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EA or "just" nonabusive selfish behaviour?

(87 Posts)
DeletedThreadGotMeThinking Tue 19-Aug-14 12:54:14

Am a longtime lurker and occasional poster, have nc for this as I'm worried about being identifiable.

I was reading That Thread That Was Deleted yesterday and realised that it is quite important to me to work out whether my H is actually emotionally abusive, or whether he is "just" selfish and immature. It matters I think because if it is only selfishness/immaturity than maybe I should keep trying to make him see my point of view and meet him half-way on trying to improve our relationship. OTOH is he is EA then lots of lurking in Relationships suggests to me that such an approach is unlikely to succeed.

I'm struggling to categorise his behaviour because a lot of it is subtle, and because he doesn't do some of the cardinal things that are described on EA threads. So I would greatly appreciate those with experience of EA looking at my shit list and giving their opinion one way or the other. I haven't given too much detail about specific incidents as H knows I use MN.

So here goes.

Things he doesn't do
1. Doesn’t shout at me, call me names, swear or rant at me on a regular basis (a couple of isolated incidents as exceptions).
2. Doesn’t express jealousy of other men or try to control what I wear.
3. Doesn’t limit my access to money.
4. Doesn’t limit contact with family.
5. Doesn’t make me feel scared or afraid.
6. I’m don’t blame myself for his behaviour, and don’t think it is my fault.

Things he does do
7. Tells me it is my fault that he gets angry if I disagree with him, that I “provoked an argument”.
8. Tells me I am unsupportive if I disagree with him, or if I don’t agree with him in the right way

9. Doesn’t openly limit contact with friends, but does
- makes evening socialising difficult because he gets annoyed about having to change his own routine to suit me, e.g. come home early to look after DCs.
- express reluctance to socialise with others on weekends, sometimes cancels and leaves me to attend alone
10. Doesn’t openly limit my access to money, but does
- make occasional threats about needing to get more involved with finances to check what I am doing (I do all finance stuff because he won’t), or speculating that I am saving money in secret
- makes it difficult to take big joint financial decisions because he will get stroppy about being made to engage
- is annoyed/displeased if he finds out that I have spent more on something than he has or have bought something that he doesn’t have (and we’re only talking cheap smartphone or new glasses, nothing extravagant), acts as if I have cheated him out of something
- use finances to manipulate me into doing things with or for him (e.g. threatening to spend a large amount of money if I don’t go with him to help him buy clothes)
- regards family money as his, gets annoyed at the suggestion that he can’t spend family income how he likes or that he has to limit his spending to a budget
11. Will say he has decided to go in to work late/at weekends (voluntary hours, not scheduled shifts), will insist that I facilitate this (e.g. by cooking a meal early) then not go in to work after all
12. Makes it difficult to go out and do things on weekends, e.g. by sleeping late, but gets annoyed at the suggestion that I/DCs might go out and do things by ourselves
13. Won’t give me space after an argument, insists on following me around,
14. Wants to control the space in the house for his own agenda – e.g. we have a large collection of books, and he gets angry at the suggestion that wall space should be used for anything other than bookcases, even though as a household we need space for other things, also gets angry when compromise solutions (like ebooks) are suggested
15. Gets angry when I won’t do normal everyday tasks with or for him, e,g, laundry, making lunch, buying underwear (he has never done these things for me)
16. Insisted that I get him a particular birthday gift “because otherwise you probably won’t get me anything” and hasn’t unpacked it 6 months later
17. Gets angry if I arrange domestic routines to suit my needs (I work flexible hours to fit in around DCs and need to work in the evening to make up time) rather than his (workaholic who always stays at work and comes home when it suits him and never tells me in advance what time he’ll be home)

Poor boundaries:
18. Has been known to say that he feels we are so close that we are like one person
19. Refuses to respect my right to use of personal objects, e.g. will drink from a water glass I’m using or use my bath towel despite me asking him not to
20. Sees nothing wrong with snacking on/using up food he knows was bought specifically for me or DCs, despite having his own particular snacks bought in the weekly shop

21. Will repeatedly perform a household task so poorly it has to be redone or claim he doesn’t know how to do it
22. Insists on “resolving” a problem in the quickest way possible (to avoid having to spend time on it or deal with other people) without accepting the need to find sensible and economical solutions.
23. Responds poorly to criticism, gets defensive, comes up with counter-accusations
24. Quietly makes provocative remarks (e.g. put-downs) in situations when I can’t easily respond, e.g. when socialising with family
25. Profound negativity about everything, expresses dissatisfaction with present life but does nothing to change it, says there is nothing about his life he wouldn’t change but then denies he means me and DC - it feels like he resents me for being basically happy with our life (marriage is another story)

