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Are the "rules" different if DH is a "genius"?

(303 Posts)
EquityDarling Tue 19-May-15 17:56:14

name change for this one...

I have been together for 8 years (married for 6) to a DH who is generally acknowledged (although not by himself) to be a "genius". With a few details changed to avoid outing but convey the essence, he is a renowned artist (in a very specialist field), a widely published faculty member at a top university and a leading campaigner on a particular political/social issue who is often interviewed in the press/asked to give evidence to select committees etc. His intelligence and talent was obvious from an early age, making him something of a freak child, which his lower middle class aspirational parents did not deal with well - they were embarrassed by his "weirdness" and constantly put him down so that he is utterly lacking in self-confidence and can have trust issues and react in a very hostile manner to anything he perceives as criticism. He has an incredibly strong sense of justice and fairness, hence the campaigning work in an area which is often difficult, unpopular and makes him lots of enemies.

I am definitively NOT any kind of genius, just an averagely bright professional from a happy, stable family.

DH and I in many ways have a really fantastic relationship - he is so fascinating, massively enthusiastic, really interested in my views on everything and flatteringly attracted to me sexually. But when he goes through a period of extended stress, which is happening at the moment, due to various issues of principle related to university politics and the wider issue on which he campaigns, he can be very difficult to live with. I have no problem with the things which are upsetting him - he is quite justified to think they are shockingly hypocritical and corrupt and I share his concern about them - but his anger and upset has simply taken over our lives to a degree which is really driving me down. He has immense energy, hardly sleeps and wants/needs to talk about what is bad and wrong and how down it is making him, around the clock. I feel as though the only place I can get any peace is at work.

We have had some counselling (both joint and separate) and I have found that my best coping mechanism is an approach called "radical acceptance", whereby I have to let him talk it out without trying to 'solve' the problem, accept that if we go out with friends he will often spend the evening staring angrily at his phone, posting furiously on various specialist discussion boards, or ranting about how awful something is until it fills up the whole of the space. The same happens if we go to see my family or if he and I go away for the weekend. Basically I accept what I can't change and draw a few agreed boundaries where I can, for example he no longer calls me at work for long rants and has mostly stopped waking me up in the middle of the night to tell me things. I (sort of) knew this was what I was getting into when I married him and I know he genuinely cannot help it, but I am beginning to doubt my ability to see this through in the long term, particularly since the issues currently enraging him aren't going to go away.

I do not believe this is emotional abuse as it is not calculating or manipulative, he is simply overtaken by the strength of his emotions and finds it very hard to self-sooth, but I am wondering whether I am letting my own needs slide to a degree which is damaging. Please be gentle lovely Mumsnetters but advice would be appreciated...

BitOutOfPractice Tue 19-May-15 18:02:06

I assume yu have told him how this is making you feel?

TBH it sounds exhausting and, dare I say it, boring!

In answer to the question, no , the rules - of kindness, respect and boundaries - are not different because he's a "genius"

Skiptonlass Tue 19-May-15 18:04:52

No. The rules are not different - whether he's an imbecile or Isaac sodding Newton, he has to treat you with respect.

Bollocks he can't help it. Both my partner and I are scientists and have high iqs (sorry, that sounds very twattish doesn't it?) but we both accept we have our flaws and work hard to keep our relationship good.

Apologies for the sweaty post but I've known a few men like this. Being a genius (and there are a couple in my life, bona fide ones) comes with challenges, but you are still responsible for your own actions.

I have to say from your post he comes across as a man child/special snowflake, rather than a brilliant polymath. Look after yourself.

Zillie77 Tue 19-May-15 18:11:52

I think that that may be something for you to decide, you know? Is his genius, which is inextricably linked to the things about him which you love and admire, worth tolerating the aspects of his behavior which are tiresome to you?

I know that I gave a lot of leeway to my husband when we were first dating because I found him irrestistibly attractive! He had some very right-wing political views which would usually have made me want to punch someone in the face, but instead I just wanted to kiss him in the face, repeatedly! (We have since both softened in our views somewhat, and learned to not discuss certain issues.)

I wouldn't find your husband's frequent rants very appealing, and I might encourage him to start meditating or to take up yoga to help him keep his cool. I might limit him to one 30 minute rant in front of me twice a week or something like that, and tell him to do the rest of his ranting in the shower or with friends.

