Is my husband's abusive behavior bad enough to leave over?
August 16, 2010 2:11 PM   Subscribe

Is my husband's abusive behavior bad enough to leave over?

Married 7 years, with a small child. Husband tries hard to be a supportive person and usually succeeds. However, since before we were married, he does things like this:

* On stage (he's a performer), tells large audience that I'm not in the seat he saved for me (I was in the bathroom) because 'She's probably out drinking. She's a sloppy drunk. Yes, a really sloppy drunk.' I am in no way a sloppy drunk. When I react angrily to this, telling him I feel humiliated, he gets FURIOUS and ends up basically saying 'How dare you get furious at me! I was just joking!' I end up sobbing.

* The day before we get married, he calls and says he's going to let his ex take his son out of town and she promises she'll have him back for the wedding. I say 'please don't do this. you know your ex will not have him back on time and this is an important day for us. please don't set us up for having to choose between delaying the entire wedding so your son can attend vs. your son missing the wedding.' He becomes FURIOUS at me for laying this on him and I end up sobbing.

Two examples of a pattern of behavior where he acts very insensitively or thoughtlessly and when I respond in a less than friendly way, he becomes FURIOUS and I end up sobbing. This goes on over and over; I feel like it's driving me crazy and am thinking about leaving. I can't tell if we are just having a problem communicating or if he has a real personality issue (or maybe I just have an issue with his personality). I've suggested he consider therapy for anger issues (I'm already in counseling). He says we need to go to couples counseling.

He's not violent or verbally abusive, but his explosive response to me when I react to him in "an unfriendly way" (his words) makes me wonder if he has issues that go beyond poor communication. He dismisses me, makes me feel small, and gets angry when I try to assert myself. I'm considering leaving and don't know if working on it is worth it. But I do have a small child and don't want to toss in the towel unless it's just broken with no chance of repair. Any insight?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (51 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
He says we need to go to couples counseling.

I support him in this request.
posted by ericb at 2:14 PM on August 16, 2010 [35 favorites]

He says we need to go to couples counseling.

Then this is what I would do before I decided to leave, especially if I had a small child.
posted by desjardins at 2:15 PM on August 16, 2010

Have you tried a marriage counselor? If not, why not?
posted by TheBones at 2:16 PM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Couples counseling sounds like an excellent idea for two reasons: first, he'll either get FURIOUS at the counselor, demonstrating the basic problem, or he won't and you'll actually get to discuss your problems where these interactions always go the same way; second, it's a route to him getting counseling by himself for his anger issues. Best of all, he's the one suggesting it.

So I'd say it's too soon to leave over this. You have a problem where you have a particular dynamic in your relationship, and that needs to change. But if you haven't tried couples counseling yet, you've still got many real options for changing it short of breaking up.
posted by fatbird at 2:16 PM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

He's open to couples counseling -- go to couples counseling before throwing in the towel.
posted by Jaltcoh at 2:18 PM on August 16, 2010

I think, as a general rule, if you have to ask this question, the answer is probably yes. However, if you want to try and work it out with couples therapy, that is certainly a valid option you should consider (it's a good sign that he suggested it, and is willing to try it).

A good start toward answering this question might be to ask yourself this: Are you unhappy more often than you are satisfied/happy with this relationship?
posted by torisaur at 2:18 PM on August 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

I think if he is suggesting going to therapy together, you would be wise to take him up on this. It may be that in the end you decide that leaving your relationship is the best decision for you, but being able to explore your feelings and communication issues in a safe place with the help of a trained professional will likely help you come to a decision you will feel good about.
posted by katy song at 2:19 PM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

You say he has suggested couples counseling. I'd take him up on that before throwing in the towel. Your description of your feelings sounds like you are really suffering, but your specific examples don't ring any alarm bells for me. In the first instance, a performance isn't reality. In the second, weddings are stressful all around and that was seven years ago. You sound like you two really need to break a pattern, but if he is willing to go to counseling, I say go.
posted by rainbaby at 2:23 PM on August 16, 2010

Well, particularly because he's suggesting couples' counseling, for pete's sake, GO! You have a kid, and while I won't go as far as to say that a kid must always have his/her two original parents, you owe it to your kid to do everything you can to make it work. You've said this, so that's good.

