USA Weekend RelationTips
Q: Dear Dennis Hughes: My wife often hits me when we argue. We don't have children yet who might be affected, and she doesn't inflict much damage. But it disturbs me that she resorts to violence. She always apologizes, and I guess I agree when she points out that some of the things I say drive her to that striking point. She's really a loving, wonderful woman. What can we do? —M.I. Florida
A: I commend you not only for reaching out, but also for not hitting back, which often is the natural, but not always unacceptable, reaction.
Not retaliating is a smart first step. Your next best move: Stop taking any blame for her bad behavior. Jackson Katz, founder of the Mentors in Violence Prevention program says, that regardless of gender, no one is responsible for a partner's physical abuse.
"Don't allow her to make you feel you have a share in how she chooses to react when she gets angry," Katz says. Change only happens when the partner who lashes out admits his or her behavior.
Before the next blowup occurs, encourage your wife to seek out anger management classes. If she's hesitant, gently but firmly remind her that failing to get control of her anger now could be very dangerous if you ever have children. Also explain that although her hitting you may not hurt you physically, it does break your heart.
Relationship abuse is assault, plain and simple. I urge anyone who is being abused, or knows someone who is being abused, to contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline, toll-free, at 800-799-7233. You can also find helpful information online at ndvh.org.
Hi M.I.: As with an alcoholic, the first step towards an abuse-free personal relationship is acknowledging your addiction—to abusing and being abused. Yes, you! She doesn't stand a snowball's chance in Hawaii of healing until you heal yourself. Even if you divorced her you would have to bring another person into your life to fight with, such is your need for your fixes.*
Re: ". . . when she points out . . ." She is correct. You have perfected an incredibly insidious and devious way of relating; it not only infuriates her but you do it in such a way as to enroll others (readers of your letter) in taking your side, that she is more abusive. Turning others against another is called badmouthing, it's not only abusive and unethical, it's irresponsible.
Instead of inspiring harmony you unconsciously intend fighting. Instead of being a safe space for her to verbally communicate her upsets, perpetrations, and withholds you cause her to stuff thoughts until she explodes. And, yes, it's called blame when she points out your responsibility. A part of what causes your confusion is that you can see that you are 100% responsible and for this I acknowledge you ("100%" is redundant, it's used here for clarity). However, responsibility begins by choosing to hang around, to date, to marry, a well adjusted mature woman, a woman who also communicates responsibly. You, having a need to be better-than, had no choice but to date someone who at some level you knew needed therapy. Helpers attract and hang around those who need help so as to not have to acknowledge and work on their own stuff.
Of all the women on the planet for you to attract and marry you chose someone addicted to abuse, someone equally (yes equally) as addicted to abusing and being abused as are you. This was your genius at work, setting up life, finding someone to mirror you, in support of you completing one or more childhood incompletes.
Once you have completed a 3-hour coaching session, or 25 hours of counseling or therapy (by yourself, not with her) you will be able to see that you knew when you met her that she was both immature and incomplete (out-integrity). Most often the clue is in how a date talks about and relates with his/her parents during the engagement. I suspect you might not have had the complete approval and support of both of your parents about her. Some parents withhold their considerations (thoughts of disapproval) when they first meet one's date; instead they unconsciously thwart and sabotage the relationship so as to be right. No actualized parent would raise a child to attract an abusive spouse.
One indicator that you need as much professional help as she does is your unconscious addiction to blaming, "My wife often hits me when we argue." A responsible person would have written, "I cause my wife to hit me when I start arguments with her." Actually it's worse than that; something about how you stand silently in the same room with her triggers her unresolved childhood upsets. It's much the same as putting your hand in a rattler's den and expecting it to not bite. She's as programmed to lash out at the one she loves as a rattler is to biting anything that threatens its reality. Her reality being—that you start the fights—that hitting isn't as abusive as verbal, non-verbal, and psychic abuse.
Another indicator: "But it disturbs me that she resorts to violence." Again, blame. A responsible person would write, "But it disturbs me that the violence within me, something about how I relate with her, triggers her violence. I find myself preoccupied with thoughts that she needs more therapy than I do." For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Just because you can't see your abuse doesn't mean you aren't communicating abusively.
And still another indicator: "What can we do?" You operate from the 50-50 definition of responsibility rather than, "What can I do?" You honestly believe that things would be better if only she would get "fixed." In this matter you are the leader.
You're smart to be concerned about your children to be. They too will attract abusive partners (beginning with school bullying) unless you commit to getting to the source of your need to goad another into hitting you. You will, without even being aware of it, teach them this skill of yours. An actualized man simply doesn't stay in conversations with those who need therapy; because they are complete they can experience another's incompletes, their unresolved dramatized anger, and as such refrain from intimate conversations with them. Words don't even need to be exchanged, the dormant anger is most often experienced via one's aura (they communicate their unresolved anger non-verbally/psychically). It's written on their face. Someone who is equally incomplete/immature has a difficult time seeing it in another.
