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Posts tagged ‘Verbal abuse’

The Progressive Downward Spiral of ABUSE in Marriage

SOURCE:   Jennifer Williams-Fields

You Can Get PTSD From Staying In An Emotionally Abusive Relationship

Stop.

Just stop asking why a woman is so stupid and so weak when she stays in an abusive relationship. There’s no answer you can possibly understand.

Your judgment only further shames abused women. It shames women like me.

There was no punch on the very first date with my ex-husband. That’s not normally how abusive marriages start. In fact, my first date was probably pretty similar to yours: he was charming, he paid attention to me, and he flattered me.

Of course, the red flags were there in the beginning of my relationship. But I was young and naïve, probably much like you were in the beginning of your relationship.

Except my marriage took a different turn than yours.

An abusive marriage takes time to build. It’s slow and methodical and incessant, much like a dripping kitchen faucet.

It begins like a little drip you don’t even notice — an off-hand remark that is “just a joke.” I’m told I’m too sensitive and the remark was no big deal. It seems so small and insignificant at the time. I probably am a little too sensitive.

I occasionally notice the drip but it’s no big deal. A public joke made at my expense is just my partner being the usual life of the party. When he asks if I’m wearing this dress out or whom I’m going with, it only means he loves me and cares about me.

When he tells me he doesn’t like my new friend, I agree. Yes, I can see where she can be bossy. My husband is more important than a friend, so I pull away and don’t continue the friendship.

The drip is getting annoying, but you don’t sell your house over a leaky faucet.

When a playful push was a little more than playful, I tell myself he didn’t really mean it.

He forgets he’s stronger than me. When I confront him in yet another lie he’s told, he tells me I’m crazy for not believing him. Maybe I’m crazy … I’m beginning to feel a little crazy.

I begin to compensate for the drips in my marriage. I’ll be better. I’ll be a better wife. I’ll make sure the house is clean and dinner is always prepared. And when he doesn’t even come home for dinner, I’ll keep it wrapped and warmed in the oven for him.

On a night I’m feeling feisty, I feed his dinner to the dog before he comes home. I’m not feeling quite as smug well after midnight when he does show up. I quickly get out of bed and go to the kitchen as he yells at me to make him dinner.

Waking me from sleep becomes a regular occurrence. I no longer allow myself deep, restful sleep. I’m always listening and waiting.

In the morning, I’ll shush the kids to keep them quiet so they don’t wake up daddy. We all begin to walk on eggshells around him.

The drip is flowing pretty strong now. I’m afraid to put a bucket under it and see how much water I’m really losing. Denial is setting in.

If I hadn’t said what I did, he wouldn’t have gotten so mad. It’s my fault; I need to just keep quiet. I should know better than to confront him when he’s been drinking.

He’s right — I really am an ungrateful b_ _ _ _. He goes to work every day so I can stay home with the kids. Of course he needs time to himself on the way home from work each day.

On the rare occasion I do meet with my friends, I rush to be home before him. I never ask him to babysit so I can do something in the evening. I mustn’t inconvenience him.

We attempt marriage counseling. Although neither of us is totally honest about why we are there, the counselors are open with us about their concerns.

We never spend more than one session with a counselor.

I’m working so hard to be the perfect wife and have the perfect family that I don’t take the time to notice there’s water spilling on to the floor.

I know what will make this better. I’ll get really active outside the home but of course, I’ll still take care of everything in the home and never burden him. And I’ll never dare ask for help.

I’m now the perfect fourth grade room mother. My church mentors tell me to read books and listen to lectures on praying for my husband and understanding his needs.

I work very hard to present the front of a perfectly happy family. My kids are involved in multiple activities that I, of course, solely organize and am responsible for.

I’ve begun to drop subtle hints to the other moms but when they confront me I adamantly deny it. No, everything is great, I insist. I point to all the happy family photos I post to Facebook as evidence.

I’m not sure which scares me more: the fear that others will find out my secret, or that my husband will find out I told the truth about our marriage. I realize I’m now afraid of him.

 And then one day, I wake up and realize the house is flooding. My head bobs under the water. I’m scared.

I also see the fear in my children’s eyes. Oh dear God, what have I done? How did we get here? Who have I become?

The night he throws his cell phone at me and narrowly misses my head, I want to pack the kids in the car and leave. The evening at the dinner table when he stands up and throws a fork at me in front of the kids, I want to leave.

Where would I possibly go? And if I do go somewhere, what will I do? How will I afford living on my own?

He’s right — I have no skills to survive on my own. I need his money.

“What, you want to leave and go wh_ _ _ around?” he yells to me. “I always knew you were a slut.”

He’s a master at deflection. His actions are no longer the focus; I’m the one on trial now.

I’m no longer the woman I was on our first date. I’ve become timid and weak in front of him. I feel defeated. I chose this man and I gave birth to these children. It’s my fault.