EquityDarling Tue 19-May-15 18:13:29

Thanks for the replies both. You are confirming nagging doubts I have been experiencing for a while. I have told him how I feel about this and he has been making efforts to talk to other people about stuff and not burden me all the time, but it is still hard to get him to be light-hearted or interested in other things when he is in this mode. I have been wondering whether he is actually depressed as the great, happy moments we have are becoming fewer and fewer.

It all flared up into a massive row a few days ago that actually got to the point of me packing my bags (first time things have ever got to that level) because I really felt he was just not hearing me and it seemed intolerable to stay there a moment longer. But he became suddenly so low and sad that I remembered how vulnerable he can be and I just couldn't do it. But I think he needs a realisation that whilst I really really love him, we cannot go on living like this.

TrueFact Tue 19-May-15 18:24:15

I used to live with someone like this. It was utterly exhausting and ended up affecting my mental health. I left that relationship not knowing who the hell I was, I was very young. Like you say, the behaviour is not necessarily intentional but nonetheless has a huge impact on those living with it. I think people like my ex and your DH are probably better off living alone as they are generally very self absorbed and blind to the effects of their behaviour on others.
I could never ever give that much of myself to another human being ever again.
Oh and I can relate to your comments about him being vulnerable, that's what kept me there so long, more fool me.

EquityDarling Tue 19-May-15 18:27:49

sad TrueFact and thanks Zillie77. It is loss of my own identity I worry about, but on the other hand DH encourages me to explore my creative side and gives me ideas and confidence in that direction which I wouldn't otherwise have. It's almost like I'm choosing between a rollercoaster ride and peace and quiet. Just at the moment I am wondering whether the ride is too bumpy to endure...

aftereight Tue 19-May-15 18:36:32

He sounds very much like the father of a friend of mine, who was diagnosed as bipolar in later life. You also mentioned that you feel that he may be depressed. Could you persuade him to go along with you to see a GP?
Your DH's behaviour is unacceptable, and he is in control of his behaviour. His intellect and talent and principles are a separate matter, and only you can decide if you can live with how he chooses to express them.

lougle Tue 19-May-15 18:36:38

I don't know how you'd adapt it to suit an adult, but a technique used with children is to give them two or three 'talking tokens' which give them a pass to talk about their obsession subject of interest for a set amount of time with complete attention and interest from the listener. It defines the discussion as special and limits it without confrontation.

Or perhaps a code gesture or phrase when he's dominated it too much?

Tbh, I know a man who latches on to any thing you say and starts ranting about the corrupt systems inherent to our world, etc. It is exhausting and draining.

EquityDarling Tue 19-May-15 18:43:18

He has seen a psychiatrist in the past aftereight who tentatively suggested a diagnosis of bipolar II, but not sufficiently serious to medicate. I read up on the symptoms and am not entirely sure I agree with her, and even if she is right, a diagnosis is not really a justification.

lougle, I have considered things like that or, as someone said up thread, letting him have half an hour a day to talk it out and then move on to something else.

As lots of you has said, it's the exhaustion which is really the main impact. But I'm not sure I accept the people are like that are better on their own thesis - we can't all expect to have perfect partners and surely there can be a degree of compromise and still a healthy relationship? But I clearly have to do a bit more work at making sure the compromise goes both ways...

HeartsTrumpDiamonds Tue 19-May-15 18:44:09

Honestly he could be bipolar. I am, and I recognise a lot of my manic self in your description of your DH's excesses, especially the lack of sleep he needs or wants to allow himself, and the obsessiveness.

HeartsTrumpDiamonds Tue 19-May-15 18:44:40

I know I am majorly exhausting to those around me when I'm in manic mode!

TrousersRoastingOnAnOpenFire Tue 19-May-15 18:44:45

No it's not a free pass.

I was married to someone who was truly gifted in his vocation, probably one of the top 5 in the country at what he does, name that sells tickets etc.

We separated last autumn and I my world has turned around. I don't feel like the inferior nag any more. And I didn't realise how much I had become "MrTrouser'sWife." I feel like I'm 16 again.

minkGrundy Tue 19-May-15 18:45:17

I too wonder if he is bipolar or if he might consider seeking treatment for anxiety. Think he shoukd definitely seek some kind of professional help. It sounds exhausting for you both.

