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Doc@DrIrene.com

Interacting: Why is this so Hard?

 Interactive Board:  Your ALT-Text here Why is This So Hard?

Sunday April 24, 2005

Hi Doc, I’ve visited your website very often. Many times I’ve posted comments on the CatBox interactive board. Great! Most recently I printed your advice to “How do I know for sure” as a means to carry around a reminder of the necessity to leave my own relationship. Yes, all that applies to you as well. The reason I am writing is because I want to hear from you directly. OK. Your advice is straight and to the point, and although I have a therapist whom I trust completely, the therapy is more a means for me to share, but it is different.

I find I understand everything but I don’t seem to move into “action” and it is as though my therapist allows me to be “ready to leave” and something in my mind tells me that there is danger in the relationship and I am ignoring it. Please ask your therapist if you are depressed. People who are depressed often feel stuck, but don't see themselves as being depressed! I’ve read a thousand books, and I’ve just ordered the ones you recommended about hope killing (When Hope Can Kill: Reclaiming Your Soul in a Romantic Relationship by Lucy Papillon), and the other one about “why men love bitches”. (Why Men Love Bitches: From Doormat to Dreamgirl-A Woman's Guide to Holding Her Own in a Relationship by Sherry Argov.) I have called the author of The Verbally Abusive Relationship, Patricia Evans, and had a phone consultation. I’ve also been on the phone with the National Domestic Abuse Hotline more than once. All the times I have heard exactly what I would have thought I would hear: “He is controlling, and affirmation that the abuse was abuse.” I even went so far as to participate in a threat assessment academy and spent over $4000 of my own money to do so (I live out of state). I was there because I wanted to learn whether my relationship was in fact dangerous, and I did not want to do a phone interview because he is a detective and I did not want to sign a release allowing them (Gavin de Becker Assc—author of The Gift of Fear) to contact the police if they thought I should.

Here are the things I want to hear from you about:

1. One time my boyfriend and I had an argument. At the time I could have been pregnant but I did not know if I was. Anyway, he was ignoring me after we were out. I was furious. I screamed that I was pregnant (just to get him to respect me, like that would have mattered) and he went nuts. He turned into a raging maniac (and I am not exaggerating). The next day, in front of my face, he unloaded two loaded handguns from his nightstand. Would you please tell me what your thoughts are about his specific behavior? My thoughts? I wonder... Why would you stay with him when he has this habit of ignoring you? Then, I wonder why you baited him with the pregnancy item. Did you expect anything less than a raging maniac? (You said be to the point.) Did you really think that your pregnancy would earn you respect, or was it just another desperate attempt on your part - wishing and hoping that he'd give you a more normal, more loving reaction? Certainly the loaded handguns bother me, and again, I wonder why you were still there...

2. One time we were walking into a restaurant. There was an African American woman and her husband walking near us. The woman asked him if the restaurant was open. He either spit or made a horrible facial gesture (I’ve read it is called a sneer) at her. I swear I saw her facial expression and it was one of fear, as though she lost all color in her face. When I asked him what happened and what he said. He was furious because the restaurant was open twenty-four hours. He was furious she asked. Would you please tell me what your thoughts are about this specific behavior? I think he's walking around with rage and just looking for a convenient hook to hang it on. This poor lady provided the hook. I also think she couldn't get away from him fast enough. Smart lady!

3. You mentioned in a previous post about passive-aggressive behavior. Although I understand what this is, I do not think I fully understand it because in your comments you mentioned about someone’s boyfriend helping another woman with her coat. I used to think PA behavior was someone being interested in you when you pull away, and when you get close they push you away. Passive-aggressive behavior can look lots of ways and include chronic lateness, procrastination, sulking, lying, giving half-truths or misleading information that can later be denied ("You didn't understand!") - and can include helping Another Woman with her coat before he helps you with yours - so you are made to feel less important than the other woman. The passive-aggressive person is angry but does not come straight out and tell you s/he is angry. S/he will act out passively or omit an act. Their goal is to express their anger towards you by frustrating you/ demeaning you/ putting you down in the process. When you call them on their behavior, they may get angry, may deny that they were doing whatever you thought they were doing. Sometimes they really don't know they are acting out, sometimes they do but won't admit it anyway.

