Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I have bad news and good news.

The bad news is that my marriage didn't make it.

The good news is that it is happening in a way which makes leaving much easier on me.

His changes didn't last when the heat was on. I am disappointed, but not surprised.

He began to revert while while under a lot of stress preparing for a business trip out of the country. He was to be gone for a few months. I was planning to join him in the middle of his stay so we could spend a few weeks traveling together. I was very excited about the prospect of finally having some fun together again as we had not vacationed together in 3 years.

After his irritability in the days just before he left, I began to feel uneasy about going. After he had gone, we worked thing through on the phone, so I was planning still to go.

During one phone call, I asked him to get some information I needed in order to finalize our plans. Planning a trip is a lot of work - work he leaves to me. (He really isn't good at that sort of thing.) He said he would let me know the next day. He had been calling or emailing most days. Then nothing for three days.

I finally called him. I told him I was upset that he hadn't called. He responded with coldness and bullshit excuses.No matter how busy you are, you can find 5 minutes to call or send an email even if it is to say I am insanely busy.

Evidently he didn't reach of the point of recognizing that I also have needs, pressures and feelings which are just as important as his. I really think that this is a total blind spot for him, that he thinks that when he is stressed about work, total self absorption on his part is justified and asserting any of my own needs, however small, is incredibly selfish of me.

I know better of course. I know many men who, under pressure, still recognize the needs of their loved ones and even call their wives every night when out of town. It's just not that difficult, if you truly love. When you love, it's not something you *have* to do, it's something you WANT to do.

So that call went badly, as did the next. He was dismissive and defensive. I waited several days thinking he would call after his main big event was over and hoped we could work it out. Two days after that even was over, I had heard nothing. I decided not to go. I canceled my ticket and decided to move out while he was gone.

He never did call. He emailed 36 hours before I was to leave and to told me not to come. I wasn't expecting that. I replied and told him that I agreed and, in fact, I had already canceled my ticket several days ago. Even though I had already decided not to go, his sending me an 11th hour email saying 'don't come' although hurtful, was wonderful validation that I was doing the right thing.

This was so strange, even for him, that I strongly suspect there is a woman involved. This work trip for him would include some major ego boosting events where he could well have met a woman he wanted to woo. I don't know for certain, but his behavior certainly suggests it. If so - she can have him!

This feels sooo right. I have sadness of course, but the time away from him has been really good for me. I miss the good stuff about having him around, but I don't miss the emotional/energy drain that came with the bad stuff. I just feel so much more "even" now. I have also come to realize that most of my good memories about him were things that happened before we got married.

I had hope my husband would make lasting changes. He made a lot of improvement, but he blew it in a major way once the stress/ego boast time came on.

He has been gone several months now, well past his original planned date of return. I have rented an apartment, which I am moving in to gradually. I haven't yet told him I'm moving out. I don't know how all that will come together yet. Right now, I'm just enjoying the time and space to get my bearings, move forward, and rest a bit before the next phase.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Compassion Heals

It's been a long time since I posted. I am happy to report that I am doing much better, and surprisingly, so is my marriage. There has been slow, but steady improvement for more than seven months, so I have reason to be cautiously optimistic.

One reason I haven't been posting is my awareness that all too often, any changes an abusive man makes, do not last. Some men change for months, even years, and then revert to old habits. Maybe I didn't want to chronicle my foolish, false hopes. - if that's what they turn out to be - but I decided to do it anyway. His changes may or may not last, and if they don't, hopefulness and disappointment is part of the process too.

After the ugly name calling scene in August, I purchased Steven Stosny's book "Love without Hurt". Some cyber friends had told me that it had helped them heal even though they chose to end their marriages.

Stosny's approach, towards both husband and wife, is very compassionate. His book has two sections, the first devoted to the abused spouse (more often the wife), the second section for husbands, he calls boot camp. Both sections, specially the boot camp are very "hands on" with lots of exercises to do.

After looking at the book, I was so impressed that I approached my husband. I told him that I believed that he truly wants to be a good husband and that I know he can't feel good about some of his behavior towards me. I said that I had total and complete confidence that he could be a good husband if he does the necessary emotional work. I said that obviously his attempts to simply 'control' himself wasn't working and maybe it was time to try another approach.

