Dear Annie: As a witness to a friend’s marriage, I vowed to help keep their relationship strong. Would you please print something I could give them about verbal abuse?
His wife has a serious drinking problem, and when she’s had too much, she goes berserk, screaming hateful things to her husband in front of others. It’s horrific. I can’t tell whether it’s only the alcohol talking or whether she has deep-seated issues. I realize there will be no change until she admits she has a problem.
They do sporadically see a therapist, but it doesn’t seem to be helping much. Is there anything I can do to spur her on? – Feeling Helpless
Dear Helpless: The signs of verbal abuse include: a spouse who calls you names; who is critical, sarcastic or mocking in an effort to humiliate or embarrass you; who yells or swears at you; who uses threats to intimidate you; who blames you for his or her behavior; who dismisses your feelings.
However, it sounds as if the verbal abuse is triggered by the alcohol, so that should be the first problem to work on. Otherwise, it may be too difficult for her to control her behavior when she’s drinking. You cannot do this for her, nor can you make it better for him. However, both you and your friend can look for a meeting of Al-Anon ( al-anon-alateen.org). Also, please encourage him to see the therapist more regularly. They both need ongoing guidance. It will be hard work.