Wednesday November 22, 2006
I am concerned because my fiancé and I have very different ways of handling money. We have known each other for about a year and a half and have been engaged for about three months. We both have good jobs and together earn what most would consider a good income (over two hundred thousand dollars a year). We do have high expenses (child support, kids in college, etc). The problem is that we want to spend our money in different ways and, of course, we both think that our way is the best. It is not only that we disagree on what to spend money, but on the conventions around money.
For instance, in a representative case, last summer, for the first time and because I really pushed for it, we took our children (he has two and I have one) on a vacation to Maine for 5 days so we could spend some time together as a family. We went out to dinner (a very rare occurrence for us as a whole family – this might have been the very first time). My son and I were looking forward to having lobster (something that we associate with going to Maine in the summer). After we were seated, my fiancé left the table announcing that he would see how much the lobster cost. Huh? Odd. Then he came back and sat down silently. Needless to say, no one ordered lobster. According to my idea of polite behavior, this was extremely rude and made everyone at the table feel uncomfortable. Correct. He thinks that he was just being practical and setting a good example for the children about fiscal conservatism. He set a good example for rude behavior. He certainly has the right to refrain from ordering lobster himself if he chooses to be financially conservative, but the buck stops there.
In my mind, we can afford to go out to eat sometimes, and when we do, we should go to restaurants where we can afford to eat any dish on the menu -- or, we should not go out. We have arguments consistently because I think that we should spend our resources (money, time, effort) on family-related things like Christmas, birthday celebrations – things that I think are reasonable to spend several hundred dollars on – family vacations and activities with our children, parents, siblings, etc. I had to insist that any home we live in would have rooms for his children so that they would be more likely to visit, and when they slept over, they would have their own space (he wanted to have a guest room that his 13 year old daughter and 8 year old son would share). Eeep! On the other hand, he spends thousands of dollars, unilaterally, on services that I do not always agree with. Another example is that he felt uncomfortable spending $75 dollars on his son’s Christmas presents, but thought nothing of giving his alma mater a $75 annual contribution. Hmmm... We discussed this issue, and what I thought was an inconsistency, and he did agree not to send in the pledge. He is stingy, except when it makes him look good. He cares less about his own kids than he does about being A Contributor."
I make less money than he, but I pay for most of the Christmas and birthday presents not only for my family, but for his parents and children as well, and much of our living expenses. I also plan most of the outings, visits and events that we do as a couple and with our family members. I have come to feel that he is cheap, not only with money, but also with thoughtfulness and the time that he spends with me and with his children. Yes. I feel poor when we are together. He is often anxious both about money and about not spending enough hours at work. We have heated arguments about these things, and at the end, it is not unusual for me to feel so discouraged that I wonder if we are compatible enough to be happy, and I think I should end the relationship. Not a bad idea. Having said that, we are intellectually and physically very good together; we have a similar work ethic and energy level. I think that he is honest and has a good heart, it just seems lost to me sometimes. ~ Yikes! Please help. There is no "Yikes" here. I understand your fiancée has very good reasons for his conservative approach, but unfortunately his issues are so deeply rooted that consideration for other is lost. He tries to control others for his own emotional benefit. This is what the scene at the restaurant was about. Not good. He is not whole enough, healthy enough, emotionally mature enough to be able to participate in an emotionally loving and reciprocal relationship.
This financial issue is the stage where your relational issues are played out. It is more important to him that money be conserved (or spent according to how he sees fit), than how people (you, his children, etc.) feel. Love is about giving when the loved ones are open to it, not about giving when the giver is in the mood to give. He simply does not consider how others feel because he lacks the emotional maturity to do so. This doesn't make him a bad guy, because it is unlikely that his motive is to hurt other; but it doesn't seem to matter if other is hurt. On the other hand, he demonstrates some passive-aggressive tendencies since he argues that teenage daughter and pre-pubescent son can share a room. *Groan*
You are capable of love. You know how to give. You are also healthy enough to question the wisdom of this union. Good for you! If you marry this man, in all likelihood, you will have opened yourself up to a life of emotional poverty and despair. His prognosis for change is not good. You will be engaged in battle after battle to get him to see reason on a case by case basis. More bluntly, you will have opened yourself up to a life of emotional abuse. But, you already know that, don't you? I'm sorry... Dr. Irene
Hi My mother was emotionally, verbally abusive towards me starting very early and continuing until I left home. The verbal abuse became physical also. I'm sorry... My mother died in August and my father told me that the reason she left where she came from to come to where we live now was because she was pregnant. The father was married and didn't want to be associated with my mother. It was not a big surprise.
