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I don't know if I'm in an emotionally abusive relationship or whether its just me being highly strung

(60 Posts)
Pleasefiveminutesforme Sat 24-Aug-13 23:43:58

I feel like my husband is constantly criticising me. We have two kids, age 3 and 1. So I have a lot on my plate. And I do a hell of a lot. But I always seem to forget something, or get so something wrong. The house is always too messy for his liking, too cluttered. And he is always picking me up on it.. even though he claims that he actually lets so many things go and that he is constantly having to hold his tongue and say nothing and make allowances. He says that i am so so sensitive that i cannot take advice on how to do things better or more efficiently, and that what he said under his breath wasnt for my hearing anyway. And he is so so good at arguing his point that I am always the one apologising, even if we are bickering about something I really believed not to be my fault.

I'm so lonely about this as I don't want to be unfaithful to him by talking to my friends about it but most of my closest friends have seen me in tears at one point or other over something he has been angry with me about. I feel like I am always in the wrong in his eyes and he always claims to not remember examples of him previously putting me down, so much so that I've threatened to start writing everything down as annoyingly I can remember the put-downs but am unable to repeat the whole circumstances that lead to it. He huffs and puffs when I've annoyed him and then when I get frustrated he claims that I'm being unreasonable for attacking him for breathing.

We have always had an argumentative relationship. I think I have always felt put down by him but its worse since I had kids. I have never argued in previous relationships but most arguments come from me getting indignant or answering back to criticisms he makes. And he is so so good with words he can argue me in to a corner. He has such courage in his convictions that I am always the one who ends up apologising. He is also an only child so I wonder if that is why he is so convinced he is always right.

I have ended l on anti anxiety tablets for the past year. But I feel like its him that's causing my anxiety. When he is away for work I don't miss him. I get stressed with the kids but not anxious which is how I am around him, I feel like I am constantly watching what I say when he's therre. i do jobs for fear of being told off. i darent ask him to do anything round the house as he will discover my way of doing it is flawed and that it needs changing or that i hadnt done it properly the time before. If he thinks any of those things he will have a go at me or there will be a big argument. He says its been loads better between us of late as we haven't argued so much but that's because I keep my mouth shut most of the time when he offends me now.

I dn't know what to do. He is an amazing father and has a sweet heart but he is so critical and gets angry with me. He has banged doors and walls but never ever raised a hand to me. Once in the middle of the night when he was having go at me for how I was dealing with our son screaming in the night I lashed out at him in the bed out of pure frustration and he had to pin me back, so now he likes to remind me of how I was physically abusive to him once and has even brought it up in front of our three year old.

On the other hand I am an emotional person and I think maybe it is all me and that I am being unreasonable. I like getting my own way so maybe its just that I don't like being told. My family laugh and joke and say that I was a handful and that he has calmed me down. (I changed career 6months before I met him and I actually think it was partly being more fulfilled that may have done that too). I just thought relationships were supposed to be teamwork and the only way that has materialised in our relationship is that he works really really hard and I do the kids and house. But I don't criticise his job, although he is constantly critisising mine. Is feeling this way normal?? I just don't know! All I know is I am mostly miserable with him and that although I love him loads I am getting to the point where I almostwould rather walk away.

Please your advice would be really welcome, is it just me being a little princess and expecting too much??

Pleasefiveminutesforme Fri 20-Sep-13 23:53:15

A bit of an update as we are nearly a month on from my first post. I did post a reply back in August but the iPad ate it, and I found it too difficult to find the words for a second time. However things have changed since then anyway.

With the confidence I found from posting and receiving all this fabulous support, I started to stand up to the way he was speaking to me. It was as if he genuinely had no idea he was being that foul to me... And as for the constant criticisms he really believed that he was just giving me advice. But wîth my newfound confidence I essentially gave him an ultimatum. You can keep treating me like this where I feel unrespected, or I can take the kids and move in with my parents who live over an hour and a half away.

