How to talk about arguments?
July 10, 2015 3:05 PM   Subscribe

I moved in with my boyfriend a month ago, and now he lashes out whenever I ask for help around the house. What gives, and how can we talk about this constructively?

My boyfriend and I (a woman) have dated for almost three years and we are both in our 30s. We always had a really respectful, easy, and kind relationship. Now, we can't stop bickering, and it's driving me bonkers. And they're not pretty fights: what tends to happen is that I ask for him to help me with something around the house (going grocery shopping and caring for our pets who have health issues are two big ones that seem to cause the most issues), he snaps at me, I tell him that I don't want to be snapped at, and he tells me to "get out of his face" or to "go away." Basically, he escalates the argument very quickly, and then he won't talk to me for hours until he's calmed down. When he calms down, he just pretends everything is fine and doesn't acknowledge the disagreement at all. He also will not apologize, even when I say things like, "When someone raises their voice at me, it really hurts my feelings. My feelings are hurt, and I feel bad right now." He will say something like, "Well, what do you want me to do about that?" meanly, and I'll reply, "It helps me when someone apologizes after they have yelled at me." He will either just sit there in stony silence or he will apologize sarcastically: "I'm SO sorry I hurt your FEELINGS, here's your APOLOGY, are you HAPPY now that you FORCED it out of me?" was the last apology I got, after he raised his voice at me when I asked him for help with the pets and told him that my feelings were hurt after he snapped at me. I left the house at that point after telling him that I need to be treated kindly. I also apologized a few times first for asking for his help in what he said was a snippy way (I asked him to do something, he said "but I don't know how to do that," and I said I would just do it myself. I acknowledge that this is passive-aggressive, and that I could have done a better job asking for help.)

This is really starting to wear on me. I have a really demanding career. He does too, in theory, but he skips work about 1-2 times a week because he doesn't feel like going. Whenever his boss is not in because he is working elsewhere that day, he just doesn't go in. His boss talked with him about this recently, but he has not changed his behavior - in fact, he's been skipping work even more since he was spoken to about his attendance. I don't feel like it is any of my business whether or not he goes in to work - we don't share finances - but I do think that I can ask him for help with things around the house, especially on the days that he is skipping work to hang out and play computer games. So maybe I am actually of the mind that it is my business. That feels crummy of me to be imposing on him and his time that way. That said, it is really hard to work all day and to come home to someone who is relaxing with a bunch of stuff that needs to be done around the house that will need to be done by me or it won't get done at all. He has a salaried job, so he does not have hours that he has to be there, but his skipping work so frequently is also wearing me thin because it makes me question his work ethic and his motivation in life more generally. I had no idea that he missed so much work before we moved in together. I also do not know how to talk about this with him, or if I even should - for now, I have been keeping it as a mental data point and have said nothing except "I'm glad you had a good day" when he tells me he is happy because he skipped work.

Am I just jealous of his ability to stay home and goof around while I go to work or something? Everyone gets snippy at times, and no one likes going to work every day. Or is it reasonable to think that on the days that he skips work that he will do things at home for us? Or even on days that he does work - I do most of the household chores by default, because he says he "does not see" that things need to be done and he frequently gets upset when I ask him to do them, so I just do them because it's easier that way. But that is wearing on me, too. I planned on hiring a maid to help with the cleaning, but he does not want a stranger in our house, so we are at a standstill with that. He tells me that I just have to tell him what needs to be done and he will do it, but more often than not it seems that he gets upset when I tell him - and actually, I ask, don't tell, because I am not telling anyone to do anything, it's not my personality - what needs done around the house. I tried explaining that having me do all the executive-level stuff of figuring out what needs to be done is not very fair because we live in a household with lots of moving parts (mostly because we have sick pets) but he said that he does not see what needs to be done and that it's my job to tell him.

Is this just a case of, oh, surprise, you're dating someone who is immature and he hid it really well? Is something else going on here? And how can I talk to him about this stuff without him accusing me of being a bitch? When he calls me a bitch, I walk away from the argument. I actually leave the house after telling him that I do not put up with being spoken to that way. But then I'm shaking and fuming and feel awful, and he just goes back to playing computer games and feeling fine and ignoring the fact that he treated me poorly. I guess my main question is: how can I talk with him about this stuff in a way that doesn't escalate into a bad argument that ends up with me feeling like crud and being ignored?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (87 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
Your partner is verbally abusive. There is only one solution to this. You can't make him not be that way, no matter how you bargain or try to manage the situation.

A good partner actively wants to do their part. Might not be excellent at it, but wants to find ways to work it out.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:08 PM on July 10, 2015 [90 favorites]


Get. Out. Now. I don't think that kind of contemptuous sarcasm can be fixed.
posted by Malla at 3:14 PM on July 10, 2015 [131 favorites]


Calling you a bitch is a breakupable offense.

Just total brutal honesty: it sounds like living together is not working for you and this relationship may not be working for you.

However, to give you more of an answer to your question, assuming you want to stay:

Whose pets are the sick pets? Are they yours originally? Then I kind of understand that you may have to just be the one on pet duty.

But taking out the trash, doing the laundry, and doing the dishes- any adult who is not a total dunderhead knows households need to do these things on the regular. If you're coming up with more weird, esoteric arguable things like "put that foldable thing away in this particular closet at this angle" then yeah, consider that you don't want to die on that hill. Or even "wipe down counters" as many people have different standards there- "only wipe huge spills" vs "keep spotless and shiny every day" for instance.

If you talk to him about a regular schedule of laundry, dishes, and taking out the trash and he can't or won't figure that out and help without complaining, he's definitely just being an ass and a man child. I'd start there.
posted by quincunx at 3:15 PM on July 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


This is not a healthy relationship. It's one thing to disagree, but what you described here is a person who is actively working on not fostering a positive relationship with you. Please reconsider living with this person who is treating you horribly and shooting down everything you are suggesting. I was in a relationship like this and I wasted 4 years being treated badly. I wouldn't wish that on anyone.
posted by Nimmie Amee at 3:16 PM on July 10, 2015 [45 favorites]


Honestly, look, I would move out and take a big step back. But you're there now and it sounds like you want to give it a try so one of the things I would say is that the way you're phrasing your needs is going to come across to him as passive aggressive.

This:

"When someone raises their voice at me, it really hurts my feelings. My feelings are hurt, and I feel bad right now." He will say something like, "Well, what do you want me to do about that?" meanly, and I'll reply, "It helps me when someone apologizes after they have yelled at me."


The "someone" part, although well intentioned, isn't relevant. This is about the way the two of you relate, not the way you relate to anyone else. He gets it that you want an apology but he gives it to you in the worst way possible. Maybe (probably not, but maybeeeeee) if you were to related it specifically to this moment "I would like you to apologize for raising your voice and not attending to the request I made, and also I would like you to stop using sarcasm when you apologize." If he says he doesn't know what you mean about the sarcasm, fuck him, I mean, say "oh don't act brand new" and walk away.

This is one tiny little weird thing. I don't know what the real answer is. But my BF has a habit of saying, "I don't know why someone would do X" when what he means is "why do you do X?" I've started saying, "Well, if you're asking why I do X, it's because..." I think he doesn't hear it the way I do but damn it bugs me.

But ugh, if you can't talk to him without being accused of being a bitch, then ugh you'll be shaking and fuming and feeling awful for the rest of your life, until you leave, or until he is motivated to change, whichever comes first.
posted by janey47 at 3:18 PM on July 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


I apologize if I missed this in the question, but have you been living together for very long? ie did these problems start up when you started cohabitating, or did you have a period of happy cohabitation before this? I ask because the changes in behavior -- his agitation, snapping at you, and not going to work -- sound extreme enough to potentially be signs of mental illness and/or addiction. Does that ring true for you at all?
posted by telegraph at 3:24 PM on July 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


How does he treat his mother?

