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.

First session with a counsellor next week about my 'abusive' husband - help!

(21 Posts)
MaxwellAndPeterson Thu 04-May-17 13:52:28

I posted a few weeks ago about my husband:

To quickly summarise, he plays passive aggressive power games, he is negative, grumpy, acts like he holds me in contempt and that he's better than me - there is a hierarchy and I'm at the bottom under his shoe. I clearly get on his nerves - he sighs when I speak, he walks away from conversations, and he likes to let me know that I've put him out or caused him any imaginary worry - I mean, he likes me to feel bad I think.

He's fussy and obsessive, he always blames me for anything that gets misplaced or damaged, yet he himself is really untidy. I'm not allowed to touch any of his things, but he feels fine about moving or even kicking or throwing my stuff about (behind my back though - not in front of me). If I ask anything of him, no matter how small, he gets irritable and will never ever do it when I've asked, and then for years after he will deliberately carry on doing things he knows bother me.

He stonewalls and gaslights me. If I try to discuss anything, he always denies he was in any way in the wrong, or he minimises what happened, or he shuts me down as fast as possible.

He is generally bad mannered and acts irritable with me. He can't stand being polite to me, but is overly polite to anyone else. Oh, and we have zero intimacy.

A few posters on my thread a few weeks ago said he was showing controlling and abusive behaviour. I think it was mathanxiety who recommended 'Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men' by Lundy Bancroft.Anyway, I did buy that book and have read it, and yes, I recognised my husband in several of the examples described sad What an eye opener that was.

Anyway, I'm seeing a counsellor next week for my first session. That book has made things much clearer for me and actually I'm looking at him now and thinking 'you're just a cliche' when I recognised behaviour from the book, but I want to be able to freely talk through all his behaviours and characteristics, how they have affected me, and so on. I definitely don't want to discuss how I can change my own behaviour to manage him or anything like that. That ship has sailed - I tried everything and the only thing that half works is constantly checking my own behaviour, not standing up for myself and walking on eggshells. I guess I'm just after support and someone to talk to. Does that sound reasonable? Is there a way I can word that to my counsellor without sounding defensive or telling her her job? I will feel awful if there is any suggestion that my own behaviour needs modifying, when I'm pretty sure my husband is the angry, entitled, controlling and abusive one.

FrenchLavender Thu 04-May-17 13:58:39

What are you expecting from a counsellor? It sounds like you need a divorce lawyer, not a counsellor. The counsellor can only help you with is the thing you say you don't want, ie. tips on how to manage him by changing your own behaviours. confused

Do you want to leave, and if so what is stopping you?

RebootYourEngine Thu 04-May-17 14:06:47

Im with French you need a divorce lawyer. But also a counsellor might also be of benefit to you. They may be able to help you with the emotions of divorce and starting again after so many years living with an abusive partner.

Realitea Thu 04-May-17 14:27:50

I'm in the same boat OP. I've been on 'relationships' for about a month now! The counsellor's job is to look objectively and help with either solving issues or helping you separate amicably.
The counsellor we're seeing listens to both of us and pulls dh up on anything that sounds controlling or critical or anything that sounds like he's being unfair to you. They will also suggest ways you can resolve conflict together.
It gets tricky though. If the counsellor is pre warned that there is emotional abuse they have to keep in mind that there could be some 'gaslighting' and be very careful not to let him feel like he is gaining more power through the counselling.
As you're going alone, they'll help you realise and come to terms with what's been happening in your marriage and either give you strategies to deal with him.
Women's Aid and Relate both say that if there is a sign of emotional abuse, counselling is not recommended as it can be detrimental. I wonder if phoning Women's aid would be more beneficial than a counsellor? Or talk to both?

MaxwellAndPeterson Thu 04-May-17 14:33:58

Thanks for the replies.

Yes, it's for support, coming to terms with it all, etc. I'm going on my own to counselling - it's to sort out all my muddled feelings and thoughts constantly flying around my head.

