When to work it out and when is it just too bad?
June 28, 2011 7:43 PM   Subscribe

My husband lightly (very lightly) slapped me when I asked him to do things a little differently during sex. Now what?

Some background:

We've been married for 8 months, but we have been together as a couple for 7 years. We have a few unrelenting problems.

First, we bicker a lot, and when we do, it often devolves into a major arguments. The argument generally begins with him saying something spontaneously mean or insensitive--not absolutely appalling, but disquietly mean. I get upset that he was mean for "no reason." He becomes patronizing/defensive (calm down, just relax, it's all in your imagination, etc). I get genuinely (usually disproportionately) angry. I'm very sensitive and that's my fault. I can't just swallow it. Cue to 45 minutes later, we've had a long intense argument that is mostly about "semantics" and "feelings." It sucks, for both of us.

We have always had trouble with sex: mostly due to his very low libido, "nervousness," and many-year insistence on taking Propecia (the medicine that prevents hair-loss whilst destroying libido). There were years when we had sex less than 10 times, easily -- with months and months of utter dry spells. We're slowly starting (?) to get over that. We've been having sex once a week (or every two weeks). It's a lot for us. Couple this with my abnormally high sex drive and we definitely had some difficult times. Especially since I was the one needing sex and not getting any.

Lastly, the inquality (maybe perceived?) in the distribution of labor. I do ALL the grocery shopping, ALL the bill paying, 90% of the cooking [although he will make me a cup of tea when I ask or a plate of eggs], ALL the laundry, most of the sweeping, organizing, etc). He picks up around the house and does a lot of the dishes. I can be very messy and I definitely shoulder the blame for a lot of the "scatteredness" of things in the house.

So cue to the current situation: we're fooling around (yay, finally!). He tends to be very soft and gentle and, frankly, I like foreplay (and sex) to be a bit more energetic, even aggressive. While we're in the bedroom I tell him exactly this: it's not working, I just need you to use you hands a little more, be a little more aggressive. He states that he's pissed and very lightly slaps, and jumps off the bed. It was SO sudden I thought he was responding to my request and I was actually happy (a little kinky, yes, but why not.) Then I realized, to my horror, he actually hit me out of anger and resentment, not to be playful at all. I was genuinely stunned and upset. I told him calmly to leave (though I half expected him to be REALLY sorry). He left, walked off to "get a good meal, and watch movie" according to him.

I'm so sad right now it's numbing. What the heck do I do? Am I wrong for being upset?

A few days before this we had one of the worst fights ever (followed the trajectory mapped above). We both became upset, though my husband might be categorized as enraged. He said I was "disgusting," "that I had an annoying personality," and that "we didn't have a family." We managed to patch things up when the above slapped happened and we were actually have a really really nice day together (although those words were still echoing in my head).

One last thing and its the kicker: we truly and deeply love one another. Seriously. We fight, we say nasty things, but we have been so attached and so in love its hard to even put ordinary "happiness" ahead of those feelings. We love the same things, we find absolute joy in one another's interests, we have wonderful deep conversations about all kinds of things regularly, we are completely supportive and encouraging outside of interpersonal relations, we have the same group of loving friends whom we adore. We find so much joy in one another, it's hard to put into words.

But there is this issue of fighting, and bad sex, and relationship responsibilities.

I am so freaking lost.

Final caveat: I can be a major jerk. I have named-called (asshole, jerk, etc) countless times, I tend to raise my voice (shrill and angry, but rarely real yelling), and I get easily upset about little things.
posted by counterintelligence to Human Relations (77 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
One last thing and its the kicker: we truly and deeply love one another.

yet
I can be a major jerk. I have named-called (asshole, jerk, etc) countless times, I tend to raise my voice (shrill and angry, but rarely real yelling), and I get easily upset about little things.

and he
said I was "disgusting," "that I had an annoying personality," and that "we didn't have a family."

You aren't on the same team are you, and that's not a question.

If you do truly love him and he loves you, go to see a therapist and work your shit out with someone who can truly help you guys.
posted by TheBones at 7:49 PM on June 28, 2011 [15 favorites]


What are the good parts about this relationship? That you've been together a long time? You fight all the time, you're sexually incompatible, you don't communicate or compromise well, and it's not clear whether you really like each other all that much.

At least try that couples therapy thing that the hive mind loves to suggest.
posted by J. Wilson at 7:50 PM on June 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


Having things in common, being able to carry a meaningful conversation...that is the basis for a friendship, not a romantic relationship.

Counseling is your first priority if you want to stick it out. You guys need to learn how to fight fair.
posted by virginia_clemm at 7:52 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


There is so much resentment going on between the two of you - I don't know - I think you both need individual and couples counselling.

As to the issue of sex - have you tried being more energetic and aggressive with him?

But other than that - even with that - therapy and lots of it if you want to stay together.
posted by mleigh at 7:53 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I'd talk to someone about your shit. I mean this post is just a little keyhole into what I'm sure is an incredibly complex relationship, but even in here it seems clear that a y'all aren't on the same page a lot --- there seems to be plenty of times when you think everything's peachy and he's still stewing; the way this is written it makes me feel like he experiences a lot of resentment toward you which he has difficulty expressing. Who wins these arguments that you have all the time? In your version these blowups are inexplicable because everything is basically fine. Maybe in his version it's not.

P. S. Hitting you is very much not okay, of course. If this were a new relationship I'd advise you to run. Seeing as you've been together for a decade and this is the first time anything like this has happened, it may yet be a relationship worth salvaging --- that is, if he too sees that this incident means Shit Is Fucked Up and Must Be Solved Immediately. If he won't even cop to that, well...
posted by Diablevert at 8:05 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


He has shown signs of verbally abusing you according to your own description. He escalated and slapped you in anger. He did not apologize...immediately or profusely.

I would change the locks and be done. This is not what love looks like. Sorry.
posted by murrey at 8:07 PM on June 28, 2011 [23 favorites]


You guys bicker all the time, he does not help out around the house and you have an unsatisfying sex life (which is his fault -- choosing Propecia over intercourse, different strokes, et cetera, but he has no interest in satisfying you in other ways it seems, and did he discuss with you his decision to take a medication to address a cosmetic issue that would kill his libido?). And now he has slapped you. I am not seeing the love.
posted by mlis at 8:15 PM on June 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


Seconding murrey a billion times. You know the Eve song "Love is blind, and it'll take over your mind"? Your last paragraph makes you sound like great friends. Great friendship doesn't automatically lead to a great relationship. You now have proof of this because hitting out of anger is a recognized dealbreaker. Break up, get over each other, then reconnect as friends 5 years from now.
posted by bleep at 8:15 PM on June 28, 2011


Wow, that was painful to read – it sounds like both of you are miserable. You admit to being resentful (you bring up who does the housework, which seems irrelevant), bossy (some people like to be told what to do in bed, your husband doesn't seem like one), and abusive by calling him names and being a "major jerk", so those are some things you can start working on.

