Coping with Husband's Silent Treatment
April 11, 2010 11:33 AM   Subscribe

How do I respond to my husband's silent treatment? He has got incredibly angry over some perceived error on my part and is now icing me out whenever we are alone. I don't know what to do.

I strongly suspect he has undiagnosed Asperger's (but has contempt for therapists and the whole idea of psychology so there's no chance of getting a professional opinion on this).

Yesterday we were idly discussing some remodeling ideas for our condo, and we had a difference of opinion. Somehow, he interpreted my conduct during this conversation as "lying" and blew up into a gigantic rage, swearing at me, calling me a bullshitter and a liar, claiming that I know better than to lie as I know he can't stand it, and demanding that I think carefully about what I have done, because I had better not ever do it again.

It was a tremendously trivial conversation, and not a significant or important disagreement (about the effect of mirrors on one's perception on the size of a room!). Try as I might, I cannot figure out how he could have interpreted anything I said as lying. I did try to apologize at the time but without really being sure of what was apologizing for, and clearly it didn't satisfy him.

An odd twist is that my mother was in the room at the time, and she is as mystified as I am. She can't figure out what his problem is either, and commented that it is as if there's just some missing connection in his brain. He just shifted from normal to enraged in a second.

He would admit to being an angry person. We work at the same company and he frequently has problems with coworkers where he has the same "trigger" of deciding somebody is "lying". In almost every case I can find a much more plausible explanation where the person is either mistaken, confused or just has a difference of opinion. My husband seems to be attached to this idea of unambiguous "truth", which is obvious to anyone logical, so if anyone disagrees with his version of the truth, they must be in some way mendacious.

Having him be this way is a pain in the ass, but I'm mostly at peace with it in that I have accepted there is very little if anything I can do to change him, and I either accept him or move on. Despite the awful above picture, he actually does have very many good qualities, and if he's not "triggered" he can be charming, funny, kind and intelligent. It helps me to realize he's wired differently and that trying to apply logic to his behavior sometimes is futile.

I think this is one of those situations. I'm sure I didn't do anything actually "wrong" although I am genuinely sorry that he's distressed.

My mother is staying with us for the weekend and since "the incident" he's been perfectly civil whenever she's in the room with us (although he did storm off immediately afterwards for a few hours) but whenever it's just him & me, he doesn't speak more than absolutely necessary and gives me hard looks if I try to engage him. In the ~24 hours since this started, he has even laughed at my jokes - when there are others around. When it's just us - he's icy.

He has previously frozen me out like this for an entire week. On that occasion it was because of a misunderstanding during a technical discussion at work. I claimed ignorance of a specific technical point which he insisted I knew. Therefore I was lying and that was unacceptable.

After a week I managed to frame an apology in a way that was acceptable to him, and "normal life" resumed. In the meantime he spoke to me in front of coworkers but not ever at home or when we were alone.

It may be that I do need to DTMFA but right now I'm not ready to do that.

I just need immediate practical advice as to how to respond. Do I ignore him, too? Pretend that he is talking to me and have one-sided conversations with him? If I try to apologize again too quickly, I'm concerned that he want to discuss it, catch me out again, and continue to blame me for whatever else I "mess up". So I feel he needs to cool down before any dialog with me is even possible.

Do I just wait it out? It could go on for weeks. He can hold grudges for a very long time.

At this point it is not about what is fair or right. I know that what he is doing is not fair, but I also know I have no chance of persuading him of this. In the meantime, I'm tense, stressed, lonely and unhappy and I just want it to be over.

Assuming he doesn't have the brain circuits to understand what he's doing wrong, is there anything I can do to improve my situation, in 2 hours from now when my mother goes home and I'm left alone with him?
posted by geekgirl397 to Human Relations (64 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Just because he won't go to therapy doesn't mean you can't. You need to go so you can figure out why you tolerate this nonsense from him.

And it IS abusive nonsense. I don't care if he is a paragon of perfection the rest of the time.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 11:38 AM on April 11, 2010 [34 favorites]

I should add this is not about his problem with perception, assuming he does have one. This is about his reaction to said problem and his choice to act like an ass about it.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 11:39 AM on April 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

Before you DTMFA, tell him he's acting like a childish asshole, and to fuck right off with both the accusations of lying and the silent treatment, because this, right here, this is hardcore bullshit—you don't treat someone you love like this. Hell, you don't even treat strangers like this. It's emotionally abusive.

Seriously, if he does this regularly, you need to have a come to Jesus talk where he either gets therapy or you leave—and some therapy for you probably couldn't hurt.
posted by klangklangston at 11:40 AM on April 11, 2010 [54 favorites]

I agree; this is emotional abuse. You should think about talking to someone on how to handle this or how to DTMFA if it comes to that. Since he holds therapy in contempt, be prepared to be treated contemptuously if you go. I was frequently treated to silence from my (now ex) husband for nothing at all and ended up divorcing him after his final refusal to participate in any kind of therapy or couples' counseling. I hope it doesn't have to come to that for you, but please see a professional on how to best cope with his anger and mistreatment.
posted by motsque at 11:52 AM on April 11, 2010

blew up into a gigantic rage, swearing at me, calling me a bullshitter and a liar, claiming that I know better than to lie as I know he can't stand it, and demanding that I think carefully about what I have done, because I had better not ever do it again.

Let's say you had made a significant error or said something untrue or otherwise wronged your husband. This is not an appropriate reaction, nor is refusing to talk to you. Further, it is abusive and wrong to angrily accuse loved ones (or anyone, really) of "lying" when what they've really done is say something that contradicts his perspective or assumptions.

I strongly second St. Alia's suggestion of therapy for yourself. You don't have to tell him about it, and you certainly don't need to tell him, "I'm going to therapy because of you." Just go. You can't change your husband, no. But you can expect to be treated decently, and you can learn better ways of effectively communicating with him. People might rush to say that your husband needs therapy, and yeah he might benefit from it if he were open to it, but I think it's really hard to be the non-anger problem or non-mentally ill or non-whatever partner--it's hard to know what to put up with as part of who your partner is and when to say, "The way you're treating me is inappropriate." I think that a therapist could be very helpful in working out distinctions between personal quirks and unhealthy behavior.
posted by Meg_Murry at 11:53 AM on April 11, 2010 [7 favorites]

This is an extremely stressful way to live inside of a relationship, and I agree that it could be considered emotional abuse. Stonewalling is one of the most poisonous ways to interact with a partner, because it is extremely self-centered, and ultimately is the same as saying outright "I don't care about you, I don't respect you, and I feel contempt toward you". And it's a choice made by an individual, not a symptom of poor social skills. If he had Asperger's, I can imagine that he might have a hard time understanding why you are upset sometimes, not know how to comfort you, etc. etc., but Asperger's does not make people emotionally violent.

