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I don't want to talk about that, but I don't want to stonewall, either
July 8, 2014 7:23 AM   Subscribe

My wife will not stop questioning me about a horrible incident from my past. I've answered her questions already, but she doesn't like me asking to not talk about it. Snowflakes inside.

The history: When I was younger, there was an incident that, were the genders reversed, would be called rape. I got drunk with friends and, some time after passing out on a friend's bed, woke up to find myself being ridden, without protection, by a woman I'd met for the first time that evening, who wouldn't stop when I asked her to. Eventually I was able to push her off me. It was a very unpleasant episode, and lead to my first and only not-by-choice visit to a sexual health clinic. Luckily for me I was clean.

I'm not comfortable calling it rape, but I think that's mostly because I don't want to think of myself as a rape victim, and also because of societal, in-grained, "hey, no such thing as female-on-male rape"-y thoughts. It caused me a lot of pain for many years, and I've only recently started coming to terms with it properly. It's something that I still struggle with from time to time (As a result of this I won't drink around people I don't know very well, for example.) and it's something that I'm still working on with my therapist. So far, so good.

I'm finding it very hard, though, to deal with talking about it with my wife. She's known about this incident for a long time (we met not long after it happened). Recently, though, since I've been talking about it in therapy (I tell my wife about most things I talk about in therapy, because she hates it when I hide it from her), she's been obsessing about it. She keeps asking me questions about it and demanding details: How long did it take me to push her off? Why didn't I push her off sooner? How could I have had an erection if I was drunk? Didn't I want it, really? (the implication being that I must have.)

It's very painful for me to go over it again and again and again; I answered all of her questions in a very long, emotionally exhausting session a couple of weeks ago, but since then she keeps bringing it up, and it's tearing me apart. I feel like a fraud, like I must have wanted it, like it was my fault. Basically I feel like every time my wife starts questioning me about it I'm undoing the work I've done in therapy a little bit.

I've expressed this to her has gently as I can: "Honey, I know that this is bothering you, and I'm sorry about that, but it's really very painful for me to go over it again and again; I've answered your questions and I don't want to discuss it any more until I'm ready to, and I'm not ready to right now." However, she then tells me that I'm stonewalling by refusing to talk about it further — she often quotes Gottman and points out that stonewalling is one of the Four Horsemen of the Marriage Apocalypse. I don't feel like I am stonewalling; I've answered the questions and I don't shut myself down. I try to self-soothe, but at some point I start feeling "I can't keep doing this right now." and I ask her to stop. Sometimes I have to say "I need to take some time out right now to cool down," but then she worries that I'm going to leave her, so I almost never have the time to cool down that I need.

My wife thinks that I'm being unfair, and that this behaviour is encouraging her to be paranoid (nearly always, the day after one of these conversations, she'll go and re-read my journals to see if there's something in there about how I feel about her, or to see if I've written "the truth" about this horrible episode in my life in there. There's never anything to read I don't write in my journals any more, and I've given up trying to explain that they're private).

My wife's refusal to attend therapy sessions is well documented here on the green. I'm looking for suggestions as to ways that I could maintain my boundaries and see to my own needs without making my wife feel threatened.
posted by yasp to Human Relations (110 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
The only thing I can think of is that you make a deal with your wife that you will answer her questions in the presence of a therapist, either your own for a joint session or one that she chooses. Hopefully that therapist will also be able to help her get closure on this and help her understand that she needs to let go of her obsession.

I have to tell you, as a wife whose husband had a past that made me quite insecure for a while after we were married, I would never have dreamed of treating my husband this way. I am appalled, reading what you've written. (Although obviously you guys have a different setup, because I can't imagine reading my husband's journals either. Was that your idea or hers?)

Actually I have one more suggestion: instead of coddling this nuttiness of hers, maybe put your foot down next time, and tell her in no uncertain terms to knock it the hell off because you didn't get married in order to facilitate yet more violative boundary crossing, and that you'll leave her if she doesn't stop.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:31 AM on July 8 [48 favorites]


Your wife is over controlling and abusive.

You get raped and she uses it to justify intrusive hurtful questioning because it makes her feel you might not love her the the way she wants to be loved?

Start discussing your wife with your therapist. She is very bad news.
posted by Jane the Brown at 7:32 AM on July 8 [213 favorites]


She is way, way out of line. I'm so horrified by her behavior I can hardly put words together to type here. I'm not one to jump on the DTMFA bandwagon, but if this kind of thing is the norm in your relationship it's hard to see how her being in your life isn't causing you more harm than good. Reading your journals? You really need to start putting your foot down about what is and isn't appropriate and if she calls that "stonewalling," well, her reaction is out of your control. You need to stop letting her make your life worse.

If I was your wife and I read what you'd written here, I would be ashamed and chastened and would stop the behavior immediately. You could try doing that, but given how you've described her I'm not sure it would make a difference.

Please know you are not doing anything wrong.
posted by something something at 7:35 AM on July 8 [73 favorites]


Stop telling her why you won't discuss it and stop discussing it. Wife: Blah, blah, why this or that? yasp: I don't want to talk about it. Wife: But, Blah, blah, blah yasp: I don't want to talk about it. and walk calmly to another room. I finally learned that I didn't have to participate in every fight, or engage in every crappy discussion. Say no. You've explained and described, and then you've talked about it, so your wife has learned to keep pressing until you talk. Stop. The only other possible comment it: We could talk about it with my therapist, but that's the only place I'll consider discussing it. and don't discuss that to death either.
posted by theora55 at 7:35 AM on July 8 [16 favorites]


I think your wife is abusing you and you need to stop worrying about something you can't control, her feelings. You need to take yourself.
posted by redindiaink at 7:35 AM on July 8 [18 favorites]


First, you have an absolute right not to discuss it with her except on your terms, which means not tolerating her questions that cause you pain. You should raise this issue with your therapist about how to handle these situations because, if nothing else, they're obviously impacting your own treatment.

If you can't steer your wife into a bit of therapy for dealing with this issue herself, you can still set conditions on the discussion, rather than stonewalling (which is, to a limited degree, an acceptable tactic on your part--for her to declare the marriage threatened if you won't discuss something you're uncomfortable discussing is just straightforward manipulation). You can say that you won't discuss it in the way she wants to, which is accusatory and intrusive and victim blaming. You can question her about what seems to be the underlying anxiety on her part about the issue. You can tell her that she's making you feel illegitimate as a victim and that's unfair and wrong. You can tell her that you'll discuss it only up to the point where she makes you feel like you weren't raped, which puts the onus on her to discuss it with some sensitivity to your place and needs in it.

And yes, you were raped. You're a rape victim and a rape survivor. Nothing about your penis or your drunken erection or the supposed male inability to be raped changes that.
posted by fatbird at 7:36 AM on July 8 [3 favorites]


Your wife is incredibly out of line. I honestly don't know how to help you, not because you're bad (you're not, you seem generous, kind, and thoughtful) but because you are quite convinced that she is entitled to your time, effort, reassurance, etc. even though she is absolutely not.

You basically have a choice--and you don't have to make it this second, or even today, or even this week--between preserving your mental health and staying with your wife. That is ultimately the choice you will need to make.

There is no explaining or talking to her because ultimately, what she wants is to abuse you and destroy your mental health, and you want to preserve your mental health. There's no compromise available there.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:37 AM on July 8 [48 favorites]


Your wife says that you are Stonewalling her and this is one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, well so is Contempt.

"Attacking your partner’s sense of self with the intention to insult or psychologically
abuse him/her"

She verbally berates you and isn't actually listening to you. She's the bad communicator in this relationship and she's also making you feel guilty for being raped a long time ago.

She won't attend therapy. I think she's the problem here... not you.
posted by JenThePro at 7:38 AM on July 8 [27 favorites]


This is abuse. You do not somehow deserve to be treated this way. This together with your past questions reveals a pattern of conduct that is frankly disturbing. This is not love. You deserve to be treated with respect.
posted by grobstein at 7:39 AM on July 8 [7 favorites]


Also, this is not stonewalling. Stonewalling is when you just sit there and don't talk or respond in any way and it is, in fact, infuriating. Asking for time apart when you get overwhelmed is not stonewalling; it is something that Gottman recommends as a way of keeping disputes manageable. She doesn't want you to take a break because it would make you feel better, and making you feel like shit is the entire goal of the exercise.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:40 AM on July 8 [77 favorites]


Holy boundary issues.

It is in no way reasonable for your wife to demand to be told what you've discussed in therapy. It is in no way reasonable for your wife to read your private journals. "Making your wife feel threatened" is not really in play here; nothing you've described involves you doing anything to her. Rather the contrary.

I'm sorry. You're in an abusive relationship, and this is what you should be talking to your therapist about.
posted by Shmuel510 at 7:40 AM on July 8 [26 favorites]


Yes, this is abusive behavior and I have had a similar experience with my ex-wife. She's showing no respect for your boundaries and is actively making you miserable. This is absolutely unacceptable behavior and your marriage is in critical danger here.
posted by norm at 7:42 AM on July 8 [2 favorites]


Ok, I went and read your other questions and I'm so sorry to have to say this but your wife sounds irredeemably damaged and impossible to live with. The thing about how she doesn't want you to be able to drive because then you might leave her? And demanding to read your journals? And now this? I don't think any of this is rational differences of opinion that you can negotiate about. This is deep, dark, fundamentally cruel, possessive, sick stuff, and I think you might just want to cut your losses here. Most people are not like this.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:45 AM on July 8 [65 favorites]


"I tell my wife about most things I talk about in therapy, because she hates it when I hide it from her"

I seldom give this kind of advice but, in this case, feel it is warranted. That statement indicates a very serious problem. I would suggest joint therapy and, if she refuses, considering ending the relationship...It will NOT get better without some outside help.
posted by HuronBob at 7:46 AM on July 8 [15 favorites]


The way you describe this makes me very uneasy.

Do you feel that in general your wife respects your boundaries and this journal-reading/intrusive-questioning thing is only about this one topic? Or is she this way about a lot of stuff? If it's about a lot of stuff, this sounds like a really bad scene.

What does your therapist think about this situation? Does your therapist have any advice for setting boundaries with your wife?

You don't have to talk about this thing if you don't want to. You're not "stonewalling" - "stonewalling" is not the same as "doesn't share every iota of feeling and information with partner, no matter how painful". Your wife should not be using a therapeutic paradigm to beat you over the head - in any case, any therapeutic paradigm is just a strategy or a heuristic that some people find useful some of the time, not a Truth Handed Down From God.

If your wife is cripplingly insecure and this is driving her intrusiveness, there is nothing you can tell her which will help. You could talk about this in minute detail until you collapsed, and it still would not quiet her demons. They are her demons, and she needs to figure out how to quiet them.

You know that it's wrong for her to harm you by forcing you to talk about this painful thing in a way that you don't want to. She's wronging you by insisting in this manner.

