Emotionally Abusive Husband With Frequent Explosive Angry Outbursts
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,