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Stress or Abuse?

Stress? Or Abuse?

March 24, 2000

Just these past 2 days I've been starting to wonder if my husband is somewhat abusive.  Let me give you a little background.  He was raised in an abusive home.  His mom divorced his dad and remarried another abusive man.  His mom moved from California to Utah to get away form her husband and he followed her.  They divorced and married quite a few times.  My husband had enough and told his mom to choose between him or her husband.  She did.  At age 16 he left home determined not to become an abusive person.  He was determined to make a good life and be an exceptional father. 

 

I met him a week before he left.  I knew that abusive behavior is passed on to children and wanted to be positive that he was able to beat it and break the chain.  We dated for 5 years before getting married.  In the beginning he was very possessive.  I told him how he was acting and told him that as long as he acted possessive I would treat him the same way.  He quickly changed his ways.  But only because he is so set against becoming abusive.  He later commented that he didn't realize how horrible it was to be watched every second of every day and apologized. Yes. Most angry people often have a hard time seeing it - about the last thing he wants to do consciously is hurt you. You used a great technique to make him aware! 

 

I was raised in a home that only seems to exist on TV.  I didn't know that parents fought until I was almost 12 and heard the neighbor parents yelling at each other.  My dad encouraged my mom to fulfill her dreams and needs.  And my mom did the same with my dad.  If they disagreed they took a timeout, went to their room, and calmly talked about their difference of opinion until they could come to a compromise.  I never heard them raise their voices.  (In fact my parents get along so well that when one liked cherry pie and the other liked apple pie they compromised and now my mom makes cherry-apple pie!  When neighbors and friends find out that she has made a few pies her house is packed full of people.) 

 

As you can see we grew up in two totally different worlds.  My husband and I lived with each other for 5 years before getting married.  He only showed signs of being abusive once and made a promise that if he ever hit me he would leave.  We have now been married for 3 years and things have been great.  We have adjusted to each others arguing techniques although it is not as calm as my parents - it is not as loud as my husbands parents.  I have come to accept that my parents marriage is one in a million. 

 

We have been starting a business together this year.  We both are working full time and doing our business on the side.  I do the paper work and my husband does the hard labor outside.  These past few weeks everything has been "his" instead of "ours".  His business.  His money.  His work truck.  His time to watch TV.  His time to relax.  His jobs are physically exhausting all I do is work on computer.  My job is the house work he will do the outside work. 

 

I admit that knowing his background I push it sometimes just to make him mad, but I haven't been doing anything lately.  In fact, I feel as though I am going out of my way for him.  I understand that his job is physically tiring and I try to do everything I can to see that he can rest after work.  Just the past few days he has taken to swearing at me and telling me what to do.  He even started an argument in front of my parents!  When he talks to me he raises his voice.  And if I ask him a question like what properties did you do today, instead of saying Mr. or Mrs. so-and-so he will say my properties who's do you think?  We have spent a lot of money on the business truck this past week and I paid a lot of bills that he wanted paid.  I let him know that he needed to pay on the machinery loan on Wed. and he said it could wait until Fri. apparently he forgot because when we met at home for lunch he offered to make me a sandwich, "because I always take care of him".  Then he asked how much was in our account. When I told him we were unable to make the payment until Fri., but we have a 7 day grace period. he raised his voice and very loudly demanded, with swear words, to know what was so important and cost so much that it couldn't wait.  I have repeatedly asked him not to yell at me and I couldn't take it anymore.  I yelled back, "Quit yelling at me"  I don't know if my sudden abnormal reaction startled him or if I need to worry, but he grabbed my shoulders, shoved me into a wall and yelled "don't ever ever treat me like that again".  I grabbed my keys and left.  Is this just stress or is it time to start worrying?  (Remember we have lived together for 8 years without any problems.)   This time I don't feel comfortable telling him that he is treating me bad because I feel as though he won't listen.  I have never felt this way before.  I tell him everything even when an ex calls  and he doesn't react.  I helped him track down his old girl friend. my husband and I have an awesome relationship.  Do I have anything to worry about?  Is it just stress. 

 

P.S. We are working on having children.
your opinion is greatly appreciated Thanks

Dear Victoria,

Stress or abuse? What's the difference? Abuse is abuse. You cannot permit it. Especially with a man with his background.

You've tried to get your husband to listen, but, right now he seems unable to. So, it might be a good idea to go to the next step: back off.

You are likely to get his attention if you spend a few days with your family. When he finally asks, "What's wrong?" he will be more able to hear you.  In particular, I think you have to make a big stink about pinning you to the wall. This is too close to the physical abuse border - that's a line you never want to cross - and he came close.

Stress exacerbates everything. Stress creates chemical changes in the brain and can turn the sweetest person into a monster. If your husband is unable to behave because of the stress, you may want to insist that he deal with it chemically. His internist can prescribe an SSRI to help him through this period, or, you can buy him a bottle of St. John's wort.

This one's very fixable. Good luck!  Dr. Irene