Husband Blames Violence on Pain of Unfaithfulness

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Reader’s Question

My husband and I have been married for 10 years. About eight years ago we split up. During that time, I was with another man and he was with another woman. But now we are doing great and have one child.

The problem is that here and there my husband becomes distant and tells me that he can’t stop thinking of what “I” did in the past. Actually, I think what he did was a lot worse because he was with his girlfriend for a long time when we were still married and before we separated. When he found out about my relationship with another man eight years ago, he physically abused me.

Now, his attitude turns around instantly towards me and he has even become violent a number of times. He tells me he doesn’t know what to do and blames his behavior on the fact that he can’t forget the past.

Is his behavior due to a psychological disorder that can be treated? Can we/he get help for this? I can’t keep living on this rollercoaster because of the past.

Of course I always try to think of the good times of the relationship and not the bad. I also like to think about the future and not the past.

Psychologist’s Reply

Your questions are difficult to interpret. It appears that you want to make a distinction between behavior rooted in a “psychological disorder” that can be treated vs. behavior for which a person bears responsibility. It would be great if such a distinction could be easily made. Unfortunately, except in rare circumstances, that is not the case. It’s also curious that you initially label your current relationship with your husband “great” even though you report that he continues to be “violent a number of times.”

Therapeutic interventions are likely to be helpful for both you and your husband, although from what you report, it would be a fair bet that the type of therapy to which you might positively respond is likely to be significantly different from the type of intervention best suited to your husband’s behavioral problems. You indicate that you are the type who tries to remember only the good times and who blocks out the more unpleasant realities of your relationship. That kind of denial is qualitatively different from your husband’s.

My best suggestion: hold your husband accountable for his behavior and insist he get whatever assistance he requires to get it under appropriate control. Also, secure your own counseling and focus some needed attention on the kinds of emotional blinders you’ve put on that keep you from more honestly reckoning with the problems in your relationship.

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