This anger - it's soul killing and I can't take it.
November 22, 2011 6:39 AM   Subscribe

How do you handle your spouse's angry outbursts when you feel they are irrational?

Over our six years of marriage, my partner, let's call him Jodie, regularly throws the adult equivalent of temper tantrums. When set off, he will storm out of the room, refuse to talk to me, and after a while, the litany of wrongs he's suffered at my hands gets rolled out. Sometimes I can understand why he's upset, and will attempt to apologize and appease him, but often, it is for something that I find really difficult to accept was "my fault." Sometimes I submit and apologise because it's the only way to end the argument. Then that makes me incredibly depressed.

Here are some recent examples:
1. He was struggling to hold a garbage bag open and put in some fiddly bits of garbage. I reached over to put some of the bits in the garbage. He then dropped the bag, accused me of treating him like a mentally handicapped child, and stormed out. He only returned when I left the kitchen altogether, and then made passive agressive comments and noises to indicate that he was still angry. When I (several times) offered to help, he told me that he didn't want my help NOW, and that when he asked me to help earlier, I refused (he didn't ask me - he actually explicitly told me that he didn't want my help). It's so frustrating and there's literally nothing I can do to stop him from getting angry, and nothing I can do to stop the tantrum once it's blowing at full strength.

2. We live in a duplex, and our best friend, let's call him Grant, lives next door. Grant often comes round for meals and to watch movies. Grant and I wanted to watch something that Jodie didn't like, so Jodie offered to go get some work done while we watched it. While he was gone, Grant sat in his chair (the most comfortable seat). After the show ended, Jodie came back. When Grant didn't immediately get up, Jodie stormed off and didn't return for quite a while. I finally had to go find him, and he claimed that he wasn't feeling well. When Grant went home, Jodie started a massive fight about how rude Grant had been and how I always took Grant's side. That is completely crazy - I'm always hyper-sensitive about making sure Jodie has whatever he wants so it doesn't start a fight.

3. Grant bought us tickets to a play as a surprise. When he told us about it, we were all together, eating dinner. We continued to talk about it and plan it in the two weeks leading up to it. The day of the play, we were talking about when to leave, and Jodie suddenly looked at us like we were speaking Russian. He claimed that we never told him about the play and that we should just go on our own. After hours of fighting, I convinced him to go and we all had a good time in the end. But it was 8 hours of tearful pleading to get him to just calm down and come along.

4. He often complains that we don't have any food he likes at home. No matter what I buy, he wants something different. He'll ask for something, I'll get it for him, then he'll want something different and say that I never listen to him. We have so little money that I can't always afford what he wants, but I try my best. No matter what I do, I'm never doing enough or the right thing or what he wants me to do.

I could give a lot more examples, but it really boils down to this: I feel like no matter what I do, he's never happy. I don't really ask for much - I am the primary income earner, I do most of the cooking and cleaning, and I don't need much attention. I'm a fairly happy person and I love my job and my friends.

But this constant fighting and tension is wearing me down. I feel like I've used up my emotional allowance for the next 15 years and just feel numb a lot of the time. I believe marriage is important and divorce is off the table, but I have serious concerns about raising children in this environment. He's just angry and bitter so much of the time that I don't know if it's fair to children to bring them into this situation.

I've tried to get him to at least be assessed to see if depression medication would help. I've tried to get him into therapy (both couples and individual) but he doesn't believe in it and/or just doesn't want to. Hell, I've tried to get him to do ANYTHING about his anger and depression but to no avail.

I just feel so powerless and useless. How can I deal with his outbursts? Is there any way to logic someone out of an irrationally angry state?

If it matters, we're in the Midwest USA, and both of us are in our early 30's.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (131 answers total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
Why on earth are you still married to this man?
posted by drlith at 6:44 AM on November 22, 2011 [79 favorites]

Christ. Just leave. He is broken. You can't fix him, and you are not responsible for fixing him.
posted by corvine at 6:47 AM on November 22, 2011 [7 favorites]

You know there isn't a way to "logic him out of it," or you wouldn't be asking.
He needs help. If you can't convince him to get it, maybe someone else can?
Otherwise, if divorce is off the table, but nothing is going to change... it sounds like you're willing to be stuck.
posted by chickenmagazine at 6:47 AM on November 22, 2011

Marriage isn't important if your partner is a huge dick
posted by MangyCarface at 6:49 AM on November 22, 2011 [25 favorites]

This is your spouse?! If he's not your child it's not your job to fix him.

I think, if divorce truly is off the table, you should just let him be. He doesn't want to go to the play? Fine, go with Grant. He wants to sulk about the garbage and says he doesn't need your help? Believe him, pick up a book, and ignore his tantrum. He doesn't like the food? Tell him he can do the grocery shopping and continue to buy whatever you like.

When you have authority, such as in a parental relationship, dealing with this would make sense. You don't. Ignore him. Either he'll stop doing it or you'll realize that he's an abusive, childish shithead and you'll go find someone better.

And please god do not force this man on children. Imagine the children he would raise. If you want children leave, because any child raised by this man will be seriously broken.
posted by AmandaA at 6:51 AM on November 22, 2011 [86 favorites]

Why are you staying? I don't see anything positive about this guy in your post. He sounds extremely immature and self-absorbed. Being unwilling to address this stuff is a real alarm bell to me - it's only going to escalate. You deserve a better, more supportive adult companion. I wouldn't put up with this sort of temper tantrum from a child, let alone a life partner. If it was me I'd be gone. You might look into therapy for yourself to figure out why you are still there. And surely don't have kids with him!
posted by leslies at 6:52 AM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

Just want to offer that there are psychological and physiological conditions that can cause these sort of irrational outbursts -- it may be genuinely out of his control.

But if he refuses to see any sort of doctor, even if it means the end of the marriage, you have to take care of yourself.
posted by gerryblog at 6:53 AM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

These outbursts are a way of getting your attention. He's acting like a 3-year old throwing a tantrum, and you're stepping in to play concerned mommy. When he acts like this you shower him with concern and attention - basically rewarding the bad behavior. What happens if you just let him be mad and ignore him until he's over it? He's responsible for his emotions. As an adult, he should be able to get angry, take some space to cool off, think it over, and then ask (appropriately) for what he wants, apologize if necessary, or let it go - all by himself.

Doesn't believing in marriage mean not staying in a crappy one? I mean, if I believed in "home" I wouldn't hang around in a falling-apart shack. I'd fix it if I could, and if I couldn't I'd get out.
posted by bunderful at 6:54 AM on November 22, 2011 [15 favorites]

How can I deal with his outbursts?

There ain't no god-damn reason you need to deal with his childish outbursts. The dude is a thirtysomething man and not the eight year old child he's acting, and you are certainly not his mother. If you believe marriage is important, well, you both need to work on making this a marriage and not whatever the hell it is right now, wherein you spend your time cooking for and cleaning up after someone who rewards you with inappropriate outbursts and abuse. You can't logic someone out of emotions.

A wife and husband help one another continually grow into the best person they can be for each other and for themselves. Right now, you're not even stagnating: you're decaying. If marriage is important, it is important you both -- as in, you are not going to fix him -- either start to fix this condition you're in into a marriage, or you get yourself out of it. Because soon enough you might end up having two children to take care of: a baby and your husband, and you don't want to find out that you don't have the strength for that and you definitely don't want to have a kid who finds their needs superceded by their father's.
posted by griphus at 6:54 AM on November 22, 2011 [11 favorites]

"any child raised by this man will be seriously broken."

posted by bunderful at 6:55 AM on November 22, 2011 [23 favorites]

(Also: I suggest you use your next AskMe question to ask something along the lines of "what was it like growing up with parents who stayed together for the children/because divorce was 'off the table'/etc." I've never heard anyone relate any good stories about it.)
posted by griphus at 6:55 AM on November 22, 2011 [19 favorites]

If you decide to deal with this, perhaps just immediately leave the room, and/or the house as soon as it starts. Take a walk around the block. Talk about it the next day at the earliest, maybe have a counselor-approved way of addressing these things in a scheduled sit down that doesn't include the kind of interpersonal role playing he seems to crave.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:00 AM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

How can I deal with his outbursts?
Other than ignoring them, you can't.

Is there any way to logic someone out of an irrationally angry state?
Nope. What we can do is logic you out of this irrational belief that divorce is off the table. That marriage is so important that you should put up with any kind of abuse just to keep it going.

He has a problem, he refuses to deal with that problem and though you're his spouse, he is an adult and I don't believe there is any way you can force him to get help. Your only options are to put up with him or leave.

If you really wont leave him then you just have to learn to ignore him. Don't give him what he wants. Take him at his word, he doesn't want to go to the play? Fine, he doesn't have to come. He doesn't like the food? Well he knows where the shop is, he can go buy himself something else. Stop bending over backwards to please him and make sure he has whatever he likes. Do what you want to do and get the things you like. Sometimes its OK to be a little selfish (especially if your partner is a selfish jerk)

although I'm kinda on his side about the chair thing, sitting in someone else's chair when there are other chairs available is just plain rude!
posted by missmagenta at 7:00 AM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

If he is making no effort to fix this or thinks there is nothing that needs to be fixed, then he's not contributing to the relationship. A relationship requires effort from both parties and if one party is not willing to do that, the other party is wasting her time. I'd tell him he has one more chance to agree to counseling and when he refuses (he will), you go see a lawyer.
posted by chiababe at 7:01 AM on November 22, 2011

I feel like no matter what I do, he's never happy. I don't really ask for much - I am the primary income earner, I do most of the cooking and cleaning, and I don't need much attention. I'm a fairly happy person and I love my job and my friends.

Jodie is unhappy. Unhappy people have a hard time being around happy people, particularly when those happy people are more responsible, make more money, and enjoy their own social lives. This situation can change in one of three ways:

(1) He does whatever it takes to be happier.
(2) You become an unhappy person too.
(3) You leave.

You have indicated that he is unwilling to do option (1). That leaves two choices.
posted by googly at 7:02 AM on November 22, 2011 [26 favorites]

Put divorce back on the table. The behaviors you've described here are abusive. This is a man who is completely unable to handle even the slightest bit of anger. You cannot fix him, you cannot change him. All that you can do is protect yourself and your theoretical children from him.

He has already done a lot of damage to you. I can't even imagine the amount of damage that he'd do to a child. He is only going to get worse; you don't deserve to have to endure that.
posted by billybunny at 7:02 AM on November 22, 2011 [11 favorites]

If you don't want to get divorced, that's your choice. But you can still move out, which you should do - both to remove yourself from this sort of domestic tyranny and to underscore that you are unwilling to live like this any longer. Under no circumstances should you have children with this man. The idea that he might treat his kids this way is even more horrifying than the way you are being treated. The children will have no choice.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:02 AM on November 22, 2011 [44 favorites]

You need marriage counseling. If he will not go with you, go by yourself. This is more than can be resolved on MF.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 7:03 AM on November 22, 2011 [5 favorites]

You teach people how to treat you.

In all of your examples, I have noticed one common factor: he freaks out, you run right over to "fix" the problem. You are continuously letting him have his way every time he throws a little tantrum.

First of all, stop catering to him when he does this. You taught him that this is how he can get what he wants, now teach him to stop. If he throws a tantrum, do not respond. Do not run to him, find him, talk to him, or try to make it all better. Ignore it like it isn't happening and only speak to him civilly once he returns to speaking to you civilly. By participating in his outbursts, you are only reinforcing him. Just like with a small child.

By the way, you married a toddler. You can either stay around and try to make a man out of him (here is a hint, that never works), or you can get away from him while you still have a part of your soul and sanity left.
posted by Shouraku at 7:03 AM on November 22, 2011 [24 favorites]

PS Do not involve children in this relationship. That would be terribly damaging to them and it's good that you recognize that it is not a good idea.
posted by chiababe at 7:03 AM on November 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

You have indicated that he is unwilling to do option (1). That leaves two choices.
Actually, she also ruled out 3... so that just leaves becoming an unhappy person too
posted by missmagenta at 7:03 AM on November 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

Just want to offer that there are psychological and physiological conditions that can cause these sort of irrational outbursts -- it may be genuinely out of his control.

But if he refuses to see any sort of doctor, even if it means the end of the marriage, you have to take care of yourself.

I want to second this. I wholeheartedly agree that if nothing can be done, you need to seriously consider getting out of this marriage, but it's worth considering the possibility of that your husband is suffering from some kind of mental illness. Forgetting about plans and becoming irrationally angry all the time could be something other than garden-variety dickishness and there's a chance that some kind of mental health treatment could help.

That said, getting a mentally ill person to accept treatment can be a difficult proposition, and it's not your responsibility to offer that help when it could severely compromise your own mental health, which sounds like the situation here. He sounds like someone who needs mental health care, if he won't accept that you should seriously consider leaving.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:04 AM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

This is an emotionally abusive relationship. And while you have the right to make the choice to submit yourself to emotional abuse for the rest of your life (although I personally think you should be looking at an exit strategy ASAP), please don't bring children into an environment where they are going to be subject to the same abuse. You can leave. A five year old can't.
posted by Jairus at 7:04 AM on November 22, 2011 [25 favorites]

You say divorce isn't on the table, which means an early death from stress is. I only wish I were exaggerating.

