Having trouble figuring out if I'm overreacting to my husband grabbing my arm
November 26, 2011 6:46 PM   Subscribe

Help me figure out if this is a relationship dealbreaker-- my husband recently dragged me out of my chair, against my will.

We're both 43, married 10 years, no kids. My husband definitely has a personality where he needs to be in control, and we have argued many times over what I perceive as his attempts to control me. I have also been unhappy for a long time over his moodiness and how quickly he can become very angry at people-- he has a road rage problem, for example.

The other night, we were walking through a shopping center. I wanted to sit down for a minute, so I sat. He thought I was trying to avoid going into a store with him-- I really wasn't. He grabbed my arm and said, "come on!" angrily, and physically pulled me back up, would not let go until I stood up. I was embarrassed-- plenty of people saw him do this and I was humiliated. I snapped the first thing that came into my mind--"get your hands off me."

It probably doesn't sound as bad as it felt to me. But ever since it happened, I don't want to be around him. I'm thinking of a separation and just don't know if I am overreacting. Any insights welcome.
posted by DianaV to Human Relations (66 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I would think it's at the very least a "you must go to counseling with me to resolve this issue or I'm outta here" event.

Not necessarily a relationship dealbreaker if he shows remorse and takes sincere steps to change and actually does change.
posted by jayder at 6:52 PM on November 26, 2011 [12 favorites]

Your husband has a pattern of anger issues and control issues. I don't think you need to be able to point at one thing to say "this is the thing that was too much" in order to give yourself permission to leave him -- lots of things that are each not a big deal on their own can add up to being too much altogether.

Basically what I'm saying is, if he was a saint in every other way and you had no other problems with him, I think this alone wouldn't be a dealbreaker, but that's not the situation you have described, so maybe this thing, while not necessarily a huge problem in a vacuum, is the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back, and it's totally OK for you to not be OK with how he treats you and how he treats others when he's angry. It sounds totally reasonable and not at all an overreaction to me if after a pattern of control and anger, this event has finally pushed you over the edge to where you are strong enough to realize you don't want to be treated this way anymore.
posted by brainmouse at 6:52 PM on November 26, 2011 [19 favorites]

It probably doesn't sound as bad as it felt to me.

Well, I can't know how it felt to you, but I can tell you it sounds absolutely awful and completely unacceptable, even if it was only a one-off. In the context of a relationship that's already full of control and anger management issues, a separation doesn't seem to me like an overreaction at all.
posted by ootandaboot at 6:54 PM on November 26, 2011 [48 favorites]

I can't say whether it's a dealbreaker for you.

He thinks it is okay to put his hands on you in order to get you to do what he wants.

He tries to control you against your will, and he has an anger problem.

It is getting worse, not better.

Is this the marriage you want to be in? When you think of your ideal life, are you married to someone with anger problems who puts his hands on you?

Good luck with whatever you decide.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:56 PM on November 26, 2011 [14 favorites]

I don't think that incident alone is a deal breaker but it sounds like you're looking for an excuse to separate from him because you're already unhappy, so let that be the reason.
posted by timsneezed at 6:57 PM on November 26, 2011 [3 favorites]

Your reaction sounds perfectly reasonable to me. You're the one who has to live with the guy--your feelings are the ones that matter. If you don't want to be around the guy and want a separation, that's entirely valid.

This would be a dealbreaker for me, personally. It has been my experience that controlling people will use any means that they're allowed to get control.
posted by corey flood at 6:57 PM on November 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Do you feel threaten, abused or unsafe in his company? Because if you do then it doesn't matter how long you've been married or that he's struggling with psychological problems. You don't have to live in fear simply because of these reasons, no one has to.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 7:00 PM on November 26, 2011

If I were you, this would be a dealbreaker. Who knows what this one act of "arm grabbing" could lead to.

At the very least, I'd say a trial separation is in order.
posted by Anima Mundi at 7:02 PM on November 26, 2011

It probably doesn't sound as bad as it felt to me.

I don't know what you should do, but that sounds like a huge deal to me. He treated you like a recalcitrant toddler in a public space where it's possible people who know you both might have seen it. Even if he never laid a finger on you again, that's just not an appropriate way to treat your partner.

Sometimes the straw that breaks the camel's back is very small, but it gives a lot of built-up feelings and observations a locus.
posted by winna at 7:02 PM on November 26, 2011 [5 favorites]

DTMFA. Run, do not walk.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 7:08 PM on November 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Putting his hands on me was the reason I left my angry, controlling, emotionally abusive ex.
posted by murrey at 7:10 PM on November 26, 2011

It doesn't much matter what internet commenters think about this incident. We're not the ones who are married to him; you are. What matters is how you feel, and you've made that pretty clear: "I don't want to be around him."
posted by John Cohen at 7:10 PM on November 26, 2011 [5 favorites]

I think it would be important to really look at how his attempts at control impact you (either on your own and with a therapist). Depending on what you determine, next steps would be to identify if you want change, what kind of changes you would want and how realistic change on his part would be. I believe that you know deep down what is right for you and what you can really expect for the future. Go with your gut!
posted by rglass at 7:11 PM on November 26, 2011

Unless you were on the brink of falling into volcano, there is no circumstance that would make the behavior you describe acceptable. His anger is a problem he needs to get help to deal with. You might not want to be with him anymore but, at the very least, he (and you) need to go to counseling about this.

The problem with excusing outbursts, road rage and controlling behavior because "it's not that bad" is that it invariably gets worse and it continually wears away the goodwill between partners until there is virtually nothing left to save. I don't know where you two are on that skid but your marriage is in trouble and you need to get help now. Don't wait around for it to get worse. It is already there.

This would be a deal breaker for me but only because I learned what I have just told you the hard way. You can be smarter than that. I hope he will respond and make a big change and the two of you can reestablish communication and rebuild your marriage. If you can't do that, you should get out sooner rather than later.

I wish you a better future than being yanked around the mall like a unloved child by an abusive parent. I really hope you find a way to build a loving, adult relationship in your life.
posted by Anitanola at 7:12 PM on November 26, 2011 [3 favorites]

One more thought--Journaling can really help with getting all the murky, mixed up thoughts, feelings, ideas into a more organized form. Perhaps a good place to start...
posted by rglass at 7:13 PM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

If this isn't bad enough to end the relationship, what would he have to do that is?

Would it have to be worse than that? Do you want to be the person that happens to?
posted by mhoye at 7:14 PM on November 26, 2011 [10 favorites]

You're not overreacting. And I'll just say it's been my experience that controlling people never let go of their need to control. Best of luck to you in whatever you decide.
posted by orange swan at 7:15 PM on November 26, 2011

This event was just out of nowhere while walking through a mall, right? Not, like, after hours of you two having already been fighting with each other or stressed out? Because that would mitigate (though not excuse) it a bit.

I snapped the first thing that came into my mind--"get your hands off me."

And did he?

If his response was to let go immediately, ideally apologize or at least just walk away alone to cool off, I'd consider it "salvageable with lots of honest effort and communication" territory.

If it was to keep pulling or to respond with more anger, I'd probably be packing my bags.
posted by ook at 7:16 PM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

He thought I was trying to avoid going into a store with him-- I really wasn't.

Well, what if you were avoiding going into a store with him? Would that mean that grabbing you was a more reasonable way to treat you? What does that mean about what's okay/understandable for him to do the next time you actually don't want to do what he wants?
posted by argonauta at 7:23 PM on November 26, 2011 [31 favorites]

Counselling. Stat. And if he refuses separation till he changes his mind. Totally unacceptable.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:26 PM on November 26, 2011 [6 favorites]

100% not acceptable, you're not overreacting. You're not happy, you haven't been happy in a long time. Leave now so you can start living the life you want.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 7:28 PM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

You'd know full well if this were an isolated occurrence and minor relative to how much admiration, respect, and support he normally supplies. So, it isn't, and you're wise to consider that humiliation a last straw. Plan your exit strategy carefully, or you may suffer worse from his anger than you have so far.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 7:29 PM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm actually more disturbed by this behavior than I would be if he'd hit you. Because I've gotten angry enough to want to hit someone. In some sense, if you're the type to anger in a physical way, wanting to hit someone is an unthinking response to your own rage. That's not an okay thing to do ever under any circumstances of course, but I think we've all had that impulse. But deciding that because someone isn't doing what you want them to do, you should try to physically force them to do it? That, in my mind, means that he thought about it and decided that he had the right to bend you to his will. That too is never, ever okay, but in my mind, it's not as impulsive and instinctual. It's the result of a pattern of thinking in which other people are yours to do with what you will, a pattern of thinking that is sick in and of itself even if you never act on it.

I could be totally off base here. Maybe they're both equally awful. But in my mind, what happened to you is serious not just because he put his hands on you in anger (which no one should ever do to anyone else), but because he put his hands on you out of a belief that what you do and where you go should be his decision (which no one should ever believe about anyone else).

I would leave if this happened to me.
posted by decathecting at 7:36 PM on November 26, 2011 [19 favorites]

Having trouble figuring out if I'm overreacting to my husband grabbing my arm

If it were only him grabbing your arm, I would probably say separation is an overreaction, yes. People who know and trust and love each other can push and grab and tug sometimes. This is physical, and it was uninvited, but (to me) it's not the same as hitting someone. (I can envision someone sitting down, saying that they're too tired to move, and me pulling them up.) Your husband did much more and made a bad decision; it is not clear how you were interacting beforehand, how his anger manifested itself, or how he reacted when you reacted as you did.

But this is in the context of other things. Being controlling and having road rage run the gamut, and their offensiveness is in the particulars. It sounds like his behavior at the store was the last straw, but you have said very little about the rest, and so everyone is free to paint the canvas -- e.g., someone above says "You're not happy, you haven't been happy in a long time." when I read you as being unhappy about key behaviors. I guess the most anyone here can do is say that you should do what makes you happier and safer, and read that into your own depiction, but just be aware that you have a lot more information -- and would be better off sharing that with a friend or a counselor.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 7:45 PM on November 26, 2011

After 10 years, it's about both of you, not just him--he's just the one who's acting it out at the moment. You should both see someone and talk.
posted by Obscure Reference at 7:46 PM on November 26, 2011

Interesting counterpoint . . .

Decathecting: yes, I think grabbing is more premeditated, but I distinguish between controlling someone that way and trying to hurt them. Being the victim of either would make me mad, but being hit seems like a completely primitive and scarier behavior. But I guess we just evaluate them differently.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 7:49 PM on November 26, 2011

When I read your question before the "more inside" I thought "this is a dealbreaker if it's part of a pattern, otherwise it would be a don't ever do this to me again moment". Looked inside and... it sounds like a pattern. FWIW, even the road rage on its own would be a dealbreaker for me if he was unwilling to do anything about it.
posted by nakedmolerats at 8:18 PM on November 26, 2011

Take a deep breath, and focus, and listen to yourself for a minute.

This incident -- and the larger circumstances you describe -- point to at least the need for an extended period of counseling. This counseling will require not only an extended good faith effort, but also a lot of hard work, on both your parts.

Do you still have enough faith in your relationship with him, enough love and trust left, to put in the long, hard work that counseling will require?

If everything in you leaps to say yes, listen to it.

If the question makes you feel leaden or exhausted or defeated or angry or panicked, listen to that.

Many of us here would find this behavior unacceptable from our lovers or spouses. But this is your spouse. Only you can say if he has crossed a line. And whatever answer you come up with -- it IS the right one. And you don't need to feel guilty about it.
posted by artemisia at 8:20 PM on November 26, 2011 [3 favorites]

I seriously question couples' counseling for someone with serious control and anger issues. He needs to accept that he is wrong and work on his problems for a while. Otherwise he will simply try to control you and the counselor during the couples' counseling, rendering it a farce. When/if it doesn't work and he loses control he'll lash out in anger and quit.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:43 PM on November 26, 2011 [4 favorites]

(That should be "he needs to work on his problems with a professional for a while first").
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:45 PM on November 26, 2011

I was somewhat flippant with my first response...i apologize. I think your answer needs to come from your gut, which is speaking you when you say you haven't wanted to be around him since this happened. Does that mean you need to leave? Only you can answer that.

The one thing I learned from my experience with a controlling, abusive ex was that for a long time, my gut had been speaking to me and saying that my ex was dangerous and to get away from him, even though he had not laid a hand on me. When he finally did (and in a way not much worse than the situation you described), it was like a switch had been thrown and I was done with him immediately because my gut had been speaking this truth to me the whole time.

I think your not wanting to be around your husband now is similar...I would suspect that your gut has been telling you of your unhappiness (fear) with your situation for awhile and this latest incident is getting you to listen to it seriously.

When you ask us if you are overreacting, you are seeking external validation of what you already intrinsically know. Trust yourself...you know the answers if you are willing to listen to the truth that lies within you.
posted by murrey at 8:54 PM on November 26, 2011 [5 favorites]

I'd demand two things: couples counselling with a really qualified therapist, and an admission of a problem. And therapy for him specifically, and probably you!

Also, *demand* that he get all hormones checked: testosterone, thyroid, everything. I've seen people descend into strange emotional outbursts like this, and they later turn out to be hyperthyroid, or have a weird hormone problem, or are severely depressed and seem to take it out this way (i.e. controlling others). If you can remember when he wasn't like this, demand that he have a physical workup by a physician, including asking specifically for a range of bloodwork, and a few visits with a psychiatrist proper who can diagnose and start treatment for depression.

If he's willing to do neither of those?

Do not sit any longer. Get up and walk away.
posted by barnone at 9:05 PM on November 26, 2011

My husband has a history of a hot temper, as I've mentioned here before. Early in our relationship, we had a lot of yelling matches and he would occasionally be aggressive towards his environment, like he accidentally knocked a cup off the counter while we were yelling and he scooped it up and threw it across the room away from me. We've been happily together for 16 years; I'm just telling you this so that you understand that I don't have a zero-tolerance policy for aggression expressed physically.

If my husband did this to me, assuming I wasn't about to be eaten by a bear or fall over a cliff or something, I would certainly not share a bed with him until we had seen a couples counselor, and I might take my children and GTFO. I'm not saying I'd dump him on the basis of this incident alone -- we have 16 violence-free years, so this would be a big aberration -- but I would take it very, very seriously. If this were a part of an escalating pattern? I'd call that deal broken.
posted by KathrynT at 9:25 PM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

You sound like you are looking for an excuse to end this relationship. This will work if you need a reason.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:43 PM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Not necessarily a dealbreaker, but an absolutely legitimate last straw. Sometimes the last straws are the littlest ones, but it doesn't matter how small if it breaks your back. Sounds like it's broken now.

'ms orry you have to go through this. Counseling is a valid first step but so is a separation. If you think he could get unreasonable, take precautions for your safety and leave nothing you can't bear to lose behind when you leave. Even if he does't take it out on you, he could take it out on your stuff.
posted by elizeh at 10:24 PM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Unless you were on the brink of falling into volcano, there is no circumstance that would make the behavior you describe acceptable.

This. Just my perspective but... unless I am in unwitting physical danger of serious harm (or consensual adult play!) no one is going to physically compel me to do something I don't want to do. Period.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 11:12 PM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

It wouldn't be a dealbreaker for me, but then I prefer men who are at least somewhat controlling.... Perhaps explain to him that you wanted to sit, because you were tired or whatever, and would have gladly gone with him (without having to be dragged in front of witnesses) if he'd just given you 10-15 min... he may actually not have realized he was embarrassing you, and genuinely believed you were avoiding spendign time with him.

Communication is always the answer.

however, if having tried to discuss the situation (and other incidents) results in no behavior adjustment? THEN I would consider whether I wanted to be with the guy.

Its hard to find the right balance between "Awesomely assertive and decisive" and "controlling jackass"
posted by myShanon at 11:39 PM on November 26, 2011

From the way you've phrased your question, it almost sounds like you think you wouldn't have the right to refuse to go into a certain store with your husband if you didn't want to. If this is the case, then to me this is the most disturbing thing about your question. It isn't normal to have your agency completely taken away by your partner but after years with a man as controlling as your husband sounds you may have been groomed into thinking it is.

So let me tell you - you have a right to decide what you want to do and then do it. This goes for not going into a store you don't want to go into and it also goes for leaving your husband. This incident may have been the straw that broke the camel's back, and if so that's ok. But also try to think about ways you might have changed during the course of this relationship to be more compliant, less likely to stand up for yourself, and more likely to just do what he wants all the time instead of what you want in order to keep the peace. Then think about whether you like the person you've become and whether you want to continue being that person. Relationships are supposed to bring out the best in us. Does yours?
posted by hazyjane at 12:24 AM on November 27, 2011 [12 favorites]

This is how physical he's willing to be with you in public, with other people watching as witnesses. What would you think was the home life of couple if you saw the husband acting that way at the mall?
posted by anildash at 3:10 AM on November 27, 2011 [4 favorites]

Like others above, I was also in a marriage like you describe.

For people who haven't lived through it, it's hard to explain how badly it messes with your head.

In my case, it was a 17-year buildup to physical abuse, but it began exactly as your story. Many days my ex would be fine, until over the years he just became increasingly controlling, nasty and abusive. I spent years thinking I was overrreacting; he was having a bad day, maybe I was kind of boring and stupid at times, and over the course of a few years, my brain was very confused about my marriage. I was a mess.

The only thing that remained constant throughout the last few years was that little inner feeling of "This isn't right. I'm not happy." I could never articulate it more than that; I just knew that I was miserable and walking on eggshells around him all the time.

I made the mistake of bad marriage counseling, where my ex managed to charm the therapist and convince her that I was hysterical. I started wondering if I was overreacting; maybe I was a handful and driving him crazy.

His hostility increased until one day he got mad at our 4-year-old son, picked him up and threw him across a room.

And that was, unfortunately, what needed to happen to make my inner voice scream at me, "This is over. I'm throwing him out today."

TL/DR: When your inner voice is saying you're not happy and you're thinking of getting away from a relationship, listen to that voice. Don't wait for the really bad thing to happen. You can move out, get professional help, and from there make some decisions while you have your very needed breathing space.
posted by kinetic at 5:07 AM on November 27, 2011 [6 favorites]

I don't think it's a deal breaker -- I think it's a last straw situation. I think it's helpful to think of it that way because the big issue isn't whether you should leave your husband because he grabbed your arm and pulled you once, but whether you should leave your husband because he's controlling, moody, and quick to anger (building to abuse?) and you've fought about this and it has made you unhappy for many years.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:30 AM on November 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Abusive relationships don't belong in couples' counseling. The point of counseling is to jointly take responsibility for your relationship's problems and work together to solve them. If the main problem is one partner abusing the other, that isn't something both people need to own and solve--there's nothing the abused person needs to do to apologize for or compromise about regarding her role in the abuse.

I'm not saying that you and your husband should never go the marriage counseling. But I would suggest that, if you decide you want to try to make the marriage work, you first find your own therapist and work with her to determine the best and healthiest next steps for yourself.
posted by Meg_Murry at 6:07 AM on November 27, 2011 [6 favorites]

It occurred to me that this an example of gaslighting; he's gotten you to question your judgment and not trust yourself. This would be a deal breaker for me because I trust myself and respect myself. The only exception would be if he'd NEVER done this before, if he was immediately extremely apologetic and contrite, and if he agreed to get counseling for himself. That doesn't sound like the case here.

It saddens me that you have spent ten years not respecting or trusting yourself and looking for his permission and approval. Now you're looking for ours, and I hesitate to give it to you simply because I want you to reach that conclusion on your own.
posted by desjardins at 6:18 AM on November 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I just don't understand why the reaction to "I've been unhappy for a long time" from many people is "go to counseling." really? you sound like you are dying to leave and I don't blame you at all. i feel like counseling would just prolong the inevitable- if he'd even agree to it (my ex wouldn't.) i think there are some people who are not interested in what counseling has to offer and will just lie and charm to get through it. i figured my ex would be like that even if i did manage to get him to go, though i never did. i imagine your ex would be the same. he wants to be in control, and the outcome of counseling would almost certainly be them trying to help you guys reach a point where he is relinquishing some control. would he want that? i highly doubt it.

now that i've been with (and left) a guy like this, i'm pretty convinced that someone displaying this particular behavior pattern doesn't change- it only escalates, or more accurately, he gets better at controlling you and making you think you're the crazy one. I think separation would be an opportunity for his true character to come out even more. When I broke up with my ex, I expected that was the end of it- I would finally be free. But I was wrong, a year later I've had to move and change my number to get away from the harassment (see yesterday's askme) and I think it boils down to his anger at losing control of me and the situation. Anyway, my point is, leaving him may be a longer and more complicated process than you'd imagine. That doesn't mean don't do it- that means start the process ASAP because you may have a long haul ahead of you.

if you don't want to go to therapy, i don't see why you have to. you've been unhappy for a long time, so if your gut tells you that therapy won't work or is just going to prolong your misery by keeping you together- why do it? i actually think it's telling that something that you think isn't that big a deal makes you want to leave him. you must really want to leave and this most recent incident was probably a manifestation of all the things you dislike and fear about him. I know how that feels. (also, i happen to believe road rage is a really telling indicator of a person who can't cope maturely with stress and just has too much anger.) i'd leave. and if he tells you that you're out of your mind and overreacting, don't believe him. My ex told me that so many times when I got mad about (justified) things, and I was an idiot to doubt my feelings and listen to him. listen to your gut. to me, it seems obvious what you should do.
posted by Argyle_Sock_Puppet at 7:11 AM on November 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

Abusive relationships don't belong in couples' counseling.

This. I learned the hard way that abuse like you describe doesn't get better over time, it escalates. Couples' counseling escalated the abuse -- he retaliated for things I'd said in the counseling session, or for the counselor focusing on him, or for ... you get the picture.

I finally ended up getting a restraining order (and proving I would enforce it) in order to escape the relationship. My one regret is that I exposed our children to his behavior for so many years before leaving.

Listen to your gut. Prayers for your safety -- life doesn't have to be this way.
posted by summerstorm at 7:43 AM on November 27, 2011 [4 favorites]

One of my general life rules is to never ever stay in a relationship with a person who puts their hands on me in anger (even once).

To me, it is Self Control 101. I have been very pissed off at my significant others in the past but would never dream of using force on them, no matter how consumed with anger I may be. I expect the same from them.

This rule has kept me out of trouble many times.
posted by Shouraku at 9:19 AM on November 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yes, it's as bad as it sounds, and no, you're not overreacting. At all. This would absolutely, 100% be a dealbreaker for me. It's really disturbing that he doesn't care if you're tired, and that he insists you follow him everywhere. It's pretty standard for couples in malls to split up and go to different stores, and a reasonable partner does not fly off the handle when you want to sit out a visit to the Game Stop. In a way, I think it's actually worse than freaking out during a heated argument. This wasn't an emotionally charged moment, like, say, pulling you into a room to reconcile with your dying parent (which would still not be OK, but maybe more understandable). He publicly manhandled you over nothing. Do you want to spend another 10 years with this person?

Counseling might help if you really want to save this marriage, but do you? And what exactly would you be saving? It sounds miserable, and like you're looking for a reason to get out. And you have one (or several, or a whole pattern of reasons). I think you should try and talk to a domestic violence advocate to figure out your next move--they'll have experience with these kinds of control issues.
posted by Nibbly Fang at 11:04 AM on November 27, 2011

For me it would be a line not acceptable to cross. It might even have put me into a reactive memory-replay mode where I blindly, physically counter-attacked my partner. Not fun.

But several dozen lines earlier probably would have snapped me too. I have a real allergy to people intentionally controlling me; if I read that pattern of behavior on any level at all, I'd bolt.

Ask the same question of your gut. It tries to protect you. Good luck.
posted by ead at 11:45 AM on November 27, 2011

Couples' therapy is not magic. It does not change people and turn them sweet. It is a tool for improving communication; providing an outsider's perspective; and in the best case, identifying and changing patterns of behavior which have been interfering with the expression of existing love, trust and goodwill.

So, do you think there's enough existing love, trust and goodwill that analysis and work and increased communication will significantly improve your relationship? Does the thought of attempting it fill you with faith and hope; or does it sound like throwing good money after bad? Personally I'd cut my losses. (He assaults you in a mall? Scary and unjustifiable and I'd be out of there that afternoon.) But maybe you know something we don't.
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:22 PM on November 27, 2011

When I was young, I saw my father do what you've just described, in addition to a lot of other things considerably worse.

My earliest memory is my mother on the ground with a broken collarbone. My father did that to her. Eventually he went to prison, but not soon enough and not long enough.

I won't share my sisters' earliest memories, but they're not good, and some of them are much worse than mine.

There was a time when grabbing my mother and pulling her out of a chair was the worst thing he'd done to her. I wish she'd had the courage to leave him then, before all the rest of it.
posted by johnofjack at 1:27 PM on November 27, 2011

would not let go until I stood up.

This is where it all goes wrong for me. This is not someone who put his hands on you and then was immediately remorseful/freaked out by his own actions. This is much more deliberate and prolonged. It would be a dealbreaker for me.
posted by kamikazegopher at 3:41 PM on November 27, 2011

If he can't restrain himself in a public place, and no one interferes, what's to stop him from escalating in private?

If you don't leave or separate, there needs to be some serious discussion.
posted by BlueHorse at 9:02 PM on November 27, 2011

Not a dealbreaker, necessarily. But combined with the controlling and temper, it would be a big red flag. Talk to him. Tell him that won't fly. If he does it again, DTMFA. You don't lay hands on another person and force them to do something against their will, period.
posted by metaphorik at 9:31 PM on November 27, 2011

I don't know exactly how you felt, but it sounds pretty appalling to me. Your reaction is totally normal, it's that he's under-reacting to his own hostile treatment of you.

If you've been unhappy for some time about his controlling behaviour, this is merely the last straw in a relationship where you are not shown basic respect. Husbands are supposed to love and support and protect their wives, make them laugh and feel good about themselves. If you're not getting that from him, separation would be a very sensible decision.

If you separate from him, it's not impossible that he might see the light and realise that he's been wrong to treat you this way, and fix his problems. It's more likely that he will blame you for his shitty behaviour. I've seen both happen in different relationships. But either way, if you're separated, you won't have to deal with his disrespectful, hurtful, and un-loving behaviour anymore and you can use that space to decide what the next step is from there.

Can you really see this getting any better if you don't remove yourself from the situation? Think about what sort of future you want, and what sort of future he's offering you.
posted by harriet vane at 3:20 AM on November 28, 2011

This would be a deal-breaker for me, because of my past experience, and it sounds like it's a dealbreaker for you, based on your experience with him.

I wanted to also agree (from first hand experience) with the young rope rider and Meg Murrey about couples counseling in a situation where one partner is abusive/manipulative/controlling. It's not recommended for the reasons explained above.

When I went to couples' counseling, I got gaslighted into the "I'm no saint either" position that so many abused people use in excusing their partners' behavior. In therapy, a controlling person will work very hard to make it the other person's fault, and even, as mentioned, stepping into a couples' therapy situation is a tacit statement that this it is a joint problem to be solved. In my situation, the therapist (at first) believed my ex (and me, as I was afraid I did something to cause his behavior) and treated the situation as one where I actually played an important part in the conflict. In an absolute sense this may have been true (because I was a living, breathing individual that acted/reacted, even if it was a non-reaction, as sometimes recommended) but it wasn't the point - the point was his insane temper, controlling behavior, etc. I didn't do anything to deserve to be accused of sleeping with the rental car guy (whom I'd never met) or getting a black eye on Christmas.

None of us are saints. But even if you hadn't wanted to go into the store, you didn't deserve to be dragged.
posted by Pax at 11:02 AM on November 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

If you were at home in the middle of a marathon, epic fight with shouting and emotions were high... but you were in public and it kind of came out over a small action. I would have a huge problem with that. He's obviously walking around already harboring a silent beef with you and that's no good. If it were me, I would try some counseling. At the least, it might solidify your feelings on the relationship, help you figure out what you want, and how to feel ok with your decision.
posted by Foam Pants at 12:48 PM on November 28, 2011

You all gave me a lot to think about... first, I'll answer one question some of you posed: What were our interactions like immediately prior to the incident? Calm, normal. We weren't arguing. It was just a normal day. We were getting along fine. That's one of the issues I have with him-- I never know how he will react in a situation or when his temper will turn on a dime.

We did go to therapy a couple of times last year, but I put a stop to it, because we'd come home from therapy and he would spend an hour asking me over and over what I'd meant by things I'd said in the session. Every time we went, it triggered him into thinking I was about to abandon him. He became so clingy and the therapy sessions somehow turned from addressing a problem, into a situation where we'd come home and I'd have to reassure him I wasn't leaving him. He reacts very strongly when he perceives someone is "abandoning" him. It is extremely difficult to live with.

I feel like I'm dying on the inside being married to this person whose personality is so unpredictable.
posted by DianaV at 3:59 PM on December 3, 2011 [3 favorites]

Oh-- and another question a few people raised-- his response to the incident, first, was to get angry at me for telling him to get his hands off me. Then a few hours later he asked me what was bothering me, and I said I was bothered by his grabbing my arm like that. He said, "Jesus Christ, I barely TOUCHED you." It made me feel crazy because he was physically dragging me up and out of my seat, and he recalled it as 'barely touching."
posted by DianaV at 4:03 PM on December 3, 2011

You need to leave him. As soon as possible, you need to leave him. Do you have a friend you can call right now to stay at her house tonight? This is a man who has a hair trigger temper, no sense of responsibility for his own behavior or feelings, and a tendency to become violent when he feels that you're about to do something he doesn't want you to do. It would not surprise me if, for example, he has software on your computer that lets him see what you've written in this thread. At the very least, he will lose it when you tell him you're leaving. You need to protect yourself, and that means not giving him the chance to talk you out of it or get violent again. Please, for your own health and safety, get out now.
posted by decathecting at 5:32 PM on December 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

You're not crazy. You're being abused.
posted by prefpara at 5:50 PM on December 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

I feel like I'm dying on the inside being married to this person...

That's the best reason for a divorce that I've ever heard. Marriage isn't supposed to feel that way, and it's not a feeling that can be changed with therapy. Get away from him, get some space so you can breathe freely again.

There's a good chance his reaction to you leaving will be to escalate the violence. When you leave, go to a super-trustworthy friend or family member's place, don't stay alone if you can help it. Take the essentials and get out, and send a trusted friend or family member to pick up anything else later on. Once you're out, don't go back. If he wants to meet to talk, make it in a public venue with lots of people around and bring a friend. There's some good advice in previous AskMetafilter questions on how to prepare for leaving someone, I hope someone will link them up for you as I can't do that right now. Best of luck, and please do leave more comments in this thread or ask more questions if you need more information or support. There's always someone around to help...
posted by harriet vane at 10:06 PM on December 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

This is a textbook abuse. My friend was married to a guy like this. He threw her cat against the wall and killed it. Please get out. We're all worried about you.
posted by desjardins at 5:18 AM on December 4, 2011

Also, he will call everyone in your address book to try to find you. Prepare them to lie. I cannot overstate the danger here. I'm very sorry. Please get in touch with a DV hotline or local shelter. Use someone else's phone if he has access to yours.
posted by desjardins at 5:22 AM on December 4, 2011

I think we on AskMe are often way way too quick to shout "abuse" or to advise someone to DTMFA.

This is not one of those cases. This is abuse. You really need to leave him.

Even if it never gets worse than it is right now, do you really want to spend the rest of your life dying inside?

Find yourself a good lawyer an start making yourself an escape plan. Please do it soon.
posted by ook at 6:34 AM on December 4, 2011

Thank you all. I am leaving him.
posted by DianaV at 4:06 PM on January 6, 2012 [15 favorites]

He reacts very strongly when he perceives someone is "abandoning" him

Congrats on getting out. I just want to point out (if you don't already know) that abusers usually get more violent when someone tries to leave them. Any domestic violence hotline should be able to give you good advice on staying safe when leaving an abuser. Best of luck for your better future!
posted by murrey at 1:52 PM on January 7, 2012

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