I am in no way minimizing the effects of what you describe. I've been there, and it's very tough. But there are things here that suggest that you're really, really holding onto resentment from years ago. Why do you think these things mean so much to you? Do you need to go back to what you were feeling on those days and deal with that? Because if you're holding onto this stuff, chances are that he feels like nothing he can ever do or say will remove the hurt from your life -- the hurt that I'll bet you remind him about all the time. That's a really powerless way to feel, and it's really tough to NOT be aggressive and lash out.

Next month, my parents will celebrate the 37th blissful year of my mother being pissed off at my father for saying "Where to?" after their wedding. No, they didn't have a honeymoon. Yes, they were young and stupid and way out of their league. She is STILL mad at him for that. I found a letter of hers that said that she wants him "to hurt like I hurt." But nowhere in this letter -- which listed the entire history of everything he has done wrong since 1973, and a lengthy description of his bitchy mother to boot -- did she say anything about her own role in this.

Good lord! Don't be like them, okay?
posted by Madamina at 2:24 PM on August 16, 2010 [3 favorites]

Another thought: you're clearly right that he shouldn't have done the things you've described. He's clearly someone who's capable of using really poor judgment. But if you divorce, he's not going to just disappear; he'll presumably continue to be a father to your child, in one capacity or another. If he has used such egregious judgment as you've described, he'll probably also exercise bad judgment in raising your child. Rather than taking the risk of divorcing and seeing what happens with the ensuing custody/visitation battle and both of you becoming single parents, why not at least try to work things out and keep the family together?
posted by Jaltcoh at 2:24 PM on August 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

Capitalizing FURIOUS doesn't really tell us what he does. It's hard to tell what's going on here communication-wise, with you or with him. With regard to the first example: is he a stand-up comic? I can't think of any other kind of performer who would get up on stage and say that, and it comes off like a joke even when you write it. If that's the case, you probably knew before you married him that he was going to get up on stage and talk about you, right? If this is a new career path for him, then yeah, I would think you should be able to say, "Hey, you talking shit about me in front of an audience is not part of the deal." I mean, you could say that anyway, but it seems a little unfair if you knew to expect this before you got married.

As for the second example, there's more going on here than your big wedding day. Not to come off as flip, but if he has an arrangement with his ex-wife for visitation, she's unlikely to be cool about it if he says, "My fiance doesn't want me to let you take our son because she thinks you won't bring him back in time." That's the kind of thing that can end up with an emergent Motion filed in Court which would really screw up your wedding day. He's got to follow the custody agreement and if there's a problem with habitual lateness on the part of his ex-wife, than that needs to be dealt with too, but not by forbidding her to see her kid.

I think couples counseling sounds like a fantastic idea. I suspect that you both aren't communicating well.
posted by amro at 2:24 PM on August 16, 2010 [15 favorites]

Couples counseling is not always a good idea in cases of abuse. Please read The Verbally Abusive Relationship by Patricia Evans first and see if it resonates. I know you say he is not verbally abusive, but if the incidents you recount are representative of what is going on, IMHO he is. Consider whether this is the behavior you want modeled for your child, or for that matter, if this is how you want him to speak to your child when she gets older (guarantee: he will).
posted by Wordwoman at 2:24 PM on August 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

Go to counseling. If he does not change, you need to consider getting out of the marriage. If you do not have a small child with him, don't think about leaving for too long--just go. His behavior is more than just unpleasant--he is telling you by his actions that he does not think much of you as a person. This sort of thing does not spontaneously improve with time. You deserve to be with a man who is not abusive. Cut your losses unless he changes pretty substantially SOON.
posted by Jenna Brown at 2:25 PM on August 16, 2010

Well, he is very controlling. Punishing you with his rage whenever you don't accept that he is going to do what he wants to do is classic. Also, insulting you and making you feel small is verbally abusive in my book. That you feel so unhappy that only your child is getting in the way of departing is a big red flag too.

I do believe in couple's counseling for normal marital problems, but be aware that 1) statistics indicate that couple's counseling actually makes domestic abuse worse -- because the default position in such counseling settings is that both parties are contributing to the problem and 2) a lot of couples counselors don't have much training in dealing with domestic abuse.

What does your current counselor think? And also, do you love this man or are you simply hanging on because of your child?

