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Manipulative or abusive?

(97 Posts)
Feelingconfusedandunsure Sat 31-Aug-19 09:10:31

Bear with me because this is difficult to explain...

I’ve been with my DH for 12 years, married for 9, 2 young DCs. He’s a decent person, good job, loves his DCs, does lots around the house, etc. Our relationship has been rocky for the last couple of years, we are probably both to blame for not putting the effort it, not communicating well, etc.

The one thing that’s really bothering me at the moment is that I have been reading up about Emotional Abuse and sometimes I think he borders on it. I’ve spend the last few years thinking it’s something wrong with me but I actually feel like I have ‘woke up’ and the way he acts is actually very manipulative.

My question is are these things just the sign of a manipulator/control freak type or are they actually emotional abuse? I feel like there’s a very fine line between the two...

- Jumps straight on the defensive at any hint of an argument, looks to find some way to blame me/others.
- Twists everything around in arguments, for example the other day he overtook a car at a stupid moment and nearly trapped us between this car and a bridge at high speed (it was poor planning he’s not really an aggressive driver) the car pulled out into our lane right in front of us and I literally thought we were going to crash so I screamed (kids were in car so I panicked) - apparently he was fine and me screaming is what the problem was (even though that was after he tried to kill us....) - he eventually apologised as he saw how terrified I was but it was still an “ I’m sorry but”
- Can’t argue with him because he’s never wrong = circular arguments where I eventually give up!
- As above, never apologises or if eventually forced to it’s always an “I’m sorry but”, even to the kids. It’s like he thinks taking responsibility is weakness or something.
- when trying to prove a point he says “I’ve talked to other and EVERYONE thinks the same” when clearly he’s actually probably asked one other person.
- brings up things to make me feel bad if he’s losing an argument, for example we had a huge row about his family a couple of months ago and in the middle he decided to tell me I “needed to lose weight” (apparently just because he wants me to be healthy - I’m a size 12-14 and perfectly happy with my body) - completely irrelevant to the argument but he does subtle versions of this all the time.
- Walks off mumbling stuff when he’s cross, or mumbles stuff under his breath when he’s annoyed with me, even in front of kids.
- literally never listens to me the first time I say something, which means I repeat everything, even the mundane shit which drives me crazy!
- he’s like a dog with a bone about anything he wants to do, badgers me until I give in just to get him to stop going on.
- all this is worse if I’m ever ill/vulnerable, there is zero warmth from him.
- uses emotional blackmail about a seriously ill family member to make me feel bad about anything, even things seemingly unrelated.
- Zero sex - root of this is his PE problems he refuses to get help with or actually even acknowledge is a problem it’s my fault somehow - I’ve given up!
- picks on semantics during arguments and blows it out of proportion- eg “so that means you think I’m the shittest husband ever” etc
- talks to me through the kids - this is a weird one...I can’t quite describe it...a mundane version would be “mummy will take you to get dressed now” - no discussion with me I could be doing weird.
- hates me to sit and relax, constantly has to come up with jobs for me.
- thinks he is Cinderella even though we do equal around the house - I should somehow be grateful he does it and my efforts count for nothing!
- if I call him out on anything I’m ‘nagging’ or ‘starting an argument’ - how can you communicate with that?
- denies he’s said or done something - sometimes straight after doing it but you can see he genuinely believes himself - it’s crazy making!!
- I feel like the worst version of myself when he is around...not sure that’s his responsibility but it’s how I feel most of the time...

Wow writing that down it sounds soooo bad!!

Is this just control freak/passive aggressive behaviour or borderline emotional abuse?

I’m not afraid of him, he doesn’t control what I do or ever stop me spending time with other people, I travel with work a lot he’s supportive of my career, family, etc. He doesn’t fall into an abuser box in any of those ways just the way he communicates is draining...

Any thoughts?

CIareIsland Sat 31-Aug-19 09:20:35

Jesus he sounds vile. Must be v exhausting and soul destroying living with this.

No wonder you haven’t been communicating as he has blocked, shut down, diverted and controlled every reasonable attempt at conversation and resolution.

He sounds like he is bubbling under with rage and takes it out on you in a spiteful, conceited way that he thinks is under the radar and acceptable.

Manipulation is abuse. Passive aggression is abusive. He sounds like one of the abuser profiles on the sticky at the top of the page “Mr Right” - maybe?

He is treating you with contempt.

AttilaTheMeerkat Sat 31-Aug-19 09:27:42

What did you learn about relationships when you were growing up?

What are you getting out of this relationship now?. Would you want your children as adults to behave like your H does towards you (and in turn them?). What do you want to teach them about relationships and what are they learning here?. You're showing them that currently at least, this is still acceptable to you on some level.

