Does one or both of us need therapy, or is it time to DTMFA?
October 7, 2010 7:53 PM   Subscribe

The way my boyfriend behaves when he's angry makes me deeply uncomfortable. Is this his issue, or mine?

I've been dating Kevin for about two years. I'm 23 (female, if it matters) and he's 33. A little more than two months ago, I moved into his house. Things have mostly been great. We have a lot of interests in common, love spending time together, we have a great sex life, and our goals for the relationship are similar.

We have a couple of recurring issues, though, and they have come to a head since I moved in. Most importantly, we have very different standards of cleanliness. I'm not slovenly by any means -- the bed is always made, the dishes are always done, and nothing is noticeably untidy when you first walk in the house -- but I tend not to notice little things like stray crumbs on a countertop or a cobweb next to the refrigerator. Kevin, on the other hand, is extremely vigilant about keeping the house neat. If he notices something like the aforementioned crumbs or cobwebs when he gets home from work, it can put him in a bad mood that will last for the rest of the evening. He feels that my inability to pay attention to such details when it comes to housekeeping is a sign that I'm not willing to put effort into our relationship.

When he's set off by problems such as the ones I've mentioned, Kevin starts behaving in a way that makes me feel very uncomfortable and borderline-unsafe. He'll give me the silent treatment while glaring at me, or he'll start slamming doors and throwing things. He has never thrown anything at me or overtly threatened to do so, but I find his demeanor very menacing at times like these. Recently, he was upset with me for leaving a chef's knife in the kitchen sink after I used it to cut vegetables, so he picked up the knife and threw it into the sink so hard its handle shattered.

I recognize that these behaviors aren't outside the realm of normal, but they still strike me as red flags. I grew up in a home where my father was verbally and physically abusive to my mother, and his explosive episodes would often be triggered by small failings in my mother's housekeeping. So I know that I'm especially sensitive to any signs that my partner might have a violent temper, especially since his triggers are so similar to my father's.

It also bothers me that Kevin never apologizes for his behavior after these tantrums. If I want him to stop giving me the silent treatment, I have to apologize for leaving the knife in the sink and promise not to let it happen again, at which point he will gradually calm down and things will go back to normal. I find it worrisome that he never acknowledges it when he overreacts in these types of situations.

So clue me in, fellow MeFites, because I'm having a hard time ascertaining what's normal: have my experiences with my Dad made me overly sensitive to reasonable expressions of Kevin's anger/frustration, or am I right to be frightened when he gets angry like this? These conflicts are happening about once every two weeks.

Part of me thinks that it would be silly to end a relationship that's mostly very pleasant over this issue, but there's also a part of me that tells me I don't need any justification for ending the relationship other than the fact that I feel unsafe in my own home.

Any advice or relevant anecdotes would be much appreciated.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (214 answers total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
 
I recognize that these behaviors aren't outside the realm of normal

I disagree. These behaviors are not normal. They are completely unacceptable and I wouldn't want to be around someone who exhibited them. He sounds unsafe to me. He should deal with this or you should move on.
posted by alms at 7:56 PM on October 7, 2010 [102 favorites]


These should be seen as red flags. I think need to listen to your gut on this one. He's not safe, it's not a safe environment. While it is his issue, he has to be the one that changes it. No matter how hard you try, you cannot change him.

DTMF. Be safe.
posted by 6:1 at 7:57 PM on October 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


I recognize that these behaviors aren't outside the realm of normal, but they still strike me as red flags.

They are not normal or healthy, and they are indeed red flags. This guy reminds me very much of the way I used to behave, and from experience I know that this is a problem, and it is his problem. He needs therapy at the least. You need to protect yourself at least emotionally if not physically. And you should not feel like you have to apologize to him for his passive-aggressive behavior.

A healthy relationship is based on healthy communication...that's not what this is. He's training you to be afraid of him, as far as I can tell.
posted by dubitable at 7:58 PM on October 7, 2010 [6 favorites]


Kevin is a controlling freak, his behavior is not normal and you should leave his soon. Faster than asap. If you stick around, you'll see this sort of manipulative behavior as normal. It is not. Cut ties and find someone worthy of you.
posted by nomadicink at 7:59 PM on October 7, 2010


I agree with alms. These behaviors are not normal. They are violent. His behavior towards you is controlling and disturbing, and feeling threatened and unsafe is an excellent reason to break up with someone.
posted by decathecting at 8:00 PM on October 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't think his expectations are normal but that's because it's just not my "normal" level of cleanliness. I think there is more to life than wiping a counter down 20 times a day. That's not what the problem is though.

His anger and actions after his level of cleanliness isn't met is definitely weird and a huge issue. I'm not one to say people need professional help but if this is someone you want to stay with I say you definitely need to get him professional help.
posted by zephyr_words at 8:00 PM on October 7, 2010


You're at the beginning of your relationship life. You don't need to put up with someone who, at 33 and a decade older than you, is so unable to process anger appropriately. You don't want to repeat your parents' marriage. I know it's much easier to say than to do, but you should be thinking about moving out and moving on.
posted by Miko at 8:02 PM on October 7, 2010 [62 favorites]


These behaviors are completely out of line. There is no need to ever throw things or act like a teen throwing a tantrum.

These are red flags, choosing to ignore them is at your own peril. You are relatively young compared to him, and these are not methods healthy individuals choose to express their emotions.

You would be best to DTMFA.
posted by handbanana at 8:02 PM on October 7, 2010


Recently, he was upset with me for leaving a chef's knife in the kitchen sink after I used it to cut vegetables, so he picked up the knife and threw it into the sink so hard its handle shattered.

No, not normal. Not normal by anyone's standard. At this point, you're probably wondering (I know I am) how long it'll take before he throws it at you the next time this happens.

Leave now.
posted by halogen at 8:02 PM on October 7, 2010 [6 favorites]


Doesn't matter if it's normal in the world or not--what matters is your comfort, your safety and your ability to be flawed in your own home. If you're not comfortable, if you don't feel safe, and if you don't feel free to make mistakes at home, with the person you love, you have two choices: 1) leave or 2) explain that you don't feel safe.

If the idea of explaining that you don't feel safe, comfortable and free at home, to the person who purportedly loves you, terrifies you because you will not be physically safe having that conversation, you have one choice: 1) leave
posted by crush-onastick at 8:04 PM on October 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


Yeah, it's not so much the cleanliness itself (this varies widely by person, and everyone has different ideas of acceptable).

But his behavior is completely unreasonable (and unacceptable IMO). Controlling, passive-aggressive, and violent (maybe not towards you, and maybe it never will be, but it's hardly an encouraging sign).
posted by wildcrdj at 8:05 PM on October 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Leave now.

I am not exaggerating when I say doing so could mean the difference between you living and you incurring a life-changing injury.
posted by patronuscharms at 8:05 PM on October 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Unlike you, I have never been around these behaviors. Even without having had experience of them coloring my perceptions, I would be out of there like a shot. This is not normal behavior. It scared me just reading your account of it.
posted by gaspode at 8:05 PM on October 7, 2010 [8 favorites]


Sounds like a red flag to me. You aren't over-reacting. The level of force he's using in his reactions is one of the biggest flags. It's not exactly safe to be throwing knives around, especially strong enough to break handles.

Even if you didn't have his temper to deal with, you need to talk to him about the level of cleanliness. Can you live with walking on eggshells day to day? Can you handle being more and more afraid that you forgot to clean some minor detail (a cobweb? c'mon!). If you don't talk to him about what he expects and come to a compromise, you'll eventually mess up in his mind and he'll get angry again. Lay out what he can reasonably expect from you and if he can't compromise, you have a big problem.

Does he exhibit the same anger when he's forgotten to clean something? If it's only aimed at you, you should be very careful.

Obviously I'm worried for you because you'll feel disadvantaged because it's his house you moved into. You might say to yourself "but it's his house" but you have just as much say in negotiations. If you like he gets to make all the rules, you might want to keep a separate apartment for you to have until it can be "our house" instead of "his house".

Confront him. Be assertive. Ruined evenings over a knife in a sink is not acceptable. Come to a compromise.
posted by just.good.enough at 8:06 PM on October 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


No. You don't need to wait for more.

Want to know what more looks like? Instead of throwing the knife in the sink, he throws it at the wall. Instead of slamming cupboard doors, he slams you.

do you ever want to have children or pets? Do you want them exposed to this behavior?

Silent treatments are somewhat okay for seventh grade kids. Not for adults. Leave fast. Get a friend or several to help you.
posted by yesster at 8:07 PM on October 7, 2010 [9 favorites]


I had a pretty bad temper growing up, and would throw things and kick holes in walls and have tantrums.

I realized this was unacceptable when I was about 16 and began to work on changing.

He's 33.

There's something very wrong here.

Please, be safe.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:07 PM on October 7, 2010 [10 favorites]


Oh, and I didn't explicitly say this in my post but I shouldn't fail to add that I agree with other posters who are saying DTMFA and you maybe also probably want to leave now. You gotta feel safe, and if you don't you need to get somewhere you can feel safe ASAP.
posted by dubitable at 8:07 PM on October 7, 2010


On preview I see that people are already jumping to dumping him, but talk to him. Maybe he does see the problem and will go about fixing it. It is a red flag though that he's already 33 and still can't handle this sort of thing.
posted by just.good.enough at 8:08 PM on October 7, 2010


Post-preview: god no, don't confront him about anything. Play nice till you can get out. he doesn't deserve an explanation.
posted by yesster at 8:08 PM on October 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


. . .there's also a part of me that tells me I don't need any justification for ending the relationship other than the fact that I feel unsafe in my own home.

You need to listen to that part of yourself. Violent tantrums in a 33 year old man are unacceptable. Throwing things, the silent treatment, glaring at you, etc. are signs that this guy is not mature enough to handle a relationship and can't or won't control himself. He is trying to intimidate you- do not let him succeed.
posted by Mouse Army at 8:08 PM on October 7, 2010 [30 favorites]


His tantrums are not normal and not acceptable. I'm not saying to DTMFA but some couples counselling to discuss the matter would be a really good thing.
posted by TooFewShoes at 8:09 PM on October 7, 2010


My boyfriend is extremely vigilant about keeping the house neat. When I leave a knife in the sink, you know what he does? He tells me I've committed a Class 2 Sink Violation: Failure to Put Dish in Dishwasher. (Shoes past the front hall threshold is a Class 1 Floor Violation--though we may have to reconfigure those after he spilled canola oil all over the floor last week...hmm.) You know what he doesn't do? Throw things, break things, slam doors, etc.

This is not about you being less tidy than him. This is about him having anger issues. This behavior is not normal. Please don't try to convince yourself that it is.
posted by phunniemee at 8:11 PM on October 7, 2010 [70 favorites]


Frankly I would get the hell out of there, like ASAP. You shouldn't be feeling unsafe in your own living space and afraid of your partner because of his temper. It's completely unacceptable. Throwing a knife so hard it shatters out of anger over something that isn't even wrong and then giving you the silent treatment until YOU apologize? Get the hell away from this situation, unless you want a life of walking on eggshells and being afraid of his scary moods and being blamed for his problems, particularly, his refusal to behave like a rational adult. I grew up with parents who had explosive tempers as well and it is not ok for people to behave this way.
posted by citron at 8:12 PM on October 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is extremely abusive and controlling behavior. If you stay in this relationship you are at the very least at risk of spending most of your time and energy trying to figure out how to avoid setting him off (this will be impossible), and possibly at risk for physical violence.

Please get out as soon as you can and consider therapy to help you work through some issues from your childhood around relationships--they do not have to include this kind of emotional manipulation.

Take care of yourself and trust your instincts!
posted by Kimberly at 8:12 PM on October 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh yeah, you both need therapy, 'cause you're enabling him by putting up with his crap. See a shrink at some point, because you should not be tolerating this behavior at all.
posted by nomadicink at 8:12 PM on October 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hey, I'm sorry to hear this. It's always so confusing sussing out the behaviors of someone we know and love and are close to.

For another view of how this could work, if it helps: I'm a real slob! My partner is *extremely tidy*. I make good faith efforts to keep things clean, like you, and I do pretty good, but honestly we all know what that's like from a slob. I leave stuff out on counters; I make little messes; I certainly don't make beds! Never in my life have I made a bed.

And my partner sometimes teases me and sometimes asks for help cleaning up and sometimes just laughs at me and goes on with his life.

He knows I'm meeting him halfway, and that I'm respectful and that I'm who I am. And that we're all allowed to not be ideal.

In return I let waste his Saturday mornings cleaning when I want to go do something fun because it's his life and he's welcome to live how he wants to.

That's because we love and trust each other and we see each other having always good intentions toward the other.

So... in your case, without knowing anything more—as in, "his side," or about the good times and whatever—there is *no way in hell* I would have this in my life. Your mileage may vary of course! (We all put up with different things in relationships.)

On one level—entirely setting aside issues like where it falls on the abuse v. not abuse spectrum, or if it's a red flag, or if it's violence—his behavior is also just rude, annoying, inconsiderate, obnoxious and juvenile, which are all qualities that I don't put up with in a partner. It displaces you as a person who's allowed to have an experience. It's selfish and gross. The silent treatment? From someone who supposedly loves me? No. Glaring, stomping around, throwing things and being a little baby? Ridiculous! As someone who terminated a prior relationship with a pouty, stompy thrower of things, I mean this in the most literal terms imaginable: I would be out of there as fast as I could pack my three favorite outfits and whatever book I'm reading.

And I would discuss that event with him after I was no longer in the house.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 8:13 PM on October 7, 2010 [17 favorites]


Is this his issue, or mine?

His, not yours. He's acting completely crazy. I often think we're too quick in relationship questions to label someone "potentially abusive." Well, he sounds potentially abusive.

Part of me thinks that it would be silly to end a relationship that's mostly very pleasant over this issue, but there's also a part of me that tells me I don't need any justification for ending the relationship other than the fact that I feel unsafe in my own home.

It's true that you don't need any further justification to end the relationship. No one could argue that "the fact that I feel unsafe in my own home" is a "silly" reason to end a relationship.

I agree with everyone else, but I wish you'd specify whether you've tried, you know, talking to him about your concerns. If so, what happened? You could let us know this by contacting the mods with the link at the bottom-right corner of this screen (or messaging someone who has already commented).

Not that you're obligated to have any particular conversation before breaking up in this situation. It just seems like a striking omission from the post and something that'd be useful for us to know about either way.
posted by John Cohen at 8:14 PM on October 7, 2010


"have my experiences with my Dad made me overly sensitive to reasonable expressions of Kevin's anger/frustration?"

no, it sounds like your experiences with your Dad made you think there was something normal about this creepy and blatantly controlling anger freak you're currently staying with.

that behavior is really, really bad news and totally not your problem, get out and don't look back. sounds like something you might really benefit from talking with a counselor about, too.
posted by facetious at 8:15 PM on October 7, 2010 [18 favorites]


I think I skimmed too quickly over the very end.

Before you talk to him about this, you need to be able to do it from a safe and even footing. Move out if you don't think you can confront him while you're living there.
posted by just.good.enough at 8:15 PM on October 7, 2010


Someone who is this obsessed with cleanliness is not likely to make compromises. I agree with everyone who recommended that you get out asap. He's suffocating you.
posted by mareli at 8:15 PM on October 7, 2010


This is not normal at all. Go with your instincts on this, especially since you've unfortunately had to undergo the experience of an abusive family member. Don't succumb to his tantrums. Get out of there, please.
posted by DisreputableDog at 8:16 PM on October 7, 2010


Chiming in to agree with all the above. His behavior is not OK. It's not necessarily a deal breaker, if he's willing to talk about it and maybe go to a therapist with you. But it's definitely a giant, flashing warning sign that he has serious anger issues.

