My husband cannot stand up for himself with his ex-wife. She is
very abusive toward both him and me. He gets angry at me but never at her.
How can I make him stand up for himself with her?
Your question does not indicate what type of leverage the "ex" has
over your husband, or any of the circumstances surrounding the divorce. So
let me make some general statements.
Often the one who left the marriage feels guilty for having left or for
inflicting pain on the other spouse. Sometimes the spouse who did not want
the divorce will even use the threat of self-harm to manipulate the guilty
party. The guilty spouse will often allow the other spouse to punish him/her
for the leaving or causing pain. Accepting the abuse can be a way of
expiating the guilt and leveling the playing field.
The presence of children compound the guilt. If the children are with the
mother and the father was the one who left the family, the "victim" parent
may use the children as emotional leverage to make demands and retaliate.
The guilty parent, out of fear and guilt, capitulates to the demands and
accepts the abuse. If the father left and also has custody of the children,
he may feel even more guilty for "destroying" the life of his ex-wife and
that he deserves punishment.
There is no way that you can "make him stand up for himself." He has to work
through his guilt and/or fear. Once he is no longer afraid of the
consequences or has resolved his guilt, he will be able to stand up for
himself without your intervention. Your statement suggests that he is
displacing his anger onto you rather than confronting his ex-wife. How do
you stand up to him?
Dr. Edward A. Dreyfus is a Clinical Psychologist,
Marriage, Family, Child Therapist, and Sex Therapist. Dr. Dreyfus has been providing
psychological services in the Los Angeles-Santa Monica area for over 30 years.
He offers individual psychotherapy to adolescents and adults, divorce mediation,
couples counseling, group therapy, and career and vocational counseling and
assessment.His book, Someone Right For You, is available in the Amazing
Dr. Dreyfus can be reached at: (310) 208-5700.