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can you retrain an emotionally abusive DH?

(36 Posts)
olderandbecomingwiser Mon 28-Oct-13 19:30:17

Hello

I fall into the trap of having married a grade 10 * and settled, after divorce, for a grade 4-8 one, depending on his mood of the day. He can be charming and lovely when not in a bad mood.

Our son is at university and we live in the country, so are quite isolated, apart from our dogs. I depend on him financially as my son is only in his first year - I work, unpaid, as my husband's secretary. When DH is cross, he makes jokes about our son's university fees.

DH used to air his Mr Hyde self regularly until he became ill last year. He was beaten as a child. On his recovery we had six months of Dr Jekyll friendliness.

Since June, Mr Hyde has resurfaced with increasing regularity.

One of the problems is the length of time that DH will sulk for, even when he is the one who started a row.

Today, for example, I had forgotten to remind him to deliver a package to his business, meaning that he had to repeat the 1-hour round journey today.

He stayed out in the pub until 4.00pm and then after a few insults went straight to bed, where he remains. I have my study door locked.

When I try to cajole him into coming out of his mood, it makes things worse. He says harsh things and his face contorts.

The problem is that I find it hard to get on with my normal life while these sulks - or punishment as I see it - continue.

I am trying to build a business as a proofreader, but my concentration during these periods is not up to the job.

I also am increasingly having to cancel visits - eg my yoga teacher - if on a day when DH is still in a sulk.

Has anyone been able to convert a Mr Hyde into a Dr Jekyll and if so, how?

All thoughts welcome.

Lweji Portugal Wed 30-Oct-13 21:30:15

You are saving him a secretarial salary.
How is that not contributing?

BTW, grylls, I didnt ignore retrain. See my 1st post.

olderandbecomingwiser Wed 30-Oct-13 20:18:38

Thanks for the posts.

As you say, working for free is not the main issue: it is that I relocated from London at my husband's request on the promise that I would be able to combine his work with mine. I absolutely do not want a hobby business, but one that draws on my qualifications and experience. Were my husband to leave for a month I could have it running.

Part of the problem is the gap between what DH says he wants - me to earn money in my own right from my home-based proofreading/editing business - and how he acts.

When I work for his business or personal affairs I generally do not get interrupted.

When I try to work on the website needed for my business or have meetings related to it, the interruptions are constant, whether shouting down from the bedroom for a cup of coffee (my study is below) or walking in on me repeatedly when I am trying to draft something or am on the phone. I have a whiteboard where I list both my action points, and my DH's. Only one set gets struck off. I have stopped updating it. I agree it would make more financial sense for me to work at a higher-paid rate in my business and to find a secretary/admin assistant for my husband. He says he does not want this, confidentiality etc. Yet he then berates me for not contributing to the household.

I have tried to set boundaries but they do not work. This week I am trying to enforce them by turning away if my DH speaks to me in the usual hostile and querulous tone.

Yoga is - or used to be - a luxury only in the sense that I am able to afford a weekly session at home. But I believe that far from diluting my work, it helps it. As I work from home (or try to) I do not have traveling time, therefore Friday yoga was the one thing I tried to do as a positive way of learning how to detach myself from a difficult situation. It really helped concentration, self-esteem etc and I miss it.

This week has been the longest sulk I have experienced during our marriage, and I wonder whether this is because I have resisted my normal appeasement mode (cups of coffee etc) and have worked - with the door locked - on my business website.

Apart from sleeping apart, my DH has started going out for lunches by himself and eating by himself in the evening. I sometimes feel that he wants me to come to heel.

I am going away for a few days tomorrow, to see if some distance will help.

I would give anything for a husband who would wake up after a row and just say 'this is silly, I'm sorry, let's be friends again'. Not to keep up this hostility for 72 hours and counting.

olderandbecomingwiser Wed 30-Oct-13 20:13:45

Thanks for the posts.

As you say, working for free is not the main issue: it is that I relocated from London at my husband's request on the promise that I would be able to combine his work with mine. I absolutely do not want a hobby business, but one that draws on my qualifications and experience. Were my husband to leave for a month I could have it running.

Part of the problem is the gap between what DH says he wants - me to earn money in my own right from my home-based proofreading/editing business - and how he acts.

When I work for his business or personal affairs I generally do not get interrupted.

When I try to work on the website needed for my business or have meetings related to it, the interruptions are constant, whether shouting down from the bedroom for a cup of coffee (my study is below) or walking in on me repeatedly when I am trying to draft something or am on the phone. I have a whiteboard where I list both my action points, and my DH's. Only one set gets struck off. I have stopped updating it. I agree it would make more financial sense for me to work at a higher-paid rate in my business and to find a secretary/admin assistant for my husband. He says he does not want this, confidentiality etc. Yet he then berates me for not contributing to the household.