I strongly encourage you to talk to someone alone and/or, if you can manage it somehow, as a couple.
posted by so_gracefully at 11:53 AM on April 11, 2010 [3 favorites]

From what you've said here, he sounds a lot like my ex who had obsessive compulsive personality disorder. Of course, I don't have enough information to know whether that's what's up with your husband but you may wish to read about it and decide for yourself if the descriptions fit. I found this message board extremely helpful for understanding and dealing with my ex - maybe you will too:

OCPD forum

Best of luck - if it is OCPD you'll need it.
posted by hazyjane at 11:56 AM on April 11, 2010

Ignore him, absolutely do not apologize. He is the one who owes you an apology.

Think long and hard about what you get out of this relationship, and if you want to spend the rest of your life with someone who cares more about the "truth" than he does about you.

Do you plan on having kids someday? What would you do if he acted like this with your child?

It is irrelevant how his brain is wired - you are not responsible for his distress, and should be wary of getting into a situation where you must submit to him in order to keep the peace. Please value yourself enough not to give in - you deserve respect, and he isn't showing it to you.
posted by meringue at 11:57 AM on April 11, 2010 [7 favorites]

I think the best advice has already been given -- therapy and leaving. On the chance those are off the table, then I would look at how his game works. You say something; he throws a temper-tantrum and pouts; you work to appease; he grudgingly accepts your apology for his temper-tantrum. Neat game of manipulation to get attention!

So, what if you just don't notice, at all, for as long as it takes? Never engage him in conversation, never acknowledge his presence, until he tries to talk or acknowledges you. Then, only do the bare minimum. It could go on for weeks? Fantastic -- you've got the time!

After not getting your attention with his game, would he try to appease you? Just drop it and one day start acting like nothing happened? Every day that passes, he'll feel like more of a jerk, and he'll be more aware of the situation he's created, and he'll be trying to figure out how to fix it without an apology (which can't really be done).
posted by Houstonian at 11:59 AM on April 11, 2010 [4 favorites]

I'd 2nd the idea that you read a bit about obsessive compulsive personality disorder. It fits with him having a complex set of rules about when people are being truthful, and when they step over the line, they're forsaken.
posted by XMLicious at 12:00 PM on April 11, 2010

Ignore him right back. Don't waste any more time scrambling to appease this abusive behavior. Focus on getting therapy so you can get to a place where you will be ready to DTMFA.
posted by Mavri at 12:01 PM on April 11, 2010 [3 favorites]

One thing that disturbs me about this post is that I find it so hard to believe this is some isolated incident, though you present it as one and make no real mention of similar situations in the past, though you do say, "He can hold grudges for a very long time."

Is this the way he routinely acts? Can he not handle you disagreeing with him, even over trivial matters? Do you often find yourself tiptoeing around him to avoide provoking him? If so... if he refuses to address this behavioural pattern, and can't even see why it's wrong, you probably do need to leave this marriage.
posted by orange swan at 12:01 PM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Another OCPD forum that's more active now. If you really want to stay with him then I think you have to figure out how to use this silent treatment as a respite from him and enjoy the peace and quiet. Once he realizes he can't get to you this way he'll stop doing it.
posted by hazyjane at 12:01 PM on April 11, 2010

Best answer: IMHO, you can give it one more try, but things are looking grim. Here's how I'd handle it, given that he may have an Aper type disorder. Tell him, that living with hostility is unacceptable to you - period, end of story. You have one life to live, and are not about to waste it. Tell him that if he wants to save this relationship, he must be willing to talk and discuss things rationally. If he agrees to talk, sit down with a legal pad, and ask him to define what a mistake is. Write down the definition as he gives it - give him an example of an innocent mistake where there is no lying involved, like for example reacting to incomplete information, or even something physical, like picking up the wrong key. Have him acknowledge that it is possible to make mistakes, misspeak etc., and not lie - that's a matter of fact that can be checked in a dictionary, so there is no room for argument. If he doesn't acknowledge this definition, tell him that his perception of reality is provably (by dictionary) distorted, and therefore no rational discussion is possible. You will not live or accept living with someone who is hostile and not amenable to rational measures of persuasion - he will be getting the divorce papers shortly. If he does acknowledge that it is possible to make a mistake without malice, tell him that this is exactly what happens when he accuses people of lying - his sensor of telling when it is a lie and when it is a simple mistake is badly broken. Like any sensor in a critical system, he needs to repair it - if he does not, the machinery of your relationship will break down, and he will be getting the divorce papers shortly. Further, his blowing up at you is irrational, and puts a tremendous strain on the machinery of your relationship - would he put three tons of weight on a vehicle designed for one ton? No, because it would break down. So too with you - his treatment of you is unacceptable and outside of any bounds. If this continues, he'll be getting the divorce papers shortly. Write out these option on the legal pad, and hand it to him. Tell him: understand this, absorb and memorize this, internalize it in your procedures with me. Failure to do so will result in a divorce. If he needs help fixing his sensors, you're there for him, but ground rules must be established - no yelling, no screaming, no accusations. Then proceed from there, and mean it. The reason is - if things continue as they are, a breakdown of your relationship is absolutely inevitable, so this is your last shot - either he can take it or not, and it's better to make the stress test now, if the thing fails, you bail and save yourself a ton of time and heartache. Good luck!
posted by VikingSword at 12:07 PM on April 11, 2010 [9 favorites]

Sorry, "Aper" is Asper. etc., apologies for misspellings and the big block sans paragraphs.
posted by VikingSword at 12:08 PM on April 11, 2010

Please, read up on Borderline Personality Disorder. This is textbook behavior. You can't "diagnose" someone based on what you read on a website, of course. However, finding online resources to help you deal with these specific BPD-like behaviors (hair-trigger, unexplained raging; lengthy "silent treatments"; charming and wonderful behavior when things are going well) might help you keep your sanity whether or not your husband actually has BPD.
posted by ROTFL at 12:10 PM on April 11, 2010

In dealing with irrational people, I have often found it useful to re-frame the scenario to make it clear where the problem really is. Right now, the way you described it to us, you did something that led to an unacceptable response from your husband. Let me suggest a new framing: your husband lashed out at you for no reason whatsoever. He has an issue with something, but it isn't you. It's not your problem; it's his. Don't allow him to make it your problem.