So here is what I am wondering. When I finally moved in with my boyfriend, because he kept telling me that this was what frustrated him. Ha! Everything will frustrate the person with low frustration tolerence. It never ends! Satisfy one frustration, then watch the other come along. He carries the frustration inside himself and looks for places to hang the blame - like his frustration at your not living with him! He said he needed me there 24/7 and wanted a family. I have a nine year old son, and I took my time before I moved in with him because of his explosive temper. Well, finally I did move in with him. (I am no longer there. GOOD!) When I was there I noticed he said “God Bless You” to other people and if I sneezed he would ignore me. There you go! I noticed he would walk another woman (his niece who was baby sitting) to her car in the rain, but would let me shovel my own car in the snow. Etc.) Is this PA behavior and what are your thoughts? Yes. This seems to be consistent with passive-aggressive behavior in the context you describe, because this type of thing happens a lot. Not just an isolated incident. He does, or does not do, little things that (if you give him your power) will be hurtful towards you. And, he would tell you that you are being "jealous" or "petty" or something like that if you were to bring these incidents up  to him. Talk about not taking responsibility for one's actions!

4. Most recently I became pregnant. I was 39 years old at the time, and my boyfriend desperately wanted to have a baby of his own. Against my better judgment Listen to your body! It's talking to you loud and clear! I thought he deserved a child, and I kept hearing people say that once he has a child he will understand why you need to put children first etc. Ha! Don't bet on it!

When I became pregnant I was living near him but in my own place. It was big enough for all of us, but he freaked because I said that I did not want to move again until things got settled. I reminded him about how when I lived with him he made a big deal about putting his gun in a case, and his temper made me uncomfortable. Another of your body's signals that you need to learn to respect. He had gone to therapy once and was told he needed to learn the fundamentals of restraint. At the very least... I thought it would be better if I stayed where I was and if he stayed with me, while we continued to work on our relationship. He proceeded to call me a c--- and that was it. I had had it. Good for you! You finally heard your body crying out.

The stronger side of me took over and I told him I was not taking this anymore. Yippeee! But I sent an email from the baby and I told him to relax, I wasn’t going to turn into one of those women he feared (just after child support etc) and I even sent him his rights as a father. Now WHY did you do this? (I know why, but I'm asking you...) I tried to assure him I was in the relationship for the long haul (it’s been five years). You were hoping that once he sees how trustworthy you are, how you would never hurt him, how you are not like the ex-wife, that he may relax and trust you and love you. WRONG! No matter what you do, he will remain the way he is, and you have absolutely no power to change him through all your kind and unselfish (and co-dependently hurtful-to-yourSelf acts). All you accomplish by continually giving him the benefit of the doubt is to prolong your own pain in this relationship. Yes, OK, everybody makes a mistake and deserves a chance. Here's the ground rule: Hurt me once, shame on you! Hurt me twice, shame on me!  You've allowed this guy to go far beyond the ground-rule limit!

Well, he was headed to Vegas and said he cried when he got the email. Sure... What you said to him was very touching. Said he would call me when he got there. He knew at the time I was incredibly sick. Over 102 temp and could barely drive.

He didn’t call for three days,  and then proceeds to call and say “Hello beautiful”. I freaked. Said he was so inconsiderate. I think he freaked. It's pretty clear to me that your guy is terrified of intimacy and of depending on you or anyone else. My guess is he needed some time to get his emotional stuff together, needed to distance after he felt so close to you. Being close to somebody and depending on them is dangerous! You never know when they will let you down! So, while it's unlikely he called three days later to be inconsiderate on purpose, it certainly felt inconsiderate on your end, as it would to anybody! Keep in mind that if this is the kind of stuff that is going on inside of him, there is nothing you can do about it. He wants you around, but has to control the distance of the relationship so he can feel comfortable.

Anyway, he came over when he came back and slammed my son’s nightstand when I was taking an online class, and he wanted to talk about everything. He kicked my living room wall, called me garbage and then proceeded to tell me that if I wanted to see evil he would show me evil. I guess your online class didn't matter to him...

He certainly did let loose! Look at it from his point of view: Here he is, poor guy, feeling all soft and fuzzy at your loving email; even said nice stuff to you. And you then challenge him! inconsiderate of you! You weren't thinking of him!

