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.

when to know it's emotional abuse or just challenging behaviour

(55 Posts)
whenthefatladysings Sat 01-Nov-14 21:49:55

I have never experienced emotional abuse. I often thought it was people who weren't tough enough, weak personality, argumentative, couldn't hold a discussion, didn't work and felt dependant on partner. etc.

I am a strong, independant woman. Always have been. In all my relationships I have had equal if not a bit of admiration as to how level headed, intelligent and organised, own income, sexual, humourous and capable I was. I'm not really, I'm just normal! I attracted men I felt who needed this strong woman in their life and underneath I didn't like it. I amit i realised I like a man who can challenge me and handle my sarcasm but all the while knowing he loved me for just being little old me. Underneath I'm actually a sweet romantic.
I finally met a man who I felt ticked many of these boxes. However he has had disfunctional relationships in the past and my strength I suppose has helped me help him in many ways. He has softened me alot and I realise I like who I am when I am with him.We believe we have a very good relationship, odd ups and downs but we make it work.
Today I realised I make it work. At least I think so. I'm trying not to be over emotional and sounding irrational or woe is me. I am looking for perspective and hope someone can help.
We have needed a bit of a break recently due to working alot. He owns a law practice 160 miles away so often we can only see each other at weekends. This has been for 3 years now. eventually we want to move nearer his practice. my son is still in primary and I want him to finish primary before i would move. that is for sure. I had booked a hotel for one night between where I live and where his practice/home is. I felt a night away for the 3 of us was something we needed. he gets on well with ds but ds is with his father alot when dp is around.
Myself and ds drive to the hotel and checked in. dp rang and told me he would be another hour and that he was exhausted from days work today with a particularly hard case he had. I told him to relax and just enjoy the idea of a swim, dinner when he arrived.
he rang me an hour later asking where he should park as there seemed two entrances. I directed him. However we soon realised he was at the wrong hotel. similar names but 20 miles apart. He flew off the handle and told me that he was exhausted and why had i picked that hotel. That i had given him the wrong name and it was all my fault he was in wrong hotel. I was adamant i told him, but in all his stress it must have confused him. I told him to stop shouting and to just travel to correct hotel. He said this was crazy and that the whole idea was ludicrous, spending the money on a hotel and literally a rant about everything and anything. foul language and aggressive tone.
i took a deep breath and said to him i'd see him when he arrived. I didn'twant to engage in an arguementand in particular in front of ds. When dp did arrive 30 minutes later he was still spitting. i decided to go down to the car to calm him. His voice was raised and i told him that everyone would hear him if he continued and that it was ruining the night. i understood he was tired but it wasn't my fault he got it wrong. he kept shouting at me , telling me that he wouldn't have got it wrong, it was all my fault andhe should have just turned around and gone home. why had i picked a hotel that was in the middle of the countryside, i must be stupid and he'll never go along with another night like it etc and more ridiculous excuses. I couldn't believe his attitude and behaviour. I blocked his path and said 'if you continue to behave like this, just leave, i do not want ds to see this and i do not want you to ruin a night away when we have so few'. he grumbled and barged past me. when he had a shower and came down to the bar he was fine. as if nothing had happened. he talked about his day and other things going on. I began to realise, life is just about him.
i looked around at other couples and families and realised that i have changed from the confident woman to the enabler. when we left the hotel the today (as he had to work) i realised i hated how everything he says and does effects my mood. I love him. but i justfeel so worn out. i tried so hard to make just one night go right and he had to ruin it. i didn't enjoy it at all. the abuse before hand ruined it. it was uncalled for.
i have doubted myself all evening, wondering am i over reacting, am i feeling sorry for myself for no reason at all. then i look at ds and think if he ever spoke to a woman like that/or another person, i'd be utterly dissapointed in how i brought him up.
if you asked in general how is dp well he's uptight these days with work, but surely that's no excuse to bring his stresses home. i don't!
i think i have to leave him.