With every breath I take, it’s my duty to keep these kids safe and keep my life together. It’s the only life I’ve known for twenty years. At this point, I don’t know how to do anything else.

I stay.

The flood continues. My head bobs under a second time.

On a typical anger-filled evening, I say enough is enough and I decide to fight back. But even in his stumbling drunken stupor, he’s stronger than I am.

I see the look in his eye as he hovers over me. He has biologically been given the ability to kill. That look in his eye terrifies me.

“Go ahead and leave,” he sneers to me. “But the kids stay here.”

My retreat that night is all it takes to turn the faucet on all the way and force me to tread water, if not for my life, then at the very least for my sanity.

Despite my best attempts, my secret has been exposed. I can’t just up and leave like well-meaning friends tell me to. It’s not that easy.

I have no money. In fact, he found my secret stash I’d been working on for almost a year. I thought I was so careful that no bank records would come to the house. He must have broken in to my email.

I should’ve known better. He always kept close tabs on me. He hated when I accused him of spying on me, so I just let him snoop.

He made me feel so guilty and ashamed when I handed over my secret savings to him. I wonder what he did with the money? I know it didn’t get used for the kids needs. I assume he drank it or gambled it or used it to impress another woman.

I’m stuck. I stay.

Dear God, please don’t let me go under a third time. My family is beyond rescue, but please save me and save my kids.

I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m no longer in the marriage, yet my scars run deep.

Abuse doesn’t always manifest as a black eye or a bloody wound. The effects of psychological abuse are just as damaging.

I entered counseling and was diagnosed with depression, anxiety, and PTSD. The psychological abuse kept me fearful, the depression and anxiety left me incapable of taking the steps necessary to get out.

Although I initially thought PTSD was a bit extreme, it’s been almost three years and certain noises or situations still trigger difficult memories for me.

When my male boss was angry and yelling at the staff one day, I became physically sick. I felt like I was right back where I was years ago, sitting and cowering on the garage floor, trying to placate the anger of a man towering over me.

I worry that not only have my daughters witnessed a man mistreat a woman, but that my sons have had a poor example to follow of what it means to be a real man.

I stayed for the sake of my children. Now, I blame myself for the effects staying may possibly have on them.

Why did I stay? I stayed because I was isolated; I was financially dependent on him; I was sleep deprived; I was told and I believed I was worthless; I was worn down from constantly being on guard for the next attack.

I stayed because I was more afraid to leave.

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Verbal Abuse: It Can Go The “Other” Way

SOURCE:  /Young Conservatives

Woman Realizes She’s Been Verbally Abusing Her Husband Without Even Knowing It

My “Aha Moment” happened because of a package of hamburger meat. I asked my husband to stop by the store to pick up a few things for dinner, and when he got home, he plopped the bag on the counter. I started pulling things out of the bag, and realized he’d gotten the 70/30 hamburger meat – which means it’s 70% lean and 30% fat.

I asked, “What’s this?”

“Hamburger meat,” he replied, slightly confused.

“You didn’t get the right kind,” I said.

“I didn’t?” He replied with his brow furrowed. ” Was there some other brand you wanted or something?”

“No. You’re missing the point, ” I said. “You got the 70/30. I always get at least the 80/20.”

He laughed. “Oh. That’s all? I thought I’d really messed up or something.”

That’s how it started. I launched into him. I berated him for not being smarter. Why would he not get the more healthy option? Did he even read the labels? Why can’t I trust him? Do I need to spell out every little thing for him in minute detail so he gets it right? Also, and the thing I was probably most offended by, why wasn’t he more observant? How could he not have noticed over the years what I always get? Does he not pay attention to anything I do?

As he sat there, bearing the brunt of my righteous indignation and muttering responses like, “I never noticed,” “I really don’t think it’s that big of a deal,” and “I’ll get it right next time,” I saw his face gradually take on an expression that I’d seen on him a lot in recent years. It was a combination of resignation and demoralization. He looked eerily like our son does when he gets chastised. That’s when it hit me. “Why am I doing this? I’m not his mom.”

I suddenly felt terrible. And embarrassed for myself. He was right. It really wasn’t anything to get bent out of shape over. And there I was doing just that. Over a silly package of hamburger meat that he dutifully picked up from the grocery store just like I asked. If I had specific requirements, I should have been clearer. I didn’t know how to gracefully extract myself from the conversation without coming across like I have some kind of split personality, so I just mumbled something like, “Yeah. I guess we’ll make do with this. I’m going to start dinner.”

He seemed relieved it was over and he left the kitchen.

And then I sat there and thought long and hard about what I’d just done. And what I’d been doing to him for years, probably. The “hamburger meat moment,” as I’ve come to call it, certainly wasn’t the first time I scolded him for not doing something the way I thought it should be done. He was always putting something away in the wrong place. Or leaving something out. Or neglecting to do something altogether. And I was always right there to point it out to him.

