Separated From My Husband: The Blamer
March 4, 2013 11:59 PM   Subscribe

My husband and I separated a couple months ago. Married 2 years. I'm going back and forth about whether our marriage is possibly salvageable or not. My main issue with him is that he blames me, a lot and frequently. He has trouble taking responsibility for his own emotional state and behavior.

Often I feel as though I don't like him, but I know that underneath I do love him. We have had a ton of arguments (which I have become very very tired of) during which he will push my buttons. He will pick something I feel touchy about and I will succumb and feel ashamed and angry and defensive.

The fight then spirals around to his demanding that I make an complex assessment of "facts" that he lays out. The "facts" usually consist of a negative account of my behavior that I disagree with from the outset. He will ask a certain question, based on the "facts." I say I don't know the answer to the question because I don't agree with the "facts." And so blaming ensues about me not answering the question, about me being defensive and not admitting the truth about my behavior. He pursues me verballyuntil I leave the room, or the house, or acquiesce and apologize.

If this reads as confusing, it's a total mindf**k to be in the middle of.

Today, I was feeling sad about something, and said so when he asked. He told me that he didn't deserve that (me having this negative feeling in his vicinity- not about him). He didn't want to be exposed to my feeling, and that it was a burden to have to deal with it. I said, my feeling is not about you, you don't have to fix it, and that I felt like he was telling me my feeling wasn't okay. He's said, "Of course it's okay, you just shouldn't present it to me to deal with." What?

There was a time in our relationship when I wasn't doing that great emotionally, wasn't the most open, or loving partner as a struggled to recover from some childhood abuse. But I am dogged. I pursued recovery relentlessly and became a pretty reasonably person to have a relationship with for the last 18 months or so.

As I was recovering, he sank into alcohol abuse and that sucked in the ways that alcohol abuse sucks. But he says he quit after we separated. He's living with some fairly healthy family members.

It's not that he doesn't have any legitimate beef with me. God knows I'm not perfect. I sucked for a while as I struggled with childhood abuse, but I made good, and quickly. But he doesn't want to let go of grudges. He says he doesn't feel listened to and says this is why he is so upset, but it's hard to listen to him when there is such intense blame coming out of his mouth, and not a lot else.

He doesn't see himself as blaming me by default nearly constantly. He just sees me as culpable. What bugs me about this man is the the lack of insight into his motivations and feelings. He doesn't see himself as manipulative and I do. Even if I love him, even if I have compassion for him.

One of the biggest grudges he harbors is that sometimes I don't think he is aware of what he is doing and why. But that's what I do think about him. I think this is true to some degree for nearly everyone, but he won't accept me thinking it about him.

We are separated. We see each other a lot due to circumstance. I was looking to improve our relationship even if we ultimately break up.

What do you do about this type of person?? Can you influence them in a healthy way towards more awareness? Is this the type of thing marriages come back form the brink from?
posted by WelcomeCat to Human Relations (61 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
What do you do about this type of person??

Cut them out of my life and try and figure out why I was attracted to them in the first place, so I don't do it again.
posted by empath at 12:10 AM on March 5, 2013 [60 favorites]


We are only hearing your point of view and your interpretations, but this guy sounds like he has big issues that will not be solved on his own. He needs therapy. You both could use some couples therapy and learn how to have productive disagreements and you both need to forgive the past and agree to work to a shared future.

Otherwise, DTMFA
posted by JohnnyGunn at 12:13 AM on March 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


You can't change him, you can't fix his problems for him, all you can do is draw the line at what you need and what you'll tolerate and give him the space to choose how he wants to be.

If he is happy blaming you and is not willing to at least commit to working out the source of the unhappiness in your relationship, then I don't think there's much hope of things ever getting any better than they are.
posted by PercussivePaul at 12:16 AM on March 5, 2013


Upon reflection, I think my answer problably sounds like I'm adding more blame on you for a situation which isn't your fault.

Look, you're the victim of childhood abuse who married an abusive alcoholic. That isn't your fault. Those are the kind of relationships that people who were abused as children seek out, and people like him seek out the victims of childhood abuse. That isn't your fault either. It's the great recurring abusive relationship tragedy.

You need to break the cycle, and you do that by not trying to help this guy. Adopting him as a project is the worst possible thing for you and it won't help him, either.

You deserve to date a man who is not an alcoholic and a jerk. Go to Al-Anon meetings. Get into therapy. And let this guy figure out his own life. You should be happy that you only wasted two years on him. A lot of people waste their whole lives with relationships like that.
posted by empath at 12:23 AM on March 5, 2013 [45 favorites]


He is absolutely being emotionally abusive, and you don't deserve it. I think you should listen to empath.
posted by Specklet at 12:29 AM on March 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


Run.
posted by LarryC at 12:31 AM on March 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


YOU don't have to do ANYTHING about this type of person. This is a lost cause, and you're not to blame. Walk away.
posted by Namlit at 12:40 AM on March 5, 2013


What do you do about this type of person? Do you mean the person who blames you for your feelings and makes you want to apologize for existing?

This is emotional abuse of the worst kind. It's the kind of mind fuck that can mess you up for years. This is someone who has so few boundaries that they can take offense at your most basic emotions. It's part of the addict mind set - It's not their fault, you're 'making them feel bad by being upset.'

There's no fixing this. This person can never be a partner to you.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 12:43 AM on March 5, 2013 [19 favorites]


In a lot of ways, you just described two conflicts I had recently with my husband (some roles reversed) but they both resolved quite differently than you describe.

I really don't know what you should do.

Your husband sounds like he has valid complaints or grievances that he is not willing to resolve or work through productively. That sucks.

On the other hand, overcoming abuse is a lifelong process. You're not OK, even if you think you are.

It sounds like neither one of you wants to accept what is truly on the table between you.