...we are completely supportive and encouraging outside of interpersonal relations... [emphasis mine]

Do you realize that your own description of your marriage is cringe-worthy?
posted by halogen at 8:16 PM on June 28, 2011 [7 favorites]


I don't recommend couples' counseling because if there is abuse (and the fact that he hit you in anger is pretty good sign that there is abuse) then it can make the situation worse.

Again, couples' counseling is NOT appropriate if there is abuse.

Please find counseling and support for yourself so you can decide what to do.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:22 PM on June 28, 2011 [9 favorites]


Ouch! Sad for you, your sexual needs aren't met, the rest sucks, and you love each other. Ouch, ouch! I know someone like this. Don't have kids! Get away! You deserve to find something better. He deserves whatever it is he wants too. Get away!
posted by bebrave! at 8:23 PM on June 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


And I have to say--what you're describing does not resemble anything like a normal fight. I have been in fighty relationships and fights don't start from someone saying something randomly mean.

It sounds like you're not fighting so much as he's saying something mean until you get upset and then telling you you're crazy/sensitive/equally mean.

How can you ever relax, knowing that he'll randomly say something cruel or nasty to you? The stress must be killing you.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:24 PM on June 28, 2011 [8 favorites]


I am not inclined to believe that people who employ violence in their intimate relationships are entitled to any benefit of the doubt. But there are so many senses in which you seem to be describing a uniquely ambiguous, marginal case. If I were you, I would spend a little time in reflection, trying to decide whether I was sure this was an attack in anger. Alternative explanations might include:

POSSIBILITY 1. When he hit you, his goal really was an awkward effort to indulge your kink and your request -- but once he had done it, he became confused and uncomfortable and embarrassed about having done it. I get the sense he is not a gifted communicator; maybe his incoherent explanation was due to difficulty in analyzing his own emotional reaction?

POSSIBILITY 2. Exactly how lightly did he hit you? There is absolutely no excuse for hitting your wife in the expectation of causing pain. But was the contact light enough that it's plausible that he knew no pain would result?

ALL OF WHICH SAID -- if, on reflection, your gut still tells you that his goal was to cause you (even a little bit of) non-sexy pain -- then, please, have the self-respect to find someone who both makes you feel love AND knows better than to attack someone he purports to love. Such a person is out there.
posted by foursentences at 8:30 PM on June 28, 2011 [13 favorites]


One last thing and its the kicker: we truly and deeply love one another.

It's not the kicker. It's only marginally relevant. Love conquers all in hollywood movies. Everywhere else it's just a reason why you try to get your shit together and why it hurts so bad when it doesn't. But grown up relationships aren't about burning fixes-everything passion. They're about compatibility and compromise, and I honestly think that if you last a basic compatibility it doesn't matter if you're willing to try to compromise - sometimes there's just not common ground to find.

You and your husband certainly sound like that's where you're at, and that mid-sex outburst sure sounds like the action of a final snapping straw. What are you trying to salvage here? The relationship you have in your mind with your feelings for him, when you're not being miserable by actually being together?

You need to go get outside help here, even if it's just for figuring out how to turn out the lights. But stop with this line of thought that love means there's never a bridge too far. Through history people have loved people simultaneous with being unable to stand their company and even while ending their lives. It's not a get out of jail free card.
posted by phearlez at 8:31 PM on June 28, 2011 [13 favorites]


Other people have suggested the break-up route. I'm going to suggest working on your problems before you bring that option onto the table. I think you guys have to recognize that in this relationship, you have problems, and you also have a lot of good things in it too. We usually like to think of things as all good or all bad, and don't understand how things can be both at the same time. It sounds like your relationship can't be characterized as "great, except for xyz" nor can it be characterized as [insert negative characteristics]. If you want to stay married, if you want to have a healthy relationship (because you don't right now, I can tell you that), you both have to be honest about the problems in this relationship and what it's going to do to you both and individually if you don't address them.

One of the biggest problems that I can see right now is that you're both abusive to each other. You name call him and he says shit like: "He said I was "disgusting," "that I had an annoying personality," and that "we didn't have a family." And he slapped you. You both have to agree that this is NOT ok, that you will NOT do that, and find other ways to deal with disagreements, and the other problems (sex, division of labour, etc.). You guys have to deal with the anger and resentment too. If you let that grow, it's going to tear you guys apart. young rope-rider says not to do couple's counselling if he's abusive. I agree. But it sounds like you're both abusive to each other - not sure of the effect of couple's counselling in that situation. At the very least, get therapy for yourself.
posted by foxjacket at 8:31 PM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


I just wanted to clarify one thing: by "interpersonal relations", I meant we have trouble talking about our "relationship." If we're talking about careers, morals, politics, whatever: great, amazing. But if we try to work on our relationship, it gets nowhere. I just called him multiple times, and he is (retroactively) insisting "the slap" was all playful and the anger "theatrical". I may distort a few things, but it was definitely an angry gesture.

I have a lot to work on (I go to a CODA group) and counseling. I'm trying to be less sensitive, less tied to his emotions and words -- so I don't get upset and end up inflating an argument. I definitely have that problem.

I truly appreciate all of the answers and I hope you can have a little sympathy for both of us. This all happens behind closed doors. We do adore one another and the best memories of my life have always been with him (and I think that's true for him too). It's just so difficult to love someone so much and be very incompatible with that person in important ways.
posted by counterintelligence at 8:37 PM on June 28, 2011


This is just my two cents but your husband slapped you--none of the rest of it really matters at that point. And you understand very clearly why his slapping you was bad, even if it was just "lightly":

Then I realized, to my horror, he actually hit me out of anger and resentment, not to be playful at all. I was genuinely stunned and upset. I told him calmly to leave (though I half expected him to be REALLY sorry). He left, walked off to "get a good meal, and watch movie" according to him.

Okay. Things like slapping your wife doesn't tend to improve. Stuff like that escalates.
posted by marimeko at 8:41 PM on June 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


That you can be a jerk, too, doesn't make it ok for him to be insensitive, mean, or abusive--physically or verbally. I don't mean that what you do isn't that bad, I mean two wrongs make two wrongs. He shouldn't treat you disrespectfully and you shouldn't treat him disrespectfully.