My mother would often call me a slut, a loser etc. I dated the same guy for 6 years. Anyway, my sister who is 33 is now living in the basement of my father's house. My father has a mild case of schizophrenia and has had chronic leukemia for about 7 years. I am not sure how much longer he will survive. The maximum is usually 15 years but he is a chain smoker. I hadn't talked to my mother for about 10 years, and didn't go to the funeral. I couldn't handle the abuse and she wanted me to be schizophrenic. When I was at home I lived a double life. I felt like a schizo at home and then at work; I am now making a six digit salary. Good for you!
My father kept in touch through letters. I spent most of the week after my mother died with my father. My sister still has not talked to me in 3 months. Last Sunday, I brought over some things for my dad. My sister was just about to help him with the Xmas lights. He wanted me to leave. He said she doesn't much like me. Later that night, he was on the phone with me, wanting me to come over and spend time with him. My sister spends very little time with him. She has been given power of attorney over him. I am spending money on gas and time going back and forth to suit both my sister's and dad's schedules. Last night, I told my dad I would be out today. At 10:30 am this morning he was on the phone asking me to spend the day with him. I am trying to gain back control of my life from my father. He never stood up to my mother and he still thinks I cared for her. He insisted on giving me a photo collage of her. I just threw it in the garbage. I find my sister's behaviour more disturbing. I am 5 years older and we have never been close. My issues were with my mother. I feel that my sister has become a foot soldier for my mother's army. Should I just ignore her? Yes, if you can. Do you know how to? Or do you let her keep pressing your buttons? Emotional disengagement is easier said than done.
Yours is a very complicated situation... You are clearly angry with the lot of them for one reason or the other, and for good reason. Even Dad, who couldn't stand up to mom - or Sis - lets you down. Keep in mind that they all did the best they could. Even Mom. Good for you for getting away from home and striking out on your own. There is an old saying in my field. It goes something like, "The healthiest ones get out." And so you did.
Do yourself a favor and get a little therapy to help you sort through all of this junk. It is impossible to come out of this type of family situation unscathed emotionally. This type of stuff is bound to affect your emotional life vis a vis your own nuclear family.
Here's a few wonderful little books you may want to look at:
Wishing you a wonderful Holiday Season! Dr. Irene
I feel like a horrible person, I have asked my husband of 3 months to leave. I have spoken with 3 separate counselors, all three agreed that he has deep set emotional problems and is trying to control and manipulate me, and 2 have warned about possible physical abuse in the future. I’m 38, a mother of an 8 year old boy, and well educated. However, I fell so easily into his trap. We dated only for 4 months before we were married, he was the one who pushed the engagement and the date of the marriage…acting as if he just wanted us to be together as soon as possible. The closer we came to the wedding, the more I began to worry, and actually tried to call it off, but he was so pitiful. He controls first by playing the martyr….poor me thing…he often cries. Then, he becomes angry and says terrible and irrational things (like calling me a gold digger, even though I make a great deal more than he does). He is extremely jealous of other men, and has even questioned me on the proper way to handle a run in or a phone call from an ex boyfriend. Over time, he has become increasingly jealous of my son, to the point that I felt uncomfortable showing my son too much affection around my husband. He even allowed his son to be rude to mine, then told me I was just wanting his son to kiss my son’s ass. He also has told me my clothing is too tight or too low cut and disrespectful ,he has put down my friends and referred to them as if they are sluts and always drink too much, very untrue. He had to go everywhere with me: my son’s practice, on a walk, even if I wanted to take a bath, he also always had to be the one to drive. He always acted pitifully if I tried to tell him I wanted to do something alone, saying, “But I just want to spend time with you!” At first I thought it was sweet that he cared so much, but soon it became weird, and I found myself not spending time with friends, dressing to please him, being careful about talking about any man. It was like walking on eggshells all the time.