Why do I do that? How does it benefit me to constantly belittle my husband? The man that I’ve taken as my partner in life. The father of my children. The guy I want to have by my side as I grow old. Why do I do what women are so often accused of, and try to change the way he does every little thing? Do I feel like I’m accomplishing something? Clearly not if I feel I have to keep doing it. Why do I think it’s reasonable to expect him to remember everything I want and do it just that way? The instances in which he does something differently, does it mean he’s wrong? When did “my way” become “the only way?” When did it become okay to constantly correct him and lecture him and point out every little thing I didn’t like as if he were making some kind of mistake?

And how does it benefit him? Does it make him think, “Wow! I’m sure glad she was there to set me straight?” I highly doubt it. He probably feels like I’m harping on him for no reason whatsoever. And it I’m pretty sure it makes him think his best approach in regards to me is to either stop doing things around the house, or avoid me altogether.

Two cases in point. #1. I recently found a shard of glass on the kitchen floor. I asked him what happened. He said he broke a glass the night before. When I asked why he didn’t tell me, he said, “I just cleaned it up and threw it away because I didn’t want you to have a conniption fit over it.” #2. I was taking out the trash and found a pair of blue tube socks in the bin outside. I asked him what happened and why he’d thrown them away. He said, “They accidentally got in the wash with my jeans. Every time I put in laundry, you feel the need to remind me not to mix colors and whites. I didn’t want you to see them and reinforce your obvious belief that I don’t know how to wash clothes after 35 years.”

So it got to the point where he felt it was a better idea — or just plain easier — to cover things up than admit he made a human error. What kind of environment have I created where he feels he’s not allowed to make mistakes?

And let’s look at these “offenses”: A broken glass. A pair of blue tube socks. Both common mistakes that anyone could have made. But he was right. Regarding the glass, I not only pointed out his clumsiness for breaking it, but also due to the shard I found, his sad attempt at cleaning it up. As for the socks, even though he’d clearly stated it was an accident, I gave him a verbal lesson about making sure he pays more attention when he’s sorting clothes. Whenever any issues like this arise, he’ll sit there and take it for a little bit, but always responds in the end with something like, “I guess it just doesn’t matter that much to me.”

I know now that what he means is, “this thing that has you so upset is a small detail, or a matter of opinion, or a preference, and I don’t see why you’re making it such a big deal.” But from my end I came to interpret it over time that he didn’t care about my happiness or trying to do things the way I think they should be done. I came to view it like “this guy just doesn’t get it.” I am clearly the brains of this operation.

I started thinking about what I’d observed with my friends’ relationships, and things my girlfriends would complain about regarding their husbands, and I realized that I wasn’t alone. Somehow, too many women have fallen into the belief that Wife Always Knows Best. There’s even a phrase to reinforce it: “Happy wife, happy life.” That doesn’t leave a lot of room for his opinions, does it?

It’s an easy stereotype to buy into. Look at the media. Movies, TV, advertisements – they’re all filled with images of hapless husbands and clever wives. He can’t cook. He can’t take care of the kids. If you send him out to get three things, he’ll come back with two — and they’ll both be wrong. We see it again and again.

What this constant nagging and harping does is send a message to our husbands that says “we don’t respect you. We don’t think you’re smart enough to do things right. We expect you to mess up. And when you do, you’ll be called out on it swiftly and without reservation.” Given this kind of negative reinforcement over time, he feels like nothing he can do is right (in your eyes). If he’s confident with himself and who he is, he’ll come to resent you. If he’s at all unsure about himself, he’ll start to believe you, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Neither one is a desirable, beneficial outcome to you, him or the marriage.

Did my husband do the same to me? Just as I’m sure there are untold numbers of women who don’t ever do this kind of thing to their husbands, I’m sure there are men who do it to their wives too. But I don’t think of it as a typical male characteristic. As I sat and thought about it, I realized my husband didn’t display the same behavior toward me. I even thought about some of the times I really did make mistakes. The time I backed into the gate and scratched the car? He never said a word about it. The time I was making dinner, got distracted by a call from my mom, and burned it to cinders? He just said, “We can just order a pizza.” The time I tried to put the new patio furniture together and left his good tools out in the rain? “Accidents happen,” was his only response.

I shuddered to think what I would have said had the shoe been on the other foot and he’d made those mistakes.

So is he just a better person than me? Why doesn’t he bite my head off when I don’t do things the way he likes? I’d be a fool to think it doesn’t happen. And yet I don’t remember him ever calling me out on it. It doesn’t seem he’s as intent as changing the way I do things. But why?