Because it sounds like he's putting you in mother role, where he gets to be the resentful teenager, complete with 'attendance issues'. And he expects you to solve it on your own, or to patiently wait it out, or something.

If he treats or speaks of his mother badly .... that would be informative.
posted by Dashy at 3:25 PM on July 10, 2015 [18 favorites]


Oh god, I see now that it is literally in the first sentence of your question. Sorry about that. In any case, I still think it's worth some reflection as to whether this could be a substance or mental illness issue but... it's probably just his shitty personality on full view.
posted by telegraph at 3:26 PM on July 10, 2015


I think the basic problem is that he's the wrong guy.

(For anyone)
posted by tel3path at 3:26 PM on July 10, 2015 [52 favorites]


From the first line of your question I immediately assumed it was just new-move-in jitters and territorial behavior but wow, reading the rest of it really puts him in a terrible light. I don't mean at all to excuse his behavior towards you but the work situation and all his temper issues sound like he's probably dealing with longterm depression that's manifesting itself in self-destructive behaviors. And now that you're living together he can't hide it from you anymore.

Idk if you can salvage this relationship without a lot of suffering on your part, tbh. This is just the first month of your living together, and the fact that it's gotten so terrible so damn fast is pretty chilling.
posted by poffin boffin at 3:27 PM on July 10, 2015 [12 favorites]


This is abuse. It will not get better and I suspect the recent moving in together caused the "sudden change." My verbally and emotionally abusive ex husband waited 3 whole days after we got married to amplify the tone and frequency of his "snippiness" a/k/a abuse. I divorced him one year later. It just got worse and worse. I would get out now so you don't have to go through the mental gymnastics trying to give his actions a label other than abuse. Don't let him make you think there is something wrong with you.
posted by murrey at 3:30 PM on July 10, 2015 [44 favorites]


...he frequently gets upset when I ask him to do them, so I just do them because it's easier that way

Ugh, changing your behavior because you're afraid of his response is an enormous red flag that you are being manipulated. Name-calling, silent treatment, sarcasm are all also within the realm of abuse. So that's four. Changing behavior from respectful to manbaby after securing a commitment is five. Going by my own experience, it'll get worse before it gets better. And it'll never get better.
posted by WesterbergHigh at 3:30 PM on July 10, 2015 [39 favorites]


I think it would be difficult to fix this because it doesn't seem like he wants to fix it. You've repeatedly told him "hey, the way you talk to me hurts me" and he continues to hurt you.
posted by Lingasol at 3:31 PM on July 10, 2015 [12 favorites]


I don't think the problem is that you haven't found the right way to talk constructively. It sounds like you've tried and he is simply unwilling to engage. He won't do normal household chores, he has a quick temper, and he treats you with contempt. That's three strikes even before you get to the work stuff. I think you should probably dump him.
posted by Area Man at 3:33 PM on July 10, 2015 [12 favorites]


Ugh, ok. So, cohabiting is rough, no doubt. My partner and I fought more in the first three weeks we lived together than in the entire rest of our relationship combined (we're talking years worth of fights in a few weeks). But what you're describing is really, really unacceptable. Either your boyfriend really didn't want to move in together and now he's taking it out on you, or he has been waiting for you to move in so you could take care of everything and he could regress, or somehow y'all made it through three years without him ever revealing his full personality. None of these options is great.

On preview I see that others have mentioned this, but I'll third (fourth?) it: Abusers are very good at hiding their bullshit until they have you well-ensnared. 3 years is a real long con but I've seen it done.

I was all ready to be like, who cares if you're "the bitch" to him-- he's being a little dickhead and his judgment doesn't count. But I honestly would worry about your safety if you called him on the carpet and laid down the law. So really? Just bail. Bail on whatever disaster he has going on. If you want to still date him for whatever reason, ok, but move out. And please, bring the pets with you.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 3:33 PM on July 10, 2015 [29 favorites]


I guess my main question is: how can I talk with him about this stuff in a way that doesn't escalate into a bad argument that ends up with me feeling like crud and being ignored?

It seems like the answer to this is: you can't. Your boyfriend is not a kind or caring or respectful person, and he managed to hide that side of himself before you were living together. I can only imagine it will get worse. I'm very sorry you are going through this. No one deserves that kind of verbal abuse or to be treated with such cruelty and contempt. I would make an exit plan if I were in your shoes.
posted by JenMarie at 3:33 PM on July 10, 2015 [24 favorites]


The "someone" part, although well intentioned, isn't relevant.

It's also a completely normal sentence structure when someone is trying to be direct but polite and non-accusatory. "I do not generally accept being treated this way" is the step below the confrontation "I will not accept you treating me this way"/"You cannot treat me this way".

And it's beside the point that you've told him, in a normal non passive aggressive and socially acceptable way, that his behavior is unacceptable.

His response is essentially yea, and?

This guy sounds like a chode, and i think he needs to go play videogames and get fired in a studio apartment alone.

Honestly he sounds like a more severe version of the way i can act when i'm depressed(skipping work, playing video games all the time, being "snippy") but when someone capable of giving a shit gets called on it they change. He cares less about you than he cares about wallowing in his turdpond.
posted by emptythought at 3:34 PM on July 10, 2015 [15 favorites]


First of all, move out.

I'm wondering what kind of substance abuse or mental illness he's dealing with. Seriously. He's probably about to get fired from his job, and he does not care. He is actively hurting the person he lives with, and he does not care.

You can not solve this problem from up close (or likely from far away, but more on that in a minute...) Is this a lease? Does one of you own the place you live? How can you terminate this living situation as easily as possible??

Once you are clear of the co-habitating, decide how much you want to help this guy. Honestly? He sounds like he doesn't want to live with you and is actively trying to force you out of the relationship. Take the hint. RUN.
posted by jbenben at 3:34 PM on July 10, 2015 [34 favorites]


Do you really want to spend more time with someone you can't fight well with? Now it's housework, but imagine trying to navigate money problems, unemployment (yours or his), family illness, changes in libido (yours or his), etc with someone who gets surly when you just ask him to take out the trash.

I'm sorry, but I don't see this getting better. I would strongly consider breaking up, or at the very least moving out. Good luck.
posted by bunderful at 3:38 PM on July 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


He's not engaging you in good faith. No matter if you label his behavior as abuse, crabbiness, or stupidity, if someone does not engage in good faith there's pretty much no hope of a middle ground or a compromise. Your options seem to be to leave or continue to bear the pain of this behavior (potentially escalating behavior) indefinitely and unacknowledged.
posted by milarepa at 3:43 PM on July 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


Am I just jealous of his ability to stay home and goof around while I go to work or something?

If you're not taken aback, angry, sad, and/or just pissed off that someone who is supposed to respect and care for you instead sneers at you, mocks you, and calls you names (and refuses to help around the house!), then I guess it could be jealousy that he slacks?

His behavior is really unacceptable.
posted by rtha at 3:43 PM on July 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


I guess my main question is: how can I talk with him about this stuff in a way that doesn't escalate into a bad argument that ends up with me feeling like crud and being ignored?

Reread this question. What you're asking here is: How can I change my behavior so that someone else isn't a dick? That's not possible. You can't change your behavior in a way that subsequently will change someone else's behavior. You aren't the problem here, and the only person's problem behavior you can fix is your own.

At the very least I would stop living with this person. Presumably you had a good relationship before you moved in together, otherwise you wouldn't have moved in with him in the first place. Maybe you can be a couple who dates but doesn't live together. I would be surprised if he doesn't continue to act like this as the relationship progresses even if you aren't cohabitating, though.
posted by something something at 3:44 PM on July 10, 2015 [11 favorites]


The chores are a red herring. They are not the issue. This guy has serious issues that he is not dealing with. He's an angry jerk with a job now, in six months he will be a meaner, angrier unemployed guy and GUESS WHAT if you're still living together you will be covering all of the bills.

