July 2, 2014

Ask Me Anything: Woman Wonders if Her Husband is Abusive. {Weekly Advice Column}


Black Soul

*Disclaimer: Elephant Journal articles represent the personal opinion, view or experience of the authors, and can not reflect Elephant Journal as a whole. Disagree with an Op-Ed or opinion? We’re happy to share your experience here. 


Dear Elephants,

Welcome to this weeks Ask Me Anything, elephant journal’s weekly advice column. To submit questions for next week, email me at [email protected] or private message me on Facebook. All queries will remain anonymous!

Dear Erica,

My husband and I have not been married long, six months now, and I have discovered he has issues dealing with anger.

He is the “bottle it up, then explode” type. This usually happens as a result of me getting on his case regarding some chore not being done right, or asking him to do something (I admit I do have a tendency to nag, and I’m trying to work on that).

He goes from seeming okay, to suddenly being frustrated and angry. First he yells “That’s enough!” and then he starts throwing. Breaking a dinner plate on the floor is his favorite, followed by storming out of the house. This started a month into our marriage, and is happening once or twice a month.

I see this as a violent, immature, and completely unacceptable way to deal with anger. *Note, he never threatens me, or throws objects in my direction—it is a more general expression of frustration.

I am okay with him being angry with me, he just needs to show it in a more constructive way, like using words to let me know what he’s upset about.

I feel scared and emotional after these outbursts, and I feel like this is something I will not tolerate long term in my life. We do have a very loving and affectionate relationship.

I’m looking for advice on how to work through this, and have an even better relationship in the future. He is a loving and compassionate man, and after I manage to calm him down he is willing to talk about what happened. When I ask him to he will apologize, and he is willing to talk about solutions—but only at my prompting.

He does admit this is an issue, and is willing to talk about this behaviour, but it is always at my prompting, and it is only me trying to come up with solutions. He says this has been an issue for most of his life, and it hasn’t changed yet so it’s not likely too change ever. He also has tried counseling in the past, but says it gave him no solutions to try and was ineffective.

How do I get him to engage and take some initiative? Do you think he is able to work on this issue with success, and if so how do I help him see that he can change his behaviour?

Even though most of the relationship is wonderful, I believe I need to take care of myself and not tolerate any abuse or violence in my home. At this point I see his actions as violent and having the effect of instilling fear in me, although I don’t have much experience with people who have deal with their emotions in this way. I would consider this an emotionally abusive move.

How much do I put up with? Do I set a time deadline on this? Or set a number of outbursts and broken plates before I ask to be apart? Or should I just accept this is the way he is, and work on being okay with this?

Thank you for any advice. I think our next step is to try counseling, I know he will go, I just hope he hasn’t written it off as ineffective.

Frightened Wife

Dear Frightened,

I am so sorry this is happening to you. What you are experiencing is abuse.
Because it is so hard to see abuse when we are in the thick of it, I’d like to provide an unbiased definition for you of what it is…which comes from the website domesticabuse.org.

It is simply:

“Domestic abuse and violence are behaviors used by one person in a relationship to control another person.”

The website then refers readers to what they call “The Violence Wheel,” on which eight behaviors are listed that qualify undeniably as abuse. Included on this wheel is a description of your husband’s behavior.

“Using intimidation. Making her afraid by using looks, actions, gestures, smashing things, destroying property, abusing pets, displaying weapons.”

When I was in my 20s, I was married to a man who, among other things, threw my beloved bird out the window one winter afternoon (the bird flew away and presumably died) and kept a gun in the house with which he like to threaten me. He never hit me. I gave him limitless free passes because the things he did fell just shy of what I considered abuse. It was a terrifying and confusing time.

Of course, hind sight is 20/20. I was clearly abused and have spent the last 15 years trying to recover from it.

I believe you already know what I am saying is true—you just needed confirmation—and that will work to your great advantage.

In a non-heated moment, you say to your husband, “Husband, the way you handle anger frightens me. Things have to change. This is a deal breaker. I am willing to give X amount of time to deal with this issue, if you go to therapy immediately. I will work on this with you, but I won’t live in fear. The next time you throw or break anything, or do anything that frightens me, I will leave the house until you are calm.”

Have a safe and handy place lined up to go, and make good on your statement. When do you leave, (and I’m certain this will happen again, so get ready) don’t explain why, apologize or argue, simply walk out the door.

Confide in a friend or family member about what is happening. Silence is where abuse thrives. You’ll have to put embarrassment to the side for now.

Please don’t expect him to self-start the healing. What he’s doing is working for him, and he won’t change until it doesn’t. You need to take control, be strong and consistent, and teach him how you need to be treated. If the status quo remains, you have to leave permanently.

Seeking therapy on your own would also be a wise idea. There is a reason you landed in this dynamic, (not blaming you here), and it would behoove you to figure out what it is.

Good luck, and know you have a supporter in me.

yoga friends

Dear Erica,

I am a Yoga teacher with a pretty good following, having taught for a few years now. I see my regular students split between two studios as well as do privates with many of them.

I’ve made it a point to introduce them to one another and we’re all quite friendly—making for very pleasant, cohesive classes where everyone’s on this yogic journey together.

I get asked to do things socially with them (go out to eat after class or come to their house parties…) I’ve even been a labor coach for one longtime student.Question: Is it smart to blur the lines between teacher/student and friend?

My students confide in me yet if we cross the line into friendship…is it smart to let them know about my life struggles? Sometimes I feel that in doing so, my “teacher role” will be weakened, yet if we’re truly friends off the mat…isn’t anything fair game?

Perplexed Yogini

Dear Perplexed,

As a fellow teacher, I feel your pain. We love our students, spend a lot of time with them and often have a great deal in common with them. However, I do think there is a line that should not be crossed.

The question is, where is it?

I believe this will change from student to student, teacher to teacher, but a basic guiding principle should be—just as in your own yoga practice, to listen to that soft, still voice inside.

I often think it is helpful for students to know that their teachers are human, and to be occasionally told of our struggles and challenges—the rub lies in our intent. If we are sharing to unburden ourselves or look for support or sympathy, we do not have our students best interests at heart. If we are sharing as a means to elucidate a point, clarify an issue or inspire someone, however, we do.

Whenever our intent is to help our students—even if we don’t manage to do so—we are on solid ground. We can maintain this attitude whether we are in the studio, at a social gathering or just out to lunch with a student.

Occasionally though, despite our professional demeanor, we realize that a student might in fact have developed into a rare and precious friend. In that case, we should take the gift that life offers us and shift the relationship to a new level. Once that is done, however, it’s done, so be careful and deliberate in your actions.

Strong Warrior-Women-Teachers are hard to come by—if you are one (and you are), honor that in yourself and keep your motives crystal clear at all times.

Love elephant and want to go steady?

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Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: John O’Nolan/Flickr, michelledwagner/Flickr

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