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need perspective

(64 Posts)
smellslikemiddleagedspirit Sun 10-Feb-13 22:00:43

my partner and i are splitting up. We've been together 13 years. In many ways we get on amazingly well, but from the start, we've had these godawful rows. It's pretty much because he's angry with me, and I can understand many instances why. I know I've made many mistakes, but people do, and it's not been like I don't want to do what I can to help things be how he needs or even likes them to be (he's certainly done that for me). But the technicalities of the row are such that, when he explodes in a fit of temper, he's very verbally aggressive, and accuses me of having done/not done things on purpose, not giving a shit about him (this is obviously, how he feels by my not having done/not done the thing that upset him). When I tell him my side of the story, he dismisses it entirely. He tells me it's excuses/bullshit, and continues to what feels like verbally attack me – not let me speak, dismiss everything I say as crap, shout, be verbally abusive, call me horrid names, tell me again what my transgression is and how nasty I am. I get more and more upset because he won't let me say anything, and the row escalates until I manage to leave (he physically blocks me for a long while) because I feel I can't participate in the row. His feeling is that he has told me what he wants from me "nicely" many times. When he sees me not producing the goods over and over again (sometimes I do, sometimes I don't – I'm a working mum and the main carer for our offspring – but that isn't good enough), it makes him feel more and more not cared about, until he explodes. But the upshot is that, in the entire marriage, we have not resolved a single row.

The things he gets upset about were mostly practical things, but also, me "not noticing" what he needed and providing it for me.

He tells me I have never said the right thing, at the right time, in the right way, which is why he has never listened to me – and that I talk a load of crap.

I have tried to keep trying to say my side of the situation, to say it later that day, to bring it up the next day, the next week, the next month, a long time later. I've tried to change the language I use (until I get so upset at him not letting me into the conversation, I revert to classic "what not to say in a row" language). The only thing that has ever calmed him down when he's upset is if I don't say anything at all about my own feelings/my side of the story, but instead, simply focus on him and his feelings.

In other ways, he's been the perfect partner, and he feels that all he has done for me should be evidence that he loves me – I shouldn't need him to listen to me in a row – I should just shut up and do what he wants to prove I love him. But I have felt like I'm the baddie, I'm the crap one who doesn't care/do as much as the other person (for the other person), that I'm always letting the side down. And I have also always felt that it's not me he loves, but a "better" version of me that he's waiting for me to turn into. After all, if he loves me, why won't he listen to me?

We've been to 3 sets of counsellors. No joy.

Little bit more info – I'm messy, he's OCDish, I'm in the moment, he's a planner. In many ways, these opposites come together very well. But I know my lack of organisation really pisses him off.

Apparently, our splitting up is entirely my fault, and he hasn't let me down in any way at all.

What do you all think? Bear in mind that he has really worked hard in our lives together, and although I've worked to my full capacity (which is lesser than his – he's quicker, brighter, better than me at many things), he's felt throughout that I'm not pulling my weight, which he takes as proof that I don't care about him.

smellslikemiddleagedspirit Tue 12-Feb-13 22:17:30

Thanks MTB. It's amazing. For so long I spoke to no one about this and felt so alone. It's such a comfort to know other women have gone through the same thing and come out the other side to a much happier life. I am crapping myself at the thought of my new independence, with dependents. Hearing stories of life beyond the veil is very comforting.

And good for you that you found a man to love you right! smile

MTBMummy Tue 12-Feb-13 12:57:20

Smells - just found your thread and wanted to say I could have written your OP myself when I was with my husband 12 years ago.

You've done the right thing, and as far as that man is concerned no one will ever meet his expectations, but it will never be his fault.

The road ahead is hard at times, but I can promise you it does get better, I'm now happily engaged to a lovely man who really does love me and I love him and we have a lovely DD and life really couldn't be better, we do argue occasionally (I think every one does) but never has he made me doubt my value as a person, where as with SBXH I was selfish/rude/immature/useless... You name it, by the time I eventually left him I was a shell of my former self and it took years for me to gain my self confidence back, but you will and in the mean time, MN'ers will be here to hold your hand.

smellslikemiddleagedspirit Tue 12-Feb-13 09:45:19

thanks, wordy!

