Advanced search

Mumsnet has not checked the qualifications of anyone posting here. If you need help urgently, please see our domestic violence webguide and/or relationships webguide, which can point you to expert advice and support.

Will the freedom programme work for me? EA marriage - want it to improve

(24 Posts)
writergal Thu 09-May-13 10:06:52

I am asking here because I literally have nowhere else to turn. My husband would like me to talk to him but for reasons which will become apparent - it isn't easy.
I am married for more than ten years and have two children. I moved here with my husband and have no family close by. before I met my husband I was in a long-standing abusive relationship. it was mostly verbal, but there were incidents of physical restraint and pushing etc. he was also manipulative and got me into debt and more. For some reason i stayed friends with him even after we split and still knew him very well when I met my OH. he was still abusive - but as a "friend". Still used me for money, treated me like crap basically.
So I met OH and thought I had found my saviour. we quickly got pregnant and married and moved away from my home country. he was born here. red flags? Over the years my H has been controlling, passive aggressive, given me the silent treatment, controlled my money and my work, told me I was fat, left naked photos of me around the house to "shock" me into taking action...(I have since lost four stone) ripped up my diary because I mentioned boyfriends before him (this led to a very scary incident),and eventually started getting very shouty and aggressive swearing often during arguments. I became withdrawn and very anxious and got to the point I felt I could no longer go on. his moods dictated everything and he changed them often - when he is nice he is amazing and when he is horrible it is a nightmare.
At this point he realised some of his flaws and agreed to change - he read a book on abuse and agreed never to shout again. however it hasn't really changed what he says. it is just said in a calmer way. But despite this i really do believe he wants to change and is ready to see where he needs to improve.he knows this is make or break for me.
However he feels this is being hampered by my previous relationship and that I see him in a bad light because i am failing to put both our past and my previous relationship behind me. However, i get physical symptoms of anxiety from the smallest comment or even movement from him. I feel sick much of the time, unless he is being perfect (but who can be perfect?).
I need to get past this anxiety and try to see the good he is doing - because otherwise i feel i will have to end things. this is why i wonder if the freedom programme will be worthwhile for me. Will it help someone who wants to change their current relationship, get over past hurts and move on and into a more productive state - where i can talk to my husband about what he does and how to make it better. he is willing to listen to this - but i feel very anxious about bringing anything up because i still fear his reaction. he thinks this is unfair on him and i agree. How can he show he has changed if I don't give him a chance?
is the freedom programme just for people getting out of a relationship or for those who want to stay in one too.
I realise he still has a very long way to go - but he is motivated to do it. I just feel like I need to start with a clean slate and approach everything differently.
I may not be able to respond very often to this thread - but please know i am reading and taking it in. My OH is likely to realise this thread has been started (he is good with computers) and he won't like it. but I just feel too awful to not try an get advice from somewhere.

TisILeclerc Thu 09-May-13 10:49:57

Hello, I couldn't leave you unanswered. I'll try to answer your questions!

Firstly, I did the freedom programme from Jan-Mar this year. There were a fluctuating number of us as some were doing catch up sessions from previous courses, but in all I'd say about 80% of us were out of the relationship and 20% still in. There is no stipulation as to whether you are or aren't in the relationship, but you may well find that more people aren't. However, one of the group rules is that you have to respect each other - perspectives and situations vary enormously and so you have to respect that and work with each other accordingly.

It sounds very much to me like you swapped one abuser for another. The knight in shining armour scenario is a tried and tested technique for abusers as is the tying you to them very rapidly (babies, new countries etc).

You say that he is willing and wants to change, but what evidence do you have for that? My ex is 'willing to do anything' to get me back but the evidence I have is that he has not changed in the slightest. He is still a manipulative abuser.

What is it that makes you want to work on this relationship? To want to stay? What positives do you get from it currently?

If you can, get hold of a book by Lundy Bancroft called 'Why does he do that?' It is a marvellous read and really helpful. If you are unable to get hold of it, PM me. I was in that situation and somebody helped me out. I would like to return the favour by doing the same to someone else.

Finally, do check out the Emotional Abuse support thread. It is in its 21st incarnation and is full of women just like you who are struggling with their partners. I don't post so much there now (I have been discovered) but I did for months and it really helped me to do so.

Big hugs.

HotDAMNlifeisgood Thu 09-May-13 10:51:42

You are wrongly blaming yourself.

If you don't see change, it's because there is no change. Not because you are fucked up.

If you are in a marriage that makes you feel physically sick with anxiety, listen to what your body is telling you: this marriage is no good for you.

