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Those of you who have/had abusive partners. What were their families like

(38 Posts)
flipchart Mon 13-May-13 17:20:04

I hear so many horrible tales about what some men put there wives and partners through it is heartbreaking. I know that you can date someone for long while before there true colours come through but I have often wondered (being the mother of two sons) is what is their background like.
Were they treated bad or with respect by their parents and sibling? or were they hit or severely punished for misdemeanours.

I look at the young junior school kids walking past my house each day and wonder if any of them end up being abusers.

HotDAMNlifeisgood Mon 13-May-13 17:40:49

I've observed 3 generations of abusive relationships in my family. Each family unit a perfectly nice and respectful one. What they all had in common was a couple relationship between 2 people with low self-esteem: one who expressed their low self-esteem by being overly giving and enabling, and the other who expressed it by being controlling and lacking in empathy, sucking all the family's attention to him or herself.

Each of these families modelled a very poor relationship, that their children went on to reproduce, in one role or the other.

Two of the controlling men in my family were orphans. Maybe that trauma, and their inability to manage it, had something to do with their excessive neediness.
But then again, my own very abusive ex-H had lovely parents, as far as I could tell. But his father could apparently be quite moody, and his mother spoiled him rotten.
My narcissistic mother ditto.

Based on my experience, I therefore don't think it takes physical violence in the home to shape abusers. I can tell you about the most wonderful, stable people I know, who WERE raised by violent parents, or in other completely unstable circumstances. It's an unpredictable cocktail of nature and nurture: some people overcome their upbringing and learn from it, others who were perhaps already poorly equipped in empathy and impulse control get knocked further out of shape by it.

I don't think there's just one kind of upbringing that can predict abusive behaviour. Other than teaching all children about respect and boundaries -- both their own, and others' -- in any way we can, there isn't much we can do.

HotDAMNlifeisgood Mon 13-May-13 17:41:41

*respectable, not respectful, in my first sentence. "Respectful" would have made a vastly improved family history!

RooneyMara Mon 13-May-13 17:47:00

Interesting and I think in most cases you will find a continuum of abuse.

One partner I had who was emotionally abusive, had been brought up by a single mother, his father had left when he was four. He was very angry about this and had very little contact with his father. His mother was very controlling and bossy. He was a nice person when not in a close relationship.

Another was an alcoholic, and a dangerous, violent long term abuser of his previous partner though I didn't know this till we broke up (pretty quickly) He was also a serial adulterer.

His father had been highly controlling, abusive, physically (and I suspect sexually) and had apparently tried to kill him. His mum never did anything about it. He worshipped the memory of both of them. Very very screwed up and very sad.

flipchart Mon 13-May-13 17:52:29

Why I'm asking this is because I have two sons.
My marriage to their dad is very good and we go out as a family a lot and both DS see me and their dad going out and having a giggle together.
I have tried to be a good parent and now they are older (17 and 14) we are friends as well - go to the pictures, gigs, meals, sporting events etc. They are doing ok at school and college and have a good social circle of males and females.

I would be horrified if my kids became controlling and abusive and this is why I wondered about other family backgrounds and was thinking about any warning signs ( I know I could be overthinking things but every man was someone's child once)

Damnautocorrect Mon 13-May-13 17:54:20

He was an exact copy of his dad, in fact it was his mum who recognised his behaviour and told me to get out when I was still young enough before kids etc.
bizarrely both parents worked with children with problems

FlightyAphrodite Mon 13-May-13 18:01:30

I don't know if my ex was abused as a child. He was more than likely smacked (not getting into the smacking and abuse debate!) and judging by some of his mother's comments to me he probably saw his parents being physically violent to one another. She normalised it, told me when he hit me/threw things at me I should just fight back as there was no point "playing the victim". Apparently the night before their wedding ex FIL threw a glass ashtray at ex MIL's head, she retaliated by clawing his face with her long nails.