It's nice to wake up in the mornings now and feel my life belongs to me again!

wordyBird Tue 12-Feb-13 01:11:22

grin great find, tallwivglasses

spirit it's a long hard road to reach this point. You have done all the mental work needed to get here; the last day or so was just the last little bit.

Two for joy, yes! Each day is a step forward now. thanks

smellslikemiddleagedspirit Tue 12-Feb-13 00:46:06

tallwivglasses – that made me smile! I love a flash mob. So reassuring about human nature!

tallwivglasses Tue 12-Feb-13 00:10:32

Just caught up. this is for you

smellslikemiddleagedspirit Mon 11-Feb-13 23:15:18

"IMHO, this surge of your true, happy, strong self emerging is far more rewarding than waiting for this loser to realise what a twunt he's been"

Certainly, that feeling today was an addictive one. You've all said "it aint gonna happen" and, having been (even very recently) still desperate for him to just wake up and open his eyes and SEE, I'm very suddenly past it. Last night I read all your posts and it's like I have been working up to a moment of "click", realisation, and last it it came. Today, I woke up feeling like I don't need him to see. I bet on his deathbed he'll still be cursing me. Today, it's obvious to me that it's much better to focus on the 2 magpies smile

TeaMakesItAllPossible Mon 11-Feb-13 22:56:25

I'm not lemon but can tell you about my experience of having a boy whose father was, and is, EA. He is a good father in many ways - he became a better father when we split up because he spends more time with him and it's better time - doing things that DS is interested in. It was better too because he was no longer exploding at my many minor indiscretions and calling me names in front of him. However, from my perspective there are some elements of the negative environment that comes with someone who is EA that my DS is exposed to sad

It is heartbreaking. Most of the "things" I feel I can help him with - either because of my professional skills or because I am free to set a good example. I am currently researching help for a couple of things we need support for. I will PM you.

Every single day I am glad that I left because of that boy. More than half his life is normal and I am now strong enough to get him support to deal with the rest.

I'm sure that with the level of self-awareness you're exhibiting you will be able to mitigate the risk.

OxfordBags Mon 11-Feb-13 22:08:30

Great to hear this, Op grin But you've done all the hard work on yourself - we were just a sounding board for you to thrash out what you have already very perceptively worked out. IMHO, this surge of your true, happy, strong self emerging is far more rewarding than waiting for this loser to realise what a twunt he's been. Onwards and upwards, well done! (Hug right back)

AnyFucker Mon 11-Feb-13 21:32:20

< applauso >

smellslikemiddleagedspirit Mon 11-Feb-13 21:07:49

Thanks, Oxford smile

You'll be pleased to know that, today, for the first time, I was standing in my garden and feeling actual joy in my heart. Not a familiar feeling of late. (and I saw 2 magpies right afterwards!) Reading this thread, and the culmination of the events of the past few months, has lead to some kind of change of feeling in me. I actually believe I am not what he says I am for the first time, and feel like I can see him for what he is. He is weak, and weaker than me, because I've survived his shit and feel I can be OK. He'll still be with him wherever he goes. He's weak because I know on some level, he KNOWS. But he doesn't have the courage to look at it. He's weak because he picks on someone weaker, because he uses his intelligence to hide the truth from himself, and because he's shat on a genuine love that could have nurtured him into old age. You're right – he is the twat. Not me.

I'm feeling very loved up about the mumsnet community right now. This has been of immense help to me. Big huge hug to everyone who's taken the time to post and give me such considered, seriously helpful responses.

OxfordBags Mon 11-Feb-13 16:05:23

You aren't a twat! He is, for poisoning a relationship with someone who clearly wants to give and be loving.

You are incredibly insightful and perceptive. It's a double-edged sword, because you can't delude yourself that's it's anything but bad, BUT it frees you, because you know this isn't about you or your fault or anything like that. He is messed up, long before you ever met him, and he will keep on being messed up. Now you can untangle from his crap so that you and your DC don't end up totally messed up too. He is definitely punishing every woman he gets involved with for his mother. Don't let your boys learn that behaviour.

