Comments for Victim Turned Abuser

Comments for Victim Turned Abuser

Material posted here is intended for educational purposes only, and must not be considered a substitute for informed advice from your own health care provider.

Courtesy of Dr. Irene Matiatos  Copyrightę 2000. The material on this website may be distributed freely for non-commercial or educational purposes provided that author credit is given. For commercial distribution, please contact the author at

 B1: Submit
Date: Saturday, April 01, 2000



This man hit her 5 times and you responded later in the email that "I don't think he's terribly angry because....etc" I can't believe you said that! He may be self-correcting but he has resorted to physical VIOLENCE. If it is not "terrible anger", then what is it???? Violence is NEVER OK. I responded as I did because this couple obviously WANTS to make it work. While violence is never a good prognostic sign, there are other mitigating factors in their relationship making it worth a shot.

Thank you. Denise

B1: Submit
Date: Sunday, April 02, 2000


Dear Faith,

I have done lots of work on my own codependency and my own boundaries because I knew that I couldn't change my partner. And I also recognized that at times I was the one who was being controlling. It is amazing how when you change a few of the ingredients in the relationship it affects the precarious existence you may have first had. You will enjoy the feeling of believing in yourself and knowing that you can survive. Breaking free of some of the patterns that are there in codependent relationships is wonderful!

It sounds like your partner wants to work on himself ---- just doesn't know how to go about it. Role model by working on yourself first.

I wish you loads of luck.


B1: Submit
Date: Sunday, April 02, 2000



I am curious he found this site and printed out a hundred pages for you. Was he still trying to say you are the abuser and he is the victim? I printed out a lot of pages from this site for my husband because he is an abuser. he thought it was all very interesting but seem to feel I was the abuser. He thinks I am playing games with his mind by refusing to have sex with him when I don't want to. he resorts to emotional blackmail. This was pointed out by our counselor when we were in marriage counseling.

to me its important they realize they are being abusive so they can get the help they need to stop being abusive and change the way they think and their beliefs. Am I wrong Dr Irene??? we have to realize we are victims and recognize our codependent and victim behaviors so we can change them.

I ask because my husband just seems to think its all me. I am suffering from depression and I believe its more situational then chemical because the medication has not helped. but when ever I get away from him for a like a week I feel great and feel normal, I can function again. When I am with him I constantly have headaches and feel miserable. he keeps telling me to go back to the doctor and change my meds or increase them. he denies many things he has done to me telling me I am crazy and my thinking is distorted. I have kept a journal so I can go back and get the date and the exact things he has done and he got really angry when he found that out. then he just said I write down things distorted. this morning I was crying and beginning to feel like I was losing my mind. he acts so concerned for my mental health and tells me how sick I am. Then he threatened me that everything he has done to me in the past is nothing compared to what he will do to me if I F*** him over (by leaving him). He says I am letting my mental illness destroy our family. Yet I have been in therapy for the last 2 years and my therapist has never said I am mentally ill. My therapist was also my husbands therapist and our marriage counselor at one time.

This article really interested me because I did wonder if I was turning into an abuser because of his constant remarks. But when I really think about the things he "claims" are abuse its just me setting my boundaries and him having a huge problem with my boundaries.


Suz, Take a look here. Your post has turned into an article! Quandary: Who is the Victim / Abuser?

B1: Submit
Date: Sunday, April 02, 2000


Yes, I would like to say something...

I am reading "The Verbally Abusive Relationship" (a book recommended in this site. There were descriptions of an Abuser that I recognized in myself. My thoughts were: My first marriage ended and I 'learned' not lay down and be walked over! So when my husband now started in on the same phrases, I gave it right back. That didn't stop him.

I no longer do that (Haven't in awhile) But because I did so in the past, he claims the right to today or tomorrow or however long at a future time. I don't feel as responsible. -sigh-

It was good to read that the abuser/victim can be sometimes interchangeable. Where does that leave my children and I? Am I just as guilty as he is? Stop thinking who is to blame. Just take responsibility for becoming your best self. Don't settle for being either! Where does that leave your kids? In a very good place.



B1: Submit
Date: Monday, April 03, 2000


This guy is on marriage number 3, and he still hasn't learned how to get along with his spouse.....give me a break. It's not about them, it's about him. What I'm hearing here, is that this guy has taken all he has learned from books and counseling to become a professional control freak. He give lips service and goes through the motions of appearing to what to improve himself, when in reality he just wants to learn how to be more controlling. He has a hidden agenda....that agenda being he wants to behave badly and have it tolerated while having you think he is working on changing his bad ways. He's so slick and saavy... he's dangerous. He should be a spin doctor...they are master manipulators...politics or law would suit him just fine for a career.

B1: Submit
Date: Tuesday, April 04, 2000


From above: "Unless you're talking about severe cases, it does not make much sense to talk about who is the abuser and who is the victim. Most people can more or less take on both roles at different times, or can take on a different role with a different partner. No matter which role they are in, victims and abusers are not being fair to themselves, let alone to their partner."

I am getting to the realization that it is OK to be labeled 'Victim or Abuser' interchangeably, but could you cover some more techniques and gauges for overcoming the Abuser phase? 'Most,' of what I've seen so far, deals in terms of how to help and relieve the 'Victims' situation.

Thanks, Geoff

Hi Geoff, There are more emails from victims, so that's what you get the most of; but, there's lots of stuff for angry people. Go here if you already haven't. Also, look thru all the emails; its sprinkled in!


B1: Submit
Date: Wednesday, April 05, 2000


They say in recovery that you will hear your story over again through someone else and this was one of those stories of irony. I have been away from my abuser for over a month, I filed a R.O (restraining order) and we had our first appearance last week. He served me with a response to my R.O three days before the hearing AND demanded that if he won that I pay his attorney fees. So I panicked but found A WONDERFUL attorney that really has gone to bat for me. I explained that he( the ex) has never been brought up on charges and has managed to provoke fear in everyone including his ex wife and that he (the ex) believes he is above the law. Of course my ex is the charming and suave person who could not appear from the outside to be the monster he is. All I can say is I lived with Satan for nearly three years. I am not worried about going to hell, I have done my time.....(Joke) Oh gosh I sit here and read these posts and I thank God that I finally had the strength to get out. I was physically, emotionally, spiritually, verbally abused. The physical abuse started towards the end of our relationship when after nearly four years of sobriety (he was a recovering alcoholic) he started drinking again and I was already horrified at that point but if you don't think it can get any worse.....think again! I can relate to those early red flags that I was too blind to see. Here are some: 1. He was in anger management when I met him...HELLO 2. He pressed me three times to move in after only dating three months, and I (co-dependant) reluctantly agreed....( out of fear I would lose him of course) 3. He had HORRIBLE fights with the ex putting me in the middle......I was the referee 4. He expected me to clean, cook, and become the extension of him so he could run his business 5. I was not even divorced when we met but legally separated.......( co-dependency)


I could go on and on but I think you can see how dysfunctional we both were going into the relationship. Today I am alone and I am learning to adapt to a calm, stable life.........(very hard) I have found that me returning to the relationship over and over was because I am co-dependant and I became addicted to the un-predictability, chaos, drama. It was like going through and still getting off of drugs. I am dealing with my co-dependency now and have great support from family although my parents still cannot accept that they had anything to do with my problems...(we will work on that slowly) I am happy today because I know I am in recovery and there is hope where before there was lonely utter confusion and hopelessness........ AND I have learned to trust in God and to let go and let him do the work.......I could not do it without my higher power......and a great healing process has come from being at this site.....Thank you Dr. Irene......what an angel you are!!!

Love Danielle :)

B1: Submit
Date: Wednesday, April 05, 2000


I am the subject of this letter. I am sitting over at the library while the author of the letter above is packing to leave.

The library has lots of restrictions on their Internet access so I don't know if I can even submit a response so I am going to send this brief note as a test to see what happens. If I don't get an error message, I'll be back. Please disregard this note.

B1: Submit
Date: Wednesday, April 05, 2000


I am the subject of this letter. I am sitting over at the library while the author of the letter above is home packing to leave. 

The library has lots of restrictions on their Internet access so I don't know if I can even submit a response so I am going to send this brief note as a test to see what happens. If I don't get an error message, I'll be back. Please disregard this note.

It appears to have worked just fine. I got a 'thank you' screen. Please disregard the disregard. OK.

I find a lot of stuff to be confusing. I know that I can think that I believe something to be true and later discover that I was wrong and that gives me reason to hesitate. Good. I am very glad you know that.

I can look at some one who looks like they are in obvious denial and easily see it and I know that I can be in just as much denial and have no awareness of it. So, I may say something that sounds really stupid and I just can't see it.  Right. Because for you, it's just blowing steam; you don't really mean anything by it. You have a bad habit of assuming that just because it is nothing for you, it is nothing for the listener.