What he does works for him. He does not have to hit you to hurt you and emotional abuse, his routine gaslighting of you and shutting you down emotionally are par for the course for such abusive types. There is no such term as borderline emotional abuse either; he is indeed emotionally abusive towards you. You're a size 12-14 and he goes on about your weight!.

Look at his parents OP; one or even worse both of them, act like he does. This is learnt behaviour and deeply ingrained. Such men DO NOT CHANGE, this is who he is. He may be a "decent" person (well to those in the outside world and abusive types do come across as quite plausible to outsiders) but he does not behave decently around you and in turn these children who are picking up on all the vibes, both spoken and unspoken, here. If he really did love his children as well, he would treat you as their mother with utmost respect and decency, not abuse you.

Abuse is NOT about communication or a perceived lack of; its about power and control. Your so called DH wants absolute over you. This is abuse of you and in turn your children.

The only acceptable level of abuse in a relationship is NONE.

I would urge you to contact Womens Aid on 0808 2000 247 when he is out of the house. And I think you are very afraid of him and walk on eggshells around him too despite your protestation to the contrary. Fear of him, the kids and fear of the unknown are three reasons amongst many others as to why you have stayed to date but this is no life for you or for them either. Do not stay with him for the sake of the children.

RogelioAndXo Sat 31-Aug-19 09:28:43

Wow OP, you've just described my husband - every single item on your list are things my husband does too.

I don't know if it's abusive, it probably is, but at best it's using passive aggressive behaviour because they are unable to communicate. That, along with no intimacy, are relationship killers. I actually believe my husband withheld sex (and then later hugging and kissing) as another form of passive aggressive control. He is incapable of expressing himself and keeps all his rage internalized, so this is his release. My husband also moves my things behind my back, and then enjoys denying he's done it.

MollyButton Sat 31-Aug-19 09:33:46

Doesn't matter if is is "abusive" - it doesn't sound as if it's worth living with - just get out.
The driving thing - would do it for me to be honest. He nearly killed you and your DC!

CrispsnDips Sat 31-Aug-19 10:27:36

This sounds so like my husband who:

quickly defends himself if he feels he is being challenged

deflects back to me so that it feels as though I am the one to blame/in the wrong

never apologises and once, when I asked him to say sorry, he came back later and denied the incident (implying I had got it wrong)

There are many other things but, sadly, he is so unaware of how he is that it would be impossible to change him. He recently had counselling (was asked to go by his employer) but hardly attended and then declared that his Counsellor had told him that he didn’t need counselling! Because of this it would be impossible to take him to couples counselling as, in his mind, he does nothing wrong and won’t understand what all the fuss is about.

I am faced with accepting him as he is (I am talking this through with a Counsellor) as I desperately do not want us to separate (for lots of reasons). On the surface we have a harmonious relationship.

Sending 💐

Pinkbonbon Sat 31-Aug-19 10:44:21

The telling you you need to lose weight comment to 'win' an argument, lack of warmth when you are Ill and not letting you relax especially stand out for me as very worrying. They all really point towards something very serious.

I mean its all pretty terrible tbh though, guilt trips, gaslighting, inability to admit any wrong doing,blaming you for his issues. Its all abusive.

But the three things above really highlight that he WANTS to wear you down and that he has no love towards you and will try to break you rather than lose an argument. He is draining you physically and emotionally and if you stay, you'll end up a husk of yourself.

Pinkbonbon Sat 31-Aug-19 10:50:08

Oh and these sorts ARE perfectly aware if what they are doing. We just assume they can't be because 'why would someone who cares about me want to hurt me?' So we find ourselves excusing their behaviour or trying to explain to them why their behaviour is hurtful - only to be met with a blank stare. So we think maybe we are overreacting or that they just don't get it. THEY GET IT, they just don't care. To some extent its even planned.

If you find yourself saying 'he just doesn't get it' or explaining how you have been hurt to be net with it bring turned around on you/a blank look - you are in an abusive relationship. Normal empathetic people understand, apologise and do not repeat the hurtful behaviour. Bullies (who hate you) pretend you're crazy/overreacting/in the wrong, might even smirk and continue to repeat the hurtful behaviour.

Inkyfngrs Sat 31-Aug-19 14:53:30

The behaviours you describe are most definitely emotionally abusive, coercive and controlling. They're all about him being in control of you and the kids. Voice of experience speaking here. You may wish to google 'covert abuse'. An excellent way to understand what is actually going on in his dynamic with you is reading a book called "Why Does He Do That?" by Lundy Bancroft. You'll be amazed how your H is on every page. Mine was.

