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Do I Stay, Go, Or Help Him Through It?

by Maggie
(Denver, CO USA)

I am 32 and have been with my husband for about 10 years (dated for 7, married for 3). We just had our first child a year ago and that's when his anger/rage outbursts began to intensify.

I had always known that he had anger issues, but I thought that he wasn't taking them out on me- just others- I was wrong. Looking back I can tell it was happening, I just didn't see it. I would be nervous that he would say something rude or get into a fight with a family member at events if they didn't see something his way or he took something they said the wrong way.

I used to joke that listening to him pay a bill gave me anxiety because he was so rude/angry with them every time. That's how blind I was - I was joking about the warning signs. Not only that, but giving excuse to common spats and things he would say to me (i.e. "the only reason we fight is because of you, if you just wouldn't get upset we wouldn't ever have to fight") by brushing them off and saying to myself, “well he was drinking, or he was just angry, or he didn't really mean that.”

Fast forward to after we get married and have a baby. It's all intensified. Especially after my child was born. The strangest, littlest things set him off.

He shoved my mom when she tried to give my child a piece of pancake because he thought it had too much sugar. He goes above and beyond to hurt me. He destroyed one of my plants in anger that a dear friend gave to me and shrugged his shoulder when I asked about it. I could go on and on.

During fights, he now follows me around the house, yelling at me while he holds our son (which I've asked/begged him to stop doing). During one of his outbursts, he pushed me away from my scared child (for the first time) and then threatened me ("I'll tell people you’re a danger to our son if you tell them I pushed you"). During this specific incident, after I got to my crying son, he began throwing his toys across the room. I went upstairs and locked the door because I was so nervous about what just happened.

I have done everything I can think of to diffuse the situation. I tried being calm, tried to talk him off the ledge, tried just agreeing with him, apologizing to just stop the fight regardless if I should, walking away, asking to table the conversation until after our son is asleep. Nothing has helped.

Once the rage is run out, he goes back to being normal and acts like I'm crazy for still thinking about the fight later. He comes up and wants hugs and a kiss. Very rarely he apologizes, says that it takes two to fight and therefore I should take on half the blame for what happens during them. I don't believe that he would ever intentionally physically hurt our child, but given the way that this has escalated, I'm unsure that he wouldn't hurt me in the next few years if this is the trend.

I told him that we need counseling, but that I would like him to make the appointment because otherwise I will feel like I'm just dragging him along. I think he needs to recognize that he needs help and if I force him to go it won't help him, but rather make it worse for me.

So, after all of that, do I stay and keep hoping he will come around? Is there something that I can try to make his raging/emotional abuse fizzle out? He pushed me once, does that guarantee it will happen again? Is there something I can say that may make him stop to consider his anger problem?

I can leave - it would be hard financially, but I would do it if it were my only option. But I’m looking for a way to salvage the marriage.

Thank you, Maggie

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Nov 10, 2017
Some Thoughts To Consider
by: Dr. DeFoore

Hi Maggie

I'm so sorry this is happening in your marriage. Unfortunately, it's a familiar story to me.

I'll try to answer your questions.

1) Do you stay and keep hoping? I think you have to answer that for yourself, which will be easier when you read the rest of my response here. One thing to consider, however, is that the very fact that you are asking that question tells us that staying and hoping might not be your best choice.

2) Can you make his rage fizzle out? Absolutely not. That is not in your power or anyone's but his. And it sounds like he is in denial about his responsibility...which is 100%. You are in no way responsible for his anger, rage or abuse. You are only responsible for your own behavior...and in that regard, your biggest problem is that in trying to appease and help him, you're actually supporting his self-righteous rage.

3) Will he push you again? Most likely, yes, and it's very likely to get worse. That is the way these things go. Ask any domestic abuse counselor, and they'll tell you the same.

4) Once his anger has escalated, you cannot make him stop and that point, his higher brain functions have shut down. You just need to get yourself and your child to safety. It's very alarming that he has been physically aggressive with you and your mother, and that he follows you yelling, with your son in his arms.

The only realistic hope is this...he needs to decide, on his own, to get help. And it will take a long time, and you won't be safe during the process. It is very unlikely that he will, however, because most men who get as far along in the abuse cycle as he is do not seek help.

I wish I had better news for you, Maggie. Just be grateful for what you have, and act to insure the emotional safety of your child and yourself.

My very best to you,

Dr. DeFoore

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