I am an abuser. An abuser yells at the victim. I yell at my victim, so I am an abuser. There's more to it than that, but we'll start here.

I believe that I am codependent. I look outside for feedback that I am OK. Yes yes yes yes. You need to learn to look inside for validation. 

Generally speaking, things seem to happen way too fast for me. I end up just reacting to what's happening without a conscious thought about it. I have found that by going to someplace quiet, even just reasonably quiet, I can think about what is happening or what just happened. This is why you start with anger management skills. Notice I said "start." But its a good place to start. The cardinal rule: when in doubt, do nothing. For you, the cardinal rule is: do nothing, since you are not in doubt till later. You need practice to sharpen your self-awareness skills. Just pay attention to yourself now.

I think that I have done just about every possible bad thing in the course of this relationship and it is reasonable that my partner would leave.

I have never done well with relationships. I wanted to do well and there was just so much stuff that just seemed to be beyond human comprehension. At least, my comprehension anyway. I know. But it's not. You just have to learn a bunch of stuff nobody ever taught you. You can do this.

I grew up in a house where emotion is private. You don't show it and you don't talk about it. My father would get frustrated and explode and my mother was always very nice. I just realized that I have never seen either of them cry. Not even my mother. Wow! Amazing stuff can pop into my head.

Anyway, I wasn't supposed to show emotion either. Anger was a particular problem. I am not supposed to be angry. I believed it and I worked at it. Tip: Pay attention to your anger now. Become aware of it - write it down in fact! But, DO NOT react to it. Always remember: it is OK to feel anything you feel. It is not OK to behaviorally / verbally / etc. REACT to it.

As I look back at it now, I realize that I had no sense of personal boundaries. I was all over other people's boundaries and I let people all over mine. Yes. I was controlling. It seemed quite reasonable. I can fix this. I can fix that. I don't do that. I must have been insufferable. Yes.  And hurting too; that's a lot of responsibility you took on!

So, I'm married, 2 kids, etc. I read the relationship books and go to seminars. I did Marriage Encounter and didn't get it. Don Dinkmyer (I may have the name wrong) did a study guide for a marriage class I did at church. He also did the STEP books. By the time I discovered them, I did the STEP-Teen book. It was helpful. Have you read Codependence: Dance of the Wounded Souls? Great book to get you started in looking inside.

The key thing, I thought, was to listen to my partner. Listen, listen and listen some more. I think that I have been with people who have problems with boundaries, too. Yes, it is key. But you have to clean up the boundary thing too otherwise you are running in circles doing what they want - and getting more and more resentful all the while.

I have a problem with anger and I understand that is not the right way to say that. Something frustrating happens and it's irritating and you gotta to be OK. I can manage a great deal. I can also just explode. That is wrong. I need to respond to the little things, when I can respond appropriately. Quick course in anger management: When riled, go away. Go for a walk, for a jog - the best way to burn off anger chemicals fast is exercise, exercise, exercise. At the very least, leave the room to prevent more damage. While riled, do nothing, say nothing. Just wait till you chill. Once you are cool - and don't skip this part, write down everything that is upsetting you. No matter how trivial, just write it down. Then, wait some more. You are cooler, but probably still hotter than you think. Later yet: think about each and every item. Better yet, talk to someone about it. Talk to your partner. 

A real turning point for me in trying to understand myself began about 6 1/2 years ago when I was diagnosed with ADD and OCD. My doctor put me on Dexedrine for the ADD and Prozac for the OCD. Good!

Prior to that point, one constant in my life was fear. Not a panic kind of thing but constant worry about everything. I would worry about stupid stuff. The car would make a funny sound and I feared being stranded on highway. I worried about loved dying. I felt like an imposter and that discovery of my secret would result in embarrassment, getting fired, etc. The fear is a great motivator. I thought that I was a fraud and it was the fear that kept me running. Amazing how we are taught to think as children, isn't it? Glad you are out of that awful space!  

So, enough with history. The drugs made a couple of pivotal changes in me. For the first time in memory I could think and I could think about what I wanted to think about. Writing something even as short as this note was a problem. Even in writing, I wouldn't finish a sentence or repeat myself in the next sentence. The other thing is that I got released from this overwhelming sense that I had to... The behaviors are still there but the compulsion is gone. Yes.

All of this happened a couple of years into my second marriage. I figured that I was really all that responsible so by being with someone who was directive was kind of balancing me. I wasn't all that happy but then, life is filled with the ordinary. No. The direction you need to find is internal.

Well, I still have plenty of problems. I more often than not will ignore my feelings and just continue doing something that I don't want to do. I am aware that I do it and I am trying to be aware. Write your feelings down! This will help increase your self-awareness! Do not squelch the good stuff inside, whether or not you like what it has to say!!!! Can't emphasize this enough!

I have a couple of things that I do that I do not understand at all. Somebody in my face, talking at me, pushing verbally at me, interrupting me is a 10 on the emotional Richter scale. I've been to counseling and I've heard 'It's just words.' I know that. I just don't understand it. You don't have to understand it. You do need to improve your impulse control skills around it. The do nothing stuff. Probably your auto pilot reaction has something to do with mom or dad unjustly in your face back then. But, how it came about doesn't matter. What matters is that you stop reacting to it now. The second thing I do not understand: I have this seemingly overwhelming need to explain myself. Oh, you just don't understand, etc. You want your partner to understand why you did what you did. To see things from your point of view. To justify your actions; to show her how you did not set out to hurt her. STOP. THIS is the time to LISTEN! We know you didn't set out to hurt, but now is the time to find out how you did. Because, YOU DID! Listen and listen hard, but don't beat yourself up for whatever. Learn from it. Take responsibility for how you blew it and try to do it a little less next time. And, keep doing this over and over each and every time you feel the need to explain yourself. You will get better and better at listening and self-correcting.

I have a very big problem with imputing intentionality to behavior. I see some of it here in your site and doing it is appropriate as a professional. I think that 'Verbal Abuse' book by Patricia Evans can be, in part, misleading. I have no disagreement with any of the stuff in the book about behavior. However, she goes into some detail as to why an abuser does what he does. My evidence is only anecdotal. My evidence is me and I disagree with her statements about intentionality. I agree with you and think the problem is that there are abusers and there are ABUSERS. She is writing about ABUSERS! Then, don't forget all the shades of aBuSeR in-between abuser and ABUSER. This is what I meant when I said that you weren't "too angry." The problem I run into all the time is when female partners of abusers (vs. ABUSERS) read Evans and use it to dump everything on the abuser.

I have been with Faith for almost 3 1/2 years now. She talks a great deal. She insists that she tells me everything about herself and I have no doubt that she's being honest in saying that.

Here is an example of a conversation. Faith is talking about something and it's important. I am not following what she is saying.

(Another aside: My second wife, an Occupational Therapist, says that I have sensory integration problems. Well, I have problems and that's the name she put on them. When someone speaks to me, I have difficulty in understanding what they are saying. I have been accused of not listening and that my hearing is bad. It's tests just fine and I can hear just fine. Unless I am really focused on who I am listening to, it sounds like the babble you might hear at a party. You can recognize a voice but cannot discern what the words are).

So I say something to Faith, like, 'I'm sorry,' or 'Could you repeat that?' I don't think that she repeated herself. I am confused. I tell her that I am confused. It is easy for an observer to confuse this with passive aggressive stuff. 

I am also feeling frustrated and possibly more. I try to share with Faith. I told her once that I didn't like what she was saying. I didn't think it a big deal and I probably just don't understand and asked for more information.

Now, in today's conversation, I tell her that I am confused and she tells me that I don't like what she's saying and that I am using confusion as a means of control and has even referred to a page # in Patricia Evans book. Now, the explaining thing kicks in. No, I say, that's not it. I just... It goes back and forth and we've got another fight going. I understand what you are saying. Yet, for the sake of your own recovery, just listen. Suspend judgment and just listen to her. Don't worry about being accused of doing wrong when you really haven't. Doesn't matter. Just listen and understand what she is saying from her point of view, like it or not. Then spend some private time going over it in your head. Goal: get to know yourself better (NOT prove your innocence). 

So, I pick another path. Faith is talking and when I start to talk, she interrupts me, so I'll be quiet. You're withholding from me. You are doing that to control me, etc. Just stop her interruption and ask her to wait until you've finished; that you will give her your turn.

Well, I am really focused on this conversation, trying to get said what I want to say and ignoring my frustration and at some point, I'll explode. You have to take care of yourself. Try "Please let me finish. We'll take turns talking. If you don't let me finish, I will get to the point where I am so frustrated, I will have to excuse myself before I explode. Then we can't have any conversation." But, say this nicely. I have started excusing myself and coming to the library. It's pretty quiet here and they have Internet terminals where I can go search for sites like yours. They have a high speed connection. Good.

