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Alicia_MSW
Alicia_MSW, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
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Experience:  Specializing in mental health counseling
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I have read a lot of books and I believe my husband is abusive

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I have read a lot of books and I believe my husband is abusive to me. When I tell him he mistreats me and is abusive, he says he is NOT and that he just blurts out hurtful things without thinking. For the last year, he has demeaned me, manipulated me, controlled me, kept me from my friends, thrown things and broken my stuff, and a few weeks ago he was under the influence and he pushed me and threatened to get his gun and kill me. To me this is abusive behavior. When he is having a good day he is very nice to be around, but those days are unpredictable. He insists that this is not abuse, and always has a good excuse for the things he does. How can I convince him that he IS abusive and needs an abuse program or other help. No matter what I say he denies his actions as being abuse. What are the criteria for abuse vs someone who is angry? What defining things make it abuse??
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Alicia_MSW replied 2 years ago.
Hello, I'm Alicia.

I'm happy to help with your question today, although I am sorry to hear about the situation you're in with your husband. It's good that you've been reading a lot and have been trying to educate yourself, and to be quite honest with you, everything you are describing meets the criteria for abuse. His behavior is NOT normal, and it's not just a matter of him lacking self-control as he says, by blurting things out without thinking about what he's saying. It is not normal to threaten to kill you with his gun, and if he did this while under the influence, then I would be extremely worried if I were you - and I am very worried for you.

It sounds to me like your husband may be suffering from borderline personality disorder, although, of course, I cannot say for sure without meeting him in person and even then, it can be a very difficult disorder to diagnose. The issue with this disorder is that it's extremely difficult to convince people that they need help. I am going to provide you with a link so you can read the symptoms and see if they ring a bell with you:
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/borderline-personality-disorder/DS00442/DSECTION=symptoms
You might also review the sidebar information about treatment,

It's very common for people with the disorder to be charming and likable and nice - but like you mention in your message, it's very difficult to predict when those times will occur. And I'm sure that when he is being nice to you, you almost feel like the bad times never happened, or that you'd forgive him anything. People with borderline personality disorder have a flawed sense of self - and they become inappropriately angry and even furious over things that might seem small or insignificant to you. So, to answer your question, it's different than just becoming angry. Everyone becomes angry at times, but NOT everyone threatens to kill their spouse with a gun, engages in manipulative behaviors, throws things and all of those behaviors that you describe in your message.

The tricky thing is, you probably won't be able to convince him that his behavior constitutes abuse. People with borderline personality disorder - or whatever it is that is going on with your husband - live in denial about their actions and how their behaviors impact others. The only thing that I can suggest to you is to seriously consider whether you want to stay in the relationship, and to seek continued help for yourself. You say you've tried counseling, and I would really, really encourage you to continue this, if you're still involved with a therapist, or to seek counseling again.

Another suggestion is to read the book, "Stop Walking on Eggshells" by Randi Kreger. It is one of the best books for people who are involved with someone with borderline personality disorder, and includes tips on how you can protect yourself and draw better boundaries - but sometimes, it does involve getting away from the person. I don't want to sound like I am suggesting, necessarily, that you need to separate from your husband, but you should seriously consider whether he has the capacity for change - as well as the capacity to seriously hurt you in the future.

You might also consider contacting the National Domestic Violence Hotline - their website: http://www.thehotline.org/
You can call and speak to a counselor free of charge and around the clock. They can help you get help if you choose to take action.

You can suggest to your husband that he seek counseling. If you want to stay together and improve your relationship, it has to be a two-way street. You can't be the only one doing all the work. I realize that he is going to deny the need for help, of course, but he should understand that you can't stay together like things are right now. If you are interested, there is a specific type of therapy that has been developed to treat people with borderline personality disorder, known as dialectical behavioral therapy, or DBT. You can read more about it and find a therapist who practices DBT on this website:
http://behavioraltech.org/resources/whatisdbt.cfm

I hope that helps, and I wish you luck. Please protect yourself and think about getting more intensive help with this issue. And please feel free to ask any additional questions here.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Thanks Alicia. I want to leave him but every time I make plans to do so, I think about all the times when he is nice to me and how good a person he is sometimes. He always threatens ME with divorce, but never carries it out. SO I am planning to leave him but I cry all the time cos I am so torn about it. It should be easy to leave someone who is mistreating you, so why is it so so hard to do it in this case??

And do you think I need a restrainig order to keep him away once I tell him? He has spoken of mediation rather than going to court, if I really WANT a divorce...so torn apart as to what I should do...
Expert:  Alicia_MSW replied 2 years ago.
Hi there,

Sorry for the delay. I can certainly understand how difficult this must be for you, and my heart goes out to you because I can hear how painful this decision is, especially in light of the fact that he IS nice and a good person at times, as you put it. The mood swings and the back and forth, up and down patterns probably will never change unless he gets help (and as I think I said earlier, I really can't say how likely it is that he'd be willing to seek help, unless "the other shoe" were to fall, perhaps.) You'd think it would be easy to leave someone who's mistreating you, but it's actually often not the case, and especially, again, in a situation like yours. But I do believe it's in your best interests right now. Even if he's nice some of the time, you deserve to be with someone who is nice MOST, if not all of the time. And you certainly don't deserve to be treated this way, at all.
As far as getting a restraining order, I've had clients in similar situations who've done this. If you are really worried that he might harass or harm you, then it might be something worth looking into. The most important thing is that you protect yourself right now, and if that means a restraining order while you go through this process, then that's what you need to do. In terms of meditation and the rest of the process, I do think your best bet would be to talk to the domestic violence hotline and see if they can provide you with legal advice or refer you to someone who specializes in domestic violence. You don't have to make a decision right now, you can talk it over with them, see what your options are, think it over (talk it over with your counselor if you're still seeing one) and see how you want to proceed. It's hard to be strong, but I think you are doing a very good job. Some people stay stuck in situations like this for their entire lives - and that's no way to live. Life's too short, and you deserve to be happy.
I wish you lots of luck. Please let me know if I can help further. Best wishes.
Alicia_MSW, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 629
Experience: Specializing in mental health counseling
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