You are describing very severe emotional abuse. He may have a personality disorder, but the diagnosis, or figuring out why he acts this way, is not the most important thing here. The most important thing is that you get out. It won't be until you get out that you realize just how much he's worn you down and how much energy it takes to constantly walk on eggshells.

I once had a friend who indulged in these kinds of outbursts and then demanded that others apologize to her for the fights she had instigated. That was ten years ago, and I endured a mere handful of such outbursts, and frankly I'm still somewhat traumatized by them (the final and cruelest one came at an incredibly stressful time in my life.) Such people truly lack empathy. I can't imagine being married to such a person, but I know well how stressful they are even at the best of times, and how much more stressful they can become when you're already weakened by some other circumstance.

IANAD but it sounds like he has borderline personality disorder; I think your best way of coping, for now, until you get out, is to treat him as such. Books like Stop Walking on Eggshells might be helpful until you can get help and leave.
posted by ziggly at 7:06 AM on November 22, 2011 [6 favorites]

I don't know what kind of marriage you have, but on the chance you have a somewhat traditional marriage, he probably vowed to love, honor, and cherish you.

He is not honoring you and certainly not cherishing you. I would recommend a counselor for you even if he won't go and although I hate to sound DTMFA, this man has broken his vows to you. Do you want to spend the rest of your life like this?

Nthing please do not have children with this man.
posted by pointystick at 7:08 AM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

I was in a similar relationship, and you are right; it just wrings you out after a while. I felt I was a terrible person and I felt stuck there too. Please, listen to the people above. You cannot fix this, only he can. What's more important, though is that you do not deserve this. Repeat that to yourself when he is having a tantrum "I do not deserve this." Walk away. Don't give in to his demands. Let him figure out how to solve the problem. Do things to take care of yourself and bring yourself happiness. Talk to a counselor, spend time with friends, buy the things you like at the grocery store.

I know that you are committed to this relationship, but don't stay at the expense of your own well being. The most powerful tool you have to communicate to him how awful his behavior is is simply to walk away. Over the short term that may be just leaving the room, but ultimately it may be separating until he sees that he needs help. If he chooses not to get that help, what does it say about what the relationship, and more importantly what YOU mean to him. Keep telling yourself "I don't deserve this."
posted by goggie at 7:11 AM on November 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

This is emotional abuse. If you can get out, do it. It doesn't get better.
posted by FunkyHelix at 7:20 AM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Imagine the children he would raise.

While you're at it, imagine the children he would have. This behaviour may very well stem from chemical imbalances in your husband's brain, and his condition could be inheritable. You should never have children with anyone unless you're fine with the idea of the children turning out to be exactly like him or her.

And I agree with everyone else that you probably need to leave this marriage. You can tell your husband you'll be open to getting back together with him if he agrees to work on his issues, but I don't think anything less than you walking out is going to get him to agree to that.
posted by orange swan at 7:23 AM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

You need to be able to put divorce or separation on the table, or you basically don't have any leverage in this situation.
Like it or not, your husband is not behaving in an adult way, more like a pet that misbehaves and you have to behaviorally train. Right now, it's like you're giving him a treat every time he pees on the carpet. Please stop doing that, for your own mental well-being. I'm not saying this will fix him -- he may be beyond that point, but it might help you feel less crappy if you get some of your own back.
Looking through the scenarios you've listed: When he storms out when you try to help with the garbage, let him storm out. Why is it your job to cajole him into being decent?
Storming off when a guest sits in your favorite seat -- let him storm off. Don't apologize, don't try to make nice, this is just not your fault.
If he forgets about plans you've made, ignore him and go without him.
For god's sake, just buy what you like at the grocery store. If he wants something different he's a grown man who can get it for himself. You are not his employee.
posted by peacheater at 7:23 AM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm always hyper-sensitive about making sure Jodie has whatever he wants so it doesn't start a fight.

You HAVE to stop this. There is no other way. He always finds something to complain about, right? So you might as well not walk on eggshells. Read up on codependence and get your own therapist. You said you are in the midwest; if that happens to be near Milwaukee, I can recommend an excellent one that deals with precisely these issues.

Standing up for yourself will take a lot of practice and will be scary. He pitches a fit because you let him. He will initially pitch a bigger fit when you stop letting him (i.e., walk away, don't respond). But you will train him to see that his tantrum does not get him what he wants (acquiescence).

I would make it crystal clear to him that this situation is untenable and cannot continue. Tell him DIRECTLY that you are miserable, that you have "used up [your] emotional allowance," that you don't want to have kids if he is like this. He needs to face the consequences for his actions... NO CHANGE is possible unless he does.

Please feel free to memail me, I could write a novel here.
posted by desjardins at 7:24 AM on November 22, 2011 [11 favorites]

One person should never have to do all of the emotional the work in a relationship.

If Jodie doesn't care about you enough to make an effort to get help (because seriously, this is not okay behavior), then I only see two outcomes: you become more and more miserable trying to keep him happy, becoming a martyr to his moods or two, you grow to hate him for the emotional hoops he constantly makes you jump through. At the very least, you should seek counseling for yourself to ensure that he doesn't damage your sense of self.
posted by smirkette at 7:24 AM on November 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

Also: if he's never happy with what you buy at the grocery store, why the hell isn't he doing the grocery shopping?
posted by smirkette at 7:25 AM on November 22, 2011 [15 favorites]

The bad news is you're married to a jerk.

The good news is you don't have kids with him.

Don't have kids with him, because that will just give him someone else to target with his ridiculously inappropriate behavior. LEAVE HIM. He doesn't care enough about you to make sure you're in an emotionally safe relationship, why should you be bending over backwards and standing on your head to accommodate his childishness?
posted by crankylex at 7:26 AM on November 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

Sometimes I submit and apologise because it's the only way to end the argument.

Another way to end the argument is to leave. Leave the room, leave the house (go for a drive, or a walk).

But really, it sounds like you need to leave the marriage.
posted by mskyle at 7:28 AM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Just want to offer that there are psychological and physiological conditions that can cause these sort of irrational outbursts -- it may be genuinely out of his control.

No. If he were speaking to a doctor, a psychologist, something else, trying to fix this problem, then maybe it would be out of his control for now. But he is refusing to see this as a problem, and refusing to get help. That *is* in his control.

Marriage is important, but is this really a marriage? Do seek therapy for yourself; don't have children with him as he is; don't keep walking on eggshells.
posted by jeather at 7:42 AM on November 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

When I started reading your question, I thought "oh, I know this one." People fly off the handle about a little thing not because they're really upset about that little thing, but because there are a lot of other big things that they've been holding back, and that one little thing (putting trash in a trashbag or whatever) is what tips them over. The solution to that is getting your partner to be more aware of what's eating him and more communicative.

And while that might help in this situation to some extent, the more I read of your situation, the more I think that's not the root of it. I think your husband is an unhappy person who is only happy when he's making everyone else as unhappy as him.

While I wouldn't bank too heavily on this succeeding, I would start by sitting down with your husband when he seems to be relatively up and have A Serious Talk. Bring up that trashbag incident and point out that you consider his response to have been completely disproportionate and misdirected. If you can get him to agree to that, you've got a toehold. Without going into a litany of other incidents, say that there have been a lot of them, and that he needs to figure out a way to straighten up and fly right. If he can get that under control on his own, great. If he can't, then he needs to seek help. And if that doesn't work, walk. Let him know that things need to change, and give him an explicit deadline, say, he needs to have made significant progress in 6 months.

He may resent you giving him an ultimatum (in which case the whole thing will backfire), or it may give him the kick in the ass that he obviously needs.
posted by adamrice at 7:44 AM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Can you imagine how your husband will react when there's a crying baby constantly competing with him for your attention?

Marriage is not more important than you. And it is certainly not more important than an innocent child. Get out.

(Incidentally this might just be the most consistent set of answers I have ever seen on AskMe for a human relations question. It really does seem like a pretty black-and-white situation.)
posted by puffmoike at 7:46 AM on November 22, 2011 [10 favorites]

So, your husband in some ways reminds me of a person very dear to me, one whom I love like a family member. This person had the same problem - only with the people they are closest to - and they had these episodes on a weekly basis with their spouse for the first couple of years of marriage, and had these episodes twice with me.

So what changed? Well, the second time I was the target of this anger, I said, "I love you and I can't be friends with you anymore if you treat me this way." (I said it in a very long letter that laid out exactly how I felt when the person treated me that way, and which underlined how I just wouldn't be willing to accept it any more.)

The spouse, a much less sharp-spoken person than I, said one day, very mildly, "This needs to stop." And because the spouse was so mild-mannered, this statement was enough to shock the person into realizing that they were about to drive away the love of their life.

So, what followed: therapy, therapy, therapy, and some fast-acting medication to take as needed when the person started to recognize the feelings that set them off into this rage. And because they are making such an intense good faith effort to change, they do occasionally slip up still, but they are mortified as soon as they have done so, and their spouse, knowing how hard they are trying, is able with a light heart to let it go and accept their apologies.

I relate this story by way of an illustrative comparison to the story YOU have relayed to us. I have just told you the tale of a person with a major hysterical-anger problem who, when they realized they were going to lose the people who loved them most in the world, took steps and did the hard work to change. And we're all so proud of this person because we recognize these efforts they undertook were also made out of love for us. This person loved us: and so worked so hard to unlearn these hateful behaviors as a result.

If your husband is not willing to do this, then I feel very grim about your future together, and very skeptical that his love is worth having.
posted by artemisia at 7:46 AM on November 22, 2011 [35 favorites]

This is not a marriage by my definition. My definition of marriage involves things like mutual respect, having concern for each other's happiness, working together as a team.

I do not think this will get better without therapy for both of you, separately and as a couple. That said, do not engage the crazy. You do not have to buy into this, as difficult as it may seem, you do have the power to retain your own agency here and just do not engage with him when he is acting like this. I would say "I cannot talk to you when you are behaving like this, I am going out for a while, I will be happy to discuss this with you when you are less upset". And then go. He is pulling you into his crazy drama, you have a choice about whether or not you allow this to happen, since thus far engaging with him when he is being a whackadoo is not improving matters, I suggest you stop trying what isn't working, and start trying something else. Consistency is key - you do not discuss things with him when he is being a crazy person, you only discuss things with him when he is calm and rational. Full stop. But if I were you, I would get out of this relationship, you only have one life and yours does not have to involve this kind of nonsense. Life is too short to spend it appeasing and submitting and subsuming your own needs and wants. There are better options than this nonsense.
posted by biscotti at 7:46 AM on November 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

But this constant fighting and tension is wearing me down. I feel like I've used up my emotional allowance for the next 15 years and just feel numb a lot of the time.

How can I deal with his outbursts?

By doing what you're doing. Right now, you say divorce is off the table, so you can look forward to the next five, 10, 20 years of feeling numb and helpless. Many of your friends will gradually fade away, as they won't be able to deal with watching this happen to you. You will become more isolated, more numb. Then perhaps one day you'll wake up, years from now, and wonder why you've wasted so much of your life trying to live with someone you treats you this way.

If this doesn't sound like a great strategy, you're right: it isn't. So why, exactly, is divorce off the table? Why is capital M Marriage more important than your self?

No matter what I do, I'm never doing enough or the right thing or what he wants me to do.

This is your life for the rest of your life. You can't make him change, but you can change yourself. Get help.
posted by rtha at 7:49 AM on November 22, 2011 [13 favorites]

Based on your description, Jodie is either
a) severely mentally ill
b) a huge asshole or
c) both.

Either way, his actual behavior is abusive.

In option a) is the case, then if he is willing to seek treatment and work hard at the process of getting better and you have the emotional fortitude to help him through his efforts without being driven crazy yourself, then the two of you may be able to work your way to a better place.

Otherwise your choices boil down to either leaving him or spending the rest of your days being abused, stressed out, miserable, and walking on eggshells. You said that divorce is off the table, so I won't tell you what to do. I'll just say that those are the available options.

To answer your further questions - no it is not fair to bring children into that sort of environment and no, you cannot logic an irrational person into a sane state if they don't want to put the effort into fixing themselves.
posted by tdismukes at 7:50 AM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

No matter what I do, I'm never doing enough or the right thing or what he wants me to do.

You know this is actually, literally true, right? He's not throwing tantrums because you're failing to meet his high standards; he's throwing tantrums because he's getting something out of the tantrum-throwing, and the you-didn't-do-this-particular-thing! stuff is thrown in there after the fact in order to justify the anger.

You could work yourself to exhaustion trying to do what he wanted, and he'd still be just as angry as before, by finding something to claim you didn't do. In fact, it seems that he's already got to a point where he's getting angry at you for not telling him about things you did tell him about, and for getting him the food he explicitly told you he wanted. You can't win this game, because he doesn't want you to find the goalposts; he wants you to run all over the pitch in an impossible quest trying to find them, apologising to him all the way.

