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Feeling trapped

By January 21, 2016 - 11:55am

In my marriage of 17 years, everything has revolved around my husband. When we married, I was highly codependent and he was narcissistic. Our dysfunctional behaviors meshed together well, though in damaging ways. Having spent many years in counseling, working hard to heal from and overcome the effects of my severely abusive childhood, I am now a healthier person. I am breaking free from my codependency, which is fantastic, but am now struggling with how to be healthy in my unhealthy marriage. I am just now able to look at my marriage honestly and have important questions. When I say everything is about him, I am not exaggerating. How money is spent, what food is bought, what meals are prepared, temperature of the house, where we vacation,...all and more, up to him. He has many specific rules I am expected to follow, such as buttoning the very top button when I hang his shirts, keeping the van clean inside and out (with kids !), having the house clean when he gets home from work, keeping our dog from bothering him, keeping anything from bothering him when he's resting or relaxing, not serving leftovers, heating his food for him...and more. He has different standard for the twig us. If I have a health issue, he gets angry because of cost, but if he has even a small issue, we must treat it right away no matter the cost. If I'm in our basement, he doesn't want the heat running because it's expensive, but if he's down there, the heat is cranked on hi. If I want to take a nap on a weekend, he gets aggravated and will wake me up, but for his naps I am supposed to keep kids and dog and all things quiet. Anything he needs or wants is top notch, but I am supposed to search for bargains or not buy the item. The double standard goes on and on. He monitors me. He criticizes and critiques every phone call or text, wanting to know everything said, and he discourages me going out with girlfriends. Perhaps worst of all, I cannot get him to think outside of himself. No matter what I try to talk with him about, he turns it immediately to be about him, or just leaves. I even talked with him recently about two instances when he physically hurt me. He just stared. Then he said he didn't remember them. When I asked him if he thought those actions were ok he said no...but no concern or apology. In 17 years, never an apology. So, my questions: Does this seem like emotional abuse? How long do I try to get him to value me before I accept that he won't change? Can I even expect that he will be able to think of me as equal? What should I be doing, other than require he go to counseling - which so far he has made all about him. Any helpful words are greatly appreciated. Am I trapped in this oppression forever?

By January 26, 2016 - 10:28am

Hello Artist2,

First, I wanted to say that there is always courage in reaching out and sharing your story, and seeking a healthier self. As I was reading your post, I found such familiarity in it. Familiarity from my personal life, as well as my professional life as a social worker. I have felt some of the feelings that you are describing, and I have also heard some variation of this story in so many of the amazing women who I work with as a social work.

What you are describing is emotional abuse, without a doubt. You mentioned that you experienced abuse as a child, and it's so positive that you have reached out for help to heal in that area. As you've described your marriage, it seems that you are still in that cycle of abuse. Having dated a man that seems very similar to the husband you describe, I can identify. When there is a history of abuse as a child or even as an adult, we seek that same pattern in our future relationships. In many ways emotional abuse is more harmful than physical abuse. It slowly wears away your worth, your value as a human, your value as a woman. You have to choose to acknowledge your value, and let me tell you with absolute truth....your value is beyond measure! So the question now becomes, when will you acknowledge your value? You deserve happiness in your life and you deserve love. 17 years of unhappiness is enough.

I want to speak some honesty to you dear sister. He will NEVER change. For change to happen, a person has to see that there is a problem with their behavior. He hasn't in 17 years right? He doesn't appear to have any empathy for you or to be concerned for your wellbeing. True love and caring seeks to nurture another person. Has he sought to nurture you, or care how his actions made you feel?

I know this is a hard decision, and one that only you can make. Please seek support wherever you can find it. Somewhere inside, you know the right answer. Maybe you know that to continue your journey to healing and health, you have to remove yourself from the source of years of hurt. I wish you the strength and courage to make the decision that is right for you.....for your happiness.

Sending strength,

January 26, 2016 - 10:28am

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