Dear Neil: I have had a hard time the last two years with anxiety. I lost my position at work because of my anxiety. I’m crying and yelling a lot, and I really get upset. When I get upset, my husband spanks me and sometimes throws me around. He says this is the only way he can control me, and that it is my fault. He did this before I became so anxious, also.
Also, my friends call and he tells them I’m not home, or that I’m asleep. He then talks to them for long periods of time, even though my best friend said she does not want to talk to him, but to me. My mom started asking questions, and she told him to take me to the hospital. He told her I fell because he was afraid they would think he was an abuser.
I haven’t told anyone what he does. My best friend says I act like an abused person. Should I tell my doctor about this? I was always a happy person until recently. What should I do?
Unhappy In Denver
Dear Unhappy: You are describing a controlling and physically abusive husband, and you are what’s called a battered wife.
As clearly as I can say this, you cannot allow a spouse to treat you poorly, or you’ll wind up hating yourself, your mate, your relationship and your life. Since your husband is unlikely to change his behavior without being forced into it, it’s going to be up to you to enforce changes in your marriage. What should you do? Leave him. Go stay with friends, family, in a woman’s shelter or go to a hotel. Tell your doctor, the hospital that treated you, and your friends and family, because you’re going to need a solid support system for awhile. Then call the police and tell them what is going on. You can get a restraining order so he cannot intimidate or threaten you.
Make it a condition of your marriage that your husband gets psychotherapy treatment for his controlling, bullying and abusive behavior, as well as for his insecurity. Better yet, insist that he enroll in a treatment program for abusive spouses. Such a program will confront him, and help him to learn healthier ways to relate to you and to control his anger.
You are likely to need help and support to figure out why you got yourself in this position in the first place, and to help you set appropriate limits and boundaries on the way you allow others to treat you. Also, anti-anxiety medications are available by a doctor’s prescription if your anxiety doesn’t lessen on its own accord.
Learn this one lesson well: Do not allow poor treatment in your intimate relationships with anyone. Your husband needs to learn how to be in charge of his abusive behavior, and you need to learn how to value yourself enough to insist on good treatment in your marriage.
I’d be anxious and unhappy also if I were being treated the way you are. You can contact the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence at (303) 839-1852 or by Internet www.ncadv.org and the National Domestic Violence Hotline (800) 799-7233 or www.ndvh.org as well as directory assistance for information about women’s shelters.