He bought a copy of the book for himself, and started doing the work. Not surprisingly, he would slack off after a short time. When he did, I backed away from him. When he kept at the work, I came a little closer. It was very, very difficult for him to grasp some of the material, but once he did, it has made a huge difference.

  • I no longer have to fight to be heard. (Now I realize how crazy it was for me to even do that in the first place.) Discussions of issues between us no longer feel like battles, even when we disagree.
  • He no longer gives me orders. He asks politely and expresses appreciation for the things I do.
  • I no longer avoid him. I rarely feel tense around him anymore. Sometimes I still do begin to feel uneasy when I sense he is anxious about something, remembering that would often lead to him being abusive towards me. When that happens, I tell myself that if he blows, I can handle it. But he has handled his feelings without taking them out on me.
  • He can, and does, apologize spontaneously and sincerely, and even makes amends.
  • There is a growing sense of partnership in the relationship. His pack-rat tendencies remain, but he is making an effort make more room for me in the common areas of our home.

There are still areas that need improvement, but I actually enjoy being married to him now.

I highly recommend Steven Stosny's approach. Patricia's Evans book was very helpful to me because of her detailed description of what a verbally abusive relationship looks like. She gave me valuable insight into the mindset of an abusive man. Unfortunately, her suggestions for dealing with it were only partially effective. I think the missing piece was compassion.

Stosny's book helped me increase my compassion for myself and for my husband, while at the same time making me stronger. Although I already realized it, Stosny's writings helped me keep it front and center that an abusive person is also a hurt person.
Stosny says:

. . . the sole purpose of your husband's resentful, angry or abusive behavior is to defend him from feeling inadequate, especially as a protector, provider, lover, and parent.

Your husband's inability to tolerate occasional feelings of inadequacy is why he becomes resentful, distant, angry, or abusive when you express some desire or emotional need or say anything that he can remotely construe as criticism. The vast majority of people who are resentful, angry or abusive fail to tolerate feelings of inadequacy long enough to motivate behavior that will allow them to reconnect and reattach to loved ones. Instead, they blame their feelings of inadequacy on their loved ones.

Lest anyone confuse compassion with 'being nice' or tolerating abuse, let me say that Stosny makes clear that if a man refuses to do the necessary work, you must leave him in order to prevent grave damage to yourself. He also makes the point that leaving a man who does not change is the most compassionate things you can do for him.

Every time he says a harsh word to you or gives you the cold shoulder, or simply fails to value and respect you, he hates himself a little more.

If he won't change, your leaving him is his only hope.

Well, that's a nutshell update for now. Wherever this goes, I'm doing better.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Words from a Man with the Courage to Change

A few people recommended a book to me called "Love Without Hurt" by Steven Stosny. I was doing a search for opinions about it and came across the blog of a man who is reading it and doing the "bootcamp" exercises for men trying to change abusive behavior. Daniel's story is a sad, but common one. On his blog he courageously acknowledges that he was verbally abusive to his wife. Sadly, they recently divorced, but Daniel is continuing the work he needs to do to heal and hopes one day to reunite with his wife, the mother of their three young children. I wish him well.

I just got the Stosny book and so far I like it very much. I'll write more about that later. When I first found Daniel's blog he had just written that he probably wouldn't be posting any more. I encouraged him to continue, if he felt like he could, because his insights might help some marriages. Daniel graciously posted again and what he said is so important I want to copy some of it here.

One thing I would like to say to both abusers and victims who might have stumbled across this:

Men don't marry their wives with the intention of abusing them (a very apt point made in Stosny's book). I married my wife to love her, protect her and to cherish her. I know this with all of my heart, and I still feel this today. I NEVER expected to be the person that she needed to be protected from.

With me, I can clearly say that every time that I've identified when I've been emotionally abusive towards Amy that it wasn't her that I really was resentful towards or that I was even angry with her. I was angry at myself. I was fearful of myself and my own feelings. I was resentful about myself. I was subconsciously acting out my hate of my mother towards her (My mother was emotionally and physically abusive towards me in my youth as well as very manipulative and controlling).

I never consciously wanted to hurt her. I never wanted her to be fearful of me. I never wanted to argue with her in front of the kids. I never wanted ANY of this!

However, this is my reality. I did these things. I am the person to blame, and I am the person who needs to fix himself.

