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August 2010

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mohavedatura in advice_rehash

Dear Annie: I have been married for 35 years to a man who, at any moment, will bring up things from our past that are very hurtful to me. And he knows exactly what he is doing.

Two weeks ago, he threw something in my face that goes back to before we were married. He had loaned me a small amount of money — less than $100. At the time, I was a single mom working a full-time job without the benefit of child support from my ex-husband. I guess I never paid him back. I had totally forgotten about it and couldn't believe he remembered — and apparently is still upset about it.

We are now the parents of three grown children. On the outside, we appear to be the perfect couple, but his continual badgering has left me feeling like a knife is being stuck in my heart. He knows how I feel about this. The only time he stops is if I start to cry. Why does he do this? — Hurt in the Midwest

Dear Hurt: Has your husband always been like this, or is it a fairly recent development? The fact that he hangs on to these grudges and uses them to make you cry is a form of bullying and an effort to exert control. If this reflects a change in his personality within the past few years, he may have a neurological problem that requires medical attention. Unfortunately, if it goes back 35 years, it will be difficult to modify his behavior, especially if he isn't willing. It is not, however, impossible. Get some counseling — on your own if he won't go with you — and learn how to respond in a more productive way.

My first thought is that something is wrong with this man. But really, this seems like emotional abuse. I do agree with part of this: she should seek counseling. But she should do it to find out why she's allowed herself to put up with this for 35 years.