Separated From My Abusive Husband And Seeking Healing For My Children
(Sydney NSW Australia)
I have 2 children. My husband and I have recently separated. It feels like a relief to not be frazzled and yelled at daily.
I have been in this relationship for 13 years and have attempted to get help for a long time now. But to no avail. Counseling is not a help and it only seems to make my husband more angry. He is pretty much angry and frustrated about most things and really won't accept it or if told, he fumes and becomes enraged or defensive.
When I met my husband he was angry and in arguments with people and confrontational. I guess I didn't see the warning signs and I really didn't realize then what to look out for.
I also have an abusive father, which is very toxic to me. And now I seem to be married to someone very similar.
I feel guilty for allowing my son (aged 13) to be damaged from this and he is angry and emotionally void and doesn't express his feelings (pretty much like his father).
I feel an obligation to save my 20 month old from this and spare her the horrible environment to live in.
I feel my husband is depressed (maybe bipolar) and also is a narcissist.
The question I ask is this: "Can my son heal from this and how and can I help him to learn to express his feelings and emotions to help him deal with his emotions and deal with his anger?"
The other question I ask is: "How and is it possible to get someone who is abusive and angry and yells to see what they do and how much losing control hurts someone?” He is very intelligent too and I feel that he knows what he does but really doesn't know how to deal with his emotions.
Response from Dr. DeFoore
Hello, and thanks for telling your story here. I’m sorry you have had such a hard time in your marriage, and I’m glad you’re looking for ways to make things better for your children.
I will answer both of your questions.
Yes, your son can heal, without question. Since he’s been exposed to this situation for 13 years, however, it will take him some time. He may do most of his healing as a young adult, when he is out of the home and on his own. Before that, the best approach to healing would be family therapy, ideally with your husband involved...and I realize that may not work, based on what you’ve shared here.
Trust your son to find his way to healing and well being. It is not what happened to him that determines who and how he will be -- it is how he responds to it. Every time you think of him, see him well, strong and making good decisions. In other words, believe in your son’s very highest and best self to emerge over time.
When you talk to your son about this, focus on his good qualities, and support him for his individuality, his uniqueness. Tell him he gets to decide the kind of person he wants to be, without mentioning his father. Never, ever say negative things about his dad to him. That relationship is for him to sort out, and you don’t want to transfer your anger to him.
I think the separation is wise, to protect your children. I know it is sad for you, however. Now I’ll answer your question about your husband.
It is not really possible to get another person to do anything, when it comes to this kind of issue. Your husband is going to have to wake up and take responsibility on his own, or he will not change. Pressure or effort from you or anyone else will only fuel his anger. He already knows he is hurting the people he loves, but he’s so caught up in his anger (and the fear behind it) that he doesn’t know how to get free from his pattern.
And as for yourself, I suggest that you read about the battered wife syndrome. You have not said that you have been battered or beaten, but some of these patterns will fit you, as you will see when you read that page.
Make up your mind to heal yourself, as your first and most important step in helping your children. The reason I think the separation is good is that no healing can even start when you’re still “under fire.” The abuse has to stop before healing can begin, in other words.
You’re a good person and a good mother. Believe in yourself, believe in your children, and believe in your husband to find his way to healing...in his own way and his own time.
I offer Skype counseling sessions for individuals and couples, by the way, if you or you and your husband are interested. (I realize you’re in Australia, which is why I mentioned Skype.) Contact us for more information or to schedule.
My very best to you,
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