Maybe I should take what’s he always said at face value. The fact that these little things “really don’t matter that much to him” is not a sign that he’s lazy, or that he’s incapable of learning, or that he just doesn’t give a damn about what I want. Maybe to him, the small details are not that important in his mind — and justifiably so. They’re not the kinds of things to start fights over. They’re not the kinds of things he needs to change about me. It certainly doesn’t make him dumb or inept. He’s just not as concerned with some of the minutia as I am. And it’s why he doesn’t freak out when he’s on the other side of the fence.

The bottom line in all this is that I chose this man as my partner. He’s not my servant. He’s not my employee. He’s not my child. I didn’t think he was stupid when I married him – otherwise I wouldn’t have. He doesn’t need to be reprimanded by me because I don’t like the way he does some things.

When I got to that point mentally, it then made me start thinking about all the good things about him. He’s intelligent. He’s a good person. He’s devoted. He’s awesome with the kids. And he does always help around the house. (Just not always to my liking!) Even more, not only does he refrain from giving me grief when I make mistakes or do things differently than him, he’s always been very agreeable to my way of doing things. And for the most part, if he notices I prefer to do something a certain way, he tries to remember it in the future. Instead of focusing on those wonderful things, I just harped on the negative. And again, I know I’m not alone in this.

If we keep attempting to make our husbands feel small, or foolish, or inept because they occasionally mess up (and I use that term to also mean “do things differently than us”), then eventually they’re going to stop trying to do things. Or worse yet, they’ll actually come to believe those labels are true.

In my case it’s my husband of 12+ years I’m talking about. The same man who thanklessly changed my car tire in the rain. The guy who taught our kids to ride bikes. The person who stayed with me at the hospital all night when my mom was sick. The man who has always worked hard to make a decent living and support his family.

He knows how to change the oil in the car. He can re-install my computer’s operating system. He lifts things for me that are too heavy and opens stuck jar lids. He shovels the sidewalk. He can put up a ceiling fan. He fixes the toilet when it won’t stop running. I can’t (or don’t) do any of those things. And yet I give him grief about a dish out of place. He’s a good man who does a lot for me, and doesn’t deserve to be harassed over little things that really don’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

Since my revelation, I try to catch myself when I start to nag. I’m not always 100% consistent, but I know I’ve gotten a lot better. And I’ve seen that one little change make a big improvement in our relationship. Things seem more relaxed. We seem to be getting along better. It think we’re both starting to see each other more as trusted partners, not adversarial opponents at odds with each other in our day-to-day existence. I’ve even come to accept that sometimes his way of doing things may be better!

It takes two to make a partnership. No one is always right and no one is always wrong. And you’re not always going to see eye-to-eye on every little thing. It doesn’t make you smarter, or superior, or more right to point out every little thing he does that’s not to your liking.

Ladies, remember, it’s just hamburger meat.

Q&A: What Is Disrespect?

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Question:    My husband says that he is put into a kind of uncontrollable rage when I disrespect him. He says it’s his God given right as the husband to be respected.  Last night I told my husband who has physically struck me in the past that I felt unsafe in our marriage and that I thought it was necessary that we lay some ground rules and boundaries specifically to be enforced during our times of arguing and fighting so that we can keep each other accountable.

He resisted in agreeing boundaries were the issue but finally agreed. I told him that a universal boundary should be absolutely no physical striking or threats of physically hurting of any kind toward one another.  Then he said that his boundary was that there was to be  “no disrespect or raising my voice to him.” He said that when he is disrespected, he feels he is being verbally abused by me. For him it feels as terrible as I feel when he slaps me on the arm/leg/head.

In theory this sounds “right”. He says that I am making a double standard when I put a boundary on his behavior but that he cannot put one on me.  And yet, something does not seem right at all about what he is saying.  I agree that disrespecting your husband is as sinful as physically striking your spouse in anger. Is it biblical to see these exactly the same in terms of setting “off limit” boundaries in disagreements?

Answer:  Your struggle to think clearly in this muddle is common to women who live with abusive men.  I want to help clarify some important truths.

First, your husband’s rage and subsequent acts of violence toward you are not uncontrollable.  His behavior is always his choice.  I’m sure he has experienced disrespect from other people in his life – his employer, a rude driver, your children, a friend, an enemy.  People sin against us all the time in many ways and sometimes we do get angry. However, that doesn’t mean we hit them. In fact, isn’t that what we teach our children NOT to do when someone takes their toy or makes them mad?  We don’t hit people when we’re mad.  Period!

Let me ask you a question. Does your husband hit other people in the arm/leg/head when he feels disrespected?  What do you imagine a police officer would say if your husband used that as his excuse when he hit someone who disrespected him in traffic or at the mall?

Hear this important truth. Your husband hits you when he is mad because he chooses to and you have continued to enable him by not enforcing legal consequences that would protect you from this kind of abusive behavior.

He says that it is his God-given right to be respected. It’s also your God given right to be loved and cherished.  When he fails to love and cherish you and you feel hurt or angry, do you hit him?

