Upside-Down & Inside-Out: A Blog About Abusive Relationships

Living with an abusive person means learning to live in a topsy-turvy world where normal rules do not apply. It is like the movie the Poseidon Adventure where the ship gets turned upside down and the floor is the ceiling and the ceiling the floor. Yet, somehow I did break out of the invisible cage my first wife had built around me even though it was the hardest thing I've ever done. So this blog is about how we learn to live with abuse and then unlearn; it's based on my personal experience.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Stupidity Of Intelligence In Abusive Relationships

This is part of the Website

Some very intelligent people are quite stupid. I know I lived with one for ten years. While my first wife had almost a 4.0 grade average at a highly respected university and was asked to join Phi Beta Kappa, she was one of the dumbest people I have ever met. But it took me years to realize because I was blinded by her clever mind.

We all know very smart people who terrorize those they love and have little understanding of the impact their anger and self-centeredness has on their families. And because they are smart, they are often tolerated and treated as special by those they love. And because they are smarter, they often think of themselves as being superior.

Intelligence is like any powerful tool. It can be used for good or evil. The same knife that can save a life in surgery can kill another when used with violence. In a marriage, intelligence can be used to clarify or to conceal. It can be used to better a relationship or to gain abusive control.

I made the mistake of thinking of intelligence as having a positive and deep value in itself. Yet it can be superficial or destructive. Intelligence is often cleverness but not wisdom; it may be a dazzling parlor trick or a major insight; it can be used in the service of understanding or used to cause conflict.

As e e cummings, the poet, pointed out, feelings are first. Intelligence is at the service of our feelings. Feelings cause intelligence to be focused for either positive or negative purposes.

So understanding one's emotions and gaining insight (now called intrapersonal intelligence and considered one of eight kinds of intelligence) is crucial because it is this kind of intelligence that guides each person. Understanding one's self, (one's strengths and weaknesses, one's true goals, values and personal history) is more important than any other kind of intelligence as it controls the others.

So while my first wife tested very well on verbal SAT tests (her math was not as good), her emotional intelligence was that of a six year old child.

When I first met her, fell in love with her and married her, I realized that she had a child-like mind. It was one of the things I liked about her. It was an unspoiled innocence (I thought) that could see the world more clearly with a child's eyes. Yet this 'innocence' came with a price; her emotions, reactions and our disagreements were often childish. If I tried to be the adult, her childish nature would try to pull me down to her level. And if I remained an adult, she became angry and resentful.

When I married her, I hoped that, secure in my love, she could grow and mature in a healthy environment, that love 'was all you need'. Instead because she was safe, her problems came pouring out: she was jealous, she was demanding, she was impatient, she would not compromise, she would not negotiate and she could not or would not understand my feelings although on some days she wanted me to spend hours discussing hers. Disagreeing with her was not an option. She cried, often for hours; she became angry and she pouted. After a while I usually gave in.

When people asked me why we had not had children yet, I said, under my breath, "I don't want children, I have one already."

I kept hoping for an open, honest expression of feelings between us, but when I told her of problems I was having, she replied with, "Oh please don't feel like that." In other words, as the shrinks later pointed out, she dismissed my feelings and did not listen to me. And if you have read my other blog entries, you know that she used her intelligence to thwart my efforts to reach her and to cleverly undermine my sense of myself so that she would be in control.

After a while, I needed some time and space to myself, so while I was always available when she needed me, I found jobs that required a lot of my time and that gave me the excuse to get away from her and her childish moods. In retaliation she had an affair.

I tolerated the affair for a while hoping that perhaps another perspective might help her mature. No such luck. She had found a person who catered to her whims and made her feel like a child princess. So while she kept protesting that she wanted to be with me, she could never break free of her other.

After a couple of years, I had had enough. There followed a long series of warnings from me (I told her, "You are destroying our marriage and I will leave, if you do not end your affair."), warnings from shrinks who repeated what I told her and warnings from friends who said the same thing.

Now I knew from my years with her, that she was a child headed down a road that she would regret, but I was helpless. I wanted to save her from herself, but as I was taught in group therapy, you cannot save someone; she had to want to save herself. And I also knew that my efforts to help her were often met with resentment and seen by her as controlling.

After many months of warnings I asked her to move out and we separated although we agreed to keep seeing each other.

At this point she became desperate and begged me to take her back; she protested she finally understood that she had been foolish but now she saw the light, that she loved me more than anyone and that she would do whatever it took to rebuild our marriage. However, what she left out, I realized later, was an apology for the years of hurt she caused. Because she never admitted her responsibility or said she was sorry or offered to make amends, this final effort of hers was doomed.

When she wanted me back, I insisted that we both agree to a number of ground rules. One of these was that she would continue seeing her therapist; yet after a while, she decided she was going to stop seeing him. And after six months she had broken every rule we had agreed to, including going back to the man she was having the affair with. Finally I said, "I am going to make this very simple and straight forward. If you see him one more time, our marriage is over." She agreed and later emphasized that she understood.

Well if you have been reading my site, you know what happened. She had sex with the man she had been seeing. Why had this happened? Had she misunderstood? She said, "I don't know why, it just happened." I finally had enough. Our marriage ended.

Now you would think that was the end of the story. Far from it. She was furious that I would leave her. "Why?" she wanted to know, "How could you leave me, I love you more than anyone." Later she said, "You were the only person I feel comfortable with. You're my best friend." And then she started visiting my mother a number of times which was very odd as she did not like to visit my mother when we were married; in fact she had often become quite angry when we had to visit her.

My ex-wife's efforts did not end there. Hoping that we could get back together, she called me for the next six months but she never once asked how I felt or apologized.

At the end I realized there was no way to reach her and nothing I could do. I had to abandon this child I loved. While I still loved her, my trust in her had been shattered and could not be restored.

My love of her innocence and intelligence had lead to a loss of my own innocence although as a result I had gained a bit of wisdom. I had discovered this basic truth: love was not enough, not nearly enough.


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