He can improve with or without you there, if he really wants to.

foolonthehill Thu 09-May-13 10:59:48

The freedom programme would certainly be useful for you. As would appropriate individual counselling. However your husband needs to take responsibility for his own actions...not blame you for his inability to change

However he feels this is being hampered by my previous relationship and that I see him in a bad light because i am failing to put both our past and my previous relationship behind me.

If he wants your marriage to be a non-abusive relationship then he takes all the responsibility for his own behaviours and also allows that his (and your ex's) previous behaviours have CONSEQUENCES in terms of your response to him, your emotional and physical health and that trust takes time to build.

I will post below a (longish) list of evidence of change in men...of course it won;t come about all at once. if he is serious about rebuilding your relationship then he should consider going to an abusers programme I will link to info below.

TisILeclerc Thu 09-May-13 11:01:20

Sorry - I meant to say that too! It is not for you to change or to approach things differently. It is for him to change, not you.

foolonthehill Thu 09-May-13 11:03:24

*Assessment of change in abusive men*: Bancroft And Silverman 2002

Assessment of change in an abusive partner should draw on multiple sources of information (not just self-report), and include attention to the following issues at a minimum:
1)Has he made full disclosure of his history of physical and psychological abuse? A perpetrator must overcome denial and minimization in order to confront his abusive behaviour meaningfully. It is common for abusers to claim to have changed while simultaneously denying most of the history of abuse, and a sceptical view should be taken of such assertions.
2) Has he recognized that abusive behaviour is unacceptable? We find that some perpetrators who claim to have changed continue to justify their past violent or abusive behaviour, usually through blaming the victim, thereby leaving an opening for using such justifications for future abuse. One indication of an abuser who may be making serious progress is his unqualified statements that his behaviour was wrong.
3)Has he recognized that abusive behaviour is a choice? Some perpetrators may acknowledge that abuse is wrong but make the excuse that they lost control, were intoxicated, or were in emotional distress. Acceptance of full responsibility is indispensable for change
and needs to include recognition that abuse is intentional .
4)Does he show empathy for the effects of his actions on his partner and children? As evidence of change, a perpetrator should be able to identify in detail the destructive impact his abuse has had without shifting attention back to his own emotional injuries, grievances, or excuses.
5)Can he identify what his pattern of controlling behaviours and entitled attitudes has been? In order to change, a perpetrator has to see that his control/violence grows out of a surrounding context of abusive behaviours and attitudes and be able to name the specific forms of abuse he has relied on and the entitled beliefs that have driven those behaviours.
6)Has he replaced abuse with respectful behaviours and attitudes? A changing abuser responds respectfully to his (ex-)partner’s grievances, meets his responsibilities, and stops focusing exclusively on his own needs. He develops non-abusive attitudes, including accepting his (ex-)partner’s right to be angry and re-evaluating his distortedly negative view of her as a person. Attitudinal changes are important predictors of behavioural improvement in abusers.
7)Is he willing to make amends in a meaningful way? We have observed that abusers who are making genuine change develop a sense of long-term indebtedness towards their victims. This sense includes feeling responsible to lay their own grievances aside because of the extent of injury that the abuse has caused.
8)Does he accept the consequences of his actions? Our clients who make substantial progress come to recognize that abusive behaviour rightly carries consequences with it, which may include the woman’s decision to end the relationship or the placement of restrictions on the abuser’s access to his children. On the other hand, continued anger or externalizing of responsibility regarding such consequences tends to portend a return to abusive behaviour.

foolonthehill Thu 09-May-13 11:04:57

here is the organization that approves abusers programmes for men like your husband

cestlavielife Thu 09-May-13 11:06:48

do the programme. it can only help you.

then review whether he is able to change or not.

get to know yourself and your boundaries. you dont have to put up with and live with mr nice/nasty.

" it hasn't really changed what he says" says it all really

foolonthehill Thu 09-May-13 11:10:57

Remember It is not your fault that he behaves badly. You are responsible for your own actions. You have a right to your own feelings

HE is responsible for himself. And until and unless he takes full responsibility he won't change.

he also needs to allow that you have a life separate from him, that you are entitled to support from other people either in real life or from this or other online sources. Stalking people on the internet is not a unique thing but it does show a lack of respect for your individual space and boundaries.

writergal Thu 09-May-13 11:15:11

thank you for your replies. I have already read parts of the Lundy book and have been reading these threads for the last few months. it has really helped me to see that I am not to blame.

For whatever reason I seem to choose bad men. For a long time I thought they just reacted to me and I "turned" them into monsters. made them angry etc. My H once told me he wasn't surprised about my previous BF abusing me...he took that back and apologised eventually.

I agree that he needs to do something constructive and obvious to show change. So far he read the book (months ago) and I think that is all in terms of tangible things. he mentioned something about reading online. I would like to see him go into counselling - but don't feel I should need to suggest it.

I am also considering asking him to move out until he has completed a course of counselling/treatment for EA. However, finances are going to make that very tricky.

the positives I get feel very few and far between sometimes. he is a hardworker, doesn't drink much, is involved with the kids, does half the housework and most of the cooking (although I do feel this is just because he thinks i am not capable of doing it to his standard), does loads of DIY, arranges most of the finances and computer/technical stuff, is attentive (when in the right mood) often tells me I am attractive (now I have lost weight).

but it all feels hollow - like he can take all of that away with just one cutting remark or a lecture about my failings.

TisILeclerc Thu 09-May-13 11:23:09

Oh, lovely girl sad

You can really benefit from the FP to help you choose 'nice' men. But really, abusive men often just home in on more vulnerable women and see them as a target. You didn't make anyone into a monster. They lull you into a false sense of security and then when you're in deep they allow the monster to come out.

If he were able to move out, then that would be the best way. And if he is serious about changing then he will agree. There will be a way around it, whether it would be for him to stay with relatives or friends until he completes a course and demonstrates sustained, effective changes.

You're right. The positives are few and far between. And are not really that positive.

You deserve better than this. If he can't change or is unwilling to change, please remember that you deserve better.

foolonthehill Thu 09-May-13 11:28:02

Living with abuse is soul destroying. I suspect that you would massively benefit from individual counselling yourself.

those of us who end up in abusive relationships don;t get there by chance. We often are blind to the warning signs , lack good robust boundaries in our relationships and doubt or own interpretation of what is going on. Now in a good, normal relationship these issues would be given space and support to be worked upon and we would be strengthened, however with abuse they get used against us and get worse until we reach breaking point (or breaking up point).

writergal Thu 09-May-13 11:28:07

Fool - thankyou for your information - you are no "fool" obviously!
leclerc - I have read your posts elsewhere - you are very wise.

The having a separate life thing is a real issue. I tell him that being independent doesn't mean being separate or apart. but he finds this difficult to understand. he sees us as a unit - unbreakable - us against the world. But I want friends, support, family, my own money and a life which is my own. he won't be able to cope with this. He accuses me of scheming....

Strangely, I have a degree which included feminism and women's studies - how did I get here?

Do you think that these men choose strong women because they like the challenge? My appearance would indicate that i take no shit. he likes this - I look strong, unapproachable to men. Short hair etc. I think he feels proud to have tamed me.

AttilaTheMeerkat Thu 09-May-13 11:28:27


Was wondering what you learnt about relationships when growing up?. You are picking bad men for many reasons (what was your relationship with your Dad like, it may have all started with him and your mother too); you need to properly establish why that is and start to unpick all that damaging stuff you've learnt about relationships.

Would also suggest you read "Women who love too much" written by Robin Norwood.

Freedom Programme for you would be a good idea particularly once he is out of your day to day life. It seems you have just progressed from one abuser to yet another abuser, albeit presented in a different form but abusive all out of the same rotten mould.

Counselling for emotionally abusive men rarely if ever works because they cannot or will not take any responsibility for their actions. If anything it can give these already damaged men more tools to beat their victims with. He not already entering counselling of his own accord should also tell you that he is really not prepared to take any accountability here.

I would ask him to move out and if he refuses use legal means to have him removed.

Your positives are not all that positive either; he's just covering some bases here. And you have not mentioned whether you still love him or not. If he's not good for you, he likely is not a good role model for the children to be looking up to either.

foolonthehill Thu 09-May-13 11:34:38

Do you think that these men choose strong women because they like the challenge?

I don't know. But I think strong, capable women stay longer because we think we can cope, we think we can make it better and we think we would be letting ourselves down by "giving up" on our marriage sad

writergal Thu 09-May-13 11:47:27

My Mum and dad split when i was 12 - he was abusive too. Treated my Mum like she was stupid, didn't allow her to drive, work etc. She went against everything he said and eventually got away. he then refused to pay maintenance for me to punish her.

After all this he then refused to sign for my university course (I needed his details for a means tested benefit). he thought women didn't need much of an education. however he encouraged me when I was young.

I don't really speak to him now - but he is in his 80's and always was an older father. he was nearly 50 when i was born.

My husband understands my relationship with my dad and knows what my mum went through. he doesn't want to be seen in the same way. but I don't think he feels he is in that league.

What I realise about myself is that I have always had a man waiting in the wings. nearly every single one was either cheating on his girlfriend to be with me or he cheated on me. I have had very little time as a single person. Phew - there are some really bad role models in my life - apart from my brothers who are truly amazing - even with their flaws.

foolonthehill Thu 09-May-13 11:55:17

My abusive ex spent a HUGE amount of time "helping" young mums to see their violently abusive partners for what they were. I think it made him feel like he could minimise what he was doing at home to me and our children as "not in that league" too.