I'm really impressed by your insight, btw smile It's great that you know what genuine, inconditional love is. Not only can you save yourself now, but in general and you will know what that love is in the future, when you are ready. And your DC get it from you too.

smellslikemiddleagedspirit Mon 11-Feb-13 00:54:22


That's why I hung around for so many years – because I really believed in the good side of him, and I never thought he would never see how his behaviour was wrong, and how he was being unreasonable. But not once in 13 years did he listen to a word I say, acknowledge it or do anything other than dismiss it in every single row we had. And so many daily small events – little bitchy comments, edgy shows of frustration, sharp words, comments, that I let slip past.

But his realisation never came. And from what others have said, he's a type, and it never will.

I think he's looking to punish me in place of his mum.

smellslikemiddleagedspirit Mon 11-Feb-13 00:09:12

What a twat I am. I thought all those years "if he sees I love him more than his family ever did, I want him in my life, I like and love the person he is (when he's not shouting in my face), he'll be happy he's found something better and settle into it.

He can't love me. He can't love anyone. Because he doesn't know how it feels because he has never been loved and he's never loved himself. And what he feels is love for his family is what was his need for his family as a neglected, terrified young child, twisted into this feeling.

My parents were neglectful, but my father was very loving (but an alcoholic – never abusive – just an escapist). I do know what it feels like when someone looks at you with love in their eyes, and thinks you're just brilliant, and can see your flaws, but thinks your brilliant anyway.

Of course, he disappeared into a bottle when I was 10 and never reemerged. Took 20 years to bash up his liver. But throughout that time of him burying his head in the bottle, I knew without a doubt that his love was genuine, not conditional and self absorbed, like my mother's. I've repeated my mother's conditional love for me, perhaps I can repeat my father's love – but with a man who isn't an addict, perferably!!!

TDada Mon 11-Feb-13 00:03:41

the good side of him should rationalise that it is not your fault? I am sure that you would have been sympathetic to him. Is he looking to you to be a mom to him?

smellslikemiddleagedspirit Mon 11-Feb-13 00:01:29


It's shit from his childhood – a neglectful mum, and abusive dad, a loveless family that he tried to hold together but none of them really wanted him. Life not happening the way he feels it should seems to be constantly tapping that well of anger in him.

smellslikemiddleagedspirit Mon 11-Feb-13 00:00:14


I know to his friends (of which he has very few, because everyone is a useless wanker, of course), I am already the evil bitch, and it really hurts!

Yes, Ms Insightful Wonder Counsellor, I am waiting for my mum to acknowledge her neglect and abuse. In real life, I know that well is dry – I see her as she is, and accept her, and (mostly) have worked out how to protect myself from her. Actually, all I want now is to see her through to the end of her life as comfortably as she can be (but she does come third, after the boys), while expecting from her only what I can realistically expect, so that my family (mum + dad + child me) is not a completely tragic story – for me and my kids.

But on an emotional level, the need for that acknowledgement still exists, and if I don't somehow deal with that, I'm scared I'll attract another abuser.

But how the hell to deal with that?!?!?

I have often used the word "punchbag" to describe my position in his life to him. He thinks that's "bullshit", of course.

My boys are good boys. Full of beans and generally happy, kind and so gentle with my emotions, so generous to me on an emotional level. I think they can sense the unfairness. I desperately want them to have a happy home, and see me coping well, feel safe by me, have fun with me – not with me at the edge of the playground, rowing with dad. And I hope I can meet someone and trust them in the future, and they get to see a truly loving relationship.

From what you all say, and from my own unconfident speculations, I suspect that a truly loving relationship is not one they will ever experience at their dad's home.

TDada Sun 10-Feb-13 23:45:10

I haven't read it all but his anger makes me uneasy. What is it that is REALLY bugging him?

smellslikemiddleagedspirit Sun 10-Feb-13 23:44:19


If you're still around, you said you were in a relationship with a similar man for 28 years. I'm guessing you had kids together.

My ex is a really good dad so far. Leaves most of it to me, but his actual involvement is good. But will he continue to be? We have boys. What was your ex like with your kids as they became teenagers? How did their relationship continue?

