A reader whose husband is manipulative and controlling reaches out to the doc.
You've seen celebrity clinical psychologist Dr. Sherry Blake, author of The Single Married Woman: True Stories of Why Women Feel All Alone in Their Marriages, keep the Braxton sisters calm on the hit show Braxton Family Values. Now it's your turn to sit in her chair...
Dear Dr. Sherry,
My husband is very self-centered and self-serving. He seems abusive, but not in a physical way. He seems to want total power and control over me and anything and everything we, or I, do. He rarely speaks to me, and when he does, it is always either to complain about little things that don’t really matter or to make me feel like I am always wrong and he is always right. If he decides he wants to do something, he tells me in a matter-of-fact way, but if I want to do something, he either totally ignores me or tries to control what happens or keep it from happening. He is very condescending when he speaks to me, especially in front of our two girls. He puts me down in front of his relatives and then turns it around and tries to make it seem like I am in the wrong, too sensitive or overreacting.
I sometimes feel like he purposely does things in front of his relatives that he knows will upset me, just to get a reaction. He yells at the kids and I in private, but in front of his family he pretends to really care about us and have a true interest in the kids. I just want to call him out on it in front of them, but I know his family will attack me and come to his rescue because they think he is a wonderful dad and husband. Or, maybe they’re just in denial. I’m not sure. I don’t make a lot of money, but yet he takes almost every dime I make, supposedly to help pay our bills, but yet he plans dinners and going to the movies with his family without even asking or consulting me about this. I want to call him out in front of his family and say, “I thought you said, you could barely pay the mortgage on time this month,” but yet there he is inviting his family out to dinner and a movie with ours and offering to get their tickets.
It makes me feel like he is using my extra money to do this and meanwhile I’m broke and have no money to buy myself clothes or basic things I need. But if I call him out in front of his family, I know he will turn it around somehow and say it’s all my fault somehow. I don’t know what to do. And, to make matters worse, I lost my rock, my mom, a few months ago suddenly and unexpectedly to a heart attack. She was my only outside source of help and support when I needed it. I don’t have any friends because of him and his control issues. Now he knows I am really dependent on him. I feel so lost and alone. Any advice you could offer would be great. Thank you.
I am very sorry to tell you this, but I believe that you are a classic victim of domestic abuse. Your husband doesn't just "seem abusive", he is. Abuse is abuse, regardless of whether it is physical, emotional, or verbal! Anytime someone exerts power over you by controlling, belittling, manipulating, and/or mistreating you, you are being abused! Another tell tale sign of abuse by your husband is his isolating your from all of your friends and family. This gives him the freedom to continue abusing you without the fear of interference from others. This also makes you more emotionally dependent on him.
Women often do not recognize or acknowledge that they are being abused unless they are physically hit or beaten short of their lives. Even then, some women try to justify the abuse by believing it was their fault and their husband or mate is "really not that bad!” You or no one else deserves to be mistreated. Forget about wanting to call him out in front of others. That will do nothing more than intensify the abuse and make it more difficult for you if you remain with him. If you are truly tired of how you are being treated, take a deep breath and get ready to make major changes in your life.
Start with seeking therapy to work on understanding yourself. Therapy will also help you understand abuse and process the death of you mother. The ultimate decision to stay or leave your husband is yours. But, you must be brutally honest with yourself. Ask yourself if you want your little children growing up thinking that this is how you or they should be treated. Although it can be frightening to think about leaving an abusive relationship, you must not be led by fear. It is time for you to change your status from victim to victorious. -- Dr Sherry
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