The worst part is, I found I was pregnant a few days after the wedding. I had extreme morning sickness, and this, of course, took my attention from him. He was understanding at first, but then began asking if I still wanted him around, over and over. Next, he began asking if I still loved him. I think it was because he could not take all the attention being taken from him. He wants to think he is such a giving person, loving person, caring person, but it seemed to all be a front. Unfortunately, his smell, and many others, really bothered me. I kept this to myself until I could not take it anymore. I tried to explain it to him as gently as possible, and even referred him to web sites and forums where women had stated they had the same problem. He became pitiful, then angry, then angry that I hugged my son longer than him. Finally, he told me he wanted a divorce and that I needed to get an abortion. He did not just say this once, but a total of 4 times, even after we had seen an ultrasound, during which he acted SO excited. Before these comments, I had not mentioned divorce, but after the first time he said it, I realized this relationship was sick.
I told him I would not get an abortion, but he would get his divorce. Now, he keeps asking me to work on the relationship for the baby’s sake. I told him we had to separate first, then he had to get help, then we would see from there. He kept saying he wished I would just give him a hug, tell him I love him, and everything would go back to normal. ?? I have asked him to leave, and he keeps saying he wants to work on it, which, at this point, I do not….I just want my life back to normal. Now he is coming home around 11:00 and leaving around 5:30 in the morning….each time I hear the door open at night, I feel like I was having a panic attack. He said he was coming late and leaving early for me, so he wouldn’t bother me. Am I wrong to want him gone? No! Your life will be Hell if he stays!
You are a very compassionate person. And your goodness is getting in your way. That's why you feel so guilty asking him to leave. But you cannot let your guilt, however well-intended, get in the way of good common sense. By the way, many abused partners feel guilty, just like you do. So, feel guilty, bite the bullet, and do what you have to do without paying too much attention to the guilt. Go and don't look back, don't second guess your decision to leave. You owe this not only to yourSelf, but to your son and your new baby. Yes, even your new baby deserves a life of peace, something he or she cannot get from this ill father.
Unfortunately you married a very insecure, very controlling, very emotionally manipulative and disturbed man. He is abusive, even when he does not mean to be. Things won't get better over time; they will get worse. He is emotionally immature. Something like a 5 year old in the body of a man, with the smarts of a man, the power of a man - but at the emotional age of a child. A very self-centered, mean child at that!
I hope you are posting in TheCatBox, our forum. If you're not, please go. You will find lots of support.
Sending you warm wishes and lots of encouragement to save yourSelf and your children. Dr. Irene
I am married to a UK man and we are both 54 and are culturally different. He has been emotionally and physically indifferent for years :(, but 5 years ago he turn off to me completely. I have tried to address this issue but he has said, "Don't make sex an issue in our relationship."
I am not going to leave my marriage but am trying to deal with the guilt of not wanting to confront him anymore and just find comfort in someone else's arms. What exactly is the problem? Is it that you are physically unfulfilled? Or, do you think he no longer loves you? Something else?
I think he is narcisstic which makes him flamboyant to others but as soon as the doors close we are in the dead zone again. I thought he was gay for awhile but now I realize he just wants to be pandered to and catered to verbally. If I start a conversation about anything he will talk over me to change the subject. He holds me up to his friends as this prefect wonderful woman, but in our private moments I am ignored. So, you don't think he loves you?
He does things like walk around the house naked with the curtains open ( which makes me crazy "It" doesn't make you crazy, you make you crazy!), as if to say to the neighbors "look at me!" How can I save my sanity...I need to be able to turn him off in my head. My heart is over him but my questioning brain wants to know why this is happening.
Well, he doesn't seem unhappy with you. He treats you well in public and has asked you not to make his disinterest in sex an issue. Food for thought...
I see several separate issues here:
You need to get clear on is what is bothering you so much that you feel the need to move in the direction of another man. Try to be as honest with yourself as you can. Think about it. A lot. Journal. Doing these activities will help you clarify your thoughts and feelings. You can't fix it until you understand what needs to be repaired.