It sounds like you bring out the worst in each other, dislike each other, and have never really had a satisfying, stable, compatible relationship, yet you've stuck together for nearly eight years--in fact, you knew exactly how unhappy you were together after seven years and got married anyway. You talk about your relationship like it's this overpowering force, like an addiction. That's not healthy, it's not romantic. It doesn't point to a Great Love for the Ages. It points to something gone wrong. It's possible for two people to love each other and also be completely wrong for each other, so much so that it is not just difficult but utterly unhealthy for them to remain in a relationship.

Have you discussed the relationship itself and these recurring issues with your current therapist?
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:43 PM on June 28, 2011 [10 favorites]


He's gaslighting you. When he insists that he wasn't angry, when he tells you you're over-reacting, he's refusing to take your feelings seriously and he's refusing to own up to his own bad behavior. If he never owns up to his own bad behavior than he never will change.

That is very, very sad. It's tragic, in a way, because if he would just be honest with himself and with you then he could work on it and you could both do better.

I'm so sorry. This is an awful situation.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:45 PM on June 28, 2011 [32 favorites]


It really just reads like your husband is not sexually into you and you're desperate to believe otherwise. He's in denial, you're making a ton of excuses for both of your behavior, and there's a river of toxic resentment snaking through the whole thing. I'm sorry. I know that's hard to hear. But re-read what you wrote. What you described is a textbook co-dependent, toxic, verbally and psychologically abusive relationship.

I hate to be so negative but really this relationship does not seem built on healthy, romantic love and attachment.

You need individual therapy badly.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 8:47 PM on June 28, 2011 [6 favorites]


I wasn't sure I was going to answer this question until I read this: This all happens behind closed doors.

That is PRECISELY the reason you need to get out. It doesn't matter what your relationship looks like on the outside when inside there is dysfunction like this. People who get away with abuse behind closed doors continue to abuse precisely because things look great from the outside. I'm sorry, but this throws up huge red flags and I think you should walk.
posted by mynameisluka at 8:47 PM on June 28, 2011 [14 favorites]


This is me and my ex husband to a T.

I'm so much happier now without the bad sex and the constant bickering/BIG ARGUMENTS. I also did/said pretty bad stuff, he did bad stuff but never ever called me names like you describe.

What murrey said.



Again, I am SO SO SO much happier today in the right marriage. Mr. jbenben and I rarely/never fight. This is how I know the problem was my previous pairing in marriage, not me.
posted by jbenben at 8:49 PM on June 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


I have only be seeing a counselor for a few months and our issues have been slowly coming up--nothing we've discussed out and out.

This is really difficult, and it is truly as ambiguous and bipolar as it sounds. We have some extremely unhealthy fights (this past year has been very bad). But we are also genuinely best friends, completely supportive in every area of life except when it comes to working out these moments in healthy ways. He can be incredibly (mind-bogglingly) inconsiderate and selfish, I am famously sensitive and have issues controlling anger. That is where rock meets rock.

The sex is a sacrifice, but it would be one I can live (god knows I have already) if everything else was good. I mean today I came home, we hugged, walked and bought fruit (laughing and talking), we had beers on the porch, and went inside...and then the whole things explodes in this stupendous way. Now, he is out "staying at some hotel." This is the first time he's ever done this. It seems that the bar for "unacceptable" keeps getting pushed and we are truly destroying a deep and sincere love.

It's utterly heart-breaking --- I'm terrified it's irreversible.
posted by counterintelligence at 8:51 PM on June 28, 2011


BTW, I know that devastated feeling, and the trying to get back to normal after a particularly serious blow-up...

While I empathize with you on very deep levels, your life will be HEAPS better if you admit what you already know - this just isn't enough.

No one has to be the bad guy. Sometimes two very nice people just aren't meant for each other. It's OK.

One last thing.

He's already ahead of you on this.
posted by jbenben at 8:53 PM on June 28, 2011 [15 favorites]


I am really sad to hear that. I think now is a good time to really get into this with your counselor in a focused way. I'm glad you already have one available to you.

No matter what happens, you will grieve the relationship that could have been and you will need help working through that. This is going to be sad no matter what, because it's sad when things change for the worse.

Again, I'm so sorry that this is happening to you.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:55 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


OOPs. This really is the last...

My fear is that he already knows, but that he won't break-up responsibly. My fear is he'll stick around longer, and as his resentment towards you and the marriage increases, the fights will be even more spiritually and emotionally traumatic and depleting.

I'm sorry.
posted by jbenben at 8:57 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


it is truly as ambiguous and bipolar as it sounds

It doesn't sound ambiguous at all to me. You are both miserable a large portion of the time.
posted by that's how you get ants at 8:57 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, I know I'm pissing him off even more now, but...

I have never posted on metafilter. It just occurred to me to write about it here. When I mentioned this post to him, he was really upset. He said I had violated our "privacy" and "we're more than just our names" and mockingly told me to "go get some advice from the internet." This is really him at his worst. I was hoping he would get some perspective from your answers, like I have. Even the harsher replies have been valuable since they give some clear/sane context. I literally have no other forum I can express this in. I have a lot of very close friends, but I don't want to prejudice them by telling the "worst of the worst" details. Does that make sense?

Again, thank you for taking time out of your evening to read this heart-wrenching crap. I have been really feeling a bit better after writing about it since I don't have any family support outside of my marriage.
posted by counterintelligence at 9:02 PM on June 28, 2011


You're right: we're very unhappy, very often. It's not ambiguous. The funny thing is (well not funny, really), we both can be a bit gloomy and depressive and hypersensitive in general, and we have ALWAYS been able to rely on each other for comfort (hey there CODA!).
posted by counterintelligence at 9:07 PM on June 28, 2011


Your intimate space is all about undermining, condemning and criticising behaviours at every turn. Your only breathing space is depersonalised mutual interests. When you get honest with your therapist [ie feel safe enough to get this right out there to her/him] you might get to the heart of why you don't feel like you can be an adult in an adult relationship, worthy of respect - and safe enough to give respect and care to your other in the intimate space. Somewhere along the line developmentally you were disrupted and you've both found a partner to mirror your disruptions.

:The idea of winning an argument, prolonging distress, escalating insults does more and more damage that eventually becomes irreparable. The slap and the fraught sexual life are signs of this. Such as it is right now. Ask yourself if your really love, or have ever truly loved your partner. I think it sounds like you've found a partner in dysfunction and you've both lashed out. You need to feel safe, nurtured, enjoyed, delighted in. I can't hear the delight, from you or from him.