I can't see an easy out, other than "this is a dealbreaker for me, stop it or we need to rethink this relationship". I would start by talking with your therapist (and NOT telling your wife - work on internalizing that you don't owe her an accounting of your every moment) and coming up with a plan to start discussing boundaries. When she asks questions about your sexual assault, it is okay to refuse to answer them. I think this will probably provoke fights and badness, but I also think that your choice is probably "fights and badness possibly leading to behavioral change" or "things stay unbearable and destructive".

I'm really sorry that all this is happening.
posted by Frowner at 7:46 AM on July 8 [16 favorites]


You've received some really good advice in the previous threads about your marriage. All of the suggestions about setting boundaries with her generally are very much applicable in this scenario.

Also, there is no reason you have to tell her what is discussed in therapy. The fact that she "hates it" when you don't reveal what was discussed is yet another way that she is putting her anxiety on you. I think you should consider whether it is helpful to you to discuss your therapy sessions.
posted by bluloo at 7:48 AM on July 8 [2 favorites]


You're not stonewalling, and "why didn't you do X instead?" to a rape victim is just horrifyingly wrong and bad. I know you don't want to call yourself that, but if you imagine this story with the sexes reversed, it would be a(nother) huge red flag.

You cannot make your wife not feel threatened, because those feelings have nothing to do with you specifically.
posted by jeather at 7:50 AM on July 8 [10 favorites]


Stonewalling is when you just sit there and don't talk or respond in any way and it is, in fact, infuriating.

I feel like I should note that there are a lot of situations in which this is justified even if it makes the other person angry, because I am quite sure that your wife is the type of person to refuse to allow you to leave a room and then browbeat you until you literally dissociate. That is on her, not on you.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:50 AM on July 8 [1 favorite]


Just read all of your past AskMe questions. To be blunt, OH MY GOD, your wife sounds like a nightmare. Yes, you believe she's [nice/funny/kind/awesome-incarnate]... but it sounds like you've been walking on eggshells for YEARS, that a huge part of your relationship is managing/coddling her raging, illogical, insatiable anxiety and paranoia, that you are constantly on the defense against a litany of baseless accusations.

That is not normal. That is not healthy. And that is no way to live.

If you want to remain in this marriage (and I'll restate Auntie Julthumbscrew's First Law of Relationships here: anyone can leave a relationship at any time for any reason and not be "the bad guy"), you MUST insist that, 1. She acknowledge that her behavior is problematic, 2. She reenter relationship counseling to address this problem, and, 3. That she enter it IN GOOD FAITH, willing to do hard/painful work, willing to take off her various masks. Otherwise, the entire enterprise is doomed to fail.

Good luck, dude. Please take care of yourself.
posted by julthumbscrew at 7:52 AM on July 8 [31 favorites]


Your wife is absolutely out of line, but I believe it's possible and beneficial to have some compassion for her. That you are the victim--not she--does not mean that her difficulty processing what happened to you and her feelings about it make her a horrible or abusive person. Nor does her poor behavior to you about it mean she does not deserve compassion. She just needs to be seeking support about this from someone else and she needs to back off from you about it.

To reiterate, you are right that she needs to respect your request to stop talking to you about it. You've asked her to stop talking to you about it and she has not respected that. That's a problem which she needs to hear is a problem. The issue is no longer the assault against you, but her inability to listen to and accept your boundaries. I can't give you magic words to make her respect your request and if she can't do that, you may need to leave the situation, so you can take care of yourself.

I would tell her that she has created a problem by refusing to respect your boundaries and your therapeutic process. I might say something like: "I've asked you to stop discussing it with me, now please respect that. I'm working through the experience with my therapist, perhaps it's time for you to do the same because it is detrimental to my mental health for you to keep bringing it up and because you clearly need help processing what happened."

Make sure she knows it's okay to be confused, upset and even a little hurt by something that happened to you--not to her--but it is absolutely not okay for her to hurt you further by not respecting your need not to discuss it with her.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:53 AM on July 8 [2 favorites]


The insidious thing about your wife's invasions of your privacy is that her demands come to justify themselves over time. If she's been reading your journals and auditing your therapy sessions for a while, then anything private would be a change and cause for suspicion. Compare the NSA "If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear."

You now view these demands as reasonable but they are not. They are the demands of someone who claims to be your partner but cannot rest unless she is your master. And her dominion is not benign. It is cruel and arbitrary.
posted by grobstein at 7:53 AM on July 8 [4 favorites]


Just so you hear this again, you are not stonewalling. What you discuss in therapy is between you and your therapist. If you choose to share that, ok, but I do not get the sense that you are freely choosing to share anything here. This is beyond anxiety in your partner. As others have said, this is abuse. You are being asked to take down every heathy boundary you have worked hard to put in place. You have no refuge here, not even a journal? I'm so sorry this is happening. Please take steps to protect yourself and allow yourself to heal.
posted by goggie at 7:53 AM on July 8 [5 favorites]


You're not stonewalling, and your wife's behavior and questions are completely unacceptable. I say this as someone who does really like to hear what my partner's working through in therapy, because it helps me understand stuff he's going through - but I never ask unless the information is offered, and I certainly don't badger or pry for additional detail when it is offered. I have empathy and compassion for her wanting to know, but her wanting to know what happened to you does not trump your feelings as the actual person who was hurt, whatever you want to term that hurt.

The immediate things I can think of - talking with her about how her actions make you feeling, or trying to get her into both individual and couples' counselling - seem to be ruled out here.

So I don't know what to say except that perhaps your therapy can specifically discuss this ongoing issue of boundaries and respect with your wife. Maybe your therapist will have better insight about what works with your wife than we can here on AskMe, after knowing you two and your dynamic for some time.
posted by Stacey at 7:57 AM on July 8


Note, I don't know anything about your wife or your relationship--I see lots of references to other ask.mes, which I haven't read. She may well be abusive. She's definitely being disrespectful here and she needs to stop or you need to remove yourself from the situation.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:57 AM on July 8 [1 favorite]


yasp, between this and your previous questions about your wife, if I were your best friend I would be shaking you by the shoulders and begging you to leave this relationship before she detriments your mental health even further.

You have to stop putting up with her anxiety and her boundary issues. This is an abusive relationship. She refuses to get help and continues to put stringent demands on your behavior vis-a-vis her to quell her considerable anxiety (and yet the anxiety is still not quelled even when you abide by the demands). By staying with her, you are enabling her. Yes, I get that leaving would only make her worst fear come true and you don't want to be that guy - but this is now completely beyond the pale (accusing you of "wanting" to be raped so she can hear you say over and over again that it doesn't change anything about how you feel about her? I just don't even). I'm worried about you. I really don't think this relationship has a shot in hell of getting better, and it's you who is going to end up the most damaged as this goes on.

You have to take care of yourself. You have to take care of yourself. You have to take care of yourself.

Please listen to us.
posted by thereemix at 7:59 AM on July 8 [37 favorites]


You know what? I think you should leave her. I really do. I looked at all those other questions and I think you should split up.

Think about this - you're my age, you're getting on for forty. We don't have infinite time in life, our risks for cancer, cardiac events and just general decline are starting to climb. Do you want to be in this relationship for another twenty or thirty years? Do you want to look back when you have something terminal and say "this is how I spent my time, trying to pacify someone who wasn't pacifiable, in pain, under stress?" We have limited time, and it's flying by. How you're living now is no way to live.

I can see myself in your questions - I could easily get into and stay in this kind of relationship, justifying it because some of it was good and because my self-image was wound up in "not hurting people" and "not making a fuss". I was brought up to feel that "making trouble and being a burden" was just about the worst thing I could do - and that's why I basically didn't come out of the closet until late, not because I thought there was anything wrong with my sexuality but because I thought "this will really upset my family, and after all, only a selfish person would upset their family over something trivial like sex, I don't really need to care about my sex life". This was not a good decision, it required killing parts of myself that weren't just about sex, no matter what I thought. You may feel that you're sequestering the bad stuff in this relationship, you may feel like you're compartmentalizing like a master, but you are killing parts of yourself, and you need those parts.
posted by Frowner at 7:59 AM on July 8 [77 favorites]


Oh and the one thing I wanted to say--this sounds really, really hard. You sound super upset, frustrated, sad, hurt, and unsure of what do do. All of those feelings are totally normal. It might seem like people here are telling you you're doin' it wrong, and to some extent we are. That's not because it should be obvious--it's not always obvious from within a relationship what things are strange or unacceptable. And, of course, it's much easier for us because we don't have to deal with your day-to-day life.

You are actually doing great to be asking other people for help and advice. That is a smart move, and you are wise and brave to do it. You are seeing a therapist, and that is GREAT. Many people in your situation wouldn't be able to keep doing that, and I am very impressed. I think continuing to see your therapist is an excellent move. We're here for you to keep asking for advice and for outside perspectives on your relationship.

Hang in there. We're all rooting for you.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:59 AM on July 8 [45 favorites]


Oh, yasp. I remember your past questions because they made me cry, and this one did, too. I am so sorry that you have to endure this.

I spent a very long time in a relationship with someone who so incessantly and effectively eroded my sense of self that I was ultimately convinced I literally would not survive if we ever split up. I was suffocated, bound up and miserable for years, but I was absolutely sure I didn't deserve any better, and similarly certain that the way he treated me was the way any other partner would, besides. After almost a decade of second chances and last calls, an avalanche of evidence from the green -- yep, right here! -- finally shook me loose and brought me around to the notion that life is impossibly precious and you needn't spend so much as a second of it at the side of someone who relentlessly antagonizes you and makes you doubt yourself at every turn. I broke up with him and every day since then has felt like a brand-new chance to thrive.

So from that experience, I can tell you that it is cleansing, renewing, and absolutely psychologically necessary to get out and away from any so-called partner whose cruel and concentrated patterns of action speak so much louder than any temporarily- and falsely-sweetened sentiments could ever do. Your wife doesn't respect you, your time, your therapeutic work, your privacy, your boundaries, your trauma, or your lived experience. How she could be convinced that this is an acceptable way to treat someone she claims to love is unimaginable to me.

Trying to figure out a way to speak to her about this is useless because she's already proven herself to be completely comfortable steamrolling over your thoughts, feelings, and concerns no matter what. Please don't feel as though you're somehow duty-bound to perpetually throw your irretrievable days, months, and years into the black hole of the sunk cost fallacy. You don't have to live like this.

If you're comfortable doing so, please reach out to RAINN. They are well-equipped to speak to male survivors of sexual assault, and may be able to offer up some resources that you have yet to discover. You are not alone.

You deserve love, trust, compassion, and peace. Please take care.
posted by divined by radio at 8:01 AM on July 8 [58 favorites]


You are not stonewalling. What she's doing is called "victim blaming," and it might be helpful for you to learn more about that, so you understand what's going on (which generally helps people feel more in control).

