him an inch. Learn to love, trust, and respect yourself and expect no less from him. In doing so, you have not only done right for yourself, you have gifted him with that which he needs to become whole. He'll hate your gift. That's OK.

  May God bless you both; please keep us posted.  -Dr. Irene 

I'd like to read the comments.

A Happy March 2000 Update