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Abusive relationship or just making a fuss? (long)

(77 Posts)
followmrspoon Fri 14-Oct-11 11:56:15

Hi, I?ve lurked here for a while and been really inspired by the stories of all you amazing ladies and certainly learned a lot about relationships. However, I?m ashamed to say, I never really thought that it would be me.

I?ve been with my partner for 5 years and we are due to get married next year. For a long time I really couldn?t put my finger one what was wrong. We argued a lot and I came to feel anxious and stressed and felt that I had no control over my life. I felt he criticised everything I did and that nothing was ever good enough for him. He sulked a lot and I felt he could be quite ?anal? and pedantic towards insignificant things and always wanted his own way.

Last year the deal breaker for me was when I came home to find him sulking as usual. He was angry that I had not done a particular household task. In order to ?teach me a lesson? he had taken the household item and used it to ruin some of my things. I couldn?t work out exactly why this freaked me out. It was not so much that what he did was disgusting but more that the thought behind it seemed to be vindictive and spiteful. Weeks later we had another argument and he tried to shove me out of bed. He told me that if I didn?t change my behaviour then I should get out (of our shared rented flat). I packed my bags and left the next morning. I was honestly just relived but it seemed a lot to throw away and others seemed to agree.

We went to counselling and he argued that I didn?t respect his feelings and he didn?t feel loved enough. I was resentful and spoke about how I felt controlled and belittled and how the vindictive streak frightened me. We talked all this through over months with the counsellor and things seemed to improve. I moved back in with him and everything was good. A month later he proposed. I didn?t really feel ready, but for some silly reason I said yes.

That was a year ago and ever since then I have had doubts. I came to dread discussing weddings and panicked at the thought of our future. We no longer argued and things seemed ok, except I became anxious all the time. I stopped going out and seeing friends or spending money. Not because he threatened me, but because it just seemed easier not to. I have spent the last year feeling like I am going crazy. He frequently told me that I am or that I need help. I couldn?t put my finger on what was wrong. I cried all the time, couldn?t sleep and felt like I was being suffocated. The thought of getting married made me feel sick. I was convinced there was something seriously wrong with me. If only I could stop that annoying feeling then everything would be perfect.

A few weeks ago, I was so worried that I went to see a counsellor. I told her that there was something wrong with me and that I wanted to fix it so that I could be happy. She wanted to talk about the relationship and after a few sessions she mentioned that my relationship sounded abusive. I was completed shocked and convinced she was on the wrong track. I figured I must have exaggerated what was going on, as on the whole my partner is a ?nice? guy who is generous and caring. However it planted a seed in my mind. I stated lurking on here and even read the Lundy Bancroft book. Parts of it could have been written about my partner. I identified with so many of the women in the book that it frightened me. However, I was still convinced that it couldn?t be true. I even chose to ignore everything and just be more enthusiastic about my relationship.

Until a few days ago!

Partner lost his temper big time. He didn?t actually hit me, but was very aggressive, drove like a maniac, caused me to bump my head, shouted names at me, wouldn?t let my out the car then barged past me to the bathroom, where I had been running to hide. I ended up shaking and terrified hiding in the kitchen. Later he came to apologise but I was still so frightened of him I covered in the corner. This shocked him.

We both calmed down and had a frank talk though insanely I didn?t feel angry- I didn?t feel anything. He was devastated and for the first time admitted that his temper was a serious problem and that he wanted to get help. The next day I woke up feeling that it had all been a bad dream and was convinced I must have over-reacted. When I saw my counsellor though she was very frank and spoke about a pattern of behaviour. She was worried that the next time he will actually hit me. He came home that night with the biggest bunch of flowers. That actually seemed to make it more real.

However, I just couldn?t face telling this to anyone, I sound insane. It seems crazy. These things happen to other people. I am studying for a post-graduate degree. My partner is in a high level professional career. We live in a trendy part of a large city.

Yesterday I worked up the courage to tell a friend and finally packed my bag. I went back to my parents but my mum has made it clear that she thinks I am exaggerating. She keeps saying how disappointed she is about the life I had planned and how she was so excited about the wedding. She mentions that ?no relationships are perfect? and asked what exactly I said to him to ?make him behave that way?? She has pointed out that, actually I am quite mean, messy and probably annoying. I am sure that is true. She thinks I just need to stand up for myself more and tell him I want to go out or spend money etc.

So, today I have woken up feeling awful. Maybe I have made a huge mistake? I don?t hate him, in fact I feel bad that I have made such a fuss. Maybe I am crazy. Maybe it?s not abusive. Perhaps I should just try harder. It?s so much to throw away and I am too old to meet anyone else and still get married and have kids. The problem is that even he agrees it is abusive behaviour and I spoke to our couples counsellor and she agrees- she even said that his temper was always a problem and that he was controlling- but she thinks he can change.