As I leave, Faith says that when she shared that abandonment is a really big issue for her, I took it to hurt her by leaving to go to the library. Well, I can fix that. It is a simple misunderstanding. Nooooo!  I just made the same mistake again. These are mistakes that I make over and over again. You haven't learned to articulate yourself yet. Add to the above: "Faith, please let's take turns talking. If you jump in, I become so frustrated, to prevent an explosion, I have to leave - and then you are left feeling abandoned. Let's stop doing that!"

Faith tells me about the 1000s of missed opportunities I had. She tells me about how bad she feels about what I have done or not done. Then, she starts the attribution/meaning making. Stuff like from Patricia Evan's book. Faith told me yesterday a amazing thing. When she was a child, she would get her father's attention by telling him outrageous stories and if it was enough to get his attention, then he would give her his attention and rock her, kiss her on the head, etc. Faith will accuse me of all sorts of things, all untrue, or some thread of truth in it. I ask her to stop and that just raises the volume. In the aftermath of a fight, she will say that she just wanted some reassurance that I wasn't doing all those things she accused me of doing. She really needs to learn how to say to you, "Please, give me some reassurance." before it turns into a fight. That's her job, but what the heck. Use your codependency constructively here. The next time she starts in on you, just stop. Disregard her insinuations and recognize this lady-child is crying to attention and love. Just hold her and ask her if she needs reassurance. By the way, it is a good exercise for you to learn to come out of your head and into hers from time to time. OK, I guess that I can guess what she wants. However, offering the reassurance while she's interrupting me, THAT'S WHY YOU HAVE TO STOP IT BEFORE YOU GET UPSET! explaining why her accusations are accurate, feels really bad. It's not the relationship I want. I feel manipulated. Trust your feelings; it is manipulation about being heard. So what; nobody's perfect. If you are healthier than she is in this area and you know what she is asking for, give it to her! She says not so. To her, it's not.

So, in the midst of attempting to respond to what I think she wants while she is stopping from doing what I think she wants, I get frustrated and I don't pay attention to myself until I can't stand it and explode. No excuses for me. It doesn't matter what Faith was doing. I am responsible for my actions. I just don't understand how I can get into the mess. It's when I try to speak. If I just listen, I can take maybe 10x the same words. To recap: when she starts interrupting, etc., start by holding her and asking if she needs reassurance. Later on, have the discussion about how the interruption leads to her feeling abandoned. I think she just has a weird way of asking you to recognize that she needs TLC. Again: it's not your job to do this, but you'd be dumb not to give it to her. 

Faith insists that she has told me exactly what she wants and needs from me. I try to do as many of the things she asks that I am able to do. If it is something I cannot do, I will try to say so. I owe her that. Good.

When I try to tell her to stop the attribution and meaning making, she tells me that she is just sharing her feelings and she has to make meanings because I won't tell her the stuff that she needs to know. This is the men are from Mars and Venus stuff. 

I just don't get it. I don't understand what she wants. I can repeat, nearly verbatim, what she has told me she wants. I don't know what action to take to meet those needs. You won't make love with me. OK, lets make love. No, she wants to talk about how I won't make love with her. Dear Thick Headed: She is feeling insecure and wants to know why you are not apparently interested in her. She wants to know you love her and find her desirable. Again, this one is about her insecurities. You are not responsible for taking care of her insecurities, but, what the heck: give it to her. Give it to her enough, and there is a good chance she will no longer feel insecure. You can never make a woman feel too loved and too secure. Smart guys (like my hubby) know this. I am guessing. I'm not. I have asked her what she wants from me in the moment when she is rolling like that. My therapist told me that doing so was a poor choice, since it would encourage her to continue the behavior. I figured that I was being helpful. If I knew what I could do, maybe I could do it. Your therapist must be a guy - because technically he/she is correct. But try this first.

Today's argument started like so many others. Faith starts complaining about stuff I have done and haven't done. I later discovered that the trigger was that I had put my name on the header of the email, on my computer, at home instead of Faith & Sky ... I did it a couple of weeks ago when she was packing up to leave. Dear Thick Headed: She feels that you are essentially throwing her out. By the way, your timing for the new header was too perfect. I think if you look inside, you will find you got satisfaction for putting it there at exactly the time you did. I think she's just reacting to your pushing her away. Not only are you not doing everything in your power to make her feel loved and secure, but you are also giving her a passive aggressive boot! Of course she is reacting! STOP IT. If my intuition that you are not "too angry" is correct, you will be able to ID this stuff and stop doing it. You are doing it because you are mad at her and are getting back at her. Better you ID what you are mad at her for, which you've pretty much done anyway (interruption, etc.), talk about it with her, and not use it to make her feel insecure. If you can pay attention to each and every situation this type of thing occurs in and stop acting out and talking about your anger with her, you can fix yourself and this relationship. She wants to use my car to take her stuff home. I initially agreed and she just keeps going and going and going. I don't think that I am wrong to do this. I told her that I would not go with her and her stuff to Any Town  unless she would stop the complaining, sarcasm, etc. That just got things going all the more and here I am at the library. Actually, I feel better having written all of this. Thank you. Dear Thick Headed: she doesn't really want to go. Do you see that it's not about not going with her unless she stops complaining? Do you see how this one was about her reacting to your pushing away stuff? By the way, neither of you handled this one great, so no points for anybody. Anyway, I think you should both read this and then talk about it. Keep us posted. Dr. Irene

B1: Submit
Date: Friday, April 07, 2000


Just a brief comment on Suz's post. Faith says that I printed 100 pages from Dr. Irene's site for her and Suz wonders if I understand that I am an abuser. I am. I discovered Dr. Irene's site and found the information to be a must read, so I printed the 100 pages for myself. Faith found and appropriated them. It's OK she took them and she wasn't the reason why I printed them. OK. Either way, good for you.


B1: Submit
Date: Sunday, April 09, 2000


Dear Dr. Irene:

I left Sky last Wednesday. I feel very sad and I miss him however I felt there was no choice but to go. I came to Sky's house today to do some work (some of my things are still here) and I wanted to look in on your site.

I was amazed to see Sky had shared on your site. I read what he wrote and it triggered all kinds of hurt for me. I need to accept that Sky doesn't see himself and I can't fix his perceptions. No, you can't. He's got to be willing to hear you when you think he's being awful. Whether you are right or wrong, whatever that is, he needs to hear you. Sky in public is a perfect gentleman and always wonderful to me. Sky says his daughters married men just like him kind and gentle. He thinks of himself as a kind and loving man. Part of Sky is kind and loving and part of Sky is full of rage and willing to hurt anyone and anything. They both live in same body. I sometimes think he has more than one personality. He can be so wonderful to me, I am breathless and the next minute he can be screaming at me and hitting me. I am not perfect either and I will look at myself and I will make changes. I think that got me in the mess I am in now. No. You got you in the mess.

Just an observation. Sky's ex treated him like a dog. She bossed him. Demanded all kinds of stuff and used him for what she needed without considering his needs. She sucked money up like a Hoover and complained all the time. Sky married her, gave her a $350,000 house, shared his income with her and even though he didn't want anymore children, he gave her a son. She also better understood her worth! You have a right to ask for what you want! 

I have been kind, loving and tried to be as good to Sky as I could possibly be. He has given me nothing. What have you asked for? I have a feeling you've been too self-sacrificing.

It doesn't make sense. None at all, other than people react to the expectations others set for themselves.

In the last two weeks before I left, Sky has done many painful things to me. I can see how he's pushed you away... Out of his anger... Making you feel more insecure... Sins of omission.

I asked him what was the value of our relationship and he said "declining". When I asked him for more information he said no. A case in point.

I told him I wanted answers to my questions. I have been asking him what I could do to move our relationship forward. Since he got divorced he has said very little about our future. He used to say it's just you and me Faith. Now he says, "There are reasons not to marry you. You do this behavior and I can't manage that." If I change the behavior he finds a new one. By the way his last wife was so awful it feels terrible to me to be told I am not ok and she did things to him no one would believe and he married her. I try to love and accept him. I make changes. I show compassion and I am not acceptable. I don't thinks its about your behavior per se Faith. I think you need to feel loved and when he's mad at you, its what he doesn't do that makes you feel unloved. I think that's when you ask the type of stuff that he finds very frustrating.

I asked him why he would stay with me here but not go anywhere else. I want to move to my house which is bigger. Good question.

He said that our apartment was his home and he guessed I stayed there because I had no place else to go. 

I asked him why it was ok to shack up with me but not ok to marry me? 

He said I was ok to marry however my behavior of meaning making was reason enough not to move forward. A quote: I can't move forward with anything facing that. Tip: Stop quoting out of books. Just tell him what you are feeling. 

Dr. Irene Sky will say to me "Stop telling me what is in my head!" This is as he is yelling at me for meaning making. I think this is funny because one day I actually heard what he was saying. He was deciding what I was doing and telling me. Isn't this like the granddaddy of meaning making? My grandma used to say, "Honey, that is the pot calling the kettle black." Yes. And two wrongs don't make a right. You both need to stop that stuff.