When you mother leaves sit him down and tell him that the kind of behavior he's displayed is unacceptable and he needs to apologize and do better. If he refuses, that will tell you a lot.

my own crazy ex situation had different issues, but once upon a time I got a phone call at work and I man I had never met said "you don't know me, but your husband is having an affair with my wife." When I confronted my now-ex about it, he tried to challenge me for even having that conversation. Somehow answering my phone at my job and hearing about the infidelity was a greater act of disloyalty than that fact that he was fucking the other guy's wife. I'm not suggesting that infidelity is an issue in your marriage at all, I simply relate the story as an example, that stepping back and looking at your situation with anything appproaching an objective eye can be useful to see how far over the bounds of acceptable behavior your husband has gone. I am sorry. I'm just a stranger on the internet but you deserve better.
posted by ambrosia at 12:13 PM on April 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

People, please consider that you may be doing more harm than good by offering these armchair diagnoses. You're advising the OP to treat this person as though he has mental illness A, B, or C, which may trigger even stronger and angrier reactions on his part, which is not good advice for helping the OP stay SAFE from what is essentially abusive behavior, which is the priority.
posted by so_gracefully at 12:18 PM on April 11, 2010 [9 favorites]

To back up so_gracefully and go one step beyond: it really doesn't matter what his diagnosis is, or even if a diagnosis is appropriate. This behavior is unacceptable, and attaching a label to it does nothing other than give you an avenue to dismiss or excuse the behavior as something beyond his control. The only thing that matters is what everyone else has said before me: Counseling. Stat.
posted by lilnublet at 12:43 PM on April 11, 2010 [3 favorites]

Right now it doesn't matter what he "has" or what's "missing" in his brain if whatever it is puts you in danger.

Has his behavior gotten worse, or his grudges deeper/colder/longer/more intense over time?
Have you ever worried that he might hurt you or someone else?

Something about this really makes me worry for you. Maybe how cold and deliberate his anger toward you is, or how charming and "normal" he is able to appear when he wants to even though he's clearly not feeling okay under the surface? Maybe I'm being silly and overreacting but I'm afraid something might happen when your mother leaves or in the future when he flips out again, which sounds inevitable and which he's "warning" you about ("I think carefully about what I have done, because I had better not ever do it again"). Would you consider leaving with your mother and taking some time to live apart from your husband and go to therapy? You wouldn't DTMFA right away but you would be able to sort out your feelings in a safe place.

Please take care of yourself.
posted by sallybrown at 12:46 PM on April 11, 2010 [4 favorites]

Get a set of kids' tableware, including a sippy cup, and a bib. Next time you serve him a meal, serve it to him on that.

When he reacts -- as no doubt he will -- simply state, calmly, that if he continues to ACT like a three-year-old, that is precisely how you will treat him; and you will only start treating him like an adult when he stops giving you the silent treatment and explains to you why the fuck he thought screaming at you was proper conduct for an adult.

Then go about your business until he does just that.

....Okay, I admit this is a bit of a stretch, but -- he IS acting like a three-year-old, and you do NOT have to put up with that, and you do NOT owe him an apology. Whatever way you would react to this treatment from a three-year-old, do that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:47 PM on April 11, 2010 [3 favorites]

Sweetie, it's not clear to me what the problem is. It's clear to me that you are using silence and anger. I don't want any part of this. I love you and I want to solve issues together. Let me know when you're ready. Then ignore his behavior and live as normally as possible.

I recommend therapy, with or without him.
posted by theora55 at 12:52 PM on April 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

You have described my parents' marriage to a T. And let me tell you, it's hell to grow up in that shit. Neither me nor my mother ever knew when the other shoe would drop. We walked around that house on eggshells and I never had any friends over for fear of them seeing one of my father's outbursts. It was terrifying and demeaning and psychologically damaging not just to my mother but to me as well. It was years after I left home before I had any semblance of a normal, healthy relationship with a man. To this day (and it's been 20 years since I left home), I have difficulty bringing up tough issues with my husband, for fear of setting him off into a rage - and he's never, ever, ever done that to me. He's a paragon of peace and sensibility.

What your husband is doing, has done, and will likely do again and again, is psychological and emotional abuse. You need to talk to a professional about this. I understand you're not ready to leave but you really need to get yourself in that position as soon as you can, otherwise you'll end up like my mother, 42 years into a shitty marriage that has left her demoralized and with no self esteem at all. It does not matter if he has Asperger's. It doesn't. If he valued this marriage, he'd be getting help with his issues.

Honestly, if this was me, I would leave the house for the duration. You do NOT have to live with this silent treatment. Playing games back at him will do no one any good at all. Get a hotel room, stay with friends, whatever you have to do; get out until he cools off and has the sense to come to you and work it out. I would tell him, "I can't live with this silence and I feel that my presence might be making you more angry, so I'm just going to leave for a little while. Here are my contact numbers and the name of the hotel where I'm staying. I look forward to working this out with you and you can contact me when you are ready to talk again." I can't stand living with that feeling. It makes my stomach hurt, I can't sleep and I can't eat. It's beyond "no fun" and really starts to border on "hostile living environment."

Good luck and please feel free to memail me if you need someone to talk to.
posted by cooker girl at 1:07 PM on April 11, 2010 [18 favorites]

The first two things that occurred to me were, "Get therapy and get out." Honestly.

Also, this strikes me as more related to mental illness than Aspergers (although people with Aspergers are more prone to mental illness than the general population, so he could have both). However, as the previous posters have said, his diagnosis isn't the issue and doesn't excuse his behavior.

Honestly, if it's possible, when your mom goes, I'd go with her. Or go stay with a friend. Leave him a written letter about why. And then work on counseling. I don't encourage people to give up on their marriages easily, but this is outright abusive, and who knows how it could escalate. The "you better think carefully about what you did and not do it again" part sounds especially threatening and demeaning to me, and that's just scary.
posted by christinetheslp at 1:15 PM on April 11, 2010 [3 favorites]

Even if he has Aspergers, having Aspergers is not an excuse for him to be an abuser, which is what he is.
posted by Ashley801 at 1:21 PM on April 11, 2010

P.S. What would happen if, as klangklangston said, you actually stood up for yourself and told the actual truth in the situation in a completely non defensive, non apologetic way? "No, I'm not lying. I'm simply disagreeing with you. You're flying off the handle because you've been disagreed with. And now you're giving me the silent treatment, to punish me for disagreeing with you."

He probably feels so comfortable doing this because you have always defaulted to apologizing to him and placating him.
posted by Ashley801 at 1:27 PM on April 11, 2010

Best answer: Sounds like you are married to my ex. I D'd the MTFA for precisely this behavior.

But I didn't dump him til I'd been through several stages. When it first happened it seemed like an isolated incident and he was so great the rest of the time. Plus, he knew how to charm people and everyone liked him; I thought maybe I was in the wrong.

Then I progressed to thinking that his brain was "wired differently." I thought it was either part of a learning disability he claimed to have, or BPD. I tried to be tolerant and to change the behavior he claimed I did.

I changed the behavior successfully and he still flew off the handle for minor or imagined things, gave me the silent treatment, and demanded that I apologize AND admit I had done whatever it was ON PURPOSE. Saying I was sorry BUT that he had misunderstood was, in his mind, "invalidating his feelings."

