Tuesday July 05, 2005
Dr. Irene This will be my 4th communication with you. Suffice it to say, I did not take any of your good advice. After dating ex for three months after our breakup, I got back together with him in April. Thing's were ok for about five minutes, then it was all downhill from there. Like I predicted? (No, I'm not a psychic, but it's an easy call given your history!)
He continued verbally abusing me and he started demeaning me in public. He even threatened to embarrass me in public while we were out and having a fight. He was still being physically aggressive with me. However, this time, he would throw stuff when he got mad...usually my purse...or throw thing's at me. Throughout the course of our relationship he used to want "his space" and he would go day's without talking to me. This increased greatly this past time we got back together. His temper increased. Everything would set him off. One night he got mad at me for asking him if he was upset, he cussed me out, hung up on me, and didn't call me for days. Does this add up: You are considerate and ask him if he's OK. HE gets mad and cuts out. You are upset he cut out. Duh?
To make a long story short, I left town for two weeks, and I told him I was thinking about ending the relationship. I came back and found out that he had slept with someone while I was gone and he had taken another girl out on a date. I broke up with him and he lied about these two girls. One day he finally admitted to these two thing's, but said that he thought we had broken up. He also told me about two other girls he had slept with at different times when we were broken up.
Unfortunately, I slept with him several times after all of this. He was nice briefly, then started being horrible again. He showed up at a play that I was in, and when I thought he had brought some girl with him and mentioned this, he whispered in my ear that I was "f****** pathetic" and tried to ruin my performance. Everyone there saw his behavior, and he was almost kicked out of the building. I told him to stop calling me, but he continued to call. I recently graduated from college Congrats!, and I am about to move out of that town, move back to my hometown, and start working and pursuing my career. He told me he wasn't sure if he could say goodbye to me. In any event, I wrote him a 6 page letter which I mailed days ago. I rehashed all of the thing's he has done to me. I have not heard from him in a few days. Have you asked yourSelf why you bother sending him this stuff? Could it be you still think that if only he could see the errors of his ways, he would self-correct? I really think something like this is going on in the back of your mind...
I do, however, feel great. I am happier now, and I know that I will never get back together with him again. Great! He even went as far as to tell me that I would never find a better lover than him, when I talked to him last. I have to spend the next month getting my thing's together, and I am really scared of running into him. Because at some level, you remain "hooked." I also have a major problem. I think about this guy every day, and I am not over exaggerating. I have nightmares about him every night, and I think about him before I go to sleep and when I wake up. I have tried to get him out of my head, but it seems very difficult. I would really appreciate your advice. Serena Dear, dear Serena, sometimes we really, really don't want to do those things we KNOW are best for us. I think you need to recognize that somewhere in the back of your mind you are still hoping that somehow things will work out, even though you know better.
Knowing you have this vulnerability, if you really, really want this to be the end, you will have to make it your business to RUN the other way should you see him again or should he try to contact you. Think of yourself as an alcoholic/drug-addict and think of him as your fix. You want your sobriety, but you crave your fix. You are powerless over his hold on you... AA and NA teaches recovering addicts that they can't handle "People, places, and things." That translates for you to staying far away from anywhere he may be, staying away from anyone he knows, or places that may remind you of him. You are just going to have to bite the bullet and remain strong in your resolve to stay away from him - because you cannot handle him. One day at a time. Stay away. Acknowledge your craving; acknowledge the content of your dreams and nightmares. No matter how you feel towards him, you simply have to stay away for as long as it takes. One day at a time, one foot in front of the other. Otherwise, your saga with him will continue for yet another round. And that's an Ouchhh!
Two more selections for you to browse; I hope you'll pick at least one:
Also, read or reread When Hope Can Kill: Reclaiming Your Soul in a Romantic Relationshipby Lucy Papillon!
This is not going to be easy. Like giving up cigarettes... God bless you and good luck! Dr. Irene
Dr. Irene: I have a very distressing situation within my family. First of all, I am a successful lawyer with one 6 year-old son. I am single and my son is adopted. How wonderful for both of you! This is important because he has minimal family members. :( My mother is 70 and my brother is 37. For years my brother has been slowly becoming more and more infantilized by my mother. He has not worked in years and totally sponges off of her. He is of very high intelligence and is mentally stable; he is just lazy and does not wish to work. She has had to work until she was 70 and finally had to retire due to health concerns. He still refused to work.
