Advice By Kim

Advice

Kim Answers Questions About Life, Love, People and Problems.

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S S wrote on March 3, 2008 at 1:56 pm:
I grew up in a nuclear family; Father was an alcoholic turned into a workaholic after he quit drinking. I dont think i have ever seen him drunk. I was Sexually abused by a elder at the church we attended. My parents are still together. My wife was abused physically by her Father. He was the type to hold a gun to her Mother's head in front of the kids and say "do you want this bitch to die"? After growing up the way she did, it is no wonder that she has the ability to 'go numb'.

Anyways, about 1.5 months ago; we were coming back from a sales trip that i had had to Germany. The trip went well without many hitches, minor disagreements and insecurities but nothing major. On the drive back from the airport we start arguing. After talking with my wife after the incident; I realize that i took out my anger on others on her. I didn't want to talk. She did.

I lost my temper, started screaming repeatedly, "leave me alone" over and over again. This quickly escalated to "shut the fuck up" over and over again. My wife, not one to ever back down, continued.
I took myself out of the situation by pulling over and walking, trying to calm down. Didn't work. Came back still madder then hell and everything got worse. I don't remember everything but i know i must have slapped her or was physical with her in some way. Then it was her turn to get out of the vehicle. After a while, she got back in. She then tells me that it is over, and that she threw her wedding ring and we will never find it. Turns out later that she wasn't telling the truth; she actually put it in her pocket.

After she told me this; i lost it. I tried to get her out of the car by pulling on her, kicking, biting, slapping, everything. I just wanted her out. In the process; i bruised her up, left two bite marks, and broke her finger.

We get home; things obviously aren't the same. We had been physical before, never like this. I recommend counseling; she agrees. The next week; my sister gets married. Next week my wife has to take an emergency trip to Costa Rica. During this time, i make the call but don't schedule anything as i want to wait for her. She gets back from her trip. Within an hour of her getting back she tells me that she dreaded the trip up to the house; roughly four hours from the airport. she tells me that she wants to move back to Dallas, which is where her family and support network are.

Long story short. She moved out about two weeks ago. We aren't an abusive couple. She and i agree that we get along 99% percent of the time perfectly fine. Her children and mine get along well. She loves my children like her own as i love her children like my own.

I have started attending batterers intervention meeting. Twice a week for four hours total. I want to change; i want back what i had. I realize that it was my anger that ruined everything. She has told me over and over again that she cant be with me again; she can't trust me when i tell her it will never happen again.

I disagree. I know i want to change; i know i have it in me. After the first couple of meetings; i realize that this may help put me on the right path. But what next? what else can I do?

Ideally, an internet based group would be ideal as the drive to and from these meetings equals up to about 5.5 hours of driving each week... I guess any advice you could give I would be willing to listen to. Thank you.
Admin Reply by: Kim
Hi S. Thank you for the background information as it helps me to see the situation more accurately. I apologise for taking so long to reply to you but I have been hesitant to say what I feel needs to be said.

It is very common for survivors of childhood abuse to have problems with anger and it sounds like this is true of you. Attending anger management will equip you to control your anger but it sounds like you already do have some coping strategies. Removing yourself from the conflict should have helped defuse the situation but it sounds like you have not done the cognitive work (learning to alter the thoughts that keep anger brewing) so they would have been fueling the fire as you walked making the exercise pointless or, possibly, worsening things. These thoughts are the key things you need to work on in therapy.

Sadly, it sounds like your partner behaves in ways that are going to expose what is within you no matter how much you try to control it. You say she came from a violent home and this means she will be struggling with trust. She will find it difficult to believe your promises and is likely to subconsciously test your resolve to control yourself as she did in the above mentioned case.

She tested you when she continued the argument, tested you when she claimed to have thrown away her wedding ring, tested what I am sure she has heard many times - your promise not to hurt her again.

You failed the test. You will always fail the test as long as you have the anger within you and the anger will remain until you find out where it is hiding inside you and clean it out.

Your wife will not be able to stop testing you until she has done her own internal clean-up.

You say you are not an abusive couple because you get along 99% of the time but you also say you have been physical before.

Refusing to leave someone alone when they ask you to is abusive so your wife has absorbed abusive behaviours from her upbringing as have you because refusing to discuss things calmly and shouting at someone is also abusive.

Physical violence is not the only form of abuse it is just the most extreme form of it!

I have to be honest with you - I do NOT believe you will not harm your wife again!

You display typical traits of an unreformed abuser. There is a lot of denial ("I don't remember everything but i know i must have slapped her or was physical with her in some way") and blame shifting ("My wife, not one to ever back down") even in the little you have told me.

If you can't remember what you did you can't really regret it and why should anyone "back down" when having an argument with someone if there is no risk of violence? If your wife is really safe with you there should NEVER be any need to "back down". Compromise or negotiate or concede points yes but NEVER to "back down"!

If I am right, and you are still a serious danger to your wife, the thing that stands out for you in this reply is that I have said your wife is abusive too because she doesn't respect a request to be left alone.

Abusers always want to shift the blame and, if you are a serious and unreformed abuser, you will try to take this letter to mean your wife "asked for it" or is equally to blame for what happened.

Nobody "asks for" abuse. Nobody "deserves" abuse and nobody is to blame for abuse except the abuser! As a victim of sexual abuse your abuser will likely have taught you different.

As long as you are looking to share the blame for the violence in your relationship, as long as you are thinking you can control your anger, as long as you are in denial about how bad things really are your wife is right to stay out of your reach!

You say this is the worst episode yet but that's the nature of domestic violence. It seldom starts with broken bones or murder but it does progress to that. If your wife does come back to you, it will get worse not better unless both of you have addressed the problem head on and conquered it.

Before you say "I would NEVER murder her!" ask yourself something.

When you first got together, if someone had told you the day would come when you would break a bone and leave bite marks on your wife would you have said "I would NEVER break her bones or bite her!"?

You asked my advice so here it is.

Make that long drive until you have changed your beliefs that a little bit of violence is not a big deal, that you are NOT an abusive couple, that all you need to do is control the anger rather than get rid of it, that the real problem is your wife will not give you one more chance.

Therapy can help by giving you strategies and educating you but you need to attack the roots of your anger and change abusive beliefs.

Your last sentence is spot on. You are correct in saying you can change but you need to work on it and it may be too late for this relationship.

I wish you all the best and hope you will be able to see past the sentence that says your wife needs to make changes too.

If you make the changes YOU need to make nothing she does or says would ever result in you hitting her again.
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