I am planning on leaving, but I don't really have anyone to confide in while I go through this process. It's to be an emotional prop for me.

mumofthemonsters808 Thu 04-May-17 14:44:02

It's not you that needs the counselling Op, it's your Husband. My hope is that the counselling builds your self confidence, and raises your self esteem to provide you with the strength to leave him. You would probably find your thought patterns and mixed feelings would flow smoothly if you detached and disengaged from this man.But I realise this process is not easy and you do need supporting throughout, always remember Mums Net is here for you.

FrenchLavender Thu 04-May-17 14:59:34

Does your husband have any idea that you want to leave him, or is he so wrapped up in himself that it doesn't occur to him that you might actually do it? Do you have children with him?

aginghippy Thu 04-May-17 15:11:39

What you say in your 14:33:58 post sounds entirely reasonable.

You are seeking counselling to sort out your feelings and thoughts and to get emotional support through the process of ending your marriage.

When the counsellor asks what you want from the sessions,, you could tell her all that.

Wormulonian Thu 04-May-17 15:54:53

Make sure you "click" with the counsellor and don't be afraid to change if you are not getting what you want from the sessions. You may have to try a few people and spend some money that you may feel "wasted" to get the right fit.

I had some free counselling through my Uni and the counsellor was incredibly well academically qualified and seemed like a nice guy. However, although I was quite clear about what I hoped to achieve - some clarity about events, work towards a plan of action etc with which he concurred. Every session the counsellor would say "Where do you want to start?" - and I would be expected to rabbit on and then the counsellor would say - "so what I am hearing is..." and would precis what I had said. After a few weeks I asked when we would start working on change and plans and he said " we can't do that in 10 sessions - that would take years of therapy and several sessions a week". It made things worse for me - so be prepared to move on if the partcular counsellor is not helping.-

Soopermum1 Wed 10-May-17 21:03:29

I had several phone sessions with a brilliant counsellor at the end of my marriage. She was pivotal in me leaving him. She was objective but also was honest. She told me about her own experience of divorce and her experience as a counsellor and a magistrate so she didn't just listen, she imputted just enough to make me see things for what they were and gave me the courage to leave.

Enough101 Wed 10-May-17 21:21:28

If this is what you want from the counsellor then that is what you say, exactly what you said in your op. Have you rang women's aid about this? They have counsellors specifically for the kind of abuse you are experiencing and you will not need to do a whole load of explaining. I have been to one provided by them and she was amazing, she just got me and when I felt a bit garbled about what I was trying to say, she was able to put it into words for me. This was great because it made me feel like my feelings were valid, that his behaviour was wrong and I wasn't either imagining it or blowing things out of proportion. It was certainly not about modifying any of my behaviour, but more working on how the F I could get away from him safely. Yes we had to recognise my feelings, but it was a good way and the only behaviour modification I made was getting the strength, courage, guts to tell him to fuck off. She went right through the journey with me, listened to my weekly updates, let me cry, laugh, swear and just treated me like I had every right to do so, without being patronising. Maybe try giving WA a call and see if you have somewhere in your area specifically for abuse counselling. And yes, it is just as valid to get the counselling if you are not in a physically violent relationship (just incase you were wondering!). I thought that's what WA was for, but its for all the other types of abuse too. Good luck and well done on taking your first step to freedom.

MusicIsMedicine Wed 10-May-17 23:45:37

He is invalidating and depersonalising you. His behaviour shows a distinct lack of respect for you.

I think you need to see the counsellor privately to explore his behaviour and to give you the insight and the courage to leave.

I am guessing his parents are full of invalidation towards him and you, his behaviour is learned behaviour.

MaxwellAndPeterson Thu 11-May-17 05:52:56

Thanks everyone. I haven't rang WA because there is no physical abuse - it's all done in a subtle way, so that when I've pulled him up on it he's always looked really puzzled and denied it - "No of course I've not kicked your shoes across the room" etc. As well, he's not been this bad all the time - this behaviour is mixed with periods of being nice. However, he's really ramped it up in the last couple of years, which coincides with me starting to recognise what he's doing and standing up for myself. I counted up 8 incidences of mean behaviour the other day mixed with nice behaviour, so it's pretty exhausting, not knowing from hour to hour what his mood is.