For example, how much of the lack of sexuality concerns your physical needs alone? How much are you affected emotionally? Are you translating his actions to mean that he does not love you? Let's not forget, you describe him as being one who needs pandering to. So, perhaps his more recent behavior has more to do with him than it has to do with you... How much is about feeling that you've lost your "hold" on him? And, certainly, how much of this hurt and anger have you been carrying around for years and years, prior to cessation of sex?
Of course you feel hurt and angry over his disinterest in sex! But, I'm certain you have been feeling hurt and angry all along since (you said) "He has been emotionally and physically indifferent to me for years." His subtle abuse over the years will also create feelings of insecurity. Top that off with the disinterest in sex, and just about anybody would feel insecure! On top of everything, he's not talking! So, throw in some extra insecurity, self-doubt, lots of hurt and anger! Oh, and lets not forget frustration, physical as well as emotional.
Would it change things for you if he lost sexual interest in you, but not in others? What if his sex drive simply shut down, across the board, period? Would that affect how you felt? I ask because under the circumstances, many women your age, feeling emotionally shut down, would be relieved not to have to have sex. But not you. So, what is going on internally?
Try to clarify these issues for yourself. Individual counseling may help. The process of asking him what happened (vs. as you said, "Start a conversation about anything") may or may not result in any new information from him since that's just the way he is, but you're certainly in a better position to coax him into talking if you understand yourself and have a handle on your own feelings (especially the angry feelings).
You said, " How can I save my sanity? I need to be able to turn him off in my head." The absolute best way I know to do that is to seek out a therapist with expertise in ACT or Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, a relatively new behavioral approach that helps you do just that. Literally! While any therapy will help you, that particular approach is designed to help you turn this negative stuff off in your head.
Wishing you the very best, and a Happy Holiday Season. Dr. Irene
I have been married 11 years – I have 3 small children. For the last 2 – 3 years I have endured disrespectful, irresponsible behavior from my husband. :(
He’s a 40 year old who prefers to hang out with the guys drinking than to come home. Many times he doesn’t come home at all and considers "I was too drunk to drive" to be a good excuse. Actually, that is a good reason to stay out, but the real question remains, why is he drinking so much in the first place? He has lied to me numerous times and denies pretty much anything I question him on – until I investigate further and find out the truth… THEN he admits things. He also has admitted to visiting strippers and getting lap dances; and has disappeared under questionable circumstances – making me question his fidelity. Then the kicker…Turns out HE HAS/HAD A COCAINE PROBLEM!!!! Also, he will say demeaning things to me and he never lets me know what his plans are – or will show up late or not at all when we try to do things as a family. This is no fun.
Finally in November 06 AGAIN I said THAT’S IT…. You have to get out!!! As has happened in the past he convinced me that he should be allowed to stay in the basement of our house telling me, "I’ll change, we’ll see a counselor, we can’t do this to the kids." I'm going to reword your phrase just above: "As has happened in the past, I let him convince me..." He didn't convince you, you did! That's your power! So I reluctantly I agreed as I felt guilty about the kids and for not letting him try to make it right. You're letting guilt govern your decisions? Not your good sense? Not a good way to run your life! So, as is usually the case he then gradually erases any boundaries I’ve put up until I’m right back where I was at – and he’s won again – and then we start over.
So, true to the pattern - one week ago…. HE DIDN’T COME HOME AGAIN, LIED, AND USED DRUGS!! Yep. And I bet you're not surprised.
So at this point I really feel the need to salvage my self-esteem and move
out with the kids – but it’s such a big
decision! I continuously feel like I am
Or, you can wait until the next time he messes up. That would give you some time to learn how to handle not giving in to your guilt. Then, the next time he has to leave, don't let him back in no matter what. You will probably want some professional help to learn to stop caving into your guilt. Look for a behavioral therapist or ACT therapist so you can learn the skills you need to not buy into it so much anymore, as well as to deal with the objections he and the kids may bring up. These therapists will actively teach you the skills you need as opposed to spending most of the session simply listening and offering little feedback. Taking control of the Self is the way to personal power. And personal power is the key to reclaiming self-esteem! To this end, I often use a wonderful ACT workbook with my clients, but some find it difficult to understand without someone explaining the exercises and concepts. Get Out of your Mind and Into Your Life: The New Acceptance & Commitment Therapy by Steven Hayes, PhD.