The terror that you describe us familiar to me - even being abandoned by an unsatisfactory player in your personal dynamic replicates something that happened somewhere earlier in life. This is where the terror is truly coming from. It's hard. Take deep breaths, allow yourself to acknowledge that feeling abandoned and unsafe are old feelings that you are now re-experiencing. I always remember that it is not how much you think you love someone, it's really important to consider WHO YOU ARE when you are in a relationship. Currently you describe yourself as a 'major jerk' and him as lazy, vain, insulting and inadequate :(

On preview: the last part about getting help from the internet is a childish cry. Outside 'umpires' will call attention to the dysfunction and that's his fear. Sorry to say this, I have been in a similar space so I guess it's coming from the right place, but your acting out childish stuff. It's heartwrenching because it's patterns that have percolated throughout your life. [I understand the lack of family support.]
posted by honey-barbara at 9:07 PM on June 28, 2011 [16 favorites]


Gah, typo city. I feel for you and seem to have lost any cogency - sorry!
posted by honey-barbara at 9:08 PM on June 28, 2011


At this point maybe you two should take a break from each other for a little while. Maybe just overnight.

Can you see your counselor soon?
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:11 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Your husband is abusive, and the sooner you realize that, and give yourself some credit, you will be able to break free and work towards a productive solution that will move you closer to being with someone who does not do these things. You deserve that.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 9:15 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why does he insist on the propecia? Is he especially insecure about his appearance?
posted by blargerz at 9:16 PM on June 28, 2011


You need to cut out the namecalling and verbal abuse.
posted by salvia at 9:26 PM on June 28, 2011


Hi honey-barbara,

Unfortunately, my counseling time is so limited I doubt we're going to be able to explore all of this together--and frankly, I think some of the insights here have been far more penetrating than anything the counselor has /ever/ said. He (the counselor) is a kind, sweet person, though.

As for "winning an argument." I don't know, it's hard to admit it has really come down to that--so unyielding, petty, and selfish--but maybe you are right. We are bringing out the worst in one another and mirroring inadequacies. It's been so unforgiving lately.

As for me: you made some truly shocking insights. I come from an abusive home. My father was an alcoholic with an explosive temper. He was very abusive emotionally, somewhat physically (a few memorable instances), and very abusive verbally. I DON'T tolerate out and out physical abuse. What my husband did was extremely light and not intended to harm--it was just very disturbing as an act and that's why I /immediately/ asked him to leave. However, the point about my family is relevant. I often wonder how long I would have stuck around if I had a truly healthy supportive family. I also sometimes wonder if my husband would be so bold with his "meanness" if I could easily walk out of the door and go "home." Home doesn't really exist for me. I thought it did in this relationship, but there is so much strife over the "little things" it's hard to feel happy here sometimes. Going back to the point about family history -- it still haunts me and I am most afraid of one thing in life: I am my father? I am the kind of person who has a bad temper and ruins relationships? Have I have been the architect of this? Or are we just truly badly suited. We have always had these "tiffs" but they are becoming more and more barbaric.

One final point: I have had long-term friendships but I have had emotional arguments with friends -- I've also had some periods of being apart from "said" friends. However, we have re-established connections and I feel like I am truly loved. That is to say, if I were an irremediable monster, I'd figure long-lost friends would never bother with me. I'm writing the above as evidence in trying to believe I'm not my father. I don't know anything anymore.
posted by counterintelligence at 9:26 PM on June 28, 2011


wow, I kept writing "I am" when I meant to write "Am I"...yikes.
posted by counterintelligence at 9:28 PM on June 28, 2011


"I have a lot of very close friends, but I don't want to prejudice them by telling the "worst of the worst" details. Does that make sense?"

Yes. I've followed this strategy in every abusive relationship I've ever been in.

(Thanks mom & dad! AND FU, I finally got it right!!)
posted by jbenben at 9:35 PM on June 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


You are not a monster. Even in a healthy relationship, each person might say something mean. The difference is, instead of escalating into trading insults, shouting, and possibly violence, a mean comment is followed by: "Hey, that was mean." "You're right, I'm sorry. Here's what I meant to say." Escalation beyond that point means there's something wrong with the relationship, not the people in it.
posted by that's how you get ants at 9:41 PM on June 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


It sounds like neither of you are investing what it takes to make the other happy. He should be off the Propecia and do everything necessary to make you sexually fulfilled. You should be less messy and less "annoying". Both of you should not say mean things to the other. Both of you should learn how to walk away and cool down as soon as there is negativity.

Marriage only works when each person is committed to taking care of the other. Both of you should repeat that a thousand times.
posted by blargerz at 9:49 PM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hey "That's How You Get Ants",

You're right and honest to god, that's what I'm hoping for when I say I'm "hurt." It's generally a very mild, "hey that was mean" or "that was uncalled for" -- because it usually is-- then he starts the "you're imagining things" gambit. And then, I can't seem to get unhurt and the whole thing gets very very out of hand. Two "objective" proofs:

(1) He would NEVER talk to his friends the way he speaks to me.

(2) A few times I've parroted his meaner phrases and judgements to him, just to see if he would be upset--the answer is always yes.

I hate doing it, it's not me, but he really does make me wonder if I am just some hypersensitive lunatic or whether I have a legitimate complaint. According to his own standards, I do.

I just wish I could always keep my cool, not turn into a shrill blubbering fool...but then he is so relentless is his insensitivity, it's really provoking.
posted by counterintelligence at 9:50 PM on June 28, 2011


I'll probably be slapped for this, but I'm going to recommend Why Men Love Bitches for advice on how to communicate with your partner on the everyday things, and also for explanations on handling the "feelings" talk with your partner (the short answer: don't have them).

My male partner and I had many many disagreements that disintegrated into "semantics" and "feelings" as you described - it just seemed as if we were going NO-where fast. Since I took (some of) the advice in Why Men Love Bitches, we've had far fewer of those discussions, been happier, and I've gotten more of what I wanted out of this relationship.

But that's me. YMMV. It sounds like your relationship is pretty serious (gloomy, abusive home), and this is fluff. But your post struck a tone with me at the beginning about long arguments, and this book helped me with those.
posted by Dukat at 9:52 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


And then, I can't seem to get unhurt .

There is nothing wrong with you. You can't get unhurt because you've been hurt and you're being ignored or belittled for it.
posted by liketitanic at 9:52 PM on June 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


Sorry I forgot to mention this, he just got off the Propecia this year (after many years) and he has been trying to work on the sex life issue fairly diligently (going to the gym, taking vitamins). Also, someone mentioned that he may not be attracted to me. Not true, physically. Though it doesn't take a genius to figure out that the constant emotional strife takes its toll.
posted by counterintelligence at 9:53 PM on June 28, 2011


Your description rang a few bells with me, in that your relationship resembles a few I’ve witnessed. The problem is essentially that the woman is excitable while the man is terminally calm, distant, and distracted. It’s a little bit Lucy and Ricardo.