I'm so sorry about what's happened to you, both in the past and now. Often, survivors of sexual assault (or whatever you want to name it, or not name it) have difficulty setting boundaries, because they've been taught fairly dramatically that their saying "No" will not be respected. As part of working through these issues with your therapist, you might ask about how to start setting and enforcing boundaries. It's cheesy as hell, but Your Perfect Right is a great book on that, as well (not geared specifically toward survivors; applicable to all!). Part of that boundary-setting process is realizing that your needs are just as important as other people's, and that it's not your fault if your wife, for example, feels threatened by the boundaries you set -- that's her baggage, not a reasonable response to your being healthy.

If you are worried that she will hurt you if you set and enforce boundaries, then do what you can to stay safe and start talking to your therapist about how to stay safe from your wife, as well. Many domestic violence shelters/agencies can provide additional counseling for people of all genders who need help staying safe from their intimate partners, though emergency housing is often (unfortunately) unavailable for men.

Another resource for you may be your local rape crisis center; they often have 24-hour crisis lines that you can call, and they could help you sort through your feelings about your wife's behavior, especially if you need someone to talk to in the moment. You can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1.800.656.HOPE to be automatically connected with the center closest to your area code. Calls are confidential, and you don't have to give any information that you don't want to provide. There's also an online chat version.

Basically, you have every right to protect yourself from intrusive, insensitive questioning, and I hope that you can reach out to the resources available to help buttress you when you're feeling overwhelmed that it's happening. What happened to you wasn't right and wasn't your fault, and the way your wife is acting isn't right and isn't your fault.
posted by jaguar at 8:05 AM on July 8 [7 favorites]


If she reads your journal she is probably going to read this post as well.
posted by srboisvert at 8:06 AM on July 8 [3 favorites]


A few final thoughts:

- Mr. Julthumbscrew's first marriage was a LOT like yours. He went to bed every night hoping he'd die in his sleep, just so he wouldn't have to face the same torments in the morning. That relationship ended when his then-wife got scarily violent because he was fifteen minutes late getting home from work. He said that that moment was what snapped him out of his miserable trance and made him realize he HAD to leave. I'm not saying your relationship will go there: just that it doesn't HAVE to be that bad for you to leave.

- Imagine a life WITHOUT your wife's anxieties in it... a life where you are entitled to privacy, where you can come and go as you please without being interrogated, where you do not have to perpetually reassure another person of your good intentions, where you are FREE. That life is possible.

- While I suspect you probably won't, you can ABSOLUTELY MeMail me if you need to talk/vent.
posted by julthumbscrew at 8:09 AM on July 8 [13 favorites]


I'm looking for suggestions as to ways that I could maintain my boundaries and see to my own needs without making my wife feel threatened.

I'm beginning to wonder if that's possible. Your wife has proved to you in the past that she's prepared to treat you very badly indeed and do everything within her power to remove any kind of boundary you might put up. You've also proved that you're going to stay and take it when she does that. The very fact that you raising a boundary sets your wife off with demands and controlling behaviour is very telling.

There are only so many ways to set a boundary. You're at the point of needing to enforce them. Are you prepared to do that? Right now, all your wife has to do to get you to crumble is be upset. Unless you're prepared to tolerate your wife being upset, there's not much you can do. Setting a boundary isn't enough. You need to be ready to enforce it. If that means refusing to discuss it any more, or leaving the situation for a while, or even permanently, then you need to be ready do that.

Are you?
posted by Solomon at 8:14 AM on July 8 [8 favorites]


Reverse the genders, if that is what lets you put things into perspective, and think of it this way:

Your wife is repeatedly badgering a rape victim for details about their rape, and judging them for it. I can't think of a single situation where that is socially acceptable. It's gross. Even if she had some skepticism, that's nothing she should be saying to you. If your friends or loved ones need support, you support them first.
posted by mikeh at 8:14 AM on July 8 [8 favorites]


I'm sure many people here have either been victims of sexual assault or been in relationships with victims of sexual assault, so this most likely isn't speaking from total ignorance.

Berating a victim of sexual assault and pressuring them for details and making them feel responsible for the assault is absolutely cruel. Its not just abusive, mean, or inconsiderate. Its cruel and unconscionable.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:17 AM on July 8 [42 favorites]


I think everything that needs to be said has been said here already, but I wanted to make sure to add to the chorus to increase the volume so that you might stand a chance to hear it. How DARE she do what she's doing to you? Making you relive what you clearly don't and repeatedly have stated you don't want to do.

She has deep seated issues that she refuses to address (previous therapy sessions she's had she's clearly lying to her therapist because there's no way someone who behaves as you describes gets cut loose after 2 months). You have to go through so many stressors directly caused by her. You love her, clearly, but that doesn't mean you can and should be with her.

I really think you have to be apart from her for good. She's going through problems and won't address them and instead attacks you. That's just fucked up on so many levels. You deserve better.
posted by inturnaround at 8:25 AM on July 8 [7 favorites]


However, she then tells me that I'm stonewalling by refusing to talk about it further — she often quotes Gottman and points out that stonewalling is one of the Four Horsemen of the Marriage Apocalypse.

Stonewalling is not the same thing as setting boundaries.

Abusers often adopt the language and tools of therapists and counselors as tools of abuse. This is why couples counseling in abusive relationships is strongly discouraged: it does not work, and often serves up the abuser more tools to abuse you with.

I just want to come to wherever you are, give you a hot cup of tea and a hug, and quietly escort you out the front door, out of this marriage, into a life where you are safe and are not being treated this way. I am so sorry you're going through this. You do not deserve this.

You do not deserve this.

All the best to you. I have been in your shoes and it was hell. I didn't even realize how bad it was until I walked away. He was kind to me sometimes, sure, but more often he was cruel. I am sorry your wife is cruel to you. I am so sorry for you and for this situation.

It does not have to be like this.
posted by sockermom at 8:30 AM on July 8 [15 favorites]


I am awed (not in a good way) by how she is taking this horrible thing that happened to you and making even that All About Her.

This is not someone who is being a partner to you at all. It is grotesquely unacceptable, and she needs to find a way to stop. It's no longer your job (if it ever was) to manage her anxiety. If she can't start working on that and stop damaging you, then you should act to protect yourself.
posted by shattersock at 8:30 AM on July 8 [7 favorites]


Your wife is behaving in a vile and cruel manner. You do not deserve to be the victim of abuse and you do not have to walk on eggshells to appease her anxiety. You asked a question a year ago about her extreme anxiety and apparently nothing has gotten any better. Even if you're able to stop her from asking about the rape, there will always be other things.

You can live an awesome life without her! The amazing plans you referenced in your earlier question? You can do them without her! Or with someone else! You do not have to live like this. Separating is hard, logistically and emotionally, but you will know it is worth it the first time you wake up and realize you are FREE, you do not have to watch what you say or do, you do not have to give any thought to her feelings or reactions at all. It is BLISS.
posted by fantoche at 8:31 AM on July 8 [2 favorites]


I'm sorry, but there are no magic words to convince an abuser that they should stop being abusive. There are no magic actions you can do to change their behaviour without upsetting them. You have to either stand up for yourself and accept the consequence- that they will do everything in their power to make you back down, including trying to convince you that you are wrong for setting boundaries or that you are somehow the one being abusive, or even becoming physically threatning- or leave the situation altogether.
posted by windykites at 8:32 AM on July 8 [15 favorites]


Ask yourself (and her) this question: What does she hope to get out of this badgering? Do either of you think there are answers to these questions that would satisfy her and make her stop asking? I'll tell you right now the answer is no, and she is doing this only in an attempt to assuage her own (self-destructive) feelings of insecurity and jealousy, at the expense of your own mental health. If she is not willing to seek professional help in dealing with those issues, she does not place the kind of value on you as a person and on your relationship that I think you deserve. You should leave her.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:34 AM on July 8 [3 favorites]


Oh, yes: you love her but you don't have to be with her, says inturnaround above: it is true.

I still love my abuser, but I am no longer with him. I love myself more than I love him.

You can walk away and say "I am not discussing this with you. It hurts me to talk about it." See how that goes. Pay attention to her response to that.

If it's anything like my abuser's response, saying, "I am walking away until we can talk about this calmly" for the first time in our relationship, a year after the abuse started, led to the first of several horrific violent episodes. His response to me saying "I can't talk about this" was all the information I needed. Of course, I stayed with him for two more years after he broke that door down in my face, but that's another story for another time.

You will not see this until you are ready to see it, and when you see it, you will realize that it is time to walk away and not look back. I know you love her and she is troubled but that is not your problem.

I hope you find peace.
posted by sockermom at 8:34 AM on July 8 [5 favorites]


first, that was rape.
Second, I understand your emotions surrounding it, as I had similar issues processing my own rape.

If my husband dared to treat me the way your wife is regarding this, let's just say he would be understanding very shortly how out of line he was. If I knew your wife I would be making it very plain how out of line she is being.

I am so sorry you are dealing with this.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:34 AM on July 8 [3 favorites]


Remember this: you cannot use reason with an irrational person.
posted by fantoche at 8:35 AM on July 8 [9 favorites]


My wife's refusal to attend therapy sessions is well documented here on the green. I'm looking for suggestions as to ways that I could maintain my boundaries and see to my own needs without making my wife feel threatened.

Our responses as to how to maintain your boundaries and see to your own needs are also well documented here on the green.

You don't have to tell her what you discuss in therapy. You choose to tell her, and that seems to be a mistake.

I feel very sad for you. The only person you can control is yourself, and at this point, you need to accept the responsibility for staying with this woman.
posted by lyssabee at 8:35 AM on July 8 [6 favorites]


Reading all of your AskMes about your relationship made me feel upset for you.
Especially the one where you struggled with suicidal thoughts - I can't help but have have a feeling that it is because you want to escape from something and I know exactly what that something is.

Your wife has repeatedly violated the boundaries that you've tried to set, to the point of victim blaming. So please, for the sake of your emotional health and safety, end the relationship for good... and seek the support of a rape crisis centre (do you live in the US or UK? If UK, not sure if RAINN serves the UK) and also a support group dealing with codependency.

*hugs* I wish you all the best. You seem to be a giving, emotionally generous man, and you deserve to give that emotional generosity to yourself.
posted by Tsukushi at 8:38 AM on July 8 [3 favorites]


It sounds like she is still putting all the weight of managing her anxieties on you, and in this case doing it in an even more abusive and awful way. If none of the past advice you've gotten has been helpful or something you could actually do, then I don't know why this situation would be different. Except for her behavior as you describe it being even more awful than what you've previously outline, what advice do you think people will come up with that you or or therapist wouldn't? We're not magic, here. This latest abusive badgering from her is not new or sudden: it's the newest and most awful manifestation of her anxieties.