SunInMyWindow Tue 19-May-15 18:45:37

He does need to take a certain amount of responsibility for taking care of himself. He gets stressed presumably due to a combination of his situation and his makeup, but he isn't taking any steps to counteract his makeup IYSWIM. He is just expecting you to deal with his stress.

I'm far from being a genius but I am certainly the smart and (very) sensitive type. When I get too stressed I really can't cope and it's no fun for anybody. I've had to make time for yoga, meditation and mindfulness (as a PP recommended) and apparently I am so much nicer to be around when I work at these things! DH is always sending me to yoga or for a walk around the block if I'm stressed or grumpy.

Going out and spending the whole time on your phone is never acceptable. If you are that indispensable, you shouldn't be going out and leaving the computer IMO. Plus you just ruin the evening for everyone else by making it clear that you have something more important to be doing.

Sure, you can't change other people, but he really needs to start looking after himself. For some of us, yoga/meditation are essential for mental health. It does sound like he would benefit from a visit to the doctor to discuss things.

HeartsTrumpDiamonds Tue 19-May-15 18:46:01

X post OP.

TrueFact Tue 19-May-15 18:46:09

Quite OP. I endured my rollercoaster for almost 10 years, I much prefer peace and quiet these days. Only you know what you can handle or whether you want to but there's no changing men like this, that I do know.

MonstrousRatbag Tue 19-May-15 18:47:53

His genius is irrelevant. He may well be special and important in his campaigning and other work, but that can never be a licence for any kind of oppressive behaviour.

It does sound more as though this comes from something more fundamental like bipolar. If you can't agree and maintain boundaries to protect you, maybe you would be better off still a couple, but living separately.

EquityDarling Tue 19-May-15 18:47:58

Are you in a relationship Hearts? Do you have any techniques for "managing" manic mode with your partner

Trousers - that's really interesting, as your situation sounds very similar to ours. Some bits of the "wife" stuff I like, like having lots of his students/research assistants around and feeding/befriending them but some bits (sitting at events in the middle of a row of people he has fallen out with) are more difficult.

EquityDarling Tue 19-May-15 18:52:49

Monstrous - the living separately is an idea I have thought long and hard about and I think it could work but we are right in central London so it's not really feasible in terms of cost (I work full time and could not cope with a long commute on top of all the rest).

Preminstreltension Tue 19-May-15 18:52:54

I think this is concerning. He sounds as though he uses you as his mother almost. He can wake you to spill out all his issues to you or call you at work for the same. Sounds like a child who needs to see himself reflected in his mother's eyes. I assume from what you say that he was underparented.

I don't think it's sustainable. He needs to be able to manage his outbursts, regulate his behaviour and, frankly, become an adult.

And also yes bipolar sprung to mind which is a whole different situation.

EquityDarling Tue 19-May-15 18:55:26

Massively underparented Preminstrel (fantastic name by the way). And I do wonder sometimes whether my attraction to him has drifted over somewhat into compassion over the years. Although he HATES it if he notices that I am "mothering" him.

I'm not sure that a bipolar diagnosis would make it different in terms of the effect on me though - what would we do differently? Although it would at least be an explanation

NotSureThisIsWhatIWant Tue 19-May-15 18:57:38

Your words sound so familiar, believe it or not, to the way many people married to academics, talk about their partners.

I'm really surprised that you have managed to get so many mechanisms in place to be able to have a relationship with him.

You may have married a genious, but when you said I do you were signing up for a good husband and if this one is not making you happy, it is just bringing stress and in general ruining your mood and self esteem, perhaps it is the time to put his "genious" to the side and decide whether you really want to stay in this relationship in the long term.

minkGrundy Tue 19-May-15 19:00:37

If he is bipolar he can learn to manage it better and realise which issues are real issues that it is worth obsessing about and which are being magnified out of all proportion.

Also he could take medication to bring his moods under control so e.g. he feels less pressure to talk incessantly/ less likely to stay up all night.

NotSureThisIsWhatIWant Tue 19-May-15 19:03:00

Ps, I obviously posted before I read the rest of your posts.

I think that is fantastic to adjust to what may possibly be a bipolar disorder, but please remeber, that this relationship is also about you. You are doing great in supporting him but if at some point you feel like throwing the towell, that is ok too.

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