FAMILY LIFE: Childhood abuse is ruining his marriage

Q: I was beaten as a kid by my father and I saw him hit my mother. The hitting stopped when I was 14 and took a bat to my father when he was attacking my mother. I would never hit a woman, but my wife says I am abusive and controlling because of my childhood. I don’t know what she is talking about and this is ruining our marriage. How do I fix this?

A: Given what you were exposed to growing up, there is a good likelihood you also experienced a lot of verbal, emotional and psychological abuse.

However, it was the physical violence that you noticed and caused you to intervene on behalf of your mother. You had to take control and resort to violence in order to protect your mother.

You also likely want to distance yourself from how you view your father and not consider yourself like him. You reasonably pride yourself on your physical non-violence.

What you may not realize, though, is that you may have inadvertently learned other strategies for managing relationships and conflict specifically that, while not physically violent, may be upsetting and controlling.

We learn how to get along with others in intimate relationships by observation, most of which comes from watching our parents. You may not know what to do to resolve conflict peacefully and mutually and use strategies similar to what you experienced growing up.

You must help to learn to resolve conflict peacefully and reach solutions that you and your wife are satisfied with. This can be achieved by receiving counseling to discuss and learn how to get along in a relationship. Asking the question was the first step.