So, there it is. I finally got out and can breathe but as soon as I did, I am now thinking that it was all a fuss over nothing and that I should just go back and now it will be ok. He is a nice guy and I think I even miss him. Am I crazy? Can controlling and angry men change? Can I learn to ignore him? Am I throwing a good thing away?

Advice please.

worldgonecrazy Fri 14-Oct-11 12:01:41

Print that off, show your mum so she can read it in cold black and white. You are not crazy. He is not changing and I think your mum may be burying her head in the sand or have had a similar relationship herself in the past. You have done your best and you deserve better. I've not been in your exact situation but lots of women on here have been in similar situations and will be better placed to advise on the practicalities of the situation.

NicknameTaken Fri 14-Oct-11 12:06:59

Well done for getting the hell out of there! I'm so sorry that your mother is not being more supportive.

I've been there, and I can tell you straight that he won't change. Why on earth "should" you go back to him despite your misery just to demonstrate that you're not the type of person who makes a big fuss?

You've done right. You've saved yourself from years of misery. I suggest you start a diary and write down all the times he made you miserable, and every time you doubt yourself, you read through it.

Don't weaken now! Do you have to stay with your parents - any chance of going to a more supportive friend.

You're doing great, OP. (And abuse happens to people with post-graduate degrees! Ex and I both had Masters degrees - no guarantee of good behaviour!)

buzzskeleton Fri 14-Oct-11 12:07:39

A good relationship with someone should make you happy, feel secure and loved, and you shouldn't be in a state of confusion, misery or fear, questioning yourself. It should feel solid & be a platform to fly from, not cut you down.

Every relationship has its moments, but you've been with this guy for 5 years and it's not getting better, it's getting worse. The more committed you become to it, the less happy you seem to be.

Your mum's reasoning is shit. There are other men, and you could go on to have a happy relationship with a wedding and all that, there's no reason to lock yourself into a downward spiral with this man.

You shouldn't have to learn to ignore or avoid his behaviour. You're not even talking about loving him.

You're not throwing away a good thing - it shouldn't be this much hard work to be with somebody.

sqweegiebeckenheim Fri 14-Oct-11 12:07:43

<b>throwing away a good thing?</b> -eh no, unless you think a life of anxiety, stomach-churning, questioning every little decision you make, thinking you're rubbish, waiting for the next little thing so set him off is the lie you want.

The counsellor shouldn't be counselling a couple where there is abuse involved. It isn't a uss over nothing. Your well honed spidey-senses are kicking in and telling you SOMETHING ISNT RIGHT HERE. Listen to them.

What do you think you should be trying harder at exactly? placating him? covering up for him? not angering him? doing as you're told for fear of retribution?

Trendy professional job - doesnt make it better.
Living a lovely trendy affluent lie - doesn't make it better
Envious mother - doesn't make it better.

Well done for getting out.

sqweegiebeckenheim Fri 14-Oct-11 12:08:47

LIFE you want. F fecked on my laptop.

BoscoWillHauntYourDreams Fri 14-Oct-11 12:10:55

I thank christ every day that I never have had to go through what you are going through. My job links me indirectly to women just like you, Im sorry pet but you are being abused. It isnt going to change. You are out now, well done you! Another hard part is staying out, so please, take that strenght and stay out...

Oh, and to use my fave MN phrase, buy your mum a one way ticket to the far side of fuck.....

buzzskeleton Fri 14-Oct-11 12:15:23

Bit of a Freudian slip, sqweegie grin.

sqweegiebeckenheim Fri 14-Oct-11 12:20:22

i know!!!! sticky f key

becstarsky Fri 14-Oct-11 12:20:36

To answer the questions at the end of your OP -

He is a nice guy and I think I even miss him.
No, he's not a nice guy. He ruined your stuff for not doing the housework properly? Makes you frightened for your physical safety? This is not a nice guy. You don't miss him, you miss what he could be if he were genuinely the man you thought he was. But that is a fiction, you're not missing something that's real, you're missing the man you thought he was.

Am I crazy?
Only if you marry him.

* Can controlling and angry men change? *
As a general rule, no.

Can I learn to ignore him?
Ignore him abusing you? That's called denial. Yes you can learn how to do it, lots of women do. It's not much of a life though.

* Am I throwing a good thing away?*
No. You're leaving a bad thing. And if you don't you will never have a good thing.

