Dr Irene: Thanks for your answers to my questions in #16, second, third and fourth questions, and in #17, fourth question. Well, I have not left yet. I am upset at myself for not having left. Husband has not touched me in two months (Why do I care??). Probably a little wishful maybe-things-can-somehow-work-out thinking... Breaking up a marriage/moving/etc. is never fun. He gives our daughter a massage every morning (I hear it through the monitor), and brags that she has gotten used to it. This worries me. I complained to him that he has not given me a massage in forever, and even cried, saying how lonely I felt emotionally and physically. He told me to stop complaining, and that the less I talk about it, the more likely it is that he would be intimate with me. He also told me (he said later it was a joke): “you’re not capable of much sexually anyway.” And then, the shocker came: yesterday morning, to my shock, I was about to change a sheet on a play mat that my daughter uses (we change that sheet at least once a day), and I found a loose Viagra pill on the sheet! My daughter could have easily picked it up and swallowed it, God forbid!!! I thought it scary for my daughter and odd for myself to find Viagra there, took the pill away, and immediately looked in the coat jacket that my husband had worn to work yesterday. Sure enough, I found another loose Viagra pill there. He gets samples for free. But by God, if he hasn’t touched me for two months, what is it raining Viagra from his pockets, on my daughter’s play mat of all places!!!!! Why in a pocket of his jacket from work? I asked him last night, casually: “Don’t you miss physical affection in your life? Don’t you miss having sex? How do you deal with it?” It worked! He's got you wanting him. You want him to love you. He said: “I deal with it by moving on, and being positive. I’m tired of all the negativity and blackness you always pour out.” What do you think about this? Oh boy... He's taunting you with your child, and it's working. Not only does she get a massage, which you don't get, but he brags about it to you! He's taunting you subtly, trying to upset you. Otherwise, why make a point of telling you?
The Viagra? Well, if he were doing anything unmentionable with the baby, I'm sure you'd hear that over the monitor too. Assuming he's not sick enough to plant it with the baby just to make you feel insecure/unsteady, it probably just fell out of his shirt pocket. Why not tell him to be more careful with his pills next time, so he doesn't endanger the child! (And, if you've got the right attitude, you wouldn't also ask him why he's carrying Viagra.)
Only he knows if he's got Viagra in his pocket because he's having an affair, because he's engaging in internet sex, because he doesn't know when the mood between you may end with sex, or because he's left the pills around so you'd find them and become jealous/ upset.
If you were truly in a mindset to leave him, you would only be concerned with his oversight/carelessness in endangering the baby with the pill. Unfortunately, you are in a different place. He's taunting you and rejecting you, and you're biting! You are wondering why he's carrying Viagra if there is no sex between you. His attitude towards you is smug, boastful over why he doesn't need you. You fell right into his hands asking him about sex. Don't you see the mind game?
Seriously, unless you want to be married to a man who has a serious anger and ego problem and has nothing better to do than complain about how awful you are, who cares why the Viagra is there? Leaving won't be easy, especially since you are hooked in with the mind games, but if leaving is what you believe is in your best interests, and it certainly sounds that it is, you will have to ignore your broken heart strings and just do what you have to do.
Dr. Irene: Thanks for your answer to my question above. Thankfully, I did not confront him about the Viagra, and am searching my daughter's play mat on a daily basis for any loose pills. Today, I am really stumped by something, and even my instincts are not remotely pointing me to an answer. I know my H came from an abusive family, with rampant infidelity by his father, violence in the home, frequent fights in the home, etc. Neither he nor his siblings have been to therapy, except for his coming to couples therapy for "her [my] sake." I know I came from divorce, and my mother, as a single parent/immigrant, had a hard time raising me and my sibling. But, I go to therapy, I take Celexa, I am trying to make sense of all while being respectful. How come H seems to be able to sleep so soundly, exercise every night, and take care of himself, while I am so sad that my marriage is falling apart? To a great extent because he took the initiative first to reject you. The person doing the rejecting usually holds the power. He told me: "I am taking control of my life and moving on?" Perhaps he is. But I can't help but wonder what his attitude might be if you became the one with the power in the marriage... Would he become insecure? If he sensed that you'd really had it with him, would he be willing to change his tune? Not all, but many men like him do just that. Does he have no conscience of how he has treated me? Doesn't sound that way. He sounds as though he has narcissistic and/or sociopath personality features. Very little empathy in these individuals. They simply care much more about what's in it for them than they care about you. How come his sister (in my view just as cruel, dishonest, underhanded and manipulative as he is) who just got married seems so happy and loved by her husband, while mine humiliates me, even sexually, even in public? How come she is in a position to tell my mom that her marriage "keeps getting better every day"? This seems so unfair. Am I missing something? How come sister in law is not struggling in her intimate relationship? You don't know whether or not there is trouble. All you know is what she tells people. She may be very concerned with appearances and minimize issues. Or, she (and/or her husband) may be in denial. Or, her marriage may be good now. Her husband may be enchanted with her now. Perhaps he become disenchanted with his underhanded wife down the road. On the other hand, their marriage may not fall apart at all. If they're both underhanded and manipulative and each is getting much of what they want from their partner, the marriage may work. Did she not come from an abusive family? This does not make sense to me. You forget that biology has a great deal to do with who we become. Not all individuals from abusive families develop the same problems. Not all children in abusive families are equally abused. Each child handles their predicament differently. Etc., etc. Don't assume that her life will run parallel to her brother's life simply because they are sibs. Only time will tell if her marriage will work, and you'll find out about problems only if either partner becomes vocal regarding their discontent. Some apparently fairytale marriages are in reality downright awful!
Next, life is not fair! That's just the way the world works. That is reality. Accept that fact and move on.
What is extremely clear to me is that, like the vast majority of women in your situation, you are totally dumbfounded by his behavior. How he operates makes absolutely no sense to you. Nearly all of us implicitly expect that other people think and behave as we do. After all, how you think and feel is normal to you. You are likely to better understand those individuals who have a personality style more similar to your own. Your husband sports a vastly different psychology than you do. I think it is important that you begin to learn a little more about how this type of person thinks. Perhaps then his behavior will make a little more sense. Perhaps you will also understand why his personality style is very difficult to modify.
I've listed a couple of excellent books that may shed some light on where he's coming from. The third book clearly describes and contrasts the basic personality styles:
Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft.
The Abusive Personality : Violence and Control in Intimate Relationships by Donald G. Dutton, Ph.D.
Beck & Freeman et al. Cognitive Therapy of Personality Disorders
Wishing you clarity and personal power, Dr. Irene
Hi Dr. Irene – it’s Marie again. Hi Marie! Thanks for your response to my first letter earlier this month. Your advice was right on, and helped me clarify my thoughts. Great! The situation with my partner has continued to be very unpleasant. Since my first letter, she has again thrown items (a full bottle of drinking water, clothes, magazines), stormed around the house in angry rages (that sometimes last more than 2 hours!) while angrily yelling the f-word to describe how awful everything in her life is, slammed doors, accused me of “doing all the talking”, “never asking her what she wants to do”, “being unapproachable”, etc. After these recent instances, it just hit me like a ton of bricks that I just don’t want to come home to someone so scary and volatile, and that I spend so much of my weekend time wondering (and trying to avoid) what might set her off. Ouchhhh! I saw my therapist a couple of days ago, and she said it sounds like I live in constant fear of upsetting my partner and that I am, in a sense, “terrorized”. Your therapist chose the word well. Obviously, that was a powerful word, and it really started me thinking that maybe I need to get out of this sooner rather than later. Good for you. So, I (silently) set a date to move out in a little less than two weeks while she is at work. I’ve enlisted the help of a number of my good friends who have wanted to see me get out of this for some time. Great! One of them has generously offered her spare room for me for as long as I need to get settled again. Excellent! Underneath my fear of leaving, there is finally a sense of hope that I will soon be relieved of living with such a frightening and unpredictable partner. Yippeee!
My problem is this: I feel really guilty about planning to leave and not telling my partner what I am doing. Your guilt is entirely irrational and unwarranted under the circumstances. On the other hand, I also feel that doing it this way is safest for me. Yes! I mean, if she has 2-hour rage fits about not wanting to go to the restaurant I picked for breakfast, who knows what she would do if confronted with my saying I want to get out of this relationship! Exactly. Is it wrong to keep her in the dark? No. Why do I feel like such a bad person? Irrational thinking. Ellis, one of the authors mentioned below invented the phrase. And after I’ve moved my stuff out of the house while she’s at work, how do I tell her what I’ve done – do I just leave a note? If you want. Do I call her on her cell phone and talk to her in person? No! I don’t want to hurt her, but I guess that’s just going to happen. Pain is a necessary prerequisite to change. I’m trying to be strong about this, but it’s not easy. This is about your growth. Keep up the good work. I think about her coming home and being all alone and it makes me so sad. But I also know that staying with her is not good for my mental or physical health. Right. And maybe once I'm gone, she'll finally get the help she needs. Hopefully she has the number of a good psychiatrist to help her medically with those moods! Thanks for your help and thanks for listening. - Marie
Dear, dear Marie, You care too much about her despite what she's doing / done to you. You don't owe her ANY explanation, and you are better off worrying more about yourSelf than about her. Your codependency is getting in your way!
Yes she will come home and find you and your belongings gone, and she will probably be bewildered and angry and sad. Then she'll probably rage on in a fit of anger and tears. And that's exactly what she needs to do as part of the process she needs to go through to begin to get her act together, should she choose to go that way. Growing pains hurt! (As you are hurting too - as you grow.)
Once you leave, unless you are looking for trouble, absolutely do not contact her! You can't help her. If she talks with you, you will end up feeling worse. I'm sure she knows every single guilt button you own. Do not give her any information that will help her track you down (unless you want her to). You don't owe her any explanation, nor should you give her one because she will take any opportunity to show you that you are wrong. You've been telling her what's wrong all along, and it hasn't worked. At most, a short note tacked to the fridge saying, "I wish you well. Goodbye. Marie."
Earlier I said your guilt was irrational. If you break the situation down logically, you will see your guilt makes no sense.
Below are some books that can help you erase your irrational guilt:
In a nutshell: Get out, don't tell her about it, don't tell her how to find her, don't call to explain, read the above books, and - meanwhile - ignore the guilt while you do what you have to do to save yourSelf. Good luck and Happy Holidays! Dr. Irene
Dear Dr Irene, I am seeking affirmation that I may have experienced verbal/emotional abuse in my 18-year marriage. This realization crystallized after getting a decent job (stay-home Mom12 years), attending University (I graduate April). I’m my own Self now. Good for you!!!!
My husband ‘loves’ me, supports my work/school (now), is faithful, and wants us to stay together.
Constant criticism examples: you ALWAYS spill your water, leave dishwasher open, lose the keys, etc. When discussing issues I’m told what I THINK, FEEL is wrong, and feel fault, issue unresolved. It’s inferred, what I feel or say is wrong, or I didn’t say what I meant. There is often tension and arguments, trying to convince kids (angrily) they are wrong on issues. The boys leave the room in disgust. He constantly criticizes my driving. He drives recklessly himself. He picked me up at lunch to register a new vehicle in my name (my record’s better!!!!). The process took long and I had to return to work. He said, “You mean you’re so indispensable you can’t be late?" trying to guilt me into waiting. The answer is, "Yes. I'm indispensable. (And there's no guilt in that!) " Finally I told him I was leaving, he stormed out behind me, screaming “You are full of sh*t!” etc. Good for you, but he needs to handle his anger more appropriately, as you already know.
More subtly, when we are out, he holds my hand and ‘directs’ me. If I hold a different opinion, he will embarrass me in front of friends, angry. When he does, in front of everybody, tell him, "Stop trying to change my position and stop trying to embarrass me, etc." Just call him on whatever he's doing, when he's doing it. He ‘vents’ constantly about situations at work and friends, how they are wrong. Sometimes I’m criticized for not knowing what would be impossible to know: recently, I asked him if he was ready to go out, it’s close to 7pm.. Annoyed he said, “I was waiting for someone to tell me when it started! How long did you know it was 7 pm!!” Answer: "I'm not your keeper; you need to keep track of your time."
I recently became attracted to another man. I did not act, but the emotional connectedness startled me. I’ve spent years feeling my withdrawal as my inability to love: was it self-protection? Perhaps.
I’m emotionally eroded. We’re starting counseling. I’ve confronted him with these behaviors and he’s ‘stopped’. It doesn’t feel like enough, I’m sad, bereft, confused. Is this ‘abuse’? Great Website! Lori Thanks Lori. Yes, it is abuse - though the way I see it, there is abuse and there is abuse. Unfortunately, too many of us treat those whom we are most comfortable with (i.e., family) poorly. It's so prevalent, it's almost "normal." And then there is "real" abuse, which is about control: One person needs to control the actions of the other so that the controller can feel OK. Some controllers can change, others can't.
Your hubby obviously tried to control his family to think the way he does, and bucked when you stood up to him, but he did make apparently lasting changes: He supports your work and schooling now, and I'm presuming he's supporting it now because you were so adamant, there would be no other way. He got it. This is good.
He's apparently not gotten it in other areas, including with your kids, whom he still tries to control. They need to stand up to him, and so do you, in all the areas where you do not, as per some of my above comments.
In counseling, empower yourself and point these issues out. Insist too that he consider individual treatment for his anger issues. He may change. On the other hand, if he really is about control, his complaints will just shift to new topics and may become subtler.
Then there is the other issue: You've been putting up with this for 18 years. That's a long, long time and you are burnt out. Sometimes there's just too much water under the bridge. Please consider some individual counseling of your own to help you sort out your feelings. Good luck to you. Dr. Irene
Hi, I am very confused and trying to figure out my life. Husband diagnosed with Dysthymia Another word for this for those who don't know is "depression." after an affair in which the other woman had a friend call me to expose. When confronted he admitted everything. This resulted after 9 years of marriage and him consistently being angry, negative and verbally abusive. Ouchhh! He took a large bowl one time and slammed it down on the counter in front of me and got about two inches from my face and just yelled at me. I told him he must do something to take care of his anger or I was gone. Good for you for setting limits! He took a six week anger mgmt. class that helped for a little while. The lessons learned in anger management take much, much practice and constant effort to become automatic behavior. If the individual stops practicing the techniques, the gains can become lost. The affair was a result of me shutting down and finally deciding that I wasn't going to take his stuff anymore. I remember the day and from then on in my wall went up and I became completely unavailable emotionally, and sexually. Then his mother died (she was a narcissistic tyrant) and he took it really hard and the anger worsened. I decided not to fly across the country after 9/11 with my 4 yr old, and apparently he has never forgiven me. We are in counseling a year now. I am struggling with modeling being in a sick relationship for my 6 yr old vs. seeing a commitment and positive behaviors from my husband. I am wondering about my choices for getting in this situation and if I should leave. How do I know if he can change? Should I try to make this work for my child who adores her father and he is wonderful with her? Thanks - Revelation
Dear Revelation, you are basically telling me that you married a man with an anger problem and that after 9 years of marriage you got fed up shut down. He responded by having an affair. When his mom died, you were afraid to fly out to the funeral with your child given 9/11, and he holds that against you. Now you are in counseling together and you are concerned about what this relationship may be doing to your child. You don't know if you should stay or leave and want to do what's best for your child. You are hoping he will change because his daughter adores him.
Let's take the child out of the equation for a moment. It sounds as though you want to be married to a man who is not abusive and who does not retaliate (via affairs or otherwise), and who respects your feelings enough to accept your apprehension about flying given 9/11 despite his own needs. Can he change into this kind of man? While anything is possible, fundamental change like this is unlikely.
In general, it is a bad idea to insist that another person change so you can be happy with them. I suggest you abandon the wishful thinking and consider whether or not you can accept him more or less as he is.
Is the bad marriage setting a bad example for your child? Well, it's not a good lesson, but children come out of all sorts of home situations, and depending on what they choose do with their lives, they can make the best of what was or the worst of what was. You have little or no control here and there are pros and cons in both directions.
Your daughter loves mommy and she loves daddy. There is no good reason why she can't have plenty of access to both of you whether you stay together or not.
Finally, what do you want? It sounds as though there is some fear around the uncertainly of leaving. This is real, and life gives no guarantees one way or the other. You can't know how your life will go until it goes there.
I hope breaking up your situation into some of it's parts helps you to work through some of your confusion. The reality is that you will have to make some hard choices, but you don't need to be confused about them. Good luck to you. Dr. Irene