He initially seemed shocked that I should feel that way but as I started to give him examples he started to act more sheepish as there was no denying that the way he had spoken to me on several recent occasions was disrespectful and unkind.

Who knows if it will last but he seems to be making much more of an effort to speak to me respectfully. Don't get me wrong, he's still pretty selfish and I understand that that's never going to change, he's an only child who had suspected spina bifida during the pregnancy who miracously came out strong and healthy, but whose mother sadly had to have a hysterectomy whilst he was very young. No surprise that he was doted upon and praised for evrything he did, especially when it was discovered he was super-bright, got offered a scholarship to a fancy school and was the first person from his family to go to University, let alone Oxbridge. But I can cope with a little selfishness. As long as the person is going to indulge a little of my own selfishness in return!

Most importantly though, I no longer feel as anxious as I did. I still make the effort to make the place nice at the end of the day but that's because it's pleasant to have a tidy house in the evening without toys strewn all over the place and the laundry half done and dishes piled up on the side, not because I am scared that he is going to stomp around the house sighing loudly on his return from work if he finds it that way, or criticise that I haven't done something properly.

I also bought the Lundy book on the recommendations and although I have found little time to read it where I will not be spotted, what I have read already has given me validation that I was not just being highly strung. It has also given me the confidence to open up to two of my best and oldest friends about how controlling he is, telling them that I am reading a book that is helping me deal with him... As if they needed telling that he were controlling after some of the scenes they have witnessed in the past!

I get that these are only steps in the right direction and that they are not necessarily indicative if how things will continue but they are giving me confidence. We have rowed since and he has said some horrid things in the heat of the moment but I have been able to stand up to myself in a way I wasn't really capable of a few months ago, so thanks so much for your support, mumsnetters!

A return to work just two days a week has also done a great deal for my confidence as I am suddenly being seen in a different, more competent light (i am pretty good at my job and i love it to boot) also I remember how normal people interact without putting one another down!

bibliomania Mon 26-Aug-13 12:46:00

Although I was totally confused as he had told me to deal with our son so I didn't know how I was supposed to look after her as well...

Oh, he's good at this. Whatever you did would have been wrong. That's how he gets his sense of power - you running around trying to please him, while he changes to goalposts so it would be impossible ever to do so.

So glad you're reading Lundy Bancroft. I'm another veteran of such a relationship (I like to think that it's like being a war vet, rather than a "victim"). It's horrible when you realize that someone who is meant to love you quite deliberately sets out to make your life unpleasant.

The fact that you enjoyed your holiday more because he was out doing sport all the time should tell you quite a lot about what he contributes to your everyday happiness....

clam Mon 26-Aug-13 12:29:44

DO NOT show him the book! Another poster did this once, and her h twisted it all round to accuse her of being the controlling one. Also, if you share a computer, be aware that if you bought it from, say, Amazon, you will get pop-ups on screen detailing the book. You might want to look into how to remove them.

treadpattern Mon 26-Aug-13 11:13:47

Hi, this sounds v familiar to me, you end up on eggshells worrying about getting it wrong more than you get it right. I had partner who got me in to this state over period of time, partly becuause I am forgetful and can be easily distracted tbh, but her frustration was just too much, over the top. I would worry about the shopping all the time and whether my kids had picked up their socks or not. This was all a front for the fact that she and I ultimately had different views on things.

It is hard to say if he can change I hope so but if you are already talking about seperation then it seems like maybe you two just don't fit.

colafrosties Mon 26-Aug-13 10:51:14

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Snazzyenjoyingsummer Mon 26-Aug-13 10:07:40

And next time he lies about something not happening when it did, look him in the eye and say 'You can keep lying all day if you like, but don't imagine it fools me because I know exactly what you said, and lying only makes it worse' Then refuse to argue the toss about whether he did or didn't anymore 'I'm not going to argue anymore because as I said..'

