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"you can't change him, you have to change yourself"

(31 Posts)
InspectorNorse Mon 28-Dec-15 17:35:50

So I know that in theory this makes sense. If you're with someone who has a habit that irritates you, and it's just part of who they are (and not damaging), then I know that the logic is to find ways to cope with the irritation rather than be intent on changing the other person.

What if you don't want to change though? What if you think the things about them are damaging? But you also don't want to just leave them?

I'm beginning to realise who my husband really is. He's one of those men who comes across as amazingly steady, mature, selfless, etc... That's why I fell for him and married him! But since we've moved to be nearer his family, I'm getting to know my father in law better, and seeing that all of the negative traits of my father in law are also appearing in my husband. My FIL is also an on-the-surface charmer, but they are both hugely proud, hugely arrogant and worst of all, hugely controlling.

What the men in the family say is what is done. Final. And my husband said recently that he was ashamed of me because I didn't agree with him on something. He didn't want people to know, because be is ashamed to have a wife who doesn't agree with him...

The control and power play with my in-laws is terrifying, and I'm so afraid that will be us. When FIL arrives anywhere, all family members have to stop whatever they are doing and go and greet him at the car. He also insists everyone outside the family calls him by his title, even BILs girlfriend has to (and I had to until married, upon which I had to call him dad... I don't,I just avoid ever using a name) - so like, instead of Steve, he has to be Doctor Steve (just an example).

With a role model like this, it's hardly surprising my husband has turned out how he is, but he can't see any flaws in his father at all, as they both genuinely think they are better than everyone else. As does BIL. It's a horribly patriarchal culture in this family.

I know that my MIL and both of my husband's sisters have been to counselling for things related to the controlling and power play going on. I recently went to see a counsellor to talk through how I could learn to cope, and she happened to know my in-laws and said that for years she has worried for my MIL having no life of her own (dutiful, subservient wife), and that she is also worried for me that this might turn into history repeating itself. Her advice was to get away from my in-laws, so that my husband can see other models of marriage (we are about to move halfway round the world to be nearer my family), but she said that this is all he's known, so it'll be what he expects...

What the flip do I do?! I don't want to leave him, we have a baby and he has some very good qualities (though I'm beginning to wonder whether he just knows how to put them on to appear the amazing guy he wants everyone to think he is), but if I can't change him, how on earth do I survive this marriage without becoming lifeless like MIL, or bitter and resentful?

Honestly right now I'd rather take the baby and leave, but I know it's too soon to give up. But what can I do? I have spoken to him a thousand times about things, but he cannot ever be wrong, and that's just past of his personality. He has to know best. Even his apologies for things come with explanations of why he was right, "but he'll say he's sorry"... What can I do??!!

MumOnTheRunCatchingUp Mon 28-Dec-15 17:44:27

Why hang around? Life's too short

But saying that. He would maybe take the DC regularly to his parents and with the pair of them having access it could rub off on your child. Sparking a whole new generation of doormats. Sounds awful op, I sympathise

InspectorNorse Mon 28-Dec-15 17:48:51

It's a 16hr flight between where we're moving to and where his parents live, so thankfully that wouldn't be an issue (and I'm already preparing how to teach my daughter about what's right and wrong in a relationship, even though she's only seven months old...).

Life is too short, but I feel like he has potential if I could only get his father's traits out of him. But that's the whole problem with "you can't change someone else..." sad

DioneTheDiabolist Mon 28-Dec-15 17:49:11

You can't change someone, but you can nip changes in the bud as they are occurring.

You say that your DP is changing into his father. If you are going to have a future then he needs to knock it on the head. You do not need to accept these changes.

Twitterqueen Mon 28-Dec-15 17:56:20

oh dear. I know exactly where you're coming from OP. I should have heeded the warning signs but I didn't. But you have an advantage I didn't have - you are fully aware of your H's traits and failings. I should have spoken up loud and clear and very often right from the very beginning - but I didn't. Can you do this? If you are moving to be nearer your family there is hope, but I don't believe you should change or accommodate.

The biggest problem early on with my exH was his refusal to apologise for anything - ever - even stepping accidentally on someone's foot for example. The final nail in the coffin for us was when he snapped at me in a pub in front of all our friends and then told me later it was my fault and made me apologise to him for it....