As for your Mum - blimey! She was looking forward to the wedding so she wants you to go ahead with it??? Now I have officially heard it all.

Do not marry this man.

followmrspoon Fri 14-Oct-11 12:24:04

Thankyou all for your replies.

Makes me want to cry. You have no idea how reassuring it is to be told I am not mad. That is the worst thing, that I now question and second guess everything. I have spent so long questioning everything I say and do. It was exhausting.

My friend did ask why I was not listening to my instincts. I don't have an answer.

I can't understand why I am not angry at him though. It would be so much easier if I hated him. At the moment I just feel guilty.

I am staying with parents for now but long term I will probably want an alternative. It's frightening to think of things like that though.

I don't even think he knows that I have gone permanently. He thinks I have gone to gather my thoughts. He has offered to have therapy on his own but also wanted couples counselling. I told him I didn't think that was appropriate.

Bizzarly, I am angry at the couples counsellor. I honestly expected her to say that I had it wrong and it was not abusive. Not only did she confirm that it was, but she said that 'we always knew this'. Ummmm - you knew this, I didn't. I feel like she just gave him carte blanche to continue his behaviour when we went last year.

I just want to crawl into a hole. This sucks.

BalloonSlayer Fri 14-Oct-11 12:26:30

Agree with the others.

The first BIG sign in your post is the ruining things to punish you. It would have been better for you if you had seen it as the Olympic-sized red flag that it was and left for good then. But well done for leaving now. PLEASE don't listen to your Mum. If you can move out of your Mum's house to somewhere neutral so you don't have her undermining you, then all the better.

You are the fuck NOT "throwing a good thing away." You are, metaphorically speaking, finally scraping a turd off your shoe that has been there polluting your life for over a year.

buzzskeleton Fri 14-Oct-11 12:33:35

The counsellor was wrong to counsel you as a couple if she knew it was an abusive relationship. So your anger is righteous.

It might be a good idea to get away from your mum as well, and find your own space, perhaps a flat-share with a mate or something. When he does realise you've ended it properly, he may well start applying even more pressure, emotional blackmail and promises. She sounds like she would undermine you and support him.

squeakytoy Fri 14-Oct-11 12:34:05

Dont marry him. He is not a nice man, he is a manipulative bully who will make your life a living hell.

Your mum has probably never been in an abusive relationship, which would make it very hard for her to really understand how terrible they are. Your counsellor knows what she is talking about.

bellsring Fri 14-Oct-11 12:34:15

OP, you have now experienced what it's like to be frightened of the man you live with. Think about how you felt when you were running away from him in your home and ended up cowering in the kitchen. Believe me, the more times you experience this, the more it will destroy you. Is it right to be frightened of the person you live with? Is that how you want to live your life? To end up a nervous wreck?

And, as for ignoring things like sulking, believe me, that is a soul-destroyer as well. Ongoing, longterm purposeful lack of communication kills your spirit and makes you wither and die inside.

And all this - before you are married? And before you have children? Your mum's input is unhelpful, and either ignorant, selfish - thinking about the possibility of a cancelled wedding or she is in denial from her past relationships - but you know the truth of what you have been experiencing.

bellsring Fri 14-Oct-11 12:42:21

Balloonslayer was right about Punishing you. And this will always be the way a manipulative bully will treat you.

And, in your first post, when you describe how he used the terminology - If you don't change your behaviour you can pack up and leave - so, he is trying to call the shots, isn't he, about whether you are allowed to stay at our joint home depending on how well you behave. You chose to leave temporarily? I would be careful about this - it can deteriorate to being chucked physically out of a house if the bully gets pissed off with you.

bellsring Fri 14-Oct-11 12:49:27

And, OP, abuse occurs across all 'social classes' regardless of background, money, intelligence, status.

izzywhizzysfritenite Fri 14-Oct-11 12:52:48

Your thankfully ex dp may be many things, but he ain't nice. - He's a manipulative bully and, make no mistake, if you get back together with him then sooner or later he will hit you - and, no matter how sorry he claims to be, and how many crocodile tears he sheds, and how many florists shop's worth of flowers he buys you, he won't stop after the first occasion.

I am too old to meet anyone else and still get married and have kids So how old are you?

Partner lost his temper big time. He didn't actually hit me, but was very aggressive, drove like a maniac, caused me to bump my head, shouted names at me, wouldn?t let my out the car then barged past me to the bathroom, where I had been running to hide. I ended up shaking and terrified hiding in the kitchen. Later he came to apologise but I was still so frightened of him I cowered in the corner

You, a fully grown adult woman, ended up shaking and terrified. If you had dc with this man, how do you think a little child would feel if they were subjected to, or witnessed, the experience you had?