While no substitute for therapy, a support group that may help you as well. Consider joining ALANON. ALANON groups are free, are available all across the US, and may help you avoid the pitfalls of being married to an addict. In their jargon, your codependent behavior enables him to remain where he is (i.e., addicted to binge drinking and some drug use) by letting him stay in the basement. You make his life easy, so there is little incentive for him to change - and he makes your life miserable because you feel too guilty to throw him out. Google ALANON to find a group in your area.
In any case, begin by taking responsibility for yourself. He and the children don't make you guilty. You make you guilty. And thank God that's the way it is, because since you create your own guilt, you can choose to get it out of your way as well.
Wishing you guys the best. Dr. Irene
Tuesday January 30, 2006
Dear Dr. Irene,
My husband of 4 years is verbally abusive. He has called me the c and b words, and says that if I didn’t act that way he wouldn't have to call me that. Nonsense. He has been very impatient with me, treated me with disdain, is easily agitated, and used to yell a lot. He says that I can't take constructive criticism, am overly sensitive and offer excuses for my behavior instead of listening to him and doing things correctly. Who made him judge and jury?
There have been three incidences of violence where he grabbed my hair and shoved me against the wall by the throat. We were in a verbal fight each time and he tried to walk away but I followed him around the house trying desperately to get him to see my side of things. Big mistake. He wouldn't have grabbed me if I had let him walk away and calm down, so I am partly to blame. Well, you wouldn't leave him alone, but that is still no excuse for violence,.
However, for the past 6 months things have been better, in part because: a) our house remodeling is done so we're less stressed; b) he smokes pot most evenings now so he is calmer; c) I spend most of my time upstairs away from him and don't expect anything from him.
My problem now is that my husband (who threatened divorce many times in the past) now wants to make this marriage work and wants me to spend more time with him. He says I'm not trying (I'm not), and I need to move on from the past. My heart is no longer in this marriage and I really want to leave, but I feel terribly guilty not giving it one last try. You are going to let your guilt override your goals? You don't want to be with him... I can tell he is trying to be a little more patient with me. But I don't have another year to waste (I'm 36 and want kids). Why do I want out and feel so clingy to him at the same time? It's hard to pick up and leave! Where to go? What to do? Where to meet men? Moving, finances, starting all over... Yuk! It's much easier and less risky to simply ride things out. Growth hurts! Should I just pack and leave? Nobody can give you this kind of advice. Only you know what is best for you. But it seems that you are reluctant to make a move anyway, preferring to keep things as they are with him downstairs and you upstairs. What are you afraid of?
I think before you make any decisions regarding your marriage and your life, you need to understand yourself better. You need to identify your goals and identify your fears. What do you want? How can you get there? Even if you choose to stay with him, please get to understand yourself better. Right now you are like a boat without a rudder. You are not steering your life, you are simply reacting to your husband's decisions and are driven not by your goals but by emotions like guilt. This is not fair to you! Having your own therapist can help immensely here.
Also, a little book for you to read: Mira Kirshenbaum, Too Good To Leave; Too Bad To Stay: A Step-by-step Guide to Help You Decide Whether to Stay In or Get Out of Your Relationship.
Thank you! Nina And the very best to you! Dr. Irene
OUCH this is ME! Your response to Becky on Monday, August 14, 2000 (http://drirene.com/forms/comments_victimthink.php “… he has unrealistic expectations about how a partner, a husband or a wife, should perform. His impossible expectations define what he expects of himself and what he wants from you - which is perfect…”, hit me like a ton of bricks. Ouch! Thos bricks hurt! Three months ago I married the passive-aggressive man that I have been living with for the past two years. I was reading your site looking for helpful information and support after giving my husband two “boundaries” (printed on paper) last week. The boundaries address my behavior next time he chooses to 1) Verbally Abuse me, and/or 2) Withdrawal for days & Weeks at a time. There is no doubt in my mind that my husband is a classic P/A, I insisted on pre-marriage counseling and he got WORSE. Ack! Why did you marry him?