We went to several different counselors. He made it seem like it was all my fault and the counselors believed him. After our sessions, he would punish me for hours with the silent treatment for "making" him go.

One day the love switch for him just turned off in my heart. Then it was over. I got to the point where I didn't care if he had a "disorder" or not, because I knew that I had issues too, but I was actually trying to work on them.

It may take you a while to get to this stage. I'm not sorry that I tried, though. At his best, he was awesome and if I hadn't let it get to this point I might have always wondered if I had tried enough. I know I did and could move on peacefully to be with someone who I don't have to walk on eggshells with.

You, too, deserve better. Memail me if you want to discuss this further.
posted by xenophile at 1:29 PM on April 11, 2010 [8 favorites]

There's "wired differently" and there's being mentally abusive. You're in many ways describing a cycle of abuse where you're willing to let him get off with being abusive because he has times of being kind and funny.

If he's not willing to get therapy, it doesn't sound like a good safe place for you.
posted by Wuggie Norple at 1:34 PM on April 11, 2010

An odd twist is that my mother was in the room at the time, and she is as mystified as I am. She can't figure out what his problem is either, and commented that it is as if there's just some missing connection in his brain. He just shifted from normal to enraged in a second.
Usually this kind of thing happens when someone has been irritated by lots of little things, and then one thing just pushes him or her over the edge. It can seem mystifying because from your perspective it was really minor. But from his perspective it's something you do all the time. I'm not saying he's being reasonable, just that his behavior isn't indicative of a mental disorder. It can happen to normal people when they are stressed and highly agitated.
posted by delmoi at 1:38 PM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't think this sounds like aspergers, and I don't know if it's OCD or borderline or whatever. But you know, whether or not he's got any of those - y=You know what he is? He's a bully. And no matter what you do, he's going to find reasons to bully and dominate you. If you won't/can't leave yet (and please, please do make it "yet" so that you can get out of this situation at some point, hopefully as soon as possible) the only way to hope to control this behavior, in my opinion, is to act like it doesn't affect you - that his tactics don't work. So ignore him right back, but don't act upset or bothered. Don't do it like he is with the childish dirty looks, just ignore him completely. I'd say to try the suggestion of a sippy cup and a bib, but it'd just make him angry, and it sounds to me like he's just getting angrier and angrier and you're likely to be the focus if he goes over the edge.
posted by lemniskate at 1:56 PM on April 11, 2010

Best answer: This is abuse. He knows it's cruel; he's doing it TO hurt you, to punish you. He knows it's wrong, which is why he's hiding it from others. Your husband currently is HURTING YOU INTENTIONALLY. That's not acceptable in a relationship. Seriously.

I just need immediate practical advice as to how to respond.

Okay, first step, stop thinking about him and what's going on in his mind. Lots of advice above about what that might be, and it's great, but that's for him to figure out if he decides he wants to. Forget about it. Your decisions need to be about yourself.

So, forget him. You are being hurt. (Hurt, injured, wounded, attacked.) You are in pain. (Pain, anguish, agony, suffering.) You cannot control him. But you can control yourself. So, how are you going to protect yourself from being hurt? How can you prevent further injury? How are you going to soothe the pain you feel? How will you minimize the suffering and begin to heal? It's up to you. You might want to: leave the house, hang out with friends, turn on your headphones, meditate, go to the gym, call your sister, go shopping, write in your journal, watch a funny movie, pick up shifts at work, go to the spa, take your dog out for a run, or a million other things. Everyone protects themselves differently, and everyone soothes pain differently, so choose what feels right for yourself. The most important thing is to stop further injury and soothe the pain you feel, through actions that you take on your own (as opposed to trying to cajole or negotiate with him).

Here's what I would do: I'd make sure I'd expressed that I honestly did not lie and don't understand why he thinks I did, but I'd've probably done that already, during the original discussion. Now, I'd write him a note saying: "Your silent treatment hurts. I can't be around it. I have gone to stay with Jane. Call me when you are ready to stop." Then, when he calls, I would tell him, "this cannot happen in our relationship. I do not care how upset you are, you cannot intentionally punish me. I will not put up with that." Then, depending on what I wanted, I'd either say, "For me to come back, you/we have to go to therapy." Or "I will come back, but I want to tell you this fact: if you ever do this again, I will move out and we will be over. I need to know that you understand this, can you confirm that for me?" I would not say it in a mad, vengeful way. But I would draw a very solid and clear line that I refuse to put up with this, I refuse to be around it, and I refuse to be in a relationship where I have to sleep on friends' couches to avoid being around it. That's how I'd protect myself. In the meantime, I'd soothe myself by reminding myself I was totally protected, and by going to see that silly Date Night movie with Steve Carell and Tina Fey.

I know people on Ask Metafilter, myself included, probably sometimes offer suggestions that are harsher than what they'd really do or say with someone who was their close friend or lover. And as someone who has been in a relationship featuring angry silent treatments, I certainly am primed to react with utmost, um, well I'd call it utmost efficiency. But that is because I tried just about everything else, and the only thing that worked for me is what I described above. The path of least resistance, and the path of "let me try to understand how your brain works so I can help you not be this way" both did not turn out to be viable solutions for me. I am so sorry you are going through this, and here's one last resource: if you just want to talk about it with someone random, you can always for free call up the domestic violence hotline, 1−800−799−SAFE. Maybe you feel like this isn't "violence," since it's not physical, but they have plenty of hotline operators who will also be good at talking about emotional pain.
posted by salvia at 2:09 PM on April 11, 2010 [16 favorites]

Putting aside whether he has some sort of mental illness or disorder for a moment, you specifically asked how to cope with this when your Mom leaves in a couple of hours and the two of you are alone. While I wouldn't go out of my way to ignore him, I wouldn't engage directly with him either, unless he initiates a civil and reasonable interaction. Just go about your business, getting ready for work, doing chores, whatever and if you really can't deal with being in the same area while he's acting like this, get out of the house to run an errand or workout or something. Basically, follow his lead, but don't go to extraordinary lengths to accommodate his behavior either. How long can you live like this? Well, that brings me back to the much larger issue.

You should not be trying to accommodate this behavior on a regular basis or for a prolonged period of time. This isn't how an adult should behave towards another adult, nevermind his/her partner. He sounds emotionally abusive, and no one deserves to live in such an emotionally precarious situation. Whether you decide to stay or leave, I think going to therapy is a great idea. I think focusing on activities and people outside of your husband would also be a good thing. While I think trying to diagnose your husband without professional input isn't helpful, one thing about your description of his behavior struck me.