I will say, I know what you can do on your part to change your behavior. It’s easy enough: You let his rude or patronizing comments go without comment and assume that he didn’t really mean it. [Note: It’s very possible that he actually doesn’t mean to offend you. It still is telling of an unconscious patronizing attitude, but he probably has miscalculated how upset you will or won’t get, so his apology is genuine in that way] You don’t criticize what he says. This is a little manipulative, but if you react with sadness, hurt, or shock to those comments rather than anger (and you’ll have to act and play it up to get him to notice: a sniffle, a brush-away of a tear) he’ll respond much, much better and probably spontaneously apologize. (If he doesn’t, but he clearly notices that you’re sad, that’s a really bad sign, unless he knows you’re acting.) For the housework, you just stop doing it. Wait until that clichéd scene where he opens the fridge, frowns, and says “Honey? Where’s the food?” Then you say something like, “Oh, I just didn’t get to the shopping. I was so busy/tired/whatever. Maybe you could pick up something after work…” Rinse, repeat.

But honestly? Although I know that stuff works, I feel icky recommending it. Essentially it means you adjust your responses to more feminine, weak reactions. Can’t handle the housework! Just have to cry at the big meanie’s harsh words! Oh, sorry honey, little old me! Guess you’ll have to take over! Sadly, I have no doubt that this will work, because it plays into what he already believes about you and what he wants to see. The question is, do you really WANT it to? And for how long? Eventually, when he becomes calm and happy and starts acting carefree and teasing you about how you can’t handle the shopping, you’ll feel like you had to rein in your real self to achieve that, and you’ll be sad at first and then start to resent him. And yourself for putting up with it.

By the way, the reason he slapped you? I’d bet money that what he was thinking went something like this, “This annoying, demanding woman! I’m here having sex with her and giving her attention, and she has the gall to be even more picky and demanding? After all I do for her? She’s lucky! This is bullshit, she doesn’t appreciate me enough!” In sum: Entitlement. Definite feeling of superiority with a whiff of narcissism.

Also, here’s my take on his name-calling: "disgusting” = not a feminine enough housekeeper, too messy. " an annoying personality," = asks for too much of my time and attention, distracts me from what I want to do, talks too much. "we didn't have a family." = isn’t adhering to traditional roles well enough.

One last thing and its the kicker: we truly and deeply love one another.

You may truly and deeply love him. I think while he probably would say he loves you and I don’t doubt that he loves your devotion to him, he’s a little or a lot more lukewarm in that sentiment.

On preview: Your update about his concern with appearances, you embarassing him, and his hyper-sensitivity to the same insults he uses for you is just ringing the narcissism bell more and more to me.
posted by Nixy at 9:54 PM on June 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


This is a little manipulative, but if you react with sadness, hurt, or shock to those comments rather than anger (and you’ll have to act and play it up to get him to notice: a sniffle, a brush-away of a tear) he’ll respond much, much better and probably spontaneously apologize. (If he doesn’t, but he clearly notices that you’re sad, that’s a really bad sign, unless he knows you’re acting.) For the housework, you just stop doing it. Wait until that clichéd scene where he opens the fridge, frowns, and says “Honey? Where’s the food?” Then you say something like, “Oh, I just didn’t get to the shopping. I was so busy/tired/whatever. Maybe you could pick up something after work…” Rinse, repeat.

Please don't do this. This is playing games and this won't solve anything, in fact it will make things worse. Communication is really the only way you are going to figure out whether or not you two are right for each other.
posted by TheBones at 9:58 PM on June 28, 2011 [11 favorites]


Yeah, when he tells you you're being too sensitive or overreacting, it's classic gaslighting. It's basically designed to keep you from trusting your senses and your feelings and give you that upside-down confused inability to orient yourself. This is a really good article about the way this works.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:07 PM on June 28, 2011 [11 favorites]


I see the Four Horsemen of the Relationship Apocalypse (catchy, but not my idea - Google it) - criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling - lurking in the bushes outside. They might just be stealing your laundry and going through your mail at the moment, but best not to let them get bored and start sharpening their metal bits and polishing saddles. See a counsellor now. Good luck!
posted by obiwanwasabi at 10:19 PM on June 28, 2011 [14 favorites]


Off of what obiwanwasabi said, if both you and your husband are willing to make the relationship work, then I highly recommend The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. It's been awhile since I last read it but it talks a lot about what you are currently dealing with in your relationship: being defensive, signs of contempt, escalation of fights, bitter words to each other, etc. I've know people who were on the brink of separating but have became closer than ever after learning how to deal with their relationships better. YMMV.
posted by vocpanda at 10:30 PM on June 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


I was unable to get the thought that "I would hate to know these two" out of my head, and then read

He can be incredibly (mind-bogglingly) inconsiderate and selfish, I am famously sensitive and have issues controlling anger.

I wish there was a nicer way to word this, but. It sounds like you are both somewhat unpleasant people. Lots of people telling you your husband is abusive -- but it sounds like you may be verbally abusive.

If you both have substantial desire to work on being real and better people, perhaps there is hope for your relationship. At the moment...I don't know. I want to say you are both getting what you deserve, but, you are human beings and do not deserve to spend your lives suffering.

Stuff about family background, jazz about the sex life; these just sound like noise distracting from the much larger issues. Do you want to be a better person? A kind person? Does he? I mean, from the limited information presented here, I even have a hard time imagining the two of you being nice to anybody else. You both sound miserable, miserable to the point of being miserable to be around. Can both of you commit to cutting your shit out? I don't know what to make of "famously sensitive." If you're using it to create art, great. If you're using it to play victim in regular fights with a partner, probably time to look at growing up.

"We have always had these "tiffs"" makes me question "we truly and deeply love one another." What're the odds here that you both truly and deeply love the drama? He's an "asshole, jerk, etc." That's what you truly and deeply love? Or, is it just the excitement? (How old are you guys...?)
posted by kmennie at 10:38 PM on June 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'm fascinated that commenters have concluded that he's the abusive one.

Final caveat: I can be a major jerk. I have named-called (asshole, jerk, etc) countless times, I tend to raise my voice (shrill and angry, but rarely real yelling), and I get easily upset about little things.

You're both abusive. You both need therapy.
posted by rr at 10:40 PM on June 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


Please read this: Emotional Abusers. There is a name for what you're going through and it isn't "love."
posted by Wordwoman at 10:43 PM on June 28, 2011


"I wish there was a nicer way to word this, but. It sounds like you are both somewhat unpleasant people. Lots of people telling you your husband is abusive -- but it sounds like you may be verbally abusive.

