Date: Thursday November 13, 2003
So what's a woman to do? Well, you can keep up the same 'ol same 'ol until you get sick and tired of it, or you can get into therapy which is likely to speed up the process. You're talking about an issue that is very difficult, though not impossible. Ultimately you need to deal with your own contempt for men who treat you well - and your respect for men who don't. My guess is there was a strong parental figure in your life who teased you while growing up; who never quite gave you what they "promised" or were capable of giving. My guess is also that the "good" men you attract don't quite respect themselves, which (understandably) drives you crazy.
In sum, I think your task is to get your head together on what is good for you (vs. what is not) combined with the waiting game you'll have to play in order to meet a strong but gentle guy who respects himSelf. Easier said than done. So stop wasting time and get to the part that you can do something about: deal with your own issues of intimacy, power, respect, etc. in therapy. Sorry I can't be more specific on such a global issue. Doc.
Fourteen months in a third marriage with emotionally and verbally abusive husband. I'm sorry... We also work together, I am with him 24/7. He’s increasingly controlling, volatile, requires constant attention. If I take time with my children over homework or having a chat, he yells, tells me they are spoiled, and don't appreciate me. “He is the only person who "is there" for me.” He’s telling me to quit work; how to do my job, and is enraged when I don't. He's a control freak. He’s been reprimanded for yelling at me at work in front of a co-worker who reported it Good!, and is upset that I haven't bailed him out by saying it wasn't what it appeared to be. (It was.) Good for you for sticking to your guns. I’ve lost my appetite, weight, sex drive, and don't sleep well. Sounds like a clinical depression (not unusual under the circumstances). Talk to your internist to assess you for medication so you don't have to feel so awful. If he misses a night of intercourse, I am called frigid and uncaring and horrible names. Not a very nice guy.
When he’s up, I am the smartest, sexiest, virtuous, most caring goddess in the world.My sister, a therapist, thinks it’s Narcissistic Personality Disorder & possible Male Borderline. Sounds good to me. She says I’m co-dependant and thinks he targeted me from the beginning. Recently, he grabbed my arm, blocked my exit, has thrown furniture, and frightened me badly. So, it's getting worse. He told me to leave the house; when I said ok, he turned around and said that he didn't really say what I heard (and what my children heard) and that he really loves me more than I love him. Right. He says I’m abusive by not communicating or paying attention to him as much as he wants you to, which is unrealistic... I make plans for us to spend time alone every week, don't go anywhere without him, if I stop at a gas station on the way home from work he wants to know where I've been. When I try to talk to him, he steamrolls me verbally, so I get quiet and don't talk. I am trying to find a rental house or apartment. How do I keep the "peace" until I find a place? You may not be able to. Should I just go ahead and leave before I find a new job and house? The first thing you do is find a good attorney, who will advise you how to best handle your predicament from a legal standpoint. All the better if you can locate somebody experienced in abuse cases. Consider calling the police the next time he frightens you, raises his voice, "steamrolls" you verbally, etc. He seems to have handled the "limits" placed on him by the job, and calling the cops is a definite limit!
Perhaps you can involve your family/others as a buffer, such as your big brother and uncle are there when you start taking your stuff out of the house. Perhaps you can move in temporarily with a friend or relative.
On the other hand, if there is any question in your mind that he may freak out and hurt you or yours, you may want to incorporate a safety plan where you spring the move quietly and disappear. If your safety is not a concern, handle it any way you want given your available resources and your state of mind. Whatever you do, it won't be a picnic. Whichever way you handle it, he won't be happy. Whichever way you do it, you will be happy.
Good for you for not being sooooo co-dependent that you let this situation worsen and worsen over time. Good luck to you and may God bless you and yours. Dr. Irene
Friday November 28, 2003
I am married to a woman who is verbally and emotionally abusive to me. I have read the co-dependency books and much of your site. I feel I am co-dependent and need to work on this. She will not discuss emotional issues with me and avoids intimacy, whether physical or any other kind. We sleep in separate rooms for past 3 years now. I have asked her to go to counseling with me, but she refuses. She said I should go to counseling, which I have done. Three different counselors over a 4 year period all told me to get out of the marriage. Hmmmm, reading your note, I was just wondering what you were doing married to her. However, we have a teenage child that I don't want to leave alone with her, so I am staying for now. I filed for divorce a year ago, but decided not to leave. Trying to keep a family life together. We rarely fight anymore, but there is no intimacy and no willingness on her part to resolve underlying issues. I feel I am just hanging on. I feel very alone. I am close to our teenage son, and he is doing well. I am glad I am here for him. If I try to touch on or resolve any marital issues, though, my wife explodes or goes into denial and shuts down. Any suggestions or references to help me through this? Thank you very much. Anonymous dad/husband. You are living with a woman who is difficult in a loveless marriage. That does not feel good, and there are bound to be problems. On the other hand, you have a teenager and it is admirable that you want to keep the marriage intact for him. Unfortunately, you can't have it both ways. If you live with a partner who lacks willingness to resolve issues and you still choose to remain in the marriage, you are likely to feel domestically fulfulled. Why should you? You have no partner!
While you've accepted your situation in part, I get a strong sense that at some deeper level you are still in some denial that it is over. You cycle in and out of hoping to resolve issues with your wife. In fact, you clearly state that you try to "touch on or resolve marital issues." These partially masked hopes and expectations are getting in your way and are creating the sense of aloneness and hanging on that you have. Get a handle on those thoughts and feelings and accept what is. She is not likely to change her tune, so begin to identify and let go of any expectations or hopes you may have regarding making this marriage work. Get on with your own life despite your domestic situation. Focus more on one to one interactions with your kid; cultivate your friends and family more. If you could let her go and accept that she is your wife in name only for the sake of your son, you will feel less alone and less as though you are just hanging on.