I have tried to set boundaries but they do not work. This week I am trying to enforce them by turning away if my DH speaks to me in the usual hostile and querulous tone.

Yoga is - or used to be - a luxury only in the sense that I am able to afford a weekly session at home. But I believe that far from diluting my work, it helps it. As I work from home (or try to) I do not have traveling time, therefore Friday yoga was the one thing I tried to do as a positive way of learning how to detach myself from a difficult situation. It really helped concentration, self-esteem etc and I miss it.

This week has been the longest sulk I have experienced during our marriage, and I wonder whether this is because I have resisted my normal appeasement mode (cups of coffee etc) and have worked - with the door locked - on my business website.

Apart from sleeping apart, my DH has started going out for lunches by himself and eating by himself in the evening. I sometimes feel that he wants me to come to heel.

I am going away for a few days tomorrow, to see if some distance will help.

I would give anything for a husband who would wake up after a row and just say 'this is silly, I'm sorry, let's be friends again'. Not to keep up this hostility for 72 hours and counting.

larrygrylls Wed 30-Oct-13 09:09:09

This working "for free" is a complete red herring. Quite clearly, OP, you live very comfortably and this lifestyle is provided by your husband. In addition, he pays for your son to attend an expensive overseas university. If you are in the UK, I think ItCouldBeWorse has a point. Paying you would both be tax efficient and good for your self esteem. I thought, from your posts, that you don't live in the UK, though?

There seem to be some boundary issues re time. I think that when you are working for your husband, in a sense he "owns" your time, just like any employer. On the other hand, when you are meant to be doing your own thing, you clearly own your time and should be allowed to do what you want, undisturbed. For that reason, you need to agree on working hours, complete with breaks and lunches.

If you want to cease doing the secretarial work, you should probably inform your husband that you no longer wish to do it and give him notice, say 1-3 months. In that time, you could help him look for a paid replacement. In addition, it sounds like it might make sense to prioritise. Most people setting up their own businesses do not have the luxury of visiting yoga instructors! That money would be better spent on a housekeeper/au pair who could get your husband's shirts, coffees etc, leaving you free to build your business in peace.

All the above are things to talk about, not angrily but assertively. They are all non negotiable. However, you have to show that you are prepared to make some sacrifices to achieve what you want, not that you want to build a nice little hobby business but just as long as it does not eat into your leisure time.

Finally, Lweji, it is amazing that you are prepared to make inferences from words like "interfere" and "allowed" but ignore the elephant in the room: "retrain".

ITCouldBeWorse Tue 29-Oct-13 23:00:25

Surely it would have made sense for you to be paid, as it is more tax efficient. The fact that you are unpaid suggests to me he likes it that way.

In short, I don't think he sees you as an equal partner and no I don't think he could change :-(

IamGluezilla Tue 29-Oct-13 22:55:33

"how mortified he is about his own behaviour."

I don't think he's a bit mortified. He just says blah blah blah whatever is needed to sway you. His actions show only two possibilities (a) he doesn't know what the word means- do you know what he actually means by mortified or (b) he was telling an expedient, for him, fib

Lweji Portugal Tue 29-Oct-13 22:02:10

However, given that I am helping my husband out while he finds somebody more suitable long-term I thought it a fair trade-off to work for free provided I were allowed to develop my own small business without interference.

Interesting sentence.
How long has he been looking for somebody?
"Allowed"?
Interference?

He's still interfering, isn't he? He's making it difficult for you while asking for cups of tea (!) and where his ironed shirts were.

He doesn't seem to want you to be financially independent.

You do need a plan to leave, even if you aren't going to do it tomorrow, next week, or next month. Maybe next year?
But I do think you will need to, or at the very least have leaving as a real option.

olderandbecomingwiser Tue 29-Oct-13 21:21:01

Many thanks for your post. I agree with what you say but knowing something is right does not make it easier to make changes.

If my husband's admin etc was my only job I would perhaps ask to be paid. However, given that I am helping my husband out while he finds somebody more suitable long-term I thought it a fair trade-off to work for free provided I were allowed to develop my own small business without interference.

I am keen to earn at least some money in my own right, no matter how small.

There is no grant system where my son is at university and if I waited for the legal process to take its effect he would be out of the country within a month.

This is not meant to sound feeble.

I know I need to build my own small business and will just have to be more rigorous in locking my study while I work on it.

quietlysuggests Tue 29-Oct-13 20:20:40

First thing - tell your husband you will be paid for your work from next week.
Second thing - get son to check out rules in whatever country hes in - if you divorce and he essentially then has a low or non earning mother what is the grant system?
Third thing - reconnect with your family and friends - I know you haven't specifically said you don't have contact with them but knowing pricks like your husband, I know he will have made this happen
Finally - tell your prick of a husband to go get help if he wants to as the very next time he sulks then you are out of there.