You mention he might have Aspberger's, but the putting on a good face in front of people at work and then switching into his angry, silent treatment when you're alone is not consistent with what I have read about Aspberger's. That indicates a level of understanding about social interactions and requires inauthentic behavior, which, as I understand it, someone with Aspberger's isn't capable of doing. Now, I am not a doctor by any means and maybe there are variations of Aspberger's that would allow him to behave that way, so grain of salt and all that. The reason why I think it's important to mention is that it sounds like you're giving your husband a lot of leeway under the umbrella of a possible Aspeberger's diagnosis, and that may keep you in a bad situation far longer and putting up with far worse behavior than anyone ever should. Best of luck to you.
posted by katemcd at 2:27 PM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Okay, I tend to agree with the majority of posters that your husband is treating you abomnibly, and maybe, he fits somewhere on a spectrum of social disorders. However, there's a couple of other things to consider, assuming that DTMFA doesn't work for you.

What was his family of origin interaction like? My husband is an engineer type and he had been treated miserably as a child. One of the ways he'd learned to cope with hurts (real and perceived) was silent treatment. Over the course of our marriage, because he was willing to learn (and I had my own issues, of course) we discussed how hurtful, and how just plain unproductive the silent treatment was. It took a long time, but now he would not dream of treating me that way, just like I will now not avoid an argument and say "it's nothing".

My advice to you for right now is to pretend that the silent treatment has absolutely no effect on you. There is no point to him keeping it up if it's not doing what's intended which is hurting you. When he snaps out of this mood, wait some time to be sure that he's not still engaged in the mental effort of "but she did this" so I'm justified in being really angry and doing this. Then start a talk, which might cover some of the following points:

Sometimes when we fight, you withdraw from me and stop talking to me. (Wait for him to agree). Do you think we can work out a different system*, because I find it really hard to tolerate this one? Are there things that I do that you would like me to do differently?

*I'm thinking because of the engineer part of him, systems make sense, procedures make sense, you know? Maybe he never learnt to really deal with feelings. Maybe you don't hang the explanation for why you want a different system on the end of the sentence because he may automatically see it as an attack.

My husband and I spent YEARS arguing. We had a couple of separations, and through time and hard work have developed a model of behaviour that's pretty close to what the books and therapists recommend - always courtesy, no personal attacks; I feel this way when you do that - not you make me feel this way; active listening - not just waiting your turn to grar. It was really really difficult, and often I didn't want to do it because it challenged me too, but very worthwhile.

There's books out there on successful arguing with your spouse that you might want to take a look at. Maybe a therapist can help you find one quicker. If your husband is prepared to listen to you when he's not in a temper, then you may have to be the one leading the change, but it's worth it.
posted by b33j at 2:36 PM on April 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

My ex husband did a similar thing, but with "assuming" instead of "lying". As well as "not trusting" (which meant asking any questions about him).

It is no way to live. I'm so much happier now that I don't have to think carefully about everything I say and do. It really wears on you and drags you down.
posted by meepmeow at 2:52 PM on April 11, 2010 [3 favorites]

Best answer: The incident you've just described is verbal abuse. That there was no real provocation, you've figured out for yourself, and you have an eyewitness to back you up on that. I'm sure you also agree that even if you'd uncovered something he could rationally have perceived as provocative, it wouldn't justify his response.

So, with reasonable assurance that you are not the cause, now you're left wondering what psychiatric condition could be causing an ongoing pattern of verbally abusive outbursts.

It doesn't matter.

I'm serious when I say this.

I'm all for overanalysing. I'm all for ruminating unproductively and pursuing lost causes and flogging dead horses. (I have Asperger's.)

But trying to figure out what psychiatric problem he might have won't make any difference, even if he had the slightest interest in solving such a problem, which (as you point out) he doesn't.

Not only will it not help to speculate, it's absolutely imperative that you stop speculating because speculating, analysing, and trying to figure this out is always what keeps people on the hook for more abuse.


Instead of trying to understand, focus on how you're going to respond.

If he starts ignoring you, leave the room mentally or physically. Go to another room, or listen to something on your iPod and groove away quietly to yourself, punctuated only by the occasional chuckle at whatever funny thing you just saw or heard that he didn't. This may make him want to join in your fun. Or not. Either way, you'll have found something better to do than sit around being ignored.

If he blows up with anger, just say "Cut it out", or "Hold it!" and pay no attention to what he's saying. Do pay attention to whether you're in any danger, though, because this kind of abuse often escalates to the physical.

Signing up for untold hours of therapy might help, or it might not, since not all therapists understand the nature of abuse, and besides I see no indication that you have an emotional or mental problem; at least not one that is more urgent than the problem of being verbally abused.

I'm not going to insist that the way to solve this problem must be to remove the abuser from your life. It's your life after all. And I'm sure he does have lots of good qualities, otherwise you wouldn't have gotten into a relationship with him in the first place nor would he be able to hold down a job and function normally in society if he couldn't display reasonable behaviour most of the time.

However, I would be so bold as to insist that you take my word for it that you are being verbally abused (if at any time you're in doubt), and also that analysing what's going on in his mind and what in your interactions could be setting him off and what psychiatric diagnosis he could have, etc. is quite actively harmful.

I know it's hard because whenever I'm told to distract myself or stop flogging a dead horse, I agree to do it, clearly see all the reasons why I should go for a walk or watch TV or otherwise take my mind off it, resolve to think about or do something useful, and then go right back to obsessively ruminating and flogging dead horses.

But this is serious. Even I would listen to me about this. So, stop thinking about him and start thinking about useful responses to his abuse.

You may want to consider keeping a bag packed with your passport, bank cards, documents, enough regular medicines etc., in a place which is secret but from where you can grab it and go to a safe place in the event that you do find yourself in immediate danger. Or you may not want to do that right now.

But whatever you do, don't get pregnant.
posted by tel3path at 3:07 PM on April 11, 2010 [12 favorites]

Two more quick things. First, re-reading my comment just above, it strikes me as pushy, so I wanted to apologize. There are some great, gentle, caring, empowering comments that make the same points, and I wish I'd edited mine in that direction, since the last thing you need is someone else telling you what to do.