I never met ex's dad as he died before we met, but from the stories he and his sisters told me he sounds emotionally and possibly physically abusive. I was told ex's paternal grandmother abandoned his dad and siblings, so I can kind of imagine that being the cause of a general hatred of women that was later replicated by my ex. They think women are there to serve a purpose I believe, but not actually be respected as people in their own right

foolonthehill Mon 13-May-13 20:20:39

Ex and his brother both abusive controllers.
Family: Parents were hard working only children who played favourites between them, compared them and spoiled them and used emotionally abusive language and acted out in front of them. No physical punishment (or any form of discipline) lots of emotional blackmail and threatening to leave (by mother) stubborn non-engagement (by father), child 1 thrown out of home frequently in mid teens, child 2 boarded out to complete o and a levels. Lots of problems for the boys matching extreme "love" and extreme "hate" and unpredictable reactions. Given to materially and taught to expect to be admired, catered to and provided for without having to earn anything.
They seek strong women to look after them but then crush them and control them because they make them feel small

jessjessjess Mon 13-May-13 20:48:31

My ex's family was pretty dysfunctional.

Playerpleeease Mon 13-May-13 20:53:14

Absent dad, pretty feckless by all accounts.
Complete narc mum, it was all pretty Freudian in their house, she brought him up alone, he owed her for that and she would never let him forget it.

TisILeclerc Mon 13-May-13 21:01:11

I can't tell you because they all know who I am on here and have been reading my posts. HTH.

wink

BeingAWifeIsNotForMe Mon 13-May-13 21:23:47

Fil was a loving gp, idolised all his gc's, often made himself ill as he couldn't say no to one more piggy back, trip to the park etc.

I must admit I'm slightly torn as to whether he was financially abusive to mil, or if that's just how things were in their day.
He wouldn't have a land line (couldn't afford it) so mil had a mobile - for emergencies.
Before ill health got the better of them, they rarely went anywhere, occasional church outings, knackered furniture, ancient t.v that rarely worked, second hand everything!!

When fil died and the locusts descended (mil shoved in a home in the blink of an eye) a massive amount of money was found hidden around the house, 10's of thousands.
They both struggled so much and yet they had the means to have made life easier.

Bil is financially and I believe but have no proof, physically abusive to sil, as well as being an alcoholic.
Twunt cetainly had a mentor to teach him the script.

kurlykale Mon 13-May-13 23:57:43

ExP was adopted at a year old, he's never known much about his birth family but I met his adoptive family a few times (not many, despite a 4 yr relationship, as they lived quite far). They were a perfectly respectable couple (ExP an only child), more middle class than my own family, lived in a nice detached house with a neat garden and a cat. I don't think anyone would consider them to be anything other than supportive, caring parents. No indication from ExP that they had been abusive/controlling either - he always spoke quite well of them, no continuum of abuse here.

It makes me think about nature/nurture, because there is no clear link between their parenting and his extreme, abusive behaviour (I recently read that he'd been jailed for his abuse of another woman). But there could have been some genetic link, or a traumatic experience in his very early life that influenced his behaviour.

Alcoholic, abusive ExP had an alcoholic mother and a all round abusive father, the apple didn't fall far from either tree.

garlicyoni Tue 14-May-13 00:55:53

Not really answering your concerns, OP, as it doesn't sound as if it applies smile But it's a good question, so here goes!

Boundaries. Something weird about all of them - this ties up with insufficient respect, which HotDAMN rightly highlighted as necessary and lacking.

XH1, a narcissist, had an excessively (creepily!) doting mother and a dead father, whom the mother had despised. His mum really did worship him. Insufficient boundary between the pair of them, and little respect for the father.

Secretive, controlling, dishonest XH2 has a perfectly nice mother who is abnormally reserved. I'd hazard a guess she has a mild ASD - very reserved; eye contact is either avoided or intense; doesn't "do emotion" but blurts it all out under high stress; prefers dogs to people on the whole. XH's dad, a sociable extrovert, was seriously disabled for most of XH's life. That marriage must have been very strained much of the time. XH was sent to boarding school from 7 to 13 and wouldn't talk about it. Way too many boundaries in his family, and inadequate respect for emotional needs.

My family was volatile, violent and without privacy - loads of children, smallish house, both parents controlling in different ways. They were neglectful as parents but simultaneously intrusive: always poking into our affairs and criticising our thoughts. There was an absence of emotional & physical boundaries, and fear where respect should have been.

My family looks all shiny & pretty at first. People usually need to meet us three or four times before realising there's something odd about us ...!

DioneTheDiabolist Tue 14-May-13 01:08:03

shamelessly marking place on this very interesting thread.

garlicyoni Tue 14-May-13 01:08:43

Your story's interesting, kurly, as you seem to be saying XP had no model of abuse growing up but is extremely violent in relationships. Tbh, I find that possibility even more frightening than the miserable pattern-repeats we're so used to seeing!

