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Do other people have this dynamic in their relationship and if so how do you deal with it ?

(24 Posts)
Seth Wed 07-Nov-12 22:04:31

Hi I know there are many wonderful and wise posters there are on here and I have learnt a lot on the relationships thread the last few years whilst my marriage fell apart.

I just wondered if this thing that my husband (stbx) does is quite a common thing that people do and wonder how other people deal with it if so.

To put it in context....if we are discussing something and I react in certain way (am not prone to overreacting - just normal I think) then he blows things massively out of proportion about how I reacted to things... and then the conversation/discussion rapidly focuses on my over reaction, my crazy behaviour and me blowing things out of proportion rather than the original issue.

This could happen about anything and did very frequently when we were married ... and it's so infuriating. Just to give an example. DD and DS had their weekend with him - they all visited grandparents about a 5 hour drive away - all good. Ex DH drops them home and says he has left DDs school coat (only warm one) at the grandparents. I was a bit pissed off as its cold this week and wondered what she was going to wear so my reactions was 'oh' (accompanied by pissed off face/tone of voice). He then replied in a really loud sarcastic, aggressive voice 'Yes of course Honinmyo - it's OBVIOUSLY the end of the world isn't it, of dear what ARE we going to do ?' etc etc just trying to wind me up. angry

I then get told that I ALWAYS overreact to EVERYTHING , and if I could just stop reacting then we could get on a lot better and would be better for the kids etc. I am normal - I will admit that he can put me down a lot, (will still disregard and disrespect most things I say or do, would never acknowledge that I might be doing a good job with the DCS (2 and 5) and frequently informs me that he 'needs' me to change my plans when he can't do his pick ups, drop offs or take the kids over night because he is moving again etc) so there is a chance that he can sense exasperation in my voice when something else happens on top of all of this but still the point remains... Every single thing becomes focused on how wrong my reaction is and I feel like the thing that he did wrong in the first place (to which I was reacting) is allowed to get completely buried angry

He has a strong and confrontational personality (is v insecure underneath) and I dislike face to face discussions with him but I feel like I allow him to control our conversations. You could say that this doesn't matter - we are no longer together even though this was a huge problem in our marriage but bringing up 2 small DCs in a supposed co parenting situation does require a fair bit of communication - not all of which can be done on email (my preferred choice)

I talked to a friend and she said her DH does the same... which made me wonder if it was a common thing in relationships and if so how do people cope ?

Lueji Wed 07-Nov-12 22:12:55

Yes, it's diverting and avoiding guilt.

Regarding the coat, you can deflect back to asking him what is DD going to wear for the cold and how he is going to sort it?

And does he want his daughter to be freezing.

Ignore the sarcastic tones. He's not worth it, and you can tell him that. smile

Seth Wed 07-Nov-12 22:17:07

yes Lueji I imagine in most situations it is just that. When i confronted him about his 'friend' from work when we were married I was told 'Its your suspicion and lack of trust in me that's going to end this marriage if you're not careful'. He was seeing her i found out later!

Very hard to ignore his twuntery and not rise to it. Maybe I need CBT or something!

tallwivglasses Wed 07-Nov-12 22:38:40

Oh God, yes - semantics. A word. How it was said. An expression. Anything to get me off the track. It took me years to suss out that little game so well done OP for recognising it. Try letting him rant, then pause, then say 'Anything else?' or 'Are you done?' pause again briefly while he's revving up for the next rant then smile and changer the subject, or better still, just say 'Goodbye'.

drizzlecake Wed 07-Nov-12 22:49:56

I think if you speak back with an angry and firm tone of voice and a put down. 'Well if she didn't have a dickhead for a father' end of. No further debate, proof of his unreasonableness or arguing your point.
And have a few responses up your sleeve, maybe the mumsnet stand by of 'Did you mean to be so rude?' - these might cut him off at the knees.
But don't do it if it makes him angrier and nastier, in that case just ignore. But because you don't probably usually respond curtly, but instead you maybe explain or justify, then he might shut up as he doesn't expect you to come back at him in this firm way.

Seth Wed 07-Nov-12 22:50:47

Oooh that would really wind him up! I don't know why I still try and get him to see my point of view.He won't change and he will carry this into future relationships ( God help'em) .... I think a big part of it is yes, guilt, diversion bit also he doesn't seem to think that anything he does is working on that basis , no-one should have cause to react unfavourably or pissed off as he hasn't ever done anything that merits that!

