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So it's not all in my head then:( (long)

(468 Posts)
MerlotforOne Tue 01-Jan-13 17:04:15

Can't quite believe I'm writing this, but need to get it written down before I minimise it again.
This morning, DH and I both a bit tired, DS (3) acting up a bit. DH offered to take DS and dog for a walk so I could get some peace. DS was being difficult about getting his coat on and DH was acting as though his temper was getting strained. He muttered 'I don't work hard all week to come home to this!' And then pinned DS on the stone floor and wrestled him into his coat. DS was sobbing and I wanted to comfort him, bu DH snarled t me to go upstairs and let him get on with it. I would normally retreat at this point so as not to provoke him, but today I decided not to and stood m ground.

He asked me again to go and I said if he was upset he should take the dog out and clear his head, and leave DS with me. He said 'you really don't want to push me just now' and I asked why he was threatening me? He walked over and shoved me really hard through the doorway into the next room and onto the floor. DS saw this sad and ran over to me. We both somehow ended up upstairs and DH followed us up and stood there saying I was over-reacting as it was only a shove had provoked him so i deserved the shove.

I was crying and DS was upset and brought me his muslin and dummy sad. I refused to let DH touch me and he told me again I was overreacting and denied the comment about me deserving it, said I had made that up. He then took DS and went for the walk. I haven't been able to send being in the same room all day, but daren't leave in case he gets really angry and does something worse.

He has only physically assaulted me once before, 8 years ago on holiday, and was so drunk at that time that he passed out and claimed no memory of it. He can be grumpy and I feel I walk on eggshells and that I have to justify myself a lot. Since the incident 8 years ago, I've always backed down before he lost his temper, and fooled myself that he'd changed, but I discovered mumsnet 6m ago and have been reading a lot on this board and feeling increasingly uneasy that quite a lot f it applied to me.

He is not at all financially controlling, but was very jealous and quite controlling of my social life (back when I had one) and can be quite argumentative after a drink (not that he drinks much these days). He can also be loving and affectionate and we have long periods of time where everything seems fine, but I've been excusing his behaviour for a very long time and now there are really no excuses left.

Don't know what to do really. Thoroughly miserable and very confused.

TeaMakesItAllPossible Mon 28-Jan-13 21:46:20


As I'm not sure what practical support I can give you at the moment have a squeeze. What you're doing sounds difficult and lonely. I hope that someone in RL is providing you with encouragement to look after yourself and prioritise your needs.

swallowedAfly Sat 02-Feb-13 20:26:10

hope all is ok merlot. just thinking of you.

MerlotforOne Mon 04-Feb-13 14:44:29

Thanks swallowed, I've been struggling to formulate my thoughts into words lately, so haven't been posting.

I've had my 2nd counselling session and found it harder going and much more unsettling than the 1st. I've apparently been suppressing my feelings for so long that I now have difficulty recognising them. I have homework for the next couple of weeks of noting my feelings, accepting them and noting what my thought processes are at the time. The counsellor also warned me not to think too far ahead, so I'm just working on getting through the next couple of weeks.

I've been trying to be kind to myself, taking time out, getting exercise and rest, reading a novel for the first time in ages, doing a bit of shopping etc. I've been seeing friends, but not finding it terribly helpful talking to them about this, as they really don't know how to handle me being honest about my feelings. I enjoy the company, but am now trying to just keep it fairly light.

I'm still very angry and am getting irritated at H being so bloody nice and understanding all the time. I'm telling him how I feel and not treading on eggshells at all, and he's working hard on making amends and working on himself, but part of me is furious with myself for not spotting all the red flags earlier and for allowing myself to become this weak, pathetic little doormat rather than walking away. I'm still not at all certain that I want this life for myself, but all of the dreams for my life that I gave up over the past 8 years would be hard to achieve now as a single parent, so I'm not convinced the grass is greener elsewhere.

It's too soon to be making any big decisions, but I hate being undecided and find it very stressful. I'm just not sure how much more 'working on our relationship' I can take. I realise that there'll be ups and downs (to quote the counsellor) and I don't feel I have the strength for any more downs. I'm sick and tired of being told how strong and kind and giving I am by all and sundry when I feel like being utterly selfish atm.

Thank you for thinking of me. Sorry for ranting again, I wasn't really intending to write so much!

porridgeLover Mon 04-Feb-13 15:31:04

Keep writing Merlot. Its very therapeutic!
I'm glad you're sick and tired of being's so wearing being saintly! But its part of learning how you feel about things.