Just don't lose sight of yourself as I did....

OnceAMeerNotAlwaysAMeer Mon 28-Dec-15 18:06:59

Hope for the best, plan for the worst. Give him a chance to change. Never shut up, never let yourself be silenced, and accept that this will cost you heavily in energy and emotion. I don't think you can trust him to really respect you for a long time to come, which means you can't fully lower your guard. But that time might come in the future, possibly, if he can learn better ways of relating.

Prepare for worst case; Squirrel away some money to give yoruself and your child a cushion to start again. Take copies of all vital paperwork and keep an eye o where there finances go. Be aware that control freaks can play nice and be deceptive.

If he shows -genuine- signs of change, keep going but monitor things.

if he doesn't genuinely change, play it clever. Keep your squirrel-fund, keep your copies of paperwork and get advice from the support organisations in the country you are going to. Is your family genuinely supportive? If it becomes worst-case, then play the long game if you have to, then move out.

Give him a real chance, but cover your escape route.

MrsMargoLeadbetter Mon 28-Dec-15 18:18:27

Will you know anyone where you are moving to? It sounds v difficult and moving might make it worse...?

InspectorNorse Mon 28-Dec-15 19:30:29

Thank you for your words of understanding and advice. I'm finding it easier to stand up to the crazy controlling behaviours, especially now we have our daughter, as I just can't bear the though of this continuing. But I know I have a long road ahead.

This last year was the worst, and the reading we're moving is because I put my foot down and said I was going anyway. He doesn't want to lose us (or perhaps it's that he would look bad to others if his wife and child left him, and he doesn't want to look bad?), so is coming too.

We're moving back to my home town, where I have very supportive friends and family, so that should help a lot. And I've also got all of my savings in an account in my name, and it's enough to make a break if I had to, so I'm not worried in that regard.

It's just hard to know how on earth to change someone! I kinda want him to go to counselling and for him to be told how messed up his family are, but he genuinely thinks they're the best example of a good marriage /parents and it's what he aspires to.

He insisted I fly to an unfamiliar country where I have no friends and no family and no way of leaving the house (no car, to remote to walk anywhere), 7 weeks after a c-section, to live in a house with no electricity and no drinking water or hot water... Because he had a job offer that gave him some status... I just thought "that's it, he had zero regard for me". How could he not know that would be cripplingly hard?!

Alibabsandthe40Musketeers Mon 28-Dec-15 19:36:13

Abusers very often step up their behaviours once a women is pregnant or has children, because she is then more vulnerable.

Where are you moving to?

InspectorNorse Mon 28-Dec-15 19:44:57

Back to the UK where some of my family, including my parents, now live. So it's pretty much home for me (or as close to a home as I've ever known smile)

I think he knows I've felt vulnerable, and now that you've said that I can see how things did change dramatically once I was expecting. Or probably even slightly before, when we were trying for a baby.

Ugh. I feel like its such a waste of a decent guy. If he would stop mimicking his parents, I really think he'd be a very good guy. But he seems to be deteriorating in front of my eyes. Or have I just been naive up until now?

MrsMargoLeadbetter Mon 28-Dec-15 19:59:15

Glad you are moving to somewhere where you have support.

I doubt he is going to change, he sounds just like his Dad....

Namechanger2015 Mon 28-Dec-15 20:39:58

Ugh. I feel like its such a waste of a decent guy. If he would stop mimicking his parents, I really think he'd be a very good guy.

It is this kind of hoping that kept me in a controlling marriage for ten years instead of one or two. I kept thinking he was so close to being very nearly perfect, if only he would say or do x, y or z. It's such a slippery slope. Be careful OP if you have your doubts now please keep assessing the situation proactively as you go along.

The Freedom Programme is great for helping you to identify controlling behaviours.

12purpleapples Mon 28-Dec-15 20:47:40

I think its important to focus on what things are like now, rather than the distant past or wishing things were different from how they are. You can't change someone, and like namechanger, I also agonise over whether I stayed too long because I got stuck in a rut rather than actively considering whether the situation I was in was satisfactory or not.

IonaNE Mon 28-Dec-15 20:49:19

OP, it's all good news that you'll have your family near and that you have your savings in a separate account.

