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Emotional abuse - is leaving the only answer?

(31 Posts)
LightShinesInTheDarkness Tue 01-Sep-09 12:34:09

After a three week, 24/7 holiday with DH and DCs (8 & 11), I have woken up and smelled the coffee. Following tracks on other threads on MN, I have realised that it is not all in my head. My DH is controlling and manipulative. I am walking on egg shells all the time.

Part of our holiday involved a break with my parents, with whom we have not spent a lot of time recently. I could see on my dear Mum's face how shocked she was to see what I have become - downtrodden, lacking in confidence, miserable. As I am a graduate with a good brain, she wanted so much more for me. As did I.

But. I don't want to be a single parent. I want my marriage to be a good one. It has been good in the past and I can see looking back that DH's behaviour has got steadily worse. Is leaving the only answer?

MissisBoot Tue 01-Sep-09 12:37:43

Could you try counselling - both individual and joint?

Does your dh behave this way on purpose? Is it something you think could change?

DutchGirly Tue 01-Sep-09 12:39:08

Please go and get counselling either on your own or yourself.

Relate is quite good, the counsellor can make your HB see how his behaviour is affecting you, if it is really abusive they will not work with the both of you though, Otherwise if you require counselling on your own, please go to your GP and ask for a referral.

It is good that your parents have an understanding of the situation, I am sure they can provide plenty of support.

MaggieLeo Tue 01-Sep-09 12:39:27

take a look at this, here

If you nod, nod, nod, nod, nod, while reading this check list, then yes leaving is the only answer.

LightShinesInTheDarkness Tue 01-Sep-09 12:44:41

I have had counselling myself as I suffer from depression. However, I think now that my DH's behaviour has been the root cause of a lot of my depression.

I'm not sure if he would agree to counselling - as is the nature of the beast, I am scared to ask him!

As for whether he behaves this way on purpose, part of the problem is that he appears to have very little insight into how bad his behaviour is, or how badly it affects me.

MaggieLeo Tue 01-Sep-09 12:49:02

I don't think couples counselling does any good with this kind of man.

He probably wouldn't respect the counsellor. If she is a woman, he might say "she's going to agree with you, probably read the same women's magazines". If it's a man, he might say "bloody left wing bleedy heart liberal, probably gay to boot".

How do I know this?!!?!?!? BECAUSE I went to couples counselling with my x, and I thought he mgiht listen to what they said, might respect their objective, independent view.

Did he heck. The only validation he wanted was that he was a genius surrounded by incompetency and life was hard and he needed MORE support.

Lightshines, have you had a look at the site I posted?? Also, check out TheRealMe's thread called Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I'll bump it in to active convos for you now if you like.

LightShinesInTheDarkness Tue 01-Sep-09 12:55:48

MaggieLeo. Thanks.
I was nodding at some of it. And crying.

DH has never hit me, or even threatened to. I am not concerned for my physical safety at all. He does not check my mileage, phone etc, or stop me from doing things.

LightShinesInTheDarkness Tue 01-Sep-09 12:57:35

Maggie. Sorry, just saw your last post, and saw the NPD thread. It is not as severe as this - honestly, I'm not kidding myself!

MaggieLeo Tue 01-Sep-09 13:02:18

That's good. Even if it's not as bad though, you don't have an obligation to tolerate it.

LightShinesInTheDarkness Tue 01-Sep-09 13:05:31

ML - but I have no idea how to start to put things right, I am on my knees with emotional exhaustion, the strain of trying to keep it all together.

I don't really understand either why I am so keen to work it out when others would have given up. Being on my own with the kids is not what I want.

LyraSilvertongue Tue 01-Sep-09 13:12:26

You've woken up to the problem in time to rescue the relationship imo (ie before you fell completely out of love with him). The thing is though that he needs to recognise what the problem is before you can begin to work on it. If he just denies everything, then you'll be banging your head against a brick wall.

LightShinesInTheDarkness Tue 01-Sep-09 13:27:46

I am not completely out of love with him. It saddens me what he has become and I know he can't possibly be happy inside.

We have spent 20 years building a family and a home and I'm not giving it up without a fight. But I realise that, for my own happiness, leaving may eventually be the only route open to me.

Katisha Tue 01-Sep-09 13:45:54

How about writing him a letter? Saying that you want it to be a marriage of equal adults and that you feel he is danger of losing respect for you, if he hasn't already.
List some actual examples.

It may act as a wake-up call.

And if he just denies it all and carries on trying to pin blame on you then, yes, life's too short.

Katisha Tue 01-Sep-09 13:46:40

Also - is it affecting the DCs?

AttilaTheMeerkat Tue 01-Sep-09 13:51:20


Controlling men are often angry as well.
You cannot spend the rest of your life walking on eggshells. It will lower your self worth even further and I would guess it is pretty low as it is. And it is not just you that needs consideration either.

Quite apart from anything else controlling relationships can have a very poor effect on the children. It is not a healthy environment for them to be in and witness to. It damages them as well as your own self. They learn and are learning from you both about relationships. This is not a legacy you want to be leaving them.