The unsendable letter is a great one for letting someone 'know' how they have hurt you or let you down. I thought it was a bit kooky TBH but it works to lance the boil.

My counsellor had a great analogy for feelings...that they are like an important back seat driver. You listen to them politely, you may take their choices into account but ultimately you are the one driving. So you get to choose the direction and the speed. Just dont ignore them, they will get louder and cause the car to swerve if not respected!

I dont think there are many RL friends who can handle that depth of honesty, thats what counsellors are for.Keep your friends for light relief.

And I think there's a lot of repressed anger at DH that has still to come out. But on this one it is definitely better out than in.

The other great piece of advice I got was to treat your 'feeling self' like a darling child. You can be patient and kind with 'her', you can be understanding and fair but you can also know when to be firm and directive.

TeaMakesItAllPossible Mon 04-Feb-13 16:07:50

Just to let you know that I'm still thinking of you too.

And I know what you mean about being honest with friends ... I felt like I was a cut wide open when trying to deal with my feelings following years of abuse from Ex-H - red, raw and throbbing. When I shared I felt like friends and family were trying to cover it up with a plaster rather than allow it to air and heal naturally. Because it was mostly down to myself in the end I got a bit bored of myself grin

Thinking about you being angry at yourself I'm not sure I have ever got the the point where I'm fully over being angry with myself for not dealing with my situation earlier - most of the time I accept it but every now and again I remember things and I feel cross with myself for suppressing my instinct. I do have a little voice in my head that says thinks like "you did what you had to" which does help me move forward and not dwell.

Anyway, you just do what's right for you and carry on being "selfish" - as porridge indicates looking after oneself and making sure that you have everything you need to live a fulfilled life benefits those around you.

And nice clothes do help grin

swallowedAfly Mon 04-Feb-13 16:15:58

i guess it's entirely possible that that theme of treading on eggshells, being what the person wants you to be etc dance that you've been doing with dh has also leaked into other relationships. might see some of your friendships through new eyes i guess now that you're not bottling things up and being what everyone wants.

the you're so this or that (albeit positive) is kind of oppressive - can feel like being controlled or fed your script of how you must be. for example i try to avoid saying to my son 'you are x, y or z' all the time. he is what he is and what he is growing into iyswim - not what i project onto him no matter how well intended. so i try to avoid it because i've heard so many people say that their mum/dad/whoever always said they were the strong/clever/funny/pretty/insert adjective of your choice one and that made them feel they had to be that adjective - that that was their role.

glad to hear you're trying to be good to yourself and that you are allowing yourself to feel even if it's not pleasant. if you've had a lid on things for a while there's bound to be a fair bit that needs to work it's way out maybe and if anger/frustration/self concern/whatever has been what's been kept down there'll be a fair bit of it to be seen now.

just one thought - it's not 'this life' or 'the life you thought you'd have before this life'. there's also new paths and possibilities. it's up to you and you have plenty of time to work it out. keep posting when you feel up to it x

YouKnowNothingoftheCrunch Mon 04-Feb-13 19:19:01

There's a strong sense of power that comes to the abused when the abuser admits things and promises to make amends. You go from walking on eggshells to feeling alternately fragile as anything and walled up and safe. At least that's how I felt.

But even when he was being nice and promising the world and doing all the things he should be, there was still a lingering background fear.

Because you can rationalise the past away, and you can tell yourself that things have changed, and you can tell yourself that you are now behaving however the hell you want to (and that will sometimes be true), but underneath it all you'll still hear the eggshells.

Just be careful. It's easy not to hold back whilst he's so meek and contrite and everyone knows what just happened, but in a month? Two months? A year? Please watch for signs that you are not trying to placate him.

Not because of the absolute nonsense that you are enabling him, but for the fact that people who are being abused tend to behave as though abuse is going on. Often the best indicator is your own actions. Because they're coming from somewhere in a situation like this. Either from a relationship that has not healed continuing in silence, or by the abuse covertly creeping back in in small ways.

I've known that fear. And it's the most horrible feeling to have to watch yourself constantly. Even when you're trying to mend by not doing it you're still watching yourself, to make sure you're being assertive. Only when being yourself becomes second nature can you know that you are not living with the eggshells.

I hope that made some sort of sense. I tried for 5 years to fix things. It cost me a lot. Now I'm divorced and happy and the dcs are happier than I've ever known them.