Also, what happened in the last relationship he had? I.e., what is his m.o.?

If you do love him and your counselor is supportive, then sure, give the couple's counseling a whirl, but otherwise I'd be thinking more about your exit strategy.
posted by bearwife at 2:25 PM on August 16, 2010 [3 favorites]

You say your husband "tries hard to be a supportive person and usually succeeds." In light of this, the incidents you describe do not add up to "abusiveness," in my opinion.
posted by jayder at 2:27 PM on August 16, 2010 [7 favorites]

Couples counseling is not always a good idea in cases of abuse. ... I know you say he is not verbally abusive, but if the incidents you recount are representative of what is going on, IMHO he is.

There isn't nearly enough detail in the question to conclude that what's going on is "abuse," verbal or otherwise. The fact that she capitalizes "furious" when referring to him, and doesn't capitalize "furious" or "angrily" when describing her own behavior, does not give us any reason to leap to the conclusion that her husband is abusive. If we were reading his description instead of reading hers, he would probably capitalize "furious" when referring to her, and then we could conclude that she's abusive. The whole situation is far too ambiguous for us to diagnose it based on the text we've been given (and that's what it is -- a text, not reality).

Couples counseling is exactly what they need and exactly what AskMetafilter is deficient in not being able to provide.
posted by Jaltcoh at 2:31 PM on August 16, 2010 [9 favorites]

Two examples of a pattern of behavior where he acts very insensitively or thoughtlessly and when I respond in a less than friendly way, he becomes FURIOUS and I end up sobbing.

Wait, you're calling him abusive because he gets furious when you react angrily to him? That doesn't sound abusive, based on the examples you gave. Instead, it seems like you too are having basic communication issues.

Go to counseling, as he suggests and see what happens there. I get the impression that neither of you are right or wrong per se, but not understanding each other and then getting angry to the extent that the original issue gets lost and never resolved.
posted by nomadicink at 2:36 PM on August 16, 2010

When I react angrily to this, telling him I feel humiliated, he gets FURIOUS and ends up basically saying 'How dare you get furious at me! I was just joking!' I end up sobbing.

i think it's easy to see either of you being verbally abusive in this situation. on one reading, he humiliated you on stage and then got FURIOUS at you being upset, a classic controlling tactic. or, you got mad at him for doing his job (comedian?) and then yelled angrily about it and when he responded in kind you started sobbing, a classic manipulation tactic.

either way it's going (or, more likely, both ways it's going), couples counseling sounds good, even if you're going to use it as a way to healthily split from your husband.

on a final note, you might want to explore with your doctor why you're holding onto an argument from 7 years ago...
posted by nadawi at 2:36 PM on August 16, 2010 [4 favorites]

I really, truly hate to go here, because I'm a woman and it always irks me when someone else does, but: is it possible you are a bit overly sensitive? In your time with your therapist, have you ever touched on the fact that you may react more forcefully than others might in the same situation? I dislike sounding like I am siding with your husband, but it just sounds to me like there is more in play here. Your first example, specifically, makes me think that you escalated a situation that could probably have been handled differently.

Not that you stoking a fire in your husband ever gives him the right to verbally abuse you, just think that there is a difference if you participate in pushing him into FURIOUS territory vs him going from 0-60 with no input from you. Former sounds normal, possibly something that could be worked through in couples counseling, latter sounds dangerous and scary.
posted by coupdefoudre at 2:43 PM on August 16, 2010

I am in no way minimizing the effects of what you describe. I've been there, and it's very tough. But there are things here that suggest that you're really, really holding onto resentment from years ago.

I would like to highlight this. You've been married 7 years and have a kid and one of the two examples you give is something that happened before you were even married. That's... not good. I'm not trying to downplay the dumbness involved in letting his ex take his son out of town the day before the wedding but it really does seem problematic to be carrying around arguments for so long.

Others are also correct that simply typing FURIOUS doesn't tell us anything at all about what is going on. Not only can't we tell if his behavior is bad enough to leave over, we can't even tell what his bad behavior is supposed to be. How exactly does he behave when he gets FURIOUS?
posted by Justinian at 2:43 PM on August 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

Hey, that sounds miserable!

What really struck me when you were writing about it is how it sounds like all these troublesome interactions are identical. He's enraged, you're sobbing. Rinse, repeat.