Regarding apologies: You have yet to learn that when you accept a person's apology for hitting you it guarantees, yes guarantees, that they will do it again. Let me re-phrase that. When you manipulate another into hitting you and then manipulate them into apologizing, you are unconsciously setting it up for them to do it again. They have no choice. It's a computer-like program that requires 5 steps:
- 1) an unconscious intention to be acknowledged (caught) for an incomplete, an earlier withhold, perpetration/upset (usually left over from childhood)**
2) something to trigger the incomplete, (such as burnt toast) referred to as what the upset is supposedly about
3) the verbal/non-verbal/physical communication, the abuse
4) the knee-jerk activity of blaming
5) the apology
When you stop/prevent any one of the five steps it transforms the experience, especially when you decline or refuse the apology; to have an apology politely, lovingly, be unaccepted, to be declined, is a new experience for them. They don't know how to handle it. Something's missing. They didn't get the usual closure (an opportunity to apologize) that has become an essential part of their fix. They don't get the "victim's" programmed, "That's OK. I forgive you. Everything-will-be-alright" fix. What would work is to leave her in a condition of uncomfortable uncertainty, with the realization that the hit was/is a turning point. At which time I suggest you issue the following ultimatum:
- "Something about the way I communicate, my leadership-communication skills, causes you to hit me. I'm divorcing you. I intend to commit myself to 25 hours of therapy. I won't be interacting with you in any way whatsoever (except for logistics) until you can tell me you also have completed 25 hours of therapy. There can be no second chance. I need to know that I inspire harmony and a sense of well being."
Note: She may then reply, "Oh no, it's not you. It's me, honestly. I'm sorry. One more chance please." This attempt at accepting responsibility is just what your manipulative mind wants/needs to hear. Don't get fooled. Of course it's her. From her perspective she caused it. However, you need to stay with the knowingness that you caused it, that you set her up to hit you.
Notice that there is no threatening warning? i.e. "The next time you hit me I'll divorce you." This would be a blame statement and, an unethical "sting." That is to say, you know she's programmed to eventually commit a "crime" (abuse) and so you lurk, like a cop around a hooker's corner, waiting for (intending) the next eventual crime. The truth would be, "The next time I cause you to hit me I'll divorce you."
If after reading this reply you stay with her another 24 hours you'll have proven that you need as much therapy as she does. You need to get to the source of your cause of the abuse, and to complete your experience of enabling.
If, as you're doing your therapy (zero communications until you both have completed 25 hours), she takes you up on your ultimatum and completes her 25 hours, then, together, you can do 25 hours of counseling as a couple, after which you can then live together again and possibly remarry. If she refuses to do her therapy you can then get back on track and pick up where you left off before you began playing with someone stuck in abuse. In any case, the ultimatum will accelerate the completion of this relationship and create space for a new one with a new communication model. Keep in mind it's your leadership-communication skills that creates this abuse. To say you don't want abuse in your life yet continue interacting with her reveals that you are lying.
Notice that part of your behavior includes manipulating her so that she must apologize to you and then you magnanimously forgive her for something you manipulated her into doing. It's called controlling. In truth it's blackmail. Your implied communication is, "Everyone agrees I now have grounds to divorce you so you better behave. You're the one that needs therapy."
Something that might help you see you is the analogy of the angry, self-righteous, inconsiderate/unconscious driver who drives less than the speed limit. They trigger upsets in the long line of drivers behind them. It affects many people, sometimes for the entire day, quite often causing an angry outburst with someone else at home or at work later that day. For certain the angry driver triggers unresolved anger (incomplete childhood interactions) in those driving behind him/her, anger that is already there close to the surface. Yet, all need an equal amount of therapy. The point being, all drivers have equal amounts of leadership-communication skills, the angry slow driver uses his/hers to thwart and upset others. You are the unconscious driver, moping along in mediocrity, driving your wife crazy.
Your problem comes from not having a purpose in life, something that is far more exciting and important, something that consumes your every waking hour leaving no time for squabbles. A person on purpose generates an entirely different set of problems, problems that are resolved as quick as they are created. Power is the rate at which you create, have, and complete problems.
BTW: Communication mastery is intending for the driver at the front of the column to be driving exactly the way they are, and/or, to intend what another is saying to you.
If you decide to stay with her and go to therapy and get healed, she probably won't be attracted to your new ground of being. You will be centered, balanced, and appropriately healthfully assertive and, energetically on-purpose with your purpose in life. You simply won't instigate or put up with her machinations. Neither of you will be able to control the other as you do now. Part of what infuriates her is that you support her in getting away with hitting you; she simply can't respect you. She might be unconsciously expecting you to hit her back which possibly was the reaction she got from a parent; getting hit might have been a sign to her that they loved her and that they were worthy of her warped sense of respect. If you'll look back you'll see early on that there was an incident with her in which you knew that it should have been the end, but you compromised your integrity, perhaps for her company or sex, maybe for fear of being alone. In truth, that's where you are in your life, back at that fork in the road.
Do show her our communications.
I love your letter, there are millions who have the same problem. —With aloha, Gabby
* "fixes." An abuse addict requires a periodic fix (an incident that generates adrenalin). Many couples unconsciously mastermind an incident so that they can have great sex when they apologize and make up. The dance then becomes a six-step:
- 1) unconscious intention to be acknowledged (caught) for prior incompletes (most often a childhood incident).
6) intercourse (great sex) in which there is often an experience of love. Neither know how to create the experience of love through open and honest communication (see The Clearing Process —one of four free communication processes located in The Clearing House —all in support of communication mastery.
** For example: If your wife was abusive to her parents, a sibling, or a friend when she was young and still has not acknowledge to the receiver that she was abusive, and that she knows it didn't feel good, then she is incomplete about that incident (it didn't end in mutual satisfaction). It could also be any one of dozens of breakdowns in communication during her childhood. In lay terms she hasn't gotten caught yet; she honestly thinks she got away with it. Consequently, her integrity is such that she will keep setting up life to recall and clean up that incident. In this case, she is abusive to you and she's not getting caught for it so she has to keep being abusive. BTW: You also have a similar childhood incomplete.
For more about abuse read About the Spouse Abuse Tutorial (although you may read about the tutorial you're not eligible to do the tutorial because you are living/interacting with an abuser).
Note: This reply pertains equally to women causing abuse.
Check back occasionally for minor edits (last edited 5/5/15)