Nor was he thinking about how his behavior affected you. All he knew was that he was glad to see you. So, when you criticized him by letting him know how inconsiderate his behavior felt, he freaked! Understand that he's got to be thinking along the lines of "Where did this come from? She just sent me this great email; I come back in a great mood; I forgave her bad moods and yelling; I call her "Beautiful," and all she does is complain? I was right not to trust her!" Before you know it, he blows, and in his mind, he had no choice but to feel the way he feels (and to act that behavior out) because only his feelings matter. Not yours.

I asked him to leave and said I would call the police if he didn’t. Good. I don’t think I would have, Too bad; if he rages or you feel frightened, you should. but I wanted him to take me seriously. So here I am. I am no longer pregnant. I moved out of the town he lives in (with my son) and came back to where we used to live. GOOD! I have spoken with him once or twice but the reality is he always blames me for EVERYTHING. Exactly. I don’t understand what the problem is. The problem is essentially that he sees the world through his eyes only. Your thoughts and feelings don't count. If you don't see the world the way he sees it, you are considered selfish. A normal guy may have been upset to be told he was inconsiderate when he greeted you with the "Hey Beautiful," but he would have asked you what was wrong, and listened. He could understand your point of view. (You would actually be allowed to have a point of view that is considered valid!) Plus, he would not fly into a rage!

Your guy doesn't care about how you feel. You are supposed to be always there, always understanding of his perspective. His point of view supersedes yours. After all, he felt sooooooo hurt by what you said, you "made him lose it;" you didn't understand that he had forgiven you for this and that, and he was sooooo looking forward to seeing you, yada yada, and look at what you do! You criticize/challenge him! Plus, he was tired, hungry, stressed, etc., etc. You just simply didn't understand, you selfish woman you - and you let him down again!

So, you see Ana, unless you're willing (and able) to entirely give up all your own thoughts and feelings and see the world entirely through his eyes, as he sees it, you can't help but "make" a guy like this angry! You disappointed him! You hurt him! You misunderstood him! Internally this guy has virtually no personal power - because he has given it all to you! See how powerful he's made you? (You upset him, you hurt him, etc.)

If he's not taking responsibility for his thoughts, his feelings and certainly  his  actions, of course he's going to blame you!

Why am I having such a hard time sticking to what I know to be true? Because above all you want a warm body to love and to love you, and because you are willing to put up with countless abuses in order to have it. Because you don't understand when a relationship is not good for you, so you don't know when to leave and look elsewhere. Because you don't understand how truly internally broken this individual is; you think he thinks like you do, you can't even fathom how he thinks! Because you are willing to pretend and hope and wish that if you could only get across to him how much you love him, and the type of person you are, he will eventually trust you - and become normal. You hope that the wonderful person hidden inside the hard facade will come out and be your partner... He won't, at least for long. (Too threatening!) He won't come out and stay because he's not really there - unless you always see the world the way he sees it.

Reading one of these books will better help you understand the mind of guys like your boyfriend:

bullet Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft
bullet The Abusive Personality : Violence and Control in Intimate Relationships by Donald G. Dutton, Ph.D. (very scholarly, but excellent)

I think he is potentially dangerous. Do you? Yes. Dangerous, both physically and emotionally. He's already hurt you emotionally. Physically, he's got a bad temper, he's already kicked your things, and he's got the means (guns). Please be direct and honest. Thank you, Ana 

Dear Ana, you don't believe in yourSelf. You hear the cues your body give you, yet you ignore most of them. These are cues that would have another women running away fast! You are being treated badly, and you are so used to it, it seems normal to you! You too often gave him benefit of the doubt, at the expense of your body's own signals to the contrary, and at the expense of your own self-esteem.

While you had reached the point that you had had enough when you did not want to move back in with him, once you cooled off, your dependency needs started getting the best of you again. Wanting the warm body back, you reverted back into the old pattern of forgetting what he's done, making excuses for him, giving him the benefit of the doubt, etc. Needing to be part of a pair, the wishful thinking and hoping stuff over-rode your good judgment. So you wrote that email from the baby.

You need to stop having these memory lapses! It's certainly OK to forgive, but never to forget. If you didn't forget, you would surely have gotten away from him long ago!

I hope this was helpful to you. I'll be back in about a week; please post your comments Ana, and I'll do my best to clarify. Hang in there, Dr. Irene

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