Tag Archive | advice column

Advice: Am I in an Abusive Relationship?

 Just Ask Me, by Fran Dorf (Originally published on The Daily Muse.)

Dear Fran,

I’ve been dating a guy for almost two years, and lately we’ve been talking about living together, leading to marriage. We both have great jobs, love outdoor sports, and dogs (we each have one). He’s in finance, and I’m an account executive at an advertising agency. We seem perfectly matched, and I’m thrilled that we’re going to make a life together.

The problem? Last week we got into a fight about his older brother, who I can’t stand. My boyfriend wants him to be his best man and I can barely stand to be in the same room with the guy. He’s loud, uncouth, and I hate the way he talks to his wife. Anyway, I said some things I shouldn’t have said, and everything got heated and my boyfriend ended up pushing me against the wall. I hit my head, but I’m fine.

My best girlfriend says she thinks my boyfriend is “abusive,” even though he’s never touched me before. I do love him, but sometimes he can be stubborn, which drives me crazy, and I say things I know I shouldn’t say, which gets him upset, and that’s why he gets out of control. He apologized profusely, and the next day sent me beautiful long stemmed yellow roses.   

What should I do? I love him, but I really think I’m right—don’t I get to have a say in who will be the best man at my own wedding?

Upset

Dear Upset,

I’m sorry to have to rain on your parade, but I think you may be asking the wrong question. I understand that you love your boyfriend, but before you marry him or even consent to live with him, I suggest you get some serious couples counseling. In a way, I’m glad this pushing incident happened before you got married rather than after, because it gives you a chance to see if he’s so stubborn that he’s unwilling to address this very serious matter.

I have several reasons for saying this.

First, I agree with your girlfriend: Pushing someone—even one time—is abusive. What’s more, past behavior is a good indicator of future behavior, and unless he gets some help learning to deal more appropriately with his emotions, it’s likely that this abusive behavior will continue, and possibly even worsen.

Next, you say he “gets out of control,” as if it happens often. I suspect you mean that he becomes verbally abusive when he is frustrated or angry. It also sounds as if you do, too, since you admit you “say things you know you shouldn’t.”

One of the things you will learn (or should learn) through counseling is that “anger” is an internal state that everyone experiences. This is a different issue from aggressive behavior, which is a result of anger. Aggression is saying or doing things that hurt another person to try to control, humiliate, or get what you want. Frequent or intense bouts of anger, along with verbal, emotional, or physical abuse or aggression, need to be addressed in therapy, where you will not only discuss the root causes of this anger, you’ll learn some alternative behaviors to cope with it.

(As a side note: The fact that his brother is abusive to his own wife may mean that anger and frustration was handled this way in the household where they both grew up, and this is what was modeled for them. All the more reason that you should be addressing this in therapy.)

Now, it may make you feel better temporarily that he apologized. But unfortunately, that behavior is part of the cyclical four-stage process of domestic violence.

In Stage I, tension builds as the abuser becomes edgy and reacts in a more hostile or psychologically abusive way. Stage II is the explosion, represented in this case by pushing. And Stage III is the reconciliation, often called the “Honeymoon Stage,” in which the abuser becomes remorseful, sometimes overly so, apologizes for harming the victim, and assures her that it will never happen again. After the violence, it is very common for abusers to shower their victims with love and affection, buy expensive gifts, send flowers, and so on.

And finally, there could be the calm stage, in which the abuser really tries to control him or herself. But if he (or she) hasn’t learned coping skills and alternative methods to deal with anger and frustration, or faced the reasons and antecedents for the anger, conflicts will inevitably arise and the cycle will start all over again.

Look, it’s possible an incident like this will never happen again, and your boyfriend will be a model husband who never pushes or hurts you or gets out of control again. It’s possible, too, that you’ll be a model wife who never again says things she doesn’t mean. But my question is: Do you really want to take that chance? I am not saying you need to break up this man, but I am saying, again, that you need to deal with these very serious issues, and sooner rather than later.

As for your question about whether you have a right to a say in who the best man is at your wedding, I think it’s not a matter of whether something is universally right or wrong. In a healthy marriage, decisions are made based on mutual respect, compromise, and communication. You must be able to calmly discuss the conflicts that inevitably arise, and come to an agreement that works for both of you.

In this case, your boyfriend may learn in counseling that his brother’s behavior toward his wife is inappropriate. You may in fact actually need to say that to him, not because he can change his brother, but because you need him to know that you won’t put up with such behavior from him. Similarly, he needs to know that you’re going to make an effort to curtail your own inappropriate behavior. Maybe, once your husband sees how inappropriate some of his own behavior is, he may begin to agree with you about his brother.

On the other hand, it is his brother, and it may cause a lifelong rift in all of your relationships to take a stand on whether he should be your husband’s best man.

I wish you the best, and thanks for asking,

Fran

Read more: http://www.thedailymuse.com/health/am-i-in-an-abusive-relationship/#ixzz2KqKQwD5L
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Just Ask Me: Her husband doesn’t support her entrepreneurial aspirations

Here’s my latest “Just Ask Me,” column from The Daily Muse (www.thedailymuse.com)  Here’s the link to the actual column, and here’s the piece in full.