If there is a man out there who is reading this who's been accused of emotional abuse: YOU NEED TO ACCEPT WHAT'S BEING TOLD TO YOU AND YOU NEED TO ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY! Your wife didn't make you do anything! You are the one with the responsibility of your own mouth and actions, not your wife. She didn't shrink and go inside of your head and tell you to be abusive. Don't use that excuse. The quicker you accept your wife's perspective and the quicker you get help, the more hope you will have in saving your marriage. Don't wait to take actions like I did. It will put you in a world of hurt... especially if you have kids. Take action now!

If your wife is telling you to move out: DO IT! Help her feel safe! But, let her know that you will immediately seek counseling and that you love her and want to do anything for her. Then follow through.

Jeeze. I'm on a soap box. But, these are all things that I sure wish someone would have said to me when I still had a chance with Amy. Instead, I heard Amy's warnings, but then said to myself, "Don't worry. Things will work themselves out. They always do." But, they sure didn't.

Daniel, I commend you for taking responsibility for your feelings and actions and taking steps to change. A lot of men never get to that point. I am hopeful that as more men like Daniel speak up, that slowly and surely, things will change in the world.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Acknowledging Good Men

My blogging friend Bill Howdle at Dying Man's Journal recently wrote that he has heard quite a bit of male bashing lately, so he asked his blogging friends to write some good things about particular men or men in general. I am happy to do so. Bill was sensitive to the possibility that this might be difficult for me due to my current personal situation. Actually, it isn't.

Overall, I have been quite blessed in my associations with men. My earliest experiences with men were very positive ones, starting with my father. He was kind and loving, (more nurturing than my mother). I saw him as a leader and protector who valued the simple pleasures of life and cared about his community.

My brother is also a good man. He's a hard worker who has been married to his high school sweetheart for nearly 40 years. He is dedicated to his career, but understands that providing for his children emotionally is just as important as providing for them financially. Spending time with family is a high priority for him.

I have been privileged to know several men who have volunteered at rape crisis centers and battered women shelters. They did so not only to help men and boys who are victimized, but also because they knew that these were not just "womens' issues". They understood that violence is everyone's problem because there is no man whose life is not affected by women. Women are their wives, girlfriends, daughters, mothers, and friends. These men hoped that the presence of a gentle, supportive man, might help a woman who had experienced a brutal assault against her by a man.

It is all to easy to generalize a bad experience with one gender, to all men or all women. I think it is sad when women give up on even dating anymore after a bad experience, (although the wicked part of me thinks "okey dokey -more for me"). Perhaps it is easier for me to see clearly that men aren't the problem because of my good experiences with men and because, in my opinion, my husband's hurtful behavior stems from his childhood experience of being verbally/emotionally abused by his mother - a woman.

I'm not tempted to see men as the enemy. Far from it. I love men. I love their strong arms. I love their deep voices and their whiskers. I love that they can open tight jar lids and get stuff off the high shelf. I love that a man will always kill a spider for you even though he knows you could do it yourself. I love the goofy, 'aw shucks' grin men get when you tell them how smart or strong they are. I love the little boy mischeviousness that men seem to keep no matter how old they are. I love how excited they get about sports. I love that they think there are only five colors.

I feel sad that I am not writing about how great my husband is here, although, I could write quite a bit about his good qualities and loving things he has done. I think that is an important point. The world isn't divided into guys in white hats and guys in black hats. I didn't marry the guy because he is a jerk. Most of us who find ourselves in emotionally abusive relationships know that the mean things he does are not the totality of who he is. If it were, it wouldn't be so hard to leave. And for most of us, there was a time - marriage in my case - where the man changes. Maybe I'll explore this idea further in a later post.

I too am dismayed by male-bashing. I wish there were more visible , positive portrayals of men. I don't watch much television, but my recollection is that men are portrayed as either in-charge tough guys or clueless, bungling fools. In real life, most of the good guys are the everyday heroes that you never hear about. Thank you Bill for raising this issue. We need to shine a light on the everyday greatness of good men.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Remembering who I am

This past weekend I went to a party at the home of a mutual friend. I knew that it would be mostly a group of people I had lost touch with over the past several years, partly due to my self imposed isolation, but also because the old gathering spots had closed. As the price of gas goes up, the cash available for entertainment goes down. A few drinks while listening to live music at the neighborhood watering hole is one of the first budget items cut.

