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Controlling, Disabled Husband

Question:

I have been married since I was 19 years old. My husband was injured on the job almost 4 years ago, and since then, we have been together almost constantly. He became extremely depressed after his accident, and I have had to take over almost all the responsibilities in the household, dealing with attorneys and such. He was put on some very strong anti-depressants when he became suicidal, and they seemed to help, but lately, he seems to be getting worse again. He gets mad at me when I won’t talk to him about how I’m feeling, but when I do, he tells me it’s my own insecurities making me feel that way, that it’s my own fault. He also tells me that he has done everything in his power to help me gain self confidence, when in reality, all he has done is wear me down until I don’t even have the confidence to cook a simple dinner for him and our children. I simply can’t decide what to make. Nothing I do is good enough for him, he wanted me to go to work, so I found a part time job close to our house. We live in a very small community, and there aren’t many jobs in the area, I found what I could find with no skills or training. He takes the car, every day, all day, out looking for a job for himself, then gets mad at me because I’m not out looking for a full time job, when I don’t have transportation to look, or to get to it if I do find one. He reads my message history on the computer, listens in on my phone calls and gets mad at me if I talk to my friends about how things are going here. I don’t feel I have anyone I can talk to about any of it. We have discussed going to marriage counseling, after he called my parents and told them that the marriage was over. The problem with that is, we have no insurance and are trying to make ends meet on disability payments and the little money I bring in from my part time job. He has been looking for work in a town about 70 miles from the town we live in and he was talking about getting an apartment in that town for during the week. I had an interview yesterday in that town, and there is a good chance I will get the job. Should I get the apartment there and take the time to think about what we should do? I don’t know what to do anymore. It doesn’t seem there is any help out there for us.

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Answer:

Sometimes the best thing to do is to pull back and look at your situation from a distance. Here is my distant perspective on what you’ve said. Your marriage is in distress. Your husband is likely very depressed – and feeling inadequate. Most destructive to your marriage is his controlling behavior, which is extreme enough that you are at times afraid of him. You are torn I would guess between your feelings duty to your marriage and your husband, pain over the lack of intimacy in your life, and probably also some feeling of wanting to get some distance from a toxic situation. All of these feelings would be completely reasonable responses to your situation. You yourself have become at times depressed and/or have lost confidence in your self as a capable person. – But – it is clear from your story that you are actually a capable person. You’ve held your family together in the midst of substantial and ongoing crisis. You are strong. We learn about how capable we are from those around us. Your husband is trying to control your access to other people who could support you and help you to see how strong you are. He probably has his reasons for doing this. He is probably depressed and feeling very insecure as a man. His verbal attacks on you are probably his way of “kicking the dog” or escaping his insecurity feelings by feeling powerful in the act of controlling you. If this is what he is doing (and I’m not there to know) then you should know that ‘kicking the dog’ like I’ve described is dysfunctional and immature behavior on his part. You shouldn’t fall for it, and you shouldn’t think that you are necessarily doing anything wrong. Just watch out for potential for him to become violent – and get yourself away from him if he becomes violent. The important thing here is that you understand that he is wrong (and ill!) to try and control you in this way. You and your family need the support of others now – to help you to see your strength, and to help support you when you are hurting. You should not accept his attempts to control you, or put you down. Continuing to live like this will further crush your spirit. I think it will be wise for you to talk about how difficult things are with supportive friends – and how things can get better. Find a way to afford the marriage counseling. Many counselors will work on a sliding scale fee or will allow you to pay in installments. If you are near a university there may be cheap counseling available through a psychology clinic there. This could be the best investment you ever make. Regarding your chances for finding work, my thinking is that, assuming you can make sure your children are adequately cared for, and assuming you want to have this job, it may be worth your while to take this job. Having the space away from your husband may help you to find the support and the self-confidence you need to go on. Doing well at a job can help you feel confident about yourself. And having the money to help your family out won’t hurt either. Best of luck to you. And don’t let your man tell you your worth, especially when his judgement is impaired by illness. Good Luck!

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