Snazzyenjoyingsummer Mon 26-Aug-13 10:04:34

Notice that his responses are all about him. You've told him you feel desperately unhappy and in return he sulks and says you've made him feel like an arsehole (if the cap fits..) And you worry that he says ill be really depressed if you leave. It's not your responsibility to make him happy, you know. He has to do that himself. If he's not happy then he has to fix it, not blame it on what you do.

bragmatic Mon 26-Aug-13 01:32:17

You made him feel like an arsehole? Well, if it looks like a duck....

I promise you, when he cottons on to the fact that you're starting to see through him, he'll be a whole lot nicer. Don't fall for it. He won't change.

LemonDrizzled Mon 26-Aug-13 00:02:43

Yes to that! Deciding to leave took years. Actually leaving was easy and made everything better

rivellarot Sun 25-Aug-13 23:04:43

thanks whiteand green and sorry for the hijack 5 minutes. Will be watching this thread with interest. i hope you make the right decision.

WhiteandGreen Sun 25-Aug-13 22:51:15

rivella I thought it was really really hard to leave, before I did so. It was actually really easy. It was making the decision that was hard. It starts to feel impossible, you feel trapped.

rivellarot Sun 25-Aug-13 22:48:47

wow are you married to mr rivella? our dhs sound like twins. I now realised that the 'problem' which dh picks up isn't actually the problem, I'm the problem (in dh's eyes). Sounds like your dh is the same- nothing will ever be good enough (even though in the real world of course it's good enough). do you still have a physical relationship with your dh? tbh though, I don't think that matters. I read your post, with cool objective eyes, and thought 'why the hell is someone as smart as that with someone who treats her like dirt'? My dh can be very sensitive and emotionally literate, and in fact that makes it worse, because he knows exactly how he should behave..he just chooses to behave like a prick [admitted that he stonewalls when i'm upset because it upsets me more..]. good luck with whatever you decide to do, it's much harder to leave than it appears..

superstarheartbreaker Sun 25-Aug-13 22:45:31

You honestly shouldn't have to live like this. can't do anything without being micro managed by him. Plan ylour escape.

superstarheartbreaker Sun 25-Aug-13 22:42:29

Oh he's totally done a number on you op and he sounds like a twat. Have you tried Women's Aid? I think you should contact them for some advice too.

Anniegetyourgun Sun 25-Aug-13 22:15:12

Well he IS behaving like an arsehole, that would be why he feels like one.

Kernowgal Sun 25-Aug-13 21:39:35

Is he like this with workmates? Does he treat his friends like this? If the answer is no, then you have to realise that he actively chooses to treat you like this. If he can rein in his moodiness while at work or with friends, then he should also be able to do so with you. That was the eye opener for me - my ex was sociable and friendly with friends but at home he was the classic Jekyll and Hyde, and it always kept me on the back foot. I never knew where I stood.

However, since we split, friends seem relieved that they don't have to spend time with him any more.

I thought my ex was depressed and miserable and couldn't help himself. The reality was that he was a nasty piece of work.

Pleasefiveminutesforme Sun 25-Aug-13 20:33:26

Thank you all so much for all the advice.

To be honest I am rather overwhelmed as I really expected only one or two replies telling me to stop being so highly strung and that its real life, just get over it. I certainly didn't expect so many posts saying you do think it is EA. I feel as if I am just peeking out of the sand at the moment, although perhaps not completely removing my head!

Thank you all for sharing your stories with me. It is a great help to no longer feel completely alone in this. Evaoin, thank you especially for sharing your story about the physical stuff, you are right, I have felt terrible about it. He told his friend that I hit him, then told me he had done so, so I can no longer actually look that friend in the eye any more.

Writing that makes me realise how he will exaggerate how badly I have done something. He told me off for something I had done when we were at a family gathering. At the time I needed support, not to be told off, so I flipped and yelled at him. The only person in the room with him was my niece. But he stormed out and whenever he refers to it, his storming out was because I had laid into him in front of my entire family.