This. Except I found out I didn't need to be that way when (A) I left the marriage that in any way reflected my childhood or childhood learned behavior, and (B) settled on a relationship that was totally healthy.

Again, I found out the problem was more the dynamic than me personally when... I got out of ALL abusive dynamics, got therapy, and then choose the right husband.

But. I always had an ideal, a hope that I was working towards. I never thought it would happen without serious effort on my part to eradicate destructive patterns learned in childhood. I knew there was work involved, and sacrifice - I sucked it up and did what was necessary.

YMMV.
posted by jbenben at 10:51 PM on June 28, 2011 [7 favorites]


but we have been so attached and so in love its hard to even put ordinary "happiness" ahead of those feelings

I wonder if you were dating someone without abusive tendencies, if you'd feel less spark. This paragraph was actually another warning sign to me, not a counterpoint. Here's one possibly relevant article.

To me the question is how committed you are to getting healthy. From your question and follow-ups, I don't get the sense that you're really dedicated to some process of change. I have the feeling that as commenters we are being pulled in as part of the drama. I get the sense that you're still so excited by the fights, the intense highs, the powerful anger, and so forth, that nothing we say is really going to register. This relationship is like a roller-coaster: it has dreadful plummets, neck-cracking corners, nauseating dips, and surprisingly sudden rises, but it's so thrilling and exhilarating that you ride it again and again. I get the sense that this question is you wanting to have someone to discuss it with, not part of a serious effort to change. Forgive me if I'm wrong. So my advice would be to stop looking at your husband's actions and start looking at your own behavior and feelings, and begin to take concrete steps to build your emotional health and behave in a manner consistent with your values and getting your desires met. But remember, getting your desires met starts not with looking at him but looking at yourself, what you really feel, and why. Meditate, that sort of thing. Come down from the high of the drama to the mundane details of daily life.
posted by salvia at 11:08 PM on June 28, 2011 [24 favorites]


You can try couples counselling, but realize that the relationship you've described doesn't sound really worth working on, and that may turn out to be the reality of it. There is almost certainly a better relationship out there for you - but it's going to take a lot of work, too. The same sorts of things are going to crop up. You aren't going to find someone out there and then have the issues you've described suddenly not exist (and by that I mean I can be a major jerk. I have named-called (asshole, jerk, etc) countless times, I tend to raise my voice (shrill and angry, but rarely real yelling), and I get easily upset about little things).

Good luck - everyone deserves happiness.
posted by Nabubrush at 11:19 PM on June 28, 2011


Your posts remind me very much of something I would have written while in an abusive relationship. My feeling is that you should try living apart from each other for a while. "A while" is should be months, not days.
You could reacquaint yourself with who you are outside of the context of this situation.
You might not be a jerk. You might just be angry.

Just because you love someone, even intensely, doesn't mean that you should be in a romantic relationship with that someone.

The good parts of bad relationships feel especially good because they contrast with the bad times. I know that I used to unconsciously inflate the closeness and joy I felt with my partner in order to somehow prove that I was not being foolish to tolerate the fighting and abuse. Also, I was so relieved when we were "normal" again. But I was caught in a cycle where the person who was comforting me and making me feel happy was the person who was hurting me. Maybe this doesn't apply to you, but I'm throwing it out there because I wish someone had told me that that's not right.

Maybe what you think you'd lose if you left this relationship isn't as irreplaceable as you think.
posted by Bergamot at 11:44 PM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


You might not be a jerk. You might just be angry.

Ditto him. I also acted like a jerk when dealing with fairly routine criticisms from STBX wife. I wish I had been a better communicator and/or suggested counselling before it got too late.

Also, his "pushing the bar of unacceptable" maybe the way he's reacting to a situation he sees as out of control as well - flailing. I did some stupid things too after separating because I was feeling the spiral beyond my ability to manage. Misguided attempts at righting the boat, as it were, because I was scared of where things were headed.

You both are in need of counselling. And he needs to admit it wasn't right to hit you in anger.
posted by amoeba syndrome at 11:56 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


What everyone else said, especially salvia and rr.

By showing this thread to your husband, I think you've put us at the sharp end of the Rescuer position in the triangle.

You certainly make your husband sound abusive, but I'm not going to help you to abuse him in return.
posted by tel3path at 12:12 AM on June 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


y'all need to see a marriage counselor. not your personal counselor. someone focused on results, honesty, and finding each of you a safe emotional landing...even if it's ultimately not with each other (which could be a possibility).
posted by batmonkey at 2:05 AM on June 29, 2011


You just need to go. All the time spent saving a relationship with a man that hits you when you make a reasonable intimate request is wasted.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 2:10 AM on June 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


You say you're unlikely to "get into it" with your therapist? Print out this thread and bring it to your next appointment. If you don't talk about it, your therapist can't help you.
posted by instamatic at 2:49 AM on June 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


I often wonder how long I would have stuck around if I had a truly healthy supportive family. I also sometimes wonder if my husband would be so bold with his "meanness" if I could easily walk out of the door and go "home." Home doesn't really exist for me. I thought it did in this relationship, but there is so much strife over the "little things" it's hard to feel happy here sometimes. Going back to the point about family history -- it still haunts me and I am most afraid of one thing in life: I am my father? I am the kind of person who has a bad temper and ruins relationships?

Well that's worth exploring honestly. I could have written this stuff about my past [see my last qu to AskMe on my dad's shenanigans]. I think we do act out our histories, I mean we learned about intimacy from an early age. In your case [also mine] intimacy was about the need to pursue conflict and drama in order to express oneself. But you can set a new path and I'm glad you reached out here at least, it's a start, so is the therapy.

That you feel you don't have a 'home' to go back to is not I suppose literal, but about the feeling of protection and safety that a warm, responsive, appropriate parenting might have provided. It's sad, but the good news is you got out of there and you are a big adult now, you can make your own home and call into your life the people who you can treat well/treat you well. You don't have to have drama and conflict in your life, you can have excitement in your life that comes from healthier sources. And seriously, I say this with feeling: that much anger, frustration and grief in one body is likely to express itself physically one day, if it has not already. I think your husband is also suffering - but he's not here writing to us, and he can and should reach out for help too one day. Take care.
posted by honey-barbara at 3:41 AM on June 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Coming in a little late to the discussion, but wow, what an intense situation.

From reading both the OP and the follow ups I think that actually this is a salvageable marriage but you have finally reached the point where it's clear that there are some big, big problems that need to change--and they NEED to change.