I read these answers and my heart was broken. I felt unloved and unwanted. I told Sky this and he got angry and started a big fight. Then he said what he has said many times before. Your meaning making will ruin this relationship. I have asked him before what meaning am I to take? He will do any behavior to distract from answering. Usually getting really angry and scaring me works to stop my asking. Sky: Stop with the jargon. Both of you: Stop telling each other what the other is doing. Talk about yourself only.

During this time I kept reading your site and thinking listen to action not words.

Finally the last straw is he set up our computers to say Faith and Sky. I printed out an e-mail and I noticed the name was changed to just my name. He didn't tell me he let me find it. (Sky will do mean things to me and never tell me he will just let me find it on my own). That is mean. He was mad; no excuse. This pinched because he had changed the names on the computers both his and mine and then let his little son send his first e-mail to his mother. Sky ex has said as soon as I leave she will have him back. She has done many really dirty rotten things to me. Sky ignores what she does. He used to use me to hurt her and now I feel that he uses her to hurt me. Hmmm. Yuk. When I saw the e-mail and name change, I said I feel like you are emotionally divorcing me. He said nothing.

I say to Sky you create the very behavior you hate in me by not telling me what is going on. Sky will then say that I interrupt him and he can't talk. I say yes, I have interrupted you and I have listened to you. How is it Sky that I can run a list of my faults that you have time to tell me but I can't know about things that would build our relationship? He blames me for his inability to talk. He can say mean stuff. He just can't say other things?

He says I won't listen. I have listened to Sky for hours. I even learned the "Imago Therapy" which is listening, mirroring, validating and empathizing. In this process you ask for an appointment and the other person is the focus. You don't bring anything of yourself to the appointment you just focus on the other person. I can and have listened to Sky. We even use a toy stuffed tiger to pass one to the other when we are talking if he feels I am interrupting him. I don't know what more I can do. Nothing. First, he's got some work to do.

I do have to say that I listen less. My listening is him going on and on about how I interrupt him and he can't share. When I give him time to share and say please talk I will listen for as long as it takes he says No. That's withholding...


I find it interesting that when I talk to Sky about how I feel - is when he wants me to listen to him. I am talking and he interrupts me to say I wish I could talk to you. I have the thinking of a child that you would listen to me. I don't understand this because I do listen to him. I do what he asks and it doesn't fix anything or help our situation. I told him once I think you interrupt me to control what I am saying. He said yes I do.

I have spent a great deal of time asking him for what I needed. I decided you were right Dr. Irene. Ask, and if it doesn't happen let it go. If it is a big deal, take your power back and leave. Sad but true.

I ask Sky to make love he says he doesn't feel safe. Again to ask what safe looks like he will not say. We don't make love for weeks at a time. He does have an interest with certain pictures on the internet that he finds arousing. He will "enjoy" himself while looking at those. We are talking EVERYDAY! I have said I think your interested in the pictures and not me. He denies this and my frustration continues. He's afraid of intimacy. Afraid of you because you have the power to hurt him - and he can't allow that. But Sky: You've got to! Your life won't work unless you stop being so self-protective! You really have nothing to lose. You're losing it now anyway...

I ask Sky to share his day and his appointments with me. He says he will and I find out almost everything after it has happened - if I find out at all. I ask Sky to share his money with me. Or to let me help him since he got fired from his job a year ago. He keeps detailed records and hides them from me. He doesn't pay for anything for me and never tells me if he needs help. Real separations here...

I asked Sky to help me with my house. He can do repair work, and we were fixing up the house to move into. He never said why he just refused to go there anymore and he will not fix anything. I told him I needed to make a decision to move or sell the house. He never would answer me. I was wrong to keep asking. Finally I said I am going to loose the house if you don't tell me what is going on. He said he would do some things then started fights and never did them. The bank is now trying to take the house. I even begged him to just help me fix it up to sell so I wouldn't loose it. I would split the money with him if he would help me. He said ok and never did anything. Before your site I would get upset and complain about all these things and cry and beg him. He would say it is this behavior that keeps me for having a relationship with you. Huh? Yuk. Do what you have to do.

I say to him if he would meet my needs, I would not feel this way. The problem isn't his lack of interest in me or my life - it is my complaining about him? Sky: She is complaining because of the sins of omission. She feels pushed away; she is pushed away.

When I get upset with him he says I heard my list of crimes. Leave me alone. How did my wants and needs turn into his list of crimes? They're not. But, most men hear women's requests and can't just let them have their needs and wants. They feel pressured to fill them.

Sky shared with me he had 3 sisters and his mother would take their side against him. He always had to give in and they got their way. He said I always loose when it comes to women. I wonder if this has something to do with Sky not giving what the women in his life needed. He's mad at mom; feels she is not on his side.

Sky shared with me that his first wife would "talk to him" about what he needed to do to make their relationship work. She finally left him.

Number two same complaint. He wanted things and never got them. I think he did give her stuff. But no matter what he gave it wasn't enough. She is obsessive compulsive and whatever she gets, it is on to the next thing. He gave her material stuff. I think its real hard for him to give emotional stuff, even though he wants to. First, he has to learn how to give himself emotional stuff!

Now there is me. I can't get the time of day from him and I am not going to stand around and beg him anymore. Good for you! 

Life is short. To find someone to love is rare. I love Sky but I can't stand the abuse anymore. Then you don't take it.

I feel much of our interactions are designed to control me. Not OK.

Boy I needed to talk. Sky is right. I like to talk. Most of us do!

Dr. Irene one final question. If the person you love is an abuser, how can you have a relationship? Very, very hard. Impossible without hurting yourself - because he'll put a wrench in it out of his own fear. In fact, the more he loves you, the more he'll push you away. Makes no sense, huh? Sky has used confusion, countering, blaming me for what he is doing and all the stuff verbal abusers do. He has admitted it and said he was sorry - after I told him, "I think you are doing this." So here is the problem. How can I trust anything he does? How do I know his communication is real? How do I trust what he says with his words when his actions feel so terrible? You go slowly. You give yourself time to trust. You don't trust before your inside signal says "OK." And, you certainly don't trust when words and actions feel terrible! 

By the way in the interest of fairness Sky can be wonderful. He is a computer genius. He is the smartest man I have ever met. He is handsome. He is funny. He tells me great stories and last but not least he is the most incredible lover I have ever had. Leaving him was terrible. I am trying to respect myself and do what is right for me. I have never done this before. Good for you. I'm glad you're finally taking care of yourself. I hope he gets it together too. The life he is leading right now is very tough on him as well as on anybody who loves him...

Thanks for listening. I appreciate your help and insight. I wish the best to both of you.




I am so frustrated and tired of our interactions.

I have talked to Sky maybe 15 minutes in last 4 days. Today when I spoke with him this is how it went.

"Sky would it be ok for me to come over and work on my computer tonight?" "Well, since I can't get what I need done ok, I guess." "Sky are you sure? You sound apprehensive." (Sky to me) "There you go again meaning making." In all fairness to him, he did say you could come over. Try taking him at his word instead of trying to intuit his feelings. Even if he is annoyed or whatever he is, he is apparently not aware of it or not willing to share it. Let it be. "Why can't you just ask me for reassurance and be direct." This one had nothing to do about reassurance. Sky: a simple, "I'm sure." would suffice. Anything else is an attempt to provoke her and is off-topic. "Why do you always have to make meanings!!!!!" I am used to this because Sky uses any avenue to reprimand me for some behavior. So I say, "Is it ok?" He said, "Yes and I just wish you would be direct and just ask me." I am silent for maybe a minute, (recovering from being jumped) I say, "OK you want me to be direct." This has played out 1,000 times and that is a real number. Sky will reprimand me for almost anything. For 3 years I would listen and take what he said to heart and change the behavior. I noticed something: he kept finding something else to get after me about. Yes. When we were first together he would get after me for not listening. I didn't know I wasn't listening and I would ask Sky what would listening look like to him. He couldn't answer; he just kept saying I wasn't doing it. So I finally learned to listen. I will listen to Sky for hours. He likes this and when he wants me to listen, guess what he says. You never listen to me! Then it turned to talking. I talk too much. Sky asked me "Are you going to talk me to death?" He would start an argument with me and I would let him go on far too long. I would get upset and start to defend myself. Just as I would start to talk Sky would yell, "STOP! " He said he couldn't get anyone ever to stop so he wanted to be able to get the person he was with to stop talking when he needed them too. So here I would stand red faced and stopped! I started to notice that anytime Sky would start a fight he would yell "stop" just as I was about to say something. It is sad I didn't have the awareness that you don't allow someone to treat you like this. You don't tolerate that kind of behavior. Also, when I wanted him to stop and would say "stop," he would ignore me and keep going. I hear you Faith.