The second truth I want you be crystal clear on is that you will fail your spouse and he will fail you. Sometimes these failures are big but often they occur in little ways.  He doesn’t love you like you’d like or you don’t respect him like he wants you to.  The truth is, our spouse doesn’t always give us what we want even if what we want is a good and godly thing.  Hurt and disappointment occur in every marriage and we can feel angry, hurt and disrespected.

But is the right answer to treat our spouse with abusive behavior or abusive speech when they don’t give us what we want?  Jesus says “Never!” The Bible labels that kind of behavior sin and selfishness and it is never justified.

The truth is no one gets everything he or she wants all of the time. Part of growing up and maturing is learning how to handle ourselves in a godly, mature way when we are disappointed, angry and hurt when we don’t get what we want.

Your husband’s entitlement thinking has deceived him into believing that since he’s entitled to be respected, he’s entitled to hit you when you’re not complying with what he wants.  That is absolutely not true.  How do other men handle being disrespected by their wives?  They might pray for their wife. They might talk with their wife. They might get counseling as a couple.

A much healthier response to his disappointment or hurt when you don’t respect him is for him to say, “Honey, that hurts me when you talk to me that way. Would you please stop?”  Or even, “When you talk to me that way, I can’t hear you. I’m ending the conversation.”

As far as boundaries – you’re right, you will never feel safe to have a conversation with your husband let alone disagree if you fear for your safety.  In the same way, if your husband fears your tongue and being disrespected, it’s hard for him to share his honest thoughts and feelings with you.

However, I’m not sure of his definition of disrespect.  You were very clear with your definition of what you want stopped, no physical threats or physical violence.  His definition was fuzzy – “No disrespect or raising your voice”.   Does that mean that when you feel strongly about something or disagree, you can’t speak with an elevated voice without him feeling disrespected?  Does that mean that you cannot argue because he will feel you don’t respect his opinion?  Does that mean you have to agree with everything he thinks because not to will feel disrespectful to him?

You need to ask him to define for you the behavior that feels disrespectful to him.  Is it calling him names?  Is it swearing at him?  Is it rolling your eyes?  If you know what it is specifically, then you can decide whether or not you can agree to stop or change it.  If you don’t know what it is, then the rules always change and he can feel disrespected just because you open your mouth in protest.

Finally, a first step boundary or safety plan for both of you might be that when either one of you feels unsafe, the one who feels unsafe can stop the conversation and the other person will respect that boundary and stop talking.

If it continues to be unsafe to have difficult discussions together and you have important things that need to be decided, then you will agree together to engage the help of a counselor to help you learn to speak safely and respectfully with one another and to handle your disappointments in a more godly way.

Q & A: My Spouse Is A Chronic Liar. What Can I Do?

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Question: My husband is lying to me about so many things. He twists my words, and I have no self-worth. I am in counseling, and we are new empty nesters. I left my job to care for an aging parent and focus on my husband. This is the worst time of my life. My spouse is either having an emotional affair or physical affair. He denies either, yet the computer (email receipts) says otherwise. He has cleaned the house of any and all receipts.

How do I live with someone I do not trust? I am so depressed. Please help direct me.

Answer: I’m glad you have taken the first step and started counseling. The National Institute of Mental Health indicates some of the highest rates of depression are among women who are unhappily married. There is very little you can do to change your husband’s lying, cheating or mind games right now, but there are some very definite things you can do to help your depression and self-worth.

Jesus says “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Sometimes when the thing we’ve treasured most is gone or broken, we don’t just grieve our loss, we come unglued. That’s because we have put our treasure in something temporal–something that won’t last. Although your marriage is important and God wants you to have a loving and trusting relationship with your husband, he doesn’t want your marriage or your husband to be your treasure.

In my new book, The Emotionally Destructive Marriage, I wrote, “The biggest red flag (that your marriage has become an idol) is when you fall into deep despair or panic when your husband fails to love you well…Any wife would feel disappointed, hurt, and angry. But if you find yourself becoming increasingly despairing, fearful, controlling, or resentful, it’s time to pay attention. Those negative emotions are a good indicator that your desire for a good marriage has become too important…Whenever we are dependent on something or someone other than God, it will always hurt us.”

Therefore the most important work you have to do right now isn’t to salvage your marriage or get your husband to tell you the truth, but to put your marriage in its proper place in your heart and mind and choose God as your treasure, not your spouse or your marriage.

You say you have no self-worth. Why not? Because your husband doesn’t love you like you want him to? Because he doesn’t value you enough to tell you the truth? Why would you allow a mere mortal, a sinful human being, determine your value and worth?

If someone rejects us, lies to us, or doesn’t love us as we want, it surely hurts, but it does NOT define who we are or determine our value. If you gave me an expensive piece of jewelry, like pearls or a diamond tennis bracelet, and I threw it away or never wore it, does that mean it isn’t worth anything?