You don't give your son's age. You two are setting a poor example of marriage for him. What's worse: having a miserable marital role model or having two parents who spend lots of time with him separately? I don't pretend to have the answer to that. Why not talk to him. See what he thinks. He is old enough, and any court will certainly take his custodial preferences into account. Talk to an attorney too and see what your right are. Don't simply assume he will stay with your wife just because she is the mother.
But whether you stay or go, please stop chasing something that is no longer there. These two excellent books can help you identify and deal with the codependent thinking that is in your way:
A Guide to Rational Living by Albert Ellis and Melvin Powers.
Good luck to you. Dr. Irene
Dear Dr. Irene,Your site has been a great resource for me. I'm a female in a verbally abusive relationship with another female. Abuse is an equal opportunity employer... I was married previously (to a man) who was such a broad-spectrum abuser that, in contrast, my relationship with Pam seemed like a huge improvement. Pam can be great, but I just never know when she's going to lose it. Not good. She is controlling, and she rages, and it's frightening. Not good at all. She'll do a very scary "road rage" thing if something makes her angry while in the car. At home, her usual arsenal includes fist clenching, door/cabinet slamming, wall punching, screaming, swearing, stomping, and storming past me so that I need to get out of the way. Ouch! She sometimes throws things, including magazines, tools, clothing, and even furniture. She never throws them "at me", but near me, in my presence, and it frightens me. It should. She once slammed a door in my face so hard that my ears rang, even though the door never touched me. This is too close to physical abuse, and chances are, your relationship may be heading in that direction. The physical abuse line is often crossed as the near misses or "accidental" incidents escalate. Be very careful and heed your fear. If you are fearful at her raging, please call the police.
I feel trapped because when I tell her how frightening those things are, she accuses me of stifling her. She says I try to make her "censor herself", and that I'm unrealistic about what angry people do. I know that's not true. Correct. I will tell her that even when she's mad, I deserve to be treated with respect. Even though I believe it, the terrible thing is that it just escalates the abuse. Yes.
She'll say nothing's ever good enough for me, I'm abandoning her, I'm so mean and domineering and now the whole day/night/vacation/dinner/whatever is ruined because of me. She punctuates it all with angry stares, crossed arms, and lots of f-words. Last night, she snapped at me when I accidentally dropped an empty (plastic) glass. I calmly said I would like it if she didn't talk to me that way because it made me feel embarrassed, and she became furious. She sarcastically said she'll just "write everything down from now on", because no matter how she says it, it's never good enough for me. I tried for a few minutes to explain that I just wanted a different approach that felt less critical to me, and she just got angrier, then yelled, "Just go to f***ing bed!" Sounds like you are trying to reason with a brick wall. Would you expect a brick wall to recognize the truth in your words and agree with you? Neither will she. I left the room, and then she started crying and yelling to me about "look what you've done now". And then she didn't talk to me or touch me the rest of the night. I've been in therapy for 9 months now, but I'm still confused. What is there to be confused about? You are in a verbally and potentially physically abusive relationship with an individual who (classic for abusers) flips your complaints back onto you! Don't even bother telling her what you want/don't want anymore. She won't hear it and she'll just turn it around on you. As you stated, you certainly are trapped. But once you realize that it doesn't matter whether or not she acknowledges your point or understands, not only can you save your breath, but you are free!
The truth is I don't want to live like this anymore. GOOD! I'm a very competent, capable person with many good, wonderful friends who treat me well. Excellent. I like the self-esteem!. I own my own business, and I have very healthy relationships and boundaries otherwise. I know I need to get out of this situation, but something is keeping me stuck. I think about leaving her, and it overwhelms me. With sadness? Fear? Guilt? Love? I'm not sure. Please help. Thanks.Marie I'm not sure what "it" is either Marie. Probably some of each of those feelings. But whatever "it" is, it doesn't matter! If she hasn't heard your pleas to date, it's unlikely that she ever will. Furthermore, it's very possible that your relationship will cross the physical abuse line. Whatever the "it" is that is keeping you stuck, so be it. Accept that you have these confusing feelings (who wouldn't?) - and leave anyway. Draw up a quick plan, put one foot ahead of the other, one step at a time, and GO! You are strong enough to do it. Deal with the feelings later, preferable with the help of a therapist.
If you were in the sea and were drowning, would you want to hang around trying to figure out what's keeping you from swimming? Or would you want to get out fast?
Leaving the person you love is very, very difficult and heartbreaking. There are bound to be conflicted feelings, especially given an abuse situation. You are leaving not only a person you love, but a history together, a companion, a lifestyle, a dream of what could have been - often a home as well, and you are heading into unknown territory. It feels like another failure and you ask yourself why this person you love just can't see the light... Feeling a little (or a lot) crazy, overwhelmed and confused is purrrfectly normal under the circumstances. You can feel crazy - and still do what you know you have to do. Enlist the support of your friends, your family, your therapist, anybody who can help you see your plan through. Get out; cry your eyes out for a little while, then explore your feelings and grow as a result. My guess is that down the road, you'll be happy you did.
Like the old Nike commercial, "Just Do It!"
I'm glad you know you deserve much, much better than the treatment you're getting. Don't stay until your self-esteem is drained. Good luck to you. Dr. Irene