Second, I was checking out your activity and saw you'd favorited this anonymous question. I hope you don't mind me looking back like that. I'm totally concerned for that anonymous poster, because it sounds like she's being asked to do some contradictory, maybe even impossible things, and that she's actually bending over backward to do them. That person's situation sounds incredibly hard, and I hope she comes to see how impossible and painful the situation is. I'm telling you not because I necessarily think you're the anonymous OP, but just because I don't want you to think that's a normal situation. Lots of "geek" relationships don't include rages, punishment, and impossible requests. I explained away some of the stuff I was putting up with ("oh, his job is so hard that he comes home all angry, it's natural"), and it took awhile for me to hear people telling me "LOTS of people have that job who don't treat their partner the way you get treated."
posted by salvia at 3:09 PM on April 11, 2010 [5 favorites]

Oh, and sorry, forgot to mention, please stop what you're doing long enough to order The Verbally Abusive Relationship by Patricia Evans. This is required reading. If you can have it sent to an address where you can retrieve it faster than he can intercept it, do so.
posted by tel3path at 3:13 PM on April 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

or download it to read on your handheld. Another good one: Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men. An AskMe classic for good reason.
posted by salvia at 3:18 PM on April 11, 2010

And salvia's suggestion might also help to satisfy your craving to understand, and I don't think reading that would be a waste of time, so, go nuts! Get both!
posted by tel3path at 3:20 PM on April 11, 2010

I know you don't want to hear DTMFA, but I will say that if you wish to stay, you should commit to not having children (which you may not want anyway, but just in case you do). For you, this is mystifying and hurtful. For a child, it would not only be terrifying, but would deprive them of the confidence that people are generally kind and the world generally makes sense. When a child sees the world as full of arbitrary violence, or that any misstep could result in a complete withdrawal of kindness and affection, it changes them. It makes them tentative, hesitant, unable to trust their own perceptions. And remember that if you divorce him after having children, he will be alone with them, about half the time.
posted by palliser at 3:38 PM on April 11, 2010 [6 favorites]

I wasn't going to say this because I was so keen to emphasize that speculation about psychiatric diagnosis is a perilous distraction.

But as I also mentioned, I have Asperger's. I must respectfully point out that abusing your partner is not a symptom of Asperger's.
posted by tel3path at 3:56 PM on April 11, 2010 [4 favorites]

I don't know if it's relevant but I immediately thought of a book I read when I was in a similar relationship. Here's the bits that made the most sense to me at the time.

She thought back over her old, bitter domestic arguments with Tien. How she had hated that awful dance between break and rejoining, how many times she had short-circuited it. If you were going to forgive each other eventually, why not do it now and save days of stomach-churning tension? Straight from sin to forgiveness, without going through any of the middle steps of repentance and restitution. . . . Just go on, just do it. But they hadn't gone on, much. They'd always seemed to circle back to the start-point again. Maybe that was why the chaos had always seemed to replay in an endless loop. Maybe they hadn't learned enough, when they'd left out the hard middle parts.

The silent treatment never ever works. It simply dismisses the entire argument in favour of punishment. There's no movement, no growth. It's stagnation.

"Adulthood isn't an award they'll give you for being a good child. You can waste . . . years, trying to get someone to give that respect to you, as though it were a sort of promotion or raise in pay. If only you do enough, if only you are good enough . No. You have to just . . . take it. Give it to yourself, I suppose. Say, I'm sorry you feel like that , and walk away. But that's hard."

If you continue to placate your husband without ever working on the problem you only encourage and reward his behaviour. It is emotional abuse. It is vile to treat the person you love like this. You cannot make him stop though. You cannot keep looking for the magic words, the mythical amount of abasement and fawning submission that will stop him treating you this way. That's not how a relationship works. You are not at fault but at the same time, you can only control your reaction. Playing into the game of argument-silence-apology without any real discussion will only ever result in the same thing happening. Or escalation.
posted by geek anachronism at 4:09 PM on April 11, 2010 [4 favorites]

ack, attributing quotes is good! Both Lois McMaster Bujold A Civil Campaign
posted by geek anachronism at 4:12 PM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Why do you think he will be civil to you in front of other people, and then ignore you when you're alone?

It's because he knows that, if he persists in doing this in front of other people, they will (correctly) identify his behavior as abusive and unacceptable, and they will either call him out on it directly or urge you privately to leave him, because he's being abusive.

You describe him as "charming, funny, kind and intelligent" when he's not being abusive.

If he is intelligent, why hasn't he figured out that his behavior is hurting you tremendously? If he is kind, why hasn't he stopped?

Even if he is funny and sweet and kind 95% of the time, the other 5% of the time will poison the rest of your relationship. You will be walking on eggshells, second-guessing everything you say, spending a tremendous amount of energy to keep him on an even keel. This is no way to live.

Ask MeFi is very rarely as unanimous as you're seeing right now. This is abusive behavior. I also recommend The Verbally Abusive Relationship. There's a checklist in the first few pages of this book you might want to run through for yourself -- it might be an eye-opener.

You don't deserve this.
posted by jennyjenny at 4:48 PM on April 11, 2010 [9 favorites]

Best answer: Before you DTMFA, tell him he's acting like a childish asshole, and to fuck right off with both the accusations of lying and the silent treatment, because this, right here, this is hardcore bullshit—you don't treat someone you love like this. Hell, you don't even treat strangers like this. It's emotionally abusive.

Speaking as someone who used to act this way (and I know I still have the capability to act this way if I'm not on top of my shit), I agree that this is childish, hardcore bullshit behavior and it is most definitely abusive. The guy isn't "wired differently" he just hasn't done the hard work of gaining some self-awareness and doesn't care enough about you or about himself to start therapy. Unless you have some indication that he is really going to change--because this is not an isolated incident, is it?--you need to decide what you are going to do, either leave him or tolerate bullshit for the rest of your marriage to him, and get comfortable with your choice. Because what you do is the only thing you can do anything about.

Assuming he doesn't have the brain circuits to understand what he's doing wrong, is there anything I can do to improve my situation, in 2 hours from now when my mother goes home and I'm left alone with him?

If you are the patient sort and if you are willing to tolerate his bullshit a little longer, then you could give him an ultimatum that he either starts therapy this week or you ditch him (of course, you have to follow up on this to make it work). Or, you could just ditch him. But don't think there is any sort of pacification you can or should do that's going to be any good. Don't fool yourself like that. This needs to be about you: take care of yourself, this guy isn't going to.
posted by dubitable at 6:02 PM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

You might be imagining that this is aspergers because of his interest in truthfulness. But this does not sound like asperger's at all. Asperger's people take people at their word and for that reason are rarely suspicious of people. It's easier to imagine behavior in other people that you have yourself, which suggests that you husband thinks other people are lying because he himself does a lot of lying. If he had asperger's he'd have so little interest in lying that he would not imagine that other people were doing it and more likely wouldn't even notice or know when they were. (That's the extreme caricature of asperger's according to what I have read.)
Your husband sounds some kind of crazy that is related to lack of ability to perceive reality and possibly paranoid or he is simply abusive.
First it's unlikely that he doesn't know any better. Second, even if he really doesn't know any better, what difference does it make? If you had a dog that constantly bit you because it didn't know any better, would that make it any less dangerous?
He sound abusive, and bat-shit crazy, and possibly dangerous.
I agree with St. Alia of the Bunnies that if he won't get help for himself and you don't want to leave him then all that is left is for you to get therapy for yourself. And also find out about your local women's refuges, just in case.
posted by y6t5r4e3w2q1 at 6:04 PM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Assuming he doesn't have the brain circuits to understand what he's doing wrong, is there anything I can do to improve my situation, in 2 hours from now when my mother goes home and I'm left alone with him?