I ( stupidly) texted him the other night saying I would appreciate it if he could refrain from doing this or making snide comments aimed at me in front of the DCs/ trying to wind me up and I got the response 'I have absolutely no idea what you are on about'....He would argue that our whole disagreement was brought on about my reaction to something that he hadn't (according to him) done wrong.

I like your suggestion TWG!

Seth Wed 07-Nov-12 22:54:20

Yes any change in my reaction really throws him as that's exactly what I do...defend and justify.Its crazy! Yes he can be quite nasty and antagonistic so don't want to have red rag to bull scenario but just not reacting even would confuse him..just remaining calm.. Is hard isn't it?!

mcmooncup Wed 07-Nov-12 22:58:50

My twat of an ex thrives off this.

It's just noise.

No use at all in even acknowledging it - It is the definition of feeding a troll.

shine0ncrazydiamond Wed 07-Nov-12 23:01:19

Disengage disengage disengage. Don't analyse him a moment longer.

Seth Wed 07-Nov-12 23:06:24

Shine on and moon cup ..thanks.Thought had become pretty accomplished at disengaging but actually starting this thread has made me realise I have started getting caught up in his shit again. He just comes back at me so quickly with a put down that I react (defend or attack) before rational side of brain kicks in and tells me to disengage!

shine0ncrazydiamond Wed 07-Nov-12 23:10:21

Calm, collected, cool at all times.

Re your example about the coat. As SOON as he starts with the deflecting and the blaming you, say nothing. Go quiet. Let him finish.

He finishes. Say ' anyway, about the coat, What can you do to sort this? ' and again, if he starts, say nothing. As soon as you spot you're going round in circles, withdraw completely. Say ' you are allowed to think that, I must get on now. Goodbye! ' and maybe make something like that your mantra.

It's all smoke and mirrors and seriously, not worth giving headspace to. Put as much as you can onto email and just never, ever engage with anything else. Vigilance at all times however!

ivenamechangedforthisone Wed 07-Nov-12 23:15:26

I then get told that I ALWAYS overreact to EVERYTHING

My oh is the same. I get told that I'm "always having a go" whenever I say anything that isn't completely positive. Often I'm just saying something very minor - like "can't you put your socks into the wash bin" said in what I think is a normal voice and he flies off the handle shouting at me.

I don't know how to handle it (except by never saying anything negative).

tallwivglasses Wed 07-Nov-12 23:16:47

You're making the common mistake of assuming he's reasonable and will see sense once he understands your point of view. It ain't going to happen. Just thank The Lord you're no longer with him.

tallwivglasses Wed 07-Nov-12 23:19:32

Ooh, and I love shineon's reaction (if my memory of her threads serves me well she has had much practice at this...). You also get the added bonus of knowing you've wound him up no end grin

olgaga Wed 07-Nov-12 23:20:24

Honestly, what is wrong with these men, and why the hell are there so many of them?!

I do feel for you, I have a friend who is driven mad by similar behaviour from her ex. Everything is her fault.

Do get a copy of the recently updated "A Woman in Your Own Right - Assertiveness and You" by Anne Dickson. It's full of really interesting and useful analysis and communication techniques, and a real confidence booster without being all self-helpy. I really can't recommend it highly enough. I wish I'd read the original when it came out in 1982 instead of 10 years later. It would have helped me so much...

Every woman should read it - and buy their teenage daughters a copy too!

Dozer Wed 07-Nov-12 23:21:39

He sounds v annoying. This reminds me of "Games People Play" and game theory in psychology, is an oldie, but was like a lightbulb for me in dealing with someone tricky.

Is good that you're aware of what he does and are no longer together (ie don't have to live with it), and there are various things you can try to avoid the games and get less stressed, even if the other party continues to behave in the same ways.

Training in assertiveness might be helpful. Eg on the coat thing you could have said "I'm concerned DD will get cold without her coat. Please could you ask your family to post it to me?"

Would also be worth making sure the DC have some education on assertiveness etc in case he does this kind of crap with them.

Dozer Wed 07-Nov-12 23:22:40

Yy woman in her own right is v good!

Seth Wed 07-Nov-12 23:31:08

Oh that sounds like a great book thanks for the recommendation...and for the other tips.. Yes it's about responding rather than feasting isn't it? I definitely react which plays right into his hand.