I'm not saying you'll end up like me, but don't try forever. It's such a waste of life. There are good men out there without the abuse. It's not something that is to be expected or tolerated.

Ramble over. Sorry.

MerlotforOne Mon 04-Feb-13 20:45:31

Wow, you're all so much better at saying what I'm thinking than I am! All your wise words resonate a lot with me. The thing is, one of the things I'm so angry about is that from now on in, If I stay, I'll have to be so vigilant, watching his behaviour, watching my responses, and I really resent that. I feel I shouldn't have to be vigilant in my own home, in my own marriage, but I'm not sure whether its realistic of me to expect to not be vigilant. Maybe everyone has to be a bit vigilant in a relationship? Not afraid, obviously, but just keeping a mental note of whether or not you're being treated reasonably?

I don't want to 'try forever', but how long is long enough to know whether it's going to be possible to work through this? I mean this from my perspective - if H backs off from taking responsibility for himself and working on himself, that would be the end for me anyway. I guess it's too soon to tell. You mention being yourself becoming second nature, but I'm struggling to 'be myself' even when I'm thinking about it at the moment. I seem to have lost my sense of self blush.

YouKnowNothingoftheCrunch Mon 04-Feb-13 21:22:36

That's it. So now he's treating you well... Erm... You were always treating him well, it's not a chore to show respect. But you go from being treated badly to having to watch and protect yourself from it happening again.

I honestly don't know if that feeling of just being you,can ever come back with that worry in the back of your head. I don't know. For me the moment of truth came when XH decided he wanted to forget it all, brush it under the carpet, and move on. So his treatment of me became my problem. All the hurt and fear I still felt that needed to be dealt with wasn't an issue to him. As far as he was concerned he was no longer hurting me and my reminding him of it (I.e. by wanting to calmly discuss the reasons why things had happened so I could be reassured that they wouldn't happen again) was painful for him.

This was after promising the world.

In a scenario where your H was looking after you emotionally as well as practically perhaps that would be different, but some of the things you've written here have alarm bells ringing for me.

Don't keep your feelings quiet to keep the peace. If you are still angry or scared or hurt it is not for other people to tell you when you're healed. You make that decision (for you and not for him)

You won't be yourself yet. It took years of subtle pressures to break you down, it'll take more than a month to build yourself back up. But you're heading in the right direction.

And you're doing it with incredible strength and dignity.

Being single is easier than being in the eggshell world, and you'd be amazed how many lovely men are out there. I have one now, and I can't imagine feeling afraid of him. If he ever did inspire that feeling I don't think I would even question myself. I'd go. Life is too short.

I can't half go on!

AnyFucker Mon 04-Feb-13 21:36:41

It isn't "normal" or to be expected to be "vigilant" in a relationship. That means you accept you take the responsibility for someone else's behaviour.

The only relationships where someone is unable to relax, be themselves and trust the other person to not hurt them are unhealthy ones.

TeaMakesItAllPossible Mon 04-Feb-13 21:58:08

I know what you mean about having lost your sense of self.

I think it is normal to have to find that again - personally I decided to start with the person I was at 21 - I met ExH at 22. I liked her. She knew what she liked doing and had fun and had a good set of friends. I have spent the last eight years drawing out the essence of that person and incorporating my experiences since. My self is nourished and content. Getting back your mojo can be done.

Only you can decide how long is long enough .... for me it was a mere couple of weeks from the point the scales fell from my eyes. We are all different. You will know - if you don't already know - when the cost outweighs the potential benefit.

Herrena Mon 04-Feb-13 22:11:19

I don't know about the vigilance bit - if you're constantly monitoring the other person's behaviour then I can see how it would be unhealthy, but monitoring your own behaviour surely isn't so terrible? I mean, it's certainly tiring but the overall outcome can be positive I think.

I tend to monitor my own thought processes quite a lot because I am petrified of turning into my mother, who (so she claims) never 'realised' she was being such a bitch to us. She never analysed her own feelings but simply vented her bile onto us. I have a lot of similar personality traits to her and am scarily certain that if I didn't obsessively self-monitor then I'd be repeating the same abusive patterns again. It can be exhausting (and frankly a bit boring - navel-gazing becomes tedious quickly) but I feel it's made a major positive difference in my life.