I'm a little stunned that you guys have seemingly never had a talk about what's game and what's not when he's performing. Maybe instead of being surprised, you could think about what's important to you and what's not, and you guys could talk about it preemptively? And maybe he can explain some of his rationale for using you in his act, which may or may not feel valid to you.

I've found in lots of relationships that I had different ideas from my partner about the ways in which it was acceptable to express anger, and sometimes that was an unresolvable conflict in the relationship. (And sometimes all I was hearing was the *way* they were angry, not what they were angry about. Though I still don't let people yell at me.)

Maybe an actually neutral third party would help you sort this out.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 2:45 PM on August 16, 2010

I'm going to go against the flow here. It sounds like he's a standup comic. Did you not know what the comic's world is like? That everything is grist for their mill, and that when they're at the microphone, any thing and anybody becomes fair game if it gets a laugh?

Maybe you should find out more about what that world is like – talk to more folks in the business, especially the significant others of people doing that kind of thing – before you jump to the conclusion it's about you.

Comics have to develop a weird kind of distance on their material, i.e. their lives. Yes, some go overboard. But if you're with the guy, it might be worth exploring what it is he actually does and why it is not about you, before you embark on leaving him. You may be surprised.
posted by zadcat at 2:45 PM on August 16, 2010

To begin... It strikes me as odd that one of your "examples" is an incident that happened more than 7 years ago. Perhaps you should ask yourself why you're holding on to that so tightly.

Secondly. I don't know that you've provided enough detail for anyone here to give you any meaningful advice.

Finally, the fact that he's willing to go to marriage counseling speaks to him, perhaps, NOT being abusive? I mean... The abusive personality probably wouldn't put himself in a place where someone in a position of "authority" (i.e. the counselor) would call him out on his crap. Just my opinion.
posted by RogueHolly at 2:53 PM on August 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

Many of the folks above are saying that couples counseling is the way to go. I think you know better than any of us if it is something that is right for you. Do you go to individual counseling or have a safe place to talk about what you want and how you feel? Do you know how you feel and what you want? Those may be important things to figure out before determining whether this is a relationship that you want to stay in. Staying for "the kids" is generally not a good reason to stay. Having happy healthy parents (whether they live together or not) is more important (or so says the research). I recognize that people stay in relationships for many reasons (love, finances, fear, community, etc.). Before you go to counseling just because he wants to (and he seems to be controlling in some ways), it may be important to make sure that you hear your own voice (not that of metafilter folks) and figure out what you want. Good luck.
posted by anya32 at 3:00 PM on August 16, 2010

... a pattern of behavior where he acts very insensitively or thoughtlessly and when I respond in a less than friendly way, he becomes FURIOUS and I end up sobbing. This goes on over and over; I feel like it's driving me crazy and am thinking about leaving.

So what happens when you respond in a friendly way? Have you tried this? I'm not saying that his anger is your fault, but there is a big difference between "Honey, I felt hurt when you said X because I am sensitive to how others see me" and "you big jerk you humiliated me!" You should not have to tiptoe around the person you love, but in the absence of any other information in your question, it sounds like you are stepping on his toes and then wondering why he's swearing. It seems like you're expecting him never to be thoughtless or insensitive, so you don't have to get angry, but that's an unrealistic expectation. He's not a mind-reader and he's not perfect. But when he does something that upsets you, you can choose to defuse the situation and work as a team to move past it. It doesn't sound as if you know how to do this, thus the suggestion of counseling.
posted by desjardins at 3:04 PM on August 16, 2010

Hi, as a couple's counselor, I don't have enough information here to say for certain that your husband is NOT abusive, but what you describe doesn't sound abusive to me. I would advise not to enter into couple counseling with the attitude that you're in an abused relationship based on this alone, but to enter into couple counseling nonetheless.
posted by namesarehard at 3:08 PM on August 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

abused = abusive.
posted by namesarehard at 3:08 PM on August 16, 2010

These two incidents do not offer enough information to make a good decision. I don't know what it means when you say he was furious. I'm guessing you're not the type of person who regularly begins sobbing at the drop of a hat but the day before your wedding may have been very stressful and I might cry after being humiliated in public just because that's rough. And it's weird that one of these incidents was seven years ago.