Never even considered my DD being affected by his ridiculousness .. Thanks for pointing it out..I assume it's just me he seems to dislike but I do have a feeling it could be a further reaching 'all females' thing.... Therapist convinced of this... His mum went off for a few years and didn't see him and has been left with issues with women is her theory so yes need to be careful it doesnt carry over. Very good advice Thankyou

Seth Wed 07-Nov-12 23:31:49

Feasting???! Err reacting !

shine0ncrazydiamond Wed 07-Nov-12 23:33:58

Sadly tallwivglasses... yes sad

Seth Wed 07-Nov-12 23:40:26

And Dozer yes....funnily enough I thank my lucky stars every day that I am no longer with him! I was distraught when he walked out for a long time but goodness what a favour he did me! I have recently met someone else who is the most genuine , secure, honest and functional person I could have wished for ( after lots of therapy on my part-not sure we woyld have been attracted to each other before!) and it's just dawning on me how wrong the dynamic in my marriage was..blush .it's quite sad but refreshing at the same time.My 'D'H did me a huge favour that night!grin

Lovingfreedom Wed 07-Nov-12 23:43:20

My ex loves throwing around blame, insults, criticisms, control etc masquerading as caring about the kids, or taking an interest etc etc. I just don't discuss anything with him apart from dates, times plus essentials on health and education for kids (i.e. coordinating appointments and attending parents to nothing else). And I never chat to him or ask his opinion or anything like that - really don't talk to him at all except for 'hello' and 'goodbye'. If he tries to initiate a discussion I say 'can you send me an email, thanks.'

He likes to send long emails. I scan them for the facts and ignore the rest. Sometimes if they are really long I print them out and highlight the bits that I actually need to know or respond to.

My responses are always short and perfunctory 'I'll drop the kids at your place at 2.30 and I'll leave the spare karate suit in the porch'. 'thanks for this, I'll see the kids after school on Wednesday then'. I never ever reply to any insults or explain or excuse anything or give him any non-essential information.

Sometimes I do react in private..cos if I'm honest, he can occasionally still wind me up. Not so much now, but I used to go though and 'translate' emails into his inner language. It's not exactly mature, but it's only for my own benefit and it does sometime make me feel better, especially when I feel in danger of getting bullied. Here is an example:

"I know you have a very busy work and social life so I don't expect a
reply, but can you please hurry up and fix DS's bike. He's missed a
whole summer using it and I'd have done it ages ago if you weren't so
bloody stubborn!"

Which I translated as:
"I want to make you feel guilty about not being a good enough mother. You’ve got a good job and friends and I haven’t and I’m pissed off. It's been raining for weeks and DS didn't want to use his bike anyway but I've wracked my brain and this is the best i can come up with. I'm pissed off cos now you're saying you can fix a puncture yourself and this means that you don’t need me for anything at all. How dare you not be upset enough and not be dying to get back together with me and spend loads of time with me saying how great I am. You’re not supposed to be coping without me and you still won’t do what you’re told. How dare you not see how great and fantastic I am. You’ve always been like that. It’s not fair. "

This never sees the light of day...but response to him is:

'Ok, thanks then - I'll drop the kids with you at 4pm as agreed'.

My tip is not to let him see that anything he says or writes gets to you. Over time it becomes more true. But even if he is very hurtful it does you no good to let him know that. And although you are tempted to write smart replies back to him...these are never, IME, as effective as ignoring.

I've written this several times on MN but I'll repeat. After a while my ex wrote to me saying 'I get the feeling that you just don't care what I think'... yes...that was a breakthrough.

MayTheOddsBeEverInYourFavour Wed 07-Nov-12 23:51:46

I have found with people like these that a well time laugh or smirk or even a smile with a head shake can do wonders

They do it to feel powerful and make you upset, if you look at them with pity and smile and shake your head it drives them crazy that you aren't buying into their little power struggle

Treat him like the sad pathetic loser he is, even if it doesn't work it'll make you feel much better grin

Agree with most of the posts here.

My tactic is to let him finish his rant. Take a breath and say...

"Right, if you've quite finished, back to the subject in hand. YOU left the coat behind, it was YOUR responsibility, so what are YOU going to do to sort this out?

Not shouting YOU, but emphasising clearly that it's his responsibility.

If he starts raving again, stop, breathe, wait for him to finish and repeat the statement.

Just think of it like training a puppy. And keep emotion out of it, it's a waste of energy. Focus on the result you want, not the drama.

And I would also start calmly with - I request that you control your temper infront of our children....

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