CogitoErgoSometimes Sat 01-Nov-14 22:14:55

Anyone can have a bad day, overreact, etc. It becomes emotional abuse IMHO when the isolated bad days become a sustsined pattern of behaviour that is designed to control through intimidation and manipulation. Can start subtly but escalates gradually over time, the boundaries constantly being tested. Victims generally report reactions such as 'treading on eggshells', loss of confidence, confusion, being over eager to keep someone sweet. Asking 'is this normal?' might indicate loss of confidence in judgement, for example,

It's all rather academic, however. Someone doesn't have to be emotionally abusive to be a nasty prick.

annymay1 Sat 01-Nov-14 22:48:50

You say he has softened you and you liked yourself that way. You also say that you didn't like to feel the strong one in relationships. I found it always a difficult trade off to choose from feeling soft "like a natural woman" which makes a person more vulnerable I guess with some man and as an opposite - strong with a different type of men.
I don't have an advice. I see this as a trade off theory that we can't have everything

whitsernam Sun 02-Nov-14 00:08:39

This seems to me a lot like the "waitress test": if he gets angry and rude to people in service positions, you can expect that from him eventually yourself. IS this just a "one-off" or are you seeing a pattern? I would be very concerned, myself, as what you are describing sounds pretty far from reality, and very self-centered. He can't accept HE got it wrong; you have to be wrong, etc.

At the least, I'd be watching very carefully from now on....

whenthefatladysings Sun 02-Nov-14 01:26:16

thanks for replies. i think when he's in good form i feel great because he's in good form. but recently pressures of work have been making him irritable. He feels overwhelmed and no matter what I do just ends up being wrong. I am notsure now if watching carefully from now on is going to work because this evening i have been looking back and realising this behaviour has been coming on ever so slowly but is there.he claims he is happy in the relationship but i would never speak to someone how he did to me in open car park especially. it shows a lack of respect. this outburst was the pinnacle for me. I just keep saying to myself it's bad behaviour for my son to see. it isn't a good role model and that to me is very important if someone is tobe part of my life. I am finding that i am saying,, is this normal. when i realise it isn't.

PepsiTwirl Sun 02-Nov-14 01:36:17

You thought people who was emotional abused were: Among other things:
people who couldn't hold a discussion and Didn't work..


whenthefatladysings Sun 02-Nov-14 01:43:52

yes pepsi, that's what i thought ignorantly. that some people mainly women would feel trapped/obliged to put up with it because they were with someone who had the control of the money/house etc. i felt it was primarily women who were sahm who were just in a role of motherhood and had no sense of who they were outside the home.
A friend of mine once skirted around the issue but didn't admit it. she felt being a sahm for 10 years contributed to the fact that she wasn't seen as her anymore but merely wife/mother. lost all identity and strength to stand up for herself as was dependent on her husband. Who was abusive.
what i'm saying in my post is that i realise that anyhow can be abused emotionally or physically and that includes me. i assumed that my point was obvious reading through my post. apologies if not.

Bogeyface Sun 02-Nov-14 03:32:45

pepsi how is that in any way helpful?

What where you hoping to achieve by posting it?

OP, it sounds like this is the straw that broke the camels back. What do you want to happen now? FYI men who challenge you dont have to be abusive. I had a fantastic relationship with a man who challenged me all the time as I have a tendency to be "the boss", it ended as a result of my depression (I dumped him as I blamed him for how I felt but of course I took the issue with me), but at no time was he abusive.

Handywoman Sun 02-Nov-14 07:33:01

OP he crossed a line and showed he doesn't respect you. I left a 14 yr marriage full of this. It won't get better.

Have you called him on it?

CogitoErgoSometimes Sun 02-Nov-14 07:35:48

The point about stereotypical ideas of 'a victim of abuse' is actually quite important. I think it's understood that Domestic Abuse goes beyond black eyes and broken limbs and that abusers can be from all walks of life but I think the idea that the targets are inherently weak or vulnerable or that they have few choices persists as well.

It's still not clear whether this is a campaign of abuse or just some one-off shitty behaviour. However, if strong, capable women have one failing IME it is that they are tenacious. They tend to stick with a problem and try to resolve it rather than walk away. Apply that same mentality to a crappy relationship and they can get stuck in a loop of saying 'enough's enough' on the one hand, but then sticking around trying to revive it on the other. If they are unlucky enough to be with someone manipulative and persuasive, and who is great when they're not being appalling, they can find they are tolerating worse behaviour over time and then wondering why, as the PP said, they are feeling depressed.