The fact that you're still upset about something that happened seven years ago says more to me about you than about him.

Maybe you should bring these incidents up with a girlfriend, sister, or your therapist and ask what they think. If they respond by saying they are or are not surprised, that should tell you something.

Also, I might be reading too much into this, but the L word is mysteriously missing from your question. Was that just an oversight or something more?

Anyway, yes, couple's therapy, by all means.
posted by kat518 at 3:17 PM on August 16, 2010

You say you're in counseling, but you don't mention what your therapist thinks of his behavior. Surely you've talked about it with him/her? If not, you should. Your therapist can help you determine if the behavior is abusive or not.
posted by Colonel_Chappy at 3:20 PM on August 16, 2010

It sounds like couples counseling could be a great way for the two of you to improve upon your communication issues. And I agree with others that it might be a good idea to work on your resentment issues with your therapist.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:38 PM on August 16, 2010

Wow, yeah, it didn't register that one of the examples took place seven years ago. You are really harboring some major long term resentment. I hope this is something you're dealing with in therapy.
posted by amro at 3:39 PM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Couples counseling for the win.

I find it odd that you use the word "furious" four times. Three times, it's capitalized FURIOUS and describing his reaction to you.

But the one time it's not capitalized, it's in his voice describing your reaction to him.

And then you're also describing times when you are "less than friendly," sometimes when you "try to assert yourself."

I may be reading too much into this, but be open to the possibility that you're contributing up to 50 percent to these communication breakdowns, and that you, too, can become FURIOUS.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:58 PM on August 16, 2010 [9 favorites]

Like many above, I can't tell from these examples alone whether your husband is abusive or not. Some of the actions you've described would certainly anger and disappoint me. That said, I know from family experience how exhausting it can be to walk on emotional eggshells around someone who evidences their sobbing as tangible proof of other people's wrongness, and reading your post did make me wonder whether your husband might ever feel controlled by you.

N'thing counseling. It might really help things. I hope it does.
posted by applemeat at 4:06 PM on August 16, 2010

Mod note: folks derails about whether this is or is not blaming the victim should go to MeTa and not derail the OPs thread, thanks
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:12 PM on August 16, 2010

"He says we need to go to couples counseling. He's not violent or verbally abusive."

Now you know the answer to your question.
posted by eccnineten at 4:18 PM on August 16, 2010

Get a Family Systems counselor if you go. And yes, go. A good counselor can always see you separately if that turns out to be best for awhile.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:56 PM on August 16, 2010

doesn't sound abusive.

Sounds like you are driving each other crazy and are possibly equally at fault. Counseling sounds good. Sounds like he is trying.
posted by sully75 at 6:58 PM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Okay, note down everything you can remember about what happened in several instances. Suggest he do the same. Take those with you to counseling. What the counselor can do is, with those examples, help both of you figure out what you need to do to make the confrontations less confrontational. If he's not angry and you're not sobbing, maybe you can actually get somewhere, make them discussions instead of arguments.

Hey, something that happened 7 years ago may simply stand out as a clear example. That doesn't mean the OP is harboring resentment or holding it against him, just that the particular example is one that she remembers really clearly. Sometimes when these things happen regularly, it's hard to grasp the details each time, or sometimes it's hard to pinpoint just what happened or where things went wrong. It's okay to use a clear example if it's one that you recall vividly, and not just assume that that means there's resentment simmering.

I mean, I recall really, really well the (extremely minor) incident that sent hubby & me to couples counseling before we even got married, over a decade ago. That doesn't mean I'm still holding it against him. It's just that now we both know how to deal with it when we run into something like that.
posted by galadriel at 7:16 PM on August 16, 2010

If you're thinking abusive, odds are... it's probably abusive. That is a word that is used when people feel like absolute shit when they are around their SO. Now, you only provided us with a couple of examples of his bad behavior. Is this really IT for all the things that he has ever done? Or are those just select examples you chose for us and there are many more similar stories that you've acquired over the years? I suspect it's the latter.

He gets FURIOUS and makes you cry? "He dismisses me, makes me feel small, and gets angry when I try to assert myself."

Just because he isn't calling you a shithead every single day doesn't mean that this kind of thing is abusive. It is. It's putting you down so he can feel big.