I have to tell you that this has infuriated me and yes, I have become somewhat codependent. I have tried to get my mother to see that she should not be supporting him, he needs to work, etc. This has only caused stress in our relationship. I bet it has! Sounds like mom is a mega-codependent enabler. She really needs to be needed! My brother says he sponges off of her "because I can." Yep. Sounds about right. And you need to work on how the brother situation bothers you so much, bad as it is. This was bad enough, but then it began to bleed over into MY life. He picked up my son from school and due to his frustration with my son, he slapped him across the face and told him that if he told me, then he would cut his head off. So, your dear brother is abusive... My son, hysterical, told me. He also came into my house and stole prescription drugs from me. And a druggie... Bad news! I got a court ordered restraining order. (He made me go through the whole trial.) Well, he didn't make you do anything, but I can certainly understand why his behavior would cause you to choose to go after him.
My mother was furious with me (How can you do this to a family member...he would never REALLY hurt your son, etc.) Yeah, right. Makes me wonder what he did to you growing up, and who mom protected then. By the way, she was there when he hit my son, and she went in her bedroom. See no evil, speak no evil. She finally talked to me about 2 months later. THEN this past month, I was home from work on a fluke, and my MOTHER let my brother into my house to take a shower! (They were out of hot water.) This is really out of line, but you already know that. ...she KNEW about the restraining order and had SWORN she would not tell him that she had a key! He walked past me in my OWN house as if he owned the place and went in and took a shower and left. Smirking! Sure he's smirking. He's got poor mom wrapped around his little pinky! But the battle lines have now been drawn. You can't trust either of them.
I filed a police report for him breaking a restraining order. He HAS to get it. She HAS to get it too since filing the report against him is essentially filing it against her, the woman who let him in. But it's worse than that because he got in trouble for something she gave him permission for! My mom now will not talk to me or my son. She has cut us off. My son, her grandson, has been hurt. She will not communicate with me in any way. Too bad mom feels so protective over your brother that she will break her word and trample on another person's space (yours!) for him.
I KNOW that I did the right thing. Yes, you did. Your mom lost her boundaries on this one. I HAVE to keep my boundaries....what do I do now? You don't have many sane options, do you? Or maybe you do...keep reading. She has told people that I am selfish and "jealous" of my little brother...Hellooooooooooooo!I have written to her to ask her to talk to me about this situation and she told me that she was blocking my e-mails.I have even got back into therapy to help me resolve this. Good! Excellent!! Can you give me any additional advice? Believe me, telling me to contact her or write her will not work as I had my son send her a birthday card for her 70th birthday...nothing. Thanks, A distressed daughter Dear Distressed, unfortunately we can't pick our family, and you certainly didn't pick your codependent mom or your selfish little brother out of the litter. It's too bad that you and your son have lost family, but sometimes noxious people are no bargain, family or not.
I'm very glad you are in therapy - because I suspect that this issue has been in the making for a very long time and has lots of history. You probably have had issues with both of them from childhood. I have a feeling that this battle is really between you and your mother.
Your mom may have always favored him, to your very real distress distress, and to the very awful feelings a situation like that will set off in anyone! So it is a very good thing for you to come to terms with this. Certainly mom has gone over the top, but it is up to you to tease out how much your own cumulative anger has played into this scenario. Understanding these dynamics in therapy will help you make a clearer assessment of your options vis-à-vis your family in the future. Bring this reply to your therapist and chat about it if you want. Meanwhile, my very best regards to you and yours. Dr. Irene
Tuesday August 02, 2005
Dear Dr. Irene This will be my fifth, and hopefully final letter to you. (The 4th is at the top of this page.) After a year and a half of verbal, emotional, psychological, and sometimes physical abuse, I have ended the relationship with my abuser...for good. Yipppeee!!!! I bumped into him after a couple of weeks apart, as I had feared that I would, and I allowed him to reel me back in with his words. His controlling, possessive, and manipulative nature escalated, and I started to feel so trapped that I thought I was going insane. You were. I recently allowed him to use my credit card to purchase some things for us. A week later, I realized that not only had he made that purchase, but he withdrew $100 from my checking account. ! After all the lies, cheating, and abuse, this is what finally made me open my eyes. Yay! When I told him that it was over, naturally he flipped out Sure. He doesn't want a good thing (for him) to come to an end., and came over repeatedly to "make peace" with me. I have now cut him out of my life, and plan to take further action's against him for theft if he does not mail me the money as he promised. Great! But, if seeing him over the $100 puts you in any jeopardy of falling back in, let him keep it!
