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My marriage might be over. Please talk to me about emotional abuse and controlling behaviour.

(8 Posts)
spad Tue 20-Oct-15 07:04:58

I have three small children so need to keep this short because I don't have much time.

My DH has been verbally unkind to me for far too long. Can someone please confirm in my mind that (attempted) controlling behaviour is emotional abuse?

His own father has tried to be very controlling and abusive and I fear the pattern is repeating itself.

My confusion lies in the fact that I try and, very gently and generously, talk to him about how he clearly isn't coping.
He then retorts visciously with remarks about things he reckons I have done wrong like not flushing the toilet at night (I don't want to wake the children) or not being organised (I am a million times more organised than him) or not storing things properly (I store things much better than him).

My point is that he says that I can say 'things' or I suppose criticisms about him. But he can't say anything to me about my faults. What is the difference? I know his behaviour is wrong. There is no doubt in my mind about it. A mutual friend witnessed it and was horrified. But, and his own childhood was very messed up, I can see why he doesn't get why it is so wrong.

Any ideas?

Also the kids are around so I might not be able to respond until later.


spad Tue 20-Oct-15 07:27:13

Please can anyone help? I have just read this back and am actually horrified.

Handywoman Tue 20-Oct-15 07:52:05

What do you mean by 'he clearly isn't coping'?

It matters not who stores things better, or flushes at night, only really that he treats you with respect/love/as an equal.

Sounds like that ship has sailed. In which case, it's time to assess how much longer you want to live like this.

spad Tue 20-Oct-15 08:11:56

Thank you Handywoman.

What is it that makes you think that this ship has sailed? I am all very mixed up.

We have three sons and there is no way that I will allow them to learn this awful behaviour.

It is the communication that I struggle with most. He finds it so difficult.

I guess for the ship to not sail he would have to acknowledge that he has been so unkind at the very least. And never behave like that again.

spad Tue 20-Oct-15 08:13:58

By not coping I mean that he has not experienced traditional family life before and finds it difficult to cope with the intensity of the company that being a family of five involves.

He is used to working by himself and following his own schedule. You don't get to do that with three babies.

He won't acknowledge that it is something he finds difficult.

Handywoman Tue 20-Oct-15 12:55:48

Ok so it's time to reframe the argument: from his family background and what he finds difficult (trying to empathise, explain, rationalise or to 'fix' the situation you'll stay stuck like this for years) - to:

What behaviour do I find acceptable in my marriage, and role-modelled to our dc?

When I say this ship has sailed, I mean when a man decides you are a second-class citizen in your own home, they are usually expressing deep-seated abusive values which are pretty much impossible to change.

I don't mean to sound harsh but I've kept it brief, and to the point.

So what now, OP?

ILiveAtTheBeach Tue 20-Oct-15 12:59:45

This just sounds like bickering between 2 very tired parents. It's a very hard time.

MrBusterIPresume Tue 20-Oct-15 18:32:51

Actually, I don't think this just sounds like bickering between two tired parents.

From what you have written, it sounds like you are trying to discuss aspects of your DH's behaviour that bother you, and he is responding with the classic diversionary tactic of a list of your apparent short-comings. If you feel his criticisms are unjustified, you start to defend yourself against his accusations and hey presto! - attention is successfully deflected away from his behaviour and onto yours.

As to why he does it, there is a certain mindset that perceives any attempt to challenge their behaviour, however well-meaning or non-judgemental, as a personal attack – and also perceives counterattack as the best form of defence. It seems to go with low self-esteem – their ego is too fragile to withstand any criticism.

The question of whose opinion of the other person’s behaviour is “valid” is one that I have wrestled with in my own situation, so I think I recognise where you are coming from. You believe your DH’s behaviour is not reasonable, you think your opinion is justified. Yet he seems to believe that your behaviour is unreasonable and thinks his opinion is justified. So who is "right"?

I think there are two ways of looking at this. The first is to look at motives and methods. Why do you tell your DH that his behaviour is unacceptable? Is it to explain to him that something he is doing is having a negative impact on you, or is it just to gain the upper hand in an argument? How do you discuss his behaviour? Do you talk about it in terms of how it makes you feel, or do you choose words that are insulting or put-downs? Do you twist or exaggerate what he says to suit his purpose?

Now ask the same questions about him. What do his motives in bringing up your behaviour seem to be? What language does he use when he discusses this?

To give an example from my own situation, if I try to explain to my H how his behaviour impacts on me, I try (!) to stay calm, use relatively neutral language and quote his words back to him as said if he says something unreasonable. He, on the other hand, tends to rapidly become annoyed, and uses provocative language like “Only an idiot would…” or “No-one of normal intelligence would...” when referring to things I say or do. Rather than taking what I say at face value, he “inflates” it to make it sound unreasonable e.g. he will turn “The evening would run more smoothly if you came home from work earlier” into “MrBuster doesn’t want me to succeed at my job”. Does any of that sound familiar?

I think my opinion of his behaviour is reasonable because I am not trying to attack or hurt him, I am trying to articulate my needs. I think his opinion of my behaviour is unreasonable because he seems to view our interactions as a power struggle that he has to win.

The other approach to this question is to recognise that, actually, you are both allowed to have an opinion of the other’s behaviour, and both opinions are equally true for the person who holds them. So no-one is wrong but if these are your true opinions, then they’re not mutually compatible. In other words, if that’s really what he thinks of you, then fuck ‘im. It’s not your job to defend yourself or change his opinion. (Easier said than done, though, I know.)

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