Psychiatry & Psychology--General/Failing marriage


I don't want a divorce but I'm going nuts in a crazy relationship.  My husband admits he abuses me when things have boiled over but he doesn't mean it. He does the same thing over and over. The same way. I've told him calmly its getting to that point or I'm going to leave and he throws out more venom. He definitely is compulsive in speech. If we've had 1000 fights he hasn't stopped talking in a single one.  He can't handle being judged or me thinking we don't agree.  He makes me explain things over and over even when they're clear because he half listens. I truly feel I do him justice mostly tolerating him half listening. But he wants me to not point it out.  As an example, if I say you didn't take out the trash he will immediately say you didn't me too. Then I have to remind him I did and I consider it lying on his part. It's always like this. Or he will tell me he took out the garbage yesterday or that I should take it out or that I distracted him.  He will never just take it out let alone apologise.  It would be ok in isolation but this is all day. The hardest part is the lying.  I can say DO NOT DRINK THIS COFFEE twelve times. He will drink it and tell me he thought I said drink it.  I suggested to him having a little more of a conciliatory attitude and he says yes absolutely but we go right Back. I can let a lot slide off but if someone half listens all the time it's difficult to always suck it up. I pay a price. He's so nervy. It's one thing if he did this bc I was nervy. But I will cook 100 days in a row and show disappointment he didn't do it for me and kids on agreed day and he will nastily point to other things he does.  He is very lacking in empathy and self control. Even when I break down crying he spews and is cool.  His parents fight like cats and dogs still and I've asked him to go to therapy with them because I think it's a root cause.  His dad is total ice and doesn't care if the mother is hysterical and the mother says the nastiest stuff imaginable and it's constant. He grew up watching this. He does both to me plus the rationalising. He's an exaggerated form of both of them. I have ill feelings there because he hurts me terribly and is terrified of his parents.  His father refused my request not to talk on the phone for long periods while driving my kids when we visited by bus.  My husband intervened my father in law pushed back my husband cowered. His mom advised me to ignore all this, like she ever ignores her husband being domineering. I'm losing my mind. I don't feel much love anymore but my kids love my husband to death. He's a good dad if you factor out how he treats me.  The kids are seeing it now and crying. My husbands reaction every time is to tell me to stop and that sets me off and I feel out of control there. When we try to get help my husband lies. I ask him to write down just what happened what we agree on just the events and he always changes it. If he tells me 45 minutes isn't very late he will NEVER admit to anyone else he said this. He will say, "she thinks I was 45 minutes late" and I really want to hurt myself. He will do this after agreeing he was 45 minutes late! I have a watch. It's not subjective. He kind of gas lights me. Essentially he cannot handle being judged and he will lie if something he did makes him look bad.  He will lie with impunity to me and to others.  I'm scared to get a divorce but I will go crazy living with him. Parenting takes up a lot of time. Since being married I lost touch with friends and have little in common with immediate neighbours. I'm close to my family but I feel incredibly alone without peer support and frankly I go nuts without sex. Speaking of which sex I get. Affection not so much. I've had to ask for it and every other guy I've known has given it freely. It's one thing I wouldn't bring back to his parents as they are frisky. What do you do with people who lie and/or are in denial and lack empathy? Any insight appreciated.

I can't give you an answer, Sarah, only some questions.

-Assuming you are logically right that he's not going to change or improve ever (doesn't sound like a reasonable candidate to benefit from therapy), is it annoying (in the way that kids can be) or is it really intolerable or becoming so?

-What are your options? Are they better in the long run than sticking it out?

-Who should you talk with about exercising your options? Counsellor? Friend? Parent? Lawyer? Religious advisor? Your children (whose ages and maturity I don't know)?

-What is it about divorce that scares you? If you wouldn't plan on remarriage, would separation achieve similar goals?

-Do you think it might be worthwhile to talk with a psychologist about trying to use his denial, lack of insight, and fragile ego to gradually modify his benhavior somewhat?

-If asking for sex is demeaning, and if it's the physical release that would keep you from going nuts, might you consider a do-it-yourself approach?

-Since there seems to be no imminent crisis, can you not use your time adaptively, to gather information and plan your solution at leisure, so that you can make your move if and when you decide to, and on your own terms?

-Not wanting a divorce, might it help for you to see a professional for alternatives, such as strategies for coping with what would otherwise drive you nuts?

I wish you the best of luck, and hope the above thoughts will make you feel more confident and in control, and will lead you to, if not a perfect resolution, at least a tolerable one.


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Alan Auerbach


Taught psychology for 30 years, authored four textbooks. Specialize in introductory and industrial/organizational psychology, but will tackle wider range of areas.

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