In any event, I wanted to say thank you and let you know your advice has really helped me. I feel like I am finally free, and your site has been a blessing to me.
Dear, dear Serena, I am sooooo relieved for you! Each and every time you begin to feel even a tiny bit "soft" towards this man, come back and read this. This man is a Cad (note the capital "C") who has done nothing but use you, as clearly evidenced by his most recent antics. This is very sociopathic behavior! And, charming and winning as they may be, these types do not ever become "normal." You may think he has a heart, but all his does is pump cold blood. The sociopath (very similar to the narcissist, but worse) will captivate you. His words may be sweet as honey, but don't for one minute buy it! This is a very selfish individual who simply wants what he wants. Sociopathic types will laugh at you behind your back - for being stupid enough to fall for their lies and manipulation. They think that if you are dumb enough to fall for it, you deserve what you get. They prey on sweet people like you, and will crush you if you let them. The sociopath looks pretty normal, but has no conscience! The really good and really smart sociopaths don't get caught. They run corporations! They run countries! They will run you. Run away fast!
Read about sociopathy; make sure you don't repeat your mistake.
My wish for you: May you stay free of this man, and may you never get involved with such a user again!
God bless you, Dr. Irene
For many years I (a man) have been living with an emotionally abusive woman. She is Chinese from Taiwan and was raised by her grandmother until she was 10 years old while her mother concentrated on her brother - typical in a Chinese family. Her father was too busy with his career to pay much attention to her needs as a child. She had few friends and was never allowed to date. In fact as a youngster she wasn’t even allowed to play with other kids. She came to graduate school in the States, married a rather cold man (also from Taiwan) and had a son right away. They are now divorced.
I have been involved with her for about 10 years. She fits about 90% of the characteristics of an abuser shown on your website. She expects me to be the caretaker she believes she never had. Of course I have been the codependent in the relationship. She now has a good job, and there has been some improvement, but the situation is not acceptable to me anymore.
My question is this: I want to end the relationship, but, since I believe she is emotionally about five years old, how do I do it without doing her serious damage? If you are going to be excessively worried about her wellbeing after your breakup, I know she is physically an adult (45 years old), but I fear she has very few adult emotions. It is impossible to talk about this with her. No matter what I say, she feels attacked, files into a rage and runs off to sleep in another bedroom. Then she won’t talk at all for 1 to 3 days. I don’t know how to handle this in the face of the rage and sulking I know I will face. Why face it at all? And I am very vulnerable to her rages, feeling she’s right and I am totally wrong. She can think what she wants. She does not need to agree with you, nor do you need to get her to understand. I have struggled with this for too many years so any suggestions would be welcome. Of course you want to be humane when breaking up with a woman you no longer want to be with. But I think you passed that marker long ago. You are intimidated by the thought of breaking up with her, and you are worried over her future well-being - as well as your own! Yes your inability to leave is certainly codependent.
You have fallen prey to emotional blackmail! You are staying put out of fear that if you leave she may somehow hurt herself, or hurt you, be damaged from your loss, etc. While it is very sad that this poor woman had the upbringing she had, it is not your fault. That the relationship is no longer to your liking is not your fault. That she is emotionally immature and that you are no longer interested in the codependent role with her is not your fault - and in fact shows you've grown emotionally - while unfortunately she hasn't. You cannot worry about the damage she may suffer if you leave because her damage is about her, not you. Look at it this way: you allow yourself to be exploited because you are too concerned over her. Is this what you want for yourSelf? Healthy behavior is about taking care of you; only you.