26. Attempts to guilt trip when I won’t agree to do as he wants (on anything from holiday destinations to drinking a cup of tea at the same time he wants to)
27. Impossible to have a straightforward argument as he twists what I say, makes diversionary accusations, accuses me of being unable to take a joke, of being unable to communicate
28. Doesn’t make me afraid as such, but I am wary of broaching certain topics because I can predict his reaction and can’t be bothered dealing with it, and I will often just deal with things rather than discuss with/tell him
29. Used to push buttons until I lost my temper, then would magically be happy once I had got angry (still tries to push buttons but I no longer react)
30. Rapidly become his “normal” self after an argument and tells me I am unreasonable if I take a while to calm down
31. Gaslights me – will claim I didn’t tell him something, or that I misinterpreted what he meant, e.g. will say “I said x but I meant y”, says I misinterpret complaints as him wanting me to deal with/solve the problem

Verbal put-downs:
32. Doesn’t overtly tell me I am fat, stupid etc, but
- does occasionally comment if I choose to have a small treat while we’re out having coffee, or express surprise if I say I don’t want a cake etc.
- does repeatedly (and predictably) run down music, books, films, TV etc that he knows I like
33. Minimises or invalidates my reactions to his behaviour – says I don’t react to something in the “right” way, or that he “can’t understand” why I’m angry or resentful
34. Uses derogatory language to invalidate my opinion, e.g. “no sensible person would think that, no intelligent person would say that”
35. Criticises and makes fun of my sources of support, e.g. MN
36. Is sometimes rude to or ignores those he perceives as inferior

So - is some of this EA or is he "just" a selfish, immature, insecure arse?

(And thank you to anyone who's managed to wade through all that!)

Jan45 Tue 19-Aug-14 12:59:22

Does it really matter, either way he sees himself as far more important than you, in fact, he almost holds you in contempt.

Where is the equal-ness, the partnership of marriage, the respect and the boundaries, he has none, either move on without him cos he will not change, or accept this is it, it's his way, or the high way.

I'm exhausted just reading that.

DeletedThreadGotMeThinking Tue 19-Aug-14 13:09:10

Jan45, in one sense I agree - it's not a great relationship whatever label is put on his behaviour.

However, there have been small improvements lately and I need to decide whether the chances of further improvement is enough to warrant staying. If most of his behaviour is EA, then I don't believe he'll change and I don't want to waste my emotional and mental resources in trying to get him to.

Fairenuff Tue 19-Aug-14 13:09:44

OP if it's ok with you, I will jot down the numbers relating to those that I would consider abusive.


So, 17 out of 30. And that is really generously giving him the benefit of the doubt on the other 13.

The other behaviours could be considered 'just' unreasonable, selfish, immature, etc. and if he was willing to change, he might be able to. However, I doubt that he will unless he commits to a serious bout of therapy.

Btw, my dh doesn't do any of the things on your list.

Fairenuff Tue 19-Aug-14 13:10:38

He sounds exhausting to live with tbh.

whatdoesittake48 Tue 19-Aug-14 13:11:04

I was able to tick off lots of the things on your list - especially the verbal putdowns. He thinks it is funny to tell me I am silly and have a good laugh at my expense. Also he is very defensive and impossible to negotiate with.

I describe my H as EA. i think you should too.

Well done in identifying these behaviours. now you need to try and work out if they are worth sticking with. Do they affect your behaviour, make you anxious, upset, angry or anything. Or do you just raise you eyebrows and move on.

If it is the latter - does he have enough good qualities to make it bearable? Will it wear you down in time?

Could some of this be your high expectations?

poupeedeson Tue 19-Aug-14 13:11:07

Your "bad things he doesn't do" has six items, your "bad things he does do" has 36. Six times as many. The bad things he does do are the bad things he doesn't do squared. That is massively draining and would sap any goodness out of anyone.

Whether it is abusive or not is not the issue, the issue is that his behaviour is appalling and you do not have to put up with it. For what it's worth I do think he is abusive and manipulative, and he knows it, and he knows it is damaging to you and takes pleasure in it.

Twinklestein Tue 19-Aug-14 13:14:40

If it feels like it's abuse, then it's abuse.