Well-adjusted people who like a clean house clean it themselves, or splurge on a cleaning service.

Part of me thinks that it would be silly to end a relationship that's mostly very pleasant over this issue

This is not a good way to think. Can you imagine spending the rest of your life with someone who flips out whenever you leave a dish in the sink?
posted by auto-correct at 8:17 PM on October 7, 2010


there's also a part of me that tells me I don't need any justification for ending the relationship other than the fact that I feel unsafe in my own home.


there you go
posted by yesster at 8:18 PM on October 7, 2010


Why, exactly, is a cobweb next to the refrigerator your fault? Even if it were, his reaction is not normal. But backing up a bit from that, it sounds like he thinks Hannah Housewife moved in. His expectations are unreasonable and his reactions are scary. Get out.
posted by Mavri at 8:19 PM on October 7, 2010 [6 favorites]


If he goes bananas when you inadvertently leave a crumb on the counter, what's going to happen when you do something just as innocent that a reasonable human being might actually give a crap about, like scratching the car or spilling red wine on the couch?

Get out before that happens.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:19 PM on October 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


Get out before he moves from taking his anger out on the inanimate to taking his anger out on the animate.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:19 PM on October 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Have you ever heard about a wife who was beaten to death after years of abuse or some woman who upped and killed her abusive husband, and thought to yourself "Why would anyone let it get that bad? Why didn't they just leave when the abuse started?"

This is why.

Because it doesn't start with him smacking her around. It starts with this kind of controlling, angry behaviour that makes her doubt her own instincts, her own standards of what is and isn't normal behaviour. And as the behaviour gradually gets worse, her doubts about her own standards grow bigger to match.

Anonymous, you're obviously still not so deep that you can't see that there's a problem, but he's already making you doubt yourself. Get out or get help now.

Please.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:24 PM on October 7, 2010 [53 favorites]


His behaviour is abnormable, definitively. It is likely that his reactions will build in intensity as instances occur. Unless you become so cowed that you begin trying to keep up with the madness of maintaining a constant gleam, but that's not a life, is it?

Again, definitely not normal behaviour. You should be looking at those red flags waving and know that they mean you should make some hard decisions.

He seems like the kind of person for whom a suggestion of therapy might intensify the danger rather than mitigate it, as he would then feel both questioned and judged. Not a good combination.

Me, I'd end it by getting all my stuff out when he's not there and then provide no forwarding information. That's the kind of red flags this send up to me.
posted by batmonkey at 8:25 PM on October 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


I recognize that these behaviors aren't outside the realm of normal

Yes, actually, they are. At least, they are well outside the realm of healthy.

These are red flags -- specifically, red flags of someone who is highly controlling, a perfectionist, and has serious troubles with anger, communication, and compromise; in short, an abuser (whether physically or emotionally). These are all factors that are virtually certain NOT to get better as time progresses unless he recognizes them, takes full responsibility for them, and enters into long-term intensive therapy to change them. If you don't realistically see that happening, then I would get out.

Remember this: a good relationship isn't really measured by how someone treats you when the going's good. It's measured by how they treat you when the going's rough.
posted by scody at 8:26 PM on October 7, 2010 [12 favorites]


Why are you responsible for cleaning cobwebs that bother him? Think of all the ways he could resolve this issue instead of freaking out like a thwarted toddler. He could clean up the stuff you don't notice himself. He could hire a weekly cleaner. He could loosen up a bit. He could appreciate whatever effort you are making without expecting perfection.

This kind of negotiation is how relationships work. Having faith that when you disagree with each other, you can safely work together toward a solution -- that's the bedrock, basic level of being a functional couple.

A relationship where things are pleasant only when one partner is walking on eggshells to conform to the other's expectations is not actually pleasant. You are right to feel unsafe, and to insist he gets the therapy he needs to negotiate conflict respectfully with you. And if he won't, or can't unlearn his behavior -- I dearly hope you leave. Even if he never lays a hand on you, the stress of trying to manage his anger will hurt you deeply. He's the only one who can do it. Please take care of yourself.
posted by melissa may at 8:31 PM on October 7, 2010 [9 favorites]


Get out.

Then get some therapy to recognize normal ways to handle anger. It sounds like your code is buggy here. Get this straightened out now and save yourself a decade or two of crappy relationships.
posted by 26.2 at 8:31 PM on October 7, 2010


This is what's within the realm of normal (not necessarily acceptable, or very adult, but not threatening, either): loudly sighing while making a big deal out of wiping up three crumbs; loudly sighing while making a big deal out of washing the knife; etc.

Being a drama queen with the loud sighing is still manipulative and not healthy if it happens a lot, but it's in an entirely different, more normal universe than throwing a knife so hard the handle shatters.
posted by rtha at 8:32 PM on October 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


The cleanliness issue is a distraction from the real problem. If you had different standards of 'tidy', and talked to each other about them and figured out a way to compromise so you were both happy, the different standards would cease to be a problem.

The problem is that when you do something he disagrees with, he is violent (even if not to you), menacing, unwilling to talk or accept anything other than acquiescence, and refuses to acknowledge his wrongdoing afterwards. These are not going to go away.

It's awful thinking that an otherwise wonderful relationship can be scuppered by things like these - surely the bad people for us are bad in every aspect, right? - but you can throw yourself into the good parts of this relationship for years and have it continually sabotaged by his behaviour, or you can make a stand now.

This doesn't necessarily mean a dose of DTMFA, but it means you need to tell him that it's unacceptable, and that if he continues then he's being a certified MF, and you'll be proceeding to the DA part.
posted by twirlypen at 8:34 PM on October 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


Eventually he'll throw the knife AT you. Or worse.

Self-obsessed control-freaks like him never grow up. Is he the youngest son in his family, perhaps?

You will be treading on eggshells every single day you are around him.

Get out. Now. Today.

Been there, done that, got the scars. And I find it kinda scary that the name you've used for your boyfriend is the name of the man who scarred me the most.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 8:36 PM on October 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


If I were you... I'd run.

Seriously.
posted by mittenbex at 8:40 PM on October 7, 2010


Here's a normal way to deal with different levels of required cleanliness in a relationship. It's not the only way, but it works out well for my wife and I.

We have a division of chores that feels equal. It's not equal insofar as we each do the same amount of the same chores. It's equal because we both feel like the other is putting about the same effort and energy into the normal maintenance tasks of the relationship.

That division roughly comes down to I clean, she cooks. It came out that way because I'm something of a minimalist neat freak, and she loves to cook. When the place isn't up to the standard I prefer, I clean it myself. Ladybird (not Mefi's ladybird, my Ladybird) makes an effort not to make messes, and doesn't get in my way when I'm cleaning; in exchange, I don't complain about the messes she does make that I clean up.

This works for two reasons: First, I get to control, generally, the standard of cleanliness, and I get to put my X amount of work into the chores. Second, when she's being a bit too messy, we have a talk that goes something like "Sweetie, it's time to put away all the stuff you've been piling up on the kitchen table." It's not stuff she's using, it's stuff she's been piling up there because, well, she's a piler. She respects my wishes, and I consciously relaxed certain standards--I'm a clean freak, but I hold that back where it might irritate her or get in her way.

In other words, we found a good balance that we're both happy with. No one throws tantrums. No one buries anger deep down. No one has to apologize for their behaviour. And we got here by a gradual and continuing process of negotiating it through our relationship. That's normal. That's healthy. What you describe is NOT healthy. It's NOT normal.

I agree with the person above who said that he's training you to be afraid of him. He doesn't throw tantrums because he can't control his anger. He throws them because he's training you to be afraid of him throwing a tantrum so that you'll start trying desperately to avoid them by doing whatever he says, or you think he'll say. That's a massive control freak complex. It's unsafe. If you start getting good at satisfying his standards, he'll up his standards to keep you in fear of him. It's emotional Calvinball because the point isn't cleanliness, it's control. It escalates.

And at the end of that escalation is frequently death for the woman involved.
posted by fatbird at 8:41 PM on October 7, 2010 [26 favorites]


Everyone has given you really awesome advice. If you do decide to move out (and you should), I would be worried about your safety and his reaction to you moving out. Please, call the cops and have one over there to oversee you getting your stuff out. That's what they're there for. They do it all the time.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 8:45 PM on October 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


He seems like the kind of person for whom a suggestion of therapy might intensify the danger rather than mitigate it, as he would then feel both questioned and judged. Not a good combination.

I could not agree more. You do NOT need to ask him to come to therapy with you! You are also past the point of asking him to "talk about it." In fact, he put himself about nine million miles over the "let's talk about it" line when he threw a knife into the sink hard enough to break the handle (!!!). Not to be continually singing the refrain, but one of these days that knife is going to be thrown/thrust at you.

It's also interesting to look at what scody says above: "a good relationship isn't really measured by how someone treats you when the going's good. It's measured by how they treat you when the going's rough."

I totally agree with scody's sentiment. But - a cobweb next to the fridge is "rough?" Come on. What happens when someone wrecks the car, or the baby cries too much, or someone loses their job? This guy is the kind of person around whom people could potentially die in situations like that. Please get out. Now.
posted by deep thought sunstar at 8:46 PM on October 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm gonna repeat everyone's advice because it's very, very important.

Kevin's attitude toward cleanliness seems borderline psychotic. His (implied) attitude about things like cobwebs being your responsibility seems barbaric. Both of those things are insignificant when compared to the fact that HE GETS ANGRY AND THROWS KNIVES.

Seriously:

1. Move out. Don't announce it, and do it when he's not there. Find someone (relative, friend) who you can confide in and possibly stay with.

2. Tell him about your concerns, but for God's sake do it by phone.

3. Make an appointment with a counselor. Whether you invite him to the appointment is up to you.
posted by mmoncur at 8:49 PM on October 7, 2010


Can you live with walking on eggshells day to day?

just.good.enough has it exactly right, here. And the answer is, no, you cannot, not without seriously damaging your own sense of wellbeing and self-worth.

You could give him an ultimatum and say that either he goes to therapy, or you walk. But the fact that you are the one who has to apologize after these episodes suggests that he's far, far from being ready to change.

The age difference between the two of you means you're extra-vulnerable.

And seriously, "the bed is always made, the dishes are always done"? If this is true and your guy is still throwing tantrums, he has no idea what a true slob is, and no clue how to live with a normal human being. God forbid he ever have kids. Please, please, get out of there; it hurts just reading your post.

Good luck.
posted by torticat at 8:49 PM on October 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


my father was verbally and physically abusive to my mother, and his explosive episodes would often be triggered by small failings in my mother's housekeeping

You're not being over-sensitive, you're being under-sensitive. Kevin is acting like your father. Leaving crumbs on the counter or a knife in the sink? Those are small (microscopic) failings in housekeeping. Throwing and breaking things, slamming doors, and generally being menacing and aggressive (and it is aggressive to be violent toward objects while glaring at you)? Those are abusive behaviors.

This is unhealthy, inappropriate, abusive behavior, and you deserve better. You certainly deserve to feel safe in your own home, but more than that--you deserve to feel respected and heard, and if your partner doesn't like that there are crumbs on the counter? The appropriate thing to do is to clean them up himself or say, "It frustrates me when I come home and the counter is dirty, but you don't seem to notice that kind of thing. What can we do together to keep both of us sane?"
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:49 PM on October 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


Reading your description scared me. Having differences in neatness levels is normal. The silent treatment and throwing things, especially sharp things, is not. Acting like a petulant child until you apologize is also not.

Your description really isn't enough to know if these are the very worst of the examples, or if these are more in the realm of weekly or monthly occurrences. If the latter, I concur with everybody else, you should think about leaving. If the former.. I might suggest seeing a counselor.
posted by zug at 9:01 PM on October 7, 2010


Yes, please please get out. Reading your post, I actually feel a bit frightened for you. Everyone has already touched on his physical violence being it problem, but it's also a problem the fact that he's making everything your fault, when it's not. He never apologizes when he throws tantrums and throws knives, but only comes around after you repeatedly apologize for leaving out crumbs? That is not normal behavior, and is not a healthy relationship. I don't think this is going to get better with time (only much worse). The only way it might improve is if he decides to seriously pursue therapy and realize something is wrong with him, but it seems that he has already absolved himself of all blame and he does not realize he has a problem (and instead, thinks everyone around him has the problem). If you want to talk to him about it, I would do it over the phone or in a public location, after your stuff is out. He sounds unsafe and unpredictable.

Furthermore, please don't try to justify his behavior by saying that everything else in your relationship is going well, except for this minor issue. This is actually a HUGE issue...feeling safe and comfortable around your partner is quite possibly the #1 criteria we should have (which many of us take for granted). It is very much justified for you to leave right now. I wouldn't give him a second chance...it seems something is fundamentally off about him, and it'll take a very long time for him to change, even if he tries his hardest, which he probably won't.
posted by lacedcoffee at 9:09 PM on October 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


I don't need any justification for ending the relationship other than the fact that I feel unsafe in my own home.

THIS.

Actually, you don't need any justification for ending a relationship. You just need a desire to end it and free yourself to find a better match.
posted by Orinda at 9:11 PM on October 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


So clue me in, fellow MeFites, because I'm having a hard time ascertaining what's normal: have my experiences with my Dad made me overly sensitive to reasonable expressions of Kevin's anger/frustration, or am I right to be frightened when he gets angry like this?

I would say that your father's behavior has made you think that glaring, the silent treatment, slamming doors, throwing things and never apologizing is kind of okay. However, this type of behavior is never, ever okay. It's emotional abuse.

And it's not silly to want to be feel safe in your own home, or to want to have a boyfriend who you are not afraid of.
posted by nooneyouknow at 9:15 PM on October 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


I don't need any justification for ending the relationship other than the fact that I feel unsafe in my own home.

Like the comment above, THIS.

You deserve to feel safe, and to feel valued for who you are. Sure, maybe in a relationship part of the compromise is that you step up your housekeeping and the other person steps up their personal hygiene, or something like that. But the whole skirting up to the edge of violence thing isn't cool, isn't normal, and definitely, 100%, isn't something you should be living with.
posted by Forktine at 9:17 PM on October 7, 2010


I apologize for not reading your whole question, or for not reading the other answers, but

he picked up the knife and threw it into the sink so hard its handle shattered

is not okay. It's never okay. It's not normal behavior, and it's goddamn scary to hear about it. Yeah, he threw it in the sink, it's not so bad. No, really, it is. He threw a knife. It doesn't matter where he threw it, it matters that he threw it in the first place. It doesn't matter what he's reacting to, you DON'T THROW KNIVES.

Get out, as soon as you can. This is not a normal relationship, and he is far from 'normal.' You can do better.
posted by Ghidorah at 9:18 PM on October 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't need any justification for ending the relationship other than the fact that I feel unsafe in my own home.

Contrary to what your abusive parent(s) may have taught you, you don't need to justify your decisions to anyone.

You want to dump him but you're afraid of seeming silly. You want to dump him but you're afraid of giving up what seems like such a great relationship for something that maybe isn't that big a deal. You want to dump him but maybe you're wrong and his behavior is normal. You want to dump him but maybe you're just being oversensitive.

