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Domestic Violence

Letter #2

Dear Dr. Harley,

Thank you so much for getting back to me! We really need help, both of us. I know you must be very busy and do greatly appreciate your time.

I'm not sure what details to give you but here goes!

Things got out of hand about a month and a half ago. Jim would come home and blow up at me about insignificant or imagined issues. We both agreed that he needed to see a counselor about his depression, but his insurance paid for only four sessions, and we are already through those. Things got a little better while he was seeing the counselor. Instead of him coming home from work and yelling about stupid stuff he would come home and yell about things that were really bothering him.

About what bothers him, he seems to feel that people don't respect him and are trying to take advantage of him. The situations he describes to me don't seem to be so extreme. I don't understand why he gets so furious. Last week his supervisor corrected him. He was furious. He came home and spent the whole evening raving about how rude his supervisor is. I have been corrected many times in my profession, but I see no reason to take it personally. I did not tell Jim that I felt he was overreacting to situations because I didn't think he could handle me bringing that up.

As long as I have known Jim he has told me he wants to be a Lawyer. He has always said that it is his dream and he won't be happy until he is one. He says it is what he has wanted all his life. He certainly is smart and hard working enough to do it. So I have supported him in it. If that is what he needs to be happy then that is what he ought to do.

Last Thursday he called me at work to tell me that he wanted to be a teacher. He has never expressed an interest in teaching to me before this and what scared and upset me is that Jim denied ever having wanted to be a Lawyer. It's as if he has forgotten all of our conversations about his dream. Now being a teacher is his lifelong dream. He also has forgotten things I have told him about myself. I've told him just about my whole life story but he doesn't remember anything about me.

I don't think my husband has really been bad tempered all his life, unless he has suppressed it very well (which may be a possibility). He does suppress a lot. He gets mad at people at work all day and just smiles at them like he doesn't care. But when he comes home he lets me have it all. That is what makes me think he could have been hiding a bad temper.

This evening he told me that he thinks I've been stealing his money and sending it to my parents. This is not the case. Our combined incomes would barely make pocket change for my parents. In fact, my mother has on occasion sent us money. He says his parents have me figured out. They are the ones who told him I'm stealing his money to send to my parents! They, apparently, have been telling him a lot of bad things about me.

I used to be able to bounce things off Jim and he helped me work through my own issues. However, now he uses that against me. I am afraid I will never be able to trust him enough again to be that transparent. I guess I am mourning that loss of intimacy, it makes me very sad. That was something that I really treasured about our relationship!

I call my mom to vent about my problems, but Jim won't let me use the phone when he is around. Thank you for listening to me, because I really feel alone these days. I guess we are in a lot of trouble. I believe in staying married to one person all your life. But I am so unhappy!


Dear G.S.,

In my first letter, I suggested that you find out from your husband what's bothering him, not to be critical about his answers, or suggest that he is not seeing things correctly. The purpose of this investigation is to discover the causes and nature of his anger and depression.

What you told me in your last letter is very alarming. He appears to have a very serious emotional problem that may be getting progressively worse. The behavior you describe, emotional outbursts, paranoid thinking, forgetfulness and distortion of past events point to a possible progressive organic neurological disorder, such as a brain tumor. Even if it's not a tumor, he seems to be suffering from a serious mental disorder.

A very nonconfrontive and nonjudgmental approach will tend to support my diagnosis. The more of himself he reveals to you and, hopefully, a mental health specialist, the more fragmented and distorted his thinking will appear, confirming the thought disorder. Don't tell him he is wrong about his feelings and judgments, because all it will do is infuriate him.

There is the remote possibility that his forgetfulness may be due to his not listening to you when you talk to him. He may simply be very self-centered and have had a very bad temper throughout most of his life when he didn't get his way. I wish it could be that simple for you, but I suspect that he is battling quite a bit more than self-centeredness.

Your fear of him is well-founded and you should consider him dangerous. I understand how panicked you must feel, and under the circumstances you may wish to visit your parents to provide you with the support, and possible protection, you need.

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