It’s not our parents or our peers or our partners that determine our worth, it’s God. He defines our value because he is the one who formed us. He is the only one we can count on to tell us the truth about who we are. He never lies. Read Psalm 139 and meditate on it today. Let God tell you how much you’re worth.

Therefore friend, I encourage you to take the opportunity you have while in counseling to work on you and not on how you can get your husband to tell you the truth. You might just find that as you get healthier and less dependent on him, he may do a little soul searching of his own and choose to be more honest with you about what’s going on with him.

If not, then you’ll be strong enough to know what next step you need to take to deal with your husband’s deceit.

Q&A: Is There Hope For A Narcissistic Spouse?

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Question: My husband has been emotionally and verbally abusive from the start. We have been married almost 7 years and have a beautiful 2 year old son. I have been trying everything within my power (counseling, using tactics to stop abuse when it’s happening, anti-depressants) to “fix” my destructive marriage. In March of last year, I finally told him exactly what I thought our problem was: that he was abusive. At that time, he received that surprisingly well. Obviously God had gone before me and prepared his heart for that.

However, 6 months later I wasn’t really seeing changes and I was noticing he was giving himself a lot of slack with going to his therapy appointments, etc. So I took things up a notch. I wrote him a letter asking him to examine those behaviors and attitudes and left with our son for the weekend for him to process that in peace. What I had hoped for upon my return was a sincere apology and a renewed sense of wanting to do the right thing for our family. What I got was anger thrown at me

A week later, I asked him to move out for a separation. I was absolutely at my wit’s end. I was still hoping that he could be rattled, that the Lord was trying to get through to him through these steps I was taking.

It’s been a little over 3 months now and I am still not really seeing the key changes I would like to see, such as a sincerely apologetic heart, ownership over the harm he has done and even a willingness to let me be mad. There’s a lot more to our story than I can inundate you with here, but I feel that our marriage cannot be saved. I feel like divorce is imminent.

One of the therapists we have seen believes he has Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I don’t want to just “give up” on my marriage. It feels like I am a failure. I know I have done wrong as well. I know that this isn’t ALL his fault, but at a certain point it does feel like the problems of abuse and self-centeredness need to be broken before any of the other issues can be addressed. I’m at a loss. I know you can’t tell me whether or not you think I should divorce from reading these few paragraphs, but I am wondering if you can speak more to the NPD factor and how long you think it takes for safety to return (referring to your series on “Can This Marriage Be Saved”). I just don’t feel safe, but I don’t want to deny an opportunity for safety to grow.

Answer: Let me begin by saying I applaud your courage for trying to do things that will change the destructive dynamics of your marriage. Safety is essential for any relationship to be healthy. If you aren’t safe to be yourself, to share your thoughts and feelings in a constructive way, or to disagree without fear of punishment or retaliation, then you can’t fix what’s wrong because it’s not even safe to talk about it

You mention that you have done wrong too. There are no perfect spouses. All marriages have things that are wrong with them, but when the marriage is relatively healthy, the husband and wife will look at their part, apologize, make amends and work toward corrections.

Let me ask you this, are any of those “wrongs” that you say you are guilty of safety issues? For example, have you not respected a time-out when your husband is getting heated and wants to end the conversation for a period of time? Or perhaps you’ve shamed and criticized him when he’s expressed his opinion or tried to disagree? If so, you can take responsibility for those things and work to change. Since you have a two year old child, the two of you must communicate around finances, issues regarding your son and visitation, and if you haven’t practiced safety in those interactions, then you can start there. Safety involves respecting boundaries, stopping destructive interactions when the other person says stop and taking responsibility for your own actions when you’ve crossed the line and scared or hurt the other person. (For those who want to read more from my 3 part article “Can This Marriage Be Saved,” go to http://www.christiancounseling.com and click on Leslie’s blog).

But your question is directed to help about the diagnosis of NPD and whether or not that is a “curable” problem. There are many people with NPD who are highly talented, successful people who often have a fan base of admirers and people willing to give themselves to him or her because of the afterglow it affords by being associated with such a successful person. The narcissist’s entitlement mindset seems more excusable or justified because of his or her success.

However, when a person is NPD and is rather ordinary, he or she still feels entitled and becomes disgruntled when people aren’t treating them as special as they feel they deserve. From a purely secular point of view, NPD is one of the hardest disorders to treat primarily because the narcissist never sees himself as “the problem”. Therefore they rarely present themselves for treatment. They may go to marriage counseling, but it is always their spouse’s lack of love, lack of support or lack of care that becomes the issue. They often portray themselves as the victims of emotional abuse.

If or when the therapist tries to get the narcissistic person to reflect honestly on himself or his or her behavior, there is usually great resistance, excuse making, blame shifting, or termination of treatment. If you don’t think you have a problem, if you won’t listen to someone who gives you feedback and if you refuse to look within, there is not a high probability that you will change.