Seek couples counseling. If this doesn't help, then walk.


Do you still like each other?

If you do, then work at making this right. If you no longer like each other - walk.
posted by jbenben at 12:48 AM on March 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm so sorry to hear about this. It does indeed sound like a total mindf**k. I can understand how your love for this person and your knowledge that their 'facts' are clearly wrong has made it very tempting to engage in this behaviour. If you could just convince him how wrong he is he'd let it drop and go back to being the loving person you know he is, right?

Sadly you know from experience that this is not the case. He won't ever stop as long as you keep engaging. Argueing back feeds it, acquiesing and apologising feeds it, the only thing that doesn't feed it is simply walking away and refusing to engage.

So far you have successfully walked away (well done!) but you are still engaging. If you truly cut yourself out of these conversations and refuse to indulge him he may possibly get the perspective he needs, on his own, to understand how damaging his behaviour is. He may quite possibly not, though.

Either way he can only do this on his own. The best thing you can do for you and for him is to keep as much distance as possible. I think couple counselling will only become a place where he attempts to repeat these behaviours if you go that route. A counsellor cannot force somebody to change their behaviour if they don't see that it is wrong. If you must see him be calm and friendly but refuse to engage in these behaviours. They help no one.

Again, this sounds like it's been very distressing for you, especially following on from your history of abuse. I hope you are doing all the things you need to do to take good care of yourself, not just focusing on him. You sound like you've done great personal work and you deserve the happiness and healthiness that comes from that.
posted by Dorothia at 1:10 AM on March 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


You have identified something so early, I'm entirely impressed. I didn't believe myself when I saw these issues in my now ex husband. I lasted 20 years. It was (not quite always) awful. My adult kids are now seeing it in him without me to interpret and protect. Leave now. Find someone who is ready to be your full partner, and not someone who can't accept their own faults and mistakes.
posted by b33j at 1:17 AM on March 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Good Gawd, get away from this person!
posted by BlueHorse at 1:18 AM on March 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Huh. From your description, I actually can't for the life of me tell what's actually going on. Are the "facts" he presents actually true facts, aside from your feelings about them and/or conclusions about their meaning? The reason I ask, is a lot of your question (aside from the "I don't want to deal with your feelings" when the feeling isn't about him - that part sounds random and sketchy) could be my relationship reversed. My issue though, is that when I try to talk to my partner - particularly about something he has done wrong that we need to resolve (and he's done some pretty genuinely bad shit in our relationship that I cannot ignore) - when I try to talk to him, he takes everything in a very very defensive way and almost immediately becomes TOTALLY illogical. Like, he's a computer programmer, he's an extremely logical person for pretty much everything else, but in a conversation about something he's done wrong he devolves into a 13 year old arguing with his mom - it's ridiculously frustrating from both sides. I have definitely been known to try to get a derail of the conversation back on track by listing "facts." "Ok, THIS is what I see happened. Do you agree that this is what happened? Do you agree that Y is the better choice, or do you really think that X was the right thing to do?" I am honest-to-God not trying to bully him into agreeing with me; I am trying to get him to think logically about what happened and talk to me in a coherent way. But he freaks out about this in a similar way to how you are describing.

Then again... I am not an alcoholic, and THAT for me would be a big enough reason to leave this guy. And I don't know about the rest of your problem. But could it be (in the blamey aspect) that your communication skills could use some work as well? The way your question is written, there are a lot of very vague sentences that I don't really understand - One of the biggest grudges he harbors is that sometimes I don't think he is aware of what he is doing and why. But that's what I do think about him. I think this is true to some degree for nearly everyone, but he won't accept me thinking it about him. I've read this 3 times and can't figure out what you're saying... is this how you talk when communicating with your husband? I would work on trying to frame your thoughts in a more clear and logical way, frankly. Think about the things you take issue with when you are NOT in the middle of an emotional conversation, and try to frame them (including your emotions) in a way that another person might understand. Like when you say "he sees me as actually culpable, but I don't." Why do you not see yourself as culpable? Are there specific, legitimate things that you've done that he is hurt about or that he feels are not resolved? Or is it just a general attitude that you suck about everything? There is a big difference, but I think that sometimes the line gets blurred in how people perceive this. I think you should present it in a clearer way to him: "I know that you are still angry about X. I don't think this is related to X, because (blah blah blah). It upsets me that you are bringing X into what happened today. I am willing to talk about what happened today, but I need you to allow me to explain my side without interrupting."

This, to me, would be clear; if he responds poorly to that, then that's completely on him. But if you aren't making it clear like that, he might just think that he is trying to resolve the issue and you are avoiding it.
posted by celtalitha at 1:44 AM on March 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


One of the biggest grudges he harbors is that sometimes I don't think he is aware of what he is doing and why. But that's what I do think about him. I think this is true to some degree for nearly everyone, but he won't accept me thinking it about him.

He's upset with her because she thinks that he is sometimes not aware of what he is doing and why. She thinks everyone is like that sometimes, but he can't accept that he is ever that way. I don't think what she said is that confusing.
posted by empath at 2:17 AM on March 5, 2013 [13 favorites]


You speak of love and compassion but I would ask where's the respect?

Deep down respect is where I see long term healthy relationships differ from difficult ones. I don't see from what you've written here that he respects you. I don't believe you respect him either and I don't blame you from what you're describing.

Childhood abuse makes you a little more willing to put up with him, you don't need to. You can find someone who respects you.
posted by Wilder at 2:30 AM on March 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Run away, run far and fast and never look back: you've worked hard on your recovery to become a healthier version of yourself; PLEASE don't let yourself be dragged back down by this guy.

He needs, at the least, intensive therapy of his own: but there's no way you can make him see that, it's something he has to see and want for himself. Please note: he IS abusing you now, and it will only get worse if you stick around. He's miserable, and he can only be happy if YOU are miserable too --- all that recovery work you've done? He HATES that, because it's making you a better human being and so it's preventing him from controlling you.