I appreciate you don't want to divorce him, and I wouldn't tell you what decision to make about your marriage, but in my experience people who act like this don't ever change unless it starts costing them things and people they love, rather than giving them whatever it is he's getting. You can't logic him out of it, but you can make it clear that you won't be running round desperately trying to placate him any more, and that he can either get a handle on this or risk losing his relationship with you.
posted by Catseye at 7:51 AM on November 22, 2011 [11 favorites]

I feel like I've used up my emotional allowance for the next 15 years and just feel numb a lot of the time.

I've been there. I'm so sorry that you're there now. If you're used to being able to solve problems by thinking and trying and working at them, it's so hard to accept that you've come up against a problem that is bigger than you, that can squash you like a bug and make a mockery of dearly held convictions.

You simply can't beat this without your husband's active involvement in making things better. Learning to calm your own anxieties so that you can stop responding to and thereby rewarding his tantrums might make the situation less bad, but that alone won't make the marriage safe and happy. If you hold the door open and he refuses to walk through it, what then? How long do you stand there with your arm out, coaxing?

If you told someone that you believed in marriage and they didn't understand what you meant, how would you go on to describe the 'marriage' you believe in? Would it look like this?
posted by jon1270 at 7:51 AM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

Bring up that trashbag incident and point out that you consider his response to have been completely disproportionate and misdirected.

I disagree with making The Serious Talk about specific events because it can easily get derailed into "well that isn't what happened" and it will get treated as a special case. He needs to know that you won't put up with him raising his voice, using That Tone, swearing, or slamming doors, regardless of the situation, regardless if you were truly at fault. If he wants to talk to you, he needs to ratchet it down ten notches or you will not have this conversation until he calms down.

You also need to see it for what this is - abuse. If you've ever thought, "it would be better if he just hit me so it would be cut and dry that I need to leave," that should scare the everloving shit out of you. I would bet money that you've had this thought.
posted by desjardins at 7:55 AM on November 22, 2011 [32 favorites]

FWIW, I spend a lot of time in Relationship questions on Ask. I believe that in the last five years, with 4200 answers, I've waved the abuse red flag exactly twice. What I can tell you is that living as an emotional hostage in this kind of regime of constant appeasement would feel like emotional abuse to me. Please get out of this house.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:59 AM on November 22, 2011 [4 favorites]

Do some research into "co-dependent relationships." It feels like you two have developed some weird coping patterns that are somewhat feeding into each other. On your part, you need to stop feeding into it but you're asking us how to keep feeding it which says to me that you are part of this destructive feedback loop. Destructive to the relationship, destructive to you. None of this is healthy. You do not want to bring kids into this atmosphere.

Therapy and a doctor's visit to see if he has the type of imbalance that can be helped with medication. I suspect he might need a two-pronged approach. Individual therapy and medication.

One of my personal flaws is to take frustration that I'm feeling in the moment and lash out. It's a combo of nature and nurture, I'm sure. My father was a big rager who would lash out. As a child, it was very scary and I have a hard time remembering any real positive moments from my childhood. His irrational rage has colored everything. That will be your kids. I continue to work on this myself because it's not healthy for anyone and it's not nice.

Just know: it is not your responsibility to fix him. You must put priority on your well-being. You deserve a home free of terror.
posted by amanda at 7:59 AM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

This anger - it's soul killing and I can't take it.

This man is killing your soul, and he is unapologetic about it. Of course you can't take it. The human mind and body and soul are simply not built to endure years and years of relentless trauma. Think about the path that you are on. Think about whether any approach that you have tried has improved the fundamental situation, which is that this man is killing your soul. I agree that marriage is important in the abstract, it's why so many people are fighting for the right to have it. This is not the abstract. This is one marriage, one in which there is profound human suffering. It's hard to imagine that there is anyone among your family, friends, or community (including this one) who believes that you alone should have to subject yourself to having your soul killed because the abstract concept of marriage is important. You are not responsible for your husband's behavior, but you ARE responsible for your soul and your mind and your body and your heart, and they are crying out to you that they cannot survive in this environment. Please think hard about where your deepest duty lies, and decide on a path forward that will allow you to fulfill that.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
posted by argonauta at 8:01 AM on November 22, 2011 [9 favorites]

Please please please do want you need to do for yourself and think about what's going on here. This man (from me being an internet stranger) is emotionally abusive. There is no way that you should have to sacrifice as much as you do for him. Forget about him for the moment, get yourself into therapy to figure out what to do next. And for the love of all things good, please don't have children with this person. My dad is this person, and I am damaged because of the abuse and anger I was inflicted with at his hands.
posted by snowysoul at 8:09 AM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Books like Stop Walking on Eggshells might be helpful until you can get help and leave.
posted by ziggly

That book saved my life. But I had to put divorce on the table. This is no way to live.
posted by The Deej at 8:20 AM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

I just feel so powerless and useless. How can I deal with his outbursts?

Therapy. For you.

I've been in your shoes and it wasn't pretty. It became much more tolerable when I understood my own motivations in the situation and most importantly learned to let her emotions be her emotions.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:24 AM on November 22, 2011

Well, I think you're on the right track, because by asking MeFi, you're clearly asking to be advised to leave him, despite your ideals about marriage being important. (What you have here isn't a marriage, by the way; it's a bizarre tantrum delivery arrangement.) So good for you for taking step one. Step two is to ignore his crazy tantrums. Step three will be to realize that you have better options, and step four will be to go find a marriage partner with whom you can be emotionally safe and have babies. This one clearly isn't it.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:25 AM on November 22, 2011

Hi. You just described the atmosphere in the house where I was raised. I got out when I was 17 and to my shame I´m still trying to get past it at 45. Please save yourself because there is no marriage left to save. You don´t have to be abused for the rest of your life.
posted by Space Kitty at 8:26 AM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

Does he admit he has anger issues?

If he doesn't admit it then there is nothing you can do and you need to start taking steps to get out of this relationship.

If he does admit this then he needs to get help for it.

If he is not willing to get help then there is nothing you can do and you need to start taking steps to get out of this relationship.

If he is willing to get help then he has a lot of work to do in individual counseling (including possible meds for depression) and couples counseling. Also you have work to do in your own individual counseling.

Does this relationship in any way remind you of your parents relationship?
posted by dgeiser13 at 8:36 AM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

Warning...long and very personal story to follow.

I married a guy just like your husband and was quickly divorced (and thank god with no kids). I came to quickly realize that this is verbal and emotional abuse and it will slowly suck the life out of's like a slow death by a thousand paper cuts. It is just awful and I tried everything you are doing for awhile until it just got too crazy.

Two books that helped me realize that I wasn't always the one at fault and that he was abusive were The Verbally Abusive Relationship and Why Does He Do That?. These books helped me enormously to finally see what I was actually dealing with and that there was nothing much I could do.

At the end of my marriage (and after I read the books and started calling him out on his abuse), he changed the way he abused me, but I would quickly catch on to the new, more subtle abuses and called him on those too. When he realized that none of the verbal and emotional abuse tactics were working to manipulate me anymore, he finally resorted to physical abuse. I immediately changed the locks and filed for divorce.

I contacted his first ex-wife after I filed, only to find out that he treated her as badly as he treated me. She gave me the final bit of validation that I needed that it was him that was the problem and that he would not change. Sadly for her, she endured his abuse for a longer period because she too once believed that divorce was off the table. She eventually changed her mind on that and got away from him. She is now happy married to someone else and they have two adorable children.

One more thing...I recently got a call from my ex husband's latest ex who had a child with him. He has not changed. She looked me up because she needed the validation from me (like I did with his first ex wife) that he was as horrible and dangerous as she feared. She did this even after hearing how horrible a wife and person I was from him. She recalled a story he told her about how I had changed the locks on the house on him and wouldn't let him in to get his stuff (he omitted that I allowed his friends in to get his stuff...just not him). She too had changed the locks when he brandished a gun, threatening suicide, in front of her and their infant daughter. She realized the similarity in the lock changing situation between the two of us and reached out to me for validation and advice.

Sadly for her, she has a child with him and is forever tied to him. Being a very happily married mother myself now, I cannot imagine the pain of having my darling son damaged by someone as toxic as him. My happy ending is that my husband now is the kindest, most wonderful dad and husband in the world.

3 women, one man. Same exact story of abuse...except the last one who had a child with him.

I am sorry to say that your husband sounds EXACTLY like my ex. He will not change. Only you can. Here's my advice:

Read those books
Do not have a child with him
And most importantly, choose your happiness.

I did and am blessed beyond compare.
posted by murrey at 8:36 AM on November 22, 2011 [49 favorites]

I would like to add another voice of the child who was raised in such a household. You could never do anything right (that is, dependent on my dad's mood - it was impossible to tell what would set him off, though you could usually gauge his mood when he got home and you'd just know that he'd blow up that night. He always found a reason).

My mum never left him (he died 10 years ago) and this comes up again and again for me. I loved him, but I also have a lot of resentment about the way we were treated, and the fact my mum allowed this to continue to happen, when she could have left.

Please don't do this to yourself and your future children.
posted by ClarissaWAM at 8:41 AM on November 22, 2011 [7 favorites]

Your spouse is no special snowflake.

Welcome to "The Abusers Handbook" Chapters 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.

There is no way to "logic" someone out of being like that.

Only 2% of abusers change, and that is AFTER willingly admitting the problem and seeking help for it under your own steam.

Is your husband a two-percenter? Already, by refusing to get help, he is not.

Put divorce back on the table.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 8:41 AM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Please do not bring kids into this environment. You've numbed yourself within six years. The kids will too, after sustaining all sorts of random damage it will take them much of their adult life to get over. They will detach from you. When you finally divorce, the kids will feel nothing but relief.

I agree with rtha, this is your life for the rest of your life. The six you've put up with this for are past. You're in your 30s, so have maybe 40-50 more years in which to change how you're living and feel happiness, connection and joy about a partner. There won't be another life afterwards in which you get to pursue happiness. This is it.

It's ok to change your mind. It's more of a virtue than sticking with a bad idea.
posted by ead at 8:43 AM on November 22, 2011 [5 favorites]

The other readers of your question see Jamie as an immature boor. There's certainly some of that. But reading your question, there's a strong thread of something else, something that you do have under your control. Jamie's behavior sounds like that a man who is deeply resentful of the intrusion of his neighbor into his life, and may either be jealous of his neighbor's relationship with you, and may perhaps even think that you're having an affair with his neighbor.

You describe Grant as "our best friend." But the way the scenarios are worded, it sounds like Grant is your best friend, and potentially a rival for Jamie. Jamie leaves while you guys watch a show instead of hanging out and calling the next show? Sounds like either Jamie doesn't like Grant, or doesn't have confidence that he'll get the next pick of programming. Jamie gets pissed because when he comes back, Grant has taken his chair? As childish as it sounds, men who are best friends with one another - or even just regular acquaintances - generally understand each man's territorial needs. Think about the classic battle between Archie Bunker and Meathead for who got to sit in Archie's chair. Jamie's fit sounds like something childish and minor, but Archie Bunker's chair is in the Smithsonian because people can almost universally relate to what the chair represents in familial relationships.

As you phrase your question, you're the one watching TV with Grant. You're the one discussing the play with Grant. It would seem like you're making meals for Grant (and if you make more elaborate meals or meals to Grant's taste instead of Jamie's while Grant is around, it may explain Jamie's plea to cook "things he likes".). There's a whole lot of Grant in your question, but nothing to indicate why Jamie would be friends with Grant.

Before ditching Jamie, or before therapy, or before antidepressants, you may want to first look for subtle symbols that Grant is specifically setting Jamie's temper off. How is Jamie when you and he are out of the house, alone, without Grant? Is Jamie more likely to have a fit immediately before or after Grant comes over?

You may want to just plain talk to Jamie about Grant and the role he plays in your life.
posted by I EAT TAPAS at 8:43 AM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

I believe marriage is important

I believe marriage is an equal partnership, and requires mutual effort and understanding from both people involved. Yours is a marriage only in the legal sense. It's not disrespectful of marriage to divorce Jodie. He's the one who fucked it up; you're just doing what needs to be done.

You do not deserve this treatment, and you are under no obligation to put up with it. You need to leave soon, and permanently.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:46 AM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

You may want to just plain talk to Jamie about Grant and the role he plays in your life.

I disagree with this sentiment. Regardless of the "cause," this behavior is abusive. If the OP and Jodie were having arguments more in the range of normal, it would make sense to consider all sides and where his frustration might be coming from. As it is, the OP is spending all of her time considering Jodie's feelings and not her own, she describes his anger as killing her soul, and Jodie is clearly freaking out over bizarre things unrelated to Grant, using his anger to control and manipulate her, and so on. Even if every one of the things he were using as excuses to do her harm were things where we could say, "oh, hmmm, I guess that would make me angry too," (which is not at all the case anyway) that would still not be an excuse for his behavior. No one deserves this treatment and if he can't acknowledge that his behavior is at all problematic, she needs to get out.
posted by fireflies at 8:53 AM on November 22, 2011 [19 favorites]

>Before ditching Jamie, or before therapy, or before antidepressants, you may want to first look for subtle symbols that Grant is specifically setting Jamie's temper off. How is Jamie when you and he are out of the house, alone, without Grant? Is Jamie more likely to have a fit immediately before or after Grant comes over?

I Eat Tapas, I strongly disagree with you. That is -- I agree with you that Grant seems to be a trigger for her husband's rage. But I think what everyone is reacting to here is the fact that there is no acceptable cause for that kind of rage. A functioning adult who has a problem with his wife's friendship with a neighbor will talk to her about it -- he will not rail at her for helping (or failing to help) him with the garbage bag. Even if Grant were removed from the picture, her husband nevertheless believes this is acceptable behavior. THAT is the biggest problem here.
posted by artemisia at 8:53 AM on November 22, 2011 [17 favorites]

The other readers of your question see Jamie as an immature boor. There's certainly some of that. But reading your question, there's a strong thread of something else, something that you do have under your control. Jamie's behavior sounds like that a man who is deeply resentful of the intrusion of his neighbor into his life, and may either be jealous of his neighbor's relationship with you, and may perhaps even think that you're having an affair with his neighbor.

With all due respect to I EAT TAPAS, I completely disagree with this and am afraid that such advice will lead to the OP further blaming herself for her husband's abusive behavior. Many of the posters did not say he sounds like an immature boor, but rather, that he sounds abusive.

While some of the examples given by the OP involve Grant, the question as posed is not "How do I deal with my husband's jealousy towards our friend", but rather how do she deal with soul crushing anger from her husband generally. I'll bet there are countless examples that do not involve Grant at all.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I would also bet money that if Grant went away, the OP's husband would remain exactly the same.
posted by murrey at 8:55 AM on November 22, 2011 [12 favorites]

Also, OP: is there somewhere you can go and stay, with friends or family, just to give yourself a break from this while considering your options? This situation sounds so totally, grindingly exhausting for you; even apart from eight-hour sessions (eight hours!) of tearfully begging him to join in activities he already agreed to, just having to be so hypersensitive to his needs all the time must be absolutely wearing you out. Whatever decisions you decide to make will be a lot easier to think through when you're not dealing with life in a pressure cooker 24/7, and it would likely do you a world of good to have a rest and a breather and think about yourself for a change.
posted by Catseye at 9:03 AM on November 22, 2011 [6 favorites]

Some people treat others exactly as poorly as each person allows them to. Stop allowing it. The bottom line is you're being disrespected and taken for granted. Do you really want to spend the rest of your life as convenient a punching bag for someone's petty frustrations?

He's treating you worse than a stranger.

Your life is worth so, so much more than this. Life is too short to waste one precious second on abusive people who don't deserve what you're offering them. If you need help with money to set out on your own, there are tons of organizations willing to lend a hand. Please, please, please get out now.
posted by aquafortis at 9:06 AM on November 22, 2011

I'm 100% sure there is something Jodie is not telling you.

I don't know what it is, but Jodie is very unhappy and distracted, and he's acting out. Maybe it's a secret addiction, or a major incompatibility which he increasingly resents, or just a lot of stress, but he's not really upset about things like garbage bags and favorite chairs.

Marriage counselling. Or individual counselling for him. If I'm right, this is fixable after he admits the problem and decides to behave differently.

He needs to sit down and talk, and get something off his chest. Or you can just accept that you got a crotchety 80 year-old man about 50 years early.
posted by General Tonic at 9:09 AM on November 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

I agree with everyone who says you can't use logic to make this a more bearable situation. You can, however, get yourself into therapy (From your question I couldn't determine if you've ever been in therapy, but if so, are you in individual therapy now?) from and determine why you married this abusive, childish person. As you're figuring this out, you'll become more self-aware and confident and the solution to your problem really ought to, and probably will, become clear.

Regarding children... um, all the children who grew up walking on eggshells around a rageful, unpredictable father, an appeasing/timid mother and no sense of safety, stability and emotional security can attest that this is a bad idea.

My mother was like this growing up. The only thing that makes her (mostly) nice to me now is the fact that I live far away, and view our in-person relationship (though not my feelings of duty or love) as contingent on her behaving in a decent manner. Doesn't sound like this would work with a husband or any person with whom you live.
posted by devymetal at 9:10 AM on November 22, 2011 [4 favorites]

Re: I EAT TAPAS: I agree that Jamie .. er .. Jodie is probably modeling Grant as a threat. And you know what? Grant doesn't sound like a hysterical abusive monster so I bet at some level Grant is a threat. The threat of a reasonable person it's nice to spend time with, eat with, not pander to for 8 hour long tantrums on unrelated topics.

That potential cause doesn't change much about the toxicity of the environment or Jodie's total inability to be civilized and loving in response. Threats to a relationship happen! Here is how a healthy conversation on The Grant Matter might go:

"Huh, I sure got upset there. That's odd."
"Yes, you seem really mad about something. Surely not just some TV show."
"Yeah. I felt particularly angry at Grant. Why does he have to spend so much time here?"
"I like him! Don't you? Wait, is this about him?"
"Maybe I'm worried you feel more than just 'like' for him."

(Aha light follows, insight, healthy exchange of insecurities and needs, box of tissues, attempts to adjust thoughts, feelings and behaviors, gestures of good faith, reconciliation, ending in "I love you and let's try to work this out", etc. etc.)

Maybe we got a distorted picture of the other, seemingly absent bits of healthy communication in this relationship when Jodie isn't losing his shit. The conversation I wrote here should not be more than a couple orders of magnitude off realistic. You are married. It means talking calmly about hard things.
posted by ead at 9:12 AM on November 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

I believe marriage is important and divorce is off the table,

Marriage is important. That's precisely why divorce should be on the table. Otherwise, the message you send to him is that marriage can be desecrated by his abusing you (which is what this is), the message you send yourself is that you aren't worth being treated well in a marriage, and the message you send to your (future) children is that this is what they should expect from marriage.

If you sincerely believe marriage is supposed to be more than that, then you need to allow yourself to consider getting a divorce.
posted by scody at 9:23 AM on November 22, 2011 [26 favorites]

I believe marriage is important

Your husband doesn't.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:28 AM on November 22, 2011 [10 favorites]

I strongly recommend this book: I Don't Want to Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression. From the description:
depression is a silent epidemic in men -- that men hide their condition from family, friends, and themselves to avoid the stigma of depression's "un-manliness." Problems that we think of as typically male -- difficulty with intimacy, workaholism, alcoholism, abusive behavior, and rage-are really attempts to escape depression. And these escape attempts only hurt the people men love and pass their condition on to their children.
posted by AlsoMike at 9:39 AM on November 22, 2011 [4 favorites]

Is this new behaviour or has he always been this way? If he has always been this way then you choose to marry someone emotionally abusive; that is something you should explore in therapy to extricate yourself and not repeat in your next relationship. I hope you also have a strong support group around you; you don't deserve this treatment, no one does. If he has changed or escalated since your marriage then perhaps there is a mental health issue - but unfortunately he is the only one that can work on resolving his own health issues and you said he is refusing to entertain the idea.

Do other members of your friends/family notice this behaviour or are you the only target? What about his own family? He may be repeating a pattern he has learned at home. He may view your opinion of his behaviour as an "attack"; perhaps if the message that his behaviour is really inappropriate and he needs to take responsibility for it came from someone else, especially someone he trusts/respects, he will take it seriously.

That being said, it isn't your responsibility to look after his health or carry the whole marriage yourself. You CAN leave.
posted by saucysault at 9:46 AM on November 22, 2011

There are a lot of people here crying abuse. And while I think you should try to step back and honestly ask yourself if this sounds like an abusive relationship (read The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker and/or check out this website), I think you should consider other causes as well.

Dealing with an emotionally immature person is never fun, but it doesn't necessarily spell abuse, or the need for divorce. His reluctance to try therapy won't make this easy, but if you can go by yourself, maybe casually talk to your husband about all the problems your therapist is helping you work out, invite him to come along sometimes; make it less about his issues and his depression and his problems that need fixing, he might be willing to consider it if you say it's more for you or for your relationship.

I feel like no matter what I do, he's never happy. I don't really ask for much - I am the primary income earner, I do most of the cooking and cleaning, and I don't need much attention. I'm a fairly happy person and I love my job and my friends.

But this constant fighting and tension is wearing me down. I feel like I've used up my emotional allowance for the next 15 years and just feel numb a lot of the time.

This really struck a chord with me. Have you ever sat down and tried to figure out your love languages? I see this recommended all over askmefi, and it's helped immensely in my relationship. I wonder if, despite everything you do for your husband, he still just does not feel loved. I'm not saying you don't love him, just that he needs you to show it in specific ways that maybe don't come naturally to you. Maybe he wishes you would ask for things, so he could feel useful and needed. Also, if you're feeling numb/unemotional/checked out a lot lately, that could add to it. I'm very sensitive, and I tend to freak out a little when I don't feel connected to my partner.

Some points:
-How often do these outbursts/tantrums happen?
-Is there a pattern you can see? Maybe he freaks out when he doesn't feel included?
-Sit him down some time when tensions aren't high, and ask him specifically what things you do that cause this behavior. If there's an overarching pattern that he's reacting to without even realizing it. This is tricky and probably easier in therapy, but if he can be introspective enough to figure this out it could go a long way to making both your lives easier.
posted by krakenattack at 10:02 AM on November 22, 2011

You may want to just plain talk to Jamie about Grant and the role he plays in your life.

I just want to point something out, OP. Suppose you talk to Jodie about Grant. Suppose Jodie admits that he is jealous or threatened by Grant. Where would that conversation go?

A couple of people up thread expressed concern that your relationship with Jodie may be losing you friends. This can happen in subtle ways, but it can also happen in extraordinarily straight-forward ways. Like, you can become isolated and friendless because you stop seeing a best friend because that best friend makes your husband feel threatened. Imagine how your husband would understand the problem, if you could get him to admit he's jealous. I bet it would sound something like this: "I need you to stop hanging out with Grant so much, because he makes me jealous." Or maybe like this: "Yeah, your friendship with Grant is what makes me so upset." Or maybe like this: "I wouldn't be so angry all the time if you weren't such great friends with Grant." No matter how it's worded, however, the sentiment is the same. And, to spell it out, the sentiment is this: "My anger is actually your fault, and you can solve it by getting rid of your friend."

That's not a good attitude. If you stopped hanging around with Grant, or even just dialed your friendship back a bit, in order to help Jodie stop feeling so jealous, what you are doing is falling yet again into the trap of taking responsibility for Jodie's emotions and bending backwards to assuage him. And you'd lose a friend. You'd lose something that matters to you, because he has a problem.

Is that fair?

This is all about the hypothetical scenario where your husband is reacting due to jealousy. I have no idea if your husband actually is jealous of Grant. But what I want for you to do is examine the dynamic I'm describing. It's the same dynamic that shows up in every single example you gave. And it's the dynamic that's killing you.

It wouldn't be fair for you to have to give up a friend because your husband has an anger problem stemming from jealousy. Do you see that? Similarly, it isn't fair for you to spend eight hours crying and pleading because your husband has an anger problem. It isn't fair for you to have to apologize and cajole and kill your soul because your husband has an anger problem. It isn't fair. It isn't fair to you. And, since your husband doesn't seem to care that it's unfair, it's up to you to start caring. It's up to you to make sure you get a fair shot at happiness, emotional stability, and peace.

Please, if at any point you find yourself with this choice, "Either I give up a friendship/connection to another, or my husband will be angry," don't give up that connection. Because we need human contact, and being in contact with normal, healthy people is a good way to keep sane, yourself. Does that make sense? Let that be a defining point: whatever your husband's anger issues, you don't have to sacrifice friends.

Now, start thinking about the rest of your interactions with your husband as either/or scenarios, to see where your standards lie. "Either I spend eight hours crying and pleading, or my husband will be angry." "Either I apologize for something I know I didn't actually do wrong, or my husband will be angry." "Either I bend over backward and kill my soul, or my husband will be angry." Every time you face a choice like this, take a moment to really consider which option really is most important for you. For you.

If you're having trouble understanding how to set a standard, or how to stand up and say, "No, actually, you not being angry isn't more important than me being happy," please see a therapist. Please. You can learn how to stand up for yourself. You can learn how to care for yourself. You know there is a sick dynamic in your relationship, and you know you are suffering. It sounds like your husband is suffering, too. He won't reach out for help he needs, but you at least can reach out for the help you need.
posted by meese at 10:14 AM on November 22, 2011 [21 favorites]

What would you tell your sister or someone you loved if they came to you and described a relationship like this:

*I submit and apologise because it's the only way to end the argument. Then that makes me incredibly depressed.
*It's so frustrating and there's literally nothing I can do...
*I'm always hyper-sensitive about making sure Jodie has whatever he wants so it doesn't start a fight.
*...8 hours of tearful pleading...
*I try my best. No matter what I do, I'm never doing enough or the right thing or what he wants me to do.
*I feel like no matter what I do, he's never happy.
*But this constant fighting and tension is wearing me down. I ... just feel numb a lot of the time.
*I just feel so powerless and useless.

I don't really ask for much - I am the primary income earner, I do most of the cooking and cleaning, and I don't need much attention

This isn't a marriage, this is an abusive situation in which you are being taken advantage of and despised for all your care, concern, and hard work. What has happened in your previous years to make this type of relationship acceptable?

Tell Jodie you don't care what he likes or dislikes, he better first get his butt to the doctor to look at any treatable problems, and then into therapy and anger management. He also needs to stop being such a lazy shit and help you with chores around the house. Maybe if he takes on the role of an adult, he won't be such a baby.

Sweet Lord, do not have children with this man! Do you WANT your child to live with someone who makes them feel like you do? Re-read what you have said about how you feel around him. I hope you don't make the mistake of reading what others have written about growing up with an emotionally abusive parent and think that you can protect your child from that--because you shouldn't have to protect a child from their father. Jodie isn't there for you as a supportive husband and companion, and he won't be there for your child as a loving, guiding father.

Please listen to what people here have written and take steps. If Jodie won't change, YOU need to make some hard decisions to get your life back on track. You believe marriage is important, but in order to have a marriage in fact, not just on paper, TWO people have to be loving and committed. Marriage is hard enough when a couple are actually trying. What you're doing is pushing a rock up hill.

Sounds to me that your post can be summed up thusly: [Aside from my marriage] I'm a fairly happy person and I love my job and my friends.

You deserve to be happy and to have a partner that loves and supports you.

Good luck. Please let us know what happens.
posted by BlueHorse at 10:40 AM on November 22, 2011 [7 favorites]

Far be it from me to diagnose a complete stranger over the internet, but you may want to proceed as though your partner were a narcissist. One thread that stands out to me, and ties all the events together is the continual insistence on him being at the centre of things, that his needs are met, that his desires taken into account, that his stuff is kept sacrosanct, that his ego is preserved from harm. Him, him, him, all the time.

A confrontation of any kind with someone like this (as others have noted above) is not going to end well, nor can you reason with them, because their thought processes are disordered. They will usually come down hard on you for standing up to them, because you break the illusion that the whole world revolves around them.

Myself personally, I'd pack a bag in secret, wait for a time when he's out and about, and then GTFO without leaving a forwarding address.
posted by LN at 10:52 AM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Dealing with an emotionally immature person is never fun, but it doesn't necessarily spell abuse, or the need for divorce.

Like I said, it's rare I wave the abuse flag in Relationship threads. But when one partner is living in constant, unrelenting appeasement mode to avoid triggering an irrational and overwhelming response in the other partner, I'm there. Re-read this list. This is abuse. It cannot be fixed with a book she reads. It cannot be fixed with a book he reads. It cannot even be fixed with couples therapy. It can only be fixed if he accepts sole responsibility for his actions and seeks individual therapy. We have oh God so many stats to tell us this, and how unlikely even that outcome is.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:56 AM on November 22, 2011 [10 favorites]

I was with a man for years who behaved like this, and I stayed because I loved him, he was brilliant, and on the good days, he was freaking incredible.

The day we broke-up, I was so overwhelmed by just being able to breathe again and do things/make little mistakes without worrying about him saying cruel things that I didn't even have it in me to cry. I felt so much lighter.

I still find myself apologizing for little mistakes over and over again, and there are still aspects (despite his often incredibly terribly behavior) that I miss about him. However, I'm now dating another incredible, brilliant man who does not make me feel like an imbecile if I get the wrong brand of ice-cream or spill a glass on the floor.

Please, please talk to someone soon. I'm not saying to leave, that's your choice, but something in your partnership has to give. Otherwise, the part of you that is wonderful and confident and realizes just how bad-ass you are will start to wither.

Good luck.
posted by superlibby at 11:33 AM on November 22, 2011 [5 favorites]

Well, let me say that your husband's shitty temper sounds a lot like mine.

I was raised by emotionally and physically abusive people and I have serious issues with appropriately expressing anger. I am intimately familiar with abuse. If I am not careful, and if I don't work to control myself, I can be abusive.

So with this insight into the abusive mind let me make a few predictions:

1) You will never be able to make him happy, because he's not unhappy. Abusing you, making you cry, keeping you constantly trying to make him happy--he finds these things enjoyable. They make him feel good. At this point, he's probably addicted to the feeling of power and control that he gets from abusing you.

2) If you are somehow able to remain calm and unflappable in the face of his emotional outbursts, he will escalate. Remember, he wants to feel good and if you don't react, he doesn't get his fix. That might mean he escalates to physical abuse, sexual abuse, public humiliation, or any number of other horrible things.

3) Couples' counseling will be a nightmare, so it's good that he won't go. He'd just see it as an opportunity to charm the therapist and demonstrate to an outside observer how wrong you are. At worst, he might be able to convince the therapist that you're the problem. At best, it'll go nowhere and he'll lash out at you and punish you after the sessions, or use things that you say in order to more effectively abuse you.

4) He will become more abusive under stress--remember, it's enjoyable for him and just like you take a hot bath or have a drink when you feel stressed, he will abuse you when he feels stressed.

5) Getting pregnant and having an infant will be extremely stressful, and you will be physically and financially vulnerable. That will allow him to ramp up the abuse, knowing that your other options are limited. He might or might not end up abusing your child; or he might only abuse some children and not others. Worst of all, he may teach them to be abusive themselves, either to their partners or to you.

Good luck with whatever you decide.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:47 AM on November 22, 2011 [61 favorites]

This is hard for me to admit to -- even though it's been 20 years since I addressed the problem -- but I was like Jodie. When I think back to how I treated my husband and friends back then, I shrivel up inside. In my case, it was an undiagnosed mental illness (depression and anxiety) made worse by having being brought up by a parent and a grandparent with the same untreated problem.

It's hard to describe what was going on in my head at the time because it was completely irrational. It was like I had no clue what the appropriate response was to any given situation so I spun my emotional roulette wheel and since the thing was rigged by my fucked up brain chemistry to land on negative feelings, I went with anger/tears/recriminations. The worst part (for me -- trust me, no matter how bad it was for me I know now, and knew then, that it was so much worse for the person at the receiving end) was that I knew that what I was doing was crazy and awful but I didn't know how to stop all the rage and self-hatred from coming out.

What I needed was to sit down with a doctor and discuss how I was acting and how I was feeling. Through a combination of medication and therapy I've been able to interrupt a multi-generation (we have records showing similar problems with family members going back to my great-great-great grandparents) string of mental illness. As for children, I knew there was a good chance I would pass on at least a predisposition to mental illness. After much thought, we decided to take that chance, just like many parents who have hereditary illness in their family. The home my kid is growing up in is so much different than the one I grew up in and if she does have the same problems, early intervention will be the key. Things are good so far, though.

While I'm grateful to my husband for hanging on long enough for me to get help and turn things around, I still think he would have been right to leave me for his own protection. I have no illusions about whether or not my behaviour then was abusive -- it 100% was. If anyone in my life came to me and described a partner's behaviour the way you describe Jodie's, I'd tell them my story but also that they need to put on their own oxygen mask before they can try to help anyone else. You deserve a safe, happy home where you can relax and not be constantly on guard waiting for the other shoe to drop.

I came to the realization that I needed help on my own but it doesn't seem like Jodie is there yet. You may need to make him seeing a mental health professional a non-negotiable condition of you staying in the marriage. This may not be the problem or the solution -- he might just be a jerk -- but it's worth a shot.
posted by atropos at 11:51 AM on November 22, 2011 [10 favorites]

I don't really ask for much - I am the primary income earner, I do most of the cooking and cleaning, and I don't need much attention.

This makes me so sad for you. What are you, a houseplant?

Why do you have to make yourself so small and unobtrusive to fit into your relationship? A marriage is supposed to be nice because your partner gives you POSITIVE attention and encouragement. The best you can think of right now- literally, the vision you outlined in that sentence- is that you give Jodie a nice place to live with money to spend, and he ignores you. That is your ideal relationship with him.

Honey, you deserve so much better than this. Please, please, I am begging you. Put divorce back on the table.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 12:14 PM on November 22, 2011 [22 favorites]

I was married to a man like that once. There was no pleasing him ever, and God knows I tried. I walked on eggshells all the time trying to make sure I never did anything to make him angry... but he always found something.

He once told me that if I'd only just make sure the dishes were done by the time he got home from work, he'd be satisfied. The next day I made sure the dishes were done, as well as the rest of the house being tidy & reasonably clean. He looked around at the clean house without comment, then walked over the windowsill, ran his finger across it and found dust. He sneered and called me worthless.

He once threw a fit during which he pushed me down and ripped my shirt because he wanted the toilet lid to be closed when not in use, and I disagreed that it mattered. (I never met a single other person who cared about the lid being up or down unless they had pets or small children who might get in it.)

Once I asked him to sweep the kitchen floor while I did the dishes so I could get out of the kitchen faster on a particularly swelteringly hot day. He threw such a huge, screaming fit about being asked to do "my" job that I wound up doing it all myself while he took our only fan into the living room with him to sit and watch TV.

I spent three years letting him manipulate me and wear me down with his constant anger and hatefulness. I finally started standing up to him when I learned of the concept of "teaching people how to treat you" and, as the young rope-rider predicted, he escalated his abuse in a desperate attempt to regain power and control. We split up soon afterward, and it turned out to be one of the absolute best things that ever happened to me.

Being away from him was such a huge relief, I can't even describe. It was like I had been suffocating for 3 years and could finally breathe again. (Reading your post reminded me how I felt back then, and I could actually feel my chest getting tight.)

I have never regretted leaving him for a single second, other than the first few days when I was really mostly just afraid of the life change -- the "where will I go, what will I do, who will love me" kind of stuff -- but once I got that sorted out, I was happier and lighter and freer than I'd ever imagined being.

I am now married to a wonderful man who is kind and loving and supportive and a joy to be around, who has only ever gotten mad at me maybe three times in twelve years and who has never once thrown a temper tantrum or insulted me. That is the kind of marriage to believe in. And you need to be free of this selfish, abusive, childish man who is destroying your soul, so you can go forth and find something wonderful for yourself.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 12:35 PM on November 22, 2011 [22 favorites]

It makes him happy to make you unhappy. It doesn't matter about Grant. It doesn't matter WHAT you do. He will have a problem with it. He would complain that you are breathing his AIR if he can't come up with anything else to pick on you for. It makes him strong and in charge to pick on you and make you cater to his every, constantly changing, whim. The entire POINT is to be gaslighting you and making you bow and scrape and never be right. Yeah, he's probably depressed, but what does it matter? He's abusive and he likes being abusive. And he'll do it to you and your children. He'll drive away your friends and family because that means you'll be stuck with him and can't leave (that's why he's bitching about Grant anyway). This is classic abuse behavior, and just because he hasn't started hitting you yet doesn't mean you're not constantly being abused. You are.
posted by jenfullmoon at 12:42 PM on November 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

The young rope rider is so spot in this comment, I hope you will read it, reread it and most importantly, believe it.

The reason why so many here who are familiar with emotional and verbal abuse can gauge what is happening and will likely happen in the future (including the weight-lifted relief you will feel if you ever do leave him) is because we have been there and abusers just aren't that unique. They use the same tactics. They are all hell bent on power and control. They are masterful manipulators.

And the "soul killing" effect on their victims is the same. When I was in my abusive marriage, which I mentioned above, I could have written each of these statements as to how I felt at the time verbatim.

But this constant fighting and tension is wearing me down.
I feel like I've used up my emotional allowance for the next 15 years and just feel numb a lot of the time.

I just feel so powerless and useless.

Sometimes I submit and apologise because it's the only way to end the argument. Then that makes me incredibly depressed.

It's so frustrating and there's literally nothing I can do to stop him from getting angry, and nothing I can do to stop the tantrum once it's blowing at full strength.

No matter what I do, I'm never doing enough or the right thing or what he wants me to do.

As others have wisely said above, you need to stop doing what you are doing..cajoling, apologizing, pleading, bending, engaging and try something new. I thought that if I could just get my ex to see how much his abuse was hurting me, that would be the key. It wasn't. He did not care.

I completely understand wanting to make your marriage work. But while it takes two to make a marriage work, it only takes one to tear it down. Try something new to see if he wants to make it work or if he just wants a proverbial punching bag.
posted by murrey at 1:15 PM on November 22, 2011 [4 favorites]

The young rope rider has really gotten it, down to the couples' counseling and futility.

There's nothing you can do or avoid doing that will stop a manipulative/abusive person from getting their fix. They will pick on anything around, and then make shit up. Like I've said before, it goes something like this:

You: It's such a beautiful day
Him: That's just fucking like you. You know I get headaches from the sun, so you're rubbing it in my face? Whore.

You: Honey, will you turn the light off on you're way out, my hands are full?
Him: What do you think I am, stupid? You think I don't know that the light is supposed to be off when we're not here? It's not like you ever fucking do anything right around here.
posted by Pax at 2:21 PM on November 22, 2011 [4 favorites]

You cannot change him. He will not change.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:44 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

You don't mention family or friends other than your neighbor. Has Jodie increasingly isolated you from them? If you decide to end, or at least take a break from, the marriage do you have anywhere to go?

We don't know where you are, I hope that you are in a town with resources like therapists. Your husband is emotionally abusive and you may want to talk with a domestic violence counselor. They can help you to find a therapist. I really hope your life gets better soon.
posted by mareli at 2:52 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

If divorce isn't an option due to religious reasons, ask your religious adviser if there's a local support group you can check out. Hearing other people discussing their difficult spouses may help you gauge your own situation better.

When you hit the point where you don't want to go home after work, reach out to relatives or friends who don't live nearby. They may be able to give you a few days to figure out what you want your future to be.
posted by dragonplayer at 3:28 PM on November 22, 2011

I believe marriage is important and divorce is off the table

Marriage is important. Far too important to stay married to somebody who clearly is not acting as an adult partner to you. I'm very sorry that you're in such a hurtful situation. It sounds like you have tried very hard and your husband is not reciprocating. You sound miserable. Please think again about how much this marriage is worth to you.
posted by number9dream at 5:54 PM on November 22, 2011

It seems to me that the OP is saying "divorce isn't on the table" because that's generally the consensus when it comes to relationship advice in the human relations section. Sure, it's easier to just leave in any frustrating relations kind of situation, but it's also frustrating when you're looking for other advice aside from that. I'm sure OP has at least chewed over this idea all on her own.

That said, to play devil's advocate, it seems to me that "Jodie" may have acted this way his entire life because HE GETS AWAY WITH IT. What happens when he throws a hissy fit? He gets his way! Don't play the game. It's called reinforcement. When he throws a fit just say "OK" and proceed to do whatever you want to do-- not what he wants to do. That's what he expects and that's why this behavior is happening. Just try it. Eventually his brain will tell him his actions are no longer getting his desired affect and he'll make new pathways. Good luck!
posted by camylanded at 7:10 PM on November 22, 2011

Jodie sounds like my ex-husband. I have a list of incidents similar to the ones you describe. I spent years--years!--feeling like I was the problem, and if I only had acted differently than he wouldn't have been angry at me. It took about a year after we split up for me to realize that my marriage was abusive, and how terribly cowed and unhappy I was. I am so, so, so indescribably much happier without him.

You have been incredibly generous trying to help Jodie, trying to get him to therapy, trying to get him to try medication. There is nothing else for you to do. He needs to want to change himself, and it doesn't look like that is going to happen.
posted by apricot at 7:28 PM on November 22, 2011

Sit him down some time when tensions aren't high, and ask him specifically what things you do that cause this behavior.

I completely disagree with this: nothing is "causing" Jodie's behaviour except his own choice to engage in it. He might have feelings or reactions; but it is how he chooses to deal with those feelings and reactions that is the problem, not the feelings in and of themselves. The OP has already become hypervigilant in an attempt to forestall his anger and abuse; it's time to switch the focus from her actions-- which are not that important-- to his responses. There's nothing she could rationally or ordinarily do to provoke such rages.
posted by jokeefe at 9:53 PM on November 22, 2011 [7 favorites]

PS If divorce is not on the table, then how about a separation? (Please. Get out.)
posted by jokeefe at 9:54 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

You are my Mother and Jodie is my Father.

I am one of three children from this marriage who are now all in our forties. Two of us have spent thousands of dollars and many years in therapy trying to overcome the legacy of this union. I have given up on forming any kind of decent relationship because I don't seem to know how to have a good relationship with a good person and I don't want my child to be raised in an environment like the one I was raised in. One of my other siblings is in a supremely toxic marriage and their children are suffering. The third has managed a good marriage but suffers from anxiety and depression.

As for my Mother and Father, divorce was not on the table for them either. They're now in their eighties and my Dad? Still exactly the same except now with more health problems and more excuses to be angry. And my Mum? Still appeasing, and trying, and smoothing, and running, and eighty years old. She has never been able to make him happy, and she never will be able to. She's worn out. Absolutely worn out. She's at her wits end and is now "coping" by becoming an alcoholic.

You are important. Your peace of mind and your quality of life is important. So is that of any children you may have. Yes, you can stand on ceremony and decide that divorce is not an option. But be aware that this decision will affect you and those around you for the rest of your lives.

I wish you the strength to take another hard look at this. You deserve a good life.
posted by lunaazul at 10:31 PM on November 22, 2011 [11 favorites]

he sounds narcissistic and extremely irritable. I think medication would benefit him - being seen by a psychiatrist and then serious therapy. I think divorce should be put on the table. you do not deserve this abuse. you will be so happy you left when you do finally go.
posted by BlueMartini7 at 11:17 PM on November 22, 2011

There are a whole lot of comments here, all with very good advice. My own thought is that the majority of his spoiled-brat behavior is typical for the type of partner you simply don't want to be tied to for the rest of your life; however stressed you are now is nothing compared to how stressed you're going to be after another ten or fifteen years of this, so it must be taken care of now, not later. However, I have a serious concern that there's something physical going on here with Jodie's "forgetting" spells. At this age, there's really no reasonable explanation for him to be forgetting things you've told him/plans/dates so frequently unless he's dealing with a mental illness (falling off task and thinking others are working around you or talking about you behind your back or gaslighting you are pretty classic symptoms of some common mental disorders), or perhaps a seizure disorder with absence seizures of some sort. The fact that Jodie refuses to see a physician or counselor gives strength to the thought that he's trying desperately to hide something going on in his head.

Two things, though: 1) You can help him if he'll let you, but you are not responsible for taking care of him and taking his "temper tantrums" indefinitely; for one thing, all this is going to do is escalate - there's no reason to think it's going to get better by itself, is there? And 2) Don't bring children into the picture at this time. Hopefully, Jodie will decide to seek help and will find it, and then you can consider starting a family - when the environment is more stable and appropriate for children.

Take care of yourself first - if you don't, you're no help to anyone, not even to Jodie. I wish you the best.
posted by aryma at 11:30 PM on November 22, 2011

Treat them too nicely and they'll walk all over you. Spare the rod spoil the child. It's the same thing. If he complains about shopping and things to eat either say “cool, I'm a bit busy anyway, could you just make sure you buy xyz for me, please”. Then he'll realise it's not as easy as it seems. If you always do everything, he'll never know/understand.

If he forgets a lot of things, it's frustrating when someone says, “I told you ages ago”. You get irritated and feel like someone's either lying or saying “you're an idiot”, although what it boils down to is the fact that you're badly organised. Solution: get organised as a couple. Have a wall planner, or shared agendas on a smart phone. There's shared task lists too. It's his responsibility to note his things and take a note of yours.

Worst thing you can do is react to tantrums, it fuels them. If he flips over something petty, (like the bin bag incident), either some light mocking, or telling him to just let you know if he needs help because you totally didn't get the signals there, or tell him that you're not going to talk to him while he's angry and just leaving the room for a while to let me simmer down in his martian cave and then coming back with a changed, positive subject.

Mocking is also handy when you two are having fun. Joke about when he flipped about the bin bag or other incident. When he's calm and relaxed, he'll see how he's getting over-excited about trivial things, and next time he may be able to think twice before the red mist descends.

For the incident with the chair. He's just getting himself too worked up. He broods on something and build it up it his head. If you can change the subject, it can provide a vent for that pressure, and after a little simmering down it'll be forgotten (and he'll learn to auto-simmer after a while). Again, light mocking when times are good - hmmm, this chair is juuuust right for me, I think I'll sit here all evening...

I'm not making excuses for him, it's just these things can help avoid situations that cause him to get frustrated and irritated, and help him simmer down and provide a non-humiliating way to move on from the episode. He doesn't know how to do it himself yet. He should learn from it. If he doesn't learn, or you never have any good times or you start building walls and really detesting each other, or if there's even a hint of physical aggression, then the future seems bleak.
posted by guy72277 at 4:44 AM on November 23, 2011

Oh no, I left a few "your"s and "you"s in my post when I meant them in them in the general sense. Please don't think think I'm saying you(the op) gets irritated or you're(op) badly organised.
posted by guy72277 at 4:48 AM on November 23, 2011

I agree that the constant appeasement is not healthy. Re: the mocking advice above, however, I strongly feel it is misplaced in any good relationship, and will backfire violently if you use it in this situation.

Here's another stranger hoping you find at least as much compassion and value for yourself as you do for a man who gives neither to you.
posted by moira at 12:53 PM on November 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

Yeah, people with mental illness get inflexible and angry and forgetful like that. Or it could just be habit.

Either way, have you heard of Stolkholm Syndrome? I'm not kidding, look it up and read about it.
Divorce is not an option, because - ask yourself. In the time you have been married, who's needs does your life revolve around?
Your needs or his needs?
Is it even a question? You and I know, it's his needs that your life revolves around.

And that's why it is so hard to let go. Because that instant priority, of everything you both do revolving around him, is a survival mechanism, so that he won't abuse you, verbally, emotionally, etc. And it's not love, but it just feels so big, that how could you live without him? He is the center of your world, because he has made you revolve around him for so long.
That's not what you need in life.
Just think about it.

One day, you'll have a partner where you will put their needs first, and they will also put your needs first, and you'll end up with a situation where you will both dump everything to be there for each others *needs*, and be happy to compromise or alternate on the wants. And you will realise the vast, vast difference between this and that.
And then, if you have a child, you'll realise that both of your needs will go out the window, and it will be your child's needs that you will put first, then each other's needs, and then share out those wants.

And Jodie? Jodie isn't able to do that. So you know you can't have a child with him. That that wouldn't be fair.
So if you ever want to have a child, you have to consider letting this relationship go.

And maybe the relationship you let go will merely be this dysfunctional relationship with Jodie, because he finally realises that you will leave unless he gets help, and then you can have a functional relationship with him.
But you have to be willing to leave if he won't, otherwise he won't get the help he, and you need. Sometimes people can't get the help they need til after a relationship has broken up.
I have seen it, several times.
That also means, that if he starts getting help after you break up, you cannot go back with him while he is still getting help, because he will stop. You have to agree with yourself that you won't get back with him until he has been getting help, and being a better person for 6 months. That really isn't a long time, it's shorter than you think, but may feel longer than it looks.

Good luck.
posted by Elysum at 2:43 PM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

From the OP:
Hi everyone. First, thank you. I am, as ever with Mefi, and AskMe in particular, humbled and awed at how open and honest and wonderful people are here. Your concern has really forced me to reassess a lot of what I've been thinking about in relation to my marriage. With that in mind, I wanted to add some information that might bring clarity to some of my situation.

His behavior has been long-standing, but it also didn't start until around/after our first year of marriage. When we were dating, he was incredibly self-sacrificing, loving, attentive and showed me the kind of concern and love I expected from a partner. I've had bad relationships before, and my family background is not entirely healthy so I wanted to make sure that this relationship wasn't like the other ones in my life. But.

Jodie is not originally American, and a lot of the issues we have have arisen in relation to the fact that he moved from his home country and left all of his family and friends, and had to make all the other many, many transitions that one goes through in that kind of move. He struggled to find a job, then the economy crashed. So I started taking on more and more in the hopes that things would change as soon as he started working.

He worked several jobs that were below his education/career/salary history. During that time, the anger started coming out. We started to fight like I've never fought with anyone. Screaming, cursing, storming out, crying. Now I'm no angel here - I rarely started the fights, but I also escalated them in the beginning. It would end with my crying and he would feel bad and beat himself up over it (both literally and figuratively). I can't count the times where he's taken off his ring and thrown it and told me that it was over. The number of nights where I've had to go to work on 3-4 hours of sleep are too numerous to count. My friends started to notice, and I told some of them about it. They supported me as best they could, but what can anyone really do?

Later he would calm down and we'd try to talk through things. What emerged was that he was desperately unhappy and was negative about every. single. thing. Unhappy with the country, unhappy with our life, unhappy with everything. He complained about traffic, about the food, about the attitudes and habits of Americans, etc. I once timed him at 45 minutes straight without stopping in one of his rants. Sometimes he'll turn to me and say, "What do you think? (3 second pause) Because you must think/I think..." I found it more and more easy to just space out and nod from time to time. I hate myself for it.

About a year in, he started to recognize how depressed he was (I had tried to bring it up before, which only made him defensive and angry). He's asked me if I thought he was bipolar before because he has these feelings of rage and depression that just don't disappear, and yet when he's up he's UP. I told him that a doctor was the only one who could make that kind of diagnosis. For a while, I had convinced him to see a doctor, but then I lost our health insurance and that was that. We just got insurance again, so I'll keep pressing that angle.

The other major factor in all of this is that he has expressed to me many times that he made so many sacrifices in our early relationship (which is true) and so he's entitled to get more attention now and for the foreseeable future. He feels that it's totally justified to demand that from me, and I believe that has lead to the escalation of the fighting and anger levels. As someone here aptly said, it is about him most, if not all, of the time.

Then there's the Grant factor. Grant was my friend first, but Grant and Jodie do hang out together on their own, so he really IS our friend. There is jealousy there, but Grant and I are (and always will be) just friends. He knows that, Grant knows that, I know that. But there's this irrational jealousy that I just can't understand. I think his anger at Grant is less about Grant and more about him, really.