A narcissist doesn’t know how to love another person as a separate person. For a narcissist, another person’s sole purpose is to be an object who will love and admire them. In other words, you become nourishment to meet their NEEDS. When you cease nourishing them, they will discard you and move on to new food (another person).

When they say that they love you, what they mean is I love how you love me. When you love them well, then you are wonderful, the best thing that ever happened to them. When you fail to love them well (as you always will), then you have a price to pay. A person with NPD finds it impossible to put themselves in someone else’s shoes (empathy) and has little compassion for anyone other than themselves. A narcissist gets into a relationship to be adored, admired, and loved, not to love or to sacrifice themselves for someone else.

That said, there are times when someone is in so much pain they are willing to hear and look and reevaluate who they are and how they’ve seen themselves and others. In these cases, the road to transformation is long and slow but change can happen. God is in the business of changing hearts and transforming lives. Yet the paradox that is hard for us to live with when we’re married to someone with NPD is that God doesn’t change us without our permission.

For you, if you choose to stay with him, understand that you will always give more than you receive. He will be unhappy with you when you are unable to meet his demands and expectations and will often be rude, sarcastic, judgmental and abusive telling you so. Develop a good support system outside your marriage. Find other things to do that give your life meaning and fulfillment. Don’t pine for a husband who will cherish you for you. That doesn’t mean that people with NPD can’t be fun loving and kind when they want to be, but there is always something in it for them.

A while back, one of our readers of this blog recommended a website http://www.narcissismcured.com which was started by a woman who is married to a narcissist. She is not a therapist, but she claims she worked to figure out how to change herself and in doing so, her husband began to change as well. I can’t validate their story (they live in Australia), but I’ve read some of her material and think she offers some helpful perspectives and strategies for you to keep sane in the midst of staying married to a man who has a deeply entrenched problem.

If you Google narcissism, you will also find other helpful material on the web as well as support groups for people who live with or are related to a narcissistic person. One of the things I always tell people is that truthful information can be very helpful in making wise decisions. Before you end your marriage, make sure you have done all you can to stay safely as well as sanely.

Q & A: Is My Spouse’s Verbal Abuse My Fault?

SOURCE: Adapted from an article by  Leslie Vernick

My husband says his verbal abuse is all my fault!

This week’s question is:  I read your blogs and books. My question is I’ve been married for 21 years. I’ve read and re-read your book on The Emotionally Destructive Relationship. My husband fits the example of the “should” husband you talk about. He is a believer and has recently admitted to me that he has been verbally abusive after I told him the definition. For a long time he denied it, but he feels that I haven’t been submissive, respectful and obedient to him and that in order for our relationship to ever move forward I have to admit this to him and to our children, ages 17,15 and 11. We have been to counseling jointly and separately.

I have seen how my desire to please him has led to lots of problems. It has excused his behavior and allowed it for far too long. He is saying he has admitted his problems and I need to admit and change myself and the children’s attitude and behaviors toward him in order for him to stay. He has already seen an attorney as have I. Please help…I’m so tired.

Answer:  You seem exhausted trying to be heard and understood. It sounds like your husband is still saying that all your marital problems are your fault. Of course he now admits to being verbally abusive toward you but it’s because you haven’t been respectful, submissive or obedient. So if you change, in his mind, all will be well.

From your question, it sounds like you have tried to please him and that your desire to gain his approval has actually led to more abuse. He’s saying he’s admitted his problem but what exactly has he admitted to? Losing his temper when you won’t do what he says you “should” and then blaming you for his ugly words? That doesn’t sound like the kind of change you’ll need to turn this around. Does he not have any responsibility to learn to handle his disappointment and anger toward you in a godly way?

You might want to ask him, “Do you believe you’re entitled to verbally abuse me when I fail you, upset you, or disappoint you? How do you think other men respond when their wives upset them? Do all of them become verbally abusive or do some of them handle their anger or disappointment in a more constructive way?”

I also want you to consider whether or not it’s true that you have been disrespectful toward your husband and/or contributed to the children’s poor attitudes toward their father. Confession of wrong doing is important in relationships and is a very important first step toward healing and reconciliation. You’ll have to pray about that and examine your heart and past behaviors to see if there are specific ways or times you have been disrespectful, even if in the context of being provoked.

There are some husbands who believe that if their wife doesn’t give them carte blanche authority or if she questions his judgment in a situation, she is being disrespectful, disobedient and/or unsubmissive. I don’t believe God’s words teaches that submission means that we don’t have a right to question or challenge our spouse or that we are called to live with our eyes closed and mouth shut especially when we observe our spouse driving the entire family straight off the cliff.