Stepmooster Tue 14-May-13 01:52:50

Hi OP. My mum 1 of 4 (2girls 2 boys) was alcoholic, abusive and narc. I think in her case nature and nurture. All the others turned out fine ish. My DGM probably caused it all. Very distant and unable to show love to her children. Stemming from her own unhappy childhood where being second oldest of 6, was taken by her own DGM from age of 1 as her parents had starved her elder sister to death and was 'unfit' to look after her. She ended up staying with this abusive GP whilst all her younger siblings lived with their DM and DF.

My DGM also hoarded money and turned into a hypochondriac for attention as she got into her 70's and had to be hospitalised because of it. She had to be centre of attention. Much the same with my DM.

My aunt said she couldn't show love to her 2 boys my cousins, as kids but loved them immensely. Both boys normal and in loving relationships. Their father was is a very good and patient man. Excellent role model.

My mother on the other hand...

Me, desperately hoping to break the cycle. Grew up never knowing where I stood and deeply insecure. Had A LOT of counselling and healing. Praying to god I don't repeat my mother and DGM mistakes. Its my biggest fear.

DH knows if I do lose control and become abusive he is to leave me and raise kids as primary carer. In fact due to financial reasons he will end up being the one who does most of the paternity leave anyway. So they will end up with a strong bond with dad.

Personally I think if you've grown up not being shown that unconditional parental love you end up being high risk of being an abuser or abused. You have no idea of what normal is.

garlicyoni Tue 14-May-13 02:04:18

YY, unconditional love - or "unconditional positive regard" - is only for children and pets, isn't it? Once you've missed it (been denied it), that's your chance gone. You have to try & figure out what it should have been like, and be careful not to go looking for substitutes in all the wrong ways.

I'm really not surprised I decided to love assorted sociopaths unconditionally. I literally didn't know any different.

DonDrapersAltrEgoBigglesDraper Tue 14-May-13 05:40:37

kurlykale, if your ExP was adopted at a year old, it might be possible that he was neglected in his first year, which would have huge repercussions.

Neglect of babies can be as 'simple' as very little contact with a loving carer; something as seemingly innocuous as this can have extremely far-reaching consequences for development, right into adulthood. It doesn't have to be as dramatic as actual physical abuse of a baby. Neglect, pure and simple, and lack of physical contact and hands-on care in the formative months will mess a person up badly.

So even though there was no model of abuse growing up as garlic points out, there could still be a very solid reason for why he is the way he is.

This is just me surmising of course; I have no actual idea. But I tend to believe that there is almost always a reason for everything, and that very few people indeed are born 'bad'.

It's a really interesting question, actually. I do think it is usually a case of nature (certain personality types) combined with nurture (cycles of abuse, traumatic experiences, events, etc).

Lweji Tue 14-May-13 06:20:50

OP, I think the key is that they have enough self respect as well as respect for others, including women.

Do they see that their father respects you?

My XH ended up having the worst traits from both his parents shock, which is something I noticed and even mentioned to him.
Getting too overworked about something, going on and on about it, and feeling the need to provoke a reaction and put down.
Also a sexual bully, and his mother used to say that she was glad she only had sons...
Plus very jealous.
His mother had tried to leave earlier in the marriage, after the first born I think... (oh the red flags!) and reported manipulate behaviour.

TigerSwallowTail Tue 14-May-13 06:29:13

Ex has a neurotic mother who did everything for him, spoiled him rotten and put him on a pedestal and a father who worked as much as possible and didn't bother interacting much with the kids.

DP and I both come from alcoholic abusive homes and neither of us are abusive.

jayho Tue 14-May-13 06:52:08

kurly my mother was adopted and is extremely EA to all her children, my dad was an enabler. I always put my mother's behaviour down to lack of positive models as a small baby, massive insecurity, she found out she was adopted through village gossip.

My ex was also EA and was idolised by his parents who he also seemed to control financially - arranged all their bills and service providers told them when to change their car etc. However, he let slip in a row once that his father would regularly leave his mother probably until she 'behaved'.