B1: Submit
Date: Monday, April 10, 2000


I appreciate your comments on the posts that Faith and I have left.

I think that I understand some of the stuff you are saying on taking my time to reflect upon what I feel and to not react to what I am feeling. Doing so makes sense to me. I have made a career of not doing so and I understand that I must do so and taking the time to do so is difficult. I think life becomes soooo difficult when you don't stop and think!

Your observation that I am thick headed is accurate. In some ways, I am pretty slow.

I am not catching some of your advice. You offered several examples where you thought that I should say something to Faith. However, the time to say these things is when Faith is talking. I have to interrupt her or talk over her. Why not let her finish first? Then say what you have to say.  Interrupting her is rude! This "STOP" business sounds like it really got out of hand. Getting anything said is a high stress behavior. Finishing getting something said is nearly impossible. I am in a bind. I have a couple of examples. You would both have to agree that each of you would have time to talk until you finished; then your partner goes; then you go; etc.

You said that when Faith is upset, I could offer reassurance, since I understand that is what is she wants from me. That's what she wanted in the examples I replied to. It's not a universal. I think that I have already attempted doing so and failed. You fail because you actively push her away! Faith brought up many examples, and you brought up at least one. Also, you can't help her one minute and push her away the next!  Faith is upset and she's telling me that I won't do anything to help her. She says that I am going to go back to my ex-wife. I try to reassure her that I am not/would not do that. She tells me why I am going to do so. That's her prediction. Let her have her sentiments; she is allowed. Time will tell what will happen. All you can do is state your intentions and then - let it go. You two don't have to agree with each other. So we have this debate underway where Faith accuses me of things, insisting that I am going to do things while I am trying to reassure her that I am not going to do what she says I am going to do. You reassure her in words, but when push comes to shove, you did lots of pushing away. The email thing for example. I know you did it out of anger and it was probably a momentary thing for you... But another person won't take it that way. Nor should they. It is a slight; a hurt. That's what I mean when I say you "push her away." All the helpful acts in the world won't help if you pull this type of stuff in-between! She is so insistent upon telling me all of this that she's interrupting me trying to reassure her. So you stop reassuring and listen. She has a need to tell you stuff. Out of courtesy and consideration, you listen. Reassurance is more about the stuff that goes on in-between than it is about mouthing the words... It doesn't take long before I am feeling pretty frustrated and it shows. Yes. You have no clue about interpersonal cues and interpersonal sensitivity. You are trying real hard to do things the way you think you should do them. This is totally disconnected from your inner self, the feeling, sensing part of you that just knows how to react... Now, Faith has got another reason why her assertion is true: I wouldn't be angry unless there was truth to what she's saying. I think that Faith wants something from me and I am not giving it to her. Yes. She wants your love, compassion, and understanding. I am thick headed and I don't get it. I see that. You don't know how to give it; you are out of touch with what it is she asks for. Therefore, you can't give it. I am not aware that Faith has asked me for anything and I am hard at work fixing the problem. I don't want this conversation. I know. I see your frustration and lack of understanding. On occasion, Faith has accepted my reassurance but by the time she has done so, I just want to go be away from her. I think you give reassurance mechanically, like the way you do many other things... She says that I am pushing her away. I will validate that. I just had a bad time with her. Maybe it's that she's worked off her bad feelings and now I'm supposed to be OK, too. No. You do that; not her. However, most of the time, we just go round and round until we're yelling at each other or I walk out of the house. You are not going to fix any of this with reason. The anger management skills will help you not react foolishly, before you've had time to chill and think. But, they won't help you with your interpersonal sensitivity. You need to go inside and touch the wonderful person you are, with all your good and all your bad. You need to learn to listen to your inner signals... Start reading books like Codependence- Dance of the Wounded Souls, The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values, and Spiritual Growth, A Path With Heart: A Guide Through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life ,Way of The Peaceful Warrior. You've touched on the fundamental problem with the angry person: disconnection from self. Begin to connect by reading books that put you in the right frame of mind, and by paying attention to yourself... Get in touch with how much you need this woman...

Another example: Faith is upset. She is telling me that I have not given her the information that she needs. She is insisting that I tell her something. She'll ask some question and then she won't even stop to let me answer. I used to pretty consistently attempt to answer the question. However, getting the airtime to do so was an another fight. Sometimes, Faith will pause to allow me to answer. I will begin to speak and maybe 4 -6 words into my answer, she'll interrupt me, taking the little I've said as the answer. Both of you need to stop interrupting each other. Generally, the answer she's reflecting to me is far more sweeping than what I intended to say. Pretty soon, I am getting really frustrated and it shows. You can be frustrated without it "showing." I have refused to answer her questions sometimes because I am angry and what I say won't be too cool. She says I am withholding. I guess that I am. You are if you don't communicate to punish her. You're not if you tell her once you cool off, without her asking; you're doing really, really great if you say, "Faith, anything I say now will be hurtful. Let me cool off and then I'll talk to you." Then follow through. Its really not that hard! As things get more and more wound up, she's insisting that I speak and doing so is impossible. I feel like I am chasing her and doing so to give her something she asked me to give her. 

It's my sense that the things that you said I could say to her at these times of crisis are just too long to get out before I loose the floor and my concentration on what I was trying to say. Things probably are too hot at crisis times. This stuff is meant to avert crisis rather than deal with it.

I don't really want to embrace the person who is doing & saying these things. I want some distance. So, what’s to do with this kind of stuff? You take your space, but do so kindly and with consideration for her feelings.

There is way too much truth in something that you said and I heard from other counselors. You said that both of us are focused on the other person. Well, the truth, for me, is that I am focused on Faith’s behaviors and I know that is not the place to be. I don’t know about it for Faith. She is too tuned into you emotionally. Being focused on the stuff Faith is doing helps me avoid facing other stuff and doing that is wrong. I don’t want to face my feelings and focusing on Faith is a great deal easier, even as painful that may be. I have done a great deal of complaining in this post. I am feeling very bad and things are going very badly.

Yes. But, you can't fix it till you accept it. So, you see, it's good that you realize things are bad. You've just identified your codependency stuff. A codependent is focused on other; not on the self. It's easier to focus elsewhere. But, in the process, you miss the boat. So now, you know where you have to go. Good luck Sky.

B1: Submit
Date: Wednesday, April 12, 2000


Who was it that said, "in a roomful of people, two codependents will find each other"? I don't think Sky 'became' abusive because of his ex. Boy, did this post spark something in me (though I got lost somewhere in all the follow-ups). I am with a fellow who was 'victim' in all of his previous relationships. All his other girlfriends (and wife) were 'nuts.' And, like you, I have first hand experience that his girlfriend before me was controlling, jealous, and possessive, so I thought, oh, poor Dave.

Poor Dave my foot. Now that we've (hopefully) broken up, I'm sure he'll tell his next that I too was crazy and abusive. And you know what, I was. I certainly felt like I was going crazy with him, what with him always telling me that my feelings were wrong and my perceptions were wrong, and that I just didn't want 'to be happy.' And I'll admit that I got verbally abusive with him, because I just didn't know of any other way to fight back. I shouldn't have 'fought back'; I should have just walked out.

But, like Faith, I was so intent on proving myself a good person and proving that he was wrong about me. Tried explaining myself and my feelings. But it was always wrong. I was always wrong. So that's when I lost control and started yelling at him, which only further reinforced that I was the 'bad guy'. You let him provoke you - and you look bad in the end... This is typical!

I tried so hard to prove myself 'good.' I was miserable with him, but afraid to leave cause then all that he said about me would be true. He did not see that he was doing anything wrong in the relationship. As he saw it, he didn't "drink, smoke, hit me, do drugs" or anything bad like that. So why shouldn't be happy with him? I tried bringing up the idea of verbal abuse. Ha. He said he knew what verbal abuse was, as he a previous girlfriend was overtly verbally and psychically abusive...and if anything, that I was that one that was verbally abusive.

Errrrrrr. Thank goodness I know that relationships don't have to be like that. I still don't know if what I experienced was verbal abuse, sounds like it! but I do know that I was miserable. I just hope I have the strength to stay away (it's only been a few days) and I hope that Faith finds happiness! Good luck!

B1: Submit
Date: Thursday, April 13, 2000


Dr. Irene,

Thank you for your comments. I have already looked at some of the books you have spoken of in your comments. It seems like I am 2 persons. I can read and reflect upon the stuff in the books, resolving to live differently and then go out into the world, get into some situation and it's the old me, doing the same old stuff. I just don't seem to carry the awareness with me. It's only later when I pause to reflect upon the events when I start putting things together again. I agree that I need to spend more time with these books. One question: How would you recommend that someone keep the awareness with them as they go about their daily business? You are describing a very common problem; in fact, I never met an angry person who didn't react exactly the same way. Treatment Plan: 1. Do nothing (i.e., don't react verbally, or behaviorally, including expressions and body language), and 2. Pay attention to how you are thinking and feeling (self-awareness). Practice, practice, practice. Your self-control and self-awareness will improve markedly. Keep a small note pad with you and write down your thoughts as you become aware of them. This is a little trick to increase paying attention to yourself. This really works!