If he's willing to go to couples counseling, I totally approve, but if you feel godawful every single day with him, I think you'd be happier leaving in the end. If he treats you like this, odds are very high he's going to treat your small child like this too (if he isn't already), and your kid is going to grow up knowing that treating Mommy like crap is a good thing.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:00 PM on August 16, 2010 [3 favorites]

He's not violent or verbally abusive, but his explosive response to me when I react to him in "an unfriendly way" (his words) makes me wonder if he has issues that go beyond poor communication.

So what part of blowing up at you and making you cry isn't being violent or verbally abusive? He humiliates you in public and screams at you right before your wedding day. No. I don't think you should go to couples counseling...I think he needs to figure out what his problem is and fix it. Couples counseling is for people who need to work on their relationship. He needs to work on his anger. This is his problem, and if he's not willing to fix it, then there's no use working on anything else. I've been there, this is abusive crap, and you don't deserve it.

He dismisses me, makes me feel small, and gets angry when I try to assert myself.

And when you go to couple's counseling, he will do the same. Guys like this want you to think that it's your problem. You're just too sensitive, he didn't mean it, he was just joking, why are you being this way? If you don't want to have this happen again, you have to mean what you say. "No more. Fix it, or I am out." And then do it.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 8:38 PM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

A good start toward answering this question might be to ask yourself this: Are you unhappy more often than you are satisfied/happy with this relationship?

Well every relationship goes through this stage at some point--even those couples you always hear about who still adore each other after 70 years of marriage.

The question is are you unhappy and can anything be done about it? Try couple's counselling if he's willing, and you are willing.
posted by eye of newt at 11:07 PM on August 16, 2010

Hmm. I'm normally one of the first to guess "abuse" in these threads, but I'm not getting red flags about him. In fact, I'm going to go off in a different direction, present an alternative interpretation of the tea leaves here, and trust both that you sound able to dismiss my advice and that the crowd will tell me if I'm wrong here.

Your first example actually strikes me as an example of you trying to control others for your own peace of mind. I don't care that the example is seven years old, because I know that it's hard to come up with very clear illustrations of amorphous dynamics. But if that was the clearest example, let's look at it. That situation was 80% his business: his kid, his ex-, his kid's relationship with his ex-, and his approach to his ex-'s lateness. On the other hand, there was your wedding stress. It sounded like you wanted to control someone else's actions a day or so before your wedding, for your own peace of mind. Your request was not "remind her to bring him back on time," but something bigger than that. I can't tell how you raised your request, but it sounds like you may have presented it not as a delicate suggestion for his consideration, but as a demand that you felt entitled to have followed. When he (perhaps rightly) refused, we don't know how the discussion went. To you, now, it is evidence of his supposedly inappropriate anger. It might be inappropriate, truly. I can't tell. But I might feel angry if someone wanted to control my son's movements for their own peace of mind. Then, we know that you ultimately started crying, maybe to regain his sympathy and your position of power, maybe to calm him down, maybe out of frustration or sadness.

The second example is less clear, because your request sounds more reasonable, that he not lie about you on stage. But it sounds like it's not your request he's objecting to, but your tone: "When I react angrily to this... he... ends up basically saying 'How dare you get furious at me!'" That you not address his actual complaint head-on (e.g., by explaining how angry you were being) suggests perhaps some lack of awareness of what he is saying, and again, perhaps an underlying belief that no matter how angrily you address him, he does not have the right to get angry back.

I'm also missing a lot of giveaways that normally would flag "oh no abusive relationship" or "oh no, this OP is likely letting herself get abused." Instead, I'm getting a sense of entitlement, power, and "I'm the decider," from you. You refer to this as him acting "very insensitively or thoughtlessly," so I'm hearing you blame him and label his behavior. I'm also hearing that you believe yourself to be due sensitivity for your feelings, perhaps (in the wedding example), at others' expense. I'm not hearing you provide sensitivity for his son or for the awkward position your husband was in at that moment.

So, as a counter-perspective, what might really be going on here could be that you (might) have a distorted view of what an appropriate balance of power is in a mutually respectful relationship. Maybe you see your needs as being at the center of the universe. Maybe when he defends himself against your efforts to control him, you view that as aggressive or as a violation of the control that you should rightly have. Maybe you don't think he has a right to be angry in a healthy way to stand up to you if your own anger or control crosses a line. And maybe in those situations you regain control through crying and playing victim. (Lundy Bancroft talks about how some abusers accuse their victims of being abusive on p. 59-63 and 138-143 of Why Does He Do That?) Also, the fact that this question seems to come in part from his request for couples counseling -- you'd rather leave than go -- also signals to me that you're less willing to look at your part in the relationship dynamics.

