Social Psychologist & Personal Advisor
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Doormat: Enabling Others to Continue Abuse
Hi Dr Matt, my name is Andrea and I live in Ohio.
I'm a 27 year old female who is married with three children. My husband and I have been married for five years and we both are somewhat happy but have alot of issues that we can't seem to resolve, or find compromise, that have continued to come up frequently throughout our marriage.
For example, he makes more money than me and therefore he pays for most of the bills, I realize that. The other day he said that it must be horrible for me to know that he could kick me out of his house whenever he wanted to, and that hurt my feelings but he said that he didnt care because he was just telling the truth.
Whenever we run into a problem he always brings up divorce but I tell him that we can work through it and so he eventually drops the issue. I want to tell him to go and get a divorce if that is what he really wants, but I'm afraid that he will do it and I love him a lot and I'm afraid of the trauma that it would cause my children.
I suggested seeing a marriage counselor, but he refuses to go. I guess my question is, can we make it together or am I just prolonging the inevitable?
Thank you for your time,
Your husband is using the threat of "divorce" and "taking away the house" as a manipulation to get what he wants from you. So, what does he want from you, . . . and are you giving it to him?
He can successfully threaten and manipulate you only because he knows that you are manipulate-able. This means, he knows that you will still "love him" and will be committed to "work" things out. Thus, he understands that you will NOT take him up on his divorce threats, and will put up with his unkindness.
Ironically, you are rewarding him for his bad behavior. Consider this: You say, "I'm afraid that he will do it and I love him a lot and I'm afraid of the trauma that it would cause my children." In return for his threats . . . you "love him a lot." Because the consequences attached to his bad behavior are not negative, you are actually reinforcing and enabling his bad behavior.
How do you get out of this bind? The process is explained in my book, Changing Your Stripes.
Also, take note of your own words: you speak of "his house" and "my children"—instead of our house and our children. The truth is, you are the one raising the children and isn't that worth something in the total team concept called "family"? Years ago the family as a team: Dad earned the money, and Mom raised and nurtured the children.
The fact that he earns more money than you is completely irrelevant to a healthy and happy family, where husband, wife, and children all work as a team.
While you are afraid of "the trauma" that divorce might cause your children, . . . you need to be equally concerned with "the trauma" your children are having RIGHT NOW as they see and experience the bad example of a father who manipulates his wife with unkind and threatening words.
Andrea, don't be afraid of a divorce being a trauma for the children. The fact is . . . if you teach your children true principles to live by, your children will actually become stronger through the divorce process—and not necessarily traumatized or weakened by it. You see EVERY challenge in life can either BREAK YOU or MAKE YOU—the deciding factor is not how challenging the challenge, instead, the determining factor is YOU.
The true principles that will support you and your children through traumatic times are explained in my book, Changing Your Stripes.
Even if a divorce occurs, the family will continue to be a family; it will simply continue in a different form: Dad will still be "Dad" and Mom continues to be "Mom"—even though husband and wife live in separate households.
Answer these important questions:
Does your husband relate well with the three children now?
If he doesn't do these things now, . . . he may eventually learn to do them when he is divorced from you and separated from living in the same home as his children. OR, he may choose to be a dead-beat Dad; in which case, it is very good that he NOT living under the same roof as the children. Learning and Living true principles will determine the difference NOW (if your marriage can become healthy), or THEN, how well father and mother can be good parents to their children (if the marriage does not get healthy and divorce is the best alternative).
When your husband says that he was "just telling the truth," he wasn't really "truth-telling" at all; instead, he was just "being blunt." As I explain in my book, "Truth is whole," and is not merely a matter of "fact-speaking" from one's mouth; it includes the holistic truthfulness of heart, mind, and soul. Read more about the Difference between Facts and Truth.
Because he was being unkind as he spoke his "blunt" words, he was not telling the truth—for truth is expressed by the totality of one's entire being: words, deeds, motives, and emotions.
As for your husband's potential ability to kick you out of "his" house, there are very few judges in the USA that will kick Mom and children into the street. The more likely divorce scenario is that a judge will award you custody of the children AND occupancy of "his" house.
If you learn a little about divorce law in the state of Ohio, you will quickly realize how your husband's threatening talk IS NOT backed up by the law, and the way this law is administered through typical divorce settlements.
My book will teach you powerful principles that will change you from being a "doormat" for your husband to walk over, . . . to a woman of great love and power. Right now, you are NOT loving your husband as you ENABLE him to continue his manipulative and threatening ways.
Finally, to your question of "can we make it together or am I just prolonging the inevitable?" You can make it IF he is willing to do his part. As I say in my book:
"It takes the commitment of two to make a marriage,
Divorce is only inevitable if he continues to mistreat you, and further refuses to seek outside intervention that could help and heal your relationship. If he continues to mistreat you, and continues to refuse intervention, for your children's sake, you should be open to the possibility of divorce.
Matt Moody, Ph.D.
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