You are not now, you never were, and you never will be responsible for his awful behavior or foul moods: HE is, and any fixing has to come from within him. RUN.
posted by easily confused at 3:20 AM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


It doesn't matter whether some of his beefs with you might be legitimate. Imperfection does not justify cruelty. His proper role as your partner is to work with you to navigate conflicts kindly and generously, not to assign blame or pass judgement.

Listening generously and addressing problems kindly, without blame, are learnable skills. You could surely learn to do it better, and so could most people; it sounds like he needs a remedial education in basic kindness. But even when one knows how, listening and speaking kindly are not entirely comfortable things to do. You have to be brave about facing that discomfort (vulnerability, risk, compromise) and you really have to want to be kind, out of regard for the other person and your relationship with them (i.e. not just self-interest) or it doesn't work. The alcohol abuse and his particular mode of fighting -- the relentless pursuit, the bludgeoning with "facts" -- don't suggest much emotional strength or courage or regard for you or the relationship. He's trying to win, not to cooperate. If he doesn't want to have a kind, loving relationship or if he doesn't have the balls to learn how and then put it into practice then these patterns aren't going to get better.
posted by jon1270 at 3:20 AM on March 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Obviously I'm not a shrink but his behavior throws up a lot of borderline personality disorder red flags for me, maybe check it out online and do some reading and see if anything else is congruent with your situation. This may give you some useful tools for dealing with your husband. Borderline or not, his behavior pattern of holding you accountable for his own emotional state is often extremely difficult to get past without serious therapy, so I'd vote "not salvageable".
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 3:46 AM on March 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


What do you do with this kind of person? Get as far away as possible and begin healing. Find someone who will treat you with the love, empathy and respect you deserve.
posted by arnicae at 3:57 AM on March 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


What a hard situation. There's a lot here that lands on the DTMFA side of the scale... But on the other side is the idea that people need to learn and grow through these experiences too.

I often recommend Terry Real's book New Rules of Marriage here on MeFi and I think it would help you too. Very clear about how to navigate taking responsibility for your own emotions, how to shift from complaint to request, and much more very practical information for getting out of that kind of crunch. I think it would benefit you to read it yourself, to look at the dynamics of your conflicts and start to figure them out, and if your husband is willing to move toward reconciliation ask him to read it too. Counseling would help the two of you a lot and there are lots of therapists trained in the methodology of that book. This was hugely helpful for my husband and me for getting out of a mess as inflamed and convoluted as what you describe, which is why I recommend this approach so heartily.

Good luck.
posted by Sublimity at 4:11 AM on March 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


What do you do about this type of person??

Cut them out of your life as much as you can

Can you influence them in a healthy way towards more awareness?

The guy said he didn't want to be be burdened with your feeling sad about something that didn't concern him. He needs professional help

Is this the type of thing marriages come back form the brink from?

I doubt it. It's ok to still love him, but you don't have to and should not put up with his behavior towards you. Love is great and grand, but it isn't the end all or be all of everything. You have to like and respect the person you love and be liked and respected in turn, for the relationship to work.

You're not getting that. Do your mental health a favor and move on from this guy. If he shows up one day with his issues fixed or at least majorly worked on, then think about giving it another shot.

You can't fix other people, they have to want to fix themselves.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:20 AM on March 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


What a hard situation. There's a lot here that lands on the DTMFA side of the scale... But on the other side is the idea that people need to learn and grow through these experiences too.

He can learn and grow by his own damn self. The OP isn't his mommy and she's not his counselor. She has no obligation to put up with his abuse for some sort of nebulous 'growth experience'.

The idea that people are supposed to put up with their partner's quirks should end well before they are stuck in some kind of role-play Perry Mason cross-examination relationship.
posted by winna at 4:36 AM on March 5, 2013 [15 favorites]


The fight then spirals around to his demanding that I make an complex assessment of "facts" that he lays out. The "facts" usually consist of a negative account of my behavior that I disagree with from the outset. He will ask a certain question, based on the "facts." I say I don't know the answer to the question because I don't agree with the "facts." And so blaming ensues about me not answering the question, about me being defensive and not admitting the truth about my behavior. He pursues me verbally until I leave the room, or the house, or acquiesce and apologize.

This is abusive. Your husband needs professional help.

The part where he doesn't want to be burdened by your feelings? That's horrible and abusive, too.

What do you do about this type of person?? Can you influence them in a healthy way towards more awareness? Is this the type of thing marriages come back form the brink from?

All alcoholics are blamers. They are victims who are constantly blaming themselves, something, or somebody. Until he stops drinking, and seeks help, he will continue to blame. He has to blame, so he can hate himself, or you, or both, and have an excuse to drink. You cannot help him. I wouldn't even try to bring an alcoholic to more awareness. It won't work. He must help himself. Good for you for getting away from him. That was a healthy move on your part. You deserve good things in life.
posted by Fairchild at 4:55 AM on March 5, 2013


Constantly redefining the rules so that you always lose, no matter what, is classic abuser behavior. Like Exhibit A on a road that leads to a lifetime of misery or worse, violence.

There is nothing good down that road, for you or him. Get out and stay out.
posted by emjaybee at 5:00 AM on March 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


The fight then spirals around to his demanding that I make an complex assessment of "facts" that he lays out. The "facts" usually consist of a negative account of my behavior that I disagree with from the outset. He will ask a certain question, based on the "facts."

Like celtalitha, I can't quite figure out what's going on. Is he subjecting you to a kind of inquisition? Does he basically drive you out of the house by hectoring you?