You cannot manage her anxieties and mental health issues. She is the only one who can do that.

You deserve to have a life without being victimised repeatedly by someone who is supposed to love you. I don't care if she "can't help it" because she can: she chooses not to, because she's more important to her than you are.

Please put yourself first. You've been advised to do that in a variety of ways many, many times here. There is no other answer that you can implement that's going to magically work and make her change. She is the only one who can make herself change. You don't believe us yet. I hope you will, soon.
posted by rtha at 8:39 AM on July 8 [12 favorites]


For what it's worth, you said you've been married over twelve years (and that was last year, so it's probably been thirteen now). I'm assuming this incident happened before you were married. I'm also assuming the business facebook page of an ex, which your wife was running across due to some obsessive facebook searching, was another person you knew before you were married.

This pattern of obsessing with your past is doing no one any favors, and it is not your job to address irrational obsessions with your past. Your past is not the issue her, but her hurtful insistence on hammering you on it is. You're not stonewalling or being stubborn. You have resolved this very emotionally distressing incident as far as you've felt comfortable. In absence of pointing out current events or behavior she's troubled by -- which you can address, in the present day, on your own or with therapy -- there is absolutely no context to even bring this stuff up.
posted by mikeh at 8:42 AM on July 8 [1 favorite]


As I read your question, it kept getting worse and worse.

First of all, your wife is completely out of line in her questioning. You should not have to keep reliving this painful memory just to please her. I have very difficult memories from my past, and my husband respects my wishes to not talk about it on a regular basis. You should be able to control that conversation - both if and when you talk about it.

Then, to imply that you were somehow complicit or at fault in the rape is beyond the pale. I don't even understand why she would be insecure or anxious about something like this, that happened before you even met her. She should discuss those feelings with a therapist, not you.

Finally, the fact that she reads through your journals is ridiculous. She is controlling and manipulative. You deserve to be treated better.
posted by barnoley at 8:43 AM on July 8 [2 favorites]


I'm not comfortable calling it rape, but I think that's mostly because I don't want to think of myself as a rape victim, and also because of societal, in-grained, "hey, no such thing as female-on-male rape"-y thoughts.

It absolutely was rape, you're a rape survivor not a rape victim, and those societal ingrained thoughts need to be gone.

So your first job, which you can work on in therapy, is to own those facts. Get comfortable with all that, and you need feel no guilt at all when you tell your wife "I was raped. I've learned to live with it. You need to as well. I am not going to keep re-hashing this discussion over and over. If you keep pressing me on this, I will leave the room." And mean it.

That's not stonewalling; that's setting an appropriate boundary.
posted by flabdablet at 8:44 AM on July 8 [2 favorites]


1) You were raped. That doesn't mean you have to call yourself or think of yourself as a victim.

2) Your wife is refusing to respect your boundaries. Whether that's one of the Four Horsemen or not, she's making you relive the rape over and over and over again, and not in a safe space like thereapy. That is abuse, period.

3) You have the absolute right to your reasonable boundaries, and too damn bad if that annoys her.

4) "I am not having this conversation again. It is horribly painful to me, and I didn't marry you to feel more pain. Quite the opposite. I am dealing with these issues with my therapist. The next time you ask, I am just going to say no. If you won't let it drop, I will be reconsidering this marriage. End of discussion."
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:44 AM on July 8 [4 favorites]


Just read all of your past AskMe questions. To be blunt, OH MY GOD, your wife sounds like a nightmare. Yes, you believe she's [nice/funny/kind/awesome-incarnate]... but it sounds like you've been walking on eggshells for YEARS, that a huge part of your relationship is managing/coddling her raging, illogical, insatiable anxiety and paranoia, that you are constantly on the defense against a litany of baseless accusations.

That is not normal. That is not healthy. And that is no way to live.


I too have had a look through your past AskMe questions about your marriage and I agree 500% with the previous answer I've quoted above. I've had some experience in living with a roommate with the kind of anxiety/control issues/narcissistic lack of respect for other's boundaries your wife has, and so I have some idea of what it's like. There is nothing you can do to make this marriage a healthy one, because your wife is not someone who is capable of being a good spouse. I have never seen a person like her become a normal, functional person, even with professional help.

I'm sorry for all those wasted years. I'm sorry for how difficult it will be for you to extricate yourself from this situation. I know what a number manipulative, demanding people like this can do on you, and how it will be difficult for you to keep from fighting this battle with her over and over in your head even after she's gone. But you need to leave her, to cut her out of your life completely, to get therapy to help you deal with the fall out, and to help you learn to shore up your own boundaries so that this doesn't happen again.

Please stop rearranging deck chairs on a sinking ship, and focus on leaving, on looking toward the life you're going to have without her. It really is the only truly constructive option.
posted by orange swan at 8:45 AM on July 8 [29 favorites]


I am married to a man who has much greater expectations and needs for emotional privacy than I have. For a long time he really locked me out of anything painful in his past, and it was very frustrating and made it really hard to achieve the level of emotional intimacy that I wanted. So you might think that I would empathize with your wife here. But my skin started to crawl at this "(I tell my wife about most things I talk about in therapy, because she hates it when I hide it from her)" and I was practically yelling at my computer by the end of your question, because reading journals without consent and interrogating an assault victim about their assault over and over and over again isn't about emotional intimacy. It's about control, and diminishment, and, yes, abuse.

My husband and I addressed our different needs around these things in joint therapy sessions, which I was very eager to attend because I wanted a satisfying, comfortable life with him, and came to a mutual understanding in which we both listened, learned, and adjusted our expectations. I would expect the same from any partner who valued and respected my needs and boundaries, and I would take refusal to do so as an extremely large and bright red flag. Your wife's behavior would be a deal-breaker for me.
posted by KathrynT at 8:46 AM on July 8 [13 favorites]


I had to Google it, but it looks like the other Horsemen of the Marriage Apocalypse are criticism, contempt, and defensiveness.

Your wife is contemptuous, of you, of therapy, of your past. Your wife is critical of these things. By invoking stonewalling, your wife is being defensive.

You deserve better than this.

Leave.
posted by RainyJay at 8:49 AM on July 8 [9 favorites]


I'm looking for suggestions as to ways that I could maintain my boundaries and see to my own needs without making my wife feel threatened.

You can't do this, because maintaining your boundaries and seeing to your own needs is what is making your wife feel threatened.

Are you talking to your therapist about your wife, or are you avoiding the topic because you know your wife will coerce you into telling her what you're discussing in therapy? I'm guessing you're not focusing on your wife in therapy -- and I'm guessing that she is badgering you about therapy so you won't talk about her in therapy.

How would you feel if your best friend, or nephew, or young coworker told you this story?

Also: Your wife is her own person, with her own choices to make. Right now it seems like you feel like you are responsible for controlling her moods and behavior -- like you feel like if only you got the right key codes to her, you could heal her anxiety and have a good relationship. I'm sure she's the one responsible for making you feel like you're responsible for how she feels, and you're responsible for managing her anxiety for her. But that isn't how it works. You do not have that power. Only she has that power, and she's choosing not to use it.
posted by pie ninja at 8:53 AM on July 8 [24 favorites]


I feel so pained for you.

So let's play "reverse the genders" with this too: a dear female friend of yours is finally in therapy for a traumatic non consensual sexual incident. Yay for her...she's doing great work!

Now she tells you her husband has been obsessively grilling her about whether or not she was actually asking for it, or if she at least secretly enjoyed it and that's why she didn't fight back harder instead of freezing in shock.
posted by blue suede stockings at 8:53 AM on July 8 [8 favorites]


It absolutely was rape, you're a rape survivor not a rape victim, and those societal ingrained thoughts need to be gone.

Feel free to call whatever happened to you whatever you would like to call it. Anyone who truly cares about helping survivors will understand and support you and not insist that you call it anything but what you feel comfortable calling it. I'm sure the therapist you are working with is well able to handle any ambiguity this might insert into your processing.

Whatever you call it, your wife is using is to be overly intrusive and arguably abusive. Your other questions do not suggest that anything you do is going to change your wife's behavior, because even in the most sympathetic reading of her behavior (where honest mental distress is driving her it), the behavior is quite simply beyond your power to meaningfully address. Think of it this way: if your wife's anxiety were a hole, you literally could not shovel enough into that hole to fill it. There will always be more space, and more for you to do, as is clear from all of your descriptions of her behavior.
posted by OmieWise at 8:53 AM on July 8 [14 favorites]


This is a failure of empathy on her part, not a failure of communication on yours. What you are describing is emotional abuse, and it is neither your responsibility to make it stop, nor is it within your control. There is no magic combination of words that you can string together that will finally convince your wife to respect your boundaries. In other words, if you were powerful enough to make your wife treat you well, you would have been able to accomplish it by now.

Just as the rape wasn't your fault, the way your wife treats you isn't your fault, either. I am so sorry you have been through all this. She is basically using having been raped against you. It is despicable when it's done to women, and it is equally despicable when it's done to men.

As others have said above, there is nothing you can do to make this marriage a healthy one, because your wife has repeatedly demonstrated she lacks the capacity and the desire to be a healthy partner for you. But that doesn't mean you can't have a healthy life and a good future on your own.
posted by scody at 8:55 AM on July 8 [12 favorites]


On re-reading your question:

I'm looking for suggestions as to ways that I could maintain my boundaries and see to my own needs without making my wife feel threatened.

I have the feeling that the person who is feeling threatened isn't who you had said is feeling threatened, and hasn't been for the past 12-13 years.

Please, for the sake of your emotional health, listen to your instincts and boundaries.
posted by Tsukushi at 8:55 AM on July 8 [1 favorite]


My last comment would be to say that if your wife is obsessing over who you were and what you did before you were married, she's looking for an excuse to blame who you were before you were married, and the experiences you had, for your current problems. At some unconscious level, she knows the marriage and her problems are the main problems at hand.

She is already blaming the marriage. She needs out. You need out for different reasons.
posted by mikeh at 9:01 AM on July 8 [1 favorite]


I'm looking for suggestions as to ways that I could maintain my boundaries and see to my own needs without making my wife feel threatened.

This is not possible. You can't control or change how she feels, including about your boundaries. The only thing you can do is set the boundary ("I am not going to talk about this any more") and enforce the boundary (stop talking, leave the room, etc.). The effect of the boundary is not to alter her behavior or her emotional response to you. The effect of the boundary is that it ends the painful, harmful conversation.

Boundaries work to protect you and take care of you. It sounds, from what you've described, that you are trying to both take care of yourself and take care of your wife, and it isn't working because of incompatible desires (e.g. your wife desires to talk about this topic, you do not; your wife desires to know all of your thoughts and feelings, you desire some privacy).

My heart goes out to you. It sounds like you are under a heavy burden. Both you and your wife seem to be suffering right now. I hope you find a way out from under this great weight.