Just helps to be aware of that possible dynamic.

FunkyBoldRibena Sun 02-Nov-14 07:42:10

Surely the point of dating before moving in/getting married is to find out whether the person you are with is someone that you want to continue to be with.

Whatever you do, don't let it limp on, and thank your lucky stars you hadn't moved.

Bonsoir Sun 02-Nov-14 08:02:14

Obviously he shouldn't shout at you but it sounds as if your whole relationship is quite high-maintenance and full of potential stressors.

GarlicNovember Sun 02-Nov-14 16:30:30

ups and downs but we make it work. Today I realised I make it work.

I had this is all my relationships, bar one (which I unwisely finished.) I will not extrapolate from your OP because it's unclear from your posts so far that you're looking at patterns rather than an unpleasant blip.

I will say, though, that this kind of sudden insight usually is not sudden. They usually mean your unconscious mind's been observing patterns for a very long time, while your conscious perceptions refused to acknowledge this.

Also that people who abuse their partners often - I mean very often - choose strong, attractive, popular, competent partners. Simplifying a complex psychological story, it comes from their feeling that a top-quality partner could 'fix' them (wrong!) alongside some ingrained behaviour patterns which compel them to "win" in relationships. This often leads to a feeling that you're in some kind of tug of war, rather than both pulling together.

Is any of this resonating at all, when?

whenthefatladysings Sun 02-Nov-14 21:48:14

Oh very helpful. I'm afraid to admit it, but yes I hear it and I realise, it's exactly what I would be saying to someone else.
It is very true that I am do try and fix things. i'm the stronger so i'm theone that fixes. I stick with things to get them sorted and realise I may be able to do this with a household appliance but when another persona is involved with their own wants and needs and selfishness, that's it's impossible to fix. Yes i do think that there has been drama and a pattern and I failed to realise it. But have now.
I have called him on it. He has so cleverly said it is all in my head and refuses to believe that he's to blame. I have done what I hate doing and given him points in the past which were unacceptable but i let them go. I hate doing this as at the time it should be dealt with and not dug back up. But they were valid for my arguement. He again denies.
I have told him that I want to be with someone that is respectful and thinks i'm great and at the moment he's being so selfish in his own problems that anything I do isn't appreciated. Well not verbally. how hard is sorry for being an ass lately, or thank you. I don't expect it all the time. But realising now I don't get it much at all. Taken for granted.
I deserve better and don'twish to waste any more time 'fixing' something I can't fix by myself. I have told him to think about what he wants in life. change his behaviour and attitude to how he used to be. Otherwise I'd prefer to find someone else to have a future with who actually seems to really care.

whenthefatladysings Sun 02-Nov-14 21:53:59

i realise he's weak. and what do weak people do when they are annoyed? take it out on someone else. it's abuse!

GarlicNovember Sun 02-Nov-14 21:55:03

Oh, poor you. It's hard flowers For what it's worth, you do sound like an amazing woman - and,, yes, of course you deserve to be in a mutually strong, mutually supportive and mutually appreciative relationship.

"It's your fault/imagination/manipulation" is a classic response of the bully; it's emotionally abusive. Do keep posting if it helps you pick things apart.

CogitoErgoSometimes Sun 02-Nov-14 22:01:12

Sounds like what you need is 'a raincheck'. You're miles apart and it would be quite easy to take a break from each other. Something particularly unpleasant about anyone who insists things that happened are imaginary. Gas lighting.

thenamehaschanged Sun 02-Nov-14 22:27:54

You sound exasperated for want of a better word - you're at the wtf is this stage and you sound like you are in the perfect position to tell him to do one! Sounds as if he's pushing the boundaries further and further and what perfect timing than when he knows you're excited to see him for a lovely time at a hotel.
You know op if you stick around too much longer you might think back to that night and go 'oh...he went to the wrong hotel set me up for a tirade' - I may be wrong, just speaking from experience and yes people who are all about them are utterly exhausting company after a while thanks

whenthefatladysings Sun 02-Nov-14 23:57:09

no thenamechanged he definately didn't go there on purpose to start a row. i know by him. he was fuming and the way he spoke and carried on was because he was in the wrong place, tired and annoyed with me over it. it was all too much for him. but we all have days like that but don't lay into someone else. it isn't just this. i have had a good think and realise, i walk on eggshells. i didn't realise i did, it just became the way of the relationship but i enable him to carry on like this. I also underneath it feel not good enough. i know i'm the best he has ever had as had such disfunctional relationships but this doesn't help here. he knows i am upset and angry at his behaviour the last while, and he doesn't see a problem. it's never his fault. everyone elses. i'm sad. i'm not great or wonderful, but thanks garlic, but i don't feel it. i feel i have wasted my time and failed. I hate this feeling but I have to realise and keep saying to myself. this isn't my fault. I have done everything icould to make this work. too much in fact.

IDeserveMore Mon 03-Nov-14 04:19:26

20 years ago I met a wonderful man who swept me off my feet, put me on a pedestal and couldn't get enough of my supposed 'qualities' - he loved that I was independent, well-educated, strong-minded, popular, clever, multilingual and had the confidence and strength of character to cope, and flourish, in a demanding job.
And then little by little he began to dismantle that pedestal, until, two decades on, it is exactly those 'qualities' that he despises most about me.
But because I am actually all of those things I stuck with it, trying to find a way to please him. The more I tried, the more it became about him. Never his fault. Always mine. Never, and I mean never, an apology. I enabled. Over and over again.
Looking back, there were so many times when I knew, I just knew, I shouldn't still be there, but told myself I could fix it.
Don't be me in 20 years. Please.

CogitoErgoSometimes Mon 03-Nov-14 07:28:28

Time is rarely wasted. You may have spent more time on this loser than he deserved but you'll have learned something from the experience, even if it's only to walk away from someone in future rather than trying to mould them into a better person.

FunkyBoldRibena Mon 03-Nov-14 08:12:35

The problem with you saying that until his behaviour goes back to the way it was - is that behaviour is an act and it's this behaviour that is the true him.

Find someone who is actually the person you are looking for, not an imitation.

IAmAShitHotLawyer Mon 03-Nov-14 08:49:16

How did he manage to go to the wrong hotel in the first place? When you told him which hotel it was, did you give him the name address and postcode of the hotel?

SelfLoathing Mon 03-Nov-14 10:31:46

realising this behaviour has been coming on ever so slowly

This could be a sign of emotional abuse. It's how abusers work. Act like the perfect idealised lover then incrementally over time break down the victim's confidence by slowly ramping up their abusive behaviour. It's like that old line about if you put a frog into boiling water it will jump out, if you put it in cold water and turn the temperature up slowly, it boils alive.

The question whether this is a one-off "had a bad day" moment.

I have been involved with an EA man and would ask the following:

1. Do you feel like you are walking on egg shells when you are with him? Or talking to him on the phone?

2. How does he treat staff in service industries? How does he talk about them when they are not their (eg. when the waitress has left the table).

3. How often has he made comments that are undermining of you? I would particularly look for comments about your appearance but not necessarily.

If egg shell walking feeling, rudeness and entitlement attitude to service staff and undermining comments are all present, this is likely to be an emotional abuser.

Two other things:

1. The victim's weakness has nothing to do with emotional abuse. My particular experience is with a narcissist. They often target very strong high achieving women because (a) they like the reflected glory and (b) they enjoy the challenge of bringing an independent woman to heel.

2. If your dating history is with weak men who respond to a strong woman, have a think about whether in fact you are just used to having everything your own way and just used to dealing with a "yes" man. It maybe that actually, whatever you say, you don't like dealing with someone who disagrees with you strongly or has a strong personality. I'm not trying to undermine emotional abuse here which could be present; only you can say that.

Ohheavens Mon 03-Nov-14 10:44:36

Ideservemore, are you still together?

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: