Dear Dr. Irene,
I've been reading and re-reading your site for the past two months. It
helped me realize, that my ex-boyfriend has a very serious verbal abuse
This is actually kind of strange, as I've always been considered
intelligent . I'm an educated, 30 year-old professional female,
self-conscious, and with some time in therapy. You would think I would
have known better... Well, I didn't. Dear Roberta,
Life is about lessons. Hopefully you learned this one and won't have to
repeat it again!
It is funny, my boyfriend's pet names for me were "fatty," or
"ugly." When I complained about it, he
said it was only to get some attention from me, and that he calls his mom
and sister by these names too,
and that it didn't mean anything. If it means
something to you, it means something - whether or not it means anything to
him! He is inconsiderate since your feelings don't count or are less
important than how he intends something.
He used to complain that my breasts are way too small, and on several
occasions, suggested I get a breast
implant. He is a very attractive man, and while I have always been
considered pretty, I have been battling with those extra 6 pounds all my
life. If he were truly an attractive man, he would
not make you feel unattractive. Ever. Even if you were a Perfect Ten, an
angry man will manage to find fault. Have you figured that out yet?
When I told my friend about it, she said, "Hon, if he talks like
that, he doesn't respect you". I didn't
even understand what had made her think that. I hope
you understand now. You owe it to yourself to understand.
After 16 months together, my boyfriend decided to leave. I thought I would
be devastated, but instead, I
felt a huge relief (no more criticism, no more yelling). A few days later,
he already wanted to come back, but I, surprising both of us, wouldn't let
him. Sanity!!! Did I also mention, that
during most of the time we lived together, about a year, he was
unemployed, so I supported us. When he finally got a job, he still didn't
contribute anything to our household, and I was too scared to raise the
subject to avoid possible injury to his male ego. How
did you feel about his not working? How do you feel now about his not
working? It seems to me you are angry since you highlight the fact that when
he finally got a job, he still didn't contribute! You are angry,
appropriately so. You just don't recognize it.
Well, to make a long story short - and this is the "clincher"-
we didn't live together for 3 months, but we were constantly in touch. He
told me that despite that we had a serious problem with our sex life
in that he had lost all of his desire for me, he remained faithful. If you were "careful" not to injure his male
ego, is it possible he was being "careful" not to sever all ties
with a woman who would have him? By the way, it is not uncommon for an
angry person to lose their desire for you. Think of it: What a wonderful
way to push away the partner, and, hurt them at the same time! Two for the
price of one!
After our breakup, he became as sweet and loving as he never was during
our entire time together. Sure. Now that he no
longer "has" you, he no longer needs to push you away. You have
become a challenge again. You will remain desirable until you have been
conquered. After a while we resumed our sex life. Interesting. He got interested once he lost you.
I have been faithful the entire
time we've known each other. Yet, a few weeks ago I found out I contracted
an STD (sexually transmitted disease). My doctor, who is considered very
good, has assured me that the only way this could be transmitted is
through sexual activity.
I confronted my (ex) boyfriend, and he has very adamantly stated that he
never had sex with anyone else this entire time. He denies this with vigor
and conviction. What do you expect him to say? We
already know the only thing he cares even a little bit about is his ego.
(Notice I said his "ego" and not "himself".) I promise
you he is not likely to fess up, but you already know that.
Something illogical in me actually believes him, while the logical
part says "COME-ON !!!, Who's he kidding ????" He's kidding you! Obviously!
And the worst part - I don't even feel angry at him!!!! I know this
sounds sick, and it worries me - I just
can't seem to feel anything about it! Help! Dr. Irene - can you tell me
why can't I feel angry with him? My guess is, any sane woman, who would
find out her boyfriend had infected her with an STD, which also means he
had cheated on her, would be livid! The
"why" is called "denial." But, you are angry, it comes
across in your letter. Don't confuse normal anger with rage - you don't
have to go around stomping (nor should you).
Why do I "believe" him, although logically, it is absurd ? Where
is my anger ???? You believe him because that part
of you which wants to see only what it wants to see, chooses to
believe him, even though you know better. You don't want to risk
losing him, even though you are clearly better off without him. You'll
settle for any warm body. My question to you is when are you going to stop
If you come
from a place of abuse, and you must have, you are used to poor treatment. You
are likely to ignore your anger - not recognize that it is there. You will ignore anger especially towards
those whom you want love and self-esteem from. You learned to put
up with an awful lot for some semblance of love and you continue to
do this today. As a kid, you had no choice. Today, you do. This is one of
the many ways you sell yourself short - and sell yourself out.
with low self-esteem don't get angry where they should, and get angry
where they shouldn't. Codependents often don't recognize anger,
thinking it has to look like rage. My guess is that there was a lot of anger in
your home growing up. You were taught to fear anger. Anger is presented in a scary and explosive manner:
anger is about rage. At least that is what you are taught.
It's not. Anger is
not about rage. Anger is a necessary emotion. It tells you when something
in your life needs your attention. Repeat: anger is a healthy signal that
something is wrong and needs your attention.
So, to sum it up,
why don't you feel anger? Well, you do, but you are emotionally invested
in denying it. You are loath to threaten a source of (so-called) love and
support. You are therefore likely to place your anger elsewhere. Your
conception of anger is also distorted. You see anger as scary and
unacceptable since you confuse it with rage. You may express your anger passively.
The anger is there.
Try spending some time sitting with that feeling. Get to know it. Feel how
it feels and hear what it tells you, whether you "like" its
message or not. You are better off getting help doing this than going it
As you begin to get
in touch with your anger, you are likely to experience rage at all
sorts of stuff that was done to you, past and present. If you go through
this stage at all, it should be temporary. Competent professional
counseling will help you pass through here and not get stuck in rage.
Meanwhile, with anger or rage of any magnitude, do not react and do
something dumb - until you know exactly what is bothering you and what,
if anything, you can do about it, and how you will go about doing
Read the Codependent and Love Addiction
as well as the various Victim and Abuser sections, though I'm sure you
already have. Read some of the self-help books.
Read up on assertion. Attend Codependents Anonymous or ALANON or any
similar meetings you feel comfortable in. Most of all, pay attention to
yourself. You have all the answers.
Thanks for reading (sorry this is
so long...) Roberta No,
Roberta, its not
"so long" and stop apologizing! OK? Good luck to you, Dr. Irene
January 2000 update here!