They always mirrored his behaviour to me, if he was happy they were happy. Whenever we left after a visit his mother would extract copious promises from me to look after him. His sister would make bitter asides about 'the golden child' and 'mummy's little prince'.

Since we split I am the devil incarnate, his mother physically attacked me last time we met and he stood aside with a wierd smirk on his face despite the fact that she's twice my age and half my size with a heart condition and I batted her off quite easily.

Personally, I think EA is learnt behaviour, amplified by psychopathic personality traits.

CogitoErgoSometimes Tue 14-May-13 07:09:10

My exH was emotionally abusive as I result - I think - of being the classic 'spoilt brat'... youngest in a large, wealthy family, lost his mother relatively young, and no-one ever said 'no' to him. Very resentful & blaming of others 'standing in his way', huge sense of entitlement and inflated view of his own talents and importance. Never met his own (unrealistic) standards, never happy and preferred to self-medicate with alcohol and/or make others feel small rather than deal with his own inadequacies.

So I'd say... 'don't raise a spoilt brat' ... smile

meglet Tue 14-May-13 07:21:28

XP's family were a 1950's throwback. Dad worked, mum did all the housework. I should have listened to my gut instinct and run for the hills the first time I met them all together, but I tried to loosen my judgy-pants and be open minded.

You live and learn.

Dahlen Tue 14-May-13 07:22:42

My abusive X definitely was a repeating history type.

I know he jury is out on the nature/nurture debate, but knowing my XP as I do I rather feel that the basic personality buildlng blocks of who he is are basically fine - it's been his experiences growing up that have made him what he is. I genuinely believe that if he'd been born into a family such as mine, he would have been different. Which isn't to say that I think he can 'blame' his childhood and absolve himself of any responsibility. Some people are born into abusive families and don't go on to repeat the pattern. Ultimately, all behaviour is a choice.

As the debate develops about the field of epigenetics, however, I think we are learning that the effects on a child in the womb, let alone the first few months of life, are long-lasting and profound. The link between the mother's stress level during gestation and the child's ability to respond to stress in later life is already documented.

I definitely believe there are two types of abusers though - the spoilt brat type mentioned in Cogito's analogy, and those for whom such behaviour has always been a normal part of life (quite often the ones who get in trouble for other minor assaults, etc). Although there are lots of similarities in their behaviour - particularly towards women - the place from where it comes from is quite different IMO.

MNBlackpoolandFylde Tue 14-May-13 07:30:37

I found out after we were married as he didnt see them much, one brother was ok, other abused him sexually, mum beat them with a belt, dad was ok but passive and did nothing, mum told him he was only alive because it was too late for an abortion. Stopped getting Christmas presents when he went to secondary apart from practical clothes.

One brother is awful, other got a woman pregnant at 14 and was chucked out and doing great.

Ex has serious mental health issues.

SundaysGirl Tue 14-May-13 09:15:52

Well...yes a couple of people spring to mind who had absent fathers / mothers and narc other parent. Grew up being told / feeling they were worthless and not good enough.

However I also know lots of other people who have had similar upbringings and did not go on to become abusive.

FlightyAphrodite Tue 14-May-13 09:34:41

Ah yes. Also ex's household was a very stereotyped one. Mother did all the cooking and housework as well as child care, because father needed to work and go to the pub. She had a part time job but still everything else fell to her. She reminded me of the girls on Gypsy Weddings, they way they just accept that that's the way things are, and wouldn't dream of ever saying "actually, you can do your own washing". Her three children still lived at home in their twenties, still getting their washing, ironing and cooking done for them, and if they didn't like what was on offer she would cook something different. The rows I used to have with ex were often centered around me refusing to pick up after him and basically be his slave, he grew up thinking that was normal and I was a bad wife and mother.

Offred Tue 14-May-13 09:37:22

My x's childhood/family were/are dire. His mum's an alcoholic, she sold her flat in her fifties so she could buy booze. She is now dying of alcohol related illnesses (he is 28). She is aggressive and violent and emotionally absent.

His dad has been in and out, gave him cocaine when he was 8, about 10 years ago told them he was dying of cancer (lie) and has now completely disappeared and never met his grandchildren. There are step/half children dotted aroud the country. There's a weird atmosphere surrounding sex in the whole family, he has slept with some of his step sisters, there was a lot of drunken sex his parents were having with other people when he was small. His mum has had numerous drunken violent relationships all his life while he has lived with her. He was very sexually abusive to me.

