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Anyone want to talk about emotional abuse?

(165 Posts)
notmadafterall Mon 23-Mar-15 17:23:07

Hello MNers

Have NC as I want to start fresh, and not have to go through the particulars of what happened to me again. I have had a few threads on here and received wondrous support from the lovely people of Mumsnet (both sexes), who stayed with me during my break up from an EA man.

I am just trying to get my head around it all and was hoping to start a discussion on this awful phenomenon. Perhaps it could be a help to someone out there who is going through it at the moment, or trying to get over it, as I am.

I read the Lundy Bancroft book, which really, really helped. An amazing book which should be on the National Curriculum.

I have read so many threads on here relating to emotional abuse. Its all still fairly new to me and its difficult to understand how it seems to be so rife. Its horrendous.

I was convinced I was crazy for so many years, and now that I have an understanding of what he was doing, I feel such relief. Not mad after all!

So, if anyone wants to share their experiences, or has anything to say about EA, please do.

I personally am particularly interested in how to deal with an EA ex, who is being difficult (we have a small child together).

However I am interested to hear anything about the subject, as I am trying to understand it better. The more I talk about it or read about it, the less crazy I feel. This includes partners - men or women, and families, friends, parents etc.

I hope people respond to this thread as I think its such an important thing to understand and get out there. I had no idea it was a "thing" up until a few months ago. Now that I know about it, the last 10+ years make more sense.

I look forward to any replies flowers

notmadafterall Mon 23-Mar-15 18:27:33

bump smile

HaveYouNOHeart Mon 23-Mar-15 19:14:53

notmad I do want to say so much and speak with you but I am feeling very distressed myself right now!

I swear I will be back for you though! flowers

notmadafterall Mon 23-Mar-15 19:18:52

Heart, thanks for posting. Sorry to hear you're distressed.

Whenever you feel up to it, please come back for a chat. Maybe we can make each other feel better flowers

AWitchThisWayComes Mon 23-Mar-15 19:41:00

My EA STBXH is being a royal pain in the backside at the moment. I threw him out after he yelled at me for not texting him on time and dared ask me if I wanted to divorce so I said yes and stuck with it.

At the moment he's manipulating the heck out of my DCs and has managed to convince my 12 year old DS to live with him because he'd be lonely otherwise. He's driving me mad. At least I know it's him and not me though, which is nice.

I spent too many years thinking if I behaved better or did more, it would make him stop getting angry and picking fights with me. All it did was make him search for other things to be angry about hmm

Now of course, I'm the crazy ex-wife everyone's mother warns them about angry

notmadafterall Mon 23-Mar-15 20:24:08

yeah I spent a lot of time and energy trying to change myself, trying to do more, reading about relationships, working on my anger management, going to counselling. Convinced it was me, that I was doing something wrong. That I was messed up. Unlovable, unkind, not worthy of his respect.

And I too feel that I will be painted out or perceived to be the mental ex who left him for no good reason and ruined his life.

Even the way he speaks and acts now, he blames me for the break up of the family, he can't see how much he hurt me.

How do you deal with that? It's so unfair.

confusedNC Mon 23-Mar-15 20:44:24

Hi OP
How long is it since you split? It's several months now for me and I feel like I've recently turned a bit of a corner.

I've started counselling which I think has helped a lot, which is weird in some ways as I don't really feel like the counsellor himself has said anything groundbreaking, just the process of reaching out, putting myself first and getting some confirmation / reminding myself of how bad things were has been massive.

I've described our relationship breakdown as being death by a thousand paper cuts. Each incident in itself didn't seem a big deal. You normalize. You rationalise. But bit by bit you erode yourself and he takes more from you. It won't ever be enough though.

The way to deal with being blamed? Let him. Let him blame you. You can't change that. He won't change that. He can't because that would be taking responsibility.

It's really recent for me this 'whatever' feeling. Water off a duck's back at last. It is wonderful. I hope it lasts. The power he has is for you to still care what he thinks. I no longer care. I'm not the person he says I am. I am working my way back to finding that person I really am, the one I like and I'm getting there.

This sounds horriblely soppy but I've been very reflective lately for a few reasons but it's good. Massive cliche but the time passing has been a big help. It just doesn't hurt like it did. The sense of relief is stronger now. I'm sad still about my marriage and I do still care about him but I no longer care what he thinks of me so much and I'm glad that it has ended as I know that it is the best thing that could have happened.

notmadafterall Mon 23-Mar-15 21:04:22

Thanks for the lovely post, Confused. It's so nice to hear that you've come out of it and are at peace with it.

It's only been a month since the split.

I do feel that I'm close to the point of not caring. I can feel it, but not quite there yet.

And it pains me to think he might be suffering. Silly, eh? He didn't care when he could see me suffering; he made it worse.

Although as far as he's concerned, I don't give a rat's behind as I have not shown it. I've been cold and detached, which is so hard to do. I just know if I give him an inch, he'll take a mile and then some. So he proclaims that I'm heartless and backstabbing.

It's so difficult. He says I am trying to keep his child away from him and it's simply not true.

I just need to get over the injustice I feel about it all. Everything else is good, my mental health has improved considerably since he left. I no longer feel depressed, anxious, feeble, stupid, small, unloved, lonely. I feel in control, content, free.

notmadafterall Mon 23-Mar-15 21:07:07

What I don't understand is how I let it get so bad. When I think back, I should have left him many times over the years. But I didn't. How on earth could I have been so blind, so stupid? I feel like I don't know the person I was, I was not me. It's really confusing, how could he have had this hold over me when I was so unhappy and just couldn't leave?

softlysoftly Mon 23-Mar-15 21:08:26

What is emotional abuse. I've always wondered what it is and how you would know?

Sorry naive question!

newnamesamegame Mon 23-Mar-15 21:17:02

notmad I have wondered the same thing many times. If I had been confronted with some of my STBX's behaviours fresh in a new relationship I would have run for the hills. I like to think of myself as a strong person and yet I've tolerated threats of violence, broken objects, insults, infidelity, wild accusations and more.

Its because of the cumulative creep of EA. The first few times it happens you just wonder. It slowly gets worse and by then you're entrenched and accustomed to it. I believe -- from reading about it on here amongst other things -- that this is fairly standard for EA.

What I'd desperately like to know is whether this is a deliberate strategy on the part of the abuser or if it just becomes a natural instinct to want to push the boundaries once you realise your abusee is hooked...

confusedNC Mon 23-Mar-15 21:18:26

Well, I''m getting there. I still have moments. A month in and I was just getting by on adrenaline (big stressful split, all sorts of stuff going on). You're doing well.

I don't not care about him. He's my son's father. I always will and I agree, it doesn't matter how much he didn't care that he hurt me. But I don't care what he thinks of me anymore.

What he says he thinks, he will think something else tomorrow. He's all over the place. He says whatever he thinks will get him what he wants.

That's the biggest sense of liberation. That I don't have to convince him I'm not what he says I am. I don't have to engage with it. I can ignore his texts and emails.

Really helpful thing my counsellor said... it doesn't help him to keep me there to let him carry on abusing me. It is a destructive cycle for us both. But it's not my responsibility for him. Only he can choose to deal with his issues.

I want it all to be ok, but that's part of what kept me there. I have to accept I can't make it ok for my ex. I can make it ok for me though and more importantly for our boy.

You'll get there. There are lots of wonderful MNers who helped me too. Especially in the first few weeks. I started LOTS of threads (or at least it felt like it).

That in itself is really useful too. Re-reading old threads at different points in my 'recovery' has shown me how far I've come and given me a lot of clarity.

umbrellabird Mon 23-Mar-15 21:19:30

Hi notbadafterall. Its huge, and you are only a month in, that in itself is amazing. I was in the same boat, and truthfully it probably got worse once I jumped into the waves. For about two years, my life felt like I was in some kind of wild storm at sea, I never knew what my ex would do next, always something new every week, it threw me many times. But slowly I began to endure a new kind of strength, it takes awhile but I can assure you once you get it, your whole life will change, and it will never go away. If you can imagine yourself a small bud, learning how to bloom again, and know that you will get through, and you will survive, and you will be better than you have ever been. Every day will get easier. I still wonder how I made it with some of the emotional abuse I went through for many years before-after- and during my marriage.
But now, I am awesome. My children are thriving and we are all blooming big-time. Keep posting, the journey ahead will not only be worthwhile, it will be joyous and brilliant. You won't know the new you, I promise!

confusedNC Mon 23-Mar-15 21:21:42

newname... I wonder the same. I don't know that my ex even knows what he's done. He's in huge denial about so much. It definitely escalated though. I think he knows on some level but it's tied up with self-loathing and all of his internal problems.

Deckthehallswithdesperation Mon 23-Mar-15 21:21:44

I can't recommend highly enough this book I've been given called 'The Abusive Personality' (Violence & control in Intimate Relationships) By Donald G Dutton. It's an in-depth study of how the mind of an abuser works & what happened in their life to make them behave like that. I was so sucked in I read the whole thing in a day & I'm re-reading it now.

My stbxh is the ultimate b4stard when it comes to EA & controlling behaviour.

pixieinthewoods Mon 23-Mar-15 21:52:13

hi, here i am. 5 years and a child with ea ex partner. i finally had him out of my house in october thanks to the police, which he called blaming me for asking him to leave for 2 months. he made me think I was such a horrible person, a horrible mother, that my work was pointless and I wasn't very good at it. he played with my mind, hiding things in my house so I would think I was crazy. he let me down at the most terrible times. I worked so hard every day to keep it together, not us, everything, but I couldn't cause he was always finding a way to destroy my work. and then when I was upset he would say I had control issue. of course I was mad, oversensitive, overreacting, anxious. he crumbled my self esteem little my little, many horrible comments and actions and then one little caress. stick and carrots, stick and carrots. but at some point the only carrot he could allow me to get was to be alive, the only thing he could think I was good at was in fact that I was surviving.I was no good at anything else, lazy, forgetful crazy woman. he drunk, he smoked, he lost god knows how many jobs. I stuck with my job to bring food to my child, to be functional and useful. To be OUT of the house! he hated it. he hated my family and put a time on their visits. he used to say I should see my friends more, but never ever made me able to do so, and, if they came to visit, one after the other were destroyed by his words the next minute they were out of the door.

why did I stay? I am not sure. I left before. so many times. but he made me feel so unable to do anything, even though I was doing all by myself. i felt so tired all the time. he tired me down. he would disturb my sleep, made me worried about so many things. I couldn't breathe, I didn't know it was him. I believed him, I believed it was all my fault.

nearly 7 months on and I am nearly happy. I got a new job, got my friends and my family back. I got my son and found out I am a very happy fun good loving mum. I found out where my patience stands, where are the boundaries. I realised I wasn't mad. but I also realised how deeply I was hurt. how far I went from myself and how hard it is now to find me back. and I still have to deal with him because of our son. and it's hard, so very hard. My stomach burns every time I see him. my son's behavior changes after staying with him, so much more spoilt and unreasonable.
I hate having him around. really hate it. I don't hate him, I am not capable even of that, but I am scared of having him around, for how I feel, for how unconfident and broken he makes me feel without saying a word.

Lambylostit Mon 23-Mar-15 22:08:01

your stories are inspirational. I am in a similar situation and need him to go, i just want to start the process of finding me again with my children.
i have completley detached myself from him, nothing he says bothers me anymore.
I hope i can write like you very soon xx

newnamesamegame Mon 23-Mar-15 22:21:15

Pixie -- you could be me, your post sounds exactly like what I am going through.

I'm finally coming out of it, and while its sad and desolate to have thrown 10 years away on an individual who doesn't value me the thing that gives me hope is that I'm actually excited to be finding out who I am again.

The thought of planning things to do for me and my daughter at weekends, not anticipating the inevitable disappointment of him not wanting to do them and putting the kibosh on. The thought of not dreading weekends any more. The thought of time spent with friends without looking at the clock and wondering how I am going to get home for his curfew.

The thought of being able to have a proper conversation with someone -- anyone -- again without it all having to boil down to logistics, housework, moaning and negativity. The thought of being able to read a book in bed on my own without being accused of being boring or selfish.

The prospect of making a meal and not being chided for having done it wrong. The thought of occasionally being allowed to let the housework slide and not dreading being pulled up on it.

For someone who hasn't been in an emotionally abusive relationship these things are part of the birthright, you don't even question this. You would think its crazy to get joy out of these little things.

But these little things are what's driving me on at the moment. If I were religious (I'm not) I would think god for them.

AWitchThisWayComes Mon 23-Mar-15 23:49:04

@notmad - I wish I knew how to deal with it, but I don't. It doesn't help that my STBXH has every hallmark of being a narcissist and can turn on the charm so people think HE'S the victim.

If I ever figure it out, I'll let you know sad

pixieinthewoods Tue 24-Mar-15 08:38:09

newname- I know exactly what you mean. I still remember the absolute joy of just going to bed without an argument and sleep. as soon he went I got online and bought silly things that for some reasons, probably because they were important to me, he would not want me to buy, saying they were not needed. for example, I got a dinner table and I have lovely dinner with my son, I cook want I want, and I am freaking good at it. and we sat and chat and every meal is just so nice. would anyone believe that this is like a gift life has given me back? but it is, and every time I now have a meal I feel I won the lottery...

pixieinthewoods Tue 24-Mar-15 08:45:06

witch- you'd be surprised to find out what people really think of a narcissist. I was. when I finally left, family and friends came back to me and they were so glad I finally did it. I could not believe what I have heard from every and each one of them. I thought his charm and apparent self confidence would win anyone. that was so far from the truth. try them, trust them. talk to them. tell your story. people out there may have seen things far before you did and may have waited you to tell them for a very long time.

BertieBotts Tue 24-Mar-15 08:47:36

Yes, I will talk to you smile

Have you seen the emotional abuse threads on here - long running ones. Also do a search for narcissistic personality disorder, and one several years ago now with a typo - narsissistic personality disorder, it's called, by TheRealMe.

What do you want to know?

BertieBotts Tue 24-Mar-15 09:12:13

softlysoftly - it is the cornerstone of all abuse. All of the things that we think of as abuse - violence, sexual violence, fear, controlling money, isolation etc - they are all tools or symptoms. Basically emotional abuse is the blanket name that we give to the symptoms or acts which are not physically violent. Emotional abuse can certainly exist where physical abuse does not - it is only more recently that we are understanding that physical, financial, sexual abuse does not exist on its own, there is always a current of emotional abuse and control. There is verbal abuse as well which is often conflated with emotional abuse. The terms and boundaries are pretty fluid, TBH.

It is very difficult to quantify, because it's more of a catch-all term for the things which can't be defined any other way, and it tends to be very subtle. But some examples:

- Gaslighting - making somebody feel that they are going insane by denying things which have happened or insisting that something did happen when it did not. Sometimes for their own purposes e.g. to avoid an argument, and sometimes just for their own twisted amusement.

- An emotional abuser will rarely, if ever, outright forbid something (like going out, wearing certain clothes, drinking alcohol, working, a hobby, a relationship/friendship) - instead they will repeatedly sabotage it in various ways such as subtly displaying disapproval, acting hurt/anxious about it, playing up to an insecurity (which might not even exist), making small jabs at their partner's confidence about the issue, refusing or making excuses or sabotaging childcare/lifts/finances, often at the last minute, demanding all kinds of conditions or information, adding unnecessary complications, or "punishing" their partner by acting hurt, withdrawn, anxious, irritable, or questioning constantly after or during the event. Where it is an event they are expected to join in with, they will often spoil it or refuse to engage but in such a way that it makes their partner out to be the one who is rude or unreasonable.

- Good moods/good times are even a part of the abuse, because they are extremely conditional. Victims get into a pattern (often without realising) of tiptoeing around triggers or "walking on eggshells" to avoid the sudden switch back into negative moods. Generally everything is great as long as the abuser is placated. And they LOVE to show off - a lot of superficial things, in particular, grand gestures.

- This leads into another extremely common point which is that the emotional abuser absolutely cannot deal with their partner needing anything from them at all unless it allows them to puff up their own ego in some way. They do not appreciate being expected to pull their weight around the house and with children (if they do, they refer to it as "helping" and expect to be lavished with gratitude) and they absolutely despise their partner being in any way vulnerable. They are scathing and resentful about physical illness, expecting you to push through it and often do not "believe in" any kind of mental illness or invisible illness. (Weirdly enough, especially if they are a narc, people actually seem to fall ill around them at a rate of spades, which just enrages them all the further.) This is why a lot of abuse suddenly seems to start in pregnancy/after the first child is born. It didn't suddenly appear, it just became more evident because the woman is now vulnerable and reliant on her partner.

There is more of course but those are examples. Not every emotional abuser will do all of them but most follow a general pattern.

BertieBotts Tue 24-Mar-15 09:15:00

If I had to come up with a single sentence definition (which is hard) I'd say:

Emotional abuse is the coercive control or manipulation of another person, usually a romantic partner, by non-overt means (ie, not things like threats or violence.)

notmadafterall Tue 24-Mar-15 09:45:28

Wow, thank you everyone for replying.

I am reading so much that I could have written myself. Its so weird to read. Its scary, hurtful, makes me angry and confused and sad - but ultimately its comforting to read - as there is a way out and so many of us can demonstrate that.

Bertie - thank you so much for your post - the way you have described EA is so spot on I could cry. When Softly asked what it was upthread, I began writing a response, a few times...but just could not do it. You have written it all out clearly and eloquently. Every single point you make happened to me. From the illness thing (especially when pregnant), my vulnerability annoying/angering him; walking on eggshells; everything being OK as long as I was placated; never outright forbidding me to do something, but punishing me in other ways when I do it; gaslighting (and stonewalling) etc etc.

It is such a comfort to see it all written out because STILL, to this day, he has me doubting my sanity - granted its only a fleeting moment here and there (which is a vast improvement to how it was before - thinking I was crazy every minute of every day) - but the doubt still manages to peep about the parapet occasionally. And then I read everyone's posts, and my doubt melts away. So thank you to each and every one of you.

Pixie - your posts really resonate with me - I could have written them. I have also found with a few of my friends (who have been completely honest) - that they could see what he was like. They remind me of things he did in the past that I completely forgot about (eg. one time I went into the girls toilet in a pub and found his wallet in there. When I confronted him he told me he'd been in there sniffing cocaine with a random girl. Then I was made to feel I would spoil the party if I made a fuss. I got horrendously drunk instead and then pushed it to the back of my mind)

What I really want to explore is whether an abuser knows what he is doing is abuse. Or does he truly think the woman is mad?

Does he purposefully set out to find a woman he can abuse? Does he select her for this reason? Can they ever see / admit that their behaviour is abusive?

And following on from that - if he does select a woman for this reason - how on earth would I avoid an abuser in the future? I know now I should be able to see the warning signs, but its not like they start off being abusive - its a slow, long process and the victim of the abuse may not realise until she is too far entrenched. It terrifies me for the future. I don't want to be alone for the rest of my life (although the thought of being in a relationship right now turns my stomach and will for a long, long time, I think)

I know each individual will be different but its something that goes around and around in my head sometimes.

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