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Was I a doormat or was he abusive/controlling?

(13 Posts)
Ciderwithposie Sat 17-Dec-16 16:20:35

Namechanged for this.

I have been divorced for years now and in a relationship with a wonderful man.
I never considered myself to have been in an abusive marriage at the time, but the more I read, the more I wonder if I was - and maybe this is why I always feel like I don't deserve the lovely relationship I have now.

Ex and I met as teenagers and he was charming from day one. He became a successful business man and was funny. Everyone loved him and I fell for his charms.
However, after we married he gradually changed. He was stroppy, always gave me the silent treatment and I always felt like I had to please him.
If we had visitors he would belittle me in front of them but I never challenged him for fear of creating a scene which would lead to an argument, followed by silent treatment.
If we were going to any party, christening, wedding etc, he would ensure we had a row the day before, followed by the inevitable silent treatment, so that I was never quite sure if we'd be going or not. He'd then get ready at the last minute and act as if nothing had happened and play the doting husband/father. hmm

At Christmas, as I opened presents with my parents and DD's, he'd just sit looking stroppy with his pile beside him until we'd all finished, then when my parents questioned why he hadn't opened his, he would say he didn't want to at that time, then proceed to open them. Just the thought of him doing that (which seems quite an insignificant example really) brings back stomach knotting feelings of embarrassment as my parents would ask on the quiet 'Have we upset DH?'
If we played games he'd get annoyed if he lost - even to DD's who were only little!

I left twice before our final separation but went back as I felt I was denying DD1 a decent life with her father. I didn't want to be a single mum living hand to mouth, plus he would play the victim when he came to collect DD every other weekend and I'd end up feeling mean for leaving.
The second time I returned I got pregnant with DD2.

The reasons I question whether it was abusive is because he never hit me (well, only once when I tried to leave), never stopped me having/visiting friends, was ok (ish) with money - although I did have to justify what I spent despite me always working so therefore contributing to household income.
He didn't demand sex (although did get the hump if I rejected his advances)

If I could sum up my marriage in a few words, it would be that I 'constantly walked on eggshells'

We finally split up after he had an affair (then got annoyed with me when I asked him to leave as he thought I should have begged him to give her up confused )

DD's are grown up now and still see him regularly. I see him a few times a year as we get on quite well considering! DD's love him but from their comments - it's obvious they can now see how he twists things so that they feel sorry for him.
He married his OW and from what I can see, they appear to have a wonderful relationship. It seems to me that she 'wears the trousers' and this is why I wonder if it was abuse/control or whether I just let him walk all over me?

My new partner is the complete opposite of ex.
I feel so lucky to have found him, but despite him making me feel so loved and wanted, I always feel so dreadfully insecure and not good enough.

I am not looking for advice as such, just how it looks from an outsiders perspective. It might help me make sense of my insecurities.

AttilaTheMeerkat Sat 17-Dec-16 16:39:43

"The reasons I question whether it was abusive is because he never hit me (well, only once when I tried to leave), never stopped me having/visiting friends, was ok (ish) with money - although I did have to justify what I spent despite me always working so therefore contributing to household income".

His actions towards you were all about power and control; he wanted absolute over you. He in turn abused his children as well in treating you, their mother, in these ways.

You were the victim of very charming and plausible (well on the surface anyway) abusive man. He targeted you and having met as teenagers as well you had no life experience to draw on. You may have been in a bad place yourself at that time emotionally and he saw that as well to exploit. He had all the power and control in your relationship.

"Walking on eggshells" is to my mind code for "living in fear". Many, many people in abusive relationships use that phrasing or similar to describe their relationship.

He was abusive and controlled you in other ways. When you decided to leave he hit you. Abuse is not just physical (and he did hit so he did become physically abusive as well), it can be emotional and financial

I would certainly call your previous marriage abusive; his actions were all about having power and control over you. He also controlled you with money (you having to justify expenditure) by being financially abusive.
I would not think that he and his now lady love have a wonderful relationship at all actually; abusive people do not fundamentally alter.

I am very glad that you did manage to get away from him and hopefully your now adult children will never be in an abusive relationship.

I would suggest you work on your current insecurities and feeling not good enough through counselling because its not going to go away of its own accord. Your ex H did a lot of emotional harm which is still there in the form of these insecurities. BACP are good and do not charge the earth.

glassspider Sat 17-Dec-16 16:53:55

He was abusive, a manipulative arse using silence and bad moods to control you. Reading your post, I don't feel you were being a doormat at all. You did what you needed to do to try and keep things as 'normal' as possible - by that, I mean by keeping the peace and trying to avoid arguments as much as possible. However, it sounds like he was always going to find a way to cause a row, whatever you did. None of it was your fault.

How lovely to hear you're in a wonderful relationship. Maybe, after years of being in an awful marriage, your self esteem took a battering and you were made to feel that behaviour like your ex's was the norm, and relationships where you are treated with love and respect were not? It sounds as if you were constantly second-guessing yourself -the fault was not with you, it was with him! I'm not sure if you have read Lundy Bancroft 's Why Does He Do That - I had seen it recommended on Mumsnet, and it was a heck of an eye-opener, I would recommend it!

Not sure if I am making sense but anyway ... flowers

scallopsrgreat Sat 17-Dec-16 16:54:57

As well as what Attila says about him, it was also all about him wasn't it. As soon as your attention might be away from him he brought you back to totally focus on him e.g. the arguments before going out; the childish behaviour at Xmas (which gave me deja vu!).

It really had nothing to do with you being a 'doormat'. He didn't behave like that because you allowed him to. He behaved like that because he was an arsehole and felt entitled to control and abuse you because you were his property and a mirror for him to bask in his own wonder hmm.