He claims I am never happy with what I have. Whenever I say its hard to keep the house in order with two small children he reminds me that we have a cleaner. Who does his ironing. And that he is always happy to graze on something small for his evening meal so he doesn't expect me to cook for him nowadays. He says he is frustrated with the number of unfinished jobs in the house. I can empathise with that though because I hate it too but if one of the kids has pulled me away from hanging the washing I often do forget to go back and finish it. Or to put away the breakfast things, or the colouring in were doing, or finish emptying the dishwasher, even though the dirty things are stacking up on the side etc etc

Kernowgal and Anniegetyourgun, Maybe you are right about the low budget- I am always so shocked when I find out how much some of my friends spend at the supermarket. We did up my budget about six months ago when we went through the typical shop for a week and I gave him approximate prices, he was pretty out of tune with how much things cost nowadays (He never goes to the supermarket except to buy a few bits and bobs and I am sure he never looks at the prices). However I did agree the budget. I, like NomChangeroo had debt when we first got together, and we were extremely frugal in the period where we paid it off, so I got used to keeping the budget low. Trouble is, we really enjoy being sociable and entertaining and as the budget had no room for that, we always go over. (By the way he does use the fact that I was in debt as a point in arguments a lot, like how I expect the road to rise before me, how I want everything on a plate, how I have no concept of the value of money).

NomChangeroo, I had a hard time on maternity leave too, I felt like a limpet living off his money. My own money went into paying for childcare for our son so that I could have time with the baby and do the house etc.

He has been really good about money recently and has not questioned things, but that is possibly because he is also spending over budget. I still worry because he used to be on my back about it. But he asks for more expensive things fro. The supermarket now and says we will start to be frugal again after the summer.

On the plus side he does give me an allowance each month which is really generous. It's money I don't have to justify and can spend just on myself, for clothes, meals out with friends etc. I often just use it to buy things for the kids though because I'm concerned that the joint account is not looking healthy. But as i get it, I really don't feel that he is financially controlling me. It was an idea his parents gave him As they do the same thing.

His parents do seem to be aware of how he is because they have made several comments to him that he is controlling. I try not to see them too often, partly because he gets annoyed with them and takes his annoyance out on me by being grumpy. I Wonder if behind closed doors their relationship is just like ours. Recently his mother confided to me when she realised we'd been arguing that she and his dad had rowed that morning as well. It depressed me so much as my own parents don't really row at all (but then my husband reminds me that that's not so great either as they've both had affairs at one time or other!).

So the way today has gone is that after our discussion this morning where he outright denied asking to watch the tv on silent last night and accused me of making the silent bit up, he then went the supermarket with both kids and when he returned our son was having a strop about my husband carrying his shoes and would not come in the house. Our 1 year old was still toddling around outside too. My husband told me I could deal with our son and walked into the house. So I said I would get the baby first. So I brought her in to the house, shut her in and went back out to our son, but she stood by the front door and screamed for me the whole time and he just ignored her. When I came back in he made a sarcastic comment about not knowing I was going to bring her back into the house and just leave her.. Although I was totally confused as he had told me to deal with our son so I didn't know how I was supposed to look after her as well... Anyway that made an atmosphere ovr lunch and after lunch he wanted to know what was bugging me and when I told him he seemed quite surprised. I took myself off for a lie down whilst the baby slept and then afterwards he refused to come swimming with the rest of us for the afternoon and has been sulking/sleeping ever since. He says I've made him Feel like an arsehole. He's now gone out for a run. He does seem genuinely melancholy.

I really didn't think I was going to have to leave him to get this to stop. But that seems to be the common theme in everyone's advice or experience. It's so weird as he really has been so so much better over the past year but its almost like the damage has been done as I no longer trust him not to have a go at me for things. Which is what I guess posters are referring to when you say he's got me where he wants with the control thing. I am right in thinking this is all subconsciously though, right? As I don't believe for one second that he is purposely controlling me... As I know he is a really sensitive guy and would probably be outright depressed if he read all this.