Do what you want. And I mean that literally, not in a passive-aggressive, guilt-trip-inducing way.
posted by thebazilist at 9:20 PM on October 7, 2010 [13 favorites]


lord, lord, lord. While it's good you asked us... you're at a point where you need to be so tired with his over-reactions that you finally make a break. Do whatever it is you want to do but understand every feeling and reason behind your movements so this way you never have to second guess yourself and you never have to let him turn the tables. Your gut is always right, hon. TRUST IT. IT WILL NEVER STEER YOU WRONG.
posted by InterestedInKnowing at 9:23 PM on October 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


When we grow up with abusive parents, we model our expectations of relationships after the ones we saw at home. Frequently, kids of abusive parents end up re-enacting their parents' relationships--sometimes over and over, moving from one abusive relationship to another.

I've often wondered how someone can--unconsciously, of course--recognize the tendency to be abusive in order to be attracted to just precisely the wrong kind of person. It's a fascinating thing. Sad, but fascinating.

One way to prevent the cycle of bouncing from abusive relationship to abusive relationship is to go get some good therapy. As someone upthread says, OP could really benefit from getting a grounding in what's normal anger expression, among other things. Therapy isn't easy, but it can help you form healthy relationships in the future, which is more valuable than anything else you can buy, beg, borrow, or steal.

In the OP's place, I'd be calling in sick to work tomorrow and moving out while he was gone. Pack up the important stuff first so if you're not done by the time he's due home, you can abandon everything else. Get out get out get out get out. He's already got anger issues; don't risk letting him get angry at you while you're moving out. This is a freaky scary place to be and the sooner you're out, the safer you are.
posted by galadriel at 9:27 PM on October 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm arriving late, but:

I recognize that these behaviors aren't outside the realm of normal...

Wrong. These behaviors are extremely abnormal. Perhaps your upbringing has given you a low expectation for your relationships. Your boyfriend is controlling, punitive, and has serious anger problems.

Get out, get therapy, get well.
posted by SLC Mom at 9:34 PM on October 7, 2010


[This is a followup from the asker.]
Thanks for all the quick and concerned responses. Most of them are along the lines of what I've already been thinking.

To be fair, Kevin and I did agree when I moved in that I would generally be in charge of housework while I job-hunt, because I'm new to the city and have yet to secure employment, whereas he works full-time (we were in a long-distance relationship, and I moved cross-country to be with him). Still, I don't think that my inattention to detail warrants the kind of anger he displays.

I have discussed the issue with him. Most recently today, when he mentioned that he bought a knew chef's knife to replace the broken one, but supposedly didn't remember how it broke. He says he'll work on it and he's willing to seek either individual or couple's counseling. But he also told me that he thinks I should try harder to diffuse the situation when I can tell that I've made him angry, by saying comforting things or by trying to give him a hug. I'm disturbed by the idea of forcing myself to hug someone who seems violently angry, and bothered by the fact that he thinks it's my responsibility to diffuse him when his reaction seems so disproportionate to my misdeed.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:37 PM on October 7, 2010


If he flips out like a meth head over crumbs on the counter, imagine his reaction to a child's toys on the floor.

There are so many screaming sirens and red flags here that I hope you run away at top speed and never look back.
posted by bunji at 9:38 PM on October 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm . . . bothered by the fact that he thinks it's my responsibility to diffuse him when his reaction seems so disproportionate to my misdeed.

You should be bothered by this. More than bothered. Abusers commonly try to deny responsibility for their own behavior and claim that other people "made them" do bad things and can "help them" behave better. Don't fall for it.
posted by Orinda at 9:48 PM on October 7, 2010 [61 favorites]


A couple phrases from your follow-up jumped out at me:

Still, I don't think that my inattention to detail warrants the kind of anger he displays.

he thinks it's my responsibility to diffuse him when his reaction seems so disproportionate to my misdeed.


I'm glad you've read the responses and have found them similar to what you were already thinking. This suggests you're mostly think about the situation with admirable clarity. But there is one comment I'd suggest thinking about more:

Why, exactly, is a cobweb next to the refrigerator your fault?

Even while you seem to basically understand that the current situation is a big problem, you still refer to "my inattention" and "my misdeed." I don't want to make too big a deal of this since, aside from being semantic, it's not the main issue. But it isn't apparent to me that you've exhibited any inattention or committed any misdeed at all. In fact, there's something striking about the very word, "misdeed." It has an air of fear to it. Doesn't it? You wouldn't use that word to describe the existence of a cobweb in your apartment if you had never met Kevin. And putting a knife in the sink? Where were you supposed to put it?

He isn't acting disproportionately to something wrong that you've done. He's acting disproportionately to nothing.
posted by John Cohen at 9:49 PM on October 7, 2010 [12 favorites]


But he also told me that he thinks I should try harder to diffuse the situation when I can tell that I've made him angry, by saying comforting things or by trying to give him a hug. I'm disturbed by the idea of forcing myself to hug someone who seems violently angry, and bothered by the fact that he thinks it's my responsibility to diffuse him when his reaction seems so disproportionate to my misdeed.

ugh, he's putting the onus of dealing with his anger on you and not taking responsibility for his actions. giant red flag! and the fact that he can't or won't admit that he threw a knife hard enough to break it is terrifying—if we were friends in real life, i would be offering to help you pack your clothes and move out while he was out of the house. have you ever seen the julia roberts movie sleeping with the enemy? your situation sounds like how the relationship she escapes from in that movie probably started out.
posted by lia at 9:51 PM on October 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


I'm disturbed by the idea of forcing myself to hug someone who seems violently angry, and bothered by the fact that he thinks it's my responsibility to diffuse him when his reaction seems so disproportionate to my misdeed.

Good for you.

That update kind of creeps me out more than what you mentioned in your original post: I guess it's conceivable (as in - there's some version of reality where it happens) that your boyfriend could figure out his anger issues and the two of you could live happily ever after.

BUT, man - you are totally right. It's not normal or okay to insist that other people are responsible for your feelings, for managing your emotions for you.

This dude is 33. He's a grown-ass man. If he gets angry, he can go for a run or go write in his journal or meditate or call a friend or whatever. It's profoundly unreasonable to expect the response to "getting angry" to be "other people take action to soothe me".

I hope you're thinking about moving out. This doesn't sound like a good man to stay in a relationship with, to me.

In the meantime, I wish you peace.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 9:51 PM on October 7, 2010 [11 favorites]


Still, I don't think that my inattention to detail warrants the kind of anger he displays.

Exactly.

I'm disturbed by the idea of forcing myself to hug someone who seems violently angry, and bothered by the fact that he thinks it's my responsibility to diffuse him when his reaction seems so disproportionate to my misdeed.

Trust your guts. This guy is now trying to manipulate you into thinking his response is (at least in part) your responsibility. First of all, it's not. And second of all, the fact that he does that is another big, big red flag. Please get out.
posted by Ms. Next at 9:54 PM on October 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


But he also told me that he thinks I should try harder to diffuse the situation when I can tell that I've made him angry, by saying comforting things or by trying to give him a hug.

This? This is an abuser making HIS anger and violence YOUR responsibility. From here, it is a very, very short step to "I wouldn't have hit you if you didn't make me so mad."

Get out. There are millions -- yes, literally, millions -- of men who do not behave this way toward anyone, much less to the woman they love. You deserve much, much better -- and you can find it. Good luck, sweetie. Lots of people are pulling for you. If you need permission... you've got it.
posted by scody at 10:00 PM on October 7, 2010 [49 favorites]


The first sentence of your follow-up:

Thanks for all the quick and concerned responses. Most of them are along the lines of what I've already been thinking.

doesn't quite match up with the rest of it. Ask yourself why that might be.
posted by AkzidenzGrotesk at 10:03 PM on October 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I ignored similar red flags during my engagement. Long story short, I ended up obtaining a restraining order against him years later, after the control and anger issues escalated to threats of physical violence to me and our dog. It was a long, uncomfortable -- and dangerous -- relationship. Leave him. Now. His behavior is NOT normal.
posted by northernlightgardener at 10:08 PM on October 7, 2010


he seems very immature. Why would you put up with it? You're only 23, bail bail bail
posted by the noob at 10:10 PM on October 7, 2010


"But he also told me that he thinks I should try harder to diffuse the situation when I can tell that I've made him angry, by saying comforting things or by trying to give him a hug".

Let me translate this for you: "I don't understand my own emotions and I lack the ability to regulate them. I want you to regulate them for me; and when that doesn't work, I want you to take the blame for it. Oh, and if I get pissed enough, I'm reserving the right to go off on you, fair warning."

Bad, bad, bad, bad news. Sister, the one who needs hugs over there is you, and not from him.
posted by facetious at 10:11 PM on October 7, 2010 [27 favorites]


This is pretty fucked up. The lack of apologies is a shitty cherry on a shitty sundae. Please, get out of this situation.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:14 PM on October 7, 2010


"Still, I don't think that my inattention to detail warrants the kind of anger he displays."

It does not. Not at all.
posted by spinifex23 at 10:15 PM on October 7, 2010


He claims he doesn't remember how the knife broke?? That's almost as disturbing as the fact that he threw it to begin with.

Please get out. He sounds violent, scary, and extremely unlikely to ever want to change.
posted by whitelily at 10:22 PM on October 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


If I'm understanding correctly, you moved across the country without a job to be with this guy. I realize that makes it especially hard for you to pick up and leave because you probably don't have a lot of money or a lot of local people for support. That sounds especially tough...and that also gives him an awful lot of control over you. Can you go back to the city you came from, or someplace else to stay with friends or family (not your dad, obviously, but others) while you job hunt?
posted by needs more cowbell at 10:24 PM on October 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


I would also recommend dumping him.

However, on the chance that you do go the counseling route, see someone separately from him. You need someone to advocate for you in counseling, and its quite possible he would use the counseling sessions to bully you. I say this because he's already blaming you for his anger, when he is the only person responsible for his feelings.
posted by annsunny at 10:26 PM on October 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I grew up in a home where my father was verbally and physically abusive to my mother, and his explosive episodes would often be triggered by small failings in my mother's housekeeping. So I know that I'm especially sensitive to any signs that my partner might have a violent temper, especially since his triggers are so similar to my father's.

So, then, would it be unreasonable to observe that it seems as though you're pretty plainly repeating the traumas of your family's past, here in your own love life? You seem to be about to complete this sentiment yourself in this particular section of your question.

A cobweb? A crumb? These are not "triggers" for him. These are excuses for him to explode. He'll keep finding excuses to explode and hurt you.

That whole shtick he's giving you, about how it's your job to make sure that he doesn't psychotically blow up at you, about how it's your role to placate him, about how it's all you, you, you that makes him hurt you? That's abusive. That's classically abusive. He does not sound self-aware in the slightest about how unacceptable his behavior actually is. That bodes extremely poorly; his promises of therapy ring to me more like a temporary consolation, a discursive ploy he doesn't have enough self-insight or motivation to commit to in actuality.

Don't be your mother. Get out.
posted by Keter at 10:28 PM on October 7, 2010 [14 favorites]


But he also told me that he thinks I should try harder to diffuse the situation when I can tell that I've made him angry, by saying comforting things or by trying to give him a hug.

This made me remember something, so I went looking and found this thread from a few weeks ago. You should read through it. "If you have ever been involved with someone who turned out to be dangerous, what were the things you realize in hindsight were warning signs?"

Linked within is The warning signs of abuse. Note especially, in your case:
- If he acts like nothing has happened after an abusive episode
- If he blames you for what has happened and minimizes his abuse
posted by PercussivePaul at 10:34 PM on October 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


he thinks I should try harder to diffuse the situation when I can tell that I've made him angry

You are not making him angry. He's lashing out because of his inability to have absolute control over the world. You've already given too much of yourself to this situation. You have done nothing wrong here, and you shouldn't let yourself, even for a second, think that you have.

You might think this is too much, but I'd really, really not like to see the follow up AskMe where you tell us he thinks it's your fault he hits you so much. Get out, please.
posted by Ghidorah at 10:40 PM on October 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


You're not getting it, clearly. It is not your job to calm him down. Look, you could turn yourself into a mindless zombie slave Stepford Wife Subservient Chicken and be the perfect homemaker and he'd STILL find something to yell at you for. He'd yell at you and/or hit you for breathing his AIR. That's the name of the game: he is always superior and can do whatever he wants and you are the peon he can do whatever he wants to, and that is what makes him feel good inside.

You are dating your father.

Yes, really.

That broken knife may very well be you someday in the near future.

Yes, really.

Call your old friends from across the country for a place to stay, pack your stuff, find a flight, get out. And when you can, please find a good therapist before you date again, because until you train yourself out of the instinct to find abusive men (because right now they feel like "normal" and "home" to you and that is why you find them attractive), you'll just find another father/Kevin to beat you up too.

Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeease leave. It's not about the housework. It's about him loving to control every aspect of a woman's life.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:40 PM on October 7, 2010 [11 favorites]


Gosh, even though you say, "To be fair..." it's actually not fair. Stop making excuses for him. You agreed to be responsible for more of the housework, which you already fulfilled. If he's wants it cleaner, a normal adult would talk to you about it and come to a compromise-- NOT have tantrums. There is no excuse for his behavior.

And yikes, he doesn't remember how the knife broke? He sounds nuts, and in denial. Although he agreed to go to therapy, it doesn't seem like he thinks anything is wrong with him. If this is the case, therapy will be useless. Please be safe. Can you move back home? Get some help, whether a place to stay or some cash for the time being, from your parents or friends? This is truly an alarming situation and I (nor anyone who cares about you) wants you to feel tied down the where you are simply because of your financial situation.
posted by lacedcoffee at 11:09 PM on October 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


The word "normal" is meh. These behaviors seem "normal" to me in the sense that they're not uncommon but not if you take "normal" to mean healthy - which they certainly aren't. Add me to the "trust your gut and leave" pile. Some people are just toxic and not worth the time.
posted by wackybrit at 11:14 PM on October 7, 2010


The advice here seems quite unanimous, but I'm compelled to respond too because I was struck by how much your description of your boyfriend sounds like my father. While my father was never physically abusive, he would get into the sorts of moods your boyfriend has over things like my mom watching TV, over/under-cooking dinner, and neglecting to vacuum remote, invisible accumulations of dust. These moods would last for days - the silent treatment, slamming/throwing things around, and other demonstrations of anger simultaneously very menacing and very childish. I'm curious to know, how are your boyfriend's relationships with other people who are not you? It seems like there are certain types of people who CAN control their emotions just as well as any of us, but see those who love them as opportunities to act like animals.

Maybe your boyfriend won't ever dream of throwing that knife at you, but even if things never escalate, please think critically about the future potential of this relationship. Living with someone for years who seethes with anger about CRUMBS is poisonous to the soul in subtle and terrible ways.
posted by geneva uswazi at 11:19 PM on October 7, 2010 [10 favorites]


The fact that you talked about it and he's blaming you is a huge warning sign. Get out of there as soon as you can. There are plenty of good men out there that have what he has minus the abuse.
posted by just.good.enough at 11:38 PM on October 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


Because it doesn't start with him smacking her around. It starts with this kind of controlling, angry behaviour that makes her doubt her own instincts, her own standards of what is and isn't normal behaviour. And as the behaviour gradually gets worse, her doubts about her own standards grow bigger to match.

Quoted for truth.

I have about ten years of experience in working with domestic violence victims; they currently make up about a third of my family law practice.

I am terrified for you right now.

I know a woman whose relationship started out just like yours. With the door slamming, and throwing things. At first, she thought his overreaction was funny.

It got worse. He once choked her so hard he ruptured her thyroid.

When she was pregnant with his child, she would have bad dreams, and if she woke him up, he would kick her off the bed.

By that point, she thought that was fine. When she told me about it, she didn't understand why I was shocked and horrified. That was less than a year from the beginning of the relationship.

