So if you are in a marriage where you are enabling your spouse, what would you do?

I married before I became a true Catholic. I married a Baptist who does not attend church. He went to church with me faithfully when we dated, and has rarely went since we said “I do”.

He shows no mercy to me or the children. He is hyper-critical and thinks that punishment is the answer to everything. Sometimes spanking our 16-year old daughter because he thinks she is “disrespectful” when actually she may just be telling him how she feels. He will provoke and say “do you have something to say” and when something is said he tells you that you are wrong or disrespecting him. He has never hurt anyone in the family physically. The spankings are not hard enough to bruise or anything like that. He also grounds the children and will not tell them how long they are grounded, just until he says and it goes on for months.

For a very long time I have thought that I should just love him as best I can and submit to his authority over the family and God will deal with him. However, nothing ever changes and I feel exhausted and I am not being a good parent myself. I am so preoccupied with how to deal with this that I have very little patience with the children anymore. I recently decided to start asking him to change and look at his own behaviors and get some help. He is not receptive. He says I need help. We have been through this cycle 5 times where he tells me to get help, I go to counseling alone and he does nothing. I really feel that I have my own problems with being codependent and confused, but I do not have serious psychological issues. I feel he has been gas lighting me all these years and I know he is the one who needs to get some help but he refuses. He says he nearly perfect as a father/husband and that I am not being a good wife. I have exhausted all resources, no one understands. I just want him to get some help. He has severely tortured by his father as a child and now he is torturing us emotionally by controlling and punishing.

Please know that I realize I could be better. I frequent confession, mass, rosary, chaplet. I have a devotion to the blessed Mother and that is why I am still trying to figure this out. When I married him I was immature and stupid, now I am not sure what to do to help my children.

Before you ask, yes we have been to therapy together, to priests, pastors and counselors. He used to go only so that he could tell them what was wrong with ME. We went on a marriage encounter once but there is such a lack of empathy and emotion, emptiness, that is all, nothing sinks in. He is like a shell of a person.

We live separate lives. The kids and me, and he does what he wants. I am not sure what to do but if you have any advice I would appreciate it. I would not divorce him, but I think I am going to ask him to start praying with us and going to church with us. If he refuses. I am thinking of asking for separation only as a tool to persuade him to get help.

You are dealing with an emotional abuser. Additionally, he should NOT be spanking a teenager. That is ridiculous (although at times tempting). He is punishing you all to the extreme. You are trying to be a good wife, but I think you should stand up to him and tell him to stop this abusive behavior. If he refuses, and begins labeling you a “bad wife” for not being submissive, do not stand for it. Tell him he needs counseling and that you and your family will return home when he understands that he is supposed to cherish and nurture you and your children.
Have a game plan. Make sure you have a secure place to go for a temporary time. Then do it. Follow through on this because absolutely nothing will change unless you do.
I do not advocate divorce or formal separation, because I think your marriage can be saved. But you have to put your foot down, in my opinion, and make him face facts.

Thanks for your reply and support. I know he doesn’t realize what he is doing, and that makes it confusing. I hope something will change somehow, some way.

I agree with the above poster. If you do not stand up to him and just hope and pray that he will change it will not work. Allow your prayers to guide you as to what to say, and if necessary you may need to follow up with separation to show him that you mean business. His behaviour can seriously affect your children’s well-being.

I doubt if you want things to just continue the same way they have been going.

He is an abuser and you need to get help from a professional in domestic violence abuse counseling.

Your first priority is your children. If your daughter is 16 she has had more than enough emotional abuse to screw her up for a lifetime. Honestly, get help and get out. Get your children away from this man.

You MUST do something other than just hope. All it’s going to take for all hell to break loose in your home is your teenage daughter telling a teacher, counselor, friend, or friend’s parent that her dad is spanking her. These days, at that age, law enforcement and the courts will consider that not only physical abuse, but possibly sexual abuse.

You need to get some professional help involved for you and your children RIGHT NOW!!

Dear Dove,

Try checking out this website:


It’s the national domestic abuse hotline.

Good luck!

Jenny M

You DO NOT live separate lives if he is still SPANKING your 16 year old daughter!!! :eek: This is a SERIOUS boundary violation and are you 100% certain there is no sexual abuse going on?? Most fathers know when to stop spanking and it’s way before 16!!! How would a man think to spank his almost-grown daughter in the first place!? It’s just wrong.

I agree with all the others, you must find a way to get your children out of this situation. It may wake him up when you leave, it may not. It may send him over the edge into dangerous behavior, that is why you need to protect yourselves and go to a place that is safe. Does he keep weapons?

Your children have already been harmed by their father. How long do you want them to suffer? They will hate you for not protecting them, even more than they hate their father for being so cruel and spiteful to them. You have little to lose if you are living with this abuse every day. Just because he is not beating you does not mean this is not abuse.

There are signs here (BPD or NPD). Do not act rashly. Do not expect that if you stand up for yourself that anything will change. Behaviors are well ingrained on both your parts. I suggest getting the books Splitting and High Conflict People in Legal Disputes by William Eddy.