Music Yes, his parents had an awful relationship - his dad having long sulks and refusing to talk, his mum suffering in silence and frequently in tears.

Anyway, I've seen my private counsellor now and she was fantastic. She really understood what I was trying to describe with my garbled examples and she summed him up really well. She didn't think couples counselling would be a good idea in our case as she thought he would spend the sessions denying everything I said. And she didn't suggest any behaviour modification on my behalf. We talked through what was stopping me leaving right now and talked through worst case scenarios of various situations. I left there feeling utterly exhausted but completely validated.

I have to be really careful with how I do this. He's the sort of person who has to come out on top in any situation. He can't stand any perceived unfairness or criticism being levelled at him, no matter how tiny. So me saying I want to leave him will bring out the very worst in him and he will need to destroy me. I know he'll try to hide assets, I know he'll want our dog, and I know his mission in life will be to see me walk away without a thing.

picklemepopcorn Thu 11-May-17 06:47:28

Behaviour modification doesn't need to be about mollifying him. It can be about protecting yourself. You sound as though you have a clear idea about his behaviour, but I bet there are still some things you normalise. She can help you with that, too. Talking through ways he might respond when he realises you are pulling away and less under his control will be useful. You won't be as shocked by it, and can have prepared some responses/strategies. Line up your arguments for why you get X, Y, dog, and repeat like a broken record.

Have you read about 'grey rock'? It takes away lots of the opportunity for his behaviour.

MaxwellAndPeterson Thu 11-May-17 07:59:11

Thanks Pickle, so much of what you've said there rings true. What I meant was, she didn't go into ways I could manage his behaviour. Basically, he's a middle aged man and ultimately he's responsible for his own behaviour - he's perfectly lovely and polite to everyone else, so it's a deliberate choice to be horrible to me. And yes, I agree - there are lots of things that every day I'm realising I've normalised in the past. The scales are really falling from my eyes now.

I've lined up some initial appointments with solicitors - I'm trying to get as much planned and prepared as I can.

I think he can sense me becoming more distant and pulling away because his behaviour has massively ramped up the past few weeks. I'm not reacting as much as i used to - he's not provoking me ad much. I've not heard of grey rock though?

picklemepopcorn Thu 11-May-17 12:38:06

Grey rock basically means make yourself boring. Don't tell him anything, share any emotion with him. When he does something shocking, breathe deep and say 'oh dear. That will be tricky to sort out' and move on. No drama, no excitement. Give him nothing to work with.

You know how it takes two to make an argument? A bit like that. Not giving in, but not engaging.

category12 Thu 11-May-17 14:07:25

If you can distract him from what you really want in the split then that might help? If you don't seem to care about the dog going with him or actively suggested he have the dog (as you won't have time for it or won't be able to cope with it or something) , would that make it less a prize to take away from you?

I would find out as much as you can about his assets before he realises you are planning to end it.

Hissy Thu 11-May-17 14:17:40

My dear, this is the hardest and most 'dangerous' bit. he will see a change in you and this will worry him - he will get worse.

your idea to see a therapist is great, and will be an enormous support to you in this process.

stick with it and focus on the goal of kicking HIS shoes (with him still in them) out of your life

Expect him to ramp it up, dig deep and stay safe.

blackteasplease Thu 11-May-17 17:47:03

Hi OP. I just wanted to say Im in the midst of getting rid of someone almost identical to the man you describe.

Good luck!

This one is refusing to leave the house or agree a settlement so I'm having to go to court.

blackteasplease Thu 11-May-17 17:47:22

Hi OP. I just wanted to say Im in the midst of getting rid of someone almost identical to the man you describe.

Good luck!

This one is refusing to leave the house or agree a settlement so I'm having to go to court.

MaxwellAndPeterson Fri 12-May-17 06:40:17

Ok grey rock makes sense. That's something that's quite easy to visualise as well. It's hard not to rise to his provocations but I'm getting better at it.

Thanks for all the advice - this forum is such a lifeline.

Blacktea I'm sorry you're suffering through a similar man and that's it's reached court. That's my worry as well - my husband will feel the need to destroy me and be the winner. There's no way he will resolve things amicably.

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: