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TOPIC TITLE: emotionally abusive spouse
Created On 5/31/06 5:28 PM
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gyroscope
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5/31/06 5:28 PM
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I have been married for over 15 years. My wife and I have had a lot of shalom bais difficulties. We've always attempted to resolve them by seeking rabbinical guidance and help, which has helped to varying degrees (our most recent rabbi has been extremely helpful).

My wife's mother emotionally abused her terribly. Besides never getting the love and affection that every child needs, she was basically her mother's shmateh. Sometimes her mother was quite vicious with her. She grew up without ever gaining a sense of self. She still struggles with many emotional problems. She has, and continues to work on herself, but still has many issues. There are certain things that she is not even aware of or that she denies doing, that are extremely painful for me. My wife comes accross publically as this very sweet, aidel person -- and everybody sees her as that.

For example, I am a very sensitive man, and I need genuine affection from my wife very much, and I'm not getting it (and I never have gotten it). I sometimes don't know how I keep going with her, I feel so dried up. Although she tries sometimes, she does not even know what affection really is (she never got it). I also need interpersonal spontenaity. She, on the other hand has many expectations that I must fulfill.

Since she has spent so much time in therapy, in a 12 step group, or doing some kind of alternative tikun or another, she perceives herself as having it more together than me. She takes that perception with her when have a rift in our shalom bais, which makes our discussions at those times very difficult and painful for me.

The lack of progress and recurrence of certain very painful incidents motivated me recently to insist that we go to a marraige counseler. This is a women who my wife was in therapy with, and likes very much (and so do I -- she's extremely compassionalte, professional, experienced, and competent). My wife wasn't crazy about the idea. She said, "why do we have to waste our money on her? Why don't we just keep going to Rabbi X?"

(Rabbi X has been extremely helpful -- especially at defusing situations that arise. One time my wife yelled at our 13 year old daughter quite viciously. Our daughter was so hurt and confused that she just went into a room in our basement and cried -- for a couple hours. When I became aware of it I spoke to my wife, and told her what was going on, and she justified it. It took a while for me to get her to see that she had to go downstairs and rectify things enough so that our daughter wouldn't feel so hurt and could come out of her isolation. But she saw nothing wrong with what she had done. Later, Rabbi X spent about an hour and a half to get her to just begin to see what she had done wrong).

Anyway, she did agree to go to this marraige counselor. We just had our first meeting, where the therapist was attempting to get a sense for what is going on in our marraige. She asked very straight, simple questions which asked for straight, simple answers. My wife used them as a jumping off point for voicing all her negativity about me and our marraige. She gave the impression that all the problems in our marraige were because of me. There had been an incident the night before which my wife way over-reacted to, and she brought that up in the same way, with the same tone. Needless to say, this was all extremely painful to me. A number of times the therapist tried to get her to see me, the state of our relationship, and the incident in a different light -- one based more on reality than on her own emotional needs. It was if my wife did not hear most of what the therapist said. When we got out of her office, my wife asked me what I thought about our session. I said I thought it was great, and had great hope. She said she felt it was a waste of money to go to her.

I love my wife, see many fine qualities in her, and want to work things out. I believe that ultimately this counselling will help. However, from now until the next session, I am living with a lot of pain because of her. When I'm in this state, I get depressed, which leads to me doing some physically, emotionally, and spiritually self-destructive things that make me feel better temporarily but, of course, worse in the long run. This post is a distress flare from a sensitive man in desperate need of chizuk to get me through to our next appointment next week.

Thank-you to anybody who took the time to read this long post, and thank-you in advance to anyone who responds.

-- Gyroscope
 
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ernie55B
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5/31/06 10:03 PM
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Hello Gyro,

If you have been following my posts, or read the old ones, you will see many parallels in our situation.
I really feel for your situation, and hope you can still work things out.
Unfortunately, I was unable to do so, and I am in the process of divorce.
When I gave my wife the ultimatim of going to counseling or breaking up, her response was that I should get one thing straight.
She is not going to do anything differently. I realized at that point that it was over.

Does your wife have the sense that if she refuses to make any attempt to change her own behavior, the marriage may not last?
Maybe someone needs to get that across to her.
Did the Rabbi explain to her that a marriage without affection is a friendship, not a marriage?
You need to let her know that a friendship is not enough.

You called the topic 'emotionally abusive spouse'. Remember, that noone has the right to abuse another person. Period.
And noone deserves to be abused.

Hope you can have a good Yom Tov,
Ernie
 
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gyroscope
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6/1/06 11:28 AM
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Ernie --

Thank you for the chizuk. It's helpful to know that I'm not the only man in this situation. Fortunately she is open to change and working on herself. It's just that she's got some blind spots, which is where the problem lies.

Have a good Yom Tov, too.

-- Gyroscope
 
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ernie55B
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6/1/06 2:22 PM
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Gyro,

Glad to help. Yes, it is fortunate that she is willing to put some work into change. As long as both spouses realize that they are not perfect and are willing to accept that they may need to make some changes, then there is hope for the marriage.

Keep me posted, please, and have a pleasant Yom Tov.

Ernie


Edited: 6/1/06 at 2:22 PM by ernie55B
 
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ernie55B
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6/4/06 9:54 AM
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Hello Gyro,

Hope you had a peaceful and pleasant Yom Tov.
You wrote in your first post that when you are distressed about your situation,
it causes you to do things that are destructive to yourself.
This is exactly why I had no choice but to leave the marriage.
My children need me alive even if it means being divorced.

I am NOT implying here that this is what you need to do. I really hope you can work things out, as you say you think you can.

My therapist told me she heard from a Rav in the five towns, that each generation
has it's own churban of some sort.
What churban do we have have today?