Inkyfngrs Sat 31-Aug-19 14:55:16

Inkyfngrs Sat 31-Aug-19 14:57:20

Good luck, OP! Big hugs. If I can reclaim my life, so can you smile

2020ismyyear Sat 31-Aug-19 15:26:43

I could have typed all of that. My husband left me a couple of months ago (of course to another woman) and I honestly couldn’t be more relieved now I’ve had time to digest it. Everything I’d say to him would be turned around on me I.e. if I’d ask if he could put his shoes on the shoe rack and he’d say I left mine out last week. If he couldn’t turn it around he’d blow up about how it was “the biggest thing in my life”. He’d think that he did everything around the house: “if I didn’t clean the job it would never get done” - he did it about once every 4 months 🙄

He would deny having done or said something even when the kids backed me up. He also used to give me jobs, even if I was in the middle of something and it was something he could easily do. Find this the most bizarre, I was once in the middle of icing a birthday cake before one of the kids parties and he called me to the garden to ask me to go to the shed to get him a hammer. So many times he’d ask me to do something that was quicker for him to just do. Really weird.

Huge hugs from me. I thought it was normal but I look back and I was a shell of who I am. I could never ask him not to do stuff or challenge him about things as there was no point, I was just a doormat. But we were “happy” and I couldn’t imagine being without him 🙄

I’m honestly so glad he left. The more I think about things he did and the way he treated me the more I question how and why on Earth I put up with it. It is control and it is abuse.

Just out if interest, what are your birthdays like?

BarleyBreathing Sat 31-Aug-19 15:43:20

The guilt trips, gaslighting, turning it around to blame you, apologising but making it your fault. A lot of your post could have been about my H. And now I wish I'd left if January when I tried too. Im really sick and completely exhausted, struggling to survive.

Thamesis Sat 31-Aug-19 15:55:41

Yep, had one of those. After 15 years of marriage penny finally dropped and with help of WA I got rid. Agree with others, covert abuse. Get out now you know what's going on. Build a happier life for you and your children flowers

TwentyEight12 Sat 31-Aug-19 16:29:36

Some of it sounds like classic emotional abuse and some of it sounds like two people with different ideas of how to go about things and who can’t/don’t agree and/or are able to communicate effectively.

Either way, if you are continually unhappy in the relationship, it doesn’t really matter what label you give it, your general state of well-being should be the deciding factor in whether or not you wish to remain in the relationship or wish to leave it.

Good luck

Feelingconfusedandunsure Sat 31-Aug-19 17:32:09

Wow this has been an eye opener!!

I guess I knew it was unacceptable behaviour but I suppose because I’m not afraid of him I didn’t really think of it as abusive/coercive. Just really fecking irritating!!!

I think he just completely wears me down because any attempt to tell him how he makes me feel is exhausting so I’ve literally got to the point where I just can’t be arsed arguing anymore and spend most of my time just either agreeing or COMPLETELY disengaging - both of which make me feel miserable!

The reason I’m still here is the kids, I hate the thought of sharing them. However I guess my worry now is they are starting to just get the worst version of me now. The miserable disengaged mummy...whenever he is around anyway! When he’s away with work for a few days it’s like a weight has been lifted in the house. I guess they are getting to the age where they will start to notice we actually hate each other..or worse think that is normal!

It’s funny, i’ve just been thinking I used to be such a happy, positive person and actually at work and with my friends I still am mostly, just at home I’m utterly miserable. This coupled with the fact the atmosphere in the house it’s always lighter when he is not there... he’s the common denominator! Well our relationship is I suppose..

I have to take some responsibility, i’m sure I have lots of faults too. I’m certainly not a walkover and up until recently I always stood up to him or called him out on his behaviour. Interestingly though he really doesn’t like it that I have started refusing to engage with him! Apparently it’s making him “depressed” that I have my “guard up” hmmmm wtf!!

I guess divorcing a control freak is not going to be an easy ride...luckily I am in a position where I have a good income and could manage fine on my own. Those of you that left your OH in this situation, how did it go?

RogelioAndXo Sat 31-Aug-19 18:09:46

Interestingly though he really doesn’t like it that I have started refusing to engage with him

When I disengage with my husband, he can't bear it and he just ramps it up and up - goading me, being hostile, complaining at me, sighing, tutting, stomping, slamming doors - until I can't bear it anymore and I snap. Then he's happy - I can see it in his face - he's won and he calms down then.

RogelioAndXo Sat 31-Aug-19 18:18:37

Oh and that thing where your H talks to you through the children, my H does that too - except we don't have children, so he does it via the dog.

Addressing the dog but not looking at me at all, he'll say things like "Is your mum going to take you for a walk?" or "Is your mum going to play with you?"

It's fucking weird, but I know exactly why he does it. It's because he wants me constantly working and doing jobs - he can't stand me relaxing - but because he can't express this like a normal adult because he's incapable of normal communication, he does it in passive aggressive ways like this.