Thanks, Sky

B1: Submit
Date: Saturday, April 15, 2000


Dr. Irene, I don't know were to start, I am a mother of five, and my husband has two personalities, we have been married for 17 years, our oldest is 17, we were sweethearts in school, we got pregnant and then got married after the baby was born. He was a sweet and wonderful guy, but sex seemed to be a big issue for him. If I didn't give him sex he would treat me like I wasn't worth anything. I have always been there for him; I took care of his dad, helped him with "his" business, and am now taking care if his ill mother, who is dying of lung cancer. I lost my mother and sister of cancer, but he was not there for me. Recently I went in for a biopsy on one of my breast and the test results were good: no sign of cancer. 

He has become controlling and possessive. I had to barrow money from a friend to go to the doctor to have the surgical consultation. had to pull my kids out of school and take them with me {my doctor is 90 miles away}. He said he didn't have time for my petty b^&^%$t. I {we} didn't come home for 4 days. Recently I had asked him for gas money to get the kids to their baseball games and he told me to go to hell. I also asked him for the video camera. He ignored me, so I took his keys to unlock the office were he stores things. He started a big fight with me, I told him I was leaving to get the kids from school 15 miles away, and he pulled his mom's truck in front of my keeping, me from leaving. This upset me so bad, I started having a breathing problem, and couldn't breath. Several times I have tried to leave, but was unable to, We fight in front of the kids and I hate every minute of it. I haven't been able to work because of a heart condition, for which I am still under medical care. I had my own housekeeping business for years and made good money. Now I have to rely on his money, and that too is a big issue. I sleep all the time. He has 3 days off every weekend and the kids hate to see weekends approaching. I'm desperate for some know how on how to handle this until I'm able to get out on my own and provide for my kids? Dear ___, I'm very sorry to hear of your difficulties, but this is not the appropriate forum for this very involved question. Please try the email advice option. 

B1: Submit
Date: Tuesday, April 25, 2000


Dear Dr. Irene:

I left Sky and stayed gone for awhile. I called him one night to get some of my things from our apartment. He was being especially kind and nice. He told me he was out of money. Sky lost his job over a year ago and he hasn't found one yet. We talked and I felt so bad for him. He has never told me he needed anything, especially money. I asked if I could help and he said "yes." I gave him almost $800 to help out. He was so wonderful and loving to me, I couldn't believe it was the same person who had treated me so badly. As I am writing this I think, "well of course abuser wants back his abuse toy." At the time it seemed real. He started talking to me which is something he hasn't done since we were first together. He said everyday that he was so glad "I stopped telling him what he was doing wrong!" "Thank you for leaving me alone!" These comments stung because he was leaving me alone. He wasn't after me day and night for something. Projection is double edged. :) Anyway he said he wanted to marry me and really try. For almost 2 weeks he was wonderful. Your comments got to him and he told me that you were right, and what you said helped him see what was happening. I told him too but maybe he could hear your words. Any way, thank you. Glad to hear it!

I asked him what changed and besides listening to you; he said he wasn't taking his bedtime medicine.

The name of the med is Remeron. I wondered if this medicine could have had an impact on his abusive behavior and I shared my concern with him. He checked the net and it didn't say anything about anger being a side effect. I asked my son's doctor about Remeron and he said he never gives it to people with anger problems. It makes them worse and more agitated. Oh boy...

Sky couldn't sleep and was just feeling awful after a few days; he took one before bedtime. The next day we had two abuse sessions. An abuse session to me is a normal event that gets blown up. My son called to tell me he had canceled a service on his computer. I told Sky my son took care of canceling a service. Sky proceeds to make an issue of this. He keeps saying he doesn't understand. I will repeat myself slowly and clearly so he can understand and then he tears into me for explaining everything to him. I just get quiet and then he reprimands me for telling him too many words. I am doing better when he starts up. I get silent, pay attention, and usually say "stop" when Sky gets rolling. Amazing thing is he would stop. Good! Spend more time listening than you spend explaining!

For two days he takes Remeron and we are now fighting three times a day about nothing. I say to him we are fighting about nothing again. I think you need to stop this medicine. He did for a few days and he was better. Sounds like Sky needs to talk to his prescribing doctor!

I can tell Sky has been really trying. He was talking and being wonderful everyday. He was making love with me and doing all the things I asked him to do and he wouldn't in past.

He asked me for more money. He needed $900 more dollars just to pay his bills. I felt really worried about this. I have very limited resources, and the little I do have, once it is gone, there will be no more. Sky has a $100,000 retirement account he could access but he doesn't want to pay the penalties and taxes and etc. Sky: Access your account! You are not being fair to Faith!

I tell Sky I will help him, and I tell him I am very worried. Sky has let me hang for money. My house is being taken because Sky promised to make the payments, but quit some months ago. I told Sky, "Based on your record of helping me, I really should say no. Correct. As much as you want to help him, you should say, "No." But I would like to help you, and I would like to show you how someone who loves you acts. If you're in trouble, then I help; and If I am in trouble, you help. We stand with one another."  He then asked me if I wanted him to save my house by paying the money. I didn't answer. I told him I needed to sit with the thought for awhile.  

After saying I would help him, I kept thinking about the last 7 months. He wouldn't give me anything - not even his help. He basically ignored my every plea for help in the last 7 months. I asked him about this and he said he was wrong. Good for him!

He also spent money every day on himself. Packages would come in the mail, 2 or 3 a day for awhile. Nothing was for me either. It was all for him. I used to feel very angry about this, and then I realized my issue is I don't take care of my needs. Right! So rather than projecting my disowned part of not buying for myself on to Sky, I went shopping and bought for just me. It was wonderful. :) Good for you!

I am sorry to be so long. I value your help and I appreciate your listening.

Things have been much better between us. Then about 4 days ago, I was annoyed just looking at him. He was doing nothing wrong. I was just really feeling repelled. Well, since he told me he didn't have any money, I have paid for everything. Food, his hair cut, dinner out, gas for his car, you name it and I paid. Yuk yuk yuk! He is my friend. I wanted to help. Why am I feeling so annoyed at the sight of him? I told him I must be in PMS because I felt awful and it wasn't his fault. Faith: Listen to yourself. Even though you want to be a dear friend and help him, you are annoyed because you are paying for him when even though you are losing your house because he didn't pay for you! Stop giving Sky money. Sky can access his account. Sky can get a job waiting tables or packing bags at the local supermarket if he needs money. There is no excuse for having you pay when your funds are limited as well - and when you are losing your house! Why shouldn't you feel disgusted with him? He let you pay! (Sky, are you listening?)

Then we were driving down the road and I said, "I feel like your Mother. I cook for you, clean for you, iron your clothes, give you money, and take care of you." This might not have been the best idea to share but he listened to me without comment. He knows it's true and therefore he cannot feel good about himself. Still, he needs to hear it from you because his knowing it is not enough to make him take financial responsibility for himself! It may be that he feels angry over what he paid into your house while he was helping you, and feels you owe him. If this is what's going on, you two need to have a good talk. 

The final blow came from his ex-wife. She is a verbal and emotional abuser like no one I have ever met before. She refuses to give Sky any time with his son except strict visitation. However, she will ask for extra time on his weekend. I told Sky tell her "no." If you dare to tell her "no," she will rail and act out and lord knows what. This woman has no limit to her mis-behavior. And guess what? She teaches at the local state college and has a masters in family relations. What a riot! So she asked for one of his days to do something. Sky told her "no," but did agree to take his son to a birthday party. Well, his older daughter needed a sitter, and he went to take care of his grandchildren. I said, "I will take your son to the birthday party." He called his ex, and she blew up. His ex-wife yelled and told him off. I wasn't her son's mother and I was forbidden to be with him, on and on. Sky said, "It is none of your business. She has said for 3 and a half years, I will never be anything to her son, and he will have no contact with me. It is nuts." Yes, it is nuts...

So the day of the birthday party arrives, and Sky is able to go with me to take his son to the party. Guess who is waiting in the parking lot? When we pull up, she is a big woman and I mean big! She is barreling across the parking lot to yell at us. A side note: she told Sky she would see him when she picked up their son. Then she gets the little guy on the phone and tells him it is a secret but mommy will be there.

I have put up with endless abuse from this woman and never opened my mouth. This is the first time I ever said anything to her.

As she is coming up to the car, I say, "What are you doing here?" More lies and secrets! She starts screaming at me - verbal abuse - I will call the police. I am not kidding, Dr. Irene. This woman was nuts. I believe you! She was so close to my face, spit was flying off her teeth. She was saying everything in the book to me. She called me "mentally insane and crazy". She has her mother with her, and drags her over to hear what I am doing. She is like 50 years old and her Mother is almost 70.