I am NOT advocating divorce, but you do need to be prepared for what MAY happen. Also these books are a good starting place to describe abusive erratic behavior. Learn what it means to be a “NON” and why certain people are vulnerable to accepting this role. That understanding is the path to your healing.

My thoughts exactly!! There is something very suspicious (and very wrong) when a man spanks his teenage daughter…I didn’t want to suggest that there was sexual abuse going on, so I commented that the courts would question that if he was turned in, but since you brought it up…it would not surprise me that this boundary was crossed as well, given that the father was himself horribly abused as a child and apparently didn’t receive sufficient counseling/treatment for it.

Praying for the safety of the OP and her children!!

Well I am pretty frank and direct, both in person and on line! I call it as I see it, take what you like and leave the rest…

This family needs help immediately. Stuff going on that shouldn’t be.

I know he doesn’t realize what he is doing, and that makes it confusing.

but*** you ***know what he’s doing and that’s all you ned to know.

“spanking” a 16 year old? i can’t decide which is worse, the actual perversity of “spanking” a 16 year old, or the euphamism of “spanking” to denote a physical attack of a 16 year old girl.

you need out.

your kids need safe.

you and your kids need counseling. you need to discover why you didnt know what you should have known. or why you didnt flee.

I’m getting off topic, but I admire your frankness! Every time I try and be blunt, I’m called out for being uncharitable; it’s gotten to where I feel the need to leave a disclaimer :wink:

Anyway, a situation such as the OP described needs an answer that is blunt, frank, and to the point. Glad to see all that has been posted thus far encourages her to get away and get away now before something even worse happens!

I am 100% sure he is not sexually abusing my daughter. My mother worked in a home for abused girls from the time I was 7 and I began listening to those horror stories from that age because I went to work with her. We live in the south and he is very old fashioned about discipline. Sexual abuse is one thing I would not ever think he would do. I don’t put it past anyone because I know that anyone can be sexually abused or could be an abuser, as I was sexually abused when I was 9. But no, I have well-taught my daughters that they are not to allow this and to tell no matter what from the youngest age they can understand. I have asked my daughter before, not because I would ever suspect it, but because I know that even those you least expect can do this. She stated with 100% certainty that she doesn’t believe he would ever do this to anyone, ever.

I believe he is NPD as someone mentioned. He has 7 of 9 traits. I have studied this disorder and I know what I am dealing with, it is impossible.

As far as separate lives, I mean that we take separate vacations and we do nothing together as a family. He feels that I do not discipline at all, so he has to be hard on the girls. I feel that because he is so hard on them, I tend to be lenient. There is no balance.

The reason I am here is because I want to do what God wills for us. If we divorce or separate, do you all understand that he will have my children on the weekends and I won’t be there. His family has money, I am broke. No one will believe me and we do not have physical bruises. I am trying to make the best decision and if you all had any idea what I deal with, you would know that it takes time to devise a plan in these situations.

In addition, my parents side with him. I do not have anywhere to go. My step-father told me that I am not to ask for their help if my marriage doesn’t work out. If I have to separate, then I have to file for legal separation to have him forced from the home. This is going to take time and I do not want to do it now, right before Christmas.

Thank you for your support and suggestions. I appreciate the honesty, really. I am not making excuses, I just don’t think it is possible to take 5 children and find a place to go. He has to be the one to go if it comes down to that.

Well, we were trying to help based on the information you gave us. In the short time I have been visiting here I have seen something happen here which is troubling. A poster will come on, make a thread, and ask about a situation which appears serious and needs some form of intervention. The forum members respond with support and advice, trying to help the original poster to process his/her situation. Then after a round of responses, the poster comes back and retracts about half of what she said in the original post, or changes things so that the situation seems almost normal and no big deal.

Perhaps the truth lies somewhere between the two poles - your husband as a narcissist who may be abusive, and your husband as simply a strict father who is balancing out your more lenient style of parenting.

You are indeed in a difficult situation, and none of us were minimizing that. You didn’t say how many kids you have, you mentioned the 16 year old being spanked and referred to “the kids.” If all of them are seeing their father mistreat you, that is going to stick with them. If he mistreats them, that may also continue through generations.

Well, I hope you know that we are trying to help you. You came here for help, and you sounded pretty desperate. Now you seem to be taking about half of what you said back.

Well…if your teenage daughter is having her buttocks slapped by her father, that is SEXUAL abuse! It doesn’t have to take the form of him finding obvious pleasure in it, as is how most people define sexual abuse, but it is what it is. There are emergency shelters all over the US and Canada for women and children when domestic abuse occurs. You were given a hotline number to call on a previous post…if you really want to help your children, and as their mom you are supposed to keep them from harm, you will call and get some help. Otherwise, your children will go on thinking this is how “it’s supposed to be” and perpetuate the cycle that your husband is in. I would rather be in a safe place on Christmas (even if it’s a shelter) than with an abuser. Your poor abused daughter probably thinks so, too. Give that girl her dignity back (and get yours back, too along with that of your children) as a Christmas gift!!!

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