I married him knowing this because I am co-dependent Hmmm, that's not the answer I was hoping for. For your own sake, look inside to better identify your own personal vulnerabilities. (but learning and getting better :) ) and according to Scott Wetzler, Living With the Passive-Aggressive Man : Coping With Personality Syndrome of Hidden Aggression-From the Bedroom to the Boardroom , I am a “Manager”, a woman who cannot take no for an answer. Ok, but let's clarify: it's not that you cannot take "No" for and answer, it's that you choose not to. The good news is I am trying to be fair/reasonable and open-minded, and I have spent a lot of time and effort looking at my flaws Great! so that I can change my negative behaviors (Lol, isn’t that what us “perfect” people do? Absolutely! :) ).
I guess what I need from you is some advice regarding how to break this cycle of Me projecting my perfectionism onto my husband — followed by his normal responses of either: a) projecting his anger onto me (I have gotten MUCH better about refusing to engage—despite his provoking) Yay! , b) Sulking/(Withdrawing—eye contact, affection, conversation), c) or making “hollow” goodwill efforts to make-up (bring me flower—but then telling me that he hopes they are ok, considering he did not put any effort into picking them out…but at least he remembered that I like roses “this time”…serving me a cup of coffee—but forgetting that I like cream…taking me to lunch or dinner—but then acts like he is dining with a stranger…one time, he actually sat at the table with me in a restaurant and read a newspaper). :( Thanks, Val
Dear Val, you are giving me very global information, and you are making lots of assumptions, such as "projecting my perfectionism onto my husband," that don't give me very much information. Nevertheless, I believe you are asking how can you stop insisting that he do such-and-such in such-and-such a way that prompts your husband to create his anger.
PA behavior is an inability to confront the other person (you). People who behave in passive aggressive ways may not have the skills to be assertive; perhaps they hate conflict and feel unable to deal with it. Sometimes they are unable or unwilling to meet their responsibilities but don't want to take responsibility for being irresponsible. They may even be compulsive liars who use your nagging to cover up their own misdeeds. Etcetera. We don't know why your husband is behaving in PA ways. But, know what? It doesn't even matter! You matter. And I know you know this since you asked for advice to change yourself, not him. Good for you!
From the what you give me, it sounds as though you have great difficulty not controlling stuff. So, you become "the manager" / "the director" of your passive husband. Why? What does this do for you? Most people who feel the need to control people or things outside of themselves are trying to manage their internal anxiety. If so-and-so is done exactly this-and-that way, you feel calmer. So, you put yourself on a never-ending treadmill chasing a carrot you will never reach, constantly trying to control things outside the self in an effort to feel internally settled. Why not instead learn to tolerate the icky thoughts, feelings; all the stuff that being out of control brings up in you? That's a permanent solution to managing the inner turmoil.
Plus, this path has some extra side benefits: you find that your internal life becomes much richer than you thought possible; your feel calmer and more in control of your life. You understand yourself better and better. You become more comfortable in your own skin. You gain in personal power.
Have you tried therapy? Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a great technique to help you accomplish internal self-control. So is Dialectic Behavior Therapy (DBT), though its application is more involved. (Anxiety meds may also have a place in treatment.) ACT and DBT are two of the new "mindfulness-based" approaches that I think are the most efficient and effective ways to target internal self-control skills. Mindfulness techniques alone will probably help you. These techniques will also help you deal with your husband's PA behaviors better. You become better able to disengage because you better tolerate the feelings that come up in you that hurt when he is being PA.
While you're thinking about all this, pick up a copy of Kabat-Zinn's Wherever You Go, There You Are : Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life. Learning to be mindful will help you tremendously. Read this dense book. Do the exercises. Go slowly. And practice, practice, practice.
So, your perfectionism is what it is - and it is OK that it is. It doesn't matter. Your job is to internally tolerate the ickyness that habitually arises within you when you stop controlling - letting things be and letting others be who they are. Hope this helps. Dr. Irene