Adding my voice to the chorus that says: you do not have to endure this. You are not responsible for her emotions. The way she is treating you is extreme and damaging and you are not required to accept it. Even though she is suffering, you do not have to continue to suffer yourself.
posted by prefpara at 9:10 AM on July 8 [2 favorites]


I'm looking for suggestions as to ways that I could maintain my boundaries and see to my own needs without making my wife feel threatened.

There are no such suggestions that anyone can give you, because what makes your wife feel threatened is 1) you creating and maintaining boundaries with her, and 2) you seeing to your own needs. Your wife feels threatened by your mental well-being.
posted by 23skidoo at 9:12 AM on July 8 [10 favorites]


Feel free to call whatever happened to you whatever you would like to call it. Anyone who truly cares about helping survivors will understand and support you and not insist that you call it anything but what you feel comfortable calling it. I'm sure the therapist you are working with is well able to handle any ambiguity this might insert into your processing.

This. If the thing stopping you from getting to a healthy place emotionally is one supercharged word, you don't need to use that word. If you want permission to not use that word, I'll write you a note.

You don't want to leave, or at least establish better boundaries, because you don't want to hurt your wife. It sounds like you want your wife to be happy and healthy. She currently is not happy and healthy so something needs to change. Her untreated anxiety is like a cancer - it's making her miserable, it's making you miserable, and she doesn't want to treat it. And it's destroying your relationship. So tell her that, in no uncertain terms.

If she won't seek treatment for her anxiety, the only bargaining chip you have is your presence in her life. So take that away until she seeks treatment. Maybe then she'll get treatment because she'll want you to come back. Maybe she won't. Either way, she will be making a choice - get healthy and have a chance at happiness or stay unhealthy and miserable. Right now, she's choosing to make you miserable because you'll stay whether she gets treatment or not so there's no reason for her to go to therapy.

Having severe untreated anxiety is preventing your wife from being happy and healthy. She has no reason to seek therapy for her anxiety as long as you are around. If you want to give her a good chance to be happy and healthy, you should leave.
posted by kat518 at 9:20 AM on July 8 [6 favorites]


I'm looking for suggestions as to ways that I could maintain my boundaries and see to my own needs without making my wife feel threatened.

That's not really possible when we're talking about someone who reads your journal. You are in the clutches of a controlling, paranoid person. She's not going to stop.

I'm not saying people can't change, because they can. However, they almost never do if they live in a self-reinforcing bubble. She's already told you that you are responsible for her being paraoid. That's a big clue: everything you do will just make her more paranoid. She'll always find justification that's she's right. This isn't a bad habit of hers, it's a total mindset.

I'm really sorry to say this, but I think you should leave her.
posted by spaltavian at 9:23 AM on July 8 [5 favorites]


Just adding to the chorus of people saying that you have done all you can and this relationship is over. Your wife is abusive and no one who has read all of your posts could fault you for leaving her at this point. IDK if you are religious or are holding onto the marriage for some other reason, but please read all the posts in this thread from people who have gotten out of awful marriages and try to give yourself permission to take care of YOU for a change.
posted by chaiminda at 9:47 AM on July 8 [6 favorites]


This might not be relevant, but I wanted to say it partly because you mentioned having difficulty seeing yourself as a victim in an assault that didn't follow the script most people associate with it.

Basically, in case the talk of abuse and cruelty rings false: abuse isn't always an intentional thing. It isn't always some abuser consciously trying to manipulate and hurt. It can happen, for example, when someone is so caught up in protecting themselves from their own pain that they are just unable to realize how much they're hurting the people around them. Because to realize that would be really, intensely painful, and they'll defend themselves in any way against having to do it, often by striking out really, really cruelly.

Sometimes people do eventually realize that whoever they're hurting is in fact more important to them than their own pain, and that it's the other person and not themselves that they need to protect.

However, I think that's pretty rare, certainly at the level you're describing. If you ever leave your relationship, will your wife think about how terrible it is that you left her? Or about how strongly she must have hurt you for you to finally leave? Probably not the latter, because there is an immense cost to self awareness like that.

To be clear, it's not protecting yourself from pain that's the problem: the problem is feeling entitled to take your pain out on others. So that is something to remember if your wife tells you that you're stonewalling, or bullying, or being abusive.

(This is also presumptuous and hopefully irrelevant, but: Regardless of whether or not you end the relationship, please don't bring any kids into it. There's nobody who should be attacked constantly by the person who's supposed to love them, and children least of all.)


To actually answer your question: You could give your wife a written account of what happened, together with a written explanation of how telling the story makes you feel and why her questioning makes you feel like shit (you can phrase this more tactfully). If she has questions, she should write them down for you, sit on them for a week, and re-read them aloud to make sure that she really, absolutely has to ask them. She should also write down why she feels that way. (I think this would be above and beyond the call of duty on your part and that she'll probably be insulted by the very suggestion, but it's a very valid compromise.) You could also ask her to read a book about rape survivors' feelings and the way they process them, if you think she has enough self-awareness for that to make a difference. Finally, you could ask her to go to a one-time meeting with a counselor who specializes in dealing with the aftermath of sexual assault, and to bring that counselor all her questions and see what they have to say about them. Frame it as trying to help her be closer to you by helping her to understand.
posted by egg drop at 9:53 AM on July 8 [11 favorites]


Why do you value yourself so little, that you're willing to remain in a relationship with an abusive bully?

The next time your wife brings it up, simply say, "Every time you ask me a question, I feel violated all over again. I won't discuss it with you anymore, full stop. I'm not stonewalling, I'm protecting myself from reliving the abuse I suffered, over and over and over again. If you can't understand that, then we're done here. Because I have feelings too, and I'm insecure too and I want to be loved too, but you keep hurting me and I deserve better than that."

Also, you're in an abusive relationship, please call a domestic violence hotline in your area to discuss with someone.

Men can be victims of domestic violence, men can be raped, men can be abused.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:54 AM on July 8 [18 favorites]


Forget the labels. Labels will just prevent you from focusing on the actual problem here. Were you 'really' raped? Is your wife 'really' abusive? Are you 'really' shutting her out? WHO CARES. She is making you miserable.

I worry that you will come up with reasons why your wife might be x, y and z, but she's not [label], so of course the advice here doesn't apply. But it does, no matter what words you choose to use to describe your situation.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:55 AM on July 8 [21 favorites]


With the sort of behavior you are describing and have described in previous posts from your wife, I think you should be thinking about your safety.

You are already in an emotionally and psychologically abusive relationship - there's no two ways about that. This sort of behavior seems like it is a likely precursor to physical violence. This lady has all the hallmarks - emotional instability, paranoid thoughts, entitlement, and no accountability.
posted by Willie0248 at 9:58 AM on July 8 [2 favorites]


How long did it take me to push her off? Why didn't I push her off sooner?

No, no, no. You were attacked and she's blaming you.

For some reason, even some people who would never blame a woman in this fashion seem to be OK with blaming a man. It's really important that you are working on not blaming yourself. This has to be your number one priority. If she's going to go on doing this, I think it's really a deal-breaker. This needs to be impressed on her. I like the suggestion someone made about discussing it one time with a therapist. But really, be ready to leave if she's going to go on like this.
posted by BibiRose at 10:00 AM on July 8 [1 favorite]


who wouldn't stop when I asked her to

You wrote this about the person who forced you into a non-consensual sexual encounter. But you could also say it about your wife. You should not be able to draw parallels between the person who hurt you so terribly and the person who is supposed to be your support. Please consider all the advice in this thread about finding a way to leave because you deserve not to be abused any more.
posted by billiebee at 10:02 AM on July 8 [13 favorites]


Your wife does not have to do therapy. But you can take the position that she clearly has some issue with what happened to you that she individually needs to work through somehow on her own and you are not going to let her grill you further.

My ex did not like doing therapy (for himself) or couples counseling with me. I sat him down one day and said "You don't have to do therapy. I just want our problems to get better. I don't care how that happens. If you don't like therapy, you can quit. It is just a means to an end. You can find some other way to get there." And he quit and was promptly a better husband and our problems did improve.

So that can happen. She can journal or process some other way if she chooses but you need to put it on her to deal with her emotional reaction here to what happened to you. You have your plate full with trying to deal with your own emotional reaction.

Yes, like others have said, this is icky. But it is really common for the partner of a victim of sexual assault to have trouble dealing with it and have big feels about it and for those big feels to be really complicated and icky and on and on and on. I was sexually abused as a kid and raped at age 12 and men who get intimately involved with me routinely want to know what happened and often do not deal very well with hearing those details. So while what she is doing is not good for you, it really isn't all that abnormal a reaction either. But if you are not ready to DTMFA (and that's totally your decision, not the decision of a bunch of internet strangers) then you just need to let her know that you are sorry she is having a hard time but you cannot and will not do this anymore and she needs to find another way to cope with how it is impacting her.

Also, since you don't journal anymore, I would destroy the old journals. Let that much of your past die. I have done a lot of journaling and therapy and so on over the years and, at some point, it helps to invest less in the past in order to give more to the present and future.
posted by Michele in California at 10:02 AM on July 8


From an anonymous commenter:
Dude. I'm so sorry. This is so fucked.

Reading your question was surreal for me. The thing that happened to you happened to me, almost exactly like that. What happened to you—what happened to us—was rape. You don't have to call it that if you don't want to, but just speaking in technical definitions: someone had sex with you without your consent. That's rape.

As for the way your wife treats you, I've been there, too, right down to her using Gottman as a bludgeon. Again, just for the sake of calling a spade a flat-bladed implement for moving earth: she is emotionally and psychologically abusing you. It's not your fault. It's not okay. And there is nothing you can do to make her stop—except leave.

I know you love her. I know you made a vow. I know you feel responsible. But she's not treating you with love. She's not honouring her vows. And she has placed every ounce of responsibility for both sides of this marriage on you. Your actions are your fault. Her actions are also your fault. The problems you are currently facing? Those are your fault, too, which means she doesn't have to change a single thing about her behaviour. How convenient.

I'm so sorry, but you need to leave. She is going to keep hurting you. She is going to keep blaming you. She is going to keep disrespecting you until you lose every ounce of your own self-respect. Until you lose yourself entirely. It happened to me, and but for the grace of a couple of excellent therapists and my surprisingly supportive family, I wouldn't be typing this right now.

The question you've asked is, "How do I maintain my boundaries and see to my own needs without making my wife feel threatened?" This is, respectfully, the wrong question; it is based on the faulty assumptions that you can "make" your wife feel anything, that your current course of action is "making" her feel "threatened," and that it is your responsibility to change course so you no longer "make" her feel that way.

It is not your actions that are making her feel threatened. It's your independence. While you remain in this marriage, any independent act you take will "threaten" her, and every instance of feeling "threatened" will be, to her, complete justification to continue abusing you. Any area of your life in which she does not already exert complete control will become a battleground, and that battle will only end in one of two ways.