Kernowgal Sun 25-Aug-13 18:04:23

I am here wondering if the budget he has agreed for your groceries is actually one that is impossible to achieve and therefore makes you overspend each month, so he can have a go at you for it, if you see what I mean.

I was where you were, OP, and it was exhausting. Trying to anticipate every little thing that might wind him up and dealing with it before he had the chance to shout at me. But then the goalposts would move, and I'd get a telling off for something else, usually quite random and usually quite ridiculous. I looked forward to the days when he would be out for the day, or away for the night, because I could just be myself. It was horrible. He would call me something horrible, then when I picked him up on it, he would angrily deny he'd said it and force me to apologise, even though I knew he'd said it. Then later on he'd be all jokey about it and basically say he had said it, but I would never get an apology, because he didn't do apologies.

The day he left (because I was cold and selfish, apparently), I didn't cry. I felt numb for an hour or so, and then just felt complete and utter relief. I no longer had to dread his key in the door. It was wonderful. Friends commented on how I no longer seemed stooped, like I was carrying the weight of the world. One of the happiest days of my life so far.

oldgrandmama Sun 25-Aug-13 15:48:13

Been quickly through the posts and my heart breaks for you. He IS a bully, emotionally abusive and I'm so glad you're beginning to take steps to sort it out. I'm pretty old, been round the block a lot, been involved with emotional and physical bullies, control freaks and men who generally play with your head. I think you have to do some very serious thinking about where you go now. Excellent advice from the other MN ladies. Fingers crossed for you.

Kundry Sun 25-Aug-13 15:35:28

So your DH is 'a good father' on the basis of having looked after all the kids alone, 3-4 times in their entire lives? For which you had to be grateful?

Sorry but he's a shit father.

On no account let him even know about the book. If he doesn't know you go on mumsnet, don't let him know that either. Start using private browsing as of now.

And definitely Womensaid and counselling - but never ever with him.

NomChangeroo Sun 25-Aug-13 15:12:20

Another thing, OP my ex had a great job.
Earned loads of money but was still tight as anything and expected me to account for every penny. I paid my way through my maternity leaves but he never let me forget that I wasn't earning and he was paying the rent.

What I'm saying is that it's just another way of controlling you. We were well off but I was still not allowed to make any decisions really, not even on groceries without him interfering and questioning it. He still thinks I am a spendthrift (I'm not in the slightest) and used to use the fact I was in debt when I met him as evidence for this. (I'd taken a loan out for a masters so not exactly spending money on a luxurious lifestyle!)

He still tries to use money to control me (eg threatening to stop paying the rent - the only money he pays for upkeep and promising to send the DC to private school, choosing a school then telling me he's changed his mind)

Even though I don't have all the material things any more my quality of life is much better. It was worth it to get my confidence back.

NomChangeroo Sun 25-Aug-13 15:02:22

I've name changed for this but couldn't not respond to your post.

It ABSOLUTELY is NOT your fault what is happening here.
Your DH is abusing you.
I could have written your post word for word a year or two ago.
From the age gaps of your children to him gas lighting you, your family thinking he's 'sorted you out' and that you were a bit 'wild' and your constant state of anxiety.
I still suffer a bit from anxiety but, guess what? Now I'm not with him I haven't had to take medication for it because it is nowhere near as bad.

I believe, from your OP that he could become physically violent towards you - he's already shown violent tendencies, even though it's been towards inanimate objects.
My ex DP started with little things like punching walls, then holding my wrists so I couldn't get away when he was making a 'point' and even though the violence was infrequent (I learnt how to toe the line but then he'd change the boundaries) he ended up strangling me on more than one occasion and punched me repeatedly in front of our DD.
He only did it in front of her once because I called the police. I left the phone on where he couldn't see it and they traced the call - all the while hearing the vile things he was saying to me.
This board is an excellent place for support and there are a lot of people with really great advice.
For me the best advice was contact womens aid.
Even if you just speak over the phone for support initially they'll let you know you're not crazy (here is good for that too).

