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It's actually quite hard to recognise red flags when it's happening to you.(5 Posts)
I left my abusive exp 7 years ago. I haven't really had a relationship since other than a brief 4 month thing. I have been on MN since forever and am always nodding along with those posters who point out red flags and thought I had a pretty good idea what abusive language looked like. I'm not shy about defending myself and a few incidents in recent years have shown me that I instinctively go into cornered rat mode when I feel attacked and I bite back and hold my own. I have a few friends who have had various relationship issues over the years and I am able to spot when there has been abusive behaviours or language used in what they tell me.
However I recently had to have a meeting with my EXp regarding our DC with a social worker present. It didn't go well. For whatever reason he just wasn't interested in engaging and I got the rough end of his bad mood. After the meeting I was upset and the social worker really shocked me by telling me that what he did during it was abusive (to the extent that she has concerns about our Dc having contact with him) and that I just sat there taking it. She said I was far too accommodating with all his demands and that I should never let anyone talk to me how he did then. His mood took me by surprise as I just wasn't expecting him to be so aggressive so yes I did sit there with my mouth gaping like a goldfish. I just had no comeback because it was very clear he was not interested in sorting the issue. I just let him carry on. I've been thinking about it ever since and I'm really shocked at myself that I didn't recognise his behaviour and language as abusive. I suppose because I just take that as part of his personality and "that's how he is" I forget that it actually is abusive. I genuinely thought I was pretty tuned into what abuse looks like but when it came to it I couldn't recognise it coming from someone I hate and haven't lived with for 7 years. What chance do I stand recognising it if I ever do start another relationship with someone I like??
Did she pull him up in the meeting? I think that situation is very tough to handle and I would have expected her to stop the meeting..emotional abuse should be treated like physical abuse..everyones responsibility to stop it if they see it happening.
I was in a similar situation with stbxh in mediation, like you I was stunned at his behaviour and mostly quiet, once or twice I asserted boundaries but it just made him more aggressive.
Later mediator said how aggressive he was and I realised she should have stopped the session.Since she didn't I assumed it could not gave been to bad (I had warned her ahead and she said she would deal with it).
It would have been easier for the social worker to see it as operating as the 3rd eye.Also had you walked out or tried to assert yourself I suspect you would have been concerned it reflected on you negatively.Ultimately you were there for your dc so wanted to make progress.
I don't think you should beat yourself up but it is a reminder of how toxic your ex is.
I recommend "The Verbally abusive relationship" which has done advice on how to deal with EA however suspect best approach will always be as low contact as possible.
I agree that when you are in the middle of stuff , it can screw your brain so much that what would be a red flag to anyone else starts to seem normal. My h for example is immensely bad tempered when driving but particularly with women I feel calling them stupid bitch and other similar stuff, and 'cu** this and that to other drivers, this is a middle class educated guy. , it was only when someone else commented on it to me that I realised it went beyond ok. He is still at it but I now at least ask him to cut the language rather than sitting quiet, although he always says no he won't, they are a stupid bitch etc endangering others.
Did she pull him up in the meeting? I think that situation is very tough to handle and I would have expected her to stop the meeting
She did and she didn't. She told us that if we couldn't communicate appropriately then it was putting our DC at risk of being registered. I was shocked because I thought she meant me as well but after he left she clarified that she didn't mean me, she has no concerns with me and that she would be contacting him after I left to tell him how out of line he was and remind him of what was at stake. She said he had tried to be like that with her a couple of times in the past when they had meetings alone. Looking back I don't know why she didn't step in and stop the meeting. Maybe she wanted to see how I dealt with it? He wasn't being physically threatening. I wasn't scared. It was just horrible.
I agree I am very wary of not being seen to be obstructive or antagonistic towards exp and I'm very glad I didn't go into my automatic defence behaviour because it's loud and shouty and sweaty but I genuinely was so shocked that it didn't even enter my head to react until way later on.
Thanks for the book recommendation.
Right now I am feeling that I don't want to have any more meetings with him but I think that will delay the contact with DC progressing and also will be seen to be obstructive.
I am so long in the tooth on the subject of domestic abuse etc and I'm amazed I miss the signs! How can that be?? Yet I do. I don't know, that stuff functions on a devilishly awkward frequency..
I recently met a guy who kindly performed a solid red flag in my very presence. Recognising it, and telling it to myself, was like swimming up from a very murky pond. I had to tell myself again and again he did the red flag thing, it was clear, there is no other interpretation. It was as if I found it hard to believe myself, to believe what I had seen and heard with my own eyes and ears.
So don't be hard on yourself. Imo it's what we need friends for - or in your case, the social worker. We need a third person to point it out sometimes. This is why I am such a fan of the Freedom Programme which imo you can't do enough times.
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