Now, I really may be way off. It could be the other way around. Additional details could reveal how his reactions really are abusive. Please call a domestic abuse hotline if you believe you are being abused. Couples counseling also might be appropriate. Best of luck, feel free to tell me how wrong I am, and I hope you find peace with or without him soon !
posted by salvia at 12:49 AM on August 17, 2010 [4 favorites]

The go-to book for questions like this is "Too Good To Leave, Too Bad To Stay." It's worked well as a decision-making guide for a couple of people I know.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:08 AM on August 17, 2010

I too have been in a relationship where her solution to every disagreement was the FURIOUS! Your husband knows exactly what he is doing, why it is wrong and how it is allowing him to get away with every stupid thing he does, allowing him to do more stupid things.

Your child does not need to see and learn these behaviours.

Quit while you are - and have - ahead.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 1:30 AM on August 17, 2010

Is it possible that you just don't like him and have changed your mind about the relationship?

It's easier to leave if you frame his behavior as abusive. It's harder to tell your friends that you just don't like him anymore.

There's an awful lot of gray squishy area within people's perceptions of their relationships. A couples counselor will bring this out and make transparent all of your underlying assumptions--then you can navigate the gray areas.

If you're Disappointed or angry that he suggested couples counseling (are you?) then you should leave the relationship.
posted by vitabellosi at 3:59 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

It's hard for anyone here to make an accurate judgment of the situation based on what you've presented. If I'm understanding the problem as you see it, whenever you bring up a complaint in a "less than friendly" way, then he responds by becoming "FURIOUS".

In other words, perhaps you had a slight edge to your voice, but he immediately began screaming and stomping, spraying spittle while calling you names.

If that's an accurate perception, then you've got a legitimate serious complaint.

The thing is, I've known people who had a pattern of escalating nasty arguments and afterwards each was convinced that they were the person in your shoes as you have presented them. In their perceptions, the other person was much meaner, louder, angrier, more hurtful and unreasonable than they were. From my perception as an outsider, they averaged about the same degree of hypersensitivity and escalating angry behavior.

It sounds like your husband may perceive you as the one who starts out being angry and hurtful. Since none of us has seen the interactions between the two of you, none of us can see whose perceptions are accurate. I'll add my vote to those voting for couples therapy, where perhaps you can get some neutral feedback.
posted by tdismukes at 6:36 AM on August 17, 2010

You haven't described abuse. It may or may not be occurring, but you haven't described abuse. You may still want to leave your marriage, there may be plenty of incompatibility that suggests you should, but you haven't described it here.
posted by OmieWise at 8:09 AM on August 17, 2010

1. We can't answer this.

2. By asking us, you are actually asking for moral support in the decision you have already made, but aren't ready to follow through on.

3. My Rule of Relationship Counseling: If your partner asks you to go with them to relationship counseling, no matter what words you use as a response, there are only two possible answers:
(A) OK.
(B) This relationship is not that important to me.

4. Unless there's tangible, huge damage being done (physical violence, emptying the bank account, deep addiction, child endangerment...), ALWAYS try therapy first.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:04 AM on August 18, 2010

You haven't described abuse.

OmieWise, you aren't qualified to make that judgment. Only the OP is. And if she says it's abuse, I believe her.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:07 AM on August 18, 2010

You're incorrect. Of course I can judge whether or not she has described abuse. She has failed to describe abuse. It's the height of absurdity to suggest that just by labeling it abuse it becomes so. As I said in my reply, abuse may in fact be occurring, but this question does not describe it. (It also does not describe a tango, or a dinner party, and wouldn't no matter the label the OP put on it.)
posted by OmieWise at 11:23 AM on August 18, 2010 [3 favorites]

most marriage problems are 50-50 split or close to it. two times in 7 years he was loud to you! get over yourself and go to counselling. you probably need it more than he does. get over yourself. it's not all about you.
posted by swmobill at 7:16 PM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

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