I say to Sky, "Lets just leave. Don't put your son through this." He ignores me and keeps dealing with her. Sky starts to walk into the party. This nutcase is just rolling on me. I say to her, "Not in front of the boy. You're his mother; show some self control." She yells until we get where others can see, and she puts on this smile. Sky and I are watching his little son bowl, and she is recounting to anyone who will listen, her version of the parking lot scene. For two hours she tells it over and over. Ugh.

This poor little kid is red faced and keeps looking up at his mom to see if she is watching. She is not paying a bit of attention to him. At one point he looks over at me, and I give him the thumbs up. He does it back. They are taking this little guy to a counselor, and the counselor can't figure out what is wrong with this little kid. Five minutes with this woman would make me need a counselor I can't imagine this little boy's life with her. Poor baby...

Anyway, we endure 2 hours of this party and finally leave. She is very social, so after forcing every one to listen to her, she is so cordial, it made me want to throw up. She leaves the party with a very smug smile on her face.

I thought his little boy would be upset with me for confronting his mother, and he has never been more open with me! He treated me differently after that party. Much more open and loving. This child would probably love to confront his mom himself...

Well the day comes when he is to go home. Sky hasn't said one word to me about the incident. And as I sit with my feelings, I am getting really pissed. I am still sitting with my feelings, and my feelings are telling me I should be mad as hell. Well, we are late by a few minutes getting him home, so she sweetly asks Sky to bring him to her mother's, instead of the usual place we take him. That did it. She can tear into me, embarrass Justin, lie, keep secrets and humiliate me in front of a whole room full of people, and Sky doesn't say a word. He is even delivering the kid to her door step. I am so angry, I can't even talk. I take him back to his car and drive away. I am sitting with my feelings and they want to tell him just exactly what is on my mind. I hold back for two days and then I tell him. Faith: While you are free to think and feel the way you do, and you have the right to ask Sky to defend you, you are out of line in expecting him to support you. It would be nice if Sky chose to defend you - and for his own good, he really needs to stand up to her - but it is really not his job to defend you. (Are you feeling insecure because he didn't?) You don't have to put up with her abuse, and you didn't, and I'm pretty sure you won't down the road. But, otherwise, you are in his boundaries...

So, I say to him, "May I speak with you about a serious matter." He is acting like nothing happened. I say, "This is my rule and you can hear me and agree or disagree, but I will act with or without you Good. You are letting him know your position and not requiring him to follow your lead.: 1. If your ex-wife wants anything on our weekend, I want you to say no to her. You are out of line. You can suggest he stand up to her, and, really, he should, but you do not have the right to demand he do so. 2. If there is a family party (she comes to family gatherings because she hopes she and Sky will make up - it has been 3 1/2 years Why are you so fixated on this stuff?) and she is there, I am turning on my heel and walking out. Your right to do so. 3. If she shows up anywhere, I want to stop whatever we are doing and leave. You are out of line if you are expecting him to drop what he's doing and leave with you. You are also acting silly. What will you accomplish by leaving? You will give her the satisfaction of knowing she got to you. Stop giving this crazy person so much power! Instead, start thinking of developing verbal skills to handle her - so she no longer bothers you!

I will not submit myself to her abuse any longer. Good. I asked Sky why he didn't leave when I asked him to? Why didn't he say a word to her? Why did he deliver the kid to her house, as she demanded? I feel abandoned and mistreated. I feel like he listened to her and ignored me. I don't think this has anything to do with you. Sky reacted this way towards her way before you came along. He's got a real problem dealing with her. I hope he starts standing up to her though - for his own sake, not for yours.

I think this is a who-is-going-to-be-your-wife fight. Her or me. I believe if Sky is going to have a life with me, giving into her is not part of that life. You are making this a battle. You are forcing Sky to choose "sides." Don't go there! If she becomes reasonable, fine; but no more carrying on and acting out. Right. You handle how she treats you if Sky won't. By this time I am calling her every name in the book, and calling Sky spineless and making references to the size of something I think he needs bigger ones of. I lost it, and I apologized to Sky. Good. I did say I wanted an apology for how he ignored me. He said he was sorry, but he didn't know for what. Well, I got over it and started making up to him and talking. I was laughing and reading him funny stories. He turns to me and says, "Why are you treating me like this when a few hours ago you were abusing me?" "Because you said you were sorry and I am trying to get over it." During my ranting I did say I wasn't giving him any more money. He had a retirement account and he could obtain funds there. Good girl. Taking your power, I see. As you become better at asserting yourself, you won't have to resort to fighting to do it. You won't need to be angry to tell Sky how you feel about something.

Sky picked a fight with me and started acting like the old Sky. He is angry with me for being angry with him. Maybe he is angry at the way you showed your anger towards him. He'll probably get better at allowing you to be angry as you become more assertive vs. aggressive. Nevertheless, he really can't stand it that you are angry with him. Sky: It's OK. She is allowed to be angry! We all are! (If you are allowed to get angry; so is she.) Give her time, and she will chill. This is not about you; don't make it about you! He is angry with me for all those terrible things you said about me that were not true. He calls them "Green Hair Statements". Huh?

Well, I happen to think they are true at times, and if he can't see that, I guess we will just disagree. He is now pouting and rejecting me as he always did. Sky: Stop it! You're acting out; cutting off your nose to spite your face!

So Dr. Irene what was the right thing to do? I wonder why Sky changed so completely after this fight. For the last few weeks he was better, even after a fight. But tonight he went back to his old self. Should I have given him the money? No, though I think both of you have lots of feelings over the money issue, and I think neither of you are being completely open with the other. It's understandable for you to feel used right now; especially since he's an able bodied man who won't work. It's understandable if he feels you owe him; he did help you in the past.

It is not just Sky who treats me like this. Glad you see this. My boss asked me two years ago to do the job of two people. And you agreed - without asking for the pay of two people, or, I'm willing to bet, without rewriting your job title and description. I bet you agreed without a significant increase in salary...  I took on the job but when I asked for help, he said no. Your words: "I took on." You have a pattern of taking on too much; your big, codependent heart is preventing you from caring for yourself in a world where there are too many predators who will take advantage of you. I did really well, but there are some things that went undone. He has found out about them and is now cutting my hours by 10 hours a week. I told him, "You asked me to do two jobs; now I am to do it in 1/3 less time?" He says our not being busy is my fault because I need to create a vacuum so it can be filled with new work. I am so busy, I can't think straight. I have slowed down from the way I used to work. Good. No job is worth driving yourself nuts over. Especially this one... He hasn't given me a raise in two years, and he has been angry with me, and hasn't spoken to me for over a year except about absolute necessities. He said I was angry with him! You probably were  and probably felt used, though that does not excuse his behavior towards you. I don't know how to do boundaries with anyone. I see that. I don't understand what to do when someone takes advantage of me. I know. Taking advantage of another is alien to you, so you don't expect it to be done to you. But, in our terribly imperfect world, you will be taken advantage of - until you no longer permit it. I always feel that if I don't do as I am asked, I will harm the relationship. Irrational thinking. Maybe you won't help the relationship, but you are unlikely to seriously harm it. And, you know what Faith? Even if you do seriously harm it, a relationship where you are expected to do what you are  asked - is a relationship you can do without. First and foremost, always ask yourself, "If I do what I'm asked, will it harm me?" At least balance the scales. I love what I do, and my boss has done this to everyone who has ever worked for him. I am clueless how to respond and defend my boundaries, keep up my self worth, and still love someone. I think you need a new job; your boss sounds hopeless! But, besides him, you are right; you do need to instill boundaries in your life. Take a look at these two books: Living in the Comfort Zone : The Gift of Boundaries in Relationships by Rokelle Lerner. and Boundaries: Where You End and I Begin by Anne Katherine. Then, take a look at some assertion books. You'll find a bunch at The Book Shelf. 


By the way, I have looked for counselors in this area, and the ones here are not skilled in verbal abuse. I wish you did counseling over the phone or on line. Thanks for the kudos; I'm looking into it and feeling more comfortable with the acceptance e-counseling is getting. But, you don't need to find a person skilled in domestic violence issues per se. Look for someone who understands codependency and boundaries. If no one does, don't fret. Your issues are general enough and you have enough abuse knowledge, any good counselor will be able to steer you in the right direction. Go for it!

Thanks from my heart,


Sad part is she is not paying one bit of attention to her son. Faith: I know you are concerned, but there is really nothing you can do to help the boy... 

B1: Submit
Date: Thursday, April 27, 2000


I am very happy to have found this site. I am amazed at how I can relate to most everything---even to the letters about "does the abused become the abuser." I am very confused right now, so I wont write a lot. I just wanted to tell you what an awesome great site this is!!! Thanks! By the way, confusion is good. It means you are expanding your view of the world. Stuff will clear up...