Merlot, I think you're watching yourself for signs of unthinkingly kowtowing to your H's opinions/behaviour and sternly telling yourself 'No!' when you find you're doing it. IMO that's a pretty good thing for you to be doing. It must be a hard habit to crack as you've been doing it for so many years.

porridgeLover Mon 04-Feb-13 22:16:16

I agree with those above about losing yourself. And would like to reassure you that if you work on it (and you sound as if you are..).it will come back.
Back to the analogy of the child you...she is hiding and scared and not sure that she is safe, but she'll come out once she knows you are protecting her.
Trust the process, it's early days.
As others have said, you'll know when the real you comes back.

swallowedAfly Tue 05-Feb-13 07:14:06

it'll come merlot.

but my experience of 'being yourself' or refinding yourself after life changing events is that it isn't about going back somewhere or to who you used to be. we can't rewind time. it's more about reaching a new place with who you used to be, what you went through and where that has led you assimilating into a new perspective - maybe some shifted values, some unknown resources you didn't know you had, some beliefs discarded because having been tested they have proved not to be useful, some new found commitments and ideals that have emerged etc etc.

it's not same or back itms. it's through and on.

whether he is in that future or not remains to be seen. let yourself digest, reflect, do and be and see where that takes you. it may take you further with this thinking that actually you don't want to spend your life vigilant and trying with someone you know capable of hurting you, disregarding you, making you live on eggshells to comply with their emotional supremacy. it may not.

time i guess. time and keeping facing stuff rather than sweeping it away. there's no way back except by forgetting what you have found out - and you can't afford to do that and where would it put you anyway? back to eggshells or back to the 'before' the eggshells - well you can't go back there because you know now - there's no way to unknow what he is capable of or to unknow that you let 8 years of your life pass tiptoeing.

sorry i'm waffling on! hope you're ok x

swallowedAfly Tue 05-Feb-13 07:16:18

and fwiw i think that acute awareness that tiptoeing is no way to live and you never want to do it again is a GOOD thing!! your instincts and sense of self worth and preservation kicking back in smile

YouKnowNothingoftheCrunch Tue 05-Feb-13 07:44:59

MY wholeheartedly agree with saf about the no going back. The me I am now is a new me. And I can also say a much better me than I have ever been before.

Being vigilant beyond a normal inactive level is exhausting. You will never feel safe enough to truly be yourself whilst you are having to watch him. Trust won't and shouldn't return quickly. It's a long process.

Getting rid of his triggers to be angry will reduce the frequency of his anger, but it does not change the man. We all get angry sometimes. It's healthy. But you fear his anger, for good reason, and so does ds. So it's not about finding ways to stop him being angry (although of course bringing that down is a good thing) it's about him dealing with his anger in a civilised way towards you and ds.

Be careful to make that distinction.

He is not doing great if a year down the line he has never been angry again. He is doing better if he gets angry at normal things and you do not feel at all fearful or disturbed by the episodes.

MerlotforOne Sun 10-Feb-13 10:19:29

I've just spent 4 days in bed with the flu, feeling vulnerable and exhausted. H has been very kind and thoughtful, but he's going back to work this week and I'm scared that the bubble is going to burst. I've told him this, and he tells me this isn't a bubble, that he's not going back to being the man he was etc, but he also said 'and when have you known me not keep a promise?'. I pointed out that he'd been promising me things for 13 years, that in fact he'd made marriage vows to cherish me etc and had broken those, so his words, whilst nice to hear, don't mean a great deal to me any more, and his actions are what's important.

The whole episode has made me feel claustrophobic and a bit smothered, and I can't quite put my finger on why. I have lost so much respect and trust that I had for H and I'm still so very angry. Although its great to have the practical care that he's providing at the moment, I find his attempts at emotional care clumsy and annoying. I'm worried that I'm not going to be able to get over what happened, even if H is permanently changed. I know it's early days yet, and I shouldn't think so far ahead, but I'm beginning to think that I don't want to give this any more time. That maybe I'm done with this marriage. And that makes me feel pretty desolate sad.

Xales Sun 10-Feb-13 10:39:38

You don't have to get over this.

You have been emotionally battered and beaten down into a squashed corner of your mind to protect yourself for 13 years.

There is no way you can be fully healed or over what your H has done to you and back to trusting him in 6 weeks!

It is going to take time and lots of it.

If you try and decide to stay in your marriage that is the harder option.

If you decide your marriage is over there is nothing wrong with that.

If you try and fix your marriage and change your mind, there is nothing wrong with that. You have been damaged by your H over all these years.