Nothing you change will be good enough - as I said, my ex just randomly changed the boundaries. So, for example, he would have a go at me if I didn't buy him beer in the shopping. Then one day he had a to at me for buying it because he said I wanted to make him fat and 'take advantage of him financially' by getting him drunk. It sounds ludicrous but meant I didn't know whether to get it next time or not and of course whatever I decided would be wrong.

Get a counsellor. They will listen to you (I never felt listened to before) and will work through things without you feeling the need to justify yourself for anything.

If you want to leave him then get all your important stuff stashed away and try and squirrel away money.
My ex used to shout at me for being 'irresponsible' with money (I wasn't) but I had the last laugh as I'd been putting away money into an account - not lots, but enough to move house and be ok for a little while)

Try and find a friend or family member you can confide in. I was able to speak to one of my best friends and although she lives abroad her support meant a great deal to me.

You might try and write off what he's doing as 'only words' or 'I'm over sensitive' but for me the lasting effect of this behaviour was worse than the physical stuff. I was anxious and had started to doubt everything. I couldn't decide what to buy down the shop for dinner for fear it'd be 'wrong' or too expensive. I'd lost my confidence in my parenting ability too.
Now I look back and realise it was because of him.

Wishing you all the best.

Anniegetyourgun Sun 25-Aug-13 14:57:51

Just idle curiosity really, but I wonder how you say he is a good provider, you have a nice house, money to spend, expensive holidays, and yet you always go over budget on the shopping. Just how much of a spendthrift are you on groceries? Does he have any suggestions on how you could do it more economically, and do you ignore those suggestions? (And how do you even overspend on petrol, surely the car only has one tank?!) What I'm getting at is, is it definitely you being rubbish with money or is the budget unnecessarily tight?

If you don't feel like answering, just give it some thought.

evaeoin Sun 25-Aug-13 14:54:15

So sorry you are going throught this. Yes it is EA and i like alot of others on here i understand COMPLETELY what you are saying.

I just want to say one thing to you first and that is the idea that you have been physically abusive towards him. Of course he is loving the idea that you have but you havent. You may have lost the rag and he may have pinned you down to get you to stop BUT he wast remotely scared or intimidated by you (i bet my life on it). He just wanted you to stop cause you were irritating him. Its like two people having a shouting match/arguement - it isnt realy abusive as such unless one person is afraid, intimidated etc. Lundys book will expalin it much beter than me.

I was exactly like you and one night i too lost the rag and put my hand over H mouth and told him to shut up. I just could take any more of his sh*t. He swatted me off like a fly and then like your H made out i was the agressive one. He was so delighted.

So please please put that out of your head and concentrate on all that he is guilty of not what he has very cleverly made you feel guilty about. And i know its not just him that has made you feel guilty becuase you are a lovely person you feel awful yourself about this misdemeanor but take a step back - he drove you to it and like i said it hasnt knocked a feather out of him it has just given him something else to make you feel bad about. Put if out of your head.

Also, listen to some of these very clever posters on here - they really do know what they are talking about - i know from experience........

wordyBird Sun 25-Aug-13 14:27:18

Yes - Women's Aid would talk with you. You are in a textbook abusive relationship.

BTW when he says he's letting a lot of things go, that tells you just how much he wants control, and how much he thinks you should make life easy for him! I mean, no tea bags in the caddy? I know that was hypothetical: but if it's typical, it shows just how much he expects you to wait on him, smooth his life out for him, and take the blame for everything that goes wrong - even if it has nothing to do with you.

Don't buy into that 'I'm overly sensitive' belief either. Controlling people foster that belief because they think they should be allowed to criticise you freely, without response from you. On the other hand, if you criticise them, it's a major event.

They also train you into sensitivity, because you're constant checking what you say and do so that you don't have an argument.

It's no way to live.

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