I read your article online about mean people and was particularly interested, especially when it noted three things I should be aware of and, I guess, remember.
My husband is mean, unkind and cruel, and I have the misfortune to be stuck here with him because I am financially unable to leave. I feel that he is mental, and I have realized recently that he is envious of me because he feels I am smarter. But he doesn't want to know anything new because he refuses to pay attention to even simple things like how to operate a remote for the cable TV. When I try to tell him how to, he interrupts me like a child and sticks his fingers in his ears.
He screams at me out of the blue for no apparent reason, and most of the time I am shocked and stunned and wondering where it is coming from. Boundaries don't work because he behaves worse. I have called the police, and he stands there and asks why I did it. There have been final straws, but one recently was screaming at me on Thanksgiving, and now I think it was a ploy to have dinner elsewhere.
I have prayed to God that he take him away from me because I cannot take his deliberate disrespect, and I don't know what to do except scream back, and then he says to me, don't raise my voice!
I am at my wit's end as to how to make him stop.
Since Human Matters began, there are a short handful of columns that have acquired a life of their own. I mean months and years later I still get mail about particular columns. The "Mean People" column is one of those.
So let's - you and me - conclude that you can't make him stop. I'm very serious now. This is important. What would change if you concluded that you can no more "make him" treat you with decency (forget kindness) than you can shout at the ocean and make the tide stop coming in? You can't make him stop being cruel. You can't make him start being decent. As one of my mentors once said, "Never use power you don't have." S.O., you don't have the power to make him stop.
To quote poet Maya Angelou: "When people show you who they really are, believe them."
And while you're at it, what if you categorically stopped trying to figure out why he is the way he is. Stopped any and every inquiry of whether, why or how he is "mental." What I mean is, OK, he is mental. Or, OK, he's not mental, just mean. Or, he's mental and mean. I'm asking you to consider that his diagnosis or absence thereof doesn't matter. It's irrelevant. All roads lead to Rome. So let's start with "Rome."
Rome is ... the way you're being treated is not OK. However we explain it.
And, while you're making these huge shifts in your thinking, let's include a commitment regarding your behavior. What if, in principle, you decided never again to scream back at him. I believe I quoted a poster in the Mean People column. I quote it again, now, and I'm not going for comedy here: "Never wrestle with a pig. You get mud on you, and the pig likes it!"
I'm serious, S.O. The pig likes it! There is no more reason to engage him in verbal fighting than there is to cajole, scold and express contempt for the grizzly bear that's mauling you.
So I'm curious about something. On the one hand, you are certain that you are a prisoner to this marriage because of financial considerations. Do I rightly understand your predicament? That your choices are relentless degradation (but at least a bed, a roof and three squares) or walking out of that house (and being homeless)? I'm not being ironic. Is this how you conceive your predicament?
If so, then, how would it help you if God granted your prayer and "took him away from you." Let's say your husband were to be run over by the proverbial bus today. Would your financial situation be the same? Still be as dire?
Since ancient times, imbalances of financial power between the genders have kept women "imprisoned" in domestic violence relationships. Yes, I said "domestic violence." Not all domestic violence marriages include physical violence. Some of them are defined only by relentless psychological cruelty and verbal violence. Does this describe your marriage?
S.O., pick up the phone - now - and talk to one of the faithful folks at Safe Nest: 702-646-4981. Tell them your story. Do this right now.
Steven Kalas is a behavioral health consultant and counselor at Las Vegas Psychiatry and the author of "Human Matters: Wise and Witty Counsel on Relationships, Parenting, Grief and Doing the Right Thing" (Stephens Press). His columns also appear on Sundays in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Contact him at 702-227-4165 or firstname.lastname@example.org.