If he didn't have the brain circuits to understand what he is doing wrong, then he would do those things in front of everybody. Instead, he behaves civilly in front of others. Don't make any more excuses for him. He is abusive, he is torturing you, and he knows it. The best thing you can do, in my opinion, is leave with your mother. Sort the rest out from there. Do not be his victim anymore.
posted by uans at 6:42 PM on April 11, 2010 [6 favorites]

Speaking of books, "Komarr" by LMB is the book that really goes into Ekaterin and Tien's crap relationship. The guy never hits her, but...

Anyhoo. This is now reminding me of my friend and her husband, who pulls similar crap. We all think he's bipolar because his moods change on a fucking dime, but really, it doesn't matter what "syndrome" he has. He has Asshole Syndrome. Someone like this will always go on the cycle of abuse/treating you like crap no matter how submissive you are or how little you speak. The fun for him is picking on you, I suspect, and it doesn't matter what you do. Bullies enjoy that crap. He may have his good points, but it ALWAYS goes back to him acting like this, doesn't it?

Answering your question (which you know in the end boils down to DTMFA or being treated like shit until one of you dies), I'd just enjoy the silent treatment. Because as long as he's pouting and ignoring you, he's not screaming at you for something, is he? Or force him to be around other people so he has to pretend to be a normal human being.

Oh, and I second not having a child with this man. My friend's kid hates his dad. All things considered my friend is lucky that her son takes after her and not him, and so far has no inclination to treat women like this himself. However, her stepdaughter just had to leave an abusive yes, this stuff tends to spread on down to your kids. If your kids grow up with an abusive jerk, they'll tend to feel "at home" and "normal" marrying abusive jerks. To be fair to the guy I keep talking about here, having to call the cops and pick up the stepdaughter from the boyfriend did make him realize that he was acting the same way. I hope he sticks with that revelation, but the odds of that aren't good with these "I don't have a problem, YOU have a problem, no therapy or meds for me" guys.

In the end, I think you know what you're going to have to do. Sorry.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:59 PM on April 11, 2010

My own husband occasionally does stuff like this. He has bipolar disorder and is, I suspect, a bit down the line on the whole Asperger/autism spectrum thing. At least as frustrating as the occasional (rare) irrational blow-ups is that a day or a week later he most often won't even remember that anything usual has happened. After the cloud of nastiness has passed and I tell him, "you did this, and then you said that" he usually is mystified. He doesn't remember it at all.

So... how does one deal? For me, it's really a matter of reminding myself that it's NOT ABOUT ME. It's about his mental illness. Also, it really helps if -- as soon as I see that he's getting weird and cranky -- I just leave him the hell alone. (Sometimes you can't avoid the blow-back, but do your best to stay out of his way.)

The sad truth is, if you're in a relationship with someone who has this kind of mental illness, you have to be a person who is able to emotionally detach. That's about all you can do. Be kind, be helpful, avoid aggravating him further, and wait for the cloud to pass. You can suggest counseling but, honestly, I don't think it's very helpful for this kind of problem. (Counseling for HIM, I'm talking about. Counseling for you could be helpful -- or not.)

If your husband is like mine, in his saner times (which -- thankfully -- far outweigh the nasty cranky times) he expresses his gratitude for a spouse who is willing to stick by him even when he's difficult. But... like I said earlier. You have to be able to emotionally detach -- for your own sanity.
posted by rhartong at 7:20 PM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

"Whatever way you would react to this treatment from a three-year-old, do that."

Sure, that's funny and all, but :

A. She's not his mommy.
B. Normally, a 40 year old man is much more of a physical threat than a 3 year old.

In my experience, having been in relationships with people who have anger issues/having my own anger mgmt issues, baiting them is not a good idea.

OP, I'm so sorry. I wish I could invite you over for some tea and give you a big hug. I hope you come to realize that you don't deserve any of this - accusations of lying, shouting/swearing, or the silent treatment.

In the meantime, please take the advice that some of the posters have suggested above - remove yourself from the situation for a bit. It's his problem, not yours - and no amount of apologizing/backtracking/explaining will ever be enough for him.
posted by HopperFan at 7:49 PM on April 11, 2010

If he can hold a grudge for a very long time, leaving and staying with friends isn't going to do anything for a very long time... if ever. I would suggest you tell him to leave until he is ready to be mature and reasonable and talk about the issue. Get home from work before him and pack his bag and have it ready for him when he comes home from work.

Insist he leaves or talks and leave the decision to him.
posted by taff at 8:20 PM on April 11, 2010

According to Gottman's terminology, he is doing something called "stonewalling". It's incredibly stressful for you and is a very bad sign for the success of the relationship. Take care of yourself however you can, don't worry about what you should do, just get through it any way you can and start preparing in case you have to leave.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:46 AM on April 12, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks so much for everyone's advice.

Fortunately the immediate situation turned out not to be quite so bad as I had feared: the silent treatment seems to have ceased although he's still tense and "off".

I am going to make preparations to leave, while hoping I don't have to go through with it.

The best news is that today I talked to my boss about the situation, explaining that it was possible I might have to leave soon, and asking about my options re: my job. He reassured me that working remotely, even from thousands of miles away (where my family live) was perfectly OK, even suggested a 4-6 week break might be a good idea. Told me my job was secure, Offered to let me stay with his family if necessary!

As the bad behavior happens with coworkers as well as in private life, none of this was a surprise to my (our) employers, and I have their full support. It's in their interest as well as mine to get my husband to cease his hostile and cruel behavior, but even if he doesn't change, it seems like it's not going to be a question of them choosing him over me.

I am going to make sure I have my emergency money in place, my documents and essentials ready to go.

I'm also going to read those books on emotional abuse: I did know that that is what this is, but sometimes I need reminding. I have already spent a fair bit of time on Patricia Evans's web site.

Between having a supportive family, friends, employers and of all you lovely metafilterians, I feel fortified and ready to take the stand I know I must take.

thanks metafilter, you are all awesome!
posted by geekgirl397 at 12:07 PM on April 12, 2010 [11 favorites]

Response by poster: Oh, and children are not in the picture and never will be. I never wanted kids anyway but I've never had a moment's doubt that having kids with this man would be a big mistake.
posted by geekgirl397 at 12:10 PM on April 12, 2010

I was going to say personality disorder, too. My borderline ex had this "lying" issue, too. It was eerie. I can't think of an example off the top of my head, but the difference of opinion as lie is spot on.