Whenever I sit and relax, that's when he'll choose to start sighing and tutting, stomping around, shutting doors loudly, using a low level hostile tone with me. But if I say anything, he'll completely deny that anything is wrong and will assert that he's quite happy for me to relax.

He truly is a massive arsehole.

2020ismyyear Sat 31-Aug-19 18:26:26

Rogelio are you leaving?

BarelyBreathing are you ok? Massively worried about you, can you plan to leave now?

OP I don’t know how it will go for you. My H had an affair and announced he is leaving so making it much easier. I obviously didn’t engage with him enough any more so he’s got a new woman to destroy (she deserves it, to be fair). He’s still controlling me now with passive aggressive emails criticising me for “rushing a divorce” and keeps telling me how much damage I’m doing to the kids by packing his stuff up! Still oblivious to his own behaviour. I expect a very rough few months but it’s already better. 😘

RogelioAndXo Sat 31-Aug-19 18:37:42

Rogelio are you leaving?

Yes, I'm currently getting everything ready - copying files, clearing through my stuff, simplifying our accounts, etc. I want to see a solicitor before I do anything. Also, like the OP, I'm worried about trying to divorce someone who needs to "win" everything. It will infuriate him and I'm confident that he'd rather see us both broke than let me get away with an equal share of our assets.

Feelingconfusedandunsure Sat 31-Aug-19 18:59:24

Wow it’s sounds like a few of us are married to the same guy!! The must have gone to controlling fuckwit school together! shock

Wow Rogelio disengagement has caused exactly the same response in my husband, he’s really ramped up the eye rolls, sighing, muttering under his breath, goading, hostility, etc. I’ve only realised as you’ve just said it!! Wow it really gets under their skin not getting a reaction doesn’t it!!

I also get the never allowing me to relax then acting like he doesn’t have a problem with me relaxing - wtf? We are living parallel lives!

He also sometimes does another really weird thing where if it’s not going his way he’ll goad and push me in front of the kids until I flip then act like a Disney dad. An example of this was the other week when we were away for a weekend, we walked up a little hill with the kids (age 4&7 btw) and he took us off the path into boggy land and I was sinking, like full feet submerged, so I started worrying about the kids getting stuck in a bog up a hill where nobody knew where we were, no signal, etc. Anyway we got back on the path then the path ran out a bit further up, I said we shouldn’t lose the path so we know we can get back but he wanted to go across more bog land a longer route back. I was worried about the kids so an argument eventually ensued with the usual “no we can’t have an adventure kids, mummy doesn’t want to” etc. Anyway he kept pushing until I flipped and then wandered off like a fucking Disney dad going on and on about their adventure. I had to walk back alone because I was so angry, I think I actually cried with sheer frustration. Similar events to that, maybe not as extreme happen fairly regularly (maybe every couple of months).

I fee so angry now for putting up with this!! I like to think of myself as a strong independent woman...clearly not angry

RogelioAndXo Sat 31-Aug-19 19:07:33

The must have gone to controlling fuckwit school together! grin

Yep, the same school that taught them to make sure they didn't show this side of them until they were well into marriage though! It's called "Hoodwinking and love bombing class" I think ...

Feelingconfusedandunsure Sat 31-Aug-19 19:18:22

Hahaha yes!!! Marriage and 2 kids for me!

Although now looking back I suppose some of the red flags were probably there, I was young and naive when we met! blush

RogelioAndXo Sat 31-Aug-19 19:22:49

I was also naive, Feelingconfusedandunsure. If I'd have been on MN 20 years ago, I think I'd have recognised the warning signs.

What do you think you'll end up doing?

Feelingconfusedandunsure Sat 31-Aug-19 19:38:44

It’s really difficult because of the kids but the more I read on MN and elsewhere about the damage these kind of relationships have on kids anywhere I feel like I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place I’m going to mess my kids up by going or staying! I can’t win!! They love him even if I don’t, and I naturally worried he’ll manipulate the whole thing to be my fault in their eyes.

One big difference lately though is that I just feel so miserable and disengaged myself, I can live with not having an ideal relationship with him but I can’t live with being a miserable crappy distracted disengaged mum to the kids, they are my life and deserve better than me in this state.

We have a ‘once in a lifetime’ type holiday booked and all paid for in early Dec, I think I am going to give myself between now and Christmas to get my shit together and get all the documentation, advice, etc I need and confine in a couple of close people so I am in a position in the new year to LTB! Hopefully some time to get everything together without alerting him to much will put me in a better position to fend off any manipulative attacks once he knows I want to leave him iyswim...

I do feel like i’ve ‘woke up’, not sure I can get back in my cage now...!

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