Whether he's defined objectively as abusive or not is irrelevant, and it would come very much down to personal opinion: but from the details here - he's really, really awful and you're justified in disliking him.

I don't think the question of whether you should try and work at him hearing your pov turns on whether he's abusive or not, but simply is whether he's listening or even interested - to that the answer is a clear no.

He really doesn't care about you, he's not interested, he's just in this for himself.

KoalaKoo Tue 19-Aug-14 13:18:23

He sounds like a total arse, not necessarily abusive, but quite possible irredeemable.

lettertoherms Tue 19-Aug-14 13:18:43

You don't have to exhibit all EA behavior to be emotional abusive.

I think what he does exhibit is enough, tbh.

You seem very clear-headed about these problems - but how does he respond if you bring them up? Are you able to communicate problems with him healthily, or does it lead to more of the same behavior, escalating things, putting it all on you?

It's important to remember that these abusers are follow patterns of reeling you in with niceness and love before repeating their abusive behavior. Often, you think, ah, things are a bit better, he's really changed, he's a good bloke and this is working - and then it'll all blow up again.

fairylightsintheloft Tue 19-Aug-14 13:18:52

I don't know if it matters what you call this behaviour. EA is just a label. You could argue that anything that anyone does that makes you feel unhappy is EA. It doesn't mean that if 17/30 are deemed EA that's a majority and therefore you must act but if its only 14/30 its just twattishness and you should put up with it. (not that you have to put up with twattishness if you don't want to)! It seems like a pretty long list of things you have obviously thought very very hard about and want to change. Only you can say how receptive your DH would be to a direct conversation about this or counselling, but if you do go down either route, that list ,might be a bit overwhelming. Could you narrow it down to say 5-6 behaviours with one or two examples for each? It might seem a bit more manageable.

poupeedeson Tue 19-Aug-14 13:19:47

Also, under things he doesn't do - 3 and 4 he does in a more subtle way as you explain in 10 and 24, for example. 5 and 6 are not his doing, they are just you not rising to the bait because you have wisdom and clairty. He is trying to make you feel like you are to blame (the whole of your "manipulative" section...) and at fault, and he is also trying to at least make you feel worthless, if not afraid. I can think of no other reason for this than to make himself feel more powerful, therefore I would consider him abusive.

DeletedThreadGotMeThinking Tue 19-Aug-14 13:23:41

Thank you all for responding.

Most of the time I am convinced he is EA, just that sometimes have a wobble when I read a description of an EA spouse and think "But H doesn't do that..."

It is exhausting to live with, particularly the time I spend analysing his behaviour, working out how best to react to it and what to do about the future.

whatdoes I think if anything I now have very low expectations of him. I don't expect he will do more than the 5% of domestic/childcare chores he does now, I don't expect him to put himself out for me or DCs, I don't expect him to be interested in me or my life.

I used to get very upset and agitated by a lot of his behaviour, but I have deliberately worked at recognising a lot of the tactics and not engaging or responding. It works in terms of reducing my stress and reducing the number of arguments but doesn't do much to improve our relationship

poupeedeson to be fair there are plenty of other bad things that he doesn't do! I just listed the things that regularly come up on EA threads where he doesn't fit the pattern iyswim.

Jan45 Tue 19-Aug-14 13:24:39

All the negatives just show him for the weak man he is, he gets his self confidence from putting you down and lording it over you, that's no way to live, it's not a partnership, it's a very convenient relationship - for him.

Softlysoftlycatchymonkey Tue 19-Aug-14 13:30:44

This is such a negative post about your husband. If he is doing all these things that are irritating you or are making you unhappy, then leave. It's such a massive list to sit and ponder about.

If I could sit and write a list as long as that about my dp - I'd finish it. Obviously your very unhappy with him what ever you call it. If most posters called if as EA would it make it easier to leave rather than him being called a selfish git?

we share towels and drinking glasses in our house!

trackrBird Tue 19-Aug-14 13:32:24

You are in a controlling relationship. Selfish and immature are by definition part of that. Some of the behaviours are likely to get worse over time.

The vast majority of negative behaviours listed are not found in normal, loving relationships. (would say none but can't be bothered to nitpick with someone about 'oh but DH does this and we're happily married' etc).

bibliomania Tue 19-Aug-14 13:33:14

Would it help to turn the question around?

Instead of "Is he an abuser?", could you try asking "Am I in a relationship that is healthy for me to be in?"

poupeedeson Tue 19-Aug-14 13:34:11

Oh I'm sure that he does do good things! Otherwise you wouldn't be with him in the first place. However if there is a checklist of 40 crimes and someone ticks 35 of them, I would find it hard to justify their behaviour by saying "well at least they don't do these five things..." Especially if two of them were because they didn't have the power to do them, and three of them they kind of do anyway...

DeletedThreadGotMeThinking Tue 19-Aug-14 13:34:30

Yes, he is deeply insecure and embittered by not effortlessly achieving the professional and financial status that he thinks is his due.

I don't think much of what he does is calculated and conscious - I think most of his behaviours are aimed at self-protection and self-preservation (albeit at my expense). For example he views a difference of opinion as hostility because he is so insecure in himself. And I am not "allowed" to change or downscale the way I pursue mutual interests or hobbies because he feels threatened by that.

I can't really raise these issues with him. I've tried (a lot!) in the past and it's like trying to have an argument with a squid - squirting clouds of ink in the form of counter-accusations and exaggerations of what I've said, diversions off-topic. I can't really be arsed trying any more because it's too emotionally draining. He has improved, a bit, in terms of his input into family life. But it feels like a veneer - scratch the surface when something doesn't go his way and the attitudes are still there underneath.

poupeedeson Tue 19-Aug-14 13:35:23

And other bad things that he doesn't do, I'm getting my bads and goods confused... lunchtime!

weatherall Tue 19-Aug-14 13:38:24

I think it's a non issue whether his behaviour is ea or not. Does the definition really matter?

What matters is that you are obviously very unhappy in this marriage. You sound totally incompatible even without the abuse tick boxes.

Do you feel you need the justification the title of ea gives in order to leave him?

If things are this bad, go to your solicitor and start divorce proceedings. Look into the practicalities of housing and income. Spend time moving forward not defining a man who will hopefully be in your past soon.


DeletedThreadGotMeThinking Tue 19-Aug-14 13:40:39

I think it would actually make it easier to leave if it was EA, yes. If it is EA, the chances of changing things to the point where this is a half-way healthy relationship are remote. So in a way, I could leave with a clear conscience, without wondering whether I should have tried harder, or for longer.

It isn't a healthy relationship at the moment, I do know that. The question is whether he just needs to grow up a bit post DC (which to be fair, I needed to and, I think, have), or whether his whole emotional make-up is so flawed that it isn't realistically redeemable.

LookingThroughTheFog Tue 19-Aug-14 13:43:47

Deleted, my father is narcissistic. He's quite obviously and definitely narcissistic. It used to bother me that he didn't seem as bad as other narc parents. I read stately homes and thought that I was a fraud even thinking he was narc.

The thing is, when I started telling people things he did that were almost ordinary to me, the reaction I got was 'OMG! That's awful! He's awful!'

It's not always about ticking all the numbers on the boxes, and it's fine and fair enough to think 'at least he doesn't starve me...' but that doesn't mean the rest of his behaviour is excusable.

My mum's partner once said to me; 'One thing I'd never do; I'd never hit your mother. You can be confident about that.' To which my response was 'So? Do you want a flippin' medal for lowest common denominator behaviour? You think I'm going to be satisfied with lowest possible expectations being met?'

The question is this - how do you feel about how he is. Do you feel happy, confident and equal in your partnership with him? Do you feel that if you have concerns about his behaviour, they are listened to and respected (even if the initial reaction is shock and horror - are they then addressed and appreciated).

My DH does one or two things on your list, but I feel absolutely equal to him, and when I call him on his behaviour, he recognises that my feelings are valid and we work it through.

To my mind, that's the critical point of EA.

Twinklestein Tue 19-Aug-14 13:47:56

The chances of you changing this into a healthy relationship are non-existent whether he's defined as EA or not.

It doesn't have to qualify as abuse for you to be justified in ending it.

He is obviously very selfish and screwed up. How much of your life do you want to waste waiting for him to change? This is who he is. Either the relationship works as it is or it doesn't.

trackrBird Tue 19-Aug-14 13:49:07

It's not really important whether the behaviour is calculated or not. It's harmful to you and your relationship.

I don't personally think people who behave like this are insecure or lacking self esteem. They have far too much self esteem and really think they are special and important. They will bully you back into line if you don't continue to feed their self importance. However, opinions do differ about that.

I don't think there is much, if any, chance of his changing enough to create a healthy relationship between you.

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