Help! My Husband Doesn’t Support My Business Idea

by  — June 6, 2012 — 2 Comments

Dear Fran,

I have been dreaming of having my own business for years, and in the last few years I’ve come up with an idea for a business in the health and wellness space that I think is a winner. Of course, due to the demands of everyday life (mortgage,student loans, a baby on the way), I’ve been working in a corporate job for almost eight years. But I’m finally ready to take the plunge and at leastbegin to explore my entrepreneurial side. I know it’s not realistic to quit my day job anytime soon, but I realize that if I don’t get my business underway, well, it’s not going to get underway on its own.

Here’s the real issue: My husband of five years is not fully supportive of this idea. He is a very structured person and looks at the house repairs, the cost of a new baby, and any number of practical things as perfectly good reasons for us not to go down the path of owning a business. He always promises that “someday” we can look into it, “someday” we’ll have money to invest in our own business, but that now is just not the right time. I understand that we have things coming up in our life, but if we don’t do something soon, another eight years are going to fly by.

I have no idea how to begin to resolve this conflict—it’s something that neither of us can really understand the other’s perspective on at all. Where do I start?

Eager Entrepreneur

Dear Eager:

I certainly don’t want to discourage you from pursuing your dream, but I must remind you of three statistics that you probably already know. The first is that half of all marriages end in divorce. The second is that the chances of succeeding in a small business are less than 1 in 10. And the third is that you’re about to increase your family by 50%, leading to an increase in demands on your time, budget, and energy of about 500%.

That said, the health and wellness space is growing, and with a great idea, plus very careful thought and planning for your marriage, family, and your business, you might be able to increase the odds of success on all fronts.

The first thing I want you to do is make a date with your husband to begin discussing this. Make it several weeks or a month from now so you both have a chance to prepare, and so you (or maybe both of you) have a chance to read a book called, Not Tonight, Dear, I Have a Business to Run, by Dr. Patty Ann Tublin. (Full disclosure—Patty Ann is a friend of mine, but seriously, her book speaks to the exact issues you’re up against.)

As the wife of a serial entrepreneur, I know firsthand that creating a successful business requires a commitment of time, energy, and effort beyond anything you may imagine. You may find yourself working harder than ever, and your family and relationship may suffer in ways you can’t even conceive now. Consider, for example, how resentful (not to mention tired) you’ll be if you find yourself doing laundry at 3 AM, because you’ve failed to negotiate an even distribution of domestic chores. To guard against this, Dr. Patty Ann suggests creating a “family plan” as well as a “business plan.” You might begin by thinking about these questions:

  • Are you so excited about the prospect of having your own business that you’re discounting your husband’s right to resist?
  • Can you create a business plan that starts with relatively less risky steps to help you analyze the market, find your customers, discover their needs and thoughts about your business idea, and then alter your strategy if your customers tell you to do so? Ideally, this will help both you and your husband feel more comfortable about the prospects for success.
  • Are you assuming that he will ever (or never) be willing to make personal, relationship, or lifestyle adjustments to support this?
  • Are you used to discussing openly with him questions related to your relationship, family, and lifestyle?

Next, to get you thinking about the vast array of financial, time, office, lifestyle, personal, relationship, and family issues that will impact both of you, check out Dr. Patty Ann’s “Discovery Exercise One.” Here are a handful of questions to get you started:

  • How much initial capital investment will be required?
  • What is the length of time before you can expect positive cash flow?
  • Can you test the waters while keeping your current job?
  • How stressful for you would this business be? How can you learn to deal with stressbetter?
  • How demanding will the working schedule be?
  • Will you have to sacrifice anything important to your physical, emotional, and spiritual health to succeed in this business?
  • How does this business support your short- and long-term goals as a couple?
  • How could this business improve, solidify, or sustain your relationship?
  • How could this business jeopardize or deteriorate your relationship?
  • How might this business interfere with caring for your children, or other family members’ daily needs?

As you begin to discuss this with your husband, remember that in every aspect of marriage, communication skills are key. Never assume you know how your husband is thinking about an issue until you ask him, just as he should never assume anything about what you’re thinking.

Once you begin really talking and planning, you may find, for example, that while he has understandable anxiety, underneath he’s actually quite interested and supportive. He may become more interested if you can somehow integrate him, perhaps by soliciting his ideas, or by considering making him a business partner at some point in the future, when you have some tangible success and can expand. You may find that what he’s worried about is quite different than what you think he’s worried about. And you may be surprised to find that his worries are completely reasonable and should be vetted.

When your date night is over, make another. In fact, make this an ongoing dialogue until both of you feel heard, and until you’ve given him (and allowed yourself) time and space to fully air your concerns and risks inherent in this kind of undertaking.

I’m certain that this sort of heart-to-heart will help you begin to convert the “someday” he refers to into something more tangible. And here’s one possible first step (that adheres to modern entrepreneurial strategy): Create a survey you can distribute to potential customers to help you analyze the feasibility of the business. This will help both of you feel more confident as you begin to take the steps that risk more.

I can’t tell you what to do if your husband simply refuses to discuss this or can’t keep an open mind. I can, however, warn you that resentment in a marriage is poison, and that if this is truly your dream and your husband stonewalls it, resentment is bound to rear its ugly head.

I wish you the very best of luck in your business and your marriage. Don’t forget to sleep! How exciting!

Fran