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.

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