Not knowing where you are moving from, your nationalities, etc., I'd just like to call your attention to the Hague Convention - google it, and be clear on your rights in case your husband later takes your DC on his own to visit his parents; the issue of dual nationality, etc. Maybe none of this applies but a 16-hr flight sounds long enough for it to matter.

pocketsaviour Mon 28-Dec-15 21:14:28

OP this is slightly off topic but you've already had good and knowledgeable advice on your situation.
I recently went to see a counsellor... she happened to know my in-laws and said that for years she has worried for my MIL having no life of her own (dutiful, subservient wife), and that she is also worried for me that this might turn into history repeating itself. Her advice was to get away from my in-laws

This was incredibly unprofessional, to say the least, of your counsellor. When she realised she knew the people you were talking about, she should have immediately let you know that there was a conflict of interest and she could not continue with your sessions. confused

ObsidianBlackbirdMcNight Mon 28-Dec-15 22:19:00

You can't change him, or persuade him to change. He is who he is.

Fingeronthebutton Mon 28-Dec-15 22:32:06

I'm assuming that your Husband is not British. If I'm correct, this is a cultural problem. He WONT change. Be very very careful of your children.

trackrBird Tue 29-Dec-15 00:53:52

You began by talking about habits. I therefore thought this would be about toothpaste tubes, or dishwasher stacking, but the picture became darker as you went on.

my husband said recently that he was ashamed of me because I didn't agree with him on something. He didn't want people to know, because be is ashamed to have a wife who doesn't agree with him

This isn't trivial. This is who he is. Someone ashamed because you don't agree with him! How will you talk through disagreements or differences, if he simply expects you to agree - and is ashamed if you don't?

You also talked about crazy controlling behaviours. Given the context so far, these are unlikely to be minor quirks. But this is the most worrying thing of all:

He insisted I fly to an unfamiliar country where I have no friends and no family and no way of leaving the house (no car, to remote to walk anywhere), 7 weeks after a c-section, to live in a house with no electricity and no drinking water or hot water... Because he had a job offer that gave him some status... I just thought "that's it, he had zero regard for me"

That's known as isolation. You were in less than optimum health, with a new baby, and suddenly you have no support and no transport, and are in primitive living conditions. What kind of person does that to any human being in that state, let alone a loved one? Unless it's a question of survival, which it wasn't?

I can only say, your thoughts were correct. And you definitely cannot change him. These aren't minor problems that can sorted out with a bit of assertiveness or straight talking.

Keep your savings, and be sure to reach out to all sources of support when you get back to your home town.

Imbroglio Tue 29-Dec-15 01:06:51

Agree with PocketSaviour re your counsellor.

RiaOverTheRainbow Tue 29-Dec-15 02:30:40

This is a pretty fundamental part of your H's personality/beliefs. Something like that absolutely won't change unless he really genuinely wants to. How likely do you think it is that he'll decide his parents' perfect relationship is in fact highly disfunctional and rubbish for his mum?

goddessofsmallthings Tue 29-Dec-15 03:02:05

The acid test will be when he's transplanted into UK culture as you'll be able to ascertain whether it's easier to disabuse him of the lessons he's learned from his dps' marriage when his df is not around to lay down the law.

Until such time as you, he, and your dc are safely ensconced in the bosom of your family, I would suggest you keep a low profile and don't let on that there's going to be major changes ahead if he doesn't start toeing the line of equality in your marriage.

Sansoora Tue 29-Dec-15 03:05:50

I recently went to see a counsellor to talk through how I could learn to cope, and she happened to know my in-laws and said that for years she has worried for my MIL having no life of her own (dutiful, subservient wife), and that she is also worried for me that this might turn into history repeating itself.

There is just so much wrong with your Counsellor saying that.

Sansoora Tue 29-Dec-15 03:06:24

Ah, I see others already pointed it out.

Sorry.

goddessofsmallthings Tue 29-Dec-15 03:18:33

While the counsellor may have crossed the line of professional discretion and fallen short of what would commonly be held acceptable in the UK, neverthless, what she told the OP has at least gone some way to validate her feelings and may have given her the impetus she needs to bring about the potential for positive change by moving well away from the fil from hell.

MrsTerryPratchett Tue 29-Dec-15 03:34:46

Make sure you move first if you are thinking of splitting up. You don't want to find yourself on the wrong end of the Hague Convention.

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