Emotionally Abusive Husband With Frequent Explosive Angry Outbursts

by Kris
(Pittsburgh)

My husband has incredibly scary anger outbursts. Seemingly small things that I say or do can result in these angry outbursts. He treats me like a small child, creating multiple rules that I must follow.

It is hard to keep them all straight, and even if I follow the rules 99% of the time, when I do slip up I am punished with these terrible outbursts. He can be physically abusive. He says he isn't because he has never hit me but he will grab me, push me, corner me, shout very loudly into my face, point his finger right in front of my eyes, etc.

I believe the real issue is that he needs to feel more loved. He has said that his mother didn't love him when he was a child. Now he doesn't feel loved by me. I have told him that his actions create exactly the opposite result of what he wants. I have been sleeping on the couch for the better part of a year. I keep a safe distance from him and try to interact with him as infrequently as I can. I have no feelings of love left for him although I know they could be nurtured back if he could find a better way to interact. We have been to therapy on multiple occasions and as soon as the therapist wants him to change he leaves treatment because he believes we are in treatment only to fix ME.



The therapists have explained to him that I was doing my part to make changes and that therapy isn't about changing someone else. I would have divorced my husband long ago but I am economically trapped in this marriage. I have spoken to attorneys and don't have a feasible way out. I still want to get our marriage back on track but it seems so difficult.

We cannot have any type of calm discussion about the relationship, due to the explosive nature of his disposition. I would love advice on how to get him to a place to hear that we need help and have him understand the effect his abusive behavior has on me and on us.

Response from Dr. DeFoore

Hi Kris, and thanks for telling your story here. I don't have to tell you that you're in a tough spot. A lot of other people have been in your situation, and will benefit from reading this.

I think that feeling trapped and helpless is your worst problem. That is such a miserable feeling. Fortunately, it's just a feeling, not a fact. You have choices, and we're going to look at what some of those are.

Here are some points to consider:

1) Ask yourself how bad it would have to get before you would definitely move out--regardless of the economic circumstances. Then consider that you may be unconsciously "planning" for things to get that bad. It's like cities and counties that won't put up a stop light until there have been "enough" wrecks. If things aren't getting better, they're getting worse--so whatever "bad enough" is for you, you may be headed that way.

2) You can't "get him to" anything. He will change if and when he realizes that he has problems of his own, and is courageous enough to tackle them. You have to focus on you, not him.

3) With that in mind, are you taking care of yourself? Have you let yourself become too dependent on him? If so, you don't have to stay there. Start taking small steps every day toward independence and self-support. You can't do it all at once, but step by step you can do it.

4) You will never be happy following your husband's "rules" in your own home. As adults, to be happy we have to feel that we are in charge of our lives, to some significant degree.

In healthy ways, Kris, you have to free yourself from the feeling of being "trapped."

Here is what I recommend:

1) Do the journaling processes you will find on this page. There are three exercises, and I recommend you do all three on a regular basis. This will help you to understand how you got to where you are and heal from past emotional wounds.

2) Make a list at the beginning of each day of things you're going to do to increase your independence and improve how you feel about yourself. This will help you whether you end up staying with your husband or not.

3) Since you've decided to stay with him and improve your marriage, I strongly suggest you begin trying to focus on his positive aspects. His negative aspects will continue to grab your attention, but it's a good idea to be aware of his good qualities as well.

4) Not knowing any more than I do about your situation, I'm not sure about this, but it might be that you just need to leave this marriage, regardless of the financial burden it places on you. You are being physically abused, without a doubt. Only you can decide whether you need to stay or leave.

5) Read this page on abusive relationships, and it will give you some pointers.

6) The next time he is physically violent with you, go to a shelter (call a crisis hotline for the nearest one) or call 911 and report domestic violence.

The responsibility is in your hands.

Do not try to face this alone, Kris. Find a support group in your community, or seek the counsel of friends, family or a professional.

Believe in yourself, never ever give up on yourself.

My very best to you,

Dr. DeFoore

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Dec 28, 2010
Woman took back herself from Abusive Marriage
by: Anonymous

Kris, Beleive me when I tell you your story is MY life as well as yours. I too tried every way that I could to support my husband, at the end of the day I never took care of myself. My husband was so great at manipulating my mind-emotions because I let him. I think the advice given to you by W. DeFoore is just about 'spot on'. what I refer to is that you are aware of right and wrong and it has become muddled in your perspective. Trust me when I tell you that him yelling or not yelling that is the only way he knows how to love, because that is how he loves himself. But my dear, that is not ok for you to sacrifice yourself to try to please him, as you stated nothing makes him happy, and its the 'little things' that make him'snap'. My expereince is that when life becomes true and real, they become more abusive and much less stable.

I, like you wanted to make the marriage work, you know I did marry the guy and must have thought he was going to live up to his words, promises and vows. Well my vows stated better or worse, not 'better or abuse'. We are women who have to deal with our issues and support them so that they can deal with their issues. My ex-husband didn't want to try any type of counseling as 'I was the broken one who needed fixing, because he was like this when I married him'. clearly he was not as I would not have married someone who flat out disrespected me, my value and my happiness. My ex always had a way to create words to convince me I was stupid and the "crazy one" when one day, I awoke and told myself I will no longer cry myself to sleep. He can not love me the way I need and deserve to be loved, yes he 'loves me' but that has little emotion behind it because he does not love himself (he tried to convince me he could love me even though he hated himself... I knew this was wrong but I gave him yet another chance and another chance and the more time and chances I gave him, the more abusive he beacme all the while trying to convince me that all I had to do was follow what he told me and it would be fine. No that doesn't work either, following his rules he would still find a way to find fault in me! Well it was his own faults he put onto me... and yes he still has not reached out for professional help, we are divorced now and I couldn't be happier with my life. I do not look upon those years as 'wasted' as he does, I find that I have grown and faced many childhood fears and issues that I was too afraid of and thought my ex 'would be my knight in shining armor to make it all better'. That was wrong for me, as I am my knight in shining armor and will find a wonderful king to share my victories and heartaches with, but he will not be the cause of my heartaches. I wish you the very best for you, remember that you are in control of your overall happiness and I hope your situation works out the way you want.

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