From what I can glean from this description, you are both up in each other's heads a lot and you each think the main problem is the other person's inability to see or admit to what's really going on. This is a fairly crazy-making situation to be in and it sounds like both of you have fallen into a kind of codependent or controlling pattern. You are both lacking boundaries to the point where you are separated but still wondering if you can change him. It may well be (if my guess from your description is right) that he is being verbally abusive. Or it may be a very bad case of not knowing how to fight productively in a relationship.

If you were still together, I'd say go to a few counseling sessions to talk specifically about your pattern of fighting. If you are separated but getting back together is still on the table, I'd say the same. Definitely don't try to fix the relationship without an outside, professional view of things.
posted by BibiRose at 5:07 AM on March 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


I sadly see some aspects of myself in the behavior you are describing, and part of it is that I grew up in an environment where your husband's type of mindset dominated everything. My blaming/abusive parent even had a level-headed, perceptive, and forgiving partner. But I can tell you that it messed me up deeply, and it really messed up that level-headed parent ultimately. Just because you are admirably able to discern that type of frantic acting-out and know it is not about you, does not mean it is not harmful. I know my blaming/abusive parent never meant to be so crazy and destructive, and I am sure it was a result of their own upbringing, but the actual result of living with that probably not worth it, especially with all the hard work you seem to have done to get to a healthy point internally (the recovery work). I'd save your strength and perception for a partner with whom you can build and heal even further. I would look into Borderline Personality as someone else noted, in case that gives some perspective on this crazy-making situation. Good luck.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 5:14 AM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


He can learn and grow by his own damn self. The OP isn't his mommy and she's not his counselor. She has no obligation to put up with his abuse for some sort of nebulous 'growth experience'.

Of course not. But this dynamic didn't spring up overnight and the OP would do well to learn what healthy and unhealthy relational patterns are in the event that she gets out of this marriage and wants to do differently in the future.

Of course she can't make him get healthy. But if she makes herself healthy that may move things to the better. And if she knows a route by which he can get healthy too he may join her. The question suggests she doesn't know if such a path exists, and there does.
posted by Sublimity at 5:15 AM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


You're not allowed to "burden" him with your feelings if they're not about him? Who should support you through these things if not your life partner? But he doesn't want to be a partner. He wants all the benefits of a relationship without giving anything himself. This is not worth saving. Leave, and don't look back.
posted by catatethebird at 5:49 AM on March 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


The fight then spirals around to his demanding that I make an complex assessment of "facts" that he lays out. The "facts" usually consist of a negative account of my behavior that I disagree with from the outset. He will ask a certain question, based on the "facts." I say I don't know the answer to the question because I don't agree with the "facts." And so blaming ensues about me not answering the question, about me being defensive and not admitting the truth about my behavior. He pursues me verballyuntil I leave the room, or the house, or acquiesce and apologize.

This is a classic debating tactic for bullies, very obvious once you look for it:

The Debate: "It's your turn to take out the trash."
Then the bully realizes that he is wrong, and starts the Argument, which is a meta-debate.

The Argument: "You are raising your voice." or "You interrupted me when I stopped to take a breath."
Then the bully realizes that he is not going to win the Argument either, and starts the Fight, which is where the Argument expands to fill the entire length and breadth of the relationship.

The Fight: "You never take my feelings into account! You constantly criticize me!"
If you back down in either the Argument or the Fight (which you will eventually do because you think it isn't worth divorcing this person over whose turn it is to take the trash out), the bully forces you to admit that you were wrong about the Debate as well, even though none of that stuff has anything to do with whose turn it is to take the trash out.

This may all be totally unconscious behavior by the bully, but you cannot stop this loop, because any attempt to becomes ammunition for the Fight: "You always run away when I'm trying to discuss things with you!"

If your husband refuses to talk to someone about this pattern of behavior, it will never, ever stop. I speak from experience here.
posted by Etrigan at 5:52 AM on March 5, 2013 [38 favorites]


Don't bother to go to couples counseling - there is a long well worn history of counseling with this type of emotional abuser turning into gaslighting where he and the therapist will gang up on you.

Run.
posted by zia at 5:58 AM on March 5, 2013 [17 favorites]


Even if you had done every single terrible thing he ever accused you of, even if you were a total mess in your marriage, THIS:

Today, I was feeling sad about something, and said so when he asked. He told me that he didn't deserve that (me having this negative feeling in his vicinity- not about him). He didn't want to be exposed to my feeling, and that it was a burden to have to deal with it. I said, my feeling is not about you, you don't have to fix it, and that I felt like he was telling me my feeling wasn't okay. He's said, "Of course it's okay, you just shouldn't present it to me to deal with." What?

is WICKED FUCKED UP and you should not tolerate it for one more day. If your very emotions and feelings are a burden to him, why does he even want to be married to you? So that he can continue to berate you for the rest of your life?
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:16 AM on March 5, 2013 [19 favorites]


The simple question you ask yourself is: Does this person make me feel loved, safe and happy?

I think we all can see that the answer is no. Whether or not you love him, or that he was 'there for you' when you were going through stuff, or if he pulled you out of a burning house is immaterial.

My Dad, a family therapist, used to come home exasperated with some of his clients. "There they are telling me, he spent the rent check on booze, he hits me, and he's cheating with another woman. So I ask, so why don't you leave him? [pause for dramatic reading] because I love him! What does THAT have to do with anything?"

We can love people who are terrible for us, but that's why we have brains AND hearts. Let your brain work this one out for you.

Think of the time you spent together as a part of your life that's behind you. It was a relationship that worked for you when it worked for you. He got something out of it too. Now it doesn't work and it's time to move on.

You don't owe him anything, he doesn't owe you anything. You're separated, and now it's time to file for divorce.

Go out and live the life you're entitled to. Find someone who is wonderful to you, who makes you feel valued and loved and heard. Let your EX find the right person for him.