I think you should pack and move out. Separate yourself from him completely. Don't give him any notice -- a guy with anger issues like this will lash out physically.
posted by kate blank at 3:47 PM on July 10, 2015 [54 favorites]


He's training you to expect pain when you stand up for yourself. Why stay with a partner who will never treat you with respect?
posted by Hermione Granger at 3:49 PM on July 10, 2015 [40 favorites]


You can't talk about this constructively with him because he doesn't see the problem. He has no real consequences for his behavior, therefore no motivation to change it. Obviously he does not give a shit that you're upset. The only thing you can do is leave. He probably still won't understand the problem, it'll probably still be "your fault," but who cares, you don't have to deal with this jerk anymore. I'm sorry it worked out this way, I'm sure you had high hopes when you moved in together.
posted by desjardins at 3:50 PM on July 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Jesus God, you don't need a partner who holds you in such contempt. I am sure you don't deserve that. Please be kind to yourself, and leave.
posted by Keter at 3:54 PM on July 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


This is actually a perfect time in your life to take a very long, cold, hard look at what you want in a life partner. Take off your rose-colored glasses. Take a giant step back in your head. Use your eyes, your ears and your brain to look, listen and really SEE. Let yourself off the hook for any mistakes you have made for now and look at your boyfriend in the stark light of the truth.

how can I talk to him about this stuff without him accusing me of being a bitch?


You don't. Because he has already proven himself to be exactly what he is, a guy who calls women bitches. I've been there and done that, never again. Many men would rather slit their own throat than call the love of their life a bitch.

Childish, abusive, disappointing. That won't go away. You've made yourself clear that being called a bitch is unacceptable. He walked right over that, multiple times. Make a choice (because this is a choice) to gather up your dignity and let him hang himself with his words. Choose to love yourself enough to dump this guy. There are many, many fish in the sea who would be MORE than happy to help you with the pets and the house, and treat you like you deserve to be treated. Make the choice for yourself. I promise you, you can do better.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 3:56 PM on July 10, 2015 [19 favorites]


I think the problem is that he's an asshole, and that this is not a healthy relationship for you to stay in or good partner for you.

Look, maybe he has this deep character flaw that you always missed, but now he can't hide it because you're living together. There are other possibilities, too. Maybe he's depressed. Or maybe he's dissatisfied in this relationship, but isn't mature or strong or honest enough to own that and talk about it. Ultimately, none of that really matters, because he's being a major dick to you. He's actively -- and intentionally! -- hurting you. There's no excuse for that.

This isn't fixable because he's not taking any actual positive steps to change things. I doubt he wants things to change, but even if he did, and even if you all were on the same page that this is a big big fucking problem, it's no good unless he takes real steps to effect change. And he won't, because if he were the kind of person who would take steps to fix these problems, he wouldn't be emotionally abusing you in the first place.
posted by J. Wilson at 3:59 PM on July 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


God this is no way to live, just get out now and don't waste any more of your life tied down with an abusive manchild. Run.
posted by prize bull octorok at 4:05 PM on July 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


Adding my voice to the chorus. Take yourself, take the pets, and get out. You don't deserve to live like this.
posted by SisterHavana at 4:05 PM on July 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


If your best friend was in a relationship like that, what would you advise her?
posted by BlahLaLa at 4:08 PM on July 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


It sounds like you guys are doing an ad-hoc day-by-day, hour-by-hour or minute-by-minute parsing of 'household duties.' It might help to formulate an overall game plan. Make a spreadsheet of all the chores around the house that occur predictably. Decide who is doing what. Come to an agreement on what is fair. Then work within that framework. The ad-hoc nature of asking him to do something that he's not expecting to be asked to do may underlie the rapidly escalating arguments.

However, I agree with the above that this is an emotionally abusive dynamic, and it's total bullshit to escalate like that and then ignore the fact that the escalation (to name calling) ever happened. What I suggest above is a coping strategy for a specific problem, but there's a much bigger problem with the abusive dynamic to address.
posted by Doc_Sock at 4:09 PM on July 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


"I'm SO sorry I hurt your FEELINGS, here's your APOLOGY, are you HAPPY now that you FORCED it out of me?"
I am still seething as a random internet person at this remark. Imagine if your best friend was in a relationship wherein their partner regularly responded to their emotional hurt with this kind of bile. I, for one, would tell them to DTMFA, and would go help to pack the partner's bags. This kind of contempt and disregard is fatal to a relationship. It is a black hole from which nothing can exit.

I really know it sucks to call it quits after three years of a relationship; your question suggests to me that you really, really, really want to make this work again by changing something that you do. In a different relationship, your motivation to take your own agency into perspective might be really great and helpful. But in all likelihood you are not the problem and there is no magic way you can make this jerk meet your real, really real needs.

My advice: don't value your history with this person over the possibility of a much better future without him.
posted by Keter at 4:09 PM on July 10, 2015 [74 favorites]


Don't waste another minute of your precious life on this asshole. Leave him ASAP and never look back!
posted by dialetheia at 4:10 PM on July 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


Is this just a case of, oh, surprise, you're dating someone who is immature and he hid it really well?

Seems that way, yes. He's not just being immature, he's being verbally abusuve too, and the skipping work and not caring about the consequences is a major red flag in terms of his willingness or ability to handle grownup responsibilities.

I'll give you one piece of advice which I've found helpful: don't think "I'd be happy if this behaviour changed", think "would I be happy if this behaviour never changed?". This might be who he is and now you've seen him properly. Is this, really and truly, behaviour you want in a life partner? If not then consider putting yourself and your happiness first and getting out.
posted by billiebee at 4:12 PM on July 10, 2015 [12 favorites]


What gives, and how can we talk about this constructively?

Everyone has already addressed the second clause of the question—"we" can't , because he's shown not only a basic lack of skills in this area (OK! they're not intuitive for most of us) but repeated and nasty refusals to even begin the attempt to show interest in developing those skills (so, so not OK! this is on him). I'm in total agreement with everyone who's said this is not your problem to solve.

As far as "What gives" -- I was struck by this sequence: He fucks off at work. He's called on said fuck-offing. He escalates the behavior. That's deeply, provocatively dysfunctional. It repeats his pattern with you, without the underlying emotional component. The people I've known and been who behave this way are in crisis. The crisis may or may not be substance-related; it may or may not be mental-illness related. And, again, it is his crisis to deal with. Not yours. But it is an answer to that aspect of the question.
posted by dogrose at 4:16 PM on July 10, 2015 [13 favorites]


So, he's a nasty, cruel, aggro shit to you and a skiving shit to his employers. He doubles down on his shittiness when called out or confronted. You are not "just jealous", he's a toxic manchild. Why on earth are you with this loser? Run away screaming and bring your pets.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 4:23 PM on July 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


Some people really hide their true selves well. And, while this sounds like a horribly unpleasant situation, this is one of the reasons why people move in together before marriage: it's much harder to hide your true self when someone sees you day in and day out. What's he's showing you is more than enough to trigger an immediate move-out. But, there's more!

He's about to lose his job as well. He's been spoken to about his performance and he's done nothing to fix it. In fact, he feels entitled to keep skipping work frequently. This is exactly what you can expect in terms of response if you manage to tell him what your expectations are for division of labor around the house as well as how you demand to be treated (with love and respect). In a short amount of time, you'll be tethered to an out-of -work boyfriend who will probably make little effort to find a job as he's making little effort to keep one. He's going to be living off your salary while doing no housework, yelling at you, giving you the silent treatment, making you clean up after him and the pets, and then happily going along without having to think about any consequences.