Please, please leave. Before it's too late.
posted by restless_nomad at 10:02 AM on July 8 [59 favorites]


I want to provide a different perspective than a lot of the posters above, because it may help you realize what it is best for you to do.

Right now, there's a beast living inside your wife's mind. It's this angry, shouty, cruel beast. It's taking up all the space, there. There's no room for peaceful contemplation. There's no room for loving kindness for others. There's no room for loving kindness for herself. Instead, all the space in her mind is consumed by this beast. It does not care for your wife. It hates her. It stomps and rips into her. It is trying to take her over, and, right now, it appears to be winning.

Of course, I'm speaking metaphorically. I'm not sure entirely what the beast is a metaphor for -- it might be jealousy, it might be extremely low self-esteem, but it's something like that. But note that, along with causing pain and suffering for you, it's causing pain and suffering for her. Imagine what it's like, to live with that much anxiety. Imagine what it's like, to live with constant suspicion and anger at your spouse. Imagine what it's like to feel compelled to read your spouse's journal, to question him over and over again about a horrible event that happened to him so long ago. I'm imagining it, and just that is exhausting me. It is making me want to cry. Thinking about your experience right now also makes me cry -- but, again, right now, I'm staying focused on your wife's experience. And I think: that is no way for a human being to live.

Your wife is suffering. She is sick. She is hurting.

Now, you love your wife. You don't want her to hurt, to suffer. When she comes at you with accusations and biting questions, you answer because you recognize that they come from a place of pained anxiety. You answer, because it seems like the best way to relieve her suffering. You let her read your journals, because it seems like the best way to reassure her. You tell her the details of your therapy sessions, because it seems like the best way to keep her happy. But her questions, her demands, her constant interrogations are a symptom of a deeper problem, not the problem itself. The real problem is that beast in her mind. The questions and demands are that beast screaming for more food, so it can grow stronger, take up more space in her mind. When you answer her questions, give in to her demands, accept that she will interrogate you, you're feeding the beast, not helping her.

It may be useful for you to think about your wife like an addict. Most addicts are addicted to drugs, but your wife is instead addicted to interrogating you. She's addicted to that (momentary, slight, nowherenearsufficient) moment of relief she gets when she reads her journal and finds nothing about her, or when she hears that your therapist didn't say anything about her. When someone is addicted to drugs, their family members often make the mistake of helping them receive drugs. Without the drugs, the addict is in so much pain and misery that their family members think, "The compassionate thing for me to do is help them get more drugs." When someone is addicted to drugs, they are often awful to their family members. They will shout and scream and hit and threaten and manipulate their family members, to get them to give them more money for drugs. And the family members accept the abuse, because they think: "She's got a drug problem, she can't help it, all I can do is give in so she'll stop screaming at me / manipulating me / hitting me." And it seems like this is what you've been doing, too. You seem to say to yourself, on a daily basis, "She's got a serious jealousy-beast living in her mind, she can't help it, all I can do it answer her questions and let her read my journal and tell her about my therapy sessions, so she'll stop hurting me."

Of course, when you think about the drug addict, it's very clear: the family member's strategy isn't a good one. It just feeds the addiction. It just continues the cycle of abuse. The same is true in your case: you're feeding your wife's addiction.

I say all this, because I am worried. Everyone above has said, "You need to leave your wife to protect yourself." I am afraid that you'll see all of these answers and think in response, "But I must stay, for her sake." But, staying is not really going to help her. Staying, and continuing to feed the beast in her mind, is not a kindness. Staying, and putting up with the abuse, is not going to protect her from pain or misery. Instead, it will only help that beast destroy her. I thoroughly believe that the kindest, most compassionate, most courageous and selfless thing you can do is leave.

I am really sorry, but I am afraid you cannot make your wife better. You cannot kill the beast. Only she can--provided she seeks out the expert help of therapists, provided she is self-motivated and committed. You cannot make her want help. You cannot force her to realize that this mind-beast is destroying her and destroying you. I am really sorry.

If you leave, there is a chance that she will recognize how much this mind-beast has harmed her. If she is forced to see that her jealousy and anxiety has destroyed her relationship, then there is a chance that she will recognize what a problem it is and seek help. If you stay, there is no chance of this happening. If you stay, you get to absorb the pain and misery being unleashed by her mind-beast, and she will have no chance of recognizing it is a problem, of seeking help. Of course, if you leave, she may very well not get help. But that's her decision. At least, though, if you leave, you will have done everything you could to give her the wake-up call she needs, and you will have protected yourself from a terribly destructive and painful way of life.

Again, I am sorry. This must be so terribly difficult for you. I hope your therapist can help you through these tough times, and I hope you can find the strength to do what you have to do. What you have to do for your sake and for hers. You cannot save your wife; you cannot make her better. But you can extract yourself from this dysfunction, and doing so is the most compassionate thing you can do for her.
posted by meese at 10:03 AM on July 8 [65 favorites]


Also, if you don't want to "stonewall", you can offer to talk with her about HER feelings about what happened but stop answering her questions about your feelings and the details.
posted by Michele in California at 10:04 AM on July 8 [2 favorites]


You cannot kill the beast. Only she can--provided she seeks out the expert help of therapists, provided she is self-motivated and committed. You cannot make her want help.

To be specific: you cannot make her want non-beast-approved help for as long as the beast stays in charge.

This on the face it is the world's nastiest, saddest catch-22. The beast is in charge, and it's obviously never going to let her get help that might change that situation. So you're in this horrible bind where you love this woman which leads inexorably to feeling that you have no choice but to offer whatever help you can, while knowing full well that the only help she seeks from you is (a) destructive to you and (b) ineffective vis a vis beast removal.

But here's the thing: the beast is not in charge of you.

Every time you set a boundary, and enforce it instead of letting it collapse regardless of how provocative that makes the beast, that's you demonstrating completely clearly that the beast is not all-powerful. And knowing that might - just might - turn out to be something your wife can use to start the long and arduous internal work required to lock the fucker down.
posted by flabdablet at 10:30 AM on July 8 [5 favorites]


Different point:
The history: When I was younger, there was an incident that, were the genders reversed, would be called rape....

I'm not comfortable calling it rape, but I think that's mostly because I don't want to think of myself as a rape victim, and also because of societal, in-grained, "hey, no such thing as female-on-male rape"-y thoughts.


You can call it whatever you please, but if and when you feel comfortable doing so, it's CERTAINLY acceptable to call this 'rape', because it is. Textbook definition right here: "... wouldn't stop when I asked her to...."

A good friend of mine was raped by a woman, who drugged him. It took me a long time to realize it was rape; my mind just wouldn't let me phrase it that way.

Regardless of how it's framed, you have a lot of pain to deal with, and your wife isn't even interested in making it easier for you. DTMFA.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:35 AM on July 8 [2 favorites]


You will never heal and find contentment if you are bound to an abuser who peels off your scabs and pokes sticks into your wounds. There's nothing that you can do to reframe your experiences to make her change and be less cruel.

Yes, she is emotionally sick, but it's not for you to fix her through endlessly allowing yourself to be abused and mistreated. That approach simply doesn't work and it will never work. Your love and endless sacrifice will not cure her sick emotional and mental states. You've made every effort to improve this relationship at some very real costs to your own wellbeing. Please consider that this is a permanently toxic and destructive relationship for both of you and give yourself the option to start a new life that is focused on your healing and happiness. Please don't stay with someone who forces you to relive your rape while blaming you for the assault.

You deserve a happy life and a chance to put past traumas behind you. You cannot have that with her. I'm rooting for you. I have a feeling that a lot of us here are.
posted by quince at 10:37 AM on July 8 [3 favorites]


I don't know who Gottman is or what Gottman's Four Horses of the Marriage Apocalypse are, but if "Trying to get your raped spouse to admit they enjoyed it" is not one of them, there need to be more than four.
posted by Flunkie at 10:47 AM on July 8 [56 favorites]


Please, please listen to meese. Your relationship with your wife is not healthy for either one of you. She may choose to find another relationship that reinforces this toxic dynamic, but there's no reason that you should continue to suffer this way. It is not ok for someone who professes to love you to insinuate that you must have enjoyed being raped. Or read your journals. Or break into your email. Or demand information about your private therapy sessions. This woman is actively endangering your recovery, and you deserve to feel safe while you're working through all of this.
posted by xyzzy at 11:14 AM on July 8 [4 favorites]


From an anonymous commenter:
I'm the wife of a man who is a survivor of sexual assault. He told me about it once. It makes me very upset and anxious to even think about it because I love my him so much and can't imagine such a warm, gentle, and lovely man being treated so violently.

However. I never bring it up to him. It's not my place to make him talk about it. Why would I want to hurt him?

If I'm have some feelings about it (like now that it's been brought up here), I believe they are entirely my feelings and I will not burden him with them. I cope by hugging him tighter, spooning him closer at night, making him his favorite dinner, etc. You get the idea.

Your wife isn't thinking of you in a loving way, she isn't caring for you, no matter how much you love her. It must break your heart. I'm so sorry.

Lots of excellent advice of what to do above. This community provides incredible support and I'd take what they say to heart, no matter how it hurts.
posted by restless_nomad at 11:25 AM on July 8 [37 favorites]


Your wife needs help. It sounds to me like she might have some sort of secondary trauma thing going on, where your trauma has been picked up by her anxiety and she's running it over and over in her head, trying to reconcile stuff that is outside of the norm of expected experiences (trauma).

I don't know what that help is.

I agree with the poster(s) above who have said that abusive behaviour isn't always intentional. I think that may well be what's going on here. But, whatever the case, she's being abusive. You need to be safe...emotionally, physically....

Please ask your counsellor to help you create a safety plan. This should include your online activities as well. Ask for help in planning how to get yourself to safety and what to do if things escalate. You should talk to a lawyer.

You can leave your wife. You have permission. But you should do so with a safety plan.

That being said, you don't have to leave your wife forever. It is okay to get yourself safe and to ask your wife to make herself safe to herself and to you. You have a right to set and name these boundaries. You can choose how things will go. You can choose to go back, to see her once a week, to have 3 dates a week, to never see her again. You are in control. What you can do now is plan for safety and choose safety. From there, you can take your next step. I know how hard it is to leave. What helped me was seeing it in baby steps and seeing that I had control and could change or revisit my decisions. You can write your own story. You don't have to follow a script. You have control here. You aren't used to having that control, but you can have it. Baby steps.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 11:34 AM on July 8 [2 favorites]


To add on to meese's excellent answer, right now, your wife's addiction to anxiety and feeling terrible is a problem for both of you. She is making it your problem. You need to make it *her* problem. Because right now, since she made it your problem, she thinks you have to fix it. Leaving her would be empowering her to fix her problem. That doesn't mean that she will fix it. But you've got enough problems on your own. You don't need to borrow any from her.
posted by kat518 at 11:46 AM on July 8


I'm looking for suggestions as to ways that I could maintain my boundaries and see to my own needs without making my wife feel threatened.