Sometimes breaking up IS the happy ending.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:16 AM on March 5, 2013 [8 favorites]


All alcoholics are blamers. They are victims who are constantly blaming themselves, something, or somebody. Until he stops drinking, and seeks help, he will continue to blame. He has to blame, so he can hate himself, or you, or both, and have an excuse to drink. You cannot help him. I wouldn't even try to bring an alcoholic to more awareness.

I got as far into your post as the alcohol abuse and really didn't have to read any further. I left my alcoholic ex more than 25 years ago. We are on cordial, if distant, terms and speak very infrequently, like maybe once every five years, if that often. He has been clean and sober for a long time, but when we had one of our infrequent conversations a few months ago, he was still blaming others for his problems.

Run away and do not look back. If you stay he will always blame you for whatever goes wrong in his life.
posted by Dolley at 6:18 AM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is this the type of thing marriages come back form the brink from?

I don't think a marriage can come back from the brink of one partner not wanting to have a partner role. And it sounds like he either doesn't want to have a partner role or doesn't know how to do it. Either way he sounds mean, and you deserve better.
posted by bleep at 6:18 AM on March 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm so sorry.

In my abusive relationship, I was also not allowed to have negative feelings. If I sighed, for example, I was yelled at for "bringing negativity into the home" and "ruining his day".

This man sounds abusive. If he doesn't get help, you should leave. You should leave now anyhow while he gets help, and then when he doesn't follow through (most abusers don't unless it is court-mandated, and even then it is not often successful) you can formally divorce him. By help, I mean that he needs individual counseling and group therapy for abusers.

You should probably join a support group for survivors of abuse, and start healing. It's a long road, but it gets better. You don't deserve to be treated this way. I'm proud of you for trying to figure this out - it can be a real mindfuck.
posted by sockermom at 6:23 AM on March 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Wow, did he take lessons from my ex?

I was in a relationship like this. It's called emotional abuse, and it fucks with your head. Mine fucked with my head enough that it took years to get the negative thoughts that were his words out of my own head. He told me often enough, and with full conviction, that I was a bad person, doing all these awful things to him, and I loved him so it really sank in and made me believe it. Did I absolutely, beyond a doubt, love him? Yes. Was he the right guy to be in a relationship with? Hell. Fucking. No.

This guy has messed with your head. No amount of love is worth that.

Run, and stay away at least as long as it takes to honestly not give a damn about him.

My ex got super pissed at me after we broke up and I said I didn't want to be friends right away (basically blamed me for ruining the relationship and taking away a friendship). So I gradually distanced myself until he accepted that we weren't friends. But he told me to contact him when I was ready. Four years later, I FB messaged him, had a couple short messages, and he stopped responding. It was fucking fantastic to have him really not give a damn about me anymore, but it's even more fantastic to feel comfortable with who I am again and responsible for my own happiness.
posted by DoubleLune at 6:24 AM on March 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


A bit of a follow up: you asked how you can get him to be aware of what he is doing? The only thing that ever caused my ex to even peek at his behavior was when his ex-wife left him, and then again when I left. His apologies and claims that he changed (with no work on his part - fancy that) lasted a few months, and then he started up with his old tricks.

People don't change these fundamental parts of their personality without serious effort. You can tell him that if he recognizes his problem and gets help on his own that you might consider staying, but I am sorry to tell you that even leaving probably won't work. Nothing you do or don't do will change his behavior. Only leaving might - might - get him to recognize how bad his problem is.
posted by sockermom at 6:33 AM on March 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


When I was an adolescent I used to be your husband.
He will not change without (probably hours upon hours of) therapy and a sincere desire and willingness to change on his part. Do you see that happening with him?
posted by fireandthud at 6:42 AM on March 5, 2013


The fact that this guy is still around to pass judgment on your sadness only says to me that you're not yet separated enough from him. Can you even BEGIN to imagine anybody else in your life - anybody! - responding the way he did to an admission of having a bad day or feeling blue? That's so messed up I don't even know where to start. It makes me angry for you.

That plus the weird, controlling interrogation that apparently only ends when you get away or he "wins" makes this a bad situation for you to stay in. Get out now, while you're still clear-headed enough to see how wrong his behavior is.
posted by DingoMutt at 6:44 AM on March 5, 2013


"Of course it's okay, you just shouldn't present it to me to deal with."

Sounds like someone who isn't mature enough to handle having a close, emotional bond with another living thing.
posted by MrOlenCanter at 6:47 AM on March 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm single. Reading stuff like this makes me realize how lucky I am.

I mean that kindly - it's much easier to have a rich and satisfying life on your own than with someone who causes you this much angst and is not even a good friend to you.

So just in case there's some part of you that thinks any relationship is better than no relationship - that's a lie.
posted by bunderful at 7:13 AM on March 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


If he has stopped drinking then that to me is a sign that he might be ready to do what you did and start growing and becoming a better person. Whether or not it makes sense for you to be a part of that process is a different question. He can do this on his own, and you know that for a fact, because you did it on your own.

The only changes people make are when they accept they need to change and are the catalyst themselves

Which is exactly why your personal growth was so succesful: you realized for yourself that you needed it, and kept working at it because of your own internal motivation. So if he's going to get better, it's going to have to happen the exact same way: by himself, because he himself believes in it.

You say that you see him a lot because of some other circumstances. I think a wise thing to do would be to keep working on yourself, but to also just keep an eye on him, not so you can step in and fix him or something, but just to see what direction he's going. If it turns out that he's not going to do the work that he needs to do, then eventually that will be obvious.

But If it turns out that he really has quit drinking, and if that change leads to more changes, and you eventually see that he really is working on himself and becoming a better person, then maybe you two can approach each other then as equals and start working together to form a good relationship. But that could only happen if he starts working seriously on himself, and that's something you can't force him to do, you know what I mean?
posted by MrOlenCanter at 7:45 AM on March 5, 2013


People can change if they want to. If you both want to save your marriage, you can. If he is not willing to work on his issues and your marriage, then you can't.
posted by entropicamericana at 7:48 AM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


You don't get to be verbally abusive in the name of being honest about your feelings.

He doesn't care about you. He's too self-obsessed and immature and crazy.

Get away from him. Just leave, go stay with a friend, anything. You don't deserve to get berated just because he's expressing himself.

Filter his emails, do everything you can to sever the connection.

You love him right now, but I can promise you, once you leave and limit contact and start to cut him out of your life, you'll be able to breathe and you'll wonder why you put up with his shit.

He is not worth your love or compassion because he's not giving you either. You have to take care of yourself, love yourself and be compassionate to yourself. Don't sacrifice yourself for this asshole.
posted by discopolo at 8:08 AM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, this guy is not going to change and you can count on that. Bet on yourself when happiness relies on someone else changing. Don't bet on him ever changing for you to be in a happy and non-abusive situation. He's already proven that he has no qualms about you being his punching bag.

Make yourself your priority, otherwise he will destroy your spirit and your chance for a happy life.
posted by discopolo at 8:13 AM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


This doesn't sound like its going to work out, and the same issues that interrupted the relationship are going to interrupt any kind of respect or friendship you could, in theory, have post-breakup.

Sometimes, post-breakup, people want the same things that they wanted during the relationship: to feel cared for, and to be proven right. You can give up the first in a break up, and still be pursuing the second -- with the mistaken belief that the break up will somehow make it easier for the other person to say "you were right."


Most people don't get the second thing until a great number of years have passed and the other person has grown up, matured, gotten some additional feedback from currently future partners,etc, if they get it at all.

Don't hang on hoping for the second thing.
posted by vitabellosi at 8:30 AM on March 5, 2013


We see each other a lot due to circumstance. I was looking to improve our relationship even if we ultimately break up.

This part kind of stuck in my head. I wanted to come back and ask: can you reduce the circumstances which cause you to see him? Unless there's a child involved I think you should be pretty ruthless about doing whatever you can to NOT see him, at least for a year or so. I'd sit down and make a list of these circumstances (same small town? same church? mutual friends?) and ask yourself whether these things are really necessary and or could be changed/minimized. (Switch churches, do your grocery shopping when you know he's at work, fulfill your dream of moving across the country ... whatever).

It takes two people to improve a relationship, and it doesn't really sound like he's capable or willing. You do not have to shoulder a burden for two, when the other party won't pick up their end. And you don't have to keep a toxic person in your life.
posted by bunderful at 9:23 AM on March 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


You say "I know that underneath I do love him". Does he feel the same way about you? If so, reach out to him and see if he is willing to go to a counseling program to save the marriage. I would definitely think it would be worth a shot.
posted by asra at 9:36 AM on March 5, 2013


What do you do about this type of person??

I dated someone exactly like your husband for about as long as you've been married. We lived together. We tried to fix it, even tried counseling, but the problems always started again because - I realized later - I was still accepting the blame for every fight we had, and I was the only one changing. And I was changing into his doormat. I had to ask myself if I wanted to spend the rest of my life living like this, and the answer was a resounding NO. I ended it, and I have never, ever, even for one second regretted it.
posted by Gee, June! at 9:39 AM on March 5, 2013 [9 favorites]


Melody Beattie is the author of a few books, 2 of which I have read and blanket-recommend them to anyone and everyone who has grown up with an abusive and/or addict parent and anyone and everyone who has been with an abusive and/or addict partner. These books are The Language of Letting Go and Codependent No More.
Difficult reads but great for self-improvement.
If I were you, I'd take a lot of space and focus on yourself right now, what you want out of life and what you want out of a partner and worry about how to interact with him at a later date.
People who play the blame game often take that into therapy, using the therapist to validate their position instead of using the therapy to take a good hard look at themselves.
posted by tenaciousmoon at 9:40 AM on March 5, 2013


Even if someone might be able to compel this man to care for himself, it isn’t you.

Just as his ‘facts’ and argument are miles from the emotional truths of the relationship, he is very likely unable to feel your compassion, or see you at all, past whatever story he’s telling himself that allows him to paint you as ‘culpable’, and the distorted perception of reality attending alcoholism. It is very, very unlikely you’ll be able to influence his perceptions for the better from your position as target of his hostility. You’ve become, for him, a kind of object, that has nothing to do with you.

Wouldn't it feel good to be seen as you are? To have your care reciprocated? I fear that would be a long time coming with this man. If ever. Life is so short. Such a shame to spend it feeling exhausted and misunderstood, and not liking who you sleep with, or who he's turned you into, and with home never really feeling like home.
posted by nelljie at 9:54 AM on March 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


This is one of those questions where I really wish we could get the other side of the story; the internet diagnoses here of your husband as "abusive" or "borderline personality disorder" or even "alcoholic"* seem premature.

* There's a difference between "alcoholic" and "drank too much as a coping mechanism during a rough period, and then quit." Neither one is a good thing, obviously, but they're not the same. And it's not necessarily clear which we're dealing with here.

Based just on this one-sided account I don't think there's any way for anyone here to say whether this is fixable, or whose fault it is.

What is clear is that you and your husband are not communicating effectively with each other at all during disagreements.

If you can both acknowledge at least that much, and can agree to work on improving that in mediation or counseling, then it's possible things will improve. If either of you continues to believe that the problem is (all or mostly) the other person's fault -- including if it turns out to actually be all or mostly one person's fault, which is certainly possible -- then things are very unlikely to improve.
posted by ook at 9:54 AM on March 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Lundy Bancroft describes different types of abusers in Why Does He Do That? This page lists their characteristics. Does the "Mr Right" description fit what's going on?

Mr. Right considers himself the ultimate authority on every subject under the sun; you might call him “Mr. Always Right”.

Characteristics:

* He ridicules and discredits her perspective so that he can escape dealing with it.
* He turns conflicts and arguments with his partner into a clash between Right or Wrong or Intelligence and Stupidity.
* He switches into his Voice of Truth, giving the definitive pronouncement on what is the correct answer or the proper outlook. This is called “defining reality”.
* Mr. Right is also an expert on your life and how you should live it.
* He is especially knowledgeable about your faults, and he likes to inventory what is wrong with you.
* He seems to periodically enjoy straightening you out in front of other people to humiliate you.
* Mr. Right’s control tends to be especially focused on telling his partner how to think.

Central attitudes driving Mr. Right:
1. “You should be in awe of my intelligence and should look up to me intellectually. I know better than you do, even about what’s good for you.”
2. “Your opinions aren’t worth listening to carefully or taking seriously.”
3. “The fact that you sometimes disagree with me shows how sloppy your thinking is.”
4. “If you would just accept that I know what’s right, our relationship would go much better. Your own life would go better, too.”
5. “When you disagree with me about something, no matter how respectfully or meekly, that’s mistreatment of me.”
6. “If I put you down for long enough, some day you’ll see.”

posted by jaguar at 10:26 AM on March 5, 2013 [13 favorites]


This is one of those questions where I really wish we could get the other side of the story; the internet diagnoses here of your husband as "abusive" or "borderline personality disorder" or even "alcoholic"* seem premature.

Oh, I'm sure all the diagnoses and opinions here are from licensed, trained and experienced professionals. (HAMBURGER.)


OP: "When you got married and you were feeling in love, if someone would have told you that two years later, things would be this bad, would you have believed them? Would you have thought it possible for things to have deteriorated so much? Probably not.

Well, guess what. Positive change is just as likely as negative change. In fact, with a little bit of effort and determination, it's even more likely. Healing is a natural tendency. Stick it out. Get some help." -Michele Weiner-Davis
posted by entropicamericana at 11:01 AM on March 5, 2013


What you do is that you get help for your clearly apparent low self-esteem and co-dependence, and then you will know what to do about him (detached politeness, just to spoil the ending).

I don't need to be a trained meteorologist to know rain when I see it, and I don't need to be a psychiatrist to know out-of-control co-dependent habits of mind when I see them. OP, please read the book Facing Codependence, by Mellody, Miller, and Miller, and my guess is that you will see yourself reflected there. I know I did, just as I saw my past self reflected in your post.

You deserve better than to be gaslighted and belittled and shamed for having the temerity to experience an emotion.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:14 AM on March 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


I have to second celtalitha and BibiRose here -- I'm not sure what's wrong with him laying out the facts as he sees them. I often do this in arguments -- here's what I think happened, here are the facts as I see them, do you agree?

So to address a few of your examples...

If you say, "I see the facts differently. I did not say that to embarrass you. I said that because I was thinking it and I didn't realize that your Mom would overhear," how does he respond?

If you tell him, "I need to take a break right now. I'm going for a walk and will be back in an hour," how does he respond?

If you say, "I am sad. I know it doesn't have to do with you, but I could really use a hug right now," how does he respond?

Some books I have found helpful in learning to do this are: Gottman's 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work, the High-Conflict Couple, and Difficult Conversations. Couples counseling is also a must to work through these experientially.

Your post reads like you complaining (rightfully) about his shitty behavior, his lack of self-awareness, his hurtful remarks, and his alcoholism. He could probably write a similar post about you, I assume (that's what the grudges are about, I guess).

If you want to keep this relationship, both of you will need to be heard. He will need to change his habit of relating to you. You may also need to change your habits of relating to him. You may or may not want to do this, and you can at any point DTMFA. But if you want to keep things going, that's also an option.

(I have been in an emotionally and physically abusive relationship and grew up with a lot of abuse so I understand how insidious it all can be. But like some of the other commenters, I can see how this might look from his perspective. Maybe try to do that yourself and see if you can see his point of view.)
posted by 3491again at 11:15 AM on March 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's hard to tell from your question whether you should walk so I'm not going to tell you what to do but the part about you burdening him with your feelings makes me think that he thinks he is supposed to be a fixer or helper. I had to learn, from my husband and a friend, that I don't need to try to fix everything with my husband. That sometimes, he'll come home from work and say that he's upset about something, and I don't have to offer solutions, just a sympathetic ear. Maybe he needs to hear that sometimes, you feel a certain way and you don't want him to do anything but listen.

Assuming that you ever speak to him again, here are two phrases that might be helpful when he starts picking a fight:
- "I'm sorry you feel that way" - generally, I feel like this is a kind of jerky thing to say. It's a non-apology apology, the kind of thing politicians say to walk back things that they absolutely meant but in retrospect, realize may have been objectionable. However, I think it is completely appropriate for you to say it because it describes the situation well. You're not apologizing for something you've done but you're showing sympathy towards him.
- "We'll just have to agree to disagree" - In my opinion, this kind of shuts an argument down. It would be a good expression for after he lays out the "facts" of the situation. We see things differently, oh well.

You can also say when he demands an answer to a question, I disagree with the premise of your question so I can't answer it, that's like asking what I'm going to do on my day off tomorrow when I have to work.

While reading your question, I'm struck by the fact that it doesn't sound like you like your husband. Yeah, you say you love him, but besides you saying that, I have no reason to believe that's the case. If you're staying married because divorce sounds like an enormous pain, I think that the benefits of splitting up likely outweigh the negatives. But you're the only one who can really be the judge of that.
posted by kat518 at 5:14 PM on March 5, 2013


The "facts" usually consist of a negative account of my behavior that I disagree with from the outset. He will ask a certain question, based on the "facts." I say I don't know the answer to the question because I don't agree with the "facts." And so blaming ensues about me not answering the question, about me being defensive and not admitting the truth about my behavior. He pursues me verbally until I leave the room, or the house, or acquiesce and apologize.

I have been in a relationship like this and it was infuriating and unfair to be badgered into accepting my partner's assessment of the intent of my behavior when it was not true. He used to paint the intent behind my actions or behavior as the worst possible scenario, giving me no benefit of the doubt. This was not a case of two parties having an equally valid perspective, it was about my partner painting me as a monstrous person and then attempting to force me into accepting that incorrect fantasy. I used to argue the points with him, but eventually learned to just shut down and refused to speak during these episodes. Nothing I could say about my intentions or the meaning of my actions was ever considered. I was always the menace and the source of all of the dysfunction in our partnership.

You've been married for two years. Cut your losses and leave and find something better. He is manipulative and sounds unwilling to recognize that his blame habit is a problem.
When someone can't recognize what they are contributing to a malignant situation, there's no cure.
posted by quince at 6:21 PM on March 5, 2013 [10 favorites]


I have been in a relationship like this and it was infuriating and unfair to be badgered into accepting my partner's assessment of the intent of my behavior when it was not true. He used to paint the intent behind my actions or behavior as the worst possible scenario, giving me no benefit of the doubt. This was not a case of two parties having an equally valid perspective, it was about my partner painting me as a monstrous person and then attempting to force me into accepting that incorrect fantasy. I used to argue the points with him, but eventually learned to just shut down and refused to speak during these episodes. Nothing I could say about my intentions or the meaning of my actions was ever considered. I was always the menace and the source of all of the dysfunction in our partnership.

Not to pick on you, Quince, but this is such a perfectly illustration of how both partners contribute to the failing dynamic. Your partner tried more and more forcefully to convey to you what was hurtful, and you would not acknowledge the validity of any of it. He felt unheard and the problem got worse. This is exactly your experience too: you tried to convey what was hurtful, he would not acknowledge the validity of it; you felt unheard and the problem got worse. Neither of you was willing to honor the others' truth so issue got blown way out of proportion--on both sides.

That Terry Real book I recommended above gives brilliant advice about how to navigate out of that cycle. The OPs husband seems like he is trying desperately to convey to her the hurtful things he feels and it's not getting through--in the same way that she's trying to convey the hurtful things to him and they're not getting through. He phrases it as "I don't want you to unload your feelings on me", she phrases it as "he's always blaming me". Not too much difference. If BOTH parties can start to give some compassion and take some responsibility they could pull it out. It can't be one sided--being a doormat is in no ones interest--but then someone has to go first to break the cycle.

This is hard, no doubt. Wishing everyone luck.
posted by Sublimity at 6:14 AM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


both partners contribute to the failing dynamic

Not in an abusive relationship, they don't. My relationship finally started to get "better" from my partner's perspective when I shut down and just accepted that I was lazy, stupid, bad at my job, ugly, and worthless. He still attacked me for things like taking too long while washing the dishes and not wearing the right clothes when I picked him up from work, but I didn't try to stick up for myself anymore because there was no point. He was going to find fault with my character for small things that really had nothing to do with my character, and saying "yes dear, I see why wearing this shirt makes you feel like I don't love you. I am so sorry. That was so stupid of me. I wasn't thinking when I got dressed. Please forgive me." stopped the argument and stopped the abuse in that moment. This was after years of me genuinely trying to see his side, to be compassionate and loving and to make the relationship safe for him. He never cared about making the relationship safe for me. I really thought the abuse was my fault and beat myself up - why couldn't I just be better; then we could be happy again - and no amount of compassion or love for this man stopped him from abusing me.

This is how abuse works. The threat of being yelled at or demeaned or physically assaulted is so scary that you just take what they dish out because it could be worse and you know that for a fact because it has been worse before.

It's true that we don't know if the OP is being abused, but a lot of us who have been see something familiar in her story. I know that my knee-jerk reaction is to caution anyone who might be abused to get out because abuse is terrible and it only gets worse over time. Leaving before it escalates makes it easier to leave, so us survivors are pretty keen on telling people to RUN because we wish we'd done it earlier.

OP, only you know what the "facts" you're being presented with look like. If they're things that attack your character or your right to have space in the relationship or your safety (emotional and physical) at home, they're probably abusive. That story about not being sad around him really, really got to me: that is a very controlling way for him to behave, and abuse is about control.

If you're being abused, it is not your fault.

Good luck, OP.
posted by sockermom at 7:40 AM on March 6, 2013 [11 favorites]


Sockermom, your story is really heartbreaking and of course that was completely fucked up. Again, it's gotta be a two-person effort to get out of that cycle or it's not going to work--and of course getting out is the right thing to do if your partner is unaccountable and violent.

In this case, yes, the OP has to make the call about whether the line has been crossed and to maintain her boundaries when her husband is out of line. Unfair but true.

Again, a counselor as a neutral referee will be really helpful for getting out of this clinch. Compare these two paragraphs:

He says he doesn't feel listened to and says this is why he is so upset, but it's hard to listen to him when there is such intense blame coming out of his mouth, and not a lot else.

One of the biggest grudges he harbors is that sometimes I don't think he is aware of what he is doing and why. But that's what I do think about him. I think this is true to some degree for nearly everyone, but he won't accept me thinking it about him.

Two sides of the same coin here.

You two are separated. If you're both committed to making it work, you can think of it as each having a home base for some space and safety as you work together with a professional to forge a better partnership. If either of you is unwilling to give--to remember love, to accept your partner as a flawed human being and love them warts and all--then you already are on the road to splitting. Yes, BOTH have to be willing and if he's not she can't make him--but the OP should also consider deeply whether she's able and willing to do that too.
posted by Sublimity at 9:25 AM on March 6, 2013


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