Please get out. Tomorrow. While he's at work. With the police present. If you don't have any friends in the area (and why would I not be surprised if you don't . . . ), this is what domestic violence shelters exist for. Please get out.
posted by freshwater at 11:39 PM on October 7, 2010 [27 favorites]


As someone who was in an abusive relationship for four years, and has subsequently found a healthy, caring relationship with someone else, I can tell you that these symptoms are big red flags.

Get out now, while you still can.

Or see a couples counsellor together.

But don't just let his behaviour continue. It is unacceptable.
posted by Hot buttered sockpuppets at 11:47 PM on October 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I could have posted this question 15 years ago.

I'm going to share my experience. Obviously your relationship is not mine, but my understanding is that abusive relationships very often progress along a similar path.

At first S was lovely to me. We had a great sex life, got on well, he was very romantic (and prone to big gestures). At about 6 weeks into the relationship, he got angry at something and started shouting and threw things at the wall. This was not aimed at me (though it did nearly hit me) but I was rather freaked out at his behaviour and said so. This made him angry with me for even entertaining the idea that he might aim his anger towards me. I apologised and dropped it.

Over time, he increasingly got angry, firstly at just random things, and then at things I said or did. He was rarely angry directly at me, but would give me the silent treatment, or punch walls or throw or break things. Sometimes he would go into the kitchen and throw knives into the door. In all of these situations, he would only get over it if I apologised and made a huge effort to make him feel better. The few times we managed to talk about it, he said I should recognise when I'd done something to make him angry and try and make him feel better.

Over time his behaviour got worse. I was increasingly finding it hard to enjoy having sex with someone I didn't feel very safe around, and he would start saying things like 'you don't love me anymore' which made me feel terrible, so I would have sex with him because I didn't want him to think I didn't love him. Sometimes sex was still good, but a lot of the time I was tense because of the way he'd been earlier in the evening, or because essentially I was having sex when I didn't want to. In the later stages of the relationship I had sex with him just because that was easier than saying I didn't want to.

It was over 18 months into the relationship before he actually physically abused me, and he only did it a few times in total. He didn't really need to because I spent my whole life tiptoeing around him, trying not to do anything wrong and apologising when he said I had. He tried to control my friendships, constantly accused me of having affairs, made me late for work most days by causing arguments, tried to drive a wedge between me and my family by saying they didn't like him, and everytime we had a conversation about the relationship told me to 'run away from my problems like a little girl'.

Well, I was aiming for a little shorter. I wanted to share it with you, though, because if you recognise anything of yourself, Kevin or your relationship in there, please get the hell out of there. Maybe he can change if he wants to ,maybe not, I don't know, but it shouldn't be your problem. I got out, obviously, but I feel like I lost several years in my early 20s, which is probably my deepest regret as it's had repercussions for years. So, yes, you could spend time and energy on trying to help him change his behaviour (if he even wants to), or you could see that you're 23 and have your whole life ahead of you, and plenty of opportunity to meet someone who behaves decently, and leave him.
posted by kumonoi at 11:57 PM on October 7, 2010 [14 favorites]


I'm late for work and I couldn't leave until I read the whole thread and responded.

I am scared for you.

Nobody could meet the demands for cleanliness that he's enforcing through intimidation and thinly veiled threats of violence (which is what throwing the knife was). You are being set up to fail. You are being trained to live in terror.

You are also being trained to go to counselling so that there will be room for doubt and just a little more stuff to be fair about and think over so that while you're paying attention to whether or not you should have to be hugging this angry guy right now, he has time to reach over to the counter, take that knife, and stab you in the back with it. I wish that were just a figure of speech, but in this case, I really don't think it is.

I honestly think you are in imminent danger. You may have gotten used to the idea, from living with your father, that abuse goes on for a long time without anything irreversible happening. I can tell you that the next abuser can be worse than the last and they can act more suddenly than you are prepared for.

Please, the next time he's not around, pack your things and get out and don't leave any contact details. Don't have counselling. Don't try to talk about it with him beforehand. Listen to what freshwater said. Don't wait.
posted by tel3path at 12:26 AM on October 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Just wondering ... is there more you left out, because it didn't seem important and/or you didn't want to distract from the question you asked? Has he "accidentally" harmed you physically yet? By this I mean something shatters and parts hit you, he throws something at the wall but it misses and hits you, he slams a door and "accidentally" hits you with it? If that hasn't happened yet, I would bet all the money I have that it happens in a matter of weeks.

But he also told me that he thinks I should try harder to diffuse the situation when I can tell that I've made him angry, by saying comforting things or by trying to give him a hug.

This? This is an abuser making HIS anger and violence YOUR responsibility. From here, it is a very, very short step to "I wouldn't have hit you if you didn't make me so mad."


Yup, exactly.

I cannot recommend enough that you read this book by Lundy Bancroft: Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men.

The gist is - they are in complete control of themselves when they flip out. They know exactly what they've done. They do it deliberately in order to create the situation that they want, where they have you jumping to serve their every need. The person upthread who said he's training you to be afraid of him hit it exactly on the head.

By the way, the book also mentions gaslighting- which is apparently an extremely common tactic these types of people use, where they deny reality in order to get you to think you're crazy. This sounds like exactly what your boyfriend was doing to you when he told you he couldn't remember how the knife broke.
posted by Ashley801 at 12:29 AM on October 8, 2010 [8 favorites]


Leave first, then read it.
posted by tel3path at 12:35 AM on October 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


The book I mentioned also discusses the fact that a lot of abusers love to go to therapy (conventional therapy, not batterer programs specifically targeted to abusers). They love to go to therapy because it gives them excuses/justifications for their abuse (using a bad childhood as an excuse, for example), because having a status as being "sick" can elicit more sympathy/willingness to stick around/guilt from their partner, and because they learn "therapy-speak" that they use to gaslight their partner and "diagnose" what's wrong with her.
posted by Ashley801 at 12:38 AM on October 8, 2010 [9 favorites]


If you decide to stay after all this, (which I think we have to acknowledge as a possibility because most people do) and he says he's willing to go to therapy, have him go to a batterer program, not conventional therapy or counseling. See if he's quite so willing then.
posted by Ashley801 at 12:45 AM on October 8, 2010


Something else: if you're feeling embarrassed or awkward about having moved across the country for this guy, try not to beat yourself up about it. Don't let that be the deciding factor in whether you stay or go. I'm not a whole lot older than you, but I can already see from my own life that everybody makes some big mistakes and most people get kicked over sideways at least once by something unexpected in their life. And I think those moments always feel horribly awkward from the inside but they really just look like ordinary life from the outside.

Or, in other words, I have friends who have failed the medical boards and so had to repeat their entire second year of med school, who got both married and divorced within 3 years of first meeting their partner, who applied to graduate school for 4 years in a row and got completely rejected every time, who got pregnant at 16, who got pregnant at 21, who didn't have sex until they were 30, who got their dream job and discovered it gave them daily panic attacks and so quit a month later, and who spent years working on a novel, only to finally get it published and have it sink like a rock.

And every time I find out that something like this has happened to a friend of mine, all I feel is sorry for them that they have to climb over this new obstacle in their path, and I worry about how hard on themselves they'll be. But every time that sort of thing happens to me, I feel like a giant blazing idiot with a huge neon sign hanging above my head that rings like a fire alarm and flashes down at me: "You're a moron! You're a moron!"

All of which to say: it can be helpful to remember that these things always feel more embarrassing from the inside. You were really brave to move to a new city and to start making a new life with someone. There's no shame in that. And there's also no shame in assessing your situation and deciding that it's not working and deciding to get out, no matter how long it's been since you moved there, because that's an equally brave decision. Anyway, good luck.
posted by colfax at 1:00 AM on October 8, 2010 [134 favorites]


Even though he has never hit you, this kind of controlling behavior falls into the category of emotional abuse. So while you might not identify as a victim of domestic violence (I'm sure that expression seems too strong for you), you shouldn't feel shy about asking them for help. If you want to just talk this out with someone, call the domestic violence hotline at 1−800−799−SAFE(7233) .

Their website also has a tab labelled "is this abuse?" I see at least two that apply to your story and they suggest that if even one fits, you call the hotline to talk about it.

Second, couples counseling is not appropriate in this situation - you are going to be too worried about his reaction to what you say to feel safe being honest in session. Also, if you want to each try individual counseling, you should still move out until you are confident that you would be able to feel safe living with him. You can probably get free or very low cost counseling through an agency that supports women who are dealing with abusive relationships. (The hotline can help you find one locally)

Third, if you don't choose to leave immediately, please make a safety plan in case you have to flee the house in a hurry. You can read about safety planning here. As a minimum, make sure you have some extra cash, a credit card and a spare car key hidden outside of the house in case you can't get to your purse. I'm sure this feels overly dramatic but if you have been reading all of the entries above, you should realize that there is some chance that things might get out of hand. If you never need it, no harm done. If you do need it, it could be a lifesaver.
posted by metahawk at 1:01 AM on October 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


I was once in your shoes. I could see what was wrong with his behavior for years before I could leave. Here is the longest comment I've written on what had to change in my mind before leaving was possible (and it needs editing, sorry). Your follow-up makes me very concerned. Good for you for reaching out. I don't know what would be helpful to say to you that hasn't been said above already, but feel free to contact me if you want a sounding board.
posted by salvia at 1:37 AM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


One of the first times that I remember my dad beating up my mom was over dirty dishes in the sink. It didn't start then, it started with the things you are dealing with now. She didn't see it coming, but you do. Get out.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 1:45 AM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yes, you need therapy, but not with him. Yes, you need to DTMFA.

I was in a relationship like yours once. We went to couples' counseling. He somehow got the counseling sessions focused on me as "the problem" in the relationship. If we ever talked about anything I wanted to talk about, he'd give me the silent treatment for hours after the session.

My ex had similar issues to Kevin's with cleanliness, but it was mainly my tone of voice that he became obsessed with. No matter how I spoke to him, there was something wrong with my tone of voice.

He would yell at me and then say it was because I forced him to by not listening when he spoke reasonably.

There was a lot more but it's very similar to what you're going through and what others have shared, so the details aren't important. I just want to add my voice to the nearly universal chorus of "get out now!"

Even without a Dad who behaved as yours did, a person can get caught up in gaslighting and manipulation. The fact that this is in your family history indicates that you may be more vulnerable to it. Please discuss it with a counselor.

Please let us know how you are doing. We're worried.
posted by xenophile at 1:45 AM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


In your situation I would beg, borrow or steal enough money to get to somewhere safe (ideally, back home, with a friend or family member), and walk out with nothing but the clothes on my back if necessary. Please, please, let this be the nightmare relationship that you escaped just in time and learned a valuable lesson from, and not the terrible mistake you persisted in that steals your youth and mentally/emotionally/physically scars you for life. Please.

Once you're safe away and on your feet, see about that counseling to extract yourself from the potential cycle of abuse modeled by your parents' relationship. You are obviously a very smart person (with, actually, excellent instincts that you should trust), and a little professional guidance will help to arm you against ever again being unwittingly drawn into a another abusive situation. And do let us know how you are!

added because there simply can't be too many voices saying RUN AWAY!!
posted by taz at 1:54 AM on October 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


Run.

There are tons of guys out there that will be good partners and won't feel the need to destroy your self-esteem in order to control you and keep you on your toes.

Understand that leaving him is just the beginning of a long healing process. Much damage has already been done.

If I am terse it is because I have said all this before, not because it is not serious.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 1:56 AM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I just saw your update, you did everything wrong, sorry. You have to leave, preferably without warming. By giving him warning he has already manipulated you back into the relationship and made it your fault by pointing ways in which you could improve.

Try again. You will regret every single day you prolong this relationship for the rest of your life.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 2:05 AM on October 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Just as an aside about what I think what the OP was supposed to do with the knife (IF it was a real chef's knife and not a lookalike stand-in, I'd do that too. [do. Not reinforce]) was to rinse it off after use and put it back into the knife block.

Not that that is of any consequence here: if it was a real chef's knife, throwing it would be (even more) madness than otherwise,
-Madness because he got angry because of the knife not being treated the way he thought it should, which logically excludes the option that he winds up treating the knife in any other inadequate way.
-Madness because some high-end knifes could shatter and shower sharp bits over the area
-Madness because throwing anything hard in the sink may initiate any type of bounce-back boomerang patterns (think Wyle E Coyote).

The red flag everyone is sensing here is that everyone (including your partner) has, or should have, some extra strong inhibitions around doing silly with knifes (socially as well as smartness-induced ones as in: "things can happen" plus "don't be that guy whom people saw waving a knife" plus "you could hurt yourself, klutz" plus a few more).

I have been in a partnership where my partner didn't remember the content and extent of her angry outbursts and throwing fits. For us this didn't go to solve.
posted by Namlit at 2:30 AM on October 8, 2010


cortex: "[This is a followup from the asker.]
But he also told me that he thinks I should try harder to diffuse the situation when I can tell that I've made him angry, by saying comforting things or by trying to give him a hug...he thinks it's my responsibility to diffuse him when his reaction seems so disproportionate to my misdeed."
PLEASE listen to yourself and just get out, ASAP.

Like others previously, I had a similar relationship. I was the one setting him off, if I'd just be (funnier, neater, more organized, whatever he wanted) then he wouldn't get so darn angry.

But then it turned out that our kids also infuriated him because they were too loud, chatty, silly, messy, etc. And he ended up emotionally abusing all of us, scaring us constantly, and while we were working on his issues in therapy, he upped it to hitting us. So I took the kids and left.

You've got a huge red flag waving in your face. Stop analyzing it and please, just get out.
posted by dzaz at 2:58 AM on October 8, 2010 [9 favorites]


Please get out.

I, too, grew up in a household led by a man who used violence as a control tool. But breaking things in anger is not normal or healthy. Putting the responsibility for his actions and reactions on you is not rational or healthy. Please, please follow your instincts and leave.
posted by VelveteenBabbitt at 3:38 AM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


By the way, after you dump this guy (which I sincerely hope you do) please seek counseling for yourself. Because of the way you were raised you are more at risk of choosing these types of partners and you need to be aware of ways to break the cycle.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:49 AM on October 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Please listen to the comments telling you that your boyfriend is abusive.

I wouldn't normally share this, but I am so worried about you that I am going to: Growing up, my mom tried really hard to have the house clean in time for my dad's arrival from work every day. It didn't matter. He still beat her routinely. He still threw her against a wall in front of me. He even would stamp on her feet while she held my baby brother in her arms. This continued for about 20 years. Oh, and the same treatment was given to us kids (just in case you're thinking of having children with your boyfriend someday). I had a long list of chores every day after school, doing things like vacuuming the living room rug over and over again because for some reason that was important to him. He beat us, too. With six witnesses to this abuse, he says now that he doesn't remember.

I'm only a little bit older than you and I think I can relate to your desire to work things out with him. But you have to understand that what you described in your initial question and in your follow-up is a classic example of the "cycle of violence." From a safe computer (not one that your boyfriend can check), please do a google search on that phrase. Your safety is at risk. I'm not just a survivor of similar abuse; I also spent the last year working at a domestic violence agency where I heard stories like yours everyday. Please make safety plan with the help of a domestic violence hotline counselor (or at least a friend) and leave him.
posted by pinetree at 4:55 AM on October 8, 2010 [8 favorites]


You have essentially moved in with your father and taken the role of your mother. If that doesn't bother you, think of your future kids. Your boys will end up abusing their partners and your daughters will end up being abused. I encourage you to break the cycle.

If you can't afford individual counseling, most DV shelters have walk-in classes for free.

Whatever you do, DO NOT go to couples therapy with him. If he is exceptionally skilled at manipulating, you'll end up being the focus of therapy.
posted by WhiteWhale at 5:12 AM on October 8, 2010 [7 favorites]


Behaviour not normal. I'm inclined to tolerate the silent treatment unless it impacts stuff beyond the person acting like a sullen lump (sometimes it's a gesture that the person is getting their temper under control and doesn't want to say anything the other person doesn't deserve to hear) but flinging things is not good behaviour. You have the right to feel safe in your own home.

He should be aware that you're not responsible for cheering him up and that he's frightening you. A loving partner will modify his behaviour so as not to scare you. If he can't do that, find a new place to live.
posted by Phalene at 5:21 AM on October 8, 2010


I came into echo Metahawk, xenophile and WhiteWhale: couples' therapy is usually not appropriate in a situation where one partner is controlling and violent. The sessions end up being manipulated by the controlling partner and the other partner is made out to be at fault.

For example, just look at his view of what YOU should do to calm him down when HE got irrationally angry. He isn't even beginning to own his emotions.

I feel a little sick reading about your situation. You are so young and the eggshell life is so...emotionally torturous.
posted by Pax at 5:25 AM on October 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Late to the game. If he's such a goddamn neat freak, it's *his* responsibility to meet his standards, not yours. If he doesn't like the odd cobweb, get out the duster, motherfucker! Throwing shit is absolutely not "not out of the range of normal behavior"; it's not even close to the range of normal behavior. "Normal behavior" involves throwing, at most, a *sock* at the fucking *floor*. Not knives at *anything*.

D.
T.
M.
F.
A.
posted by notsnot at 5:28 AM on October 8, 2010


Also, this really really has nothing to do with cleanliness. An abusive person will find ANYTHING (and then make shit up) to be mad about.

You: What a beautiful day!
Him: You are so fucking insensitive. You know I forgot my sunglasses and the sun is too bright. But of course you have to rub it in.

You: Where do you want to go for dinner?
Him: Typical. I've had such a hard day and you know it. Figures you'd keep pressuring me. You should know that I need to time to chill out. You are an uptight bitch.
posted by Pax at 5:28 AM on October 8, 2010 [15 favorites]


Also- You cannot change him. No matter what you do, he wil not change for you. 99% of abusing men will always be this way. There is no couples therapy. There is no curing his problem. He may show a lack of symptoms for weeks, months or even years, but it WILL happen again.

If he goes to individual counseling, it won't matter. He won't talk about what he has done, but likely use the entire 50 minutes blaming you for his issues. Individual therapy with overcontrolling men (IMHO) is usually unproductive.

I wish I could help you get a sense of urgency. This is a big deal. He IS dangerous. Have you read those stories on the news where an estranged husband breaks into a home and kills his ex-wife? Or when a husband kills his wife and then himself? That's the relationship you're in. That's domestic violence. You're only 2 months in and he is picking up and throwing knives in front of you. That's a very specific and manipulative message. He is violent.

If it sounds like I am a bitter abuse survivor, I'm not. I'm a male that has worked with both sides of abuse.

The good news is that you're young and the cycle of abuse has relatively few occurances. If you get out now, get some help, and never look back, you'll be ok.

If you choose to stay, know that you can keep us updated and we'll always be here to listen.
posted by WhiteWhale at 5:46 AM on October 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


But he also told me that he thinks I should try harder to diffuse the situation when I can tell that I've made him angry, by saying comforting things or by trying to give him a hug.

You're not his mommy, and he is not five years old.

Please get out. You deserve to have healthy, nonabusive relationships. This isn't one and it's not your job to fix it.
posted by rtha at 5:53 AM on October 8, 2010


I know a lot of people rush to tell an abused person to leave, and I'm not one of them, because although in theory it's true, in practice it can be so difficult that it might not be in the person's best interests to leave before they're ready. Insisting that they leave often places more burdens on somebody than they can handle.

In your case I am urging you to leave right away because I really am that worried.

You've only been with him two months and now stuff like this is happening - it's moving fast. I have to back up Ashley801 on this: "something shatters and parts hit you, he throws something at the wall but it misses and hits you, he slams a door and "accidentally" hits you with it? If that hasn't happened yet, I would bet all the money I have that it happens in a matter of weeks."

You can always go back if it turns out the situation is more harmless than it appears. But I think you know it isn't.
posted by tel3path at 6:01 AM on October 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


You may or may not want to hear one more response of "NOT normal", and not your fault, and the red flags are waving in front of you. But here it is.

Good luck with your decision. But if you were sitting here beside me, I'd say it won't get better, it will get worse. He's shown you what he's like now.

It's really hard to leave when there are good aspects to the relationship, but you are more important than he is, and you need to take care of yourself first and foremost.

At 23, believe me, please believe me, there is more to life and love out there for you, and you do not want to become trapped with someone who behaves like this now. Who knows what the future holds?

I recognize that these behaviors aren't outside the realm of normal, but they still strike me as red flags. I grew up in a home where my father was verbally and physically abusive to my mother, and his explosive episodes would often be triggered by small failings in my mother's housekeeping. So I know that I'm especially sensitive to any signs that my partner might have a violent temper, especially since his triggers are so similar to my father's.

They are outside normal, as I know it. You have a chance to break the cycle of the past, instead of repeating it.

Be strong. Go.
posted by Savannah at 6:05 AM on October 8, 2010


I haven't read all of the thoughful responses yet, but enough to add this:

I do not think these behaviors are "red flags"... I think they are these behaviors that "red flags" precede. I sadly speak from experience here.

Please trust your gut as it is spot on! Find help, get out of this abusive relationship (safely) and good luck.
posted by murrey at 6:18 AM on October 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


A bunch of people have already commented on "he thinks I should try harder to diffuse the situation," and for good reason. That was the line that made me say "oh fucking no" out loud. It's enough of a red flag when a partner tries to pass the blame on you for something like standing you up for a date. This is a run-for-your-life situation.
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:19 AM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I understand if you read all these responses and still find some way to tell yourself it's not that bad, or that it won't get that bad, or that we're all freaking out over something that really doesn't merit leaving. I get it if you think that you're strong enough or smart enough to handle the situation on your own, or if you think you should help him through this, that you can save him or help him get help, that you would feel guilty for just leaving.

Spend a little time thinking about how you really feel about this situation and what could be keeping you here -- that you're in a new place, that you tore up your life to move to be with him, embarrassment about family, dealing with the reactions of your friends.

It's not going to stop. All signs point to this getting worse. And the awful, insidious thing is as things get worse you will gradually be stripped of your ability to see how bad it is. And as hard as it would be to leave now, it will only get harder, and you will only have more to deal with later.

Love to you. Good luck.
posted by fiercecupcake at 6:46 AM on October 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


You may possibly be thinking that you've overdramatized, or successfully fooled us in a bid to gain sympathy which you now feel you don't deserve, or otherwise inadvertently or advertently misrepresented things so as to make us think things are worse than they really are. Not that I claim to know what you're thinking, I've just had thoughts like this myself at times.

In hindsight I was always understating my case, and not dramatizing enough.
posted by tel3path at 6:54 AM on October 8, 2010 [20 favorites]


When you move out, please seriously consider taking a number of friends with you to help you pack up and clear out - and by "number" I mean at least 4, with maybe 2 of them being reasonably big blokes.

I'm not trying to be overly dramatic here but if he is as unstable as it sounds, then there is a very good chance that he'll flip at the news of you moving out and may become far more violent/dangerous than you realise.

Make sure that you always have friends around you and decline any requests he makes for them to leave so you two can be alone together.

If I'm wrong, then the worst that could happen is that you will packed up quickly and out of there. If I am right, then the worst that could happen is that he flips and throws you around like the knife.
posted by mr_silver at 7:04 AM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I recognize that these behaviors aren't outside the realm of normal...

The hell they're not! This guy is a dangerous, selfish, domineering asshole! Get out NOW, before you end up in the emergency room or the psych ward.
posted by MexicanYenta at 7:08 AM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


or he'll start slamming doors and throwing things. He has never thrown anything at me or overtly threatened to do so
I know a man who started this way. Making loud noises. Throwing things, slamming objects. After a while, he raised his hand to strike his wife in the face. He didn't follow through with the punch, but the next time he might have. His wife didn't give him the chance. She left.

posted by pointystick at 7:08 AM on October 8, 2010


facetious: "
Let me translate this for you: "I don't understand my own emotions and I lack the ability to regulate them. I want you to regulate them for me; and when that doesn't work, I want you to take the blame for it. Oh, and if I get pissed enough, I'm reserving the right to go off on you, fair warning.".
"

This, a million times. There is nothing you can do to fix this problem. And the fact that he has these issues at age 33 means it will take a long time and lots of work BY HIM to solve them. I'm not sure from your answer that he really thinks he has a problem but thinks that someone else (you in this case) to causing his problem. I can't stress strongly enough that you can not solve this and you shouldn't try.

I've been where you are and trying to fix this can suck up years of your life. Each year that passes you'll be less likely to break free because you'll have invested so much time in the project. Also, this behavior so often escalates to real violence or just fear-based control that you'll be isolated from friends and family and one day you'll feel like you have no where to escape to.

Just be safe and remember that you don't have to climb the mountain just because it's there.
posted by victoriab at 7:29 AM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


OK, even if you don't consider him a violent person (which I do) he is still a moody and controlling bastard. He is abusing you. Please see this. You are allowing him to bully you. He cannot use his moods to manipulate you. He doesn't control you. Why are you allowing him to behave this way? Even if the house was a pigstye when he arrived home he isn't allowed to huff, puff, glare, throw things, and generally be a big asshole. He thinks he's entitled to behave this way. Big danger sign. Big soul-killer.

You are an adult. Adults don't stick around and allow people to abuse them. (Why are you allowing this?) They especially don't stay and complain about it. If you continue to stick around and try to "change" him, explain away his behavior, or change your behavior to diffuse his moods, you're not taking control of your life. You are worthy. Tell yourself this because right now you're treating yourself like shit by staying with this guy.

He has 10 years on you. You're too young, and smart, for this heavy, soul-killing nonsense.
posted by Fairchild at 7:30 AM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


What pretty much everyone else said. This man can't be trusted and you need to leave. I would not bother with therapy or trying to work on your relationship with him. My experience of controlling people is that they never let go of their need to control.
posted by orange swan at 7:38 AM on October 8, 2010


As of this writing, 120 good answers telling you to run, don't walk, run may still not be enough if he's already a master at this power and control thing, even if you think these little things are merely red flags and not the precursor to worse. But here's number 120-whatever.

Your talking to him about this recently (or at all) may escalate his actions. He's had warning now, so he may use (even more) intimidation along with the minimizing and blame that he's already inserted into this; he may appeal to your emotions by trying to make you feel sorry for him (and promises to go to counseling are not the same as actually going) or say things to make you even more unsure of yourself (rather than go for the insults or typical abuse); and damn, it's a lot of work getting out of any relationship, especially terribly imbalanced one, especially if you're (still) enjoying good sex. But even sex is a control thing. He may "behave" for a bit, realizing he played his hand too soon.

And our telling you to get out without telling you how (which may be your next question) is only of some help. You're already isolated, which is also a control thing; and as per your response, plus you're economically controlled by not having employment or a place of your own to live.

If you're not reading this from the airport, it's because you still have hope. And I know from experience, and gunpoint, that it takes the death of all hope - and that you may need to pity and despise him and be a little ashamed of yourself before you go.

Think of it this way: There is a reason that he is a decade older and available, and found someone for whom abuse was their "normal", at long-distance especially - and brought that person, unemployed, across the country to live with him in a setting where he has everything to his advantage and due to age, experience and situation, it can never be equal. Because he is an abuser, and this is what they do.

He does it because he can, and will as long as you let him. Because he's good at this. Because he's done it before, and he'll do it again.

Please start making your plan, if you can't pack up and go quickly with a clean break. If you're not going to go today or tomorrow, start covering your tracks. One of the first orders of business: erase your caches and histories and bookmarks and archives use a computer at the library.

And one last bit of advice/an anecdote as you'd asked for?

Find one of his exes. Ask what happened.

In my case, the ex found me and told me (a little too late) "What happened to me will happen to you." But I didn't believe her, and sure enough, less than a week later (and a week before we were due to be married) I left with one suitcase. Under gunpoint.
(I was 23, and he was just turning forty. Funny, that.)
posted by peagood at 7:40 AM on October 8, 2010 [25 favorites]


Look here, I am very familiar with the situation you are describing and I did NOT listen to my gut and am paying dearly for it now. Please leave. Relationships are hard enough even when they're easy. Yours is starting out hard from the beginning. I don't think you are in danger now, but you will be if you stay.
posted by staggering termagant at 7:42 AM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


One hundred and fifty + responses, all unanimous on... get out. Stay SAFE.

Let me repeat that: ONE HUNDERED AND FIFTY.

You moved to be with him. You now know exactly what he is like. Mistake, accept it, move on (AND out.)

What I want to know, is what will it take to get you to move out? Being beaten from head to toe for wiggling, then stabbed (near fatally), thrown in a car trunk and driven two hours away (still bleeding, of course) and dumped out on your mom's front yard? (true story).

I threw tantrums. I decided it was silly.... at age 16. You need therapy. (whitewhale, if she lives in a city of any decent size, she almost certainly can get good counseling for $10 or even free.) Like everybody else said, do it when you are safe. Priorities. You do need therapy.... he needs... well, not to be a sociopath. (I'm fairly sure he hasn't killed anyone. yet.) Your title of the question is your answer. DTMFA, and stay safe. He will do whatever he can to make you his little zombie, and it will never be good enough.


If you happen to live in the same city or even state I do, I believe you need to get out enough that I'll bring some guys and my girlfriend and we will come help you.
posted by Jacen at 7:53 AM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Normally in AskMe threads about relationship problems, even when majority opinion falls to one side or another, you will encounter a vocal minority offering another interpretation or suggesting a different course of action. Where there's ambiguity, you can count on the fact that some people will chime in to suggest a more charitable reading of the issue than the OP is leaning toward.

I find it really significant that in this 120+ comment thread, not a single person is suggesting that this is just new-relationship jitters, normal stress, something a new couple just needs to work out, etc. That's because it's not that ambiguous, and I hope the fact that no one can find a really hopeful or charitable reading of the situation signals something to you, too. Things don't look good. In addition to joining the voices that are urging you to move out, I also recommend that you get therapy - even if you feel relatively well adjusted (and you are, or you wouldn't have such good radar that something ain't right here!), these kinds of things can feel so complicated and difficult that it may really help you sort out how you got into this, how you felt while in it, what happens as you get out, and how to evaluate future relationship possibilities so as not to walk down this street again.
posted by Miko at 7:55 AM on October 8, 2010 [6 favorites]


I've made him angry

No. No, you haven't. You're not responsible for his emotions. You can't make anyone else angry. You are certainly not responsible for getting him over his (unreasonable and outrageous) mad. Don't let him assign his emotions to you.
posted by galadriel at 8:00 AM on October 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm incredibly worried about you being across the country from all you are familiar with and without a job- are you ABLE to leave? Can you call someone who is not one of your parents (as they might not be the most helpful people in this situation) and arrange for money and transportation out of town? I'm not sure how many friends you have in town given that you've only lived there for two months and don't yet have a job- your friends might actually be his friends, which is not helpful. Please, pack only what you absolutely need and leave immediately if you can't wait for the full-on move out. Do it in the morning so you have all day before he comes home from work. Go to a shelter in town if you need to while you wait to finalize travel plans and arrangements to stay with someone safe. But really, you need to leave, as soon as possible, and I so hope you have friends who can help you even if they are far away.
posted by questionsandanchors at 8:11 AM on October 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


Not to disagree with everyone else who's commented before, but just to clarify:

Even if it never gets ANY worse that it is now, you should leave. Even if it never escalates to violence towards you, this is a miserable way to live your life, and you should leave.

The sort of hypervigilence and anxiety this will produce in you will grow to affect other areas of your life, and cut you off of things you enjoy. Get out before that happens!
posted by mercredi at 8:14 AM on October 8, 2010 [6 favorites]


Ack. Hugs. If you were my friend or acquaintance or I knew you were within an hour's drive of me I would take the rest of the day off work and get you now. Seriously. He used the "make me angry" line; I don't even need to know about the knife throwing to know you need to sleep somewhere else tonight.

I'm very sorry this thing you had turned out like this, but you really need to stop reading AskMe and get your things and leave. I post only because I'm worried you are refreshing the page waiting for someone to show up and take his side.
posted by SMPA at 8:14 AM on October 8, 2010


It's already been said several times, but it bears repeating: Kevin is not a good candidate for couples or (conventional) individual therapy. If he's failing to take FULL responsibility for his own behavior (he does not acknowledge having thrown the knife; he claims you are responsible for his emotions), then he's not going to have what he needs for therapy to be effective: self-awareness and motivation to change.

As others have said, individual therapy could be helpful for you, but couples therapy is unlikely to make this a happy, healthy relationship. It is likely to keep you sticking around in the relationship, hoping for change, possibly for a long time.

You have great instincts: you know something is wrong with the way Kevin behaves when he's angry, and you know that you cannot be responsible for keeping him calm (an impossible task). Trust yourself!
posted by Orinda at 8:26 AM on October 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


And another thing! You think it's exhausting you now to triangulate and anticipate and rehearse and double check constantly to make sure the emotional thermostat in your house is set at a temperature he can live with? Wait until you have kids with this man, or one of you loses a job, or gets ill, or something happens that makes you so busy/stressed that you can't always be on guard about crumbs or cobwebs because you're too preoccupied with diapers and vomit. As vigilant as you are in calibrating your behavior to keep the peace -- it almost seems like a reflex by now, right -- are you looking forward to also explaining these standards to your toddler? Or your visiting friends and family? "You know he is, he just doesn't deal well with (insert totally innocuous/vaguely annoying behavior or event here). So I'm going to have to insist, for the good of our family, that you not gurgle after 8pm, Junior, and that you only spit up in the chamber pot I have hidden in the back of the closet. And family members, no, you cannot get yourself a drink from the kitchen because he has a certain WAY he likes the glasses put away, and really it's just easier for me to everything than to have to deal with the outcome if things aren't just so." Because that's what will happen, and already HAS happened to some extent, if I am not reading too much into your post.

You have things you need to fill up your brain with other than a flow chart of what is and is not likely to earn you a ration of shit from the person who purports to love you. Fuck that noise.
posted by staggering termagant at 8:33 AM on October 8, 2010 [5 favorites]


Not to disagree with everyone else who's commented before, but just to clarify:

Even if it never gets ANY worse that it is now, you should leave. Even if it never escalates to violence towards you, this is a miserable way to live your life, and you should leave.


I agree with this and I think most or all people who've answered here would agree. For purposes of making the decision to leave the relationship, it doesn't really matter whether all the talk about "If he throws objects, soon he'll be throwing them at you!" is actually a valid inference. It's often far too easy in these questions to make the leap from someone being angry to someone being physically abusive. But when knives get involved, you do have to seriously worry. But even if you had zero worry about him ever hurting you physically, he's hurting you psychologically.

I also agree with what others have pointed out: there have been 135 comments. Maybe there are a few repeat commenters (like me), but there must be over 100 different human beings who have answered. What's the verdict? I believe it's 100% who say to leave right away. The dynamics of AskMe "human relations" questions usually work like this: if there is a possible argument on two different sides, there will be people rushing in to voice both sides, even if one is really weak. So, if there were an argument -- even a really weak argument -- for staying in the relationship, someone probably would have made that argument because these long, relationshippy threads tend to attract dissent. Here, there is no dissent. Unless I've missed it, no one is even giving a balanced "on the other hand... but on the other hand..." devil's advocate answer. Everyone agrees you should leave. No one believes you've done anything wrong (except staying with him and shifting the blame from him to yourself).

Usually, I'm the first person in human relations questions to say: it's up to you; you have to decide what you want, not what a bunch of anonymous internet commenters want; we might not have the whole picture. Well, we don't have the whole picture. But we have enough details. This would be one time to go with what all the anonymous internet commenters are saying.

One more thing, prompted by staggering termagant's last comment: even if you don't act right away, at the very least, do not have sex with him again. Even if you use protection, there is always a chance you could get pregnant. You do not want to have this man's children. He is literally crazy -- insane. Not figuratively crazy, as in "wacky." Literally.
posted by John Cohen at 8:44 AM on October 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Believe what people tell you about themselves. He has told you quite a bit, quite clearly.
posted by tristeza at 8:50 AM on October 8, 2010


I agree with the chorus, but I think I have one useful contribution re:the question of whether his behavior is "normal." Virtually everyone who's addressed this answers, "No, not normal." I have another perspective.

There is no such state or set of behaviors that's definable as "normal." Rather, "normal" is whatever you normalize by living with it day-to-day. You grew up with an abusive father, and so came to think of abusive relationships as "normal." So you found your way into one, and part of the difficulty in breaking away is that its nature confirms what you already thought you knew about what's "normal" in relationships. You got what you, on some level, expected. Part of you doesn't believe there's any alternative to this because it's "normal." So asking whether a situation is "normal" is only useful if you want to stay with established patterns, and is not so useful when what you need is change.

It's far more helpful to ask questions such as, "Is this behavior good for me? Does it make me feel good, safe and loved? The answers there are obvious; it is not, and does not. So then you progress to the next set of questions which are along the lines of, "Is it worth putting up with? Do the benefits outweigh the costs? What I hope you see is that it is not, or soon won't be, worth putting up with. Even now you feel that you're riding the margin, and the costs will increase, trust will crumble and the benefits will evaporate, as will your belief in yourself and your ability to climb out of the hole you're in.

Which brings me around to what everyone else has said -- Save yourself the time and the agony. Get out now.
posted by jon1270 at 9:11 AM on October 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Just cause I feel like giving some examples.

One time I suggested my ex and I have seen a movie. And I swore up and down we seen it together. He was pissed at my insisting claiming he never saw it. Punched the glass window where we worked, almost broke it.

I couldn't hold conversations with him because I wouldnt know what set him off. I literally talked about something benign as pigeons and he stopped me. When I wanted to continue my story he claimed I was being disrespectful. But it was ok to talk about whatever he wanted.

He would get upset if I came late from dance practice because I didn't have enough energy to please him. I dind't even LIVE in his apartment. Wow.

He would be upset if I didn't make him breakfast before he went to work if I stayed over. Tired, blind (cause I wear prescription glasses) and naked he would wake me up to make him oatmeal. Daily thing.

If I bought something he didn't like he would claim I wasn't being considerate.

Whenever we ate out he would insist I order something we can both share even if he wasn't going to eat it.

He would come into MY house and boss me around.

He used to be very upset if I met with a guy in the city for business that he didn't know of or if I didn't call him right away as soon as I got off a train to meet him. He would mask it as him caring for my saftey but it was a way to explode at me. 'Cause those would be the times he would EXPLODE. Almost punching out my car window.

He was very condescending many times suggesting how much he is surprised to learn from me, when he's not all that much older (6 years?).

Don't get me started on the bedroom issues. He had to report everything I can do better like a coach. And would wake me up to argue if we didn't get to do anything for the night.

This was intertwined between compliments and some laughter.

The funny thing he would commit these offenses in different scenarios one time, but he figured since it seems llike one time it won't seem like he does it all the time.

And also the thing about all of this, is he would make it sound as if his behavior was the most normal thing. And I was dealing with major OCD and anxiety where everything seemed irrational. Can you imagine the strength I had to go thru to actually leave? You seem like a healthy minded individual with low disorders, please use this to your advantage while you still can. I was your age, if not younger. Started at 19! Don't wait as long as I have... 5 years.
posted by InterestedInKnowing at 9:27 AM on October 8, 2010 [8 favorites]


jon1270 makes some good points. I would say the same thing a bit differently: sometimes you ask "is this normal?" and get the answer "who cares what's normal, what matters is what you want, you have a right to insist on what makes you feel loved."

The trouble is that you know it's possible to want things that are totally unreasonable and to insist that you must have unreasonableThingX in order to be loved. How do you know this is possible? Because you have a living example right in front of you, of someone who makes just such unreasonable demands! And you don't want to end up like him - that's why you're asking!

You can fully understand that "normal" is not always the ultimate good, but it is a useful starting point to know what most reasonable people consider to be reasonable behaviour and expectations, and weigh that against what you're experiencing.

If we lived in a society where abuse and knife-throwing were so totally normal that nobody ever questioned it, you would get the answer "yes, it's normal", but in that case, your instinct that knife-throwing is evil and unacceptable would be right, and it would be society that was wrong. Then you'd have a much bigger problem and your basic choices would be to conclude that you're in the wrong, or still think you're right but buckle under, or take up your convictions and start a revolution. But that's a digression which is irrelevant to your situation, which is that you are in the right, and that what's happening to you is not normal, and that you can get out of this situation and have a reasonable chance of being treated better than this by most people.
posted by tel3path at 9:29 AM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am scared for your safety and like the others I want to encourage you to leave immediately.

None of this is normal behavior. Please get out of there.
posted by oneear at 9:31 AM on October 8, 2010


I know at this point it's just adding to the chorus, but, OP, please, please leave him.
posted by purlgurly at 9:34 AM on October 8, 2010


Chiming in with another DTMFA.

Contact your family and friends and let them know that you need their support. Even if you're not comfortable telling them about the violence (and to this day my family still doesn't know), you could always tell them that you couldn't find a job in the new city and need to go home. If you're afraid of his anger at your leaving, then you should pack up and go when he's out at work. See if you can get a friend to be there with you in case he comes back early.

And maybe leave a written note (that you have a duplicate of or is signed and witnessed by someone else) that tells him to never contact you ever again. This worked for me because my ex has had run ins with the police in the past and the mere thought that I might contact them to press assault chargers or for a restraining order scared him enough to leave me alone forever. This may or may not be a good idea in your case.
posted by cosmic_shoals at 9:44 AM on October 8, 2010


And if you're considering the let's-try-therapy-route, please listen to this:

Whatever you do, DO NOT go to couples therapy with him. If he is exceptionally skilled at manipulating, you'll end up being the focus of therapy.

Yes. A thousand times. Months after my divorce, his therapist called me to apologize for taking his side and not listening to me. She then characterized my ex-husband as a sociopath.

I'm not saying this is your situation, but some people are very skilled in therapy at turning everything around, and it's bad news.
posted by dzaz at 10:10 AM on October 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'd like to point out that your whole frame of reference regarding cleanliness has been pushed outside of normal by this guy. In mean, seriously, you make your bed?!?!? If your bed is always made, and the dishes are always clean, that probably puts you in the top 10th percentile of most diligent cleaners in the United States.

OK, that may be a bit of weird levity in an otherwise serious situation, but there's a point to it. Step outside of the box, and look at how he's changed you. Look at the sheer number of people who are saying, "This isn't normal!" Take a few minutes to think about what other abnormal things that he's made seem "normal" in your life.

This should make it easier to leave. And yes, you should leave.

Good luck getting free.
posted by Citrus at 10:17 AM on October 8, 2010


It's really hard to leave. And I know a lot of people here are telling you to do it this afternoon. That may not be possible for you.

But what you can do is leave for a few days - make up an excuse to visit your family or your best friend. Talk to someone you trust about your situation. Get some support and make a plan. Then see it through. It may take days or weeks, but as long as you're working on your plan, you're making progress.

And do go see a counselor. You are enabling this behavior. I don't like that word, but that's what it's called. And a good therapist can help you see what it means and how to avoid relationships like this in the future.

It's really hard to leave someone you love. You want to help him. But you're not the right person for that.
posted by Sukey Says at 10:50 AM on October 8, 2010


If he notices something like the aforementioned crumbs or cobwebs when he gets home from work, it can put him in a bad mood that will last for the rest of the evening. He feels that my inability to pay attention to such details when it comes to housekeeping is a sign that I'm not willing to put effort into our relationship.

When he's set off by problems such as the ones I've mentioned, Kevin starts behaving in a way that makes me feel very uncomfortable and borderline-unsafe. He'll give me the silent treatment while glaring at me, or he'll start slamming doors and throwing things.


He's not very mature, this boyfriend of yours; he has extremely high standards, insists that you meet them, and when you don't meet them he behaves like a four-year-old child (and I mean that literally; four-year-old children throw things when they're not happy about something. It's a behavior that most people learn to stop when they're in kindergarten.)

Not to say that all young woman/older man relationships are bad, but does he have a history of dating women much younger than himself? If so, it's a good sign that this behavior of his is recurring, and that he's selecting younger women because women of his own age group will not put up with his behavior.

Another thing: are you both responsible for keeping the house clean, or just you? If just you, that's an arrangement I personally would find distasteful; one where I was noticeably younger than him, and expected to keep his house to exacting standards, in order to avoid his tantrums. It sounds like he expects you to be his mother and his housekeeper, and I wonder if his mother was exceptionally doting and indulgent of his tantrums.

Finally, crumbs and cobwebs are really small things, and he obviously sweats them like the big stuff, even not taking the tantrums into account (allowing it to ruin his whole night, for instance.) What are you going to do if you start doing other small little things that impact him in such an unreasonably large way?

In short: counseling if you're willing and he's willing, otherwise DTMFA.
posted by davejay at 11:14 AM on October 8, 2010


Oh, one more thing: that "deep discomfort" you feel? Embrace that. Don't deny that. That is you deep down knowing something's wrong. Never discount or stop listening to that voice.
posted by davejay at 11:23 AM on October 8, 2010 [5 favorites]


Normally I don't comment in long threads where everything I want to say has already been said, but in this case I want you to hear every voice that's telling you that you DON'T have to put up with this and there IS a way out.

One thing others have said that I would emphasize especially is, please don't feel like you have to do this alone. I left my ex-husband when I lived across the country from all of my family and friends, most of whom had objected to the marriage in the first place. It was hard to swallow my pride and ask them for help, but I'm so glad I did it or I might still be with him. I didn't even feel safe purchasing a plane ticket myself because my ex had access to all that information in our joint bank account. My mom bought the plane ticket with her credit card, I left town under the guise of a business trip, and never returned. (BTW, my ex was emotionally abusive at times -- never crossed the line into physical, but I feared it would if he knew I wanted to leave him.)

So let the people you love help you. They're not going to judge or say, "I told you so." They're going to be enormously relieved that you're getting out of what they probably sensed was a bad situation for you. You need that kind of support, and I hope it's available to you and that you ask for as much of it as you need. Please take care of yourself.
posted by spinto at 11:25 AM on October 8, 2010 [7 favorites]


What davejay said, except that counseling is not suitable for abusive situations because abusers are excellent at recruiting the counsellors to help them abuse their partner. So please don't do this, it will prolong your situation until it becomes immediately life-threatening.
posted by tel3path at 11:27 AM on October 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


have my experiences with my Dad made me overly sensitive

the opposite. You have a skewed version of normal - someone breaking stuff in anger would freak the shit out of most people (see all the other replies). So that soft "maybe this aint right" voice - that's actually a loud siren screaming at you to run away. You're just having trouble hearing it.
posted by anti social order at 11:47 AM on October 8, 2010 [6 favorites]


Another another thing. These posts are helping ME immensely as I think about how and why I got into a relationship that sounds similar to the OP's. Particularly worth considering is what happens to your internal compass when you grow up around crisis, chaos, and someone who constantly is the focus of everyone's concern because of his temper/mental problems. You totally have a skewed understanding of what is and is not acceptable/normal, and how much responsibility YOU have to fix or put up with or change the situation (i.e., very little). Anti social, your metaphor about the loud siren being a soft voice? Absolutely. That's SO right, and explains so much. What cheers me though is that even though the warning is nowhere near as loud as it would ideally be, it's still there. Isn't that great, and hopeful? No matter how messed up our compasses, they still try to point north.

Thanks for the free therapy, everyone, and thanks to you OP for the post. I don't know if our advice is helping you*, but it sure is helping me!

*I hope it is, of course.
posted by staggering termagant at 12:56 PM on October 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


staggering termagant: "Another another thing. These posts are helping ME immensely as I think about how and why I got into a relationship that sounds similar to the OP's."

This.

Y'know, as I was driving home from work today I was thinking the same thing...how do I send a thank you about this situation, and you did it for me.

A lot of pieces fell into place today.
posted by dzaz at 1:48 PM on October 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


*...a thank you for talking about this situation.
posted by dzaz at 1:49 PM on October 8, 2010


I think sometimes it may be unhelpful to try to decide whether a person is an abuser or not. Because, yes, people fall along a spectrum; and there is no clear line where a person earns the label of "abuser." And you, OP, may feel uncomfortable labeling your SO in this way, when you know all his good points. Tons of people have temper problems, after all.

I can see this thread being affirming to you, and I can see it feeling overwhelming. So I just wanted to say I don't think your boyfriend needs to be labeled in any way in order for you to decide the relationship isn't a good idea. It is troubling (as others have said) that you call your supposed failures "misdeeds." This suggests a power imbalance that shouldn't be there between two adults. It's utterly inappropriate, as you realize, that your boyfriend should suggest that you ought to calm him down after a tantrum. And it's simply wrong that he seems to have an inability to apologize straight-up.

All of these are concerns apart from the actual temper problems. Even if the man never raises a finger against you physically, you are not headed for a happy future, and you should cut your losses here. Tell him that last conversation was even more troubling than his behavior, because although he says he's willing to go to therapy, he's not sufficiently owning up to his problem, and he's trying to lay it off on you.

Get backup if you need to, or have this conversation in a public place. I'm not saying you need to go to a shelter (you know this guy better than askme does), but you do need to go ahead and end this thing. If you take nothing else from this thread, take this from all the anecdotes above: the situation is not going to get better.
posted by torticat at 2:36 PM on October 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


You've gotten a lot of good advice, OP, and I hope you follow it.

Because YOU DESERVE BETTER.

You do.

You might not think so, because you watched your father treat your mother this way. You might not think so because it seems like such small stuff - make sure to wipe down the counter, don't leave a dirty dish in the sink, hey, anyone can do that, right? You might not think so because this man is telling you that you don't deserve better, because this is your fault.

But it's not.

YOU DESERVE BETTER.

You deserve to feel safe and at peace in your home. You deserve to relax at the end of the day, not fret about invisible cobwebs. You deserve to not be in charge of another adult's feelings and behaviors.

YOU DESERVE BETTER.

I hope you find a way to get that better. I'm going to suggest that you listen to the wise people who have posted already. You don't have to try to fix this - he doesn't deserve you fixing this, because it's HIS FAULT.

DTMFA. And go get your better.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 3:13 PM on October 8, 2010 [6 favorites]


anonymous,

Please update us. I am so scared for you. If you'd like to let us know what city you're in, there are many of us who would like to point you toward specific resources -- counseling, support groups, shelters.

Be safe.
posted by freshwater at 3:31 PM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have discussed the issue with him. Most recently today, when he mentioned that he bought a knew chef's knife to replace the broken one, but supposedly didn't remember how it broke. He says he'll work on it and he's willing to seek either individual or couple's counseling. But he also told me that he thinks I should try harder to diffuse the situation when I can tell that I've made him angry, by saying comforting things or by trying to give him a hug.

So, he basically handwaved your concerns and told you to make sure to stay in line.

If he doesn't remember how he broke the knife, he needs either a neurologist or rehab.
posted by desuetude at 3:42 PM on October 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


Because I've been there too: Please don't be afraid to consider leaving even before you've set up other living arrangements. You can put your sentimental/personal stuff in a bag, head right out to girlfriend's house or even a hotel. You can text him to say you're okay and safe and will just have to talk to him later about it - you definitely don't need to tell him where you are. You might be amazed at the clarity you get once you're away from him, sitting on your friend's couch telling her all about this stuff. If you don't have a close female friend now, you may find that you become closer with the women you rely on during times like this.
posted by belau at 5:36 PM on October 8, 2010


There are a lot of people in this thread who have been in abusive relationships and are saying, "This sounds like my ex, you need to get out now!". And you might be thinking that their experiences are clouding their point of view, that they're exaggerating even small similarities between Kevin and their exes and therefore jumping to invalid conclusions that Kevin is abusive too - just because he sounds a little like their exes. You might be thinking, "Sure, there are some similarities, but Kevin isn't as bad as the people they dated."

So I want to let you know that I've never been in an abusive relationship, have absolutely no experience with abusive people, and I STILL think Kevin sounds dangerous and abusive. I only have experience with healthy people who are safe to be around and Kevin does NOT sound like that kind of person, nor does his behavior sound anywhere near normal. Throwing knives is never ok. And he sounds manipulative, controlling, and just mean.

I agree with everyone who is frightened on your behalf and I strongly believe that you need to pack your things and leave the next time he's out of the house.
posted by whitelily at 6:10 PM on October 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


RUN.

There are many good reasons given above, and many resources available to help you plan your flight. But for your own sake: Get the hell out of there. RUN AWAY AS SOON AS YOU CAN.

Many of the above have seen the very trainwreck for which you're headed. Alas, some have even lived through it. AskMe isn't a lawyer (and IANYL, nor do I practice domestic-violence law, largely because I'd go to bed feeling vile about the human race every night). Nor is it a physician, cleric, or therapist, but when such a large cross-section of the group weighs in saying you need to get out, it is very likely that they are right.

I believe you are incorrect in your assessment that "these behaviors aren't outside the realm of normal" (they are), but that you're dead-on in your assessment that they are "red flags." And what do you do when you see red flags?

RUN, RUN, RUN, RUN, RUN.
posted by tellumo at 6:28 PM on October 8, 2010


OP, here is a perspective on what happens when someone has a genuine memory lapse and acts violently or unpredictably towards another person. A year and a half ago, I had a secondarily-generalized seizure while teaching. After I stopped convulsing, a student with EMT experience tried to check my pupillary light reflex. He shone a bright light in my eyes, at which point I tried to bite him and had to be restrained. I don't remember this. I remember coming around with the EMTs and trying to answer orienting questions, which was a few minutes later.

The student I tried to bite was larger and stronger and faster (not to mention more well-oriented and coordinated) than I was; I was restrained by others; it's not generally good practice to do something noxious to someone coming out of a seizure, because they're 'not there' and it can set off some primitive self-protective actions; he knew that as an EMT; and I truly was checked out and not home.

When someone told me later--intending it as a funny story, I think, and to assure me that people knew I 'wasn't me'--the bottom dropped out of my stomach. I felt (and feel) terribly about lashing out at a student and potentially risking his well-being, consciously or not. I have apologized profusely to him, and I have to stop myself from apologizing when I see him now. And I would have felt badly if I'd tried biting someone for whom I had zero responsibility. It concerns the fuck out of me that there's a chance I could harm or act recklessly with regard to another person and not have any memory of it.

So if my partner told me I'd thrown a knife and broken it in his presence, and I had no memory of that event, I'd already be speed-dialing my neurologist and asking for the first available appointment/cancellation. If I'd never had a neurological incident before, I'd be on the phone to my GP asking to get in and be seen ASAP. It would never cross my mind that it'd be my partner's responsibility to soothe me or not set me off, or he'd be taking his chances that some lapse like that could happen again. OP, there is no room for my pride or ego or for dismissiveness or for treating a memory lapse like that as anything but my problem that requires all of my immediate attention, because my partner's safety would be at stake.

I would bet--like many other people above--that he's lying about not remembering. Even if he weren't, he wants you to believe that 'not remembering' equals 'no consequences or responsibility or concern for you.' Don't believe him--not one tiny bit.
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 6:36 PM on October 8, 2010 [26 favorites]


You're in a place where you don't know people? You've got all of us here offering support. We don't know where you are, but if you happen to be anywhere near Savannah, GA, memail me and I'll help you move out.
posted by mareli at 7:35 PM on October 8, 2010


Just to affirm what mareli said, I'd definitely contact the mods and have them specify your location. And where you would be going if you left. And an email address.

People may want, and be able, to help you. They can't do it if they don't have specifics or a way to reach you.
posted by John Cohen at 8:03 PM on October 8, 2010


Your gut feeling seems to be screaming at you.

After reading this, I think I am going to have nightmares tonight. Not sure how you are still IN that house.
posted by xm at 8:12 PM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just to affirm what mareli said, I'd definitely contact the mods and have them specify your location. And where you would be going if you left. And an email address.

Absolutely. If you are in the greater L.A. area, Anon, I will personally round up a crew of Mefites to help you move out (I'm in no shape to help physically these days, but I can still project manage the shit out of a problem from my couch!). Memail if you need to, seriously.
posted by scody at 10:23 PM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


This guy sounds like my father. Hung out with him today, it was nice except for his interactions with my step-mother. See, in public, and around my (male) partner, he's perfectly nice, but he has similar temper tantrums. The one that I will never forget witnessing was over her using Equal in his iced tea instead of sugar. (She's diabetic so that's what she puts in her iced tea). She ended up crying silently at the dinner table. It was really sad. She's scared of him, scared of his temper.

I haven't seen her for 3 or 4 years and she looks 15 years older. Was talking to me a little bit today because he was busy talking to my partner, but then when he started paying attention to us, she withdrew and quit talking and was quiet the rest of the time we spent together. She also got nervous and obviously flustered. Flustered and afraid because the man she's married to was talking to her. It made me sick to my stomach because she looked so sad and uncomfortable.

So, there you go, after years of this kind of controlling behavior, that's what she's like. This is just what I can see. I can't imagine what she feels or thinks.

(If you live in the NYC area or some parts of Minnesota, hit me up.)
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:00 PM on October 8, 2010 [5 favorites]


Dallas TX here - it's the weekend, I can go to Austin, Houston, Tulsa or OKC if need be. If you need assistance, just ask.
posted by lootie777 at 3:35 AM on October 9, 2010


After all of these posts I don't think I can add anything unique. But I agree with everyone else -- you should leave. I'm sorry. I know it is hard to do.
posted by litlnemo at 5:20 AM on October 9, 2010


Have you seen this thread? Which links to this one? They would be good ones to investigate too, one about being aware of red flags and the other about not being able to "fix" people. That is, if, after 172 comments you're still not about to walk away.

And, it doesn't have to be dramatic, you know. You don't need further discussion with him, or closure or any of that. He doesn't need to know your side of things, you don't need to hear him out. There's nothing really to be solved or shared or saved in a situation like this. Please just start walking, one step at a time.
posted by peagood at 6:19 AM on October 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Similar to what others have said: if you're in Philadelphia and need help moving out, MeMail me.
posted by Keter at 6:26 AM on October 9, 2010


Please keep us updated, through the mods.

(Not much chance you're in Australia, but if you are, I have relatives and friends in most capital cities and scattered around regional areas. They know what I've been through. They would all be happy to turn up with big hefty mates to help you move out. Mefi mail me if you're down under.)

As a chick who had a loving boyfriend throw a vacuum cleaner at the back of her head, and who then woke up hours later in a bath full of cold water - he didn't want me to bleed on the carpet - to hear him sobbing that "I made him do it"... we need to know that you're away from that disgusting excuse for a man.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 9:38 AM on October 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


This is one of the most disturbing posts I have ever read. Normally I wouldn't bother being another voice in the chorus, but I must agree with everyone and urge you to leave immediately. And I'm not one of those people who automatically says "DTMFA"- but in this case, that's exactly what you need to do. Please update and let us know how you're doing.
posted by shelayna at 12:13 PM on October 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Your instincts are right. A very good therapist might be able to help, but I think you should move out, and do so with a safety plan. The offers of help above are very heartening.
posted by theora55 at 12:39 PM on October 9, 2010


Adding to the "MeMail if you're nearby" chorus, from San Jose, CA.
posted by bakerina at 1:52 PM on October 9, 2010


You have help in Grand Rapids MI. Memail and I can set you up with free group and individual counseling.
posted by WhiteWhale at 2:06 PM on October 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Chiming in with help is available in Atlanta & north/middle GA. I am a fed employee so I am off on Monday, too.
Please update us if you feel comfortable doing so.
posted by pointystick at 2:45 PM on October 9, 2010


+1 signing on to the cavalry. San Francisco, California.
posted by tellumo at 3:09 PM on October 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Toronto, ON - just in case you're in Canada.
posted by purlgurly at 3:17 PM on October 9, 2010


Is your city NYC? I'm there. Please contact me if you want someone to talk to in person or help of absolutely any kind. I am available for everything from helping you move to quiet listening services (advice-free!).
posted by prefpara at 3:27 PM on October 9, 2010


And, listen, if you're kind of new to mefi, and all these offers of help are freaking you out or look weird, well, that's what people here tend to do. It's not anomalous and mefites are good people. We help when, where, and how we can. (If you're not new, then you know all this already, so drop folks memail and let them help.)
posted by rtha at 4:09 PM on October 9, 2010 [7 favorites]


Yeah, I'm in New York City too, if you happened to be here. We have an airbed and I have flexible hours if you need help with anything.
posted by gaspode at 4:56 PM on October 9, 2010


Yeah, Boston area here, and I'm guessing there's plenty of other MeFites around here that could and would help too.
posted by dubitable at 5:36 PM on October 9, 2010


I am in Washington, D.C. I am sure I can round up some people to help.
posted by WyoWhy at 7:45 AM on October 10, 2010


Anon, here are some comments from previous threads that I couldn't stop thinking about when I read your update. If you choose to stay with him for now, please keep the following in mind:


Cycles of abuse start with little things-- inappropriate boundaries. Small, controlling gestures. Low-grade put-downs and criticism. Temper-flare ups followed by effusive apologies. With each of these minor "red flag" episodes, the prospective abuser is essentially qualifying his or her prospective abusee, much the way a salesperson qualifies potential leads. Each exchange serves to screen out those romantic partners who won't stay for the later punches and screams. For those boy-girl-etc.-friends who do stay, these little gestures help build a climate in which aggressive, hurtful, controlling behavior is the norm.


Decide now where to draw the line. Decide, in writing, what is concretely not acceptable. How many more times, or how often a week for the first month, then the second, then the third, does [he] get to blow up over a minor thing, instead of addressing [his] feelings with you rationally? How many more times does [he] get to blame you for [his] behavior instead of apologizing and taking steps to correct [himself]?


Please remember this: Even if you stick with [him] this time, against our collective advice, AskMe will still be here for you. . . . Please reach out again. Please reach out as many times as you need to. I can't guarantee that every single MeFite and each and every one of your friends and family will have inexhaustible patience-- but don't let feelings of shame or self-doubt cause you to isolate yourself.

I'm north of San Francisco and would be happy to just listen, or could round up friends to help move. Now or some unspecified time in the future.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 5:08 PM on October 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


And if you do stick with him this time, but you find yourself needing to get out at some point in the future and need help -- you can just update the thread, no matter how far into the future it ends up being. Don't be embarrassed and feel like too much time passed. Many people will still be ready to help you.
posted by Ashley801 at 6:26 PM on October 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


Went to the end to say..... RUN
posted by xammerboy at 9:10 PM on October 10, 2010


[This is a followup from the asker.]
Thank you all so much for confirming my fears and offering support. I've been reading MeFi for about three years and I'm always blown away by the community's willingness to offer help to people in need.

The city in question was Virginia Beach, but I left yesterday with most of my stuff and I'm now staying with an aunt ~3 hours away. I left while Kevin was at work, but I did answer a phone call he made when he got home and realized my things were gone. He seems hurt and confused, but I don't think he's at all likely to track me down or threaten me.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:57 AM on October 11, 2010 [45 favorites]


I've been checking this thread often to see if you would post a follow-up, anonymous. I'm so relieved to hear that you left Kevin, though I know this must be a difficult time for you. I don't know what your next plans are, but I just want to echo what Ashley801 said: if you decide to return to Kevin and need help in the future, please don't hesitate to reach out again on AskMe or to your friends and family. I'm rooting for you and I bet everyone else who commented on this thread is, too.
posted by pinetree at 7:32 AM on October 11, 2010


Oh, thank goodness. You did the right thing, dear. I've been reading along too, favoriting up until now. I've been through an abusive relationship as well, and, like so many people, wish I'd gotten out before rather than after his constant stream of criticism turned into him slapping me across the face. Because I wanted to buy ketchup. Yep. Ketchup. (Also, he thought I was a slob, too... we had a white tile floor, so just imagine how many dust specks I was at first insulted, and later screamed at for. Oh and he'd chosen the apartment without consulting me, although we were already a couple.)

You got out before. That's awesome. Take care of yourself, keep true to your heart and know, for certain, you're worth a man who will sigh happily when he sees a dirty knife in the sink and think, "aw, she got out the knife to make something. I'll have to ask her what!"

*hugs* It's probably not going to be easy in the near future, but in time, especially given your past issues with your father (I had abusive parents, in my case my mother was the worst; my abusive ex was very much like her), you'll come to see it as an affirmation of your character and self-worth. Again, take care.
posted by fraula at 8:00 AM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow, I admire you so much for gathering your things and leaving. That took strength. It may take strength to stay away and start over on your own, too. I wish you all the best. Come back and talk to us if AskMe can help again.

If you happen to be in the greater Charlottesville area, you might want to get in touch with these folks—they're good people and can lend a hand in a variety of ways. Even if you don't consider yourself a "victim of domestic violence" I think they would understand exactly why you had to leave Kevin.
posted by Orinda at 8:59 AM on October 11, 2010


You've made a hard decision, but it's the right decision. Good for you. Stay strong, be well, enjoy the healthy love that you deserve and that will undoubtedly come your way.
posted by cyndigo at 9:18 AM on October 11, 2010


I'm sure he's hurt and confused. It can be really tempting to start pitying that person and romanticizing the way it felt to be in that relationship, which can lead to longer and longer phone conversations and gradually slipping back into the scenario. You might need help figuring out how to deal with communications from him, if any, in the coming weeks.

I know you're totally in transition, but if you can get any counseling activated for yourself, now is a great time to do so. It's incredibly hard to evaluate a situation like this on your own when your emotions are running high.

Glad you're safe. Hope you are already finding it easier to breathe. Good luck!
posted by Miko at 9:21 AM on October 11, 2010 [6 favorites]


*Whew* thank goodness! I'm so glad you're safe. You are brilliant, OP.
posted by tel3path at 9:23 AM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am so glad you left and are safe! I've been reading along and favoriting too.

I do what to echo what Miko said about pitying and romantacizing him. I was in a relationship that had a lot of the warning flags of abuse (complete with the knowledge that his parents had been in an abusive relationship and he didn't see anything wrong with the way they interacted). It never got bad, but I left because I was afraid it would. When I left him it was a big ordeal, because he was so heartbroken and sad. He didn't understand why I was giving up on our relationship, he missed me, he wanted to spend time with me "as friends". I felt like I had to explain to him why I was leaving, and the reasons were never good enough. And I had a hard time at that point believing that I had thought he was a bad person to be in a relationship--he looked like such a sad little puppy, how could he have meant me wrong?

But the way he acted after our relationship ended didn't change the way that he had treated me before, and our relationship dynamic would come right back if we got back together. I had to remind myself of that.

It was very, very hard to stay clear headed and to know that staying away from him was a bad idea. I can't even imagine how much harder it would be in your situation to not feel bad about leaving while he was gone, with no explanation of any kind. But you need to know, you did the right thing. You don't owe him ANYTHING AT ALL. No explanations, no friendship, no final goodbyes, NOTHING.

Please get some counseling to help you through this. It helps so much in tough situations to have someone who is outside of it all and who is trained to deal with various crisis to listen to you and affirm you and your decisions. Even if you think you can't afford it, there are many sliding scale counselors.
posted by sherber at 9:50 AM on October 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


So glad you're out and safe. Please stay safe. Good luck moving on!
posted by galadriel at 10:57 AM on October 11, 2010


Very glad and relieved to hear the update. Good for you, Anon! I hope this doesn't sound silly or condescending, but I'm really proud of you... I hope you are feeling proud of yourself, too, and recognizing that what you did took courage, strength, and self-respect. Remember that you possess those qualities when you face tough times in the future -- they will help steer you well. *Hugs* from the other side of the country.
posted by scody at 11:25 AM on October 11, 2010


Anon, I'm so glad to hear that you are safe. I've been checking here every day for updates. 3rding what both Miko and sherber said - he will probably act "hurt and confused" and try to get you to come back/make you question your decision. If you're starting to feel that way (and I *totally* get where that guilt would come from), please re-read this thread, and remember how concerned everyone is for you.

Big, tremendously huge, kudos to you.
posted by purlgurly at 11:57 AM on October 11, 2010


Good for you. Don't be afraid to keep asking for help from those you can trust, you aren't weak or needy, you are strong and smart for taking care of yourself. Stay strong and listen to the folks above who are cautioning you on how to respond to Kevin's reaction to you leaving.
posted by dubitable at 1:24 PM on October 11, 2010


Also, here's another perspective if you are feeling bad for him and like giving in: if he at all is going to be able to change, then you staying away from him and NOT going back to him will be the best thing for him. If you find you are getting stuck in a mindset of worrying too much about him or "what could be" rather than your own safety and mental health (which I think is primary, I want to emphasize), maybe this will help: you are doing him a favor by staying out of his life. This may be the catalyst for him to change (or it will not be, which is also why you absolutely, positively need to stay away now).
posted by dubitable at 1:31 PM on October 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm sure he's hurt and confused. It can be really tempting to start pitying that person and romanticizing the way it felt to be in that relationship, which can lead to longer and longer phone conversations and gradually slipping back into the scenario. You might need help figuring out how to deal with communications from him, if any, in the coming weeks.

Nthing this. Maybe make yourself a script to help you stay on track? Imagine things he might say or ask and come up with serviceable, not-opened-ended answers that feel true enough to you but keep you firmly extricated from the relationship. Think of it as a sort of fact sheet. It would not be silly to write it on a card and carry it with you.

1) You and he are no longer a couple.
2) You have ended the relationship. This is not a "just a fight" or a reaction to "something he did."
3) A very succinct and businesslike answer to "why." The two of you do not want the same things out of this relationship. You and he fundamentally disagree on your roles within the relationship.
4) Optional: You will discuss [specific logistical issues regarding stuff] as necessary.

Appendix A: Standard responses to attempts by him at argument, persuasion, accusations, interpretation, explanation, justification. "I'm not going to argue with you." "I'm not discussing [x] with you." "That's my concern/problem/decision, not yours."

Your feelings and opinions about him are your own, and you are not required to share them with him. He doesn't get a say, he's not your boyfriend anymore.

His feelings are likewise his own and not something that you have done, not any more than him stubbing his toe or overcooking the eggs is something you've done. Now, the other side of that is that if he wants to decide that you're a [hurtfully cruel misrepresented portrait of your shortcomings], he can do that.

Eh, small price to pay. All you have to do going forward is be able to live with yourself.
posted by desuetude at 2:24 PM on October 11, 2010 [15 favorites]


Please keep us posted. Sending good thoughts your way.
posted by patronuscharms at 2:38 PM on October 11, 2010


Just to say... careful, hesitant me finds that you did Great, because this was such a difficult situation, and you needed to go, for your own safety and potential happiness.

Seconding all of the following:

1) You and he are no longer a couple.
2) You have ended the relationship. This is not a "just a fight" or a reaction to "something he did."
3) A very succinct and businesslike answer to "why." The two of you do not want the same things out of this relationship. You and he fundamentally disagree on your roles within the relationship.
4) Optional: You will discuss [specific logistical issues regarding stuff] as necessary.


As to pity (or whatever else similar): you might think that he is not so much a "bad" person but rather someone who has a real problem. What may concern you is whether he, you know, "gets" it after you left. So you might be inclined to stretch or soften up the following advice:

Appendix A: Standard responses to attempts by him at argument, persuasion, accusations, interpretation, explanation, justification. "I'm not going to argue with you." "I'm not discussing [x] with you." "That's my concern/problem/decision, not yours."

And I would never do that (soften up, allowing him to argue even a tiny bit, that is). You could include a phrase in your standard responses about that he attempted to rule over your relationship (the cleanliness of the place, or whatever) in a way that likely won't fly no matter with whom, but that's where I think it needs to stop. Don't turn even half-way back to someone who shatters kitchen knives in anger. And good luck.
posted by Namlit at 4:20 PM on October 11, 2010


When I broke up with my ex I felt bad for him, and honestly there was a lot to pity. It was hard not to go back to him.

But the fact is that I've also been that person who treats other people poorly and the best thing that happened to my obnoxious ass was to get kicked to the curb and cut off completely. Saw the light before I could fuck up anything else. Confusion turned to realization turned to changing my ways (and NOT getting back with them, rather, leaving them the hell alone so I didn't get back into my old shitty habits).

Think about it before you go back out of pity.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:43 PM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just wanted to say one last thing that might still be relevant:

Another of the reasons that abuser love to go to therapy is that in their minds, their feelings are VERY important- that is one of the reasons that they feel justified in doing what they do. And therapy really validates this way of thinking for them, where a professional spends hours with them talking about nothing but their feelings, worrying about their feelings, placing so much importance on their feelings.

So, I think it fits right in with this that Kevin is expressing his own sadness, and his own confusion. What comes first to his mind is his feelings and how things affect him. I wonder if he even *considered* how YOU would have to be feeling to leave the house like this, if the fact that YOU were feeling so awful is something that, in and of itself alone, would bother him, much less horrify him like it should.
posted by Ashley801 at 6:15 PM on October 11, 2010 [5 favorites]


I'm SO happy you left. Good for you. Thank you for letting us know!
posted by whitelily at 6:32 PM on October 11, 2010


That is fucking awesome. Way to go.

When you now want to go back to him, do not. That should be the kind of alarm bell that causes you to give your aunt your cell phone and car keys. Let this be a clean break for a powerful all-new start.
posted by salvia at 8:21 PM on October 11, 2010


I have to confess, OP, and this is a confession, I don't know if I could have done what you just did. It's easy sitting here in a safe place and urging you to leave. What you did was something really hard. I'm full of admiration.
posted by tel3path at 12:44 AM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Brava, OP!

And remember, one of the most liberating things about breaking up with someone unsuitable is that you no longer are obligated to deal with their issues. His problems are not yours anymore.

Be well.
posted by Scram at 3:23 AM on October 12, 2010


I teared up in sheer relief when I read your latest update, OP. I'm so glad you're safe.

I too just want to reiterate the things people here are saying about the seductive lure of pity, and how powerful it can be in the hands of someone who has a deep desire/need to control. It's really, really effective, and I want to use an extreme example from my own life to illustrate it because I hope it can help you remain vigilant against any manipulation.

My father was abusive, very much so. He's a small (5'3), soft-spoken man and appears to most as a cheerful, slightly goofy fuddy-duddy.

I don't know how it started, I was the youngest in my family, but I do know that near the end he was nailing the doors and windows shut when he went to work so she couldn't leave. He'd been beating her for years by this point, and when my oldest brother had started defending her (he would have been around..10? at the time it started for him), it moved onto him too. Then my older sister. Then the brother born before me. (There was, however, a gap of ten years between that brother and I. So this went on for a long, long time)

So by the time of the nailed doors, he was beating all her children frequently and had been emotionally destroying them for years. And he still convinced her to come back when she finally got the nerve (and took the offered help; her friends and our family had known for a long time now) to leave. Because look at him! He's such a tiny guy, so friendly and a little silly! And he loved her so much, please please don't hurt him like this, remember $goodtimes? Mom never, ever talked about this to me, for the record - my account of the stuff he said came from my grandparents, who insisted on being present when he came to see her at their house.

Anyway, he was such a masterful manipulator at playing on her sympathy that she went back, and only eventually left when he punched her in the head and pushed her down some stairs while she was pregnant with me. Even after all she'd seen and knew and been through, he could still convince her to doubt herself, what she knew and her reactions.

So please - don't distrust your gut feelings. The things you say they've been telling you during all of this, listen to them. Best case scenario, you miss out on a relationship that will clearly take a lot of time-intensive work to make happy and functional, worst case - my mom, or something like it.
posted by pseudonymph at 3:51 AM on October 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


It's so good to read your update, OP. You are amazing! Leaving an abusive relationship takes incredible courage.

If you feel yourself wavering or questioning your decision, reread some of the comments in this thread. When I felt that way about leaving my ex, rereading encouraging e-mails from my loved ones really helped strengthen my resolve and remind me that I had done the right thing. This is the best thing for you. And even though you have ZERO obligation to care about his feelings, you probably still do, so remember that this is the best thing for him too. I'd recommend not even responding if he tries to contact you. If he needs to talk to someone, he can finally book an appointment with that therapist.

Good luck. You are strong and wonderful and FREE.
posted by spinto at 6:29 AM on October 12, 2010


I'm not adding any new sentiment to this thread, but OP you are ace. That's one brave and strong move you made. Hang in there.

(And reading this thread has allowed me to realise the full extent of my own narrow escape.)
posted by prettypretty at 4:49 PM on October 12, 2010


I read this with a lump in my throat, and I am so very glad for you OP that you were able to do what you did.

Just wanted to add my voice to the chorus and say that you should make it clear to this fully-responsible-for-his-own-actions adult, that you will not even consider getting back together with him or even being friends unless he completely changes (not is willing to change, but is actually changing) his problems with anger management and controlling behavior, hopefully with some kind of professional help. Until that point (which honestly could take years), I'd recommend minimizing in person contact and taking care of yourself first and foremost.

Also know there are plenty of other people in this world who would never try to guilt you, lash out at you, blame you for small things, or otherwise make you feel scared, anxious, or afraid.
posted by everyday_naturalist at 2:03 AM on October 15, 2010


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