I'm sorry, but there is literally nothing you can do to assuage your wife's anxieties. You can tell her literally every thought that crosses your mind, you can give her 24/7 access to your life, you can be in contact with her every second of every day, and none of it will make a difference. She will find something else to be anxious about, she will find another boundary she has to cross in order to relieve her own anxieties. This is abusive, whether she intends or knows it to be or not.

You have to leave her, if only temporarily. She has to get real help, and she has to be honest with her therapists. There is nothing you can do to help her, at this point. She has to help herself. If she is unwilling or unable to, then I'm sorry, but you should leave her. Love does not demand that you destroy yourself for its sake.
posted by yasaman at 11:50 AM on July 8 [9 favorites]


A previous question of yours said that you had separated from your wife from a bit. I want to emphasize that 1. it's ok to leave again, even if it feels indecisive or fickle, and 2. the separation may not have fixed everything, and so you may be looking at the advice to leave and thinking, "I tried that, it didn't work." It's still ok to leave again. Leaving is about making sure you stay healthy and safe and your wife's jealousy-beast stops feeding on you. It may take a much longer, more permanent break than a three-month separation for those things to happen.
posted by jaguar at 11:53 AM on July 8 [11 favorites]


Hey, I'm a wife. If my husband was in therapy for something traumatic (or just in general) I would a) understand that what they talk about is None of My Business and b) especially understand that a traumatic event such as you describe was especially None of My Business, unless he wished to talk about it. In which case my role would be to listen, and hug, and support and reassure. Never never never to attack and criticize.

Marriage does NOT grant you the right to know every thought in your spouse's head.

And in no healthy relationship should anyone feel free to criticize an assault survivor's actions during an assault, or demand constant justifications for calling it assault, or read their journal, etc. etc. Because that's not friendship or love or concern. It's just flat-out bullying and abuse.

Please find a way to leave, and be safe somewhere away from your wife. Who knows what drives her actions? It's not your responsibility to find out or fix it. Just to keep yourself safe and get the help you need.

We're pulling for you.
posted by emjaybee at 12:29 PM on July 8 [7 favorites]


A lot of people are basically discussing the "comfort in, dump out" model of relationships and support, which is incredibly important in a marriage. Here is a better explanation of the model; essentially, the person who is dealing with the event or issue or trauma (you) is in the center, and people on the outside do not get to "dump" their issues on the person in the center - they send in comfort and go to the outer rings for their own comfort.

We do not ask people with cancer to tell us everything is going to be OK. That's not their job. Just like it's not your job as someone who has undergone a trauma - one that you can label however you would like - to reassure your wife that you haven't really undergone the trauma, and that actually it wasn't traumatic at all.

This is your issue to label or not label or discuss or not discuss or deal with alongside your therapist or not or to ignore or to grapple with or whatever, whatever you'd like to do with it.

This is not your wife's issue. She should be comforting you. You are in the center here.

You are important and you matter.
posted by sockermom at 1:00 PM on July 8 [16 favorites]


The only person who consistently wanted to know what I talked about in therapy was my mother, who also causes most of my issues. Coincidence? I think not.

Your wife is victim-blaming and gaslighting you, and I'm so, so sorry. I also tend to get anxiety especially concerning my boyfriend, and I get the urge to ask questions, but oh my god, she has crossed the line. She is so far beyond the line she couldn't even see it if she travelled back 50.000 miles.
posted by LoonyLovegood at 2:24 PM on July 8 [9 favorites]


The biggest issue I see is that you open yourself up about something traumatic that happened to you and your wife heard that you may have cheated. That's absolutely irrational. There is no fixing that.

Your wife's terror about you leaving is actually a self fulfilling prophecy for her. Her anxiety is damaging you and her. You can either name it point blank and see what happens, live the no boundaries emeshment abuse or leave. I hope you find peace in your own life and I hope she finds peace as well. But the is no real reason to search for peace together.
posted by AlexiaSky at 3:35 PM on July 8 [3 favorites]


FFS. If my husband had badgered me about my rape, tried to force me to admit I ENJOYED it, or wanted it to happen, or anything else... that was exactly the stuff my rapist said at the trial, exactly the stuff I needed nobody to believe. I needed everybody to say they believed me, that they knew I hadn't wanted it, that he was guilty, because I needed to feel clean again.

The idea that your wife is the one disbelieving you, telling you that you must have wanted it... I really think I might have killed myself if my husband hadn't believed me. It was so important to me to not feel dirty any more. Your wife is a malevolent witch, just fucked up beyond description. For the sake of your mental health you need not to hear her, and if that means leaving her then that is what I would do if I were you. I actually feel really nauseated and a bit flash-backy just thinking about it. God knows how you feel living it. Whether this was rape or forced intercourse or something else, it was a complete violation and she is now making it even worse. I can't imagine being so cruel to somebody I kind of dislike, let alone somebody I supposedly loved. How do you ever think that's a good road to start down? How the fuck do you carry on doing it, when you've seen the effect it's having on your partner? It's unconscionable.

You mentioned that if the genders were reversed this would be rape. Please try to imagine the genders being reversed again, and your wife telling you about her rape and you reacting with anger, calling her a slut and insisting she must have wanted to be raped. Isn't that completely fucked up? Can you even imagine doing that? It's horrific. But she's doing that to you.
posted by tinkletown at 4:15 PM on July 8 [22 favorites]


Also, if you don't want to "stonewall", you can offer to talk with her about HER feelings about what happened but stop answering her questions about your feelings and the details.
posted by Michele in California

I can understand your attitude to your wife, even if I think that you are making a mistake. If you want to go on the front foot, Michele has an excellent strategy. The real question here is not your 'problem' (that is not a problem because you are confronting the issue, and dealing with it). It is, 'what is HER problem', as Meese and so many others have so graphically posed.

It is very difficult for you to clearly see through the emotional turmoil you are experiencing, but I think what you NEED is some space, a place where you can deal with your issues fully and properly. It doesn't seem like that place is in this marriage. Either she changes, or ....

Don't leave it too long, you only have one life.
posted by GeeEmm at 5:38 PM on July 8 [1 favorite]


I'm so sorry. The situation you're in sounds terrible. I can't imagine not having privacy with my therapist, or in my journal.

I agree with what's been said upthread: the most effective response is to end the conversation. Responding to her probing with information reinforces the behavior. Ignoring the question (or declining to discuss the issue) will probably be the most effective way of reducing the frequency of the interrogations. Leaving the relationship is also an absolutely, perfectly okay way to stop the questioning.

Her questioning what happened to you must feel terribly invalidating. I'm so sorry. That sort of response, and the continued questioning, is an awful way for a person to respond to someone opening up about such an intimate and hurtful event. I'm so sorry.
posted by MrBobinski at 6:08 PM on July 8


Also, if you don't want to "stonewall", you can offer to talk with her about HER feelings about what happened ...
posted by Michele in California

Though in general I would agree with this strategy, my concern in this situation is that the OP's wife would confuse her feelings with her thoughts and end up cloaking additional abusive comments under the guise of "expressing feelings"--for example, "I feel threatened by this event in your past because I feel like if you didn't want it, you could have stopped it."

I'm so sorry about this situation, OP. I agree with everyone upthread and hope that you can find ways to find comfort and peace for yourself as you untangle this and find a way forward.
posted by dreamphone at 6:12 PM on July 8 [7 favorites]


I'm so sorry you are going through this. As everyone else has mentioned, you have the ABSOLUTE right to your privacy when it comes to such a horrible crime against you. Please treat yourself kindly and put your mental state first.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:00 PM on July 8 [2 favorites]


Didn't I want it, really? (the implication being that I must have.)

You would not accept this from anyone else talking about anyone else. That's why you wrote this with this amount of bitterness, because you already know it's wrong.

I don't call what happened with me rape either, and I won't argue that you should. I will argue that that doesn't matter in this context. Your traumas are also yours, and the first part of healing is claiming what happened.

Your claim on that means you get to tell the story, because it's yours. I don't know whether your wife is abusive, although I don't like what's happening very much. But whether she is, your story remains yours to dictate as you will. It's your time, not hers. You repeat the experience of assault by acquiescing. Don't do that.
posted by Errant at 1:30 AM on July 9


Imagine if the rolls were reversed: Wife comes home after therapy. Husband, who refuses to go to therapy himself, demands to know in detail what was discussed.
Wife, prior to meeting husband, had a traumatic incident involving non-consensual sex. Husband demands wife talk about it, repeatedly, implying that wife actually wanted it & wife should feel bad about this.
See where I'm going with this?

I've been in your shoes with an ex-boyfriend. I don't know what your wife's reasons are. I do know that controlling abusive partners will do everything they can to keep their partners with them. If that includes messing with their partner's inner strength, happiness, and self-esteem so that partner is too weak to leave, so be it. If therapy, or any other thing, makes you at ease, confident, and happy - then controlling abusive partner will want to derail that. Tense, insecure, unhappy people stay with their controlling partners.

That being said, listen to the above advice concerning your sense of agency. Yes, your partner is being outrageous & unreasonable. But you are catering to her demands.
She's not going to magically become reasonable, supportive, and respectful of [human decency] boundaries. That's like a child throwing a massive tantrum in a store demanding hundreds of dollars worth of toys, and the parents buy those toys every single time. If anything, those tantrums and demands are just going to escalate. Stop trying to appease her when she's demanding something out of line. YOU are the only one who can demand that line. Instead of resenting yourself for not imposing that line (which is what a lot of abused ppl do), use that energy to start enforcing it.
Such as: "baby, I just don't want to talk about it."
posted by Neekee at 4:45 AM on July 9


Btw, I read your question before bed. What you are going through disturbed me so much, brought back so many issues on my part, that I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn't sleep again.
You have every right to be disturbed by your wife's actions. Every right. She has no right to demand such things of you. No right to put you through that. If your not allowing her to do that bothers her, upsets her in any way: that is her problem to deal with, not yours.
posted by Neekee at 4:54 AM on July 9 [1 favorite]


If the situation you describe isn't solid grounds for divorce, nothing is. NO ONE deserves that kind of nightmarish nonsense.
posted by dbiedny at 7:29 AM on July 9 [3 favorites]


OP, relationships AskMes almost NEVER result in such near-unanimous advice. Please, please heed it (especially meese's excellent thoughts).

You may possibly be thinking "well, they don't have the whole story", or "well, perhaps I'm mistaken", or something along those lines. Please DON'T. Unless you've flat-out lied about the facts of the situation, Yes, Things ARE That Bad. Trust your gut and trust people who've been there.