Joint counselling is no good at all for such abusive behaviour as it can further justify their behaviour in their own minds. If you have counselling you will need to go on your own. Certainly NOT with him in attendance (he could also dominate the sessions and make out all the problems to be your fault in their entireity).

If you leave you will have to make plans to do so as well as having a good support network behind you to help you because you will have many wobbles before getting out. Controlling men do not let go of their victims easily.

Would suggest you read "Why does he do that?" written by Lundy Bancroft. Also Womens Aid are helpful to contact as they can advise you further.

Perhaps you have stayed to date because you feel you're responsible for him and his happiness. Well you are not.

I do not advocate leaving lightly but with controlling men its the only way forward because these men do not at heart change.

LightShinesInTheDarkness Tue 01-Sep-09 14:08:14


Thanks. You have both made a good point about the DCs. They saw us have an awful argument recently, which left them and me crying as he threatened to leave, as he 'can't take any more and we are better off without him'. A ploy, I know - but still not what we want to hear.

I try hard to keep my spirits up around them, but he is unpredictable around them, sometimes jokey and fun, sometimes strict. Like me, they don't know where they stand with him at any given time, and so I guess they have some of those 'eggshell' feelings as well.

But is a less-than-ideal parent worse than no Dad being there at all? I don't feel as if I have the right to make all the decisions/choices about the DCs - after all, they are his kids as well.

I am due to have a mental health review very soon, which will involve counselling for me.

dittany Tue 01-Sep-09 14:15:35

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

LightShinesInTheDarkness Tue 01-Sep-09 15:08:04

Dittany - thank you very much for the reading recommendation, it sounds like it may be the resource I need to help explore these issues.

NicknameTaken Tue 01-Sep-09 15:09:00

You don't have to decide right now whether to leave or not. Decide what you need to be happy in this relationship and go about trying to achieve that. If you want your h to talk to you with respect, tell him that. If it's to stop treading on eggshells, just stop doing it. Say what you think, loud and clear.

My guess is that it won't work, your h will get worse as he tries to cling to the control he's losing, and you'll end up leaving anyway. But you'll feel more ready to give yourself permission to go.

My x called me names, I told him with dignity that it was not acceptable, he pulled me across the room by my shirt collar. I left within days. So, a risky strategy, but one that helped me to achieve clarity...

LightShinesInTheDarkness Tue 01-Sep-09 15:20:20

Nickname, thanks.
I think I am facing the inevitable, but it is taking me a while to get used to the idea.
After 20 years, I guess that is probably a normal reaction. But I've so lost touch with what a relationships should/could be, I doubt myself all the time.

NicknameTaken Tue 01-Sep-09 15:30:05

It's great that you'll be able to get some individual counselling. It is a great way to work through your questions. It is okay to take some time to make the decision.

MaggieLeo Tue 01-Sep-09 17:29:55

lightshines, sorry to be so blunt, but hopefully blunt comments will help....

You say

"I am on my knees with emotional exhaustion, the strain of trying to keep it all together.

I don't really understand either why I am so keen to work it out when others would have given up. Being on my own with the kids is not what I want."

Can I try and answer that for you?

You want to keep the exhausting facade going because on a purely minute to minute basis it's easier than blowing the facade apart and starting again. Which IS hard, I aint gonna lie to you.. It's an adjustment, and it's scary.

Individual counselling is a good idea. It will help you decide what you're prepared to tolerate, and clarify (from the mouth of a professional) what constitues unacceptable behaviour (abuse). I also second recommendations to read Lundy Bancroft

dizietsma Tue 01-Sep-09 17:48:44

As a child I witnessed my mother being controlled and abused by my stepfather. It has left me with pyschological scars (generalised anxiety disorder, bouts of depression), by staying in an abusive relationship you are harming not only yourself, but your children too.

Counselling is not effective with abusers, as many others have said. I would recommend you attend counselling alone, and read the Lundy Bancroft book to clarify your thoughts on this relationship.

mathanxiety Thu 03-Sep-09 06:57:00

The worst thing about abuse is perhaps that it creeps up on you and you end up getting used to it, like wallpaper. You may even think that the devil you know is better than the devil you don't. Your lack of confidence and your fears in the face of the unknown (life of the single parent) are normal feelings for someone who has been worn down by life with an abuser. But perhaps what compelled you to post is the small voice in your heart that knows the truth about this relationship? That you are not being affirmed, but denigrated in this marriage, that your dignity is being chipped away, perhaps fatally?

If for no other reason, consider the DCs when you really start to examine your options. Life without a father is far preferable to life with someone who mistreats their own mother before their very eyes. This is the only childhood they will ever have. You have memories of supportive, loving parents who cared for you and still do. They have a mother who is humiliated by a bully, and that same bully makes them feel that they never know where they stand.

He doesn't seem to have any inkling of how all this makes you feel? -- he probably does, but he doesn't care.

mathanxiety Thu 03-Sep-09 06:59:46

MaggieLeo -- amen; and the Lundy Bancroft book is as good as everyone says. Very helpful and compassionate. Very unblinking and realistic about abusive men and their motivation and prognosis in general.

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