I'm sure his current relationship does seem better in comparison and I'm sure the dynamics are slightly different. But a leopard doesn't really change his spots. He may have changed his M.O. but in all probability he's still the delightful abusive arse you left wink.

TopCatte Sat 17-Dec-16 17:10:52

Sadly, I was married to someone very similar. Yes, it was abusive. I had a lot of counselling to come to terms with it.

FWIW, I am attractive, witty, successful, job which was a credit to him without being a threat to him, etc etc. His colleagues joked about how saintly I was, and he always showed off about how we never had an argument. I felt for a long time so embarrassed that I had been in an abusive relationship, as though having multiple degrees from Oxbridge somehow meant I shouldn't have let this happen to me.

I don't know if you listened to Recent storyline on The Archers, but that made me realise I wasn't stupid to be scared of him - the husband character on The Archers said just the same things my ex did, and they were scary.

Wishing you all the best for the future!

Ciderwithposie Sat 17-Dec-16 17:26:44

Thanks for your messages. Hard to see it in black and white.

He wasn't like it all the time and I guess I thought his behaviour was normal for a DH confused beings as (like atilla said) I had no experience to draw on. We were 17 when we met and I was totally naive, having had a wonderful childhood with loving, happy parents.
I guess I should have realised that not all DH's were like him given that my mum and Dad were/are so happy. Maybe I just assumed my dad was 'old fashioned' blush

As far as I can tell, my DD's have good relationships with their partners. They certainly know how to stand up for themselves (although less so around their father sad) and are confident and successful.
DD1's partner has confided in me his dislike for my Ex but tolerates him for DD.

I feel so grateful that he gave me a good reason to get out of the marriage. To still be in it would have been such a waste of years and I think DD's would have suffered eventually, despite me trying to gloss over problems and constantly trying to 'keep the peace'
It was exhausting!

Ex's new wife seems very confident and sticks up for herself. I have seen her challenge him on more than one occasion and I am annoyed with myself that I never felt able to challenge his behaviour.
Ex does seem to have changed but I suppose I'll never really know.

My new partner is very patient and reassuring when I show signs of insecurity (I try not to!)
I will read the book suggested but not sure I really need counselling as I am, for the most part, very happy and so very grateful I am no longer with the controlling arse.

Ciderwithposie Sat 17-Dec-16 17:45:12

TopCatte - I didn't know about the Archers storyline.
I didn't really know about the different forms of abuse (naively thought it just meant physical) until I started reading MN.
My experience doesn't seem anywhere near as bad as some on here which is why I've always questioned it.

I have a professional, well respected job too. Ex used to belittle my important work confused
My new partner always says he's proud of me which is lovely, but I feel embarrassed when he says it - as I have been lead to believe it's not 'all that' sad

Every Christmas with ex I used to think (in the words of The Pogues!) 'Pray God it's our last'
That first Xmas without him was like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders.

Thank you everyone. It feels good to open up about this.

scallopsrgreat Sat 17-Dec-16 17:50:17

I don't think he's changed. The way your DDs behave around him and the comments from your DDs partner would suggest not. If he'd changed they'd have more confidence to challenge him. I suspect if the OW had a family with him for example, you'd see a lot more of that familiar behaviour from him. I know what you mean though. My father behaves very differently with his partner than he did with my mother. Apparently she is the love of his life hmm. However, it doesn't take much scratching beneath the surface to see the behaviours he exhibited when we lived together. She gives him what he wants, at the moment, and doesn't demand that much time and energy from him.

The important thing is that nothing you did or didn't do would have changed the fact he wanted to control and abuse you.

Cricrichan Sat 17-Dec-16 18:23:55

He's abusive and controlling. Nothing to do with you or how you behaved.

Difficultyear2015 Sat 17-Dec-16 19:35:14

I could have described my ex husband in the same way

I left last summer

First Christmas without him was amazing

I'm now with someone new and amazing and it's hard to belduve I'm good enough for it

Ciderwithposie Sat 17-Dec-16 20:14:39

I'm glad you have found a lovely new partner but sorry you feel unworthy of that happiness too. It's a horrible feeling isn't it?!
I look back at Xmas photos where I am wearing a smile and those feelings of unhappiness come flooding back. I'm immediately transported back to those miserable years.
Bless the little DD's faces - completely oblivious to their moody arse of a father.

I see my new man with his DC's and wish he could have been my DC's father sad

Scallops - Whilst I know I wasn't the reason he was a controlling arse, I will always regret not standing up to him, like his new DW does.

In one way I hope he hasn't really changed, as that would prove he's just a sulky, controlling manipulator but in another way I'd hate to think he's treating his new DW the same way.

Hermonie2016 Sat 17-Dec-16 23:21:11

I have just left an abusive relationship, exactly like you, walking on eggshells.

I wonder if your ex feels he had more to lose this time around, perhaps financially now he's older he has to tolerate more?
I don't think you should have stood up as it may have escalated and your approach may have kept you safe.
I'm so glad you are happy, such a lovely ending.

Ciderwithposie Sun 18-Dec-16 09:40:40

I think you may have a point here.
He's quite tight (although likes to appear generous hmm ), so the thought of losing another house, paying another lot of child support, (which he hated paying me) could be the reason he 'behaves' better in his new relationship.
Or, maybe he's just happier with her?
Luckily, I really couldn't give a toss about them.

I just regret not seeing what was really happening at the time and getting out sooner! No mumsnet back then!

I woke up quite early this morning and did consider that a bit of counselling might be a good idea. Not because I feel damaged by that marriage, but to work on my insecurities in my new relationship and my inability to say no to anyone for fear of upsetting them.

Thanks to all who have posted

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