You deserve better than this. You can HAVE better than this. We're rooting for you.

There is nothing, NOTHING virtuous/moral/good about staying in an abusive, manipulative, coercive facsimile of a "relationship". It does neither party any favors. It is not kind and it is not wise. It just wastes TWO lives.
posted by julthumbscrew at 8:03 AM on July 9 [8 favorites]


You may possibly be thinking "well, they don't have the whole story", or "well, perhaps I'm mistaken", or something along those lines. Please DON'T. Unless you've flat-out lied about the facts of the situation, Yes, Things ARE That Bad.

She could rescue kittens from burning buildings and cure cancer and I would still tell you, OP, to get out. This is as cruel as if she had stabbed you with a hot poker.... added on top to all the OTHER things she's done in your previous questions.

You probably do love her and I am not denying or disputing that. She may not be conscious of her cruelty, but she does not love you, and your love alone is not enough to rescue the marriage. Her anxiety is a bottomless pit and nothing you do will fill it. You cannot save her from herself.

I'm so sorry. Separating is difficult and miserable and hard but it will be worth it, for both of you. It's really down to logistics and lawyers now, the damage to the marriage was done a long time ago.
posted by desjardins at 8:44 AM on July 9 [2 favorites]


Just because you love someone, it doesn't mean that you have to stay if they hurt you.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:01 AM on July 9 [3 favorites]


All,

I'm absolutely overwhelmed right now. I've read all through the comments thread twice (assuming, at first, that I'd misread the number of comments). I don't quite know what to say, and I'm crying.

I don't know what the next step is right now. Every comment encouraging me to leave seems to make me feel… I don't know… glad? relieved? Not sure yet.

I have an appointment with my therapist scheduled for tomorrow afternoon, and them I'm away on business for a week. That'll give me time to reflect and decide what I want to do. Or at least I hope it will.

But thank you. From the bottom of my heart. I love all of you so much right now, I can't even begin to say how much.
posted by yasp at 9:04 AM on July 9 [80 favorites]


I hadn't intended to post but have been following the comments with great interest and hope that you would find help here, so I am super happy to see your update, yasp!

I have some similar problems with the labels I want/don't want to put on certain events in my past. Abuse and rape come with issues of intent, blame, implications of victimhood, etc. My circumstances have a lot of gray areas and I am still sorting this stuff out.

Trying to figure out what to call things, was what kept me in a horrible relationship for way too long. I finally realized that it was all just semantics. The important part was that the relationship was not healthy, and ultimately I didn't need to have everything figured out and neatly labeled in order to decide to get out. I didn't have to be able to definitely say "this is abuse" in order to KNOW "this is not how I want and deserve to be treated." The latter is enough reason to leave.

A good relationship will never be perfect but won't make you feel so tangled up and boxed in.

Good luck, and feel free to private-message me for any reason. You have more people on your side than you know.
posted by jessicapierce at 9:27 AM on July 9 [7 favorites]


FWIW: Women often do not know whether or not to use the word "rape" to describe what happened to them. (A recent post on the blue had that as an issue -- she was not sure how to think about it until a prosecutor informed her that, under the law of the state she was in, yea, verily, it was rape even though there was no penile penetration.) And men seem to generally have a harder time in the aftermath of being sexually assaulted. It is a lot more "normal" for a woman to get assaulted by a man. There seems to generally be a lot more shame and other baggage for men.
posted by Michele in California at 9:39 AM on July 9


Yes, you do not have to use the word "abuse" if you don't want when you think about or talk about your wife. What matters is not the label: it is that you feel bad, a lot of the time (most of the time?) because of the way your wife is treating you, and in the past twelve or thirteen years you have tried probably everything under the sun that you could try to get her to change her behavior.

We cannot change other people, which is so unfortunate. I can't tell you how many nights I spent crying in bed, staring at my popcorn ceiling, willing this absolute truth to be untrue, just for a moment, so that I could make my ex treat me well.

Isn't that sad? That I was hoping for something so basic, hoping so hard that I literally prayed. I'm an atheist! But I went to church after leaving him, for several months, because I thought to myself that I'd tried everything, I might as well pray to God to see if that worked. A last-ditch effort.

I finally realized that while I could not change his behavior - even by praying, even by hoping, even by begging and pleading and screaming with him and fighting back and giving in and doing what he wanted and doing what I wanted and trying everything under the sun for years, burning away precious years of my life, which is bound to be a short one (they all are), on a lost cause - that while I could not change his behavior, I could change my circumstances. I could leave, and he could do whatever it is he decided to do alone, without me.

You can change your circumstances. You don't have to leave her now, you don't have to make any big decisions or choices right away. You know yourself and your life best. You know what to do. It might not feel like you know what to do, but you know, inside, what you have to do and you will figure out how to do it in the way that is best for you. My own story of leaving is a bit shameful, but I did what I needed to do to get out, and I regret absolutely none of it. None of it.

It is very telling that you think you feel relieved. It's telling for two reasons: (1) You know, inside, somewhere, that this is not right, and that you cannot change it, and having that validation from over a hundred MeFites feels good, because (2) You have hidden your own feelings from yourself for a very long time, my friend. And you may not know how to feel them. I know that I didn't know how to feel things, after leaving, for awhile. I still don't. It took me years to realize what anxiety feels like! I hadn't felt things in a long time: I had swallowed them, I had hidden them, I had talked them away from myself. I think that learning how to feel again is a very scary and difficult part of the journey out that is not discussed enough - feeling things seems so natural to people who have not been in our situation. It is natural. I strongly suggest journaling again, perhaps in a place where your wife will not or cannot access (can you keep it locked up at work, for example?) Journaling was a key part of learning how to feel again and how to process my own emotions, and I think it might be a very helpful thing for you to consider as you work your way through this process.

This will be a long, hard road, but I cannot overstate how worth it that journey will be. It will change you and scar you and pain you and be hard, so hard, but you can do it. You've survived this until now: you can survive the best part of it all. The best is yet to be. It doesn't feel that way - it probably feels as if you are standing on the edge of a very steep cliff, like you are about to fall and melt away and become nothing - but believe me, friend: you may feel like nothing for awhile, without her, if you decide to walk away, but soon, you will start to feel again, and you will feel strong. You will feel free. You will feel again, and it will feel damn good.

Best of luck to you. MeMail me if you'd like.
posted by sockermom at 10:02 AM on July 9 [10 favorites]


Also, while it is definitely useful to be able to accurately name the events of your past (because doing so will make you better able to communicate with your therapist and loved ones about it, and will give you the right keywords to seek out help from others who have experienced similar things, and can help you find coping strategies for your particular trauma) - when you're in the thick of things, if you're having trouble with the words, it might be helpful to give yourself permission to just mentally call it the Bad Thing That Happened In Your Past.

This may sound goofy, but it really helped me. Simplifying it to this level may help you get a clearer picture that what your wife is doing isn't kind or fair. It's not a loving act to harangue for more details about any Past Bad Thing. If your loved one has a known sensitive spot, you're not supposed to poke it, you are supposed to protect it.
posted by jessicapierce at 10:09 AM on July 9 [4 favorites]


This sounds like she's looking for a way to justify something she has done or is considering doing.
posted by turbid dahlia at 5:13 PM on July 9


I take marriage very, very seriously. I consider it a serious amount of work, to which both partners are committed. I practically never think divorce is an option. I consider marriage vows to be a solemn promise to "do the work" of marriage, no matter what it takes, no matter what that turns out to mean.

Therefore, to me there are absolutely no "deal breakers" in marriage EXCEPT refusing to "do the work." Any conflict can be resolved; any growing apart can be inched back together; any wound can be healed around. But if either partner refuses to try, refuses to go to therapy, refuses to look at his or her own baggage and darkness and anxiety, that is the ultimate breaking of the marriage vow. Nothing can be healed if both partners are not fully committed to working, both together and within themselves.

The comments above have covered the extremely important ground of your particular circumstances: The bad thing that happened in your past was not your fault and it's inexcusable to blame you for it. The way your wife treats you is unconscionable (I would say abusive but you can use whatever language works for you). But for me, even before reading any of that, the deal was broken at "she refuses to go to therapy." You can't heal a marriage by yourself. Her vow was broken long ago, and has been broken many times since. Talk to your therapist, hold your heart gently and bravely, play your cards close to your chest, and get a lawyer.

We are all rooting for you and holding you in our hearts.
posted by TrixieRamble at 3:42 PM on July 11 [6 favorites]


Yasp, I've read all of your questions as you've posted them, and your situation has remained with me as one I've thought about periodically, hoping you are all right. Your most recent update makes me feel SO happy for you and I sincerely hope that your reflection period helps you figure out a course of action that will put you in a safe and healthy place - your posts have always struck me as ones made by a good and caring person, and you absolutely deserve a secure, happy life. Towards that end, while I think ALL of the comments in this thread are worth re-reading many times, I think julthumbscrew's early-on comment especially bears repeating:

Imagine a life WITHOUT your wife's anxieties in it... a life where you are entitled to privacy, where you can come and go as you please without being interrogated, where you do not have to perpetually reassure another person of your good intentions, where you are FREE. That life is possible.

Count me as one more internet stranger who is rooting hard for you.
posted by DingoMutt at 6:41 AM on July 12 [2 favorites]


Another thing: while I absolutely agree with the advice in this thread, and think that at this point you would be practicing good self-care (and ultimately care for your wife as well) if you seriously considered leaving for good, one thing that bothers me is that you came in here asking for ways to set boundaries without upsetting your wife, and instead you mostly got answers telling you that you can't, you need to leave her, etc.

Again, I absolutely think these answers are correct and that you need and deserve to hear them, and I don't at all want to undermine them. Even so, it bothers me that this could be another instance where you ask for something specific but are not actually given that ... I feel like there IS a difference in that your wife and the woman who assaulted you both ignored what you wanted for selfish reasons, and not because they wanted to see you healthy and happy - but even so, I think it's worth both acknowledging that this seems to be a thing that happens to you, and recognizing that your wants as you express them are valid, even if in some instances (this one, specifically) they're not possible to achieve.

Given your update, it sounds like the answers you're receiving ARE giving you what you really wanted but couldn't bring yourself to ask for outright - as sockermom says, it sounds like part of you knows your situation is not right and that you cannot heal your wife. In that light, if you're not doing so already, it might be good to work with your therapist on allowing yourself to clearly identify your own wants as well as working on ways to expect that others will respect your wishes, once identified. Again, all my best to you; I'm pulling for you to find peace and safety.
posted by DingoMutt at 7:19 AM on July 12 [3 favorites]


I think there's a difference though between disregarding someone's autonomy outright and acknowledging it, but disregarding the desired solution they're hoping for.

Imho. it's just not possible to set boundaries with someone when they have no compunction about violating them in the first place.
posted by redindiaink at 10:19 PM on July 15 [2 favorites]


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