So, stop making her wellbeing your concern, or you'll be with her forever! Certainly if you are concerned about violence on her part, do everything in your power to protect yourself ! Take tips from the Safety Plan. If you really want to leave and cannot leave, please consider professional help. You probably need the support!
A couple of book suggestions:
Good luck to you, Dr. Irene
Dear Dr. Irene: My life is a mess! I have been married to my husband for 34 years this October and have been separated from him since April of this year.
The marriage has never been very happy for me, owing to his controlling behaviour and verbal abuse over the years. It started out with pushing and shoving, walking away from me in public, road rage driving, throwing things etc. He never wanted any children and I think I was so depressed most of the time, I never pressed him on it. (He also stopped having sex with me 20 years ago.) He would also get angry with me if I got sick and once refused to take me to the ER when I had heart palpitations, etc. Things would be bad for awhile and then he would be easier to live with for a time, but it never lasted – there were always things about me that upset him – my cleaning, decision-making ability, fear of flying, anxiety attacks, shyness, not wanting to entertain our friends, whatever. I simply resigned myself to living this way but now I know I should have left while I was still young.
Dr. Irene, I am an intelligent, university-educated woman, slim, pretty and have always held a good job in public relations. My husband is well-liked and respected by all who know him, and they would be shocked to learn how he has behaved over the years. Ironically, everyone thinks I’m the strange one!! Ironic, but, common! Two years ago he got unhinged over a decision we made to buy a second house and allow my Mom to live there. He wanted her out almost immediately after she’d moved in and, because I disagreed, he harassed me daily for 24 months with name-calling, shoving, etc. (Eventually I had to call 911 on him because his fists were in my face). I felt that I was gong to have either a heart attack or stroke if I didn’t get out, and so we separated. Good for you!
The clincher in all this is that my husband was diagnosed with MS two years ago – he can still walk and take care of himself, but eventually will need to be in a wheelchair. I have a lot of guilt over leaving him in his “time of need.” Why? Because he was so good to you? Typical co-dependent that I am. Yes!
Since I’ve left he tells me he’s had a huge wake-up call. He admits and takes full responsibility for the abuse and has been taking anger management counseling. My problem is trusting that he will change. There is no problem here. You have no reason to trust that he will change. Most abusers change and revert once comfortable. Why should you trust anything?
I’m 54 and am running out of time to find some happiness and peace of mind in life. I can’t afford to go back to him, then in a few years time find myself taking care of a wheel-chair bound husband who is also abusive. Exactly. I think I would commit suicide if that happened and I’m already very, very depressed and anxious. I thought I would gain some peace and clarity by leaving but things seems worse than ever. Only because you don't know how to disengage and stop taking responsibility for him.
I know he has a lot of reasons to want me back, both financial and in terms of his knowing he needs me to take of things for him, so if I were him I’d say anything to get me back. Right. It gets even worse though. A year ago I ran into my childhood sweetheart – I have loved him since the ago of 12. (Five years ago, when he divorced he sent word to me that he wanted me to leave my husband but for whatever reason I did nothing.) He wanted to maintain contact and so we e-mailed for a few months and when I separated from my husband, we started having an affair. Although he was living with someone else he led me to believe there was a chance for us. I should have known it would end badly, and it has. :( He dumped me after 16 weeks – telling me he had to stay with the live-in who has OCD and an eating disorder. Yuk.
Needless to say I’m heartbroken, humiliated and even more depressed than ever. Should I go back to my husband while I’m still in this terrible state? You know going back is the wrong decision - except you're asking since you can't stand how hopeless and depressed you're feeling right now. Well, going back to your husband won't help you feel much better, at least for long. Nor will it increase your self-respect. What you do now is get some treatment to help you with the depression and codependency. Once you are firmly on your own two feet, you can reassess the entire situation. You will likely see things very differently then. When you are down and out is not the time to make important decisions. So, get the guilt back in check, get some help for yourSelf - and - hang in there! May God bless, Dr. Irene