B1: Submit
Date: Tuesday, May 23, 2000


I disagree with there not being a clear cut distinction between the abuser and the victim. If you read The Verbally Abusive Relationship by Patricia Evans, she makes the distinction quite clear. Nobody deserves being hit period. I think this guy is projecting all his "stuff" on the women he is with and I think he has outbursts of paranoia. It sounds to me that you've done all you can. The "wildcat story" of Patricia Evans second book, "Survivors of Emotional Abuse" says it pretty clearly. I am happy that you are not with him!

B1: Submit
Date: Sunday, June 25, 2000


I had been dating a man for the last year who is dealing with a very controlling, abusive soon-to-be-ex-wife. Apparently, she had always been that way. While they were married, she had an affair with a man she met on the Internet, had a child by him, and she and her husband (my boyfriend) adoped a daughter. She then left her husband and after two years of his supporting her financially and every other way, she filed for divorce. He and I began dating. Since that time, I have had to block her phone number from my telephone because she called it incessantly, each time hanging up. She called me at my work one day to abuse me. She constantly called him, sometimes 6 or 7 times a day, telling him how I was "trash", a whore, etc. I knew this was sick, but I was not emotionally involved with this man to the point where I felt I had to defend HIM. I just took on the task of not allowing her to choose my friends for me. I did this for ME, not for him.

He refused to stop answering the phone when she would call. Then he would tell me how "sick" she was because she called all the time. Red flag Number ONE.

My ex-husband and I have a great relationship. Our 4-year-old daughter is happy, healthy and thriving, partly because her daddy and I get along so well. This man I was dating began to tell me how my ex seemed "uncomfortable" when they were in the same room together. I said nothing in response. Then he began telling me that he thought my ex was a "coward", a "liar", you name it. I asked myself what he based his opinion on, but said nothing again. The whole time I'm seeing red flags big-time! I didn't have much invested in this relationship, so I didn't feel the need to ANALYZE what he was saying, but I did take note of how OFTEN he said it. Red flag Number TWO.

My four-year-old daughter and I got stuck at an ice cream store one evening because my car broke down. My boyfriend was going to come to my home that evening, so I called him to tell him that I wouldn't be there, and why. He asked if I wanted him to pick us up. (His house is about 4 blocks from where my car broke down). I said no thanks, I had a tow truck coming in about an hour, we'd be fine. He said, "Well, call me when you get home." Okay.

One hour waiting for the tow truck stretched to 2, then 3, then 4. My daughter was getting antsy, and so was I. By the time, I could see that my ex-husband was getting off work and I called him to see if he could pick us up. He came right over. By that time the tow truck had gotten there, everything's cool. I get home to find 3 messages from the boyfriend on my answering machine (I had called him from my cellphone earlier, he knew that) but he never called my cellphone. I called him back. He proceeded to "let me have it" that I DIDN'T CALL HIM SOONER. Forget that my baby and I were stuck up the street from him - the important thing was that I DIDN'T CALL HIM. Red Flag Number THREE.

The next evening, I heard about it again. I said, "You know, you could have just called my cellphone or driven four blocks to see what was going on," and he said, "I'm not in the habit of driving around looking for somebody." SOMEBODY. My daughter and I are just SOMEBODY to him. Red Flag Number FOUR.

We had made plans to go away for a weekend during all of this. The weekend comes and I tell him I can't go because I have no car to get to work on Monday and I need to take care of that. He says, "How are you going to take care of that when you're going to be at the lake with me?" I said no, really, I'm sorry, but I can't go. He repeats what he said. Then he comes over, picks a fight with me and by the time he leaves, I have been called "crazy" "not myself these days" and "unable to just take care of things myself." Red Flag Number FIVE.

He comes over last night, and I tell him that I am hurt and angry about the way he has been treating me. He turns the conversation around, takes NO responsibility for ANYTHING he has said or done to make me feel that way, and has no interest in how I feel, at least not enough to stop interrupting every sentence I attempt to get out of my mouth. He says he's leaving to get something to eat, do I want to go? I said, "No, I feel safe here." He goes out to his car, I hear some slamming, and then he comes back. (I knew he would) and acts as though he's using the bathroom. He gives me a hug and kiss (to comfort me? Did I ask him for that?) and says, "Call me sometime, okay?" I think: IN YOUR DREAMS, BUDDY.

I'm learning.

B1: Submit
Date: Wednesday, August 09, 2000


Gosh, I thought I was reading a letter I had written, it is so very familar.

B1: Submit
Date: Monday, November 20, 2000


My husband is an alcoholic, an anger addict, and a passive agressive verbal abuser. We have been married 25 years and have 2 children. I realize now that he has always had fear of intimacy and anger problems, but I have been such a co-dependent and people pleaser that I destroyed myself to please him. My mother was a dry durnk and horribly verbally abusive, so I would do anything to keep peace. My husband travels a lot, working, but makes very little income from doing this. He will be gone 2 to 3 months at a time. He enjoys this and doesn't consider the impact this has on his school age children. He hires young single women to work for him and is very friendly with them, eating and drinking, and hanging out together. He also will visit old girlfriends on his travels, and does not tell me about those events. He will not talk to me, other then the most superficial conversations, and if I ask anything of him, he is in a rage. We don't do anything together and seem to have no interests in common. Anything that I do in my life, he has no interest in, I used to just babble on about things that I had done, but now I say nothing. When he is home he works on outdoor building projects and watches TV. If the kids or I interupt his TV, he gets very angry. He e-mails various women that he knows from his travels, but will not talk to me. I do all managing of the children, appointments, homework, teachers, lessons, ect. He has no interest in things that they do either, only if it can serve him in some way. I am considering separation, but worry about the financial aspect of it, and my children's reaction. Right now I am working on building back my self esteem, and planning on how I could have a life for myself and my children. Kayrn

B1: Submit
Date: Monday, November 20, 2000


My husband is an alcoholic, an anger addict, and a passive agressive verbal abuser. We have been married 25 years and have 2 children. I realize now that he has always had fear of intimacy and anger problems, but I have been such a co-dependent and people pleaser that I destroyed myself to please him. My mother was a dry durnk and horribly verbally abusive, so I would do anything to keep peace. My husband travels a lot, working, but makes very little income from doing this. He will be gone 2 to 3 months at a time. He enjoys this and doesn't consider the impact this has on his school age children. He hires young single women to work for him and is very friendly with them, eating and drinking, and hanging out together. He also will visit old girlfriends on his travels, and does not tell me about those events. He will not talk to me, other then the most superficial conversations, and if I ask anything of him, he is in a rage. We don't do anything together and seem to have no interests in common. Anything that I do in my life, he has no interest in, I used to just babble on about things that I had done, but now I say nothing. When he is home he works on outdoor building projects and watches TV. If the kids or I interupt his TV, he gets very angry. He e-mails various women that he knows from his travels, but will not talk to me. I do all managing of the children, appointments, homework, teachers, lessons, ect. He has no interest in things that they do either, only if it can serve him in some way. I am considering separation, but worry about the financial aspect of it, and my children's reaction. Right now I am working on building back my self esteem, and planning on how I could have a life for myself and my children. Kayrn

B1: Submit
Date: Monday, November 20, 2000


My husband is an alcoholic, an anger addict, and a passive agressive verbal abuser. We have been married 25 years and have 2 children. I realize now that he has always had fear of intimacy and anger problems, but I have been such a co-dependent and people pleaser that I destroyed myself to please him. My mother was a dry durnk and horribly verbally abusive, so I would do anything to keep peace. My husband travels a lot, working, but makes very little income from doing this. He will be gone 2 to 3 months at a time. He enjoys this and doesn't consider the impact this has on his school age children. He hires young single women to work for him and is very friendly with them, eating and drinking, and hanging out together. He also will visit old girlfriends on his travels, and does not tell me about those events. He will not talk to me, other then the most superficial conversations, and if I ask anything of him, he is in a rage. We don't do anything together and seem to have no interests in common. Anything that I do in my life, he has no interest in, I used to just babble on about things that I had done, but now I say nothing. When he is home he works on outdoor building projects and watches TV. If the kids or I interupt his TV, he gets very angry. He e-mails various women that he knows from his travels, but will not talk to me. I do all managing of the children, appointments, homework, teachers, lessons, ect. He has no interest in things that they do either, only if it can serve him in some way. I am considering separation, but worry about the financial aspect of it, and my children's reaction. Right now I am working on building back my self esteem, and planning on how I could have a life for myself and my children. Kayrn

B1: Submit
Date: Wednesday, December 13, 2000


Dr Irene, I don't see how you can say this womans BF is not terribly angry after she said he hit her 5 times!! And I don't agree that unless its a severe case its pointless to talk about who is the abuser and who is the victim.

Maybe I don't get part of your response here but to me this does sound like a severe case and an escalating abusive situation.

B1: Submit
Date: Wednesday, June 12, 2002