All that said, a lot of your comments struck me deep. One made me remember something that happened a few weeks ago. We usually hang out with Grant on the weekend - we started doing it because Jodie felt like he was always stuck at home and wanted a change of scenery, so we would head somewhere for brunch. Ask him now and he'd probably say that it was my idea and that he doesn't like doing it, but whatever: his idea.

We had a major fight the night before and were up until 3-4 AM (that's not unusual) and Jodie decided that he didn't want to go out. I thought he might change his mind, so I waited to text Grant until nearly the time we were supposed to leave. By then Grant had texted me a few times to check in, and was worried when he didn't hear from me. I told him that I wasn't feeling well (which wasn't untrue) and we couldn't go. I apologized for it profusely. When I didn't hear back from him for a while, I apologized again. Same thing a little while later.

Finally I turned my phone off and back on. He had actually texted me back immediately to say that it wasn't a big deal and that he hoped I was okay. I actually cried right then because I imagined it the other way around, with what Jodie's reaction would have been. Suffice to say it wouldn't have been the same at all.

The reason divorce isn't on the table is that Jodie has nowhere to go if I was to leave. He's in school right now, and I'm supporting us. Grant is his only real friend here. We can't afford for him to go back home either. So we're pretty stuck. We've talked about trial separations, but it always comes back to this: where would he/I go? And if we can't afford to live together, how could we afford to live separately?

My hope is that he can get checked out by a doctor and medicated for the (now screamingly obvious) mental health issues that he's suffering from. When that happens, I'd like to see if he'll reconsider counseling. I'm not in individual therapy, but it seems like that might be a good first step to convince him I'm serious.

This is getting really long, so I'll wrap it up. I really do want to thank everyone here for their time and their stories and for helping me process and work through this. What you have convinced me is that just keeping things status quo isn't okay - I still struggle with the word "abuse". Letting his mood dictate our lives isn't okay. I actually have taught a psychology course in the past and I know all about conditioning and learned behavior. Why I can't apply it here, I don't know. I will stop reacting to him and giving him the attention he wants when he acts in a way I find unacceptable.

My hope is that we can find some way to work through this together. I need a true partner, and being married to someone who acts like a child is not fair to me.

Thank you again, Mefi. I had convinced myself that you all would say that I was the one who was totally crazy and that his behavior was totally normal. Which I guess is a testament to how deep in it I am right now. But it's much harder to see a situation when you're in the middle of it. Thank you.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:59 PM on November 23, 2011

Hi OP, thank you for the update. I have been following this thread with interest, and there is a lot of excellent advice throughout.

The bottom line is, as far as I can see it, he is an adult and you are married, so that demands a partnership. He just can't emotionally shit on you, and not think that he gets a pass because he's come a long way to be in your country. He doesn't like it here? Too bad, either deal or leave. And I get that there are cultural and social gaps to get past.

(By the way, he wouldn't happen to be Middle Eastern, would he? Just a thought.)

Best of luck to you. You deserve happiness. I hope you can find it.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 8:20 PM on November 23, 2011

He can't support himself because he's in school? He can drop out. YOU HAVE TO TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. You've done enough taking care of him. You're still making excuses! Plenty of people move here and take shitty jobs and don't turn into abusive jerks.
posted by desjardins at 9:01 PM on November 23, 2011 [14 favorites]

Thanks for the update OP. I understand not wanting to put the "abuse" label on what is happening here. I did it too, until I couldn't deny it anymore. I think the reason was that I hated to admit that I ended up where I did and it was a hit to my ego. I would still recommend that you read the books I referenced in my first comment. If you really are dealing with something other than abuse (like mental illness), they won't resonate with you and you can take all of our concerns that it might be abuse off the table.

Your follow up, however, does nothing to change my feeling that you are dealing with someone like my ex who would likewise keep me, the sole breadwinner, up until all hours of the night and crap all over plans by refusing to go. But I think that whatever label you put on it (abuse, mental illness, etc), you are still miserable and he is still behaving hideously.

So what to do? After I left my abusive ex, I started volunteering at a domestic violence shelter. I saw women and children with far greater financial obstacles than you've described who found a way out. Save you husband's tuition money and put it towards a lawyer and a plane ticket back to your husband's country. Or save in other ways. Or borrow it from your family or do whatever you need to do if you decide to seek your freedom from the prison you are currently in. YOU ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR HIM, HIS ACTIONS OR HIS MISERY, so stop taking responsibility where it does not belong.

Good luck OP...I know how truly painful this is for you and I wish you nothing but the best.
posted by murrey at 4:30 AM on November 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

The other major factor in all of this is that he has expressed to me many times that he made so many sacrifices in our early relationship (which is true) and so he's entitled to get more attention now and for the foreseeable future.

The kind of 'attention' he is asking you for involves you spending a whole working day tearfully trying to persuade him to do something that he arbitrarily and irrationally decided to claim you were excluding him from. It involves you attempting to psychically determine what food he wants when he'd told you something different. It involves you managing, somehow, to simultaneously help him with kitchen tasks and not help him with kitchen tasks. This isn't him saying 'I'd like you to prioritise my wants over your career choices right now, because I've made sacrifices for you in the past'; this is him saying 'I'd like you to prioritise my wants over your happiness, sanity, well-being, comfort, time and basic human needs to be cared for and treated compassionately, because right now I want to feel that I have enough control over you and our lives together to demand that of you.'

He quite possibly dealing with depression or some other mental illness. But he is still treating you badly, and justifying treating you badly, and refusing to take responsibility for treating you badly, and planning to continue treating you badly. No kind of mental illness excuses that behaviour.

But that said, I do understand why you feel that he's in a tough position and you don't want to consider separation or divorce as an option. I was in a relationship with a live-in partner some years ago that also became miserable and exhausting because of his anger and depression and inability to get his life together the way he wanted it, and it was killing me. And yet I knew that if I left he'd have nowhere to go and it would significantly worsen the state he was in, plus I still loved him deeply and recognised he was deeply hurt and troubled, plus I kind of blamed myself as much as him for all the 3am screaming matches, and so I stayed. Things got worse and worse and eventually they escalated to physical abuse, and when I finally did leave it was because I recognised I just had nothing left to give; being in that relationship had worn me down so thoroughly that I could hardly function myself, and I just did not have it in me to do that any more.

After I left my ex did get worse, at least initially. For a while he was homeless and staying on a selection of friends' couches while intermittently turning up on my doorstep to scream at me that if he died it would be all my fault. It was hell, for both of us. And yet... I didn't go back. Eventually he realised that his life was just awful and I wasn't coming back, and that he needed the professional help I'd spent years trying to persuade him to get. He got good psychiatric care and medication, and with the help of that, he rebuilt his life into something he was happy with and proud of.

That ex is now (I hear; we aren't in contact) happily married and much more functional. My ex's father, on the other hand, who had exactly the same behaviour, continues to rant and rage and control and make his family's life a total, unrelenting misery. Ex's mother has spent most of her life trying to cater to her husband's needs for attention and dedicating all her time to walking on eggshells and placating him. The children grew up in that environment, and it messed them up in some big fundamental ways that included repeating the pattern into the next generation. If I had stayed with my ex, I truly believe we would now be in his parents' situation ourselves, and I am so, so forever glad - for his sake, as well as for mine - that I refused to let that happen. However awful it felt at the time, it has become very clear to me since that being willing to leave was not a cruel or selfish or unfair choice, but rather the only remaining compassionate one.
posted by Catseye at 5:25 AM on November 24, 2011 [15 favorites]

Just wanted to make a comment related to your follow up. I stayed in an angry, verbally abusive relationship for several years, in large part because the other person had nowhere to go and I was sure they'd end up living on the street. I finally snapped and kicked them out during a prolonged screaming match they had started for no apparent reason, and I realized I could not live like that for one more second.

They didn't want to leave. They were by turns pleading and verbally abusive as they attempted to persuade me to let them stay. It was hard to hear them cry, and even harder to stand my ground about them getting out when I was so genuinely scared they'd wind up freezing to death in the streets. But I was firm, and they left.

It's been three years since I kicked them out, and while they are far from having their shit together, they have to my knowledge not spent a single night on the street. They stayed with friends or relatives for periods of time; they were in a halfway house for awhile; they even had an apartment for a brief time. And now they are living with someone, a romantic partner. They haven't been able to hold a job, but they always managed to have food and smokes and a place to stay. And I think they are beginning to realize they need help for the anger and impulsiveness that has ruined previous relationships and jobs.

I was sure this person could not make it without me, yet three years later they are keeping their head above water. The life they are living is not what I would have wished for them, but it's far from the disaster I had imagined.

Lots and lots of people have kicked abusive people from their lives with "nowhere to go" and watched them quickly figure out how to get by. Some have eventually thrived, some continued to struggle indefinitely, but it's amazing how they always manage to keep body and soul together somehow. He doesn't have to be your responsibility.
posted by sock puppy at 6:17 AM on November 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

The reason divorce isn't on the table is that Jodie has nowhere to go if I was to leave.

Yes, he does. Or, he can. When I first moved to San Francisco and worked a retail job, a lot of my co-workers survived this (very expensive) city by living with housemates and have like three or four part-time gigs while they were in school. It's not fun, but a ton of people do it.

The other major factor in all of this is that he has expressed to me many times that he made so many sacrifices in our early relationship (which is true) and so he's entitled to get more attention now and for the foreseeable future.

No. The way agreements like this (that are really totally unlike this) work is "I'll work while you go to grad school, then you work while I go to grad school," not some vague, unquantifiable and completely unfair "sacrifices." I will bet you a large amount of money that there is no measurement of "sacrifices" you can make that will satisfy him. What would that look like? Do you walk on eggshells for the next decade, and then he goes "Okay, you're all paid up!"

A lot of us sound harsh here but I hope you know it's not because we think you're dumb, or we don't like you. A lot of us, as you can see, speak from personal experience, so we're also kind of talking to our younger selves, saying the things we wish we'd been able to hear back then.

I hope you can hear us. Please take care of yourself as best you can. You'll be in my thoughts.
posted by rtha at 6:29 AM on November 24, 2011 [3 favorites]

I'm always reluctant to answer these questions because I can see the Romeo and Juliet effect in action.

I expected a follow-up that made a lot of excuses for his behavior, because you do love him and that is obvious from your question.

Plus, you are a generous, and kind person and giving others the benefit of the doubt probably comes naturally to you. My partner is the same way. I bend over backwards to be worthy of his trust.

Every marriage is difficult. I hope that you can one day find a marriage that supports you and props you up and makes hard time easier, instead of one that drains you and deprives you of sleep.

Surely you understand the role sleep deprivation plays in decision making and mental health?

Anyway, nothing you have written really changes my above predictions, so please, if you do stop rewarding his behavior, stay safe, because he will escalate. The number for a domestic violence hotline should be in your phone, HOWEVER, put it under something innocuous and unlikely to get his attention.

Good luck.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:40 AM on November 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, I realize that my comment might have come across as condescending or like I think you're stupid or naive. I don't think that at all. I really do think you are kind and loving and that those qualities are being exploited in a way that is utterly unfair to you.

Finally, men sometimes sabotage their female partners' birth control in order to impregnate them against their will, as a method of maintaining control. Please do everything you can to ensure that you stay in control of your fertility.

We're rooting for you. Come back for help anytime, no matter what--specifically, if you ever need someone to talk to, no matter what you decide, please mefimail me. I won't judge you or give up on you.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:48 AM on November 24, 2011 [4 favorites]

It is very difficult when issues of abusive behaviour and mental illness get intertwined. Is Jodie to control themselves when their behaviour is important (talking to police, interacting with adults outside the relationship) but "can't" control how they with you? Is he able to switch off in an instant from an "uncontrollable" rage in private into normal conversation a few seconds later in another room with witnesses, or vice versa? Clearly his private behaviour is as much a choice as the public behaviour.

It sounds like you might be beating yourself up a bit. Keep in mind this relationship took a long time to degrade and it will not improve quickly either. You might want to have a firm deadline in mind - i.e., in six months he is working on his issues with a therapist, he is taking his meds every day and you see a marked imporvement or else you start divorce proceedings. Which you can, because you are a smart, resourceful person who is able to hold down a job and support yourself. If Jodie chooses not to support himself, if you decide the marriage is over, that is not something you can control and it is not your problem.

I believe you can make a better life for yourself.
posted by saucysault at 7:37 AM on November 24, 2011

However awful it felt at the time, it has become very clear to me since that being willing to leave was not a cruel or selfish or unfair choice, but rather the only remaining compassionate one.

This is an incredibly important insight from Catseye. Please, please, please, OP: I know it must seem impossible to believe right now, but I ask you simply to consider what she says may be true for both you and Jodie, too.
posted by scody at 10:56 AM on November 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Don't let yourself be trapped by the belief that because you bring home the cash, without you, Jodie can't survive. If you got hit by a bus tomorrow, what would he do? Sit on the floor until he starved to death? Nope, he would simply amaze you with his sudden ability to buy his own food, cook it, eat it, and then go off to the job he found to earn the money he needs to buy more. You'd be watching from beyond the grave thinking gosh, Jodie isn't helpless after all. He's an adult human.

He was an adult when he freely chose to move with you. His decision to move doesn't obligate you to support him for the rest of his life. Financially, emotionally, or in any way.
posted by prefpara at 4:05 PM on November 24, 2011 [9 favorites]

I might have missed this, but have you talked to Grant about this situation? Is he someone you confide him? Getting the perspective of a close friend can be helpful.

I understand what it is like to love someone who emotionally abuses you. This was my father. Ignoring it, talking to him about it, completely cutting ties still seems impossible, because I love him deeply, and I know he loves me. He's an amazing father 90% of the time. It's not as black and white as it seems. And there's still a strong urge to protect him—not let him know how much he upsets me because I know it will upset him, doing what it takes to appease him. Unfortunately, now I do this with everyone, with terrible consequences for me and the people around me.

Since this situation wasn't black and white, a black and white solution was not possible. Lots of therapy for me and a gradual moving away from him was more manageable. My dad had some health issues that he got taken care of, which improved things immensely.

If Grant is a good friend, maybe he'd consider letting Jodie rent a room from him. That might make it a little more psychologically easier for you to move out and away.

Is Jodie from a non-Western country? I live in the U.S and I have some experience with men raised in cultures with very different values than our's, particularly in what women are valued for and how they are treated. They also change pre- and post-marriage—there's an expectation to shower women with love and attention before marriage, but after marriage the relationship changes drastically. In most men, these values are deeply ingrained.
posted by Tall Telephone Pea at 5:20 AM on November 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

I was going to chime in to say that your situation is having adverse effects on your self-esteem and self-worth and, like the frog in increasingly heated water, you are boiling to death without noticing. Abuse is not just awful in the moment- it has longterm cumulative effects on you.
Your follow-up confirms this. That you thought we would say you are unreasonable and he is acting normally shows how skewed this situation has rendered your behavior compass. Everyone in your relationship, you and Jodie, is looking out for what's best for Jodie. Partnership means that you look out for each other. It's not that he can't give to you what you give to him; it's that he is actively, through his behavior, taking things away from you: your sleep, your emotional engagement, your self-esteem, your energy. You are making yourself smaller and smaller so as not to trigger the anger. You will disappear until nothing is left but Jodie's needs.
Already your self-preservation for your own well-being (leaving) is eclipsed by his needs (what will Jodie do?). He is an adult. He will find his way. Here's the good news, there are many people in your situation that are financially dependent on their abuser. You are not. Plus, without Jodie, you will find the energy and resources to live within your means and you will grow stronger and remember who you were before you boxed yourself up for Jodie's sake. Imagine what you could do with 8 hours besides tearful pleading. Imagine enjoying a play without worrying that Jodie isn't and will throw a tantrum about it later. Maybe he feels helpless and frustrated about his situation but it is never, ever acceptable for him to take it out on you. He might not be able to control the traffic lights or the economy but he sure the hell can control you. He might be in a bad place now and might recognize it, but none of that helps you until he realizes that he can't use you as his punching bag.
Since he's not looking out for you and you are looking out for him, why not take a sliver of your Jodie attention and turn it on yourself. Develop a back-up plan. Read books about this behavior to recognize it and its effects. Shore yourself up so you don't disappear. Rediscover your sense of esteem so that you can tell your husband that NO ONE, least of all him, gets to treat you this way EVER. Good luck, my dear.
posted by Jezebella at 7:21 AM on November 25, 2011 [7 favorites]

Does it help to consider that you are not being compassionate by enabling this sort of childish behavior? That you would be doing him a favor by leaving and ending the arrangement that has turned him into this petulant crazy toddler-man? He can't keep on this road he's on without your cooperation, after all. It requires a willing punching bag. Be kind and remove the punching bag; maybe his next relationship might be healthier. (Yours will be, for sure.)

Good luck.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:01 PM on November 25, 2011

I will stop reacting to him and giving him the attention he wants when he acts in a way I find unacceptable.

Even if you do this and he still keeps acting the way he acts, then what? As others have said, he's not willing to change and the key part here is that you can't force people to change. He seems to have had plenty of time to consider his behavior and if he's not open to anything, what is left? Do whatever you can to get that trial separation, this has gone on too long for anyone's health or well being. Take care.
posted by Wuggie Norple at 5:48 PM on November 25, 2011

It's so hard to take such an extreme leap in perspective. Do what you feel you can now, but don't forget to reread this thread in the future. Sometimes we free ourselves in small steps.
posted by moira at 8:06 PM on November 25, 2011 [3 favorites]

You have each other hooked into a two way reward cycle. You "reward" his outbursts by attempting to soothe him. He "rewards" you by acquiescing to being soothed at various points along the exhausting time suck scale. Sometimes sooner, sometimes not at all. It's not clear if these outbursts comprise the bulk of your interactions with Jodie, but if they do, there might be a part of you that has decided that angry accusations and pointed sulking are preferable to no acknowledgement at all from your spouse.

I suggest therapy for you. Because, like alcoholism and other social problems, the only person who can initiate work to solve a problem is the person who believes they have it, and wants to change things. At the moment, Jodie either does not believe he has a problem or is not ready to do anything about it. You, however, have clearly stated that you have a problem. In fact, you have outlined several problems. Print this post and all the answers so far and bring it to your therapist. If you do not already have your own therapist, please get one. If you are nervous that Jodie might see these responses, or your post, print them at a Kinko's on your way to your appointment. Don't be upset if your first three therapists are not good matches. Keep meeting new ones until you find a good fit.

I'm not a therapist, but I do have a lot of experience in therapy for interpersonal....stuff. And I think it would do you some good to learn some "interpersonal skills." I think it would be good for you to learn some more about your own emotions, and to really internalize and believe that no matter how skillfully you communicate, some people just will not have a healthy conversation, whether that's due to lack of skill, or lack of desire, or some combination of the two. I'm a big big fan of Dialectical Behavior Therapy, which was developed for people with a very specific disorder, but it has been effective for all kinds of clients.

Finally, I have to wonder why divorce is off the table? Did you live through a really nasty divorce as a kid? Were your raised by people who refused to get divorced even though they were deeply unhappy? Is this a religious matter?

Now that I've asked those questions, I want you to think about what marriage is. In my universe, marriage is a set of promises, that partners make to each other. Now, the specifics of your promises to Jodie are not something that I can know. But I would bet he promised the same things to you. I'd be willing to lay some money down that these promises included at least one of the following:
  • kindness
  • patience
  • loving
  • trusting
As you have outlined Jodie's behavior, I'm not understanding how you feel these things in this relationship, and it would seem that Jodie doesn't feel like you offer these things in the measure or incarnation he hopes for. But he can't (or won't) tell you how much or even how to show him. I think therapy might help you deal with the uncertainty that comes with that.

Here's the thing about loving and kindness and patience and trust. These things are relatively easy to do when things are easy. But it is when they are difficult that their importance becomes clear. As you are saying in your question. It's understandable to you that Jodie feels frustrated sometimes, but you are hurt and confused by the reaction that he exhibits. You are trying to continue to be kind, patient, loving and trusting, despite having a partner that makes that difficult. This shows amazing strength on your part. At the same time, you are concerned for your children (Do you already have children? This will be important to the therapist.), and rightly so. The relationship you are in is not a healthy one. Whether one or both parties sees an unhealthy relationship as a "problem" it is still unhealthy. And modeling that pattern for children will make problems for them later, because you'll be teaching them how to treat their partners, and also how to expect their partners to treat them.
posted by bilabial at 8:43 PM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

From the OP:
Hi everyone.

I don't know how to say this, really. Grant and I are sitting in a hotel room a few towns over from where I used to live. Last night, he was over and Jodie started up again. I had been turning over the words from the threads (Grant also read them and has slowly helped me process them) and I felt something different than I've felt before.

I grabbed my purse and an extra sweatshirt and left. Grant came with me and we just sat in the parking lot of a fast food restaurant for hours while I cried and he listened, and together, we decided to take the first step. Jodie had been texting and calling both of us, but for once, I didn't respond. Grant found me a hotel. I asked him to not let me change my mind. He didn't.

I've been here for about 24 hours and I have no plans beyond 9:30 tomorrow morning. Right now, we're listening to music and I feel better than I've felt in, well, a long time.

I left everything behind, but we both decided that it's not a good idea to go back right now. If I can do this without interacting or talking to him again, I will. I'm already looking into divorce, and am looking for some short-term accommodation. We hope that he will just take this opportunity and fly back home. Pray for that, if you're that way inclined.

Here's why I was able to leave.

1. A younger friend of mine called about her ex-boyfriend and how he had treated her since the split. I had shown her the Metafilter favorite "Sick System" post. She called when Grant and I were hanging out, and I put her on speakerphone. At the end of the hour long call, Grant looked at me and told me that he wished I would take my own advice because obviously I knew the right thing to do but I just wouldn't do it.

2, Since the post, all of your words have gone around and around in my head. It was a major motivation for me to figure out what the hell I've been doing. I don't know if I would have listened to that voice without so many of you piling on with the same refrain. Since posting all those weeks ago, I've realized how right you all were. I don't even feel sad. In fact, I feel free for the first time in years. I may not have any clean clothes or a place to stay tomorrow night. But I feel relieved.

3. Grant. He's here now, trying to help me figure out how to write this and what to do next. I would have never left without him there. His kindness and friendship has got me through the tough times when I wasn't sure if I could do it. He literally put the car in gear a few times. I don't think I can ever thank him enough. He's screening my emails and my cell phone and letting me feel and say whatever I need to. I honestly couldn't ask for a better best friend. I don't think one exists. His friendship reminds me that there is a way out. As he keeps saying, the sun will keep on rising, no matter what. He's right.

I even keep apologizing to Grant for everything, including turning on the heat in the car and missing the correct turn. And again and again, I am shocked when he isn't a horrible human being in return.


I keep asking, and he keeps reassuring, that I'm doing the right thing. The next step is to get my stuff, then figure out how to move on from here. One thing I know: I'm not going back. Divorce will take place. With no-fault divorces, no kids and no assets, it shouldn't be too difficult. As horrible as it sounds, I would love for the last time I saw him to be when I walked out last night.

And there may be no one reading this at this point, but I want to say again that your answers and concern helped to make the difference between staying and in doing so, growing more and more miserable and alone, and finally standing up for myself so I am no longer the subject of his wrath.

And the people in my life stepped up to help. I am truly, truly blessed beyond measure.

Thank you all again. If this is what this community can do for one random stranger on the internet, it gives me hope that this is less of an ending and more of a beginning.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:38 AM on December 10, 2011 [28 favorites]

it gives me hope that this is less of an ending and more of a beginning.

I promise you: this is exactly what it is.

OP, I am so happy to read your update. Keep moving forward, keep safe, and keep reminding yourself how much you are worth it. I wish you well!
posted by scody at 9:45 AM on December 10, 2011

OP, thank you so much for the update. I'm also very happy that you've been able to take steps to make your life better.
posted by rtha at 9:56 AM on December 10, 2011

Yay! Good luck.
posted by desjardins at 11:12 AM on December 10, 2011

Thank you for the update, OP! I was thinking about you the other day. Very well done, and I wish you all the best for the future!
posted by apricot at 6:16 PM on December 10, 2011

Thanks for letting us know. I'm so glad!! Kudos for being so brave, you deserve a happy life.
posted by bunderful at 5:30 AM on December 11, 2011

OP, thank you for updating us. Despite what you thought, people are still reading this, because they care and want you to be okay. Grant's one of those people too, clearly.

you have a support system, and that means you will be okay. Better -- you will be fantastic.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:50 AM on December 11, 2011

Best wishes, OP, on your future.
posted by jeather at 7:54 AM on December 11, 2011

OP, I am so very very happy for you. I am so glad you are out. I wish you a truly joyous holiday.

If your town is small enough (and sometimes even if it isn't!) you can request a police escort to retrieve your belongings, just so you know. If not, a posse of friends is also useful. Don't go back alone - you are in a new set of circumstances and your former SO's behaviour may well be unpredictable.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:49 PM on December 11, 2011

OP, I'm so, so happy for you and so glad to hear that Grant is such a wonderful support for you. This is a new beginning, and what an exciting thing that is. Keep taking good care of yourself and letting others support you when you need it. You deserve this new life. As someone who has been in a very similar set of circumstances, I have all the faith in the world that this is going to work out well for you.
posted by goggie at 8:17 AM on December 12, 2011

OP, that you've taken your life back is such good news. Wishing you comfort, happiness, and peace in your new beginning.
posted by lunaazul at 2:47 PM on December 12, 2011

OP, I am overjoyed for you - in fact I got a little choked up. I remember that weightless feeling, even though I didn't have anything and didn't know what I was going to do next.

It will not be easy, there will be ups and downs, second thoughts, regrets and more elation. You are a superwoman, though. You did the hardest thing I know I ever had to do.

Good luck.
posted by Pax at 6:16 AM on December 13, 2011

Yay!! I just found your follow up and am so relieved for you. Stay safe and enjoy your freedom!
posted by murrey at 10:02 AM on December 13, 2011

Good job OP, and good job everyone! Go team!
posted by griphus at 10:05 AM on December 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

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