Also, with the apologies, I very much recall trying to craft apologies (which weren't warranted) to meet his specifications - to the point where he'd start going back and forth and having me repeat what he wanted to hear back to him. Crazy.

But, in the end, a lot of personality diagnoses are "so what' diagnoses if the person is abusive and unwilling to get help. I hope you get the strength to detach and move on. It was the best thing I've ever done for myself.
posted by Pax at 12:11 PM on April 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

If you were to ask him what it is you are/were "lying" about... what is it that he would say? I'm missing something here. Like, you say: "What do you think I was lying about?" and then he says: " _____." ?

I'm not doubting your assertion that his response was irrational or excessive or that it could be some left-field batshit stuff. But I'm just saying; I'd like to know the answer to the above question. Your inquiry entirely omits this (unless I'm missing it somewhere).
posted by jjjjjjjijjjjjjj at 1:32 PM on April 12, 2010

jjjjjjjijjjjjjj, even if there's a single coherent answer to that, how would it affect your view of the situation?
posted by tel3path at 1:46 PM on April 12, 2010

Because most semi-reasonable people who have accused someone of lying will be able to tell that person what s/he thinks that person lied about.

If someone is unable to do that at all, then something is seriously wrong with this person, and advice should be adjusted accordingly. If this person IS able to do that, I'd like to know what it was. It's omission is--to me, and perhaps only to me--conspicuous by its absence.
posted by jjjjjjjijjjjjjj at 1:52 PM on April 12, 2010

Well, as per the OP: "It was a tremendously trivial conversation, and not a significant or important disagreement (about the effect of mirrors on one's perception on the size of a room!). Try as I might, I cannot figure out how he could have interpreted anything I said as lying."
posted by tel3path at 2:09 PM on April 12, 2010

My question is: What would he say if he were asked? And if he has not been asked, then why hasn't he been?

Clearly the answer to this question would color any responsible advice that we could give her. Imagine how differently you would advice the OP if you knew that the answer to her question about what he thought she was lying about was:

*"You were just lying! I know you were. I just know."
*"You were lying about the effects of the neap tide on the reptilian beta radiation."
*"You were/have been lying about your past stated preferences in regards to our home redecoration"

Only one of these, to my tastes, is "fixable" as far as staying with this man. Each of these three answers would indicate that a different course of action should be taken by the OP. This is far from irrelevant.
posted by jjjjjjjijjjjjjj at 2:21 PM on April 12, 2010

Response by poster: I omitted the answer to 'What do you think I was lying about?" because I can't really guess what it would be (and I haven't been in a position to get a straight answer). My mother and I have both tried to puzzle it out and got nowhere.

The best I can do is this - and I'm almost reluctant to post it as it's so banal and shows how boring the subject that kicked it all off was:

We were discussing how to remodel our bedroom. It's long and narrow and has mirrors floor to ceiling on one of the narrow ends (not my choice: like that when we bought it). I'd just bought curtains to cover the patio door set into that wall and realized I couldn't put up the mounting hardware on top of the mirrors. I suggested we might want to take them down. My husband said "but mirrors make a room look larger". I said "yes, but ..." and explained that mirrors can do that in general, but in this specific case, they made the room look corridor-like, did no favors for the room's proportions, and that in any case the perceived size of the room wasn't everything. I also suggested that there were other things we could do that would make the room seem less cramped, by organizing it better and eliminating some clutter.

He shot back that I was changing the subject and why couldn't I admit that mirrors made the room look bigger? I said again "yes, they can/do - but that's not the point ..." and he accused me of adding all this "irrelevant detail" about proportions, room arrangement etc. to cover up the the fact that I had been mistaken about the effect of mirrors re: perceived room size. So I reiterated that I agreed on his general point but that I was more concerned about making the room seem more harmonious. I *think* at that point I was supposed to admit that I "lied" about my motivations for mentioning the other stuff. I *think* his point was that I was "covering up" for my mistake, and that he wanted me to admit the "cover up". But I really don't know. Mum & I hashed it over many times and could not really figure out how he manufactured "lying" out of the conversation. (this was the very first time a conversation had come up about the bedroom/remodeling so it's not part of a long-time power struggle over the decor or anything!).

It's happened with coworkers too: if they misunderstand something or even have a difference of opinion, he will frequently become incensed that they are feigning ignorance and therefore lying. He will then refuse to deal with the "liar" - insist they are fired or cut off communication with them.

He has - in quieter moments - admitted that I may sometimes be the brunt of his anger because he has a hard time remembering that I cannot mind read. He says we think so alike that he often thinks if he knows something, I must too. Therefore he frequently gets frustrated at my "obtuseness" when I fail to take into account something he knows or thinks, but that I am in fact ignorant of.

My mother has actually said that she was glad she witnessed this outburst because when I've related earlier incidents to her, she always wondered if she was getting a one-sided story and assumed I must have done something to set him off. This incident showed clearly that it's possible for him to go off with no obvious provocation. He would have turned with equal viciousness onto my mother too - and was going there, but I told her to be quiet!

When I told my boss, he was not at all surprised and was super supportive. He also said "you realize that it is not your fault, at all?". My husband is absolutely the only person who thinks I have any problem with "lying" - and as he also accuses my coworkers of "lying" when it is clear to everyone else that they are not doing so - I think it's pretty obvious that it's not me (or them) - it's him.
posted by geekgirl397 at 2:23 PM on April 12, 2010 [3 favorites]

Yeah. Seems like you've made up your mind to leave him. I gotta say; based on some of what you've shared, I wouldn't blame you a bit.

Of course, the calculus on such things is always very complicated... but I wish you the best possible outcome with whatever route you take. Be calm, be smart, and prioritize your safety.
posted by jjjjjjjijjjjjjj at 2:39 PM on April 12, 2010

While the content of the supposed lie might be of interest to a clinician, it doesn't tell us lot very much. And because of his disdain for clinicians, the OP's husband is unlikely ever to connect with one. It would certainly be tragic if it turned out he'd had a treatable illness all this time, but it's moot as there's no way (that I know of) for the OP to compel him to get such treatment. He might decide to if he hits rock bottom, but who can say.

The whole situation's very sad, whichever way you slice it. Good luck, geekgirl397, and take care of yourself.
posted by tel3path at 2:49 PM on April 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yup, this is very much like my own husband's problem. It's hard for him to understand that just because HE is thinking or feeling something, it doesn't necessarily mean that I am thinking or feeling the same thing. It's a weird sort of projecting. It really seems likely that your husband has a mental illness -- that he's not just a jerk. But it's certainly understandable that, either way, you wouldn't want to stick around. Best of luck to you in your future.
posted by rhartong at 4:20 PM on April 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

« Older How to deal with her feelings for me?   |   I'm sick of sleeping on a twin bed when I visit my... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.