It's like finally realising the car you have had for years isn't worth getting through the next MOT and having to scrap it. Nothing wrong just another decision about something irrepairable.

swallowedAfly Sun 10-Feb-13 10:53:10

i'm glad to hear you're going on actions not words merlot. absolutely right way to do it.

i'm not surprised you have found it clumsy and irritating. it's all so self-congratulatory and smug sounding you know? obviously i'm judging from outside but he really does sound so very pleased with himself for acting like a vaguely decent human being for a few weeks. woopy doo!

sorry to hear you've been ill. hopefully with him going back to work you'll get a bit more space x

swallowedAfly Sun 10-Feb-13 10:57:48

something just popped in my head.

i went to study a religion in a country of that religion as part of a year out of my anthropology degree. i studied it by a process called, 'participant observation' - i lived it. i called my mental/emotional/spiritual state a kind of 'suspended disbelief'.

the state you are living in reminded me of it. you are trying to suspend disbelief or judgement - to be there and in it and giving a chance whilst retaining some part of yourself that observes and can/will remove itself from the situation at some point. it's a strange state but you can learn loads in it! i was simultaneously a practicing member of a religion and community and a detached observer - it was odd and in the end quite disorientating and i kind of lost myself for a while.

sorry this may be totally irrelevant but that state i call 'suspended disbelief' and my memory of what it was like in there was really called to mind by your situation - might be worth a bit of reflection.

MerlotforOne Sun 10-Feb-13 11:01:07

Thanks Xales. I don't really believe yet that it's ok to change my mind about staying. I'm terrified of making the wrong decision, whether that's staying or going. There's a lot of social pressure to stay.

I realise that I probably need more time and that making big decisions whilst suffering flu probably isn't wise. My DM says that everyone she knows who's divorced has expressed a wish that they'd stayed and worked harder at their marriage (although her social life is so couple-orientated I can see why you wouldn't want to be single in her world).

I'm just not sure how well I can heal while H is still here, but I don't think its fair on him for me to leave again unless I mean to stay away. Not to mention the practical difficulties involved.

MerlotforOne Sun 10-Feb-13 11:08:48

Hi swallowed, I'm very interested to hear you've studied anthropology, I've always fancied that! I know what you mean by participant observation, having covered the theory of it for my Masters. I think your 'suspended disbelief' sums up my mental state pretty well, and it's exhausting and easy to lose oneself in it and slip back into old patterns. I guess I'm worried about 'going native' before I've had chance to really get my strength back.

I don't think H means to be self-congratulatory, I think he's just being enthusiastic about embracing change, but yes, it's bloody annoying how it comes across.

swallowedAfly Sun 10-Feb-13 11:29:40

yep - i nearly ended up married and keeping goats merlot grin but that suspended bit saved me by kicking back in. keep yours alive. personally i think he should have moved out and this time should have been spent separately but that's not the situation you are in.

MerlotforOne Sun 10-Feb-13 18:38:46

grin at the goats!

We went out for lunch and a gentle walk this afternoon, and getting out of the house after 4 days has helped my frame of mind enormously.

I actually raised the fact that I really miss the city where we used to live and would like to move back there. We moved as its more convenient for H's work here, although there's not a lot going on around here, as its a rural and fairly deprived area, and I still commute back to the city. We talked about the pros and cons openly and without him shouting me down (this is one of the areas where he would have insisted he was right before). He even offered to arrange some viewings! Obviously I don't want to make big decisions about things like houses just yet, but it felt very promising.

Maybe I'm being led down the garden path and he'll revert to type soon enough, but a move might not be a bad thing anyway. I'd have a lot more freedom and life would be a lot easier in the city, with friends and work close by and more opportunities to get out and build some independence. Its certainly where I'd want to be if we split up, so why not live there anyway?

tribpot Sun 10-Feb-13 23:22:13

Sounds like a move to where you feel more comfortable would be a good step towards rebuilding your relationship - both with yourself and with your DH. And if it does turn out that he reverts to type, it puts you in a less vulnerable position as well. Perhaps think how differently you might have responded when he invited himself back in to the house the first time if you'd have had a better support network to call on around you.

You say you don't think it's fair on him to ask him to leave again (despite the fact he came back whilst you were still trying to process what happened) but if it is the difference between saving and ending your marriage it may be the right thing to do. Putting his feelings before your own is an example of falling back into old patterns.

What work is he doing on his personal problems, Merlot? Is he still awaiting counselling? Why is he going back to work if he hasn't started that process yet?

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