The problems of shalom bayis which is so common today.
When a spouse cannot go home to the one place that he/she should feel safe and secure
but rather have to dread facing that situation because it is so painful, and makes
him/her ill, then that is that person's personal holocaust.
Sounds strong, but it is true.

I hope you are matzliach in getting your wife to understand this.

Ernie
 
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gyroscope
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6/4/06 3:07 PM
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Ernie,

Thank you so much for your support. Last night my wife repeated an abusive pattern that is common for her, and I was able to draw a hard line with her. (Although I'm not a pushover generally, I was much more resolute last night than usual -- because I had greater confidence that her behavior is, in fact, abusive, and that I'm not going to stand for it any more. This was in large part because of your supportive replies).
She didn't like it at all, and only hurled more abuse at me. But I stood my ground and kept telling her that she has to change this behavior. We both went to bed very unhappy campers.

I went in to work today (to make up for Yom Tov). I've been thinking all morning how I can constructively cool down the situation. In the mean time, she apparently (I'm guessing) called our Rabbi X, who apparently (again, a guess) let her have it for how she behaved. Early this afternoon she called me and appologized for how she handled things!

So thanks again!

-- Gyroscope
 
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ernie55B
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6/4/06 3:56 PM
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Good for you Gyro!

Your wife at first was stunned that you stuck up for yourself, and did not like it one bit, that's why she hurled more abuse.
But when reason set in, she apologized. It sounds like you need to stick to this policy of not being treated like a shmatta; ultimately she will have MORE respect for you.
Sounds also like there is much to be hopeful for here, and I am happy I could be a bit helpful.

Keep me posted - I am SURE there are other men out there in the same boat, but afraid to speak up.

Ernie
 
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gyroscope
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6/5/06 2:36 PM
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Ernie,

I was actually a little surprised that no one else replied to my post. Maybe it could be viewed as confirmation of something I suspected when I sent my original post -- that people would just view me as having a "difficult wife," and that I should deal with it like the amorayim in the gemora who had difficult wives. That is, to be happy that I'm married to her and buy her gifts because "she raises my children and keeps me from sin." That has not worked for me.

So we have our second appointment with the therapist tomorrow. I've made it clear that things have to change in ways that she or I may not currently understand. Fortunately she also wants a better marraige, and after some work, she got on board.

Thanks again for your responses. It's great to have somebody to talk to about this. I've really felt alone.

-- Gyroscope


Edited: 6/5/06 at 2:37 PM by gyroscope
 
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gad
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6/5/06 11:12 PM
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You write that you don't have sholom bayis. You also write in the addiction thread that you have a different problem. I wonder if they are connected.

I have seen letters about sholom bayis, where the writer was advised to improve things like hilchos nida etc. And the explanation was, that what we do spiritually affects the physical. (When we are close when we should be apart, then we are apart when we should be close.)

I am not blaming or accusing. I am just pointing out something that you may want to enquire about (ie. does it have a connection, and ideas how to control it).

I wish you much sholom bayis.
 
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ernie55B
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6/6/06 7:40 AM
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Hello Gyro,

Gad makes a good point. I did not realize that (to your credit) you wrote about your addiction problem in a different post.
Perhaps there is a connection with that and your marital problems.
But as I wrote before, if BOTH spouses are aware of the fact that they may have flaws
and are willing to work to improve themselves- and it sounds like you- then there is hope for the relationship to prosper.

Please keep us posted.

Ernie
 
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gyroscope
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6/7/06 12:29 PM
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Gad, Ernie,

Perhaps I should have said initially that I'm not faultless in the relationship. I guess I incorrectly assumed that that would be obvious. The problem I was bringing up in this thread is that my wife's background makes working on shalom bais extremely difficult, painful, and surreal.

The behaviour of mine that I was addressing in the addiction thread is relatively recent (ie., not a long-standing addiction). I now realize that I was driven in that direction because of my pain and unhappiness in my marraige. The discussions in that thread motivated me to take action and gave me some leads of where to look. I began to work on the problem directly with a workbook that I bought and to see a therapist. I felt, and the therapist concurred, that my behavior is not addictive, although it is constructive for me to approach working on it as if it were. I also realized through my work (in the workbook and with the therapist) that the biggest driver in my depression and resultant addictive behavior is my marraige. So we aggreed that I would benifit more from couple's therapy than individual therapy.

So that's how I got into "marraige counselling".

My wife and I had our second session yesterday. Our first sesson was devastating for me (which is why I started this thread). Thanks to the chizuk I've been getting from you, Ernie, I was much stronger in this second session. It was much harder for my wife -- she had to face a lot of stuff that she's doing, and I said some pretty strong but straight words. But as soon as we got out the door I felt so close to her that I hugged and kissed her right there in the hallway! (Nobody else was around). Then in the evening we did the "positive communication" exersize that the therapist gave us as homework. After that my wife told me that she now sees the value of this therapy, and she's really on board.

They say the darkest hour is just before the dawn, and I can really relate to that. Before the beginning of the break of day, there's a star in the sky (probably a planet) that gets really bright -- I think they call it the morning star. So if I'm in that darkest hour right now, then your posts, Ernie, have been that morning star for me. Thank you for being there for me!

-- Gyroscope


Edited: 6/7/06 at 12:30 PM by gyroscope
 
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ernie55B
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6/7/06 1:30 PM
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Hello Gyro,

Thanks for the update. I am really happy that you are seeing very positive results so quickly, and that maybe something positive has come out of my (lousy) divorce experience.

It is interesting, that I developed my own addiction, namely anorexia, in response to the painful things I was experiencing in my marriage.
I am working on it, but so far have been unable to conquer it.
I am told that it will take time.

In the meantime, keep up the good work, and please keep me posted. I can use all the positive feedback I can get.

Hatzlacha,
Ernie
 
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