SgtTJCalhoun Tue 14-May-13 09:51:44

flightyaphrodite I think we may have been married to the same man shock.

These women that being their sons up "traditionally" are creating monsters. My ex's Mum did everything for him. He told me I was very aggressive, belligerent and not a real woman because I got angry about his total refusal to do any domestic task and I mean anything. He would make a sandwich and leave all the bits over the side. If his top was on the line, he would get it but leave the rest of the dry washing out there.

However saying that there are also girls in his family and all of them are high achievers, they were encouraged to believe they could do anything they wanted. I sometimes think that ex took the "traditional" part of his upbringing and left everything else because that's what suited him.

MummytoKatie Tue 14-May-13 10:43:30

Stepmooster - My mum grew up in a similar sort of situation to you. She's lovely. A good mum and a good grandmother to dd.

I think the main reason is that she was able to see and understand the behaviour of her parents and recognise that it wasn't right - in the same way you do.

I think you will be fine.

NicknameTaken Tue 14-May-13 11:03:26

I vaguely recall reading a book review in last weekend's Sunday Times - some new book out about the nature/nurture debate. You can see differences in the brains of criminals and sociopaths linked to poor self-control/response to stimulus. Poor nutrition plays a surprisingly big role. But it's not all pre-determined.

My ex was definitely shaped by his childhood - a battle between his parents about who got to keep him, settled by his father just taking him and giving him to his own mother (ex's grandmother) to raise. The father would show up and alternate between telling him he was brilliant, destined to be a leader among men, and beating him up. He allied himself with his father as the powerful one, and despises his mother. I didn't realize for ages because he calls his grandmother Mum and speaks of her in adoring tones.

And me - I had a happy childhood, but I'm the eldest of three and got the role of the one who is responsible and never the needy one.

I fear my dd choosing a man who is like her dad.

paintyourbox Tue 14-May-13 12:23:57

My ex's family was very unconventional.

His DM was one of 7, abandoned by her mother, placed in a children's home by her father for a time- he couldn't cope with 7 children so would periodically put some of them in care. She ended up with MH problems which left her unable to work and lives a rather isolated life.

His DF disappeared when his mother was pg. He did not know him at all.

His mother defended him regardless of what he did, even when I told her about his abusive nature she just hugged me and said: "Well you know, boys will be boys"

I don't know for sure but she alluded to some abuse as a child. I wonder if this made her feel his behaviour was acceptable.

I came from an abusive family set-up and I think he could see I was vulnerable and a good "target" in some ways.

StillSeekingSpike Tue 14-May-13 12:33:47

'Absent dad, pretty feckless by all accounts.
Complete narc mum, it was all pretty Freudian in their house, she brought him up alone, he owed her for that and she would never let him forget it.'

YY to this. My ex's mother would sleep outside his door all night in case he needed anything; cooked him two meals every night in case he changed his mind. He did nothing in the house at all, she would even put toothpaste on his toothbrush- and always went on holiday just the two of them. She then died when he was 17 and he was totally unable to cope
His Dad was a lovely man to me- but I think he'd just given up on the filial relationship, and was very upset at how abusive his son was.

pinkpeony Tue 14-May-13 12:59:01

Interesting thread. STBXH falls in the "spoilt brat" camp. Only child, wealthy parents who completely adore him and never denied him anything, mother who has MH issues as well (H has MH issues too) and put him up on a pedestal and worshipped him, did absolutely everything for him. His parents lovely people, but definitely a weird family dynamic, some co-dependency kind of thing, MIL and H very close and would gang up together against FIL at times, but FIL would always step in to pick up the pieces when H messed up. He was never taught independence by his parents, and grew up with a huge sense of entitlement, inflated view of his own talents - and that women should be at his beck and call like MIL - and never met his own unrealistic standards. Think he was secretly jealous of his dad, who is very talented, good-looking and popular, and very successful in everything he ever undertook (not just financially). Even though H also talented, good-looking and popular, but I suspect he secretly thought he could never measure up to his dad. ILs are both in denial about his being abusive (both EA and PA with me) to some extent (MIL blames it all on me).

Lweji Tue 14-May-13 13:42:37

My mother was raised by an abusive narc mother (my GM) and she isn't that bad.
Not that good either smile, but not abusive.

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