(I know you wont do any of the above. So maybe look up local services and see if you can get someone trained in motivational interviewing to do some counselling with you)

Lweji Portugal Tue 29-Oct-13 20:14:49

If he is supposedly mortified, what is he doing about it?

He doesn't seem too bothered if you are already at loggerheads tonight. hmm

olderandbecomingwiser Tue 29-Oct-13 20:10:30

Thank you for all your responses - I am touched by your replies, even if the overall message seems grim at first glance.

To give more background: I have a degree and an MBA but relocated at the request of my husband who has a family business in the country. I would be able to make a reasonable income as an editorial freelancer. Acting as a secretary/admin assistant was something I was happy to do given the situation. I assumed I would have been free to do my own work as well.

Technically, I should of course be able to combine a smaller-scale business such as proofreading with acting as my husband's secretary, admin assistant, credit controller or editor of his letters and documents.

What happens today is typical: while trying to do my work in the morning I must have had up to ten calls from him on my business mobile phone, asking for a cup of coffee, saying he had an urgent matter to discuss with me etc. The urgent matter turned out to be where I had put his ironed shirts.

I had booked a training session with a photographer to teach me how to take photographs and edit them in Photoshop. After an hour of this session my husband said he had an urgent matter and needed to see me. Although we continued for some ten minutes longer, it was not a relaxed setting. The urgent matter turned out not to be that urgent.

The reason I lock my study door is that my DH does not respect boundaries and will walk in on me if I am on the phone and then stay there, waiting for me to finish.

Re the fees, my son - my DH's stepson - is at university abroad so the fees are higher.

Yes I do still love my husband so am a sucker for when he says - as this morning - how mortified he is about his own behaviour.

We had lunch together but tonight are back to siege warfare under the same roof.

I agree with the advice theoretically but have a problem with the practicalities.

X

olderandbecomingwiser Tue 29-Oct-13 20:10:06

Thank you for all your responses - I am touched by your replies, even if the overall message seems grim at first glance.

To give more background: I have a degree and an MBA but relocated at the request of my husband who has a family business in the country. I would be able to make a reasonable income as an editorial freelancer. Acting as a secretary/admin assistant was something I was happy to do given the situation. I assumed I would have been free to do my own work as well.

Technically, I should of course be able to combine a smaller-scale business such as proofreading with acting as my husband's secretary, admin assistant, credit controller or editor of his letters and documents.

What happens today is typical: while trying to do my work in the morning I must have had up to ten calls from him on my business mobile phone, asking for a cup of coffee, saying he had an urgent matter to discuss with me etc. The urgent matter turned out to be where I had put his ironed shirts.

I had booked a training session with a photographer to teach me how to take photographs and edit them in Photoshop. After an hour of this session my husband said he had an urgent matter and needed to see me. Although we continued for some ten minutes longer, it was not a relaxed setting. The urgent matter turned out not to be that urgent.

The reason I lock my study door is that my DH does not respect boundaries and will walk in on me if I am on the phone and then stay there, waiting for me to finish.

Re the fees, my son - my DH's stepson - is at university abroad so the fees are higher.

Yes I do still love my husband so am a sucker for when he says - as this morning - how mortified he is about his own behaviour.

We had lunch together but tonight are back to siege warfare under the same roof.

I agree with the advice theoretically but have a problem with the practicalities.

X

onetiredmummy Tue 29-Oct-13 14:09:52

OP the answer to your question is no, its not possible to retrain an adult who doesn't see a problem with their behaviour. With such adults their behaviour is not their responsibility, its always someone else's fault why they are in bad mood.a

If you would like more input on your relation ship then clarification is needed:

- why did you lock your door, what did you think he was capable of that night?

- Are you frightened of him (contorting face etc)

- If you are a proofreader does that mean you cannot be his secretary anymore? What would he do in this instance?

- Why do you have to cancel visits if he is sulking, if you have visitors what would happen?

- Why are you still there?

brew

Lweji Portugal Tue 29-Oct-13 12:36:47

We actually don't know it's part of her job. Assumptions and all that. wink

Dahlen Tue 29-Oct-13 11:54:12

The OP wasn't actually asking if we thought her H was EA though. She was asking if an EA person can change.

But, since we're on the subject, she makes it clear that the sulks last for several hours. She also says he switches between Jekyll and Hyde - classic abusive personality markers. Combined with the fact it's affecting her behaviour and anxiety, I think it's fairly certain that he is indeed an EA person. Besides, even if she had messed up, as CES says, a decent boss doesn't go around sulking in response.