I knew these people before I met my husband and I had many fun evenings with them - listening to live music, dancing, talking, and generally acting like college students although most of us are a few decades past college. Hey, why should fun be limited to people under twenty-five? We are baby-boomers, we won't go quietly.

I am introverted by nature, but also enjoy socializing. I had never been nervous about going to a party, until this time. I even contemplated, (briefly), not going. I was surprised and puzzled by the anxiety I felt as the evening approached. What was it? Was I afraid that my husband's treatment of me showed on my face? That I had turned into a timid wallflower? Would people say, "Jennie, what happened to you?" Had I lost my confidence because my husband called me names? Because upon having obtained me, he failed to even notice me? Maybe this was an experience of shame, the sense that one is exposed to the world as lacking in some way.

Obviously I needed to change my head, so I went shopping and bought a flirty little polka dot dress and painted my toenails.

Bob had asked me "Are you going to go to the party?" Odd, for a husband to ask that I thought. Isn't it usually, "Shall we go to the party?" "Yes, I'm going I told him." He said he might. I went on ahead.

The moment I walked in, all anxiety vanished. I was greeted warmly by many people. I did lots of catching up with old friends, and there were new interesting folks to talk with too. I didn't notice when Bob arrived. I was too busy enjoying myself. I first noticed him when he sauntered over as I was engaged in a tete 'a tete with a funny and attractive man. Since I was not wearing my wedding ring, perhaps Bob just wanted to establish that I had a husband. Don't know. Don't really care.

I had a fabulous time. There's nothing like a fun party on a perfect August night. Best of all, I remembered who I was. I remembered I can have fun. I remembered that even at my age, men are interested in me. It felt really good.

There are many roads to healing, becoming educated about the nature of the problem, connecting with others who understand, dealing with your own feelings. All those things are important, but never underestimate the healing power of a wearing a new dress to a great party under the stars on a perfect August night.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Nearly two days later, I still feel shaky. My last post was the first I had written immediately after a nuclear abuse incident. It's always shocking, but Sunday even more so because I thought there had been progress.

I know that I have progressed. I've learned a lot about how an abusive person sees relationships, handles feelings etc. I've adopted new strategies. I've learned to handle my own feelings much better. Bob had pretty much stopped with the defining statements, i.e., telling me what I was thinking, doing, and feeling. He started to speak for himself, and only himself. There was no more ordering, only polite requests, and he began to ask about my life. Certainly not great, but progress. So I was doubly shocked that this occurred.

Upon reflection, perhaps it shouldn't have been surprising. For many months I had been so distant, basically living a separate life. When you are distanced from someone, they don't have much power to hurt you. So maybe as the divide narrowed, there was greater potential for Bob to feel hurt. And when he gets hurt or scared, he sometimes says hateful things, much as a child would, because that is where he seems to be stuck emotionally. Not an excuse, just an explanation.

My objective with this blog was to keep it personal, rather than theoretical, and to write honestly about my experience. There is quite a bit on the internet about verbal abuse in general, mostly from a psychologist viewpoint, but there don't seem to be that many personal narratives. Even though I am blogging under a pseudonym, it was still uncomfortable to write that raw post, with the ugly words as the title. But I vowed to keep it real.

Even now I am a bit shaky. I left the house for a while Sunday, checked the "For Rent" ads, contemplated going to a motel. It is hard to think at those times and thankfully I have a few internet friends, women also in verbally abusive relationships, who helped keep me centered and thinking. After weighing the pros and cons, I decided to spend the night home. The abuse was a single devastating blast, not a continuing battle, so thankfully I could get away from him.

Leaving can be a tricky time I've heard. There can be explosions and/or continuing petty battles. I want to make it as easy on myself as possible. How to do it best? Even blogging under an assumed name, I don't think it is a good idea to reveal too much, but changes are underway.


Monday, August 18, 2008

I hate you,you fucking bitch!

That's what he said to me last night.

I have to leave. I don't know where. I didn't sleep last night and I am so tired. I don't know how it will work out. I only know that I have to protect myself from abuse whatever it takes. I trust God to help me.

Please pray for me.

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