He Became Abusive to His Spouse When He Blamed Her
for His Own Insecurity and Poor Self-Esteem
LT’s initial belief, when he presented for domestic violence treatment, was to somehow find a way to bring about the changes that he wanted his partner to make. She was the one who needed to change, not him. He reported that she had become distant, non-communicative and spent a good deal of time out of the home with her friends. He was left home alone with the children, and he thought he and his partner were on the road to eventual divorce.
LT and his wife had been married for ten years and for the majority of that time he had been emotionally, verbally and physically abusive toward his wife when he would get angry and frustrated. He often would yell, call her names, and frequently belittle her in the presence of their two children.
He was unable to work due to a job-related physical disability suffered some six years ago, but he demanded that his wife, who was employed full time, turn over all of her earnings to him. He would then make all the decisions regarding how the money would be spent. His wife did not like this arrangement, but she found out early on that if she objected he would become even more abusive.
He was also quite controlling when it came to her out-of-home activities, grilling her with questions whenever she would return home regarding where she had been, whom she was with, what was talked about, etc. He demanded her undivided attention and approval of all that he did whenever they were together, all of which took its toll on the relationship by driving her further and further away from him.
When LT described his life and relationship with his spouse in the initial interview, it was soon apparent that he was socially isolated, moderately depressed, abusing chemicals and suffering from impaired self-esteem. He was quite insecure and emotionally dependent upon his partner to the extent that his self-image and self-esteem were to him definded by his spouse and what she did.
This dynamic, of course, put his spouse in an impossible and “no-win” situation. When she did not do what he wanted or adhere to his strict and rigid behavioral expectations, he would then feel rejected and worthless about himself and blame her for his considerable emotional discomfort.
As long as his self-esteem was tied to the behavior of another person he could never feel good about himself, would continue to blame her, and subsequently justify his abusive behavior. She could never do enough to please him; no one could as long as he continued to look for his own identity through another person.
When LT would become angry because his wife could not or would not meet his “unmeetable” needs, he would justify his abusive behavior because of “all that she has done to me,” and his abusive fury would be verbally, physically and emotionally unleashed.
Prior to entering the domestic abuse treatment program, it was recommended that LT abstain from all mood-altering chemicals during treatment and undergo 5 to 10 psychotherapy sessions to address the self-esteem and boundary issues in his marital relationship. He originally wanted the treatment to be marital therapy, but was told clearly from the outset that marital therapy would be inappropriate until he completed his own treatment for the self-esteem and domestic abuse issues, which were his responsibility alone to address and resolve.
Through the counseling, he was able to understand that it was not his spouse’s responsibility to make him happy or feel good about himself. His self-image, thinking and behavior improved to the point that his marital relationship was able to continue. In follow-up we learned he was living a more productive, fulfilling and satisfying life. His habits of abusive control had been curtailed significantly such that he and his partner acknowledged his ability to maintain peace.
Partners in Prevention helps couples recognize, end and heal domestic abuse.
© Partners in Prevention – Domestic Violence Prevention and Intervention