CogitoEerilySpooky Tue 29-Oct-13 11:43:02

But if it was a job, and if the manager went off and sulked for hours on end because an employee had made a mistake rather than something more constructive, the manager would also be an arsehole... Don't get your point really.

larrygrylls Tue 29-Oct-13 11:35:57

Lweji,

It was her obligation to remind him. It was part of her JOB. If it were a commercial arrangement for a secretary to keep her boss's diary, would you regard forgetting to remind her boss of an important appointment as not failing to do the job?

I was using the phrase "one minute" as hyperbole to make the general point that the word "sulking" is emotive. It is not abusive to be unhappy with one's partner and show it for a period of time.

What I chose to do was to say that things have to be viewed in full and in context, not on the basis of one assumptive post.

CogitoEerilySpooky Tue 29-Oct-13 11:34:22

larrygrylls post is one of those responses that make me want to go.... hmmmm.

Lweji Portugal Tue 29-Oct-13 10:27:31

Larry, larry, did you read the OP?

If she forgot to remind him, it was his obligation to remember in the first place. If she had forgotten to inform him, that is different. If he was supposed to deliver a package to his own business, surely it was his responsibility, even if she acts as his secretary.
Still no reason for a sulk.

The OP clearly stated that he sulked for more than one minute. Certainly enough to affect the OP's work and relaxation.

The OP clearly states he insults her.

You chose to concentrate on her unpaid working arrangements...

larrygrylls Tue 29-Oct-13 09:03:19

This is one of those threads that make me want to go hmmmm. The OP makes an initial post, with very little background and all sorts of assumptions, then leaves the thread. Then lots of people pile in with their own preconceptions.

"Sulking" is a very emotive word. Being annoyed for more than one minute is not per se abuse. It is only abusive it is prolonged and part of a pattern of one sided controlling behaviour. It is no less or more abusive than being so careless of one's partner's time that you "forget" to remind him of something that costs him one hour of his life. We don't know which occurs more often, the "forgetting"(which could also be part of a pattern of low level provocation) or the "sulking" unless the OP returns to explain.

As for the "unpaid" work, if you can work as a secretary and afford a yoga teacher to come to your house, then you are clearly not unpaid in any but the literal definition of the word. The OP's partner clearly gives her a very nice life, considering there are no children to be looked after permanently at home.

Again, we would have to know a lot more about how the arrangement came into being to make a judgment on the equity of it. Did the OP give up a lucrative and high powered career to reluctantly stay at home or did she marry a wealthy husband and happily agree to do a few hours of secretarial support in return for a very nice lifestyle that she could never have achieved otherwise?

Unless more background is provided, we cannot know very much about the OP's situation at all, other than the fact she herself considers herself to work unpaid and that she is being abused.

It sounds like it's mainly financial reasons you're staying with him. Would your son resent you if you said you cou couldn't support him any more? That he'd have to take out a loan (or a bigger one) like a large proportion of other students?

You've been home-maker and unpaid secretary throughout you're marriage - that should make for a reasonable settlement. I'm not saying LTB, just keep your options open. If the grumpy old git knows you're prepared to walk, he might just buck his ideas up. Talk to him, give it 3-6 months and if there's no improvement, walk away to freedom and happiness.

cloudskitchen Tue 29-Oct-13 07:34:55

Treat him as you might a child behaving in such a manner. Reward his good behaviour and ignore the bad. If he's sulking, ignore him. Why are you trying to cajole him out of these episodes. You are playing right into his hands. Train yourself to be busy or at least appear it rather than pander to his childish strops.

Lweji Portugal Tue 29-Oct-13 07:21:32

You can only control how you respond to him.

You may need some counselling, but you must stop being affected by his moods. I bet he knows you won't go to yoga and can't work.

And why do you feel your son's fees are your responsibility? Doesn't he want him to go to uni?

And why unpaid secretary?

How are finances shared/administered at home?

If you can, start building up your own funds, seek financial and legal advice (no commitment to leaving), start disengaging from this man and tell him plainly that if he continues you will leave him.
If he continues, then do leave.

CogitoErgoSometimes Tue 29-Oct-13 07:05:44

BTW... being beaten as a child is not a reason or excuse to behave like an arse towards a partner. It's a reason to consult a doctor, psychologist or counsellor.

CogitoErgoSometimes Tue 29-Oct-13 07:03:09

I think the main problem you have here is that you care. He sulks and it upsets you. That's his leverage. You can't stop him sulking but you can easily stop caring, stop 'cajoling' and generally stop pandering. When it comes to insults, sarcasm etc., always challenge and stand up for yourself. If that results in more sulking, refer to point 1 and ignore. Once you genuinely stop caring, you'll find it easier to leave.

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