On the other hand, there are many things that we as wives comment on that our husband’s may find disrespectful even if we don’t see them that way. For example, my husband hates when I question why he chooses to drive to the shopping mall a different way that I would have gone. He sees that as “You don’t know how to drive as good as I do.” I don’t mean it that way; I just don’t understand why he wouldn’t choose our normal route. But he’s different than I am, and he has every right to think and choose differently than I would.

People are not blank walls that do not have any of their own thoughts, feelings, and personality. Yet some men seem to want their wife’s entire life to revolve around loving him, serving him, and doing whatever will make him happy. If she balks, or wants to do something of her own, he finds that unloving or disrespectful. Trying harder to be that kind of woman will only result in more abuse and selfishness on the part of your husband.

Going back to your question, you’ve both been to counselors and both been to attorneys. If you and your husband both want to make your marriage work, it begins by identifying what the root problem is. You can’t apply the right medicine to something if you don’t have the right diagnosis. I don’t think you’ve reached any consensus on this. Perhaps the best course at this time is to see a counselor (who understands the dynamics of verbal abuse), not for treatment per se, but to create a working definition of the problem so you can both decide whether or not you want to do the necessary repairs and changing to reconcile your relationship.

Q & A: Boundaries With An Abusive Family

SOURCE: Leslie Vernick

My whole family is rude and disrespectful.

What can I do?

Question:  My family consists of my husband, 3 adult children and one teenager. My 33 year old daughter, 21 year old son, and 16 year old son are all at home. The verbal abuse coming from all directions is just too much to bear. I know that there are two sides to every story, but I tell you, the name calling and the disrespect is too much. I can’t do this much longer. What can I do?

Answer: I’m sorry to hear that you live in a warzone. Understand that this is very toxic to your physical, emotional and spiritual health. When you say that you can’t do this much longer, I’m assuming you mean you can’t continue to endure this treatment much longer. Good. That will give you the strength to make some drastic changes.

I know there are always two sides to every story. I don’t know fully either side, so I’m going to give you some general principles and steps to follow.

First, what’s your part? Why are you allowing yourself to be treated this way by your grown children? What kind of consequences have you implemented as their mother when they talked to you this way as they were growing up? Have they learned it’s acceptable to talk to you with disrespect and use abusive language?

Ask yourself why you’ve been willing to live like a prisoner in your own home? After you’ve done some of your own soul-searching, you need to have a talk first with your husband and then with your children. With your husband, start by saying something like this:

“I cannot live with all this abuse in our home anymore. I can’t stop you from treating me disrespectfully, but I think the children feel it’s OK for them to do because you do it to me. I know I’m not perfect and may do things that aggravate you and them, but I will not tolerate any longer the verbal abuse and disrespect from you or the children. If they don’t stop, I’m going to ask them to move out and I’d like your support. From now on, when you talk with me like that, I’m going to go out for a while. I’ll be back when you can calm down and talk with me constructively.”

With your husband, after you give him the warning, the very first time he gets abusive, leave immediately. Call him from your cell phone and tell him that, when he can calm down and talk respectfully, you’ll be back. Drive around for an hour, go to the mall or a coffee shop, and call back and ask if he’s calmed down and ready to talk respectfully to you. If not, stay out and do not return or call him until the next day. Soon he will learn that his anger get’s him nowhere and you won’t allow yourself to be a target for his fits of rage.

Before you have that conversation with your husband, you need to make a plan just in case you need to spend the night somewhere. I don’t know your extended family situation or financial abilities, but make sure you have the things you need packed in your car so that you don’t have to return home.

With your grown children I might say something like this with a calm voice tone:

“I love you and have been willing to sacrifice many things to help you get on your feet so that you could get a good start in adulthood. But I will not longer sacrifice my health and well being. I am sick of being verbally abused (give specific examples), and I will no longer allow you to live in my home if you choose to continue to talk to me in that way. If you don’t stop immediately, you will have to find another place to live.”

Do not argue and do not back down. When they slip and start up with you, put you open palm up in the air like a stop sign and stay “Stop it!” If they stop, say “thank you” and walk away. If they continue, then remind them of the consequence. If they don’t stop, tell them they have 2 weeks to find a new place to live. And…you must stick with it.

With your 16 year old son, you will say something similar, but instead of telling him he will have to move out, implement the gift of consequences. In other words, when he chooses to talk with you that way, you will not allow him to use your car, or you will disconnect the computer, or cell phone, or whatever works to get him to understand that you mean business. You should do this for only 24 hours. When he is respectful to you for 24 hours, he gets his privileges back.

If your husband won’t cooperate in implementing these consequences with you, then the other option is for you to move out temporarily until the family understands you mean business.

You will have to be firm on changing your part; no pleading and no arguing, just consequences. You cannot change your children or your husband. The only person you can change is you. But as you change, you are creating an atmosphere where it’s more likely that they will make better choices which will be good for you and good for your family.

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