Why don't you start by thinking about what you want in a marriage? Don't you want to be friendly, supportive, kind and helpful to each other--building each other up, instead of tearing each other down? Do you want that? Does your husband? Can you talk about that? Without the "we can't have that because you do X" part? Just say, OK, this is not how it should be--what is it that I want my marraige to be? Husband, how do *you* want your marriage to be, what would your perfect marriage look like?

The trick is that you can only change what you yourself do, modulate how you yourself act and respond and work toward that vision. Your husband may or may not get on board and change likewise. But the good news is that YOU are absolutely, totally empowered to examine the dynamics in your relationship, decide how you want to be, and act on it. You may not realize it, but you are--this is, I think, the crucial thing to realize, to work on.

You don't need his permission or cooperation to start making the life you want or changing your marriage for the better. If he doesn't change likewise you may have to decide that this marriage is not right and that it needs to end, but it will be much, much better for you to make this decision from the position of realizing *your power*, your decisionmaking capability.

The suggestions that family of origin (FOO) stuff plays into this is spot on. I think this is something that a good therapist can help you figure out, to recognize the patterns of how you learned about love and relationships and how that plays out in your adult life. If your counselor is not being thoughtful or showing good insight along these lines then find another one.

Two book recommendations, from someone who's been in the thick of marital crisis for a while herself. John Gottman's Seven Principles book, recommended/linked upthread, is very good for overall perspective on the mechanics of marriage, so to speak; he's a psychology researcher that has studied how marriages succeed or fail and he has tried to translate his fascinating work into a practical manual for help in Seven Principles However I think sometimes people can have trouble making the leap from "here is the principle" to "here is how I play a role in creating this problematic dynamic"--and it sounds to me like both you and your husband are really, really having trouble getting that critical distance, are so enmeshed in your pain and ready to slip into your harmful dynamics that being coolly evaluative is not likely to help.

A book that I found even more helpful as a "playbook" is Terrence Real's New Rules of Marriage. I have been recommending this all over MeFi for a while and I think it would be very helpful for your situation too. What I like about this book is that it's really concrete about reactions and consequences, has very concrete suggestions about how to ask for what you want and how to set good boundaries and so forth--even things like, how to deal with the emotional whiplash that occurs *when things start to change for the better*, which I'd never seen addressed before but which has been a big issue in my experience hashing things out with my husband. There's also a great section at the end about how to make a good relationship better, explicitly about how to cherish your spouse--if you've never seen that in action you may not really think about or know what that means, how that would work, and god, isn't that what each of us really wants? Sounds like the two of you could really use that modeling and inspiration. Get two copies, one for you and one for your husband.

Seriously, good luck. It sounds like you have a hard road ahead, both you and your husband individually and the both of you together. If the two of you can agree that what you really want is something different--a marriage where the two of you are kind to each other, help each other grow, rather than tear each other down--I think you can get there. But that's the place to start. And again, you don't need his permission or cooperation to start to go there.

Finally, If you need someone to dialogue with about this, feel free to memail me. I'm a few years ahead of you on this, more or less, so I know where you're coming from. Hang in there, sister.
posted by Sublimity at 4:46 AM on June 29, 2011 [8 favorites]


I think people here are awfully quick to wave the "abuse" flag. You two obviously have a lot of issues to work through; neither of you is treating the other well at all. Whether that crosses the line into abuse on either side is ambiguous. The particular incident you're posting about sounds like just one tiny facet of what's really going on, which seems to be well beyond the scope of what AskMe can help you with.

Unfortunately, my counseling time is so limited I doubt we're going to be able to explore all of this together

OH FUCK THAT. Your time is "limited"? What? If the two of you care about the marriage, if you care about your happiness and his, then you two need to FIND THE GODDAMN TIME TO FIX IT. If your current therapist isn't giving you insights that are better than you're getting from random people on the internet, then you need to find a better therapist. Together.

Fix it, or end it. Those are your choices. Pick one.
posted by ook at 6:34 AM on June 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


This will be an unpopular opinion around here, but I think that you need to examine the myriad other issues in your relationship that happened before the slap.

The slap is not abuse (or at least any more abusive than everything else that's going on), and you're clouding the main issue by focusing on this one incident.

Hitting is never OK.....However, if you got into a fight during sex (which is an inherently physical activity, and seriously WTF?), some sort of physical altercation seems a lot more likely. It sounds like he hit you out of frustration, rather than to hurt you or "put you in your place." This is still really bad, and he's a jerk for not apologizing....but I don't think it quite qualifies as abuse.

Years and years of verbal degradation and harassment sound a whole lot worse than a slap that was light enough for you to initially believe to be a joke. Your relationship was in deep trouble long before he laid a hand on you.

I won't jump on the DTMFA train -- you've got a lot of time invested in this relationship, and say you love him (and who am I to question that?)...however, you really do need to sit down and talk about this together, with a professional, because there's clearly a lot about your relationship that isn't working.
posted by schmod at 7:20 AM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


On posting: Ignore my comment. Read what Sublimity had to say.
posted by schmod at 7:21 AM on June 29, 2011


He has shown signs of verbally abusing you according to your own description. He escalated and slapped you in anger. He did not apologize...immediately or profusely.

I would change the locks and be done. This is not what love looks like. Sorry.


OK, first, both of you guys are verbally abusing one another. This is your own admission. Also, the slapping was not likely an "escalation" when it was light and it occurred in bed, immediately after a request for aggressive sex that uses the hands. I think you understand this--but some answerers might not.

Second, you do not know what emotion was in his head. You'll have to ask him. You could very well be projecting. You may not be projecting. You can only find out by a frank and long talk about the issue. He could have thought you were asking for some sort of S&M thing. Were you? You state you like aggressive sex and you asked him the following:

While we're in the bedroom I tell him exactly this: it's not working, I just need you to use you hands a little more, be a little more aggressive. He states that he's pissed and very lightly slaps, and jumps off the bed. It was SO sudden I thought he was responding to my request and I was actually happy (a little kinky, yes, but why not.)

I really don't know much about rough sex, it isn't my cup of tea and I haven't been asked by a partner to engage in it yet. I may be wrong, but I think it is supposed to have something to do with anger--but with safe words and well worked out boundaries. The fact that he "very lightly" slapped you seems to indicate that he might have very well been not striking you out of anger. It wasn't in the middle of a fight, it was immediately after you requested aggression and that he do more with his hands.

If this guy was a real beater, you'd expect that he would be hitting you all of the time, or that this would not be the first time.

The key is going to be communication. And this is something you'll have to communicate about rather quickly--I think.

But the communication will have to be different, more formal. Set rules ahead of time and stick to them. No I can be a major jerk. I have named-called (asshole, jerk, etc) countless times, I tend to raise my voice (shrill and angry, but rarely real yelling), and I get easily upset about little things from you and no saying something spontaneously mean or insensitive--not absolutely appalling, but disquietly mean on his part. You need to start with rules that the other can refer to when it starts to get out of hand.

I do think that it is a great sign that you are aware that you verbally abuse him. And I hope that he's aware that the things he says hurt you. There needs to be frank talk and therapy between you two.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:21 AM on June 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


It sounds like when you argue, he (and you sound complicit in this) turns your feelings into the problem. Whatever you were arguing about recedes, and the conversation becomes about how you are creating problems by feeling and expressing unwelcome emotions (sadness, anger, hurt, frustration, etc.). The argument becomes about whether your feelings are reasonable or out of proportion to the provocation. This is a toxic dynamic, as you've now seen. As long as this dynamic exists, you will not be able to resolve problems ever because whenever you raise an issue, he will be able to deflect by changing the subject to your emotions.

You both need to learn how to communicate with each other. Otherwise, things will continue to get worse over time. John Gottman's work in this area has a good reputation.

That said, if this is an abusive relationship (I'm sorry, but I am totally incompetent to comment on that aspect), then trying to fix it is not as important as getting the hell out.

You can create your own home. Truly. Even if your parents' home was unsafe for you, and even if this home feels unsafe, you can create for yourself a home in which you are (and feel) safe. And you don't need this guy to do that. You can do it for yourself. You deserve to feel safe and respected.
posted by prefpara at 8:28 AM on June 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


He said I was "disgusting," "that I had an annoying personality," and that "we didn't have a family."

If he said these things out loud, then he has thought them countless times. Things can go on this way (getting steadily worse, with patches of not-so-bad in between) for a long time. The longer you wait to face this situation -- no matter how embarrassing, upsetting, or scary it might be -- the more normal all this will seem to you.

Get help right away. Alone if necessary, together if possible.
posted by hermitosis at 8:34 AM on June 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


I memailed you.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:52 AM on June 29, 2011


It sound to me like he is 'checking out' of this relationship, and from your post both of you sound miserable. Do you *really* think this will get better with time? Or are you just scared to be alone because you have been a part of this for so long? Do you really think happily married people act like this? (They do not BTW)

Last note-PLEASE do not bring kids into this if you have not already. It will not EVER solve your fighting and bickering
posted by Frosted Cactus at 12:35 PM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, man.

I had a vicious flameout of a relationship this weekend (and askme saved my ass, thanks gain, guys!). The fellow became mean, defensive, dismissive, irrational, after I asked him a question related to our couplehood.

Although it seemed (perhaps like your slap) like a bolt out of the blue, this week I've been thinking and remembering the little times he'd snapped and become defensive, and I adapted by Not Bringing Things Up. Which is So Not Good and soul-killing. Now I feel very grateful I only spent two months of my life with this guy.

With you two, man, having to step out of a marriage must be so hard. But this is not good for you. If you love each other and all that, despite the fighting and what not, why not live separately for a while. You'll establish your personal space, your own routines, and he can rub Rogaine all over his head or whatever.
posted by angrycat at 12:40 PM on June 29, 2011


Maybe you should try to live separately for a while. That way you won't be in this toxic situation, and neither will he. It will give the relationship a rest and both of you a chance to think about the relationship clearly, from a distance. If you're not all wrapped up in the daily dramas, you can perhaps better figure out (independently and together, possibly with a therapist) whether your marriage should be saved, and if so, begin to figure out what is going wrong and a chance to develop healthier dynamics outside the intensity that you're both now living in.
posted by Clotilde at 3:44 PM on June 29, 2011


There is no excuse for deliberate meanness in a relationship.

Is there a possibility that you both can learn to relate to each other without meanness? If you are both equally willing to do the long, hard work which that would require, you may have something worth working on. If not, not.

If you're not tired of reading other people's opinions yet, go read this.
posted by Corvid at 5:17 PM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


You say this:

... we are also genuinely best friends,

and then you say this:

He would NEVER talk to his friends the way he speaks to me.

He is not your friend.
posted by headnsouth at 5:51 PM on June 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I really don't know much about rough sex, it isn't my cup of tea and I haven't been asked by a partner to engage in it yet. I may be wrong, but I think it is supposed to have something to do with anger--but with safe words and well worked out boundaries.

I can't speak for everyone who is into rough sex, but it is not "supposed" to have anything to do with anger at all. It's something that both people find mutually fulfilling, sexy, whatever. That's not to say that people never have angry rough sex, but it's certainly not the ideal, the norm, or a necessity.

So, OP, please do not think that in order to have kinky/rough sex you need to have an angry partner, or that your desire for kinky/rough sex means that you have to put up with angry behavior. The People from Metafilter on Fetlife group is a good place to discuss any kind of kink, fetish, or alternate sexual practice with people who know what they're talking about.

Best of luck.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:59 PM on June 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


I agree with one or two above that the light slap was not necessarily a precursor or signal of physical abuse.

The reason that I say this is that for a relationship of nearly eight years that has been fraught with sporadic and intense anger episodes, I (not an expert at all!) would expect that physical aggression would have introduced itself before this if it were an elemental aspect of either the dynamic or the individual.

I can imagine a momentary crossing of wires between the sex (fraught with fear/desire/unfulfilled wishes/recriminations/guilt/resentment/hope/intensity/frustration) and the lingering, still simmering anger about issues that have not been resolved, in combination with a request for aggressive action. I can imagine an unguarded nanosecond, mid-motion, in which the gesture may have switched from (mostly) giving participation to (mostly) angry frustration.

(I don't want to sound like an apologist, and I do have a zero tolerance policy – but won't go into paragraphs of explanation to emphasize this.)

That said, it certainly seems to me that you are both emotional abusive toward each other, and it sounds utterly miserable. I have had my experience of perpetually walking on eggshells around a (former) partner, which your "famously sensitive" self descriptor conjures, and I have had my experience of the crushing damage of casually "mean" behavior, and I'd rather live my entire life alone than endure such behaviors day to day. If you add in what sounds like verbally "going for the jugular" in conflicts, it seems like a mutual relationship nightmare.

The Four Horsemen of the Relationship Apocalypse mentioned above? I can endorse that, in reverse: I have a (20-year, second) marriage in which rarely (and I really do mean "rarely," as in nearly nonexistent) do these destructive behaviors rear their hateful heads. I really hope you two can find a way to diminish or eliminate these toxic elements, because the rest sounds potentially excellent.
posted by taz at 3:44 AM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


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