End the cohabitation situation NOW. You're going to leave anyway as this is unsustainable - cut your losses and do it now before he's also out of work. And, as an example, this is what the endgame looks like: My BFF married this guy and had kids with him. She spent years trying to fix it at great personal expense. They're divorcing now. He went from being a "tell me what to do because I can't figure it out myself" manbaby to an abusive, chronically out of work, neglectful parent, hot garbage husband who spent all his time trying to figure out ways to punish her. These things don't get better. They get worse.
posted by quince at 4:28 PM on July 10, 2015 [39 favorites]


I had to reread your question multiple times because I was convinced you were dating my ex (some of the superficial details are different, though). He also, within a month of moving in together, started becoming verbally abusive. He and I put it down to "stress" from the move, but there was always some new "stress" in our lives that seemed to excuse his abusive behavior (which was often about household chores, as well, because one of the core issues was that he felt entitled to have a partner do all the work around the house and thought he was too good to be doing housework). At the time the abuse started, I couldn't have imagined "abandoning" him or backing out of a brand-new lease, but I really, really, really wish that I had. I ended up with PTSD, severe depression, and several wasted years (not to mention money poured into therapy during and after the relationship) due to his abuse, and I would absolutely want you to spare yourself that. Please leave.
posted by jaguar at 4:29 PM on July 10, 2015 [13 favorites]


This is not a good situation. But I'll give advice anyway:

He sounds like he is a devoted confrontation-avoider who creates conflict by avoiding it -- with you, with his boss, etc. He doesn't want to bicker about chores or feel nagged by you or have any of those negative feelings because it's a conflict, so he simply avoids it. He pretends everything is fine afterwards because then he doesn't have to deal with the bad feelings. He doesn't want to deal with work, so he simply avoids it -- and when his boss mentioned it, he doubled down on avoiding it. This is probably a long-established pattern for him. Couples therapy, and possibly individual therapy for him, is called for.

My husband also hated being nagged and reminded about chores, but also didn't "see" them if I didn't point them out, which was a shitty situation for both of us. What we finally did was make google reminders for him for reoccuring weekly chores -- when google reminded him instead of me, it didn't feel so personal and conflicty -- and we used chorewars, which awards XP points for housework. My game-oriented husband was determined to defeat me so he did lots of housework, and it gave us a quantified way to look at who was doing more and who was doing less. I also made him checklists of what would constitute "Chore X" being done to my satisfaction (the kitchen in particular ... we have very different standards of kitchen cleanliness!). But I want to stress, my husband wanted to solve the problem and wasn't quite so nasty about it. (We did go to couples therapy to learn to communicate better and interrupt our childhood patterns. I recommend it. But possibly not after the level of nastiness he's shown you.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:31 PM on July 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


I think he has you convinced that these are just the quirks of your relationship--the snapping, manipulating you into doing the housekeeping, skipping work, calling names. But what you're describing aren't the differences every couple has to work through. Healthy, functioning adults don't skip work every week, don't create impossible traps for their partner (he "can't see" what needs to be done, so you need to tell him, but he'll get mad if you do, and you can't hire a maid because he says so), and don't respond to their partner's pain with maliciously mocking apologies.

I don't think you can have a constructive, healing way forward together right now. He's treating you and the life you have together like garbage.
posted by Meg_Murry at 4:32 PM on July 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


Girl, you need to move out now. Seriously, you deserve so much better. You are so strong to be going through this - in your place I would have had a breakdown by this point.

"Is this just a case of, oh, surprise, you're dating someone who is immature and he hid it really well?" Yes and No. He is immature but in addition manipulative, selfish, lazy, and cruel.

"Is something else going on here?" This is not about your very reasonable requests for him to help with the housework. It's about him breaking you down.

"And how can I talk to him about this stuff without him accusing me of being a bitch?" You can't.
posted by seesom at 5:03 PM on July 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


Anonymous: it's unanimous.
posted by lathrop at 5:06 PM on July 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


His behavior is so egregious, I like some other commenters am wondering if there is some mental health issue going on. BUT. Let me be very clear: that doesn't excuse or diminish the harm he is doing to you.

This is, at best, a "put on your own oxygen mask first" situation. If he is ill, if his behavior is a symptom rather than (merely) horrible, you still deserve better. You still need to get out. You need to find yourself a place of safety and serenity.

I am so sorry.
posted by meese at 5:12 PM on July 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


He has contempt for you. Calling you a bitch and that horrible, infuriating fauxpology prove that well enough. I'm one of the people who thinks contempt is something you can't fix in a relationship. When it gets to that point, it's over in spirit if not in fact.

And if you start feeling bad about how his life is collapsing around him because of his shitty behavior, don't. It's not on you, his obvious crisis is not your responsibility. DTMFA.
posted by yasaman at 5:13 PM on July 10, 2015 [14 favorites]


Oh, Anonymous. I really feel for you. You are caught in a hard place. It is probably a day or two since you first lodged this question and I guess that you may have been waiting and hoping for a key that will unlock some loving kindness in your partner.

From our side of the story, as unknown uninvolved strangers, we can see that there is no key, not one, that will effect the change you want. You cannot have this boyfriend and loving-kindness in the same package. It's like wanting a hot icey drink. It's a physical/emotional impossibility.

Fortunately you can have loving kindness in your life but you are going to have to leave this guy to get it.

Please find a new place as soon as possible. Don't tell your boyfriend you are looking, just do it. And then, on one of the rare days he does go to work, pack-up and leave.

Even if leaving is going to cost you money you don't have right now, staying will cost you more money and more of your priceless self-esteem. I know it could be a bit of a 'rock and a hard place' situation but please, push push push yourself out of this situation as soon as possible. The cost to you if you don't is only going to get greater.

If you need a book recommendation to help you see things from this side of the question, read "Too good to leave, too bad to stay."

Please take care of yourself.
posted by Thella at 5:18 PM on July 10, 2015 [15 favorites]


What everyone else said, plus: For financial reasons I had to live with my ex for six months after we broke up, and during that stressful unhappy time neither one of us ever said ANYTHING to each other like what your partner has said to you. This is not how normal people interact, on any level. Please get out now. Even if you have a lease that you're both on, even if you love the apartment, just find a new place and wait til one of the rare days he's actually at work and GO.
posted by clone boulevard at 5:30 PM on July 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


Uggh. Along with his abusiveness, he is fundamentally a child. He resents you for moving in with him and expecting him to be a responsible adult. You're his mean mommy, but then you have to mother him nonetheless (the shit about him expecting you to tell him when things need to be done and how to do them blah blah blah so angry on your behalf just typing this).

Find a man who wants to be in a relationship. A guy who cleans up after himself. Someone who can focus on and take pride in his work. Someone who can't wait to throw himself into a loving partnership WITH YOU and who is hungry for a committed relationship WITH YOU and who is excited about life in general. Find this guy instead of a callow fool who's luxuriating in his extended adolescence.

This guy thought it would be cool to have a woman around to do all the shit he doesn't want to do and have sex whenever he wants it. Disabuse him of this notion now by leaving before you're too entrenched and grappling with a bunch of sunk cost baggage years down the line.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 5:41 PM on July 10, 2015 [15 favorites]


I can't believe no one has said this yet: DTMFA.
posted by caryatid at 5:43 PM on July 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's got to be hard to read the word "abusive" but please consider that might be the case. Even if you don't see it that way, this book is enormously helpful in understanding this confusing, disappointing, can't-win dynamic.

The reason you can't figure out the exact right way to say things to him that he might not want to hear is because there is no right way when it comes to him. This is all rigged, you're set up to lose every time. It is not your fault he reacts this way and you cannot fix it for him with magic words, and you can't make him want to fix it, or make him even see that it's a problem in the first place.

The part of you that leaves the house when he calls you a bitch is right on. The surefire way to really show him you don't put up with being spoken to that way? Next time you leave, consider making that permanent.

I'm really sorry this is happening to you. I don't know you but I know you deserve a partner who doesn't hurt you like this, is genuinely sorry if he does hurt you, and who doesn't call you disrespectful misogynist words when you ask the bare minimum of him.
posted by kapers at 5:55 PM on July 10, 2015 [12 favorites]


What gives?

Scott Wetzler's book Living With the Passive-Aggressive Man may give you some insight into how you got here, what's to come if you stay with this guy, and the least-self-destructive coping mechanisms if you choose to stay. It's excruciatingly careful not to scream DTMFA, which for me made it accessible.

How can we talk about this constructively?

You can't, because he's refusing (or unable; but that doesn't matter) to use the skills that go into constructive communicaton. In Act One of This American Life ep. 261, John Gottman outlines some essential elements of conflict in couples that last. What you describe doesn't sound like what Gottman (et al)'s research has found to predict long-term satisfaction.

Anecdata: being with someone who's glad to do the work of a relationship (as well as owning responsibility for their own personal growth), and who consistently shows up for their side of communication (and housework, social arrangements, petcare etc!) is fantastic.
posted by wonton endangerment at 6:00 PM on July 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm going to recommend a book called Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men that's very illuminating because once you read it you start seeing the patterns of abusive interaction and how they start and most importantly what their purpose is. They don't just happen for no reason, there's a plan even it's sometimes subconscious.

It explains why he would put you into this situation where the only way to "solve" the problem is do everything yourself and require nothing of him, which is one of the rewards abusers reap from their abuse. He tells you that the way to get him to do things is just specifically tell him for each and every little task you want done and then if you actually have the temerity to do this he punishes you with anger + abusive language + silent treatment then acting like nothing happened and if you keep on trying to bring it up, punishing you with more contempt. He won't even let you sidestep the issue by letting you hire a maid, because that doesn't reinforce his control of how he wants this issue to be solved. There's even a specific term for this tactic: a double bind (though the book doesn't use this term much).

From the book:
Your happiness in a relationship depends greatly on your ability to get your needs heard and taken seriously. If these decisions are taken over by an abusive or controlling partner, you experience disappointment after disappointment, the constant sacrificing of your needs. He, on the other hand, enjoys the luxury of a relationship where he rarely has to compromise, gets to do the things he enjoys, and skips the rest.
Another bonus (to him) is you are being trained to think a lot about how to bring up your needs in ways that won't upset him! In this question you are already starting to ask us what pretzel you should be configuring yourself into to deal with HIS unreasonableness, here's a book quote on that:
He wants you to puzzle over him, to try to figure him out, as though he were a wonderful but broken machine for which you need only to find and fix the malfunctioning parts to bring it roaring to its full potential. His desire, though he may not admit it even to himself, is that you wrack your brain in this way so that you won’t notice the patterns and logic of his behavior, the consciousness behind the craziness.
Only he can fix this pattern and it is not easy and I think you should leave before things get worse or even if they stay the same because your current situation isn't something you should be willing to live with.

I worry a bit about how fast this is escalating in behavior (only living together one month!? this behavior starting so soon after breaking up with him became logistically difficult seems downright strategic) and the signals he might lose his job soon, thereby triangulating you into a position where breaking up with him pretty much means tossing him out into the street (which is a stressful, guilt laden thing for most people to do).

If breaking up feels like too much right now, at the very least it would be good to decide that cohabitation isn't a good idea right now and figure out how to move out.

As a contrast, I've been in a situation where I briefly cohabitated with a boyfriend who didn't seem interested in pulling his weight in chores, so I understand how frustrating it can be--the different was he wasn't abusive about it, there was just a lot of fauxpology "I'm sorry you feel that way". By the time I pulled myself out of passive aggressive huffiness (unproductive behavior on my part) and started to honestly talk about what I needed to have happen (a chore schedule) he broke up with me no more than two weeks later, for his own reasons.
posted by foxfirefey at 6:01 PM on July 10, 2015 [14 favorites]


And how can I talk to him about this stuff without him accusing me of being a bitch? When he calls me a bitch, I walk away from the argument. I actually leave the house after telling him that I do not put up with being spoken to that way. But then I'm shaking and fuming and feel awful, and he just goes back to playing computer games and feeling fine and ignoring the fact that he treated me poorly.

My best friend was in a marriage like this. It hurt my heart to see her continue to seek respect, love, and validation from a husband who time and time again showed himself to be incapable (not to mention unworthy) of giving it to her. I think she stayed so long because she's incredibly hard on herself and it felt comfortable, familiar, to be with someone who was equally hard on her.

He's shown that he's okay with you doing not only all the housework, but all the emotional work in the relationship. He's happy with you doing all the hard emotional work of trying to figure out the right way to phrase things without setting him off, of asking for an apology (you shouldn't have to do this), of explaining yourself, while he relaxes and plays a video game. He's not trying to understand you or meet you halfway. This is on top of him actively treating you poorly by calling you a bitch and treating you with contempt. None of this is the behavior of someone who's fully present and committed in the relationship, who has your back, who wants to lessen your burden in life rather than add to it.
posted by sunset in snow country at 6:15 PM on July 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


No need to pile on, I think -- I just want to say that when I read this, the thing I kept thinking was:

He has got her so well trained.

Just in case it isn't abundantly clear, he's doing this on purpose, he's a caricature of abusiveness, you can't say a damn thing without him YELLING at you, and you've learned a lot of different tactics to keep him from yelling at you -- ALL of which are exactly the things that he wants you to do.

You're going to have to either go full Stepford Wife and accept ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING he dishes out at you -- or get the fuck out of there.

And for the record, you won't be able to be perfect enough to keep him from yelling at you -- I've been here, I've done this, you will not be able to manage him.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 6:26 PM on July 10, 2015 [28 favorites]


Get out of this. It's only been a month. Just get out of this.
posted by discopolo at 6:32 PM on July 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


This guy is a complete and total jerk. Get out of this relationship!
posted by whitewall at 7:00 PM on July 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


Think back carefully to before you moved back in - did things really change when you moved in, or were there red flags back then that you overlooked?

And imagine now that you were home sick and needed him to take care of you. Do you get a tight ball of stress in your stomach and think automatically of how you'd figure out meds, cleaning up, etc and manage on your own rather than bother him? This is a person who you can't count on to look after pets. I'm fine with someone who's upfront about not being responsible for pets but is willing to trade other responsibilities or pay for a petsitter, but he's just - that's selfish to an animal that can't defend itself.

Cut your losses and move now (or more appropriately if this is your place: break up and kick him out) and think of this as "So glad I realised what a mistake this was before we got engaged, I didn't end up losing a decade to this awful relationship." It's not a failure - you have a chance right now to decide to get out and be happier.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 7:05 PM on July 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


He tells me that I just have to tell him what needs to be done and he will do it

This jumped out at me. It doesn't sound like you and he have had a conversation to decide
a) what tasks need to be done around the house and when
b) who is going to which tasks and when so the situation is fair

Tell him "I hate nagging you to do things, and you hate being nagged. Let's just decide together what needs to be done and how often, and who's going to do what, so everything is divided fairly". Write it down what you come up with and hang it on the fridge.

If you both come up with it together, and both agree that it's fair, and both make a commitment to doing it, things might change, but this dynamic of you nagging and him snapping is going to continue until you and he come up with a concrete plan.

Now, if he's not interested or willing to do that, then I agree with everyone else, it's probably not worth you sticking around to see how this turns out.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 7:05 PM on July 10, 2015


Please get out. This is one of the worst bad relationships I've read on askme and I've read so many bad relationships. You deserve to be treated with respect. You do not need to ask perfectly, communicate perfectly, to deserve respectful responses from your partner. This is really, really horrible. I know that this will be very hard, but get out now. Just do it. Don't question. You know this is what you need to do. You deserve better.
posted by ch1x0r at 7:21 PM on July 10, 2015 [16 favorites]


He tells me that I just have to tell him what needs to be done and he will do it

So he gets to be nasty to you and make you be mom assigning chores? Your boyfriend is ridiculous and too immature.
posted by discopolo at 7:48 PM on July 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


Run. There is no way to fix this.
posted by k8t at 8:55 PM on July 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


I too had to wonder if we had been with the same person. My advice would be not to analyse this any further, and move on. You sound like a financially independent, successful woman, with pets that you love - is this guy adding anything enriching to that mix, or souring the rest of the great things in your life?
posted by NatalieWood at 8:58 PM on July 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


He sounds like my dad. My childhood was a minefield of angry outbursts, verbal abuse, and physical abuse as well. It has damaged my siblings to the point where they struggle with relationships, have substance abuse issues, or both. My brother no longer speaks to my parents.

The thing is, my dad did change. Not through my mom pleading, cajoling, demanding, or trying better. No, he mellowed out once the kids were grown and made it clear that they'd take care of my mom if she wanted to leave him. Without leverage, he couldn't get away with the abuse, and so he stopped. The trawling of dating sites continues, though.

Talking won't help. Nor will chore wheels or games or being more understanding. Leave. Remove his leverage. And stay away unless he fixes himself. Make it clear this is not acceptable.
posted by snickerdoodle at 9:14 PM on July 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


In regards to the "sudden change" -- the trigger was likely you moving in together and (presumably) signing a lease. Starting or escalating abusive behavior almost always happens after a major commitment like that (pregnancy is the other big one). "He's abusive" is enough of an explanation for why it started up so suddenly and quickly after the move.
posted by jaguar at 9:42 PM on July 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


There have been lots of comments telling you that this is not okay. I'm going to try and answer the 'what gives' side of things, and explain what should happen if your boyfriend isn't a self-absorbed child.

I'm male. I'm reasonably intelligent and decent and generally a good person. At 22, I still didn't really know how to work a washing machine. A housemate wouldn't let me do the dishes because they weren't up to her standard. 'Cleaning the bathroom' meant a once-over wipe with a sponge over a few surfaces to take off bits of dried toothpaste. Housework and cleaning were always things that happened around me. At dinners or events, I might wander into the kitchen and say 'can I help with something?', and generally there would be a group of woman all busy with jobs, and one of them might ask me to set the table or something.

Looking back, I think the main difference is that the women in my life had been brought up (not just by my parents, but by our whole society) to see housework, cleaning, and cooking as something they are personally responsible for. If the bathroom was dirty, I'm guessing my mother would have felt more responsible for it than my father. I knew that these things needed to be done, in some abstract sense, but did not feel personally responsible for doing them.

I think many men end up in a similar situation - these things just aren't on their radar, at least to the same extent as for women. The fundamental thing that took me YEARS to figure out is that if I wasn't doing something it meant I was, by omission, requiring other people to do it for me. Requiring women to do it for me.

This is to say that I think the 'I just don't notice things like you do, honey' male excuse is both a) accurate - many men are just not brought up to pay attention to these things - and b) awful. Its accuracy in no way makes it alright.

This is compounded by the 'nagging wife' trope. As soon as a woman asks her male partner to help out with whatever household task, it becomes similar to countless scenes from tv, sitcoms, movies, etc: the comically useless protagonist husband pestered by his wife, the nagging shrew. This is funny because OF COURSE he wasn't helping out, WHY WOULD HE? It's clearly some pointless household task that's beneath him! If you take away the lenses of patriarchy, so many tv shows become sad stories of abused women in awful marriages with apathetic and cruel husbands.

All of this is present the moment you ask your boyfriend to help out. He sees himself as the put upon hero, and readily paints you as the needy woman. And now she's getting emotional too! Women, right? What do I have to say to get her to calm down??

This is what's happening now. This is happening because your boyfriend grew up in a world where he was essentially allowed to remain entirely childish in these matters well into adulthood. BUT. This is the important part: this is also happening because your boyfriend does not listen to you, does not respect you, and does not value your well-being anywhere near as much as he values his own.

I grew up with the same toxic masculinity, and then I fell in love with a wonderful woman and we started living together. At some point, she said 'hey, can you stop leaving your dishes around' or something to that effect, and I got defensive and offended (nagging woman trope) because of course I was going to get around to cleaning it up at some point. We talked about it a little, and she said that she hates having to feel responsible for all of these things, and that by leaving it I was in fact leaving it for her to do.

And here's where our stories differ - I realised I was being an idiot. I apologised, and I said I'd do my best, and I started working on it. And I did. I'm not perfect, but I love her and want to work on building a wonderful relationship with her. So when she says there's a problem, even if it makes me feel bad, I listen to what she says and do my best. Because we're a team. It's as simple as that.

I can totally understand your boyfriend 'not seeing' that things need to be done. What I can't understand is how you could say 'this hurt my feelings' and he could do anything other than work 100% to make sure that never happens again. This isn't a high bar for a relationship - taking care of each other is THE WHOLE POINT. It sounds like he's beyond redemption, to be honest. It sounds like he doesn't care about you.

I can't promise that housework won't be an issue with other men, but I know that someone who loves you shouldn't respond like this.
posted by twirlypen at 10:30 PM on July 10, 2015 [124 favorites]


He's about to lose his job. Maybe he's counting on you feeling too guilty to move out and leave him without any economic support. How convenient for him.
Move out before that happens.
posted by clearlydemon at 10:36 PM on July 10, 2015 [23 favorites]


Hi, I'm a dude that has the same impulses that your boyfriend does. I do sometimes react badly to being asked to do chores by my now wife. It's something that I've worked on a lot, both because she's called me out on it and because I feel bad about doing so. It's not fair to her and I can recognize that at least some of it comes from being called out on not carrying my weight in terms of chores. The thing is — I really love her, and pissing her off feels terrible. Not only wouldn't she stay in a relationship if I was just an asshole about that stuff all the time, she shouldn't. It's part of having an adult relationship of equals. If I feel surly over something unrelated, it's my job to talk about that with my partner, not her job to walk on eggshells so I don't get peevish.

Your boyfriend needs to come to Jesus and either treat you like an adult or you should walk. His behavior is unacceptable.
posted by klangklangston at 10:38 PM on July 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


It's a red flag when women talk about asking their male partners to help with household chores or childcare--the word "help" implies that you are asking your partner to kindly assist you, out of the goodness of his heart, with something that is not his responsibility. It reflects how deeply ingrained gender roles are that people act like this sort of bullshit is normal, as does the fact that women who ask for "help" with household chores and childcare are shrews and nags. It's his house too, it's not 1953, and you're working the second shift for someone who's playing video games on the first shift. You're asking the wrong question. The problem here isn't yours, it's his. (Well, it's kind of yours too because you're taking on all the blame for his bad behavior and I hope you recognize that and stop it.)
posted by Mavri at 11:10 PM on July 10, 2015 [20 favorites]


I don't think the heart of this problem has anything to do with men not being socialized to pay attention to chores. There is a HUGE distinction between chauvinism and abusiveness. I know plenty of good ol' boys who believe in their hearts a woman's place is in the home who would never in a million years dream of speaking to the women in their life this way.

To be clear, I'd never dream of dating that good ol' boy - but I'd take ten thousand of him over one abuser. Dear god. OP, this man has already amply demonstrated he does not give a shit about causing you emotional pain. I am so worried for your physical safety. Get out of there as soon as possible.
posted by sevensnowflakes at 12:11 AM on July 11, 2015 [9 favorites]


He sounds a lot like my boyfriend used to be. My boyfriend used to skip work and call in sick regularly, and he did lose jobs because of it. He used to get explosively angry with me, smash stuff up (never hit me though) and give me the silent treatment (sometimes for days). He wouldn't contribute around the house unless I got on at him to do it, and that would lead to more explosiveness. As someone upthread said, he was definitely an avoider of unpleasant feelings, so just refused to engage with them point blank. It was (and still is) inexplicable to me. However I definitely tend to the passive aggressive side, and I'm sorry to say it sounds a bit like you do to. That does not help one bit.

It turns out my boyfriend was clinically depressed with anger management problems and a video game addiction (which was another way of avoiding life). When he got treatment for depression things got better, but they didn't get much better until he could accept that he needs to think about my needs in the relationship, and then make an effort to remember that (he still finds it very easy just to do what he wants and please himself at all times, and forgets to consider that he shares his home and life with someone else). And that took years, years that looking back I would not have put in if I had known how painful and miserable it would have made me. Our relationship is much better now, but I would never do it again - in MeFi parlance, I should have DTMFA.

It may be that your boyfriend is depressed too, but you don't owe him any more of your happiness to try and help him get fixed. It also sounds like there's an underlying arseholishness there too, which no medication will help. Perhaps like my boyfriend he needs to lose you to realise how his behaviour is going to affect his life. Because if you stay and allow him to treat you like this, his behaviour has no consequences. My boyfriend made a huge effort to change because after he threw over a table when I asked him to come to the supermarket with me and then didn't speak to me for four days, I told him that was it, we were done. Amongst a few other things he gave up gaming, as it was taking over all his spare time and making him more angry. I have worked hard to stop my passive aggression and recognise and work on my codependency.

So: if that was a bit TLDR: I have been in this situation, and am still with the person. I think you should move out now, don't become financially responsible for him if he loses his job (because that will make you feel bad and make it harder to leave down the line) and seriously rethink being in a relationship with this person, because turning this around is going to be a lot of work on his part and quite a bit on yours. If my boyfriend ever starts that shit again (he gets forgetful! How can you forget to be considerate and loving? I have no idea), we are finished, no questions.
posted by tinwhiskers at 2:24 AM on July 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is a hard comment for me to write. I have been like your boyfriend. I moved in with my girlfriend and found it very hard to deal with the stresses of co-habiting in a healthy way. In my case, I wasn't shirking responsibilities, but conversely I became so uptight about them that I would end up being snippy and argumentative and creating double binds for my girlfriend:
"I am so stressed about being responsible for the cooking- I need you to help me by preparing the vegetables- No no no you're not doing it right I WILL DO IT MYSELF - I'm so stressed because I cooked the whole meal - Why don't you help me more - etc- ad infinitum".

Understandably my girlfriend found this unacceptable and told me to cut it out because it upset her. I would apologise profusely, go into a guilt spiral, promise not to do it again, beat myself up for being an abusive partner.

I did not, however, deal with the underlying issues: anxiety, depression, and just plain not being ready to be in that level of co-habiting relationship. So the patterns carried on playing out. I wish I could say I took steps and changed, but I didn't. I carried on being irrational and raising my voice at her, even though she told me how it hurt her.

Some more shit happened but within a few months of moving in together our relationship came to a point where she was unhappy with how I was treating her and I was at a loss with how to change (see: untreated depression).

I really don't want to seem like I'm bigging myself up here, because it would have been much better if I hadn't been, y'know, manipulative and emotionally abusive in the first place, but what I did when I realised I was hurting my girlfriend and seemed incapable of change was END THE RELATIONSHIP.

Because I loved and cared about her so deeply and I could see how I was hurting her, I took the responsibility for my bad behaviour and let her go. Would I have rather stayed with her? Fuck yes. But, I could see that the relationship was becoming unhealthy for her and I was not going to be changing from being a yelling control freak any time soon.

She's doing much better now. I am doing the work of dealing with my underlying issues while single so that in future relationships I can be a more stable and adult partner.

All this to say what everyone else is saying: There may be reasons why he's behaving the way he is, but that doesn't change that he fundamentally disrespects you and disrespects the co-commitment of a relationship. He's fundamentally not taking responsibility for his actions. Like me, he could see that he's hurting you and choose to end the relationship so you can be happier. Or he could take proactive steps to make his life more bearable to him so that he's not living this way and destroying everything around him.

But the difference between me and your boyfriend is that he doesn't care about hurting you. It was killing me, seeing what I was doing and feeling incapable of changing it, and I feel proud that I let her go instead of clinging on more tightly, because I want her to be happy.

He's clearly demonstrated that he doesn't want that. It is so so horrible, but you have to do the right thing for yourself and get away from this person who is happy to hurt you without compunction.
posted by mymbleth at 2:46 AM on July 11, 2015 [18 favorites]


I sincerely appreciate, from a meta perspective, the members who have commented about 'being that person', akin to your boyfriend. I applaud their insight into the distress they have caused. It is really good to hear voices from another side of similar situations.

To me, their most important message is that the job of healing falls on them. In other words, their partners couldn't fix them because only they could fix grow themselves.
posted by Thella at 3:59 AM on July 11, 2015 [19 favorites]


I agree with everyone else. This is an awful situation for you to be in and totally your boyfriend's fault. I am going to suggest, somewhat inexpertly, one change that you could make that might make planning your exit easier: communicate all the things that he needs to do very simply and directly. Not just "The rubbish needs taking out and you should do it", but "I want you to apologise for X and never do it again", followed by "I asked you never to do that again." And whenever he pushes back, calmly repeat "You just need to X" in as many different ways as you can until you can end the conversation with "I've said you need to X and you're not listening, so I'm leaving this conversation now". Don't engage with excuses, don't engage with escalation and don't be indirect in what you're telling him is his duty.

Even though politeness normally requires requesting things indirectly, you'll need to learn to ask politely while being direct. But this is just a tactic to stop you getting ground down further. To actually thrive, you'll need to end the relationship.
posted by ambrosen at 4:31 AM on July 11, 2015


1. Move out
2. Tell boyfriend to get help for depression and addiction to computer games.
posted by Toddles at 6:21 AM on July 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


OP, this sounds exhausting and I'm sorry you're going through it.

he skips work about 1-2 times a week because he doesn't feel like going. Whenever his boss is not in because he is working elsewhere that day, he just doesn't go in.

Doesn't matter if he's salaried -- this is clearly unacceptable. Would you ever consider just... not showing up to work without explaining why? Even just one time? I'm guessing not, because grown-ass adults do not do this.

I also suspect he is already gaslighting you, or you wouldn't be trying to twist yourself into a pretzel to convince yourself that his behavior is normal or acceptable. It isn't.

I don't feel like it is any of my business whether or not he goes in to work - we don't share finances -

You mean you don't share finances yet. If he gets fired, you're going to be the one on the hook for y'all's collective rent.

for now, I have been keeping it as a mental data point and have said nothing except "I'm glad you had a good day" when he tells me he is happy because he skipped work.

He's grooming you for when he loses his job.

But then I'm shaking and fuming and feel awful, and he just goes back to playing computer games and feeling fine and ignoring the fact that he treated me poorly.

Because from his perspective, this is fine! You shaking and fuming and feeling awful is an acceptable outcome to him. In fact, it's a good outcome from his point of view; he showed you your place, and you're leaving him alone to play computer games.

As everyone above has pointed out, this is escalating because you two signed a lease. He is grooming you to support him when (not if) he loses or quits his job. Once that happens, he will spend all day every day at home playing computer games and will still expect you to prove all the cleaning, housekeeping, and pet care.

I know it's not an easy thing to do, but the kindest thing you can do for yourself in this situation is figure out how to leave now, with the pets, and not look back. And if you can, don't let him know you're looking to leave until you, the pets, and your stuff are all safe -- when their partner is getting ready to leave is when many people like this double down on their behavior.

Moreover, leaving him may be the kindest thing you can do for him. He's not going to want to get better while you're twisting yourself into a tiny box to keep him happy.
posted by pie ninja at 6:40 AM on July 11, 2015 [15 favorites]


Oh my god, this sounds like a living nightmare.

If you had a best friend, and you saw her shrinking herself down and tiptoeing around on eggshells and doing 100% of the housework for her abusive partner to avoid being screamed at, what would you want her to do?
posted by Juliet Banana at 7:28 AM on July 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


My guess is that somewhere inside of himself, he senses moving in together was a mistake for him, for whatever reason. But he is too immature and not self-aware enough to acknowledge this, so he's going to make you do this work along with everything else. I'm really sorry this is happening to you. Many of us have been forced to break up with people who were too chickenshit to do it themselves, but this is spectacularly awful. Just don't waste any more time on this than you have to.
posted by BibiRose at 7:39 AM on July 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


You are dating a whining spoiled entitled manbaby.

Tell him that you are done dating whining spoiled entitled manbabies and you are moving out, right now, goodbye.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:58 AM on July 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Get out now. It'll get worse if it goes on.

My ex-boyfriend and I were together for five years, and living together for four, when we decided to amicably break up in another year. We thought we were still friends, we wanted to get through a lot of family events and milestones.

Six months later, he called me a dumb bitch for not getting a stray hair off the sink when I cleaned the downstairs bathroom. Cleaning the bathroom was one of the only tasks he could trust me with before his guests came over, and I managed to fuck even that up. I was worthless. I was useless. I was internalizing every shitty thing he had ever said or implied about me, but he had at least had the courtesy to make it a little subtle.

I went quiet. I didn't say a word in response. Didn't cry, didn't slam the bathroom door in his face. I went upstairs, packed a bag and texted my friends, told him I was going to go meet up with a friend for coffee to get out of his way. He took my phone from me, read my texts, and said he wanted to break up.

I moved out, couch-surfed, started therapy, cried, and drank too much.

For the next six months, he seemed to think I was going to come crawling back. It didn't really seem to sink in for him until the original break-up date came and went. He still thinks he was right. That dumb bitch couldn't even clean a sink properly, and she moves out over it?

If you're being passive-aggressive, it's a defense to his offense.

The only way to win is not to play.

Get out.
posted by RainyJay at 9:22 AM on July 11, 2015 [10 favorites]


He is actively working on losing his job to trap you further. Get out before that happens.
posted by stoneweaver at 1:45 PM on July 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


Depression has been brought up a lot in this thread. For what it's worth, in my experience the people who've shown this kind of behavior because of depression or stress have still at other points been very apologetic and dealt with a lot of guilt over it. (Not that that makes it much better to be around.) In my experience of it depression can make you incapable of pulling your weight, but it isn't enough to turn someone thoughtful and considerate into the person you described. There might be different mental issues involved, but I think at root the ability to be so different to you before and after moving in together shows something fundamental about who he is and how he regards a person he's supposed to want the best for.

I'm sorry you've had to deal with this.
posted by egg drop at 2:14 PM on July 11, 2015 [6 favorites]


Whatever he thought was going to happen when you two moved in together it's clear that he was not prepared for an adult, partnership-type relationship. It wasn't even on his radar. This is incredibly disrespectful to you. This isn't a small thing. He's in a different universe and it sounds like it's one in which he resides (solely) at the center.
posted by cleroy at 6:01 PM on July 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


anonymous poster, please do feel free to come back and post followup questions concerning, as an example, practicalities of the resolution - moving out, moving on, dealing with mutual acquaintances, etc. - if that would ever be relevant or helpful. We'll still be here to support you! You can absolutely do this!
posted by pos at 6:17 AM on July 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


My two cents: keep an eye on your career. I think it is normal to feel like you can firewall the impact of your relationship from the rest of your world, and to look at your success in a demanding job as an indication of your ability to fix this demanding and difficult situation. The risks of being wrong about this can be substantial.

I also wish your question included any indication that your boyfriend considers his behavior to be unhealthy or problematic, and that it was more about how to manage in the meantime while your partner works on their recovery. However, even if your boyfriend had the emotional capacity to offer a sincere apology, it would still sound like you could benefit from developing a safety plan, just in case things escalate past this:
Emotional abuse can include: constant put downs or criticisms, name calling, “crazy making”, acting superior, minimizing the abuse or blaming you for their behavior
You can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for support with safety planning, referrals to local support resources, and just talking about your relationship.
When he calls me a bitch, I walk away from the argument. I actually leave the house after telling him that I do not put up with being spoken to that way.
From my view, it seems like a healthy instinct to separate yourself from situations that could create more conflict if you don't leave. Whether and how to leave the relationship can be a more complicated issue, but support is available whether you decide to leave or not.
posted by Little Dawn at 11:07 AM on July 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Everyone has been great at sayi DTMFA and get out etc. I agree.

Here is something to consider as well: when you do start to make good on this advice and say "I will not suffer more of your abuse and you must leave" be prepared for considerably more frustrating, possibly more aggressive, arguments. DON'T ENGAGE. Really, really, save yourself any self doubt by NOT entering into a negotiation. He's already used the "tone" meta-argument approach; he's already used the Insult approach; he's already used the Silent Treatment approach. And you are still there. When you tell him to leave he will use different approaches such as really showing his temper, really ratcheting up his insults, accusations, minimisations, dismissiveness. You'll feel all confused, and if you enter into the debate you'll be giving him more power.

You're on the right track in walking out when he insults you. Walk back in several hours later with a friend or family member. Find a way to say in an adult voice "as had been explained many times to you, I will NOT tolerate your abuse of me. i want you to leave. I am ending his relationship. X is here to help you figure out where to go tonight and how to organise the rest of your things." You need to allow that help. You need to stick to your guns. No child voice, no engaging. Seriously, I've been here and you can not engage at all. No tears. No backing down. You've warned him. He's had time, he needs to be out.
posted by honey-barbara at 5:26 PM on July 12, 2015 [8 favorites]


As everyone above has pointed out, this is escalating because you two signed a lease. He is grooming you to support him when (not if) he loses or quits his job. Once that happens, he will spend all day every day at home playing computer games and will still expect you to prove all the cleaning, housekeeping, and pet care.

I just wanted to reiterate and highlight this point. He has no intention of keeping his job and intends to force you into a situation where you have to support him while he is unemployed indefinitely.
posted by almostmanda at 3:09 PM on July 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


I concur with everyone that you need to take care of yourself, but sometimes even with all the motivation in the world, that can be a difficult thing for us (especially women) to do. If it's hard for you to put yourself and your well-being first enough to stop living with this guy ASAP, then here's a different way to think about the issue:

You and your partner are responsible for the well-being and protection of your mutual pets. I know you feel that responsibility profoundly and take it seriously because you say outright early in your post that his refusal to participate in caring for the health of those dependent creatures is a big issue. As well it should be. He is neglecting them, and even if he were totally nice and kind to you, part of your job as their protector is to get yourself and them away from a caretaker who wilfully neglects them. Let's say you broke your leg on the way home from work and he was left with full care of them for a few days -- what would happen?

Don't discuss it with him or negotiate with him or even let him know in advance what you're doing. Find the fastest, quietest way to extricate yourself and your animals from that household, take the necessary pre-steps, and go.
posted by FelliniBlank at 5:20 PM on July 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


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