What I want to know is, did he try to bully them, too?

OxfordBags Sun 10-Feb-13 23:42:00

I hate to break it to you, but you're going to join the list of bitches who treated him like shit to the next woman unlucky enough to get involved with him.

It's so hard to know that and hard to break from the need to have him know that he was wrong, but you need to let that go somehow. Because what you are really waiting for is your mother to acknowledge that she was wrong and treated you badly. Neither is going to happen. But there is something worse than people who have treated you badly not acknowledging or apologising - and that's staying with an abuser whilst you wait for it to happen (hint: Hell will freeze over whilst you wait).

He has a shit mother whom he never challenges, but he treats the woman closest to him like shit, every tiny thing is challenged and seen as some unloving victimisation on her part... Who does that sound like? He is not even subtly punishing you for the pain from her that he refuses to face. Emotionall, you're like a punchbag with a picture of his mother's face pinned on to it. You're the stand-in for her, so he can take his pain and resentment and rejection and fury out on without actually doing it to her in actuality.

You're not wrong, you're not being unfair. Even if you were, you don't deserve this treatment, this life. And you know what? Even if you are a massive bitch (I doubt it highly!) you still don't deserve it, you are not responsible for his feelings (although I bet your mother made you feel like you are responsible when others treat you badly, huh?) and you can choose to end the relationship.

You say you have DC. It is not right that they grow up seeing this dynamic. It teaches boys to become abusers, girls to become victims. Make the last word you stopping this horrible abuse dynamic for the next generation. Make the last word ensuring a peaceful, happy, respectful life for your kids.

smellslikemiddleagedspirit Sun 10-Feb-13 23:39:19


"He is damaged and cannot see you as an independent person. He thinks it's your job to fulfil his needs and read his mind, and his anger comes from frustration that you see yourself as independent with needs of your own."

His mother was very emotionally neglectful. He felt he couldn't ask for anything, because if he was, he would be "selfish" (his main gripe with me).

When we row, he doesn't seem to think for a second that he might not be in the right. He took the martyr role in his childhood home, always the one to do the right thing to gain mum's approval, but knowing all the time no one was doing the same for him as he was for them.

He's repeated that with me. Duh!

wordyBird Sun 10-Feb-13 23:38:21

I'm working at full capacity. If I was how he wants me to be, I'd live every moment with a board and checklist and could think of nothing else. ... That's awful, but I think you are spot on!

smellslikemiddleagedspirit Sun 10-Feb-13 23:36:19

Snazz, a happier life ahead, yes. I will concentrate on that... Weekends when I can play in the park with my LO instead of rowing at the edge of the playground, hoping he'll keep his voice down, etc etc etc etc etc. Just doing things my way. He's still here – sorting himself a place now. Once he goes and I do things my way for a bit, I hope I'll gain more confidence in my way. And happier times with my LO.

And maybe in time I'll take it in that it wasn't me. I'm taking advice and going to delve into the EA threads.

MyHeadWasInTheSandNowNot – hug is much appreciated smile

wordyBird Sun 10-Feb-13 23:35:30

You said 'we've been to 3 sets of counsellors' so I guess you have had couples counselling. Ouch. That will make an abusive relationship worse. sad When you are up to it, perhaps look into counselling for yourself?

But you can just get yourself out of there first, if you prefer. You do need to do this, as there is no chance he will change.

He is damaged and cannot see you as an independent person. He thinks it's your job to fulfil his needs and read his mind, and his anger comes from frustration that you see yourself as independent with needs of your own. This literally doesn't make sense to him.

This is why he abuses you. He really does think he's perfect (and so do you, as you've described him as 'the perfect partner'). And because you don't fit his completely warped understanding of what a partner is, you are challenging his fundamental worldview, and he thinks you deserve to be berated.

This is why his exes were 'awful' according to him. They were normal women like you.

MyHeadWasInTheSandNowNot Sun 10-Feb-13 23:27:26

I'm just going to send you a <<HUG>> Honestly, it's SO NOT YOU. He's a horrible, horrible 'man', what he has done to you is disgusting, truely disgusting sad

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