Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

Admit Relationship Is Abusive

DEAR NATALIE: I am at my wits end. I am depressed and angry. I get no respect from my husband. He says all men are "superior creatures." He bad mouths women all the time. He has a disability and seems to want me to be constantly available to serve his needs. 

My friend says he is a "narcissist" and that this is common among men, especially accomplished men, which he was before he became disabled. Some people say I should ignore him or put up with what he does. He has said that he had a neglectful mother as a child and a father who was preoccupied with his business. I understand that because I also had a similar situation. I can't make up for the love that was missing early in his life. I know he needs love but so do I. Please help me if you can. -- UNHAPPY WIFE

DEAR UNHAPPY WIFE: There is just so much to unpack in this letter. First, it is very disturbing to hear that your husband subjugates you and half of the human population. Degrading and demoralizing you is abuse. You are in an abusive relationship. I say this plainly because sometimes you need to see the words for it to click. When someone is demeaning to you, relentless in their nasty commentary, and makes you feel like a servant in your own home, recognize that this is not healthy behavior. This attitude toward women and yourself is only hurting your sense of self-worth. 

Second, it seems as though his disability has made him feel inferior to others around him (including yourself), and so he is lashing out at you because he doesn't feel as in control as he once did. 

Third, whether or not he had a neglectful mother and a distant father is not an excuse to treat you badly. He is allowing his negative past to dictate what could be a bright future. 

Short of packing your bags and leaving him, here is how you can help yourself should you stay: 

Find a hobby outside of the house. Whether it's long walks with a girlfriend, volunteering at an animal rescue shelter, taking up a class, or trying yoga, there are ways for you to practice self-care and get you away from the negativity in the household. When you are at home, stop answering his every beck and call (especially if he calls for you using any kind of derogatory language). 

Let him know that while you are there to help him, you are not his slave and you will not be treated unkindly. This may be met with even more hateful speech toward you, so be prepared, but unless you stand up to this bully in some capacity, it won't stop. Obviously, if he has been physically violent toward you, don't incite him. If that is the case, consider moving in with a friend or family member for a short time. If that is not possible, visit with a therapist and talk through these issues. 

At the end of the day, it is not up to you to make anyone happy. You must work toward your own sense of inner peace. Good luck to you.

Please send your relationship and lifestyle questions to nbencivenga@post-gazette.com or tweet them to @NBSeen. You can also send postal letters to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15212

(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)