What we accept, we teach

By Ted Powell

This is from Kathy Tait's column, "Love" in The Province, 15 November, p 62:

DEAR KATHY: I'm 20; my husband "Paul" is 21. We've been married a year.

He's had a hard life. His parents had a messy divorce when he was in his teens. He's been to jail.

Paul does not like to take me out. I don't demand to be taken out every night, but maybe once a week ... anywhere.

I've brought this up and he says it could cramp his style, when he goes to nightclubs.

When he goes out with the guys he dances with girls. (He does not dance with me.) I also know he has not cheated on me.

He figures that as a wife I am to be his servant. I do not mind doing things for him but I would like to be treated better than a servant with fringe benefits. (The fringe benefits are great.)

Paul will not do anything for me. When I asked him to fix my car to make it safe, he looked at me and laughted. When he goes upstairs and I ask him to bring me something down, again he just laughs at me.

I love Paul with all my heart and soul. And I'll never love again. Please don't say "of course you will" because sometimes there is only one true love for a person and Paul is my one true love.

Paul also likes to call me names such as bitch, idiot, and bumb broad. I know they are just names but they still hurt very much. When I ask him to stop, he just smiles.

I do not deserve half of what he's dishing out.

Paul also likes to comment on my weight, which is 135 pounds, down from 155 pounds. He has given me until the end of the year to become 111. I am five-foot-three with a medium build, so that weight is too small for me.

I've been told I'm pretty and easy to get along with.

Tell me what I can do. Don't say esparation or divorce. I do not believe in either. The only way I'd leave is if I died.

I know he loves me in his own way.


DEAR MY: The more you accept Paul's abusive behavior, the more of it you're going to get. And I guarantee it will get worse.

Indeed, I hope his verbal abuse does not escalate to physical abuse.

I certainly hope that the only way you'll leave will _not_ be if you die. In fact, two wives leave that way every week in Canada -- dead at the hands of their abusive husbands.

You have all the signs of becoming the battered wife.

Already Paul is whittling away your self-esteem by making comments about your weight and calling you names.

And you, while seeing that you are being treated without even the most basic respect, reach for ways to excuse this treatment, on the basis of his poor childhood.

I ask you instead to think more of yourself. As you say, you don't deserve half of what he's dishing out. Hang on to that thought.

American psychiatrist Lawrence Miller says in his book, King of the Hill: "People who act like doormats are treated like doormats. People who command respect are given respect. People who refuse to be dumped on are not dumped on. People who insist on being treated as equal are treated as equal."

Remember the saying, "What we accept, we teach."

Ask yourself what has set you up as a victim. How were you raised?

Discover the possible origins in your childhood for your apparent addiction to this man, revealed by your insistence that he is your one true love despite how he treats you.

Look for ways now to build your self-esteem.

Ignore his comments about your weight, which are designed to put you in a one-down position.

Tell him calmly, perhaps in a letter, that you will no longer accept his abusive treatment.

Tell him you want an equal relationship, to be treated with respect.

But before you do this, read Robin Norwood's best-seller Women Who Love Too Much (Pocket Books, $5.95) and her follow-up book, Letters From Women who Love Too Much (Pocket Books, $26.95).

After these two, read The Dance of Intimacy by Harriet Goldhor Lerner (Perennial Library, $12.95).

Then contact the Escape Victim Program of Abbotsford [a town up the valley from Vancouver --tp] Community Services at [604] 853-6440 to set up an appointment with a counsellor.

You do not need to be in physical danger before you seek help.

[A couple of notes re the books mentioned: The prices are in Canadian dollars. They are recommended by the columnist; I haven't read them. --tp]

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