The counsellor thinks he can change? hmm He won't be changing any time soon, honey, - it would take many, many, years of psychoanalysis to bring about any alteration to his behaviour with no guarantee of success.

Your dm has either lived a very sheltered life with your df, or she's a complete airhead. She says that no relationships are perfect? That may be her mindset but it doesn't have to be yours.

These things happen to other people. I am studying for a post-graduate degree. My partner is in a high level professional career

As you now know, domestic abuse happens to people just like you as well as to others in every strata of society.

bellsring Fri 14-Oct-11 12:56:59

Living with a manipulative bully will cause you to suffer from constant anxiety.

HazleNutt Fri 14-Oct-11 12:58:03

You are not crazy. He is abusive. This is not a "good thing", it's an abusive relationship. might want to check out this site as well.

Read your own post - you are miserable, you are afraid of your partner's moods. You alter your behaviour, won't see friends etc, as it is "easier not to" - meaning he caused problems if you did, right? He sulks, critizises you and puts you down - this is not due to his "temper problems", is it? "Teaching you lessons" is also not an anger issue.

So you think it's a good thing you might be throwing away. Tell me this - when you were going home in the evenings or waiting for him to get home, were you happy to see him? Looking forward to a lovely evening with a person you love? This is what it feels when it's a good thing. Or were you worried in what mood he is and what you might have done wrong again, to upset him? This is not a good thing.

You are too old? No. Nobody is ever old enough to be stuck in a relationship like that.

ShroudOfHamsters Fri 14-Oct-11 12:59:26

You have done COMPLETELY the right thing.

He IS abusive

He IS controlling, a bully, a bloody horrible person by the sound of it.

All your anger/distress/confusion/strange feelings are REAL, VALID and how a normal person would respond to having been in that situation.

Your delay in acting, your confusion over whether you are doing the right thing - also normal. You wouldn't treat anyone like this, so you have trouble really getting that this person would choose to frighten and intimidate you. All normal.

Thank goodness for your counsellor, and thank goodness that you are a sensible, strong person who's finally been able to get herself out of this situation.

Do not engage further with this man under any circumstance. In particular, do not be sucked in by any request by him or feeling by you that you should defend your decision or explain why you have left. You DO NOT NEED TO. Keep him away from you, and you will heal all the quicker.

And print this out and show it to your mother. Shame on her, absolute SHAME on her right now.

squeakytoy Fri 14-Oct-11 12:59:37

However, I just couldn?t face telling this to anyone, I sound insane. It seems crazy. These things happen to other people. I am studying for a post-graduate degree. My partner is in a high level professional career. We live in a trendy part of a large city.

Controlling, abusive men are to be found in all cities, in all careers and from all social backgrounds. To be honest, the more intelligent the man, if he is an abuser, the more mentally abusive and sly he will be, because he can come across as plausible and such a "nice bloke" to others.

izzywhizzysfritenite Fri 14-Oct-11 13:02:11

Some counsellors are shite and you drew a short straw with yours.

Sounds like you've got a sensible friend in your corner - if you dont' listen to us, listen to her.

becstarsky Fri 14-Oct-11 13:05:55

followmrspoon - your reaction - feeling guilty and exhausted and not angry at him yet - is all normal for what you've been through. Just to be clear - my DH is a 'nice guy' and we have a 'good thing'. Just so you can recognise it when you have it for real, these are the essentials -

DH is my biggest fan, my supporter. He doesn't criticise or belittle me. When I mess up he tells me stories of how he messed up himself in similar situations, helps me to laugh about it, helps me to see that it wasn't that big a deal. We share housework. If I'm busy he does my share for me and vice versa. I cannot imagine ever going somewhere to 'hide from him' like you described - he is my safe haven, the person I run to, the one I can always depend on to be in my corner. When I run anywhere I run to him. He has never sworn at me or raised his voice to me. He has also never come home with a big bunch of flowers to make up for some transgression or other - there are no grand gestures, no drama. Not that we never argue, but it's not huge ups and huge downs. His love and approval isn't conditional on my behaviour and he doesn't set any 'standards' for me. Now that is a good thing. And it's not unique, there are lovely men out there. This mess wasn't your fault, and you deserve better.

You are not too old to meet someone else - and it would be a disaster to have children with this man. He would be a horrible father to have.

vixsatis Fri 14-Oct-11 13:08:30

Do not marry this man. He is abusive and it will get worse. The abuse followed by flowers is textbook

Do not have children with him.

Certainly do not marry him because your mother is looking forward to the wedding. You are not exaggerating. His behavious has made you doubt your own judgement

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