The ability to see abuse does not stop someone from practising it. And having a "worse" example just gives them further reason to expect you to put up with it.

"Just because you've escaped a level 10 bastard, doesn't mean you should settle for the level eight one that comes along. The only acceptable level of abuse is none."

foolonthehill Thu 09-May-13 11:56:42

have a look here to reset your ideas of a "good enough" relationship reality of relationships

TisILeclerc Thu 09-May-13 12:48:51

My ex has just completed a Respect abusers' programme. He told both me and our dc that he was different from the other men there as 'they are real abusers - they've put people in hospital and everything, some of them are on their last chance before going to prison'. hmm

What he couldn't see was that he was just as bad. He didn't know that his was the worst MARAC risk assessment score they had worked with to date. MARAC is a multi agency committee consisting of people like WA, police, social workers, healthcare professionals etc. He just saw that as I'd never rung the police, as he'd never been arrested, he wasn't as bad.

He was also very vocal about other men being 'bastards' to their wives.

It's a common thing!

writergal Thu 09-May-13 14:22:25

I think my H would react in a similar way. he would think he was different and to be fair, I would class myself as being different to women who are being physically attacked. I am not saying the results haven't been the same - but that it is a different type of abuse. I think we could both learn a lot from counselling - if only to see that abuse is abuse - no matter what form.

EA is so insidious and subtle. Sometimes I just feel bad when he says something and don't know why. later on I might be able to put my finger on it - but the moment has passed and I can't call him on it without sounding petty.

An example is I was helping with dinner. I failed to read the recipe properly (because I was trying to act all efficient and keep up with his needs before he had a go for being too slow) Anyway he said to me "I don't why I bother asking you to help". Such a small statement but designed to make me feel useless - and it worked.

But I instantly made excuses "it was a long recipe, complicated, too hard, not written right" Why didn't I just say "Fuck off and do it yourself then and while your'e at it think about why you talk to me like a five year old."

it took me a couple of hours to realise what he said was wrong.

turbochildren Thu 09-May-13 14:41:48

I suppose many of us think we are different from the "typical" abusive family. That we are from well educated families or that our partner is vocal against other men who are "really abusive". It doesn't make it right though, and it makes you feel so sad and useless. That's no way to live. And i don't know that learning about abuse would make your husband see that it is what he is doing.
Hope you get some good advice out of the freedom programme. I have bought mine from Amazon, together with other books on the subject, as there weren't any course at a suitable time locally. Hope you can find one to go to, as talking to others can really help.
Your dinner example is good. It's in one way pretty innocuous, but you know what is going to happen if you get it just a tiny bit wrong. And all of a sudden it happened without you even noticing.
Just speculating, but does he show much empathy for you at all?

TisILeclerc Thu 09-May-13 16:20:15

Oh yes - that's a good subtle jibe! It's a well known thing on here (and elsewhere I guess) that living in an EA relationship is like death by a thousand paper cuts. Each thing on its own - whilst it stings like hell - is relatively innocuous, and as you say, calling them on it seems petty. Yet add them all up and it becomes something much, much bigger.

If it is part of a pattern of behaviour then it is no longer innocuous and petty. It is deliberate abuse. I think many abusive men (ex included) would be horrified to hear that their jibes and 'remarks' are abusive. Horrified and incredulous. There are not many men who accept that they are abusive. Even fewer of those believe it, even once they've verbally accepted it!

writergal Thu 09-May-13 17:13:12

My H claimed his statement was a joke when I later told him it had hurt me and was rude. he also doubted he had said those exact words. I often get the denials as well. he will apologise "if that is what I said or did then I apologise..." always leaving the seed of doubt in my mind that I misread it, misheard him or just plain invented it!

I told him once he was a textbook controller/abuser and it really does sound like that is the truth. he is ticking all the boxes - sadly.

I have concluded today that I will do the FP. it seems like a good idea. I can't hide the fact I am doing it as we share a bank account so the payment will come up for the online books. he asks me about unusual things. ( I do not have my own bank account - another story...). I don't know how to put it. What do I say to get his support?

Just book it/buy it and see what he says afterwards? I suppose it is the perfect test of his commitment to change. I also want to point out that it isn't a one way street - that he needs to take some positive steps too.

Wish me luck - but I am feeling more confident already - thank you.

TisILeclerc Thu 09-May-13 17:39:33

If you do a course in person then it is free. But as you say, if he really wants to change he will view this as a good thing, surely?

The way he places doubts in your mind is the beginnings of a technique known as gaslighting. Google it - it might seem very familiar. smile

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, watch threads, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now »

Already registered? Log in with: