What are good ground rules to ask for as a condition for moving back in?
January 8, 2017 8:48 AM   Subscribe

My depressed husband (previously) has been getting worse, culminating in two incidents this week that made me go stay at a family member's. What are some things I can ask for as a requirement before I move back in?

My husband has been shifting between getting worse at the same time as he's been getting better. When his depression has been low (things were going well financially/familially/futurewise) he has been working on being a better husband, helping with housework, being more sensitive, listening to what I'm asking him to do. When his depression has been worse (money has been tight, future things fall through, his family makes him feel bad) he has taken to being really mean and vicious. When I asked him why he was being so mean, he has said "to make you leave".

Since my last ask: I lost my job, partially because of him, and when he saw how much nicer things were around the house (because I had free time), he told me he didn't want me to look for another job. We also got a puppy, because I had the free time to train it. This went well for a while, then he quit his job without having a new one because he didn't think he was getting enough respect. Financial trouble ensued, which caused stress, even though he eventually found a new job, and a few weeks ago we visited richer relatives, which made it exponentially worse.

This week, he lost his temper and started shouting about how I was "dragging him down in class" and compared our apartment to the house of the rich relatives. I told him we live better than most people (we do!), and he said that most people 'live in filth' and he doesn't care about them. He was full on screaming, and when the puppy came around the corner barking, he balled up his fists and twisted his body like he was about to hit it. Then he went for two potential methods of suicide, which I grabbed away from him/blocked him from. When he was trying to get at them, he was really forceful, including shoving me back.

Yesterday we had a good day but he started fighting with me while we were in the car over money and our apartment again, and he got really angry and punched the dashboard really hard out of nowhere. I told him it scared me, and he said, "I don't care if it scares you, you're just a battered woman and you're always going to have battered woman issues." (I do have a previous relationship that involved DV, which I have gone to therapy about, but do still have triggers). Then he started punching the dashboard again really hard.

I left the car and called a friend to come get me, and I am at their house right now. I didn't take the dog and don't have anywhere that can take the dog. Dog has been snappy and snarly at other people, which I now recognize is probably a reaction to what's been going on in the home. I kind of keep feeling like living in my car with my dog would be better than going home but I know that's insane.

I still love my husband and know he's in a bad place but this also feels abusive as fuck. I feel like I can't keep living with someone who is going to threaten and scare me. At the same time I feel like I want to give a 'come to jesus chance', where if he agrees to actually do the things, I will come back. I need to come back anyway because I left my dog behind which I now feel awful about. Also all my things. If he hasn't fucked with them.

After the 'question preview', it occurred to me to mention: also this week, he has been taking some kind of medically-prescribed supplement for low testesterone. He just started and all incidents have been while he was on this, but I'm not sure if that can actually affect things this much.

Help? I'm kind of all out of spoons and need to know what to do. Last night he didn't call me, a friend of his did and said he was 'drinking and being stubborn' but I know he probably will today, and I need to know what to say.
posted by sockmeamadeus to Human Relations (74 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
A sudden increase in testosterone can cause aggressive behavior, but this:
"I don't care if it scares you, you're just a battered woman and you're always going to have battered woman issues."
says GTFO NOW and never go back to me.
posted by Flannery Culp at 9:00 AM on January 8, 2017 [110 favorites]

This is years of ongoing abusive behavior. It's not a ground rules for moving back in thing, it's a proceed with the process of getting divorced thing. I'm sorry you're going through this, and I know it's hard to walk away from something when you care deeply about the person despite it all, but you need for your health and safety and future happiness to cut this person out of your life for good starting immediately.
posted by cortex at 9:08 AM on January 8, 2017 [70 favorites]

Please go get the dog. Someone, a friend or a relative, or someone on Facebook or AskMe or the Humane Society, or somewhere, will be able to care for him.

And take your stuff as well. Have a friend go with you to pick up your things. Go when your husband isn't going to be there.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:11 AM on January 8, 2017 [31 favorites]

What are some things I can ask for as a requirement before I move back in?

Well it sounds like you've wanted a partner who is fair, kind and responsible. You could ask for some concrete changes along those lines, but looking at your past question this has been a very difficult, unhealthy relationship for at least 2 years. I get the feeling that he might meet your requirements just long enough to get you back and then gradually lapse back into the same behavior.

Don't move back in with him. Call a divorce lawyer. Being with yourself is a million times better than being with someone who isn't nice to you and apparently doesn't care about your needs.

I'm really sorry.
posted by bunderful at 9:16 AM on January 8, 2017 [16 favorites]

Please listen to yourself - what you are feeling/experiencing is valid and real. I would not think about what ground rules you need to implement prior to returning. I would simply leave. Are you certain he'll be at work tomorrow? Could you confirm he's there (see his car in the parking lot, etc.) and bring a friend or two over and get your things packed and get out?

If you're in southern California and need someone to help you get packed up let me know.
posted by arnicae at 9:16 AM on January 8, 2017 [12 favorites]

There are plenty of men who are depressed, take testosterone supplements, have various other mental health problems, who do not act like this. It's him, it's his personality, it's his values, these are his decisions full stop. Depression and illness are filters to a personality that is already present, they do not supplant personalities. You have been preventing him from experiencing the consequences of his actions for a long time and you can end it now and not have to experience the abusing fallout.

If you are in Chicagoland and need help, MeMail me and I will marshall resources and find you help, including someone who can temporarily house your puppy. I literally have no other advice, do not go back there, do not go back to him. The condition for moving back in would be him departing. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799-7233.
posted by juniperesque at 9:25 AM on January 8, 2017 [45 favorites]

This is another version of your last question. Your husband treats you badly and you let him and you both blame it on his depression. There are no magic words, nothing you can do or say that is going to make him be a decent and kind to you if they don't want to be.

Maybe he needs six months of living on his own, taking care of himself (laundry, cooking, housekeeping) and getting mental health treatment (therapy and medication) and full-time employment. You are not responsible for any of these things.

And maybe you need six months of living on your own so you can determine how you want to proceed. Time without someone making demands on you - watching your favorite TV shows, reading books, engaging in whatever interests you. You can also think about whether you can have a healthy relationship with your husband and why you've allowed him to treat you so poorly.
posted by shoesietart at 9:45 AM on January 8, 2017 [6 favorites]

This isn't depression. I'm sorry. Please keep moving out and put your resources into you - help, shelter, job, home.

There is nothing you can do or say to someone who knows you have been through domestic violence and used that against you rather than stop treating you terribly and being violent towards you. His stated goal is to be mean to you and make you leave. Sweetheart, how much worse does it have to get?
posted by warriorqueen at 9:47 AM on January 8, 2017 [34 favorites]

Someone can be depressed and still also abusive. It's not your job to fix him. Protect the dog (take it with you or safely rehome it) and leave. There is no excuse for his behavior. Explanations, sure; but no excuse.
posted by AV at 9:49 AM on January 8, 2017 [6 favorites]

You should not move back in. Hitting the dashboard uncontrollably, combined with what he said, indicates increasing violent behavior. Have a friend go with you to the house to get enough things for you to live on for awhile while you work out another place to live, or start marital counseling or divorce proceedings.

Whatever you do, get the dog out of there immediately, even if that means dropping it at a shelter or a rescue.

very best of luck to you with a very hard situation.
posted by mulcahy at 9:52 AM on January 8, 2017 [5 favorites]

I'm not sure about ground rules, but what I'd ask for is time.

Time to see how he reacts to that request, which will tell you a lot. Time to get your stuff, get some headspace, and get your dog. Time to make enquiries with lawyers and accommodation.

Don't make any decisions about going back or what you need from him in order to go back, until you have taken some time - a week at the very least and a month would be better.

If he tries to deny you that ("if you leave me now then it's over" is emotional manipulation, him making an ultimatum but trying to make you feel like it's you making it), do not back down.
posted by greenish at 9:52 AM on January 8, 2017 [5 favorites]

As you probably know, threatening pets and punching objects is a precursor to further violence. These are huge red flags that you are going to be next.

My ex threatened to beat me up, over a $30 grocery bill, and I didn't take him seriously. Shortly afterward, within less than a week, he erupted in rage and slapped and shoved me violently. He was on Wellbutrin for depression, which can make some people angry, but at that point, I didn't stop to question it, I dialed 911 and called the cops, just before he yanked the phone out of the wall.

I was lucky that he was afraid of the cops and was scrambling to find the car keys to get away before they arrived, because it took his attention away from me. Fortunately, they were just around the corner and there were 4 of them.

But it caused a crisis, as I had to get my stuff and GTFO. So I'd say better to do it now.

My ex very shortly found another woman to latch onto. In fact, he did me a favor by filing divorce papers very quickly (we had no shared assets or kids).

Suggest calling a DV hotline, and realizing that you have a chance here, to protect yourself and your pup, either by rehoming him or finding a new place, whatever it takes. And get your own personal therapist (not with him) when you can. It takes some time and some mental unpacking, because we always ask why, and try to fix people and solve the neverending loop.

But really, it's an unsolvable problem. Cut your losses and get away. If necessary, yes, bring a friend and/or the cops to get your stuff out. BTW, not sure of the laws in your area, but when I got my restraining order, a kind attorney told me (for free) that I could list items on the order, such as my personal belongings and my computer, etc., which I did, so he could not come after me and claim I'd taken them unlawfully. Which he tried anyway, but it was listed on the order, so he had no recourse. Good luck.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 10:00 AM on January 8, 2017 [25 favorites]

You're asking for a 'come to jesus' line for him, but I think you need the 'come to jesus' talk. What's it going to take for you to realize your husband is emotionally and physically abusive and you need to leave? You've been accommodating his controlling behavior for years, at the least since your previous question you linked.

When I asked him why he was being so mean, he has said "to make you leave".
I am guessing he realizes, sometimes, how awful he is, which explains what he said here. But the truth is that it's not your job anymore to try to understand or explain his behavior. You've done that a lot -- try to understand his triggers and avoid them, to the point of not watching a movie because he doesn't approve. You seem to think that if only things would be okay externally -- financially, for example -- that then he and thus your marriage would be better. But he's not doing what he needs to do (ie work) to keep you all financially stable. And, having a hard time from external factors does not excuse abusive behavior towards you.

I bet if you had a few weeks away, you'd start to realize how much you have been walking on eggshells. No one should be treated this way, and you can't change him.

This doesn't sound like depression to me. Or at least, it's not only depression. Please, take care of yourself and move out, right away, permanently.
posted by bluedaisy at 10:03 AM on January 8, 2017 [15 favorites]

Depression is real, and it's a monster. But just because someone is depressed doesn't make them mean and cruel. Those characteristics come out more when your husband is depressed, but they're part of him all the time. His willingness to treat you this way is a fundamental problem IN HIM. It's not your fault, or a circumstance of timing. It's sucks, and it's not okay.

Good luck. I'm confident you'll be better off after offering ways with him.
posted by spindrifter at 10:04 AM on January 8, 2017

Please do not go back to try to save your dog without having at least one friend working with you, or the police, to make sure you don't get harmed or convinced to move back in with your husband. The National Domestic Violence Hotline can assist you in getting the police to come with you to go get your pet and things.

sockmeamadeus, please don't go back. The voice that's telling you that you would be safer living in your car with your dog right now is not insane, it's correct. I know way too many women who have saved their own lives, and the lives of their animals, by doing the same. That voice in your mind telling you that you are fleeing for your life right now? Listen to it. I am so proud of you for moving out. If you're in the SoCal area, I'm on board to help you with your belongings and your dog.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 10:05 AM on January 8, 2017 [67 favorites]

moonlight on vermont is right. You are not overreacting, that voice is your reality check. I remember thinking 'maybe I'm making too much of this' until several conversations with others ended 'are you safe to go home? Are you sure?' I ended up getting a lawyer and a law enforcement escort to retrieve belongings from our house and haven't been alone with my ex since - and that was in a situation of increasing irrationality and instability but no physical violence directed at me.

Don't go back, or at least, take backup and stay just long enough to get your things and your dog. The most dangerous time for someone leaving an abusive situation is immediately after saying 'I'm leaving'. Let that fear and self-preservation instinct guide you.
posted by Flannery Culp at 10:21 AM on January 8, 2017 [14 favorites]

Your husband is right about one thing - you are displaying "battered woman issues" in that you think if you can just find the magic words you can talk him into not abusing you anymore. I'm really sorry but it doesn't work that way. Your husband is abusive, has been for years, and is trying to pass it off as his depression.

It's time to focus all your mental energy and attention on getting out. That doesn't mean you'll have to live in your car with your dog. See a lawyer and find out what you're entitled to in terms of maintenance and assets. Look for a new job. Good luck.
posted by hazyjane at 10:21 AM on January 8, 2017 [23 favorites]

"I don't care if it scares you, you're just a battered woman and you're always going to have battered woman issues."

Scares the shit out of me.

Don't get seriously hurt or die. Leave. Post a follow-up for help from MeFites in your area if you need help making this happen, they have done so in the past for others.
posted by The Sock Puppet Sentience Movement at 10:23 AM on January 8, 2017 [23 favorites]

In my area, there are some domestic violence shelters that accept pets. Please start making calls. The police can help keep the peace when you collect your things. Stay safe and good luck.
posted by crazycanuck at 10:23 AM on January 8, 2017 [3 favorites]

Get out. Hotline help is here: 1-800-799-7233.

This is unambiguously abusive according to several Internet strangers here - which is why you posted. You needed a reality check and we are giving it to you.

You deserve a violence-free life.
posted by pantarei70 at 10:36 AM on January 8, 2017 [8 favorites]

Oh, and +1 to what hazyjane said-- yes, being homeless in your car with your dog is safer than being with your abusive, violent husband, but those aren't the only two choices you have.. You have legal rights to spousal support that people will help you pursue. You have held a job before and can do it again. Your husband may have been doing his level best to convince you otherwise, but you do not need him to survive.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 10:43 AM on January 8, 2017 [10 favorites]

I kind of keep feeling like living in my car with my dog would be better than going home but I know that's insane.

I still love my husband and know he's in a bad place but this also feels abusive as fuck. I feel like I can't keep living with someone who is going to threaten and scare me.

It's not insane. It's probably true.

You're at a very important moment right now. If you go back, you affirm that this is okay. Abuse is usually a cycle. Him being nice tomorrow is part of the abuse cycle, not evidence that things have changed. If you go back, you allow the abuse cycle to have stepped up into a more intense one, involving physical demonstrations of anger when things are bad. And they'll get bad again; we all experience stress in life.

These kind of "I'm done" and "this is unacceptable" feelings are a gift from your deep, wiser self. You've spent months, even years, dealing with his behavior, not knowing exactly what to do, and here it is -- your bottom line. Discovering this can end the ongoing angst of the "gray area" you've been living in. Here it is, a bright line, clarity. Acting on it strengthens it*. Ignoring it stifles it, making it harder to hear next time, and sets a precedent that may well make it even harder for you to draw that line again. Use the momentum you have and just keep going.
posted by salvia at 10:50 AM on January 8, 2017 [18 favorites]

(* It being your self-protective and self-respecting instinct, your clarity about what a safe relationship looks like.)
posted by salvia at 10:54 AM on January 8, 2017 [4 favorites]

I kind of keep feeling like living in my car with my dog would be better than going home but I know that's insane.

It's not insane, it's correct. It's also not an accident that you find yourself facing such a choice. By causing you to lose your job, he has isolated you and made you dependent on him. He has reduced you to the point where your (at least perceived) options are to stay and take his abuse or be semi-homeless. He has quite deliberately set out to trap you so that he can do whatever he wants to you at his leisure. No one who cares for your well-being would ever do that to you. Ever. This is what someone does who thinks of you as a lump of flesh that exists to gratify his twisted needs, up to and including his need for destruction.

It doesn't matter what you ask for, because whatever he might agree to, he won't respect that agreement. You can't negotiate with someone who doesn't think of you as a human being. Sorry.

Speaking of humans, you, or someone you trust, have to get that dog out of there. He will kill it. Are you listening? He will kill it. You're afraid he will destroy your things--that dog is a thing to him.

Ask yourself if you want your dog to die. Ask yourself if you can "negotiate" successfully with someone who would kill your dog.
posted by praemunire at 10:54 AM on January 8, 2017 [18 favorites]

FORGET THE DOG. The dog is fine. You are not.

The next step is he is going to harm or kill you or himself. You need to stay far far far away from him - get a job, never be alone with him, get divorced. STAY SAFE.

The dog is fine, you are not. Protect yourself. This is an emergency. No, you may not move back in with this man, it's over. Were I you, I would never ever be alone with this man again.

PS - testosterone absolutely makes people crazy. STAY SAFE. STAY AWAY.

Do not make the mistake of blaming this on the testosterone treatment!! In fact your ex is dangerous without the testosterone, this is just making it worse. STAY AWAY. STAY SAFE.
posted by jbenben at 11:12 AM on January 8, 2017 [6 favorites]

Please read and reread the most favorited answers on this thread and follow the advice. Everyone here is worried about your well being.
posted by Elsie at 11:13 AM on January 8, 2017 [4 favorites]

I just want to reiterate that the dog is fine, also taking or rehoming the dog might trigger abuse and violence towards you . Plus, I think most states consider pets as property, so you might be accidentally "stealing" or committing a crime if you take the dog or try to rehome it.

Any advice to protect the dog should be ignored. The dog is fine, you are in danger. Plus all of the complications I outlined above. Do not take the dog, it puts you in far far too much danger. STAY SAFE.
posted by jbenben at 11:21 AM on January 8, 2017 [5 favorites]

Adding one more voice to 'run.'

Others have gone over the why with plenty of eloquence, I just want to pile on because your life is genuinely in danger here.
posted by mordax at 11:40 AM on January 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

The dog is fine. You are not.

The dog is not fine. Are you genuinely unaware of how many abusers hurt or kill family pets?

OP does have to make her own personal judgment call of how much risk she is willing and able to take on that dog's behalf. Some DV victims have to leave their pets behind; they have no choice; I don't judge them. But don't tell someone who's already in denial about how dangerous her spouse is that he won't hurt her dog, because he will.
posted by praemunire at 11:46 AM on January 8, 2017 [47 favorites]

Lots of great advice here, but I just want to observe a couple of things: is it really so that the only "treatment" he's doing for all this is for low testosterone? If so, he needs to take things a lot more seriously on that count.

Also, if you're in a situation and the next best option is "choose to be homeless," that seems like a bad place, much worse than deciding how you're going to move back in with this person.
posted by rhizome at 11:46 AM on January 8, 2017

You're in danger and need to get out immediately. Whether or not he's depressed or this behavior is caused by depression meds is immaterial to the whole important issue of your physical safety and that of the dog. Ask your friends and family for help getting safely away from this man as soon as possible. If you need help making a specific plan please call the national domestic violence hotline.

i want to echo juniperesque, who said "There are plenty of men who are depressed, take testosterone supplements, have various other mental health problems, who do not act like this. It's him, it's his personality, it's his values, these are his decisions full stop."

DO NOT let yourself get caught up in trying to figure out what is causing this or whether or not you are abandoning a sick person, and the guilt that comes with going down that line of thinking. the cause or his illness IS NOT THE ISSUE. the issue is YOUR SAFETY and he is NOT SAFE TO INTERACT WITH OR BE NEAR, regardless of what is causing his behavior. if he is sick, he can seek medical attention/mental healthcare without threatening your safety. it's not your responsibility to get him help, or to give him a second chance, not even because of his illness. it's your responsibility to keep yourself safe.
posted by zdravo at 11:53 AM on January 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

Abusive assholes can be depressed. They are still abusive assholes. That sounds like the case here. Chiming in to add my voice to all of those saying take care of yourself and your pet. After you get your own situation stabilized, you can decide if you are willing to give this jerk any more time. I'm willing to bet that once you are free of the abuse, your assessment of whether or not you want to be around this person will change dramatically.
posted by rpfields at 12:15 PM on January 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

[Folks, an in-thread argument about the dog is not going to help anything here; let's let that be and stick to trying to give the asker constructive guidance.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:33 PM on January 8, 2017 [4 favorites]

I still love my husband and know he's in a bad place but this also feels abusive as fuck. I feel like I can't keep living with someone who is going to threaten and scare me.

I would listen to this and not the other doubts that you expressed. It sounds very honest and real to me: You love him, he's in a bad place, this is abusive as fuck, you can't keep living with him. This isn't about someone who might threaten and scare you, it's about someone who has and does. It's not the first instance of abuse either. He has had his chance. He has had many. Your willingness to connect with him isn't dependent on some future event. Your trust and goodwill has already been transgressed too many times. It is simply not possible for anything he do, at this point, to change things.

So I'd not move back in. You can go to the store now and buy enough supplies and clothes to keep you going for a few weeks, try to get your stuff and the dog, and move on. You can say, "This is over." If he asks why, get a phrase you can repeat ad nauseum, like, "I'm done discussing this" or "I can't keep living with someone who has threatened and scared me. I'm done discussing this" (and then, over time, just stop picking up the phone or whatever) Past tense. There's nothing he can do about it now.

Maybe, to keep yourself safe, you frame it as, "I need time to think about us." That's true, right? What you have to think about, which you might not tell him, is all the logistics of how you're going to move on because he has hurt you. Do what you need to in order to keep your distance. Remind yourself that it's over.

Then get the stuff, get the dog, keep your energy going, and let this frustration and dissatisfaction drive you. It's a righteous and healthy anger because it's about keeping you safe and it's an anger in response to wrongdoing. It can be constructive. (Notice how different it is from his anger, which results in him lashing out at you verbally and committing metaphorical violence against you with his striking of the dashboard.)

If you can't get the dog and the stuff, I think it's worth leaving them behind. It's possible he'll try to use them as bargaining chips. So, reconcile yourself to that now: to all the things you're willing to lose. The loss of dog and clothes would be his fault, not your fault. So you are at liberty to grieve these (potential) losses, the loss of the marriage, the loss of all of it. And then you can be open to the celebration of what you gain: right now, your life and physical safety. Later, your independence, a chance for joy, and so much more.

I am concerned he's going to physically hurt you and/or himself. I am so mournful for how he brought back this "battered woman idea." You're a strong and wonderful woman and he has no right to speak to your identity this way.

It sounds like you have a stronger sense of yourself. Know and trust yourself and what you know to be right. I'm in support of what you decide to do.
posted by ramenopres at 12:52 PM on January 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm so sorry your husband is doing this to you. I think you should leave him and divorce him.

I want to suggest something to you and see if it resonates: Your husband is not abusing you because he's depressed. He is using his (possibly exaggerated or outright fabricated) depression as an excuse for abusing you. The only things that he claims help his "depression" map exactly onto spousal abuse- isolating you from your friends and social life, punishing you for paying attention to other people, complete control over the household, forcing you to quit your job so you are financially dependent on him and to make it harder for you to leave, threatening to kill someone (the fact that it's himself is not a special case) when you don't comply, violent gestures when you don't comply. He's not depressed. He's a batterer.

Has he pursued any treatment for his depression other than abusing you in the past 2 years? Has he talked about treatment but not gotten any, possibly after going through a lot of motions about it, such that when you look back on it, it FEELS like he must have done SOMETHING, when in fact he's done nothing?

I want to recommend the book "Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men" by Dr. Lundy Bancroft because it has a section on abusers who "weaponize" their emotional trauma and mental illnesses so they can continue to abuse their partners, which is what your husband is doing to you.

I want you to know I care about you. You do not deserve abuse. You deserve to be safe, respected, supported, and loved. The way to bring those things into your life is to divorce your husband.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 1:10 PM on January 8, 2017 [24 favorites]

he got really angry and punched the dashboard really hard out of nowhere. I told him it scared me, and he said, "I don't care if it scares you, you're just a battered woman and you're always going to have battered woman issues."

Who wouldn't find that scary? He's delusional if he thinks his behavior is acceptable to anyone. I've never been abused and I'd find this terrifying.

Also, notice how you said you need to get your things if he hasn't messed with them? You're adults. You shouldn't have to worry about your SO messing with your things out of anger. That's unacceptable behavior, regardless of depression.

And is this the guy who was upset with the idea of you being a SAHM because it'd be a sign you weren't ambitious enough? Now he wants you to stay home but then quits his job without a new one, worsening his depression due to stress. On top of that he starts arguements with you about financial problems when he took dramatic steps that led to your precarious position?

He's taking active steps to make things worse and pretending that you're the bad guy in all of this. Even without his explosive temper that's concerning (he's isolating you, tearing down your self esteem, while conveniently giving himself an "excuse": he's "stressed" so his depression is worse). With the temper it's dangerous.

In short: Maybe he's depressed, but he's taking active steps to make it worse and using it as an excuse for his abuse (which is BS).
posted by ghost phoneme at 1:13 PM on January 8, 2017

Just another voice chiming in. This sounds very similar to what happened near the end of my marriage. I stayed for a long time hoping things would get better once he found another job, once we got on our feet financially, once he got on the right meds, etc etc. Nothing helped because he did not want to change. I am so, so glad I left and never looked back.

How do you feel when he leaves for work in the morning? Relieved? How do you feel when you know he is about to come home? When you hear his key in the door? Scared? Imagine never feeling that fear again. It is possible.

After the 'question preview', it occurred to me to mention: also this week, he has been taking some kind of medically-prescribed supplement for low testesterone. He just started and all incidents have been while he was on this, but I'm not sure if that can actually affect things this much.

No. I am a trans man on testosterone and I know probably 100 trans men. Testosterone, by itself, does not make people abusive. This is 100% on him.
posted by AFABulous at 1:14 PM on January 8, 2017 [26 favorites]

One more thought. I've lived with people (roommates, etc) who struggle with depression. They've never been abusive. If they said something that was mean, I'd call them on it and they'd apologize. They'd certainly never imply it was justified.
posted by ghost phoneme at 1:55 PM on January 8, 2017 [10 favorites]

One thing I want to highlight: Part of what makes this question especially alarming is the combination of violence toward others and suicidality. He also sounds very impulsive right now, which heightens the risk of both.
posted by salvia at 1:56 PM on January 8, 2017 [7 favorites]

First - congratulations on making the REALLY good decision to get the hell out of that house.

Secondly: Do not go back. Even if you want to go back, understand that you should not go back. There are no ifs ands or buts about it: do not go back, except to retrieve your belongings -- and even in this case, go with someone else and when you are sure he will not be there. This should be a period of your planning your permanent departure from the relationship. Call the abuse hotline others posted and connect with your support system. You are going to need help to do this. But more importantly, you need to understand that you must not go back to him. Get this really clear in your mind. Your life depends on it.

PS: Your soon-to-be ex-husband is wrong: you do not have to always have "abused women issues" -- healing is possible. A healthier way of relating is possible. A much, much, much better life is possible. Let this be the moment when you choose to heal. You are WORTH it.
posted by Gray Skies at 2:19 PM on January 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

Punching the dashboard sounds like he's "testing the waters", working his way up to hitting you. So smart of you to get out at that point!
You do not have to wait until he hits you to be done.
Being a crazy dog mom myself I vote for grabbing the dog while he's gone TAKE SOMEONE WITH YOU.
I am not a lawyer but I think it will help your case of the dog is under your name at the vet and the shelter, though if they're under his it doesn't necessarily mean you don't get the dog.
Please call one of the helplines mentioned above, this is what they are there for. They would much rather hear from you now than when you are trying to talk through a broken jaw. Let them help you. They know the answer to your question if there is one.
posted by BoscosMom at 2:29 PM on January 8, 2017 [12 favorites]

He himself has told you to leave, that may be the only warning you get, take it. If this were a movie we'd all be on the edge of our seats screaming...OMG, get out of there!
posted by BoscosMom at 2:38 PM on January 8, 2017 [4 favorites]

An update:

I hear what you guys are saying re DTMFA. I am not sure whether or not I am ready to be there yet. I am not sure because my whole body is full of tension and I am just not really able to make long term decisions right now. It's not that I don't hear you guys. It's not that you aren't getting through to me. It's just that I am barely moving right now and I want to find a way things can be okay for just a little while. Trust me, I see all the red flags, that's why I called for a pickup. I know what can happen.

The person who I am staying with drove me by so I could pick up my car. On their advice I did not go inside, not even to get my dog. I want to, I want to go inside and get everything and my dog and everything, but that person was worried about me and did not want me going inside until we have at least verified if he is sober. He is definitely home right now. Please don't make me feel more guilty about my dog who I love, I already am feeling awful and trying to figure out scenarios. I don't think he will deliberately hurt the dog just because I love it. He loves the dog too. But also he loves me too and it didn't stop him from treating me like this. The dog is also 100% in my name for everything, I bought the dog and go to the vet with him.

I know. He has not yet contacted me and I don't know if he will. I don't know if he is going to go to work tomorrow (he did get a new job) or if he's going to use this as an excuse and not go and wait to see if I show. There are so many things I don't know.

I am safe right now so don't worry. I just need to figure out what I'm doing going forward. Unfortunately it was shitty timing to leave so all I have on are crummy clothes, but I can rewash those as needed.
posted by sockmeamadeus at 2:50 PM on January 8, 2017 [9 favorites]

He was full on screaming, and when the puppy came around the corner barking, he balled up his fists and twisted his body like he was about to hit it. Then he went for two potential methods of suicide.

Weapons, they're called weapons in this context, regardless of which of the three of you he was intending to harm.
posted by Iteki at 2:51 PM on January 8, 2017 [31 favorites]

Please call one of the hotlines. Tell them what you've told us: that you are not ready to give up but you need some advice about what to ask for before you go back.
It might be a good idea to have someone call you every day to check on you with instructions to call the police and ask for a welfare check if they can't get ahold of you within a certain amount of time.
Suicides often decide to take someone with them, please be careful.
posted by BoscosMom at 3:17 PM on January 8, 2017 [12 favorites]

I'm glad you have a friend who is helping you out and is concerned for your safety. I understand this is kind of overwhelming and a lot to take in. Can you spend several days with your friend, long enough to catch your breath and sort out your next steps? It sounds like you're kind of in a state of shock and it's probably hard to make decisions right now.
posted by bunderful at 3:24 PM on January 8, 2017 [5 favorites]

If you are in the Seattle area and need help please memail me!
posted by tristeza at 3:24 PM on January 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

sockmeamadeus: I hear what you guys are saying re DTMFA. I am not sure whether or not I am ready to be there yet. I am not sure because my whole body is full of tension and I am just not really able to make long term decisions right now

That's fair. I agree completely. This is not the time to be thinking about long term decisions. This is the time to think about decisions for today. The best decision you can make for today (and everyone is saying this, and I think you're hearing this) is, don't go back. That's probably the best decision for tomorrow too. Make a long term decision when you feel like you're able to, and between now and then, just keep making short term decisions based around what will keep you safe and well for today.

Any one of us in this thread would be willing to help you with whatever you need for today or tomorrow or next week. We just want you to be safe. The safe decision for today is, don't go back.

Let me present a viewpoint that's not often seen in these threads. I've been on the other side of this situation. I've struggled with depression all of my life. I've been abusive, I've been violent, I've been suicidal. I've been a huge asshole to people that I love. That was a lifetime ago, but I still remember very well and it's even clearer in retrospect. I was absolutely not someone who it was possible to be in a healthy relationship with, not until I got my own head straight, and that wasn't ever going to happen while I was in a relationship. I should never have been with anyone when my head was such an angry confused mess, and neither should your husband.

If I could go back in time and see my SO on the day we met, I would have advised her: stay away. This is not going to end well for either of us. If I could go back and see my SO on the night she slept at a friend's house after we fought, I would have advised her: stay away. Don't go back, it's not going to get better. If I could go back and see her on the last night I saw her, after the huge messy violent tearful breakup, I would have said to her: I love you, and I'm sorry, but you should have stayed away. I would have left myself but I was too weak and angry and broken and wanted to blame someone else for all the pain in my life, and every day you stayed with me you made it possible for the lowest shitty point of that day to become acceptable as a baseline for every day to come.

I'm realizing that it sounds a bit like victim blaming and that's not what I'm after at all -- the angry abusive asshole that I was, and the angry abusive asshole that it sounds like your husband is right now, both of us, we own every second of every minute of every shitty thing we've said and done. It's not your fault, not even a little bit. But you do have decisions to make about how to respond, and some of those decisions are safer and healthier for you than others. The safest and healthiest decision you can make right now is, don't go back. You still love him, sure. His love for you is still in his head somewhere too. But it's surrounded by land mines, and it's up to him to defuse that minefield. You need to be as far away from it as possible. Don't go back.
posted by Two unicycles and some duct tape at 3:54 PM on January 8, 2017 [20 favorites]

Hi, sockmeamadaus, it's me back with my drum. I know I keep banging on about the hotlines but I called one a few months ago. Even though I wasn't sitting the tub with a pack of razor blades. It gave me someone objective to talk to, someone who didn't already know the story. She was probably pretty new and I could practically hear her going through the stock phrases to try to talk me down but it still worked. It bled off some of that frantic energy spinning around through my nerves. Then, while I was talking to her, I came up with my own solution. I went swimming. Swimming burned off more of that frenzy and sitting in the jacuzzi afterward helped too. Good luck, keep us posted.
posted by BoscosMom at 4:01 PM on January 8, 2017 [3 favorites]

It's understandable that you're not sure if you're ready to leave. What's important to me is that you did leave and you're with a supportive friend in a safe place. Since you asked what to say to him, I think you should tell him you needed time to be alone and you thought you both need space to cool off. Do not tell him you're leaving him or considering leaving him. I think you need time apart, you need to talk to a therapist, and you absolutely do not want to tell him you're considering leaving. I think if he thinks you're coming back, both you and the dog will be temporarily safer.
Take a bath, eat a good meal, borrow clothes from your friend. Focus on supporting yourself in a safe space. Again: Please do not tell him you're considering leaving.
posted by areaperson at 4:10 PM on January 8, 2017 [3 favorites]

Unfortunately it was shitty timing to leave so all I have on are crummy clothes, but I can rewash those as needed.

If the issue is money - I left with very little and my local domestic violence agency gave me a sizable gift card to Walmart to buy basic necessities. Goodwill works with DV agencies to provide clothing, too. Please see what services are available to you so you have some breathing room while you decide your next step.
posted by AFABulous at 4:25 PM on January 8, 2017 [9 favorites]

Others have mentioned that depression isn't a reason to be an abusive asshole, and I n-th that a thousand times. In several of your questions, you talk about "when he's not depressed" and "when he is depressed" and how he's different/better/nicer when he's "not depressed." Now, I'm not willing to say that he's completely full of shit, having never met him, but depression doesn't really work that way. I mean, yes, there are good days and bad days, but it's not like you fall into depression one day because the kitchen wasn't clean and are all better the next day because your wife worked super hard to make everything perfect for you. That cycle, however, is very common in abusive relationships. He can't just be an asshole 100% of the time, or else you'd leave for sure. Whenever things get particularly bad, is he suddenly nice for a while? And you think things will get better? That's how they get you. That's why people stay much longer than is safe/prudent. The question you link to was over two years ago, and it breaks my heart that you've been dealing with this for so long.

I'm so glad you've left, even if you're not sure if you want to make that permanent. Take whatever time you need, but if you find yourself getting ready to go back, please re-read this thread and remember how it feels right now. Remember that he might pretend to be nicer for a short time, and anyone can be nice for a short time. Remember that you have a whole community of internet strangers here who will have your back if you need it (I'm in Phoenix, and if I can be any help, please memail me). And, please remember and know that a decent person doesn't treat a stranger off the street as poorly as he's treating you, and he's supposed to be your husband and partner in life.
posted by Weeping_angel at 4:44 PM on January 8, 2017 [13 favorites]


Here's the thing about guys who have displayed signs of physical violence in their relationship -- if it happened once and it hasn't been immediately acknowledged, thoroughly addressed, and unquestionably corrected, it will probably happen again. And when it happens again, the difference between you being irritated and you both making the news is going to be entirely dependent on context, whatever is going on in that specific moment. Hitting the dashboard, acting threatening toward you and the dog, making moves toward "methods of suicide" (agreed with Iteki's assessment above, if they're things that can harm being picked up in anger let's just call them weapons) -- these are all signs of anger that has graduated to being expressed in physical violence, and every moment you spend around him from now on is a moment when he could become angry, and every moment when he could become angry is a moment when he could do something physical in the heat of that moment that will change both of your lives.

Let's say you go back. He calls, you talk, you both cry, he swears he'll change, he'll get help, he'll change the meds, he loves you and he'll do whatever he has to do to make it work. So you go back. And he's being great! He's making dinner, he's helping out around the house, you're going out on a drive to your favorite places and having a nice meal.

That explosive anger is still in there. It's not on display right now, but it could come out at any moment. And what will he and you be doing in that moment? Maybe he'll be at work while you're at home, you have an angry conversation and he throws his phone. Stupid, but no real harm done, and you're not even there, you're totally safe. Maybe you'll be making dinner together and he blows up, he happens to be holding a plate and he throws it at you, it hits the wall, it breaks. That's a problem, but after all he missed, he probably wasn't even aiming at you, he was just angry, and he apologizes and picks up the pieces and you laugh about it afterward. But maybe he'll be holding a knife instead of a plate. Maybe tomorrow you'll be standing next to a staircase. Maybe next week you'll be driving together in heavy traffic. What shape will his moment of uncontrollable anger take in those situations?

No one ever expects to find themselves in these kinds of circumstances, but here's how they get there: one partner doesn't listen to the voice inside them that tells them they're not safe, while the other partner manages to keep it together just fine, right up until the moment when they don't.
posted by Two unicycles and some duct tape at 4:53 PM on January 8, 2017 [19 favorites]

When his depression has been low (things were going well financially/familially/futurewise) . . . When his depression has been worse (money has been tight, future things fall through, his family makes him feel bad)

This is NOT how depression works. Depression is not just being sad or upset. When money is tight or one's family makes them feel bad, it logically makes that person feel sad or upset! And when things are going well, people tend to get over their sadness and are instead content. But when someone is depressed, they are ALWAYS depressed. There's really never a moment when they aren't wrestling with emotions (sad, upset, angry, scared, etc.) or numbed by apathy. There are less worse times and worse times, but they have very little to do with outside forces.

It's like your linked question, when you commented that when you kept the house clean, your husband was not depressed. If that were true, then wouldn't we have depression cured?

This man does not have clinical depression. This man is dangerous. Don't go back.
posted by chainsofreedom at 5:02 PM on January 8, 2017 [8 favorites]

If you are within the KC area and need help memail me; we have a truck and will help you get anything you need from your home for safe storage.
posted by blue_and_bronze at 5:46 PM on January 8, 2017 [3 favorites]

Don't assume he's not home just because his car is gone or the lights or off or whatever when you go back to the house tomorrow. I strongly advise you to have a police escort you when you get your clothes.
posted by jbenben at 6:26 PM on January 8, 2017 [6 favorites]

Please take the time while you're with your friend to call a DV crisis holiness as many here have suggested. Just calling to get support and information about resources doesn't obligate you to make any decisions right now, it just means you're more informed about your options. I have seen situations like this result in sudden violence. Please get your options for safety in order for yourself. And adding to the loving, concerned pile of folks saying that this kind of abusive behavior is not a part of clinical depression. He may also be depressed...but people who do behaviors like these make an active choice to do them.

Please stay safe, I am thinking of you tonight. I don't have any place that you could stay, but if you're in Portland and need a home-cooked meal or for a super kind and caring stranger to buy you coffee and chat, memail me. Be well.
posted by fairlynearlyready at 7:28 PM on January 8, 2017 [3 favorites]

It took me a long time to learn to pay a lot more attention to behavior. His words tell one story, his behavior tells you he doesn't value you. Don't tell him what you want. Show him. Show him that you deserve respect and love and decency by refusing to accept anything less.
posted by theora55 at 7:31 PM on January 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

Can you tell us where you are, geographically speaking?
posted by The Noble Goofy Elk at 8:33 PM on January 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

There is a not-low probability that
if he is given the chance.

Do not give him that chance.

Do not, under any circumstances, return to your former place of residence (to gather your things) unless you are accompanied by at least two armed police officers.
posted by blueberry at 9:12 PM on January 8, 2017

I wrote a version of this question (though it was not quite as severe in my case) many years ago now, and it helped me figure out that it was time to leave.

That was the best decision of my life.

I had to leave my cats (two of whom are sitting on me as I type this) and everything I owned, but it was 100% worth it. A trip to TJ Maxx and a few friends letting me sleep on their floors got me through the 10 days I spent away from my house.

The thing about abusive relationships is that they don't feel that bad when you're in the middle of them. They just become normal life. But I'm betting that now you've tasted the freedom of not being subjected to his rage all the time, you are beginning to understand how bad it was.

There are a litany of people in this thread (and in every thread like this) telling you that this kind of situation doesn't get better. Hell, just looking back through your own questions shows that you've hung in there for YEARS with it only getting worse. There may be good moments, but the bad ones are getting more intensely bad.

Trust the voice that tells you to stay away.

If you happen to be in the Bay Area, send me a memail and I'd be happy to help in any way I can.
posted by guster4lovers at 9:51 PM on January 8, 2017 [8 favorites]

Going a bit against what some are saying, I think it's entirely possible, even probable, that his mental/health issues (perhaps some that haven't been looked at) are the reason for at least some, if not most of his bad behaviour.

But here's what -

1) As far as your wellbeing is concerned, and you should be very concerned about it, the cause of his abusive (not just bad) behaviour doesn't matter. You are in danger - and if you were before, the risk of something terrible happening has gone up, hugely. Women are most at risk of violence (read, fatal violence) when they leave angry, abusive husbands who've demonstrated the inability to control violent impulses.

2) He probably does need help, but you're 150% the wrong person to give it. You have no power to help him, here, no sway. Too many boundaries have been crossed, there's too much history between you. You've become the target of his abuse, and there's no way of flipping that around now. Someone else can help him.

Don't go back.
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:15 PM on January 8, 2017 [4 favorites]

Oh honey, this is horrible. I'm so sorry. He reminds me so much of my abusive ex, who also never hit me but would do the things with threatening suicide, blaming me for everything that went wrong, insulting me, etc. There were also issues with depression; also PTSD and possibly other mental health issues, not to mention marijuana and alcohol abuse. It was exhausting being in that relationship. It was also, as you say, abusive as fuck.

Your instincts are right, he is abusive. You know this deep down. It's why you've left, it's why you're posting, it's why you listened to the friend who helped you get your car. You know you're not safe. So listen to those self-preservation instincts, because you are stronger than you think you are. You can do this without him. You are strong enough to love him and not live with him anymore because living with him is not good for you, is not safe for you.

Take it one step at a time. Breathe. You don't have to make forever decisions. Just make decisions for right now. Make decisions that will keep you safe. Bit by bit you can construct a life that is good for you, with people who love you and do not scream at you, threaten suicide, insult you, make you worry about your own safety and that of your dog. Of course I hope that you do not go back to him but if you need to plan as if you will because that is all you can bear right now, then do it.

Everyone else has given you lots of very practical advice, that isn't what I'm trying to do. I just want you to know that it is possible, you can get yourself free. You are enough. You are strong enough. Just one step at a time.
posted by Athanassiel at 10:24 PM on January 8, 2017

In re.: previous relationship involving DV -- I too have had the fun life experience of not one but two abusive relationships. I wanted to say -- well, I want to say "fuck you" to your partner for the "...you're just a battered woman..." line -- dear god -- I desperately hope that didn't sink in, and that you are fully aware that the people with (pitiful, embarrassing, shameful) problems are your ex and this dude, not you.

Hard as it is to admit that one has been led down a terrible path and is now mired in an abusive relationship -- it can be even worse the second time around. Because if only therapy had worked...if only you had done things differently...it must be something to do with you...how did you not see it coming the second time? So humiliating! So if only you could just, dammit, make him behave, then you would not have to deal with: victimized twice over. A pattern! A history! And cripes, the friends/family who know about the other dude, what are they going to make of it this time? Nobody will ever want anything to do with you and a date of yours again! Also, the apartment and the dog and your stuff and...it would be so much easier if you could just get him to be nice all the time. I found it really oppressive. Especially because the first one had stalked and bullied friends and relatives. It was just that much worse to have to out with it and say "it's happened again. Help."

However, both times, leaving was the absolute best thing I could have possibly done and I celebrate every day I didn't stay with those scumbags. Years later I can literally see such a difference in my face in photos that I don't have to check the dates -- my expression and posture and so on tell the story of what point of my life I was at, even when I left (1) expecting to maybe be homeless in an unfamiliar city, (2) expecting to maybe end up in my parents' basement with a baby in tow. Some lucky rolls of dies ended up keeping me safe and so on, but both times I would've preferred living in the woods or in a basement quite easily, and it was definitely the more sane option.

What happened, longer term, was that I stayed single for a long time. Many years. I had a couple of FWB flings, but by that point I was really content with being single, and had done a lot of the missing 'inner work' that had let me fetch up with scumbags, and repaired that to the point where I was happy and confident (broke and overwhelmed, but, happy and confident). I knew I had no interest in a relationship for the sake of a relationship; that I only wanted to put the labour in for one if it was clear that being with that person would make my life better for being in it, and that I -- I hoped! -- would make their life better too. Neutral wasn't good enough; I was that damn important. I found the guy, totally by accident...

Here are how many people gave me a hard time for getting into a similar mess twice: 0

Once I told people what was going on, the floodgates opened with help. I noticed that the second time around I had a LOT more people to reach out to -- part of that was geographical, but part of it was because I had been part-way (but not far enough) through fixing myself up after the first train wreck, and I was slowly ending up happier, more compassionate -- more the sort of people nice people would want to be friends with than I (depressed, uncertain) had been before. I just needed more time away from scumbags to end up with a happy life (and a dude who's as likely to hit anything, never mind me, as he is to, I don't know, turn out to be from another planet). One thing I noticed was that as the years went by and I went from having kinda dodgy taste in my early 20s through to pretty fussy taste in my mid-30s, the reaction I got from men when explaining things changed. Dodgy-taste dudes: "Oh...sux." Fussy-taste dudes: the one that stands out the most is one who was over for lunch and listening to me blither on about getting dragged down two flights of stairs, naked, by my hair, etc, etc. I was possibly doing something with a dessert course and did not look up until the end of the story, and when I did my audience was sitting there mouth agape, tea and saucer in hand but not moving, just in total shock. The funny thing was that it was an attorney, who had heard all sorts of stories of vile human behaviour. But I suppose it was part of the job, not somebody he knew, on a day-to-day basis? Anyway. When you are recovering from this you will slowly re-learn how much the huge majority of the world finds what you are currently going through to be absolutely appalling, not a run-of-the-mill bad day.

Because I am a creep I lurk on a group for people in serious trouble with child protection agencies. There're a very limited number of ways to end up in that situation: serious substance abuse you are doing nothing to fix; serious mental illness that ditto; IQ too low to provide caregiving for a child; repeatedly involved with dangerous partner. That is about it. And there are so, so many mothers in the latter category, and it is galling stuff to read. Generally they grew up with their own mother (1) in abusive relationships, (2) with social workers involved with the family. Because this has been normalized over the years, the discussions veer off into "Name me one adult man who hasn't been in a fistfight!" and "All couples fight!" -- these in response to horrible brawls, usually in front of the kids, loud enough for neighbours to call police. The weird thing is that the people currently in that DV mess do not see that they are in a DV mess. He was having a bad day. He really, really loves my kids. He's been stressed out because of X. All couples fight. Etc.

Even if you don't want to break it off, be kind to yourself and separate for long enough to try and get as far back on the other side as you can, away from the crap place where you are making excuses for appalling behaviour.

I lost years of my life to wretched suicidal depression. Sometimes I was a crappy person to be around. While the depression did not help the irritating adolescent self-centredness, and depressed people can certainly be taxing to be around, there is nothing about depression that makes one abusive. Also, your previous Qs make clear this is not new behaviour from a normally kind man who might be having a bad reaction to medications or some such -- I'm sure lots of people read this and thought "If my partner did this, I'd be hauling their arse straight to an E.R., because that would be so out of character that I would know something had gone very awry with the brain chemistry." You know, of course, that that is not the case here. There are no magic words.

(If it helps: I allowed one of the wretched exes to move back in, with an ultimatum in place. It took two weeks for the ultimatum to go out the window. I put an attorney I'd already interviewed on retainer, called a locksmith, and texted him at work saying I'd done those things and while I'd pack a bag and leave it somewhere convenient for him, he was out of the house for good. You'd literally be risking your life to go back, but if you end up doing it and want to ask for "ground rules," make a list -- no violence, even towards inanimate objects; no verbal abuse; etc. It doesn't really matter -- he won't be able to abide by it, no matter how mild. It did at least shut down any arguing over kicking him out, because he had enthusiastically agreed to my ultimatum with all manner of BS about changing. Of course he could not. When he couldn't keep to the agreement, he knew what was coming, and was, at least, on that one day, dignified and argument-free; we made arrangements for him to pick up what I'd packed and that was it.)

If you are in or near Ottawa, Canada -- I have friends, access to a pick-up truck, a house big enough to have nice, private space for guests, storage space I don't need back anytime soon, and my kid got a big kick out of it last time we had a dog guest; just send a mail.
posted by kmennie at 10:44 PM on January 8, 2017 [8 favorites]

Even if you are not ready to give up on the relationship - make sure he takes serious action toward fixing things before you even consider living with him. These need to include:

1) Time - at least three months apart, with minimal/no communication, and certainly nothing hostile. If he cannot cope with life for three months without you, he's a leech or an abuser, not a partner.

2) Civil communication - consistently. No yelling, no screaming, no insulting you, no sobbing about how his life is worthless without you, absolutely no telling you that you have ruined his life. You haven't. Give it a count of, oh, two dozen bits of contact - phone, visits, whatever - over however long it takes those to stack up (and you're under no obligation to let them start this month, or even this year) - and if he gets hostile to you, start the count over. (Don't tell him there's a counter.) When he has proven able to have civil, non-abusive, "any friend could listen in and think it was an okay conversation," twenty-four times, you can start considering whether you can live together.

3) No blame - he has to stop claiming things are "your fault." Whatever harms the two of you have done to each other in the past (I'm with the others in thinking that's mostly one directional, and the direction isn't toward him, but setting that aside for now), those incidents can't be the foundation of your future. You can't build a healthy relationship on guilt. You need to stop feeling guilty -and he needs to stop trying to make you feel guilty. If he can't see the relationship as something that went sour as much from his actions as yours, he's not ready for a partnership.

Ideally, he owns up to abuse and realized it was much more his actions than yours that caused problems. In a tv show world, he realizes that your "flaws" were just reactions to abuse. But you may decide to waive that; many happy couples do. The point is, "what went wrong" is not your fault. If he can't own his side of it, he's not ready for a relationship.

You can love him, cherish the good memories you have, feel guilty over whatever flaws you brought to the relationship - and still know that it is not working, and it's not your fault it's not working, and you're not going to keep trying to make him into someone he doesn't want to be.

He has to want to be your partner, not your owner. This is not something you can make happen. But you can note the criteria that it has happened - and let him know that there will be no attempt at getting back together unless (not "until") he becomes a person you want to share your life with - even when he's angry; even when you're sad; even when times are hard.

Fair warning: there is no indication in the history you've mentioned that he's ever going to make that change. Most men don't, unless they go through some catastrophe that changes their life-perspective, and a woman they think should be subordinate "escaping" is not that kind of catastrophe.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 10:53 PM on January 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

In the short term: if you don't feel ready to talk with him when he calls, it's okay. You can take the time you need. (Not everything must be on his schedule.) Some options: you can text him back; communicate with him by email; text him that you will be communicating with him later or through some other medium; have a friend or mutual friend pass on a message; block contact with him on any mediums you don't want to communicate with him through; ignore the call for now completely.

You can also tell him "look, I need some time to know what to say. I'll call you when I feel I can talk with you without breaking down." And then hang up and block or mute his calls.

Also, if you don't have a separate bank account, go to an ATM and withdraw a good amount (or just do this even if you do have a separate one). Make sure you have access to funds that he can't cancel. You should also change your important passwords, and at minimum your email password (even if you think he doesn't know it or wouldn't do anything with it if he did). Just give yourself less things to worry about in the future.

In the longer term: When I read the previous question the impression I got was that emotionally - in terms of self-centeredness, self-awareness, impulse-control, ability to put himself in other people's shoes, and ability to soothe himself - his mind is at the level of a toddler who is, without exaggeration, abnormally spoiled. That's how it feels even more now. It's also really worrying if until recently he's been able to hide his immaturity and abusiveness outside the house but has now started to let it affect his outside life too (quitting a job because you feel you don't get enough respect is one thing, if the work environment is truly terrible, but to do it with no back-up, a known tendency (to put it very mildly) for neediness, and a known tendency (again) to hurt your wife when under stress?)

He doesn't deserve you; even if he truly loves you, that love is immature - it's the love of someone who'll cry when you're away but feel free to punish you when in a tantrum. It's okay that you love him - that says more about you than about him. And loving relationships break up sometimes about much less dramatic things, like when both partners want different things regarding whether or how to raise children.

The only thing he could do now that would give me pause is to let you know, in writing or through a friend, that he understands how serious it must have been to have caused you to leave; that he's enrolled in both serious therapy and anger-management programs and made an urgent appointment with his doctor to rule out any physiological reasons for the increase in violence - while still acknowledging that the underlying issues have all existed for a long time, that he sees his own enormous self-centeredness, and that he knows he is ultimately responsible for it. He would also need to make it clear that what you do is up to you, that he knows you might need a lot of time and might well decide not to come back, and that he knows he doesn't actually deserve any say in it. And he would ask you what you need from him both right now and in the long term, and write it down.

Even then, to be honest, I wouldn't go back to living with him. If somehow he finds in himself the ability to become an emotionally mature adult, then that is a wonderful thing - and congratulations, now he can try to find an actual partner to be in a real partnership with. But I don't know that he can make the changes in himself that he needs to while he knows you're still around for him to call back on. And they aren't changes that could be made in a short amount of time; they need to be the kind of changes that have been put to the test repeatedly. I think you've put more than enough good faith into this marriage, by any measure. I think you deserve a good relationship with a good adult, where the love you get in return is a fully-developed one; or a good life as a single person surrounded by people who don't and wouldn't hurt you.
posted by trig at 4:22 AM on January 9, 2017 [4 favorites]

I forgot to say: Well done for getting out of the car.
posted by trig at 4:31 AM on January 9, 2017 [3 favorites]

I read your previous question, and wanted to say all of those behaviors, including the wanting me to shower with him, are remarkably similar to the way my ex behaved.

There was also a similar incident where we'd visited family members (mine) and while it seemed like we had a good time, he was pressuring me to ask my parents to give us a piece of land so he could build a house. My Dad was obviously reluctant, and said he'd think about it, but if he did it, it would have to be in my name only. This was all conjecture, as it was a remote piece of land, and we didn't have the money to build a house, but it was part of his sense of entitlement, that the world owed him.

He also had troubles at work over not being respected enough, and actually was fired at one job for his attitude. The job he had when we split up: he got fired a few months later for the same reason, petty disagreements with co-workers, and not getting along with the boss.

I later realized how much I had normalized his behavior, and due to questioning it and standing up to him, because of a series of incidences where his behavior had been escalating, and I thought I could make him see how wrong it was, that I didn't realize just how abnormal the situation had become.

It took a long time before I could stop focusing on him, and his behavior, and focus on myself. It was a process of mentally separating myself from him, because I'd become so entrenched in him, him, him, and he colored everything in my life. The sulking after I'd been out somewhere (working!) and had taken too long. The house having to be immaculate 100% of the time. My clothing, my hair, everything was under his scrutiny, things that most guys don't really care about, for instance, I was not allowed to wear sweatpants at home, and certainly never, ever in public. When I got remarried, my (now) husband said, "I want you to wear sweatpants every day if you feel like it, how could anyone tell you what to wear?" Then he gave me a pair of his old sweatpants and told me to wear them all the time if I wanted.

A lot of the abusive behavior took place in the car. On the way home from our family visit, he decided that I didn't deserve to have the heat on, in the winter. It was amazing how quickly he became mean and vindictive, and I can only assume it was because I'd been around supportive family members, and he wanted to knock me back down as quickly as possible.

Other things he did was to drive erratically, taking on-ramps at 80 mph, driving fast around corners on icy roads, and when we ended up going into the ditch, laughing and speeding out and laughing when I screamed in terror. To this day, I have trouble riding in the car, especially on highways, and there are days when I flinch when cars come up beside us or are pulling up quickly to an intersection.

I know it's easy for people to give you advice, and I hear you when you say you don't know if you're there yet. But every time I went back to him, which I did more than once, it emboldened him. The cruel comments just became part of my everyday life. And people making excuses for him, because he was good at getting people to feel sorry for him, and the helpful suggestions to just stay in the marriage and put some money in a coffee can, while I was walking around petrified and frozen all the time. The sense that why should I have to leave my home, and my cats, when he was so clearly in the wrong? If only he would admit it. But that validation never came.

One thing I later realized is that clothes, and other personal objects are easily replaced. I did manage to get most of my things out, but had to leave my cats, and my broken down car behind. I became dependent on family members for a while, some of whom were sympathetic, others who blamed me and made me feel further ashamed, and others who simply ostracized me and stopped speaking to me. Our society places a large part of marriage success on the shoulders of the woman, and when we choose wrongly, or can't make it work, we are blamed yet again.

One day, a woman came to the door. It was someone he'd dated briefly, when we'd be split up. She told me an eerily similar tale about how he'd wood her, and then dropped her suddenly, and how devastated she was. Another woman he'd dated tried to kill herself after he'd dropped her. He was an expert at picking women who were vulnerable, victims who had low self-esteem, indeed, I'd just come off of a painful divorce, and there he was.

So I really do understand your resistance. You are probably in shock, and it's very difficult to accept the end of a "normal" relationship, let alone one where you are so entrenched with someone who smothers you. And the financial abuse doesn't help, causing you to lose your job, not wanting you to work due to keeping the house clean, then the complication of having a puppy. You are obviously a nurturing person, and I am too, and that's how men like this take advantage of us. I wish you well, no matter what you decide to do.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 6:20 AM on January 9, 2017 [16 favorites]

I forgot to respond to this:

At the same time I feel like I want to give a 'come to jesus chance', where if he agrees to actually do the things, I will come back.

Please understand that abusers don't respond to "come to jesus chances" in the way you are hoping your husband will respond. Many of us know this from experience. Abusers respond to second and third and fourth chances by escalating the abuse. You need to really understand that your husband is not a reasonable, well-adjusted person who will take this as an opportunity to "stand up" and become the partner you want. He cannot do it -- for whatever reason. And that reason has nothing to do with you. It's not your job to figure out why he can't be non-abusive.. it's your job to realize that he is abusive and that you cannot change him. You absolutely cannot change him.

"Agreeing to do the things" is not what you need him to do -- he could/would verbally agree and still abuse you. Your husband needs years of therapy and hard work on himself -- not to become the husband you need, but in order to become a functional and non-abusive human being. You cannot sit around being abused while he maybe-or-maybe-not does the work he needs to do on himself. If you love him, truly the best thing you can do is to leave him so that he can focus on his trauma and drama. Incidentally, this is also the best thing you can do for yourself.

I know you may not feel convinced that you need to leave and that's fine -- but call the hotline and listen to that part of you that knows that this situation is not live-able. There is a wise, loving voice inside of you -- it's the same voice that told you to get out of the house. There is another voice telling you that you can fix him, that he deserves another chance.. That's the part of you that needs healing.

Wishing you all the best.
posted by Gray Skies at 9:49 AM on January 9, 2017 [5 favorites]

You asked what to do now, so here are some thoughts, with apologies if any of it sounds presumptive or pushy.

It makes complete sense to feel exhausted and out of spoons and unable to make some long-term decision right now. You went through something traumatic. And you've been working so hard to make everything feel better. No wonder you're exhausted. You have time to take things in a way that makes you comfortable.

In fact, that feeling of being out of spoons, or being frazzled, or whatever you're feeling, is you feeling your own emotions and needs, which is healthy. You've probably spent a lot of time denying your own emotions and putting them second, while focusing on him and trying to fix the relationship. That's not the path to a healthy, balanced relationship. Make your feelings and caring for yourself your priority right now.

Now would be a great time to read When Things Fall Apart or take up meditating. And to the extent you can, give yourself the simple things that you innately want -- a cup of your favorite tea, showers when and only when you want them, that sort of thing. After having to schedule so much of your life around his needs, I imagine there's something quietly revolutionary about only having to think of yourself.

(If focusing on yourself makes you feel guilty or antsy, think of those feelings as withdrawal pangs from the "drug" of his drama. If they make you feel like someone is going to punish you, or like such relaxation can only have consequences later, that's your training from him talking. Reassure yourself that you don't ever have to see him again and see if that doesn't help. Remind yourself that this is how you should feel in a healthy relationship, able to be true to your own feelings and desires.)

Being out of spoons right now is also maybe exhaustion, the kind of deep exhaustion that comes from trying to do the impossible and suddenly realizing it's impossible. No amount of your energy is sufficient to fix things. He would have to fix his end. Maybe feeling out of spoons is grief, too. Sometimes that tired feeling of sadness and depression aids us in letting go of trying to "do" things that are fundamentally outside of our control.

After awhile, you might start to get a little energy back. You're probably used to focusing a lot of energy on him and on "fixing" things. Now is the time to shift your focus, to focus what "fix it" energy you do have on your own self and life. You are in a situation that will take some figuring out, and you don't have enough energy to solve your own situation and fix his. Focus about 90% of what practical energy you do have on fixing your own life.

And consciously stop doing things that would more appropriately be his responsibility to do. You can't hold together both his life and yours -- you tried. He doesn't want you to; he said he was trying to make you leave. I'm sorry; hearing that must hurt; and maybe it was just him trying to hurt you; but either way, you have to let him have responsibility for his pieces. If it helps, think of it as showing him the respect to believe he can take care of himself, and of having the humility to know that you aren't any better than him at figuring out his own life.

With the extra 10% of your energy, clarify for yourself what was wrong about what was going on. In a bit, he might try to win you back. What will reveal to you that he's still holding the same fundamental beliefs that allowed him to do all the things he did? Have you read "Why Does He Do That?" by Lundy Bancroft? Good book. One of its main points is that he "does that" because he holds beliefs that it's right and okay for him to do so. When your mind inevitably turns to him, don't think "what made him do this? Was it the T? How can we fix this?" Think about the differences between the two of you that allow him to do things you would never have done.

"What are some things I can ask for as a requirement before I move back in?"

This question is a bit of you over-functioning and under-prioritizing your own emotions. You're assuming you'll move back in? It's your job to hand him the blueprint? How do you know that you'll feel like moving back in if he does those things? It's not your job to map this out for him and give him a guarantee.

Flip it around. Assume you're probably not moving back in. Rather than working on a blueprint for him to fix things, work on identifying solid guideposts for yourself, so that you don't lose the clarity you have now. As you know, abusive behavior is often followed by a honeymoon period, so expect that. Try to cut through the BS cycle of "now he's being nice / now he's being mean / now he's being nice again" by looking at what underlies it. Not at what leads him to being in a bad mood, no. At what makes him think that when he IS in a bad mood (happens to us all) that he can take it out on you or disrespect you, that it's your job to fix things. See if you can pinpoint what that would sound like vs what it would sound like if he didn't believe that. When he tries to spin some line about fixing things, see if his core beliefs have actually changed. Use the clarity you have now, while being out of spoons, to identify what it would take to be in a relationship that nurtures rather than depletes you.

But really, just let that be 10% of your time, the time that you can't resist thinking about him anyway. Let the rest be. He'll figure out his own stuff. In the meantime, enjoy your freedom. Go to bed when you want, shower when you want -- reconnect with the "you" you've been your whole life, not the "you" he tried to box you into being. Listen to the music he hated (or whatever), find the little daily joys you haven't been able to have, and generally enjoy all the freedoms you have now and deserve to have. Then start working on putting your new life together, and consider how much easier it is to keep a job than to get him to keep a job. You deserve better and you can do this.
posted by salvia at 10:11 AM on January 9, 2017 [3 favorites]

One addition. When I was in a bad relationship, I constantly thought about what would make him feel better, because I thought that would cause him to not be mean to me. Turned out, the easiest way to free myself of his mean comments was to walk away. Fixing someone else's life / attitudes / behaviors / physiology is HARD. It's far easier to walk away. Let them figure out what causes them to be mean (in time to not ruin things with the next person). They're the expert.

So when / if you find yourself focusing on him, like arguing with him in your head about why he shouldn't do something, try thinking "I don't have to ever see him again." You don't have to convince him or figure him out anymore. It feels like it's useful and self-protective to ruminate over why he'd do certain things or what's going on with him. But actually, it's not -- the last umpteen hours you spent trying to figure out how to solve his depression, etc., didn't solve things. It's keeping you stuck trying to do something (change him) that you aren't the one with the power, authority, and expertise to do. Focus on your own life, where you are the one in charge.

This is important because of what Marie Mon Dieu said. I too had to go through "a process of mentally separating myself from him, because I'd become so entrenched in him, him, him, and he colored everything in my life." See how different it feels when he's NOT in your head, when you DON'T have to grapple with him about your daily life. Easier, right? Part of experiencing that is getting him out of your head. The exhaustion will help with that, focusing on your own feelings will help, and reminding yourself that you're safe from him right now (assuming you physically are) will help.

Good luck and hugs! You've come so far already! A lot of us have been there in one way or another, so don't hesitate to update us if you need help either with logistics or with "I keep thinking XYZ." Also, you might be able to find a local support group, or even walk in to a co-anon type meeting.
posted by salvia at 10:37 AM on January 9, 2017 [3 favorites]

Sounds to me like he is internally blaming you for all the ways life has not met his expectations. You can't fix this, only he can. He should be in therapy. I think it would help you too. If you were my friend I would beg you to come live with me until you could get back on your feet.
posted by xammerboy at 10:39 AM on January 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you're anywhere near Roanoke, VA, Knoxville, TN, Findlay, OH, or Lexington, KY, give me a holler. My family's big, and we're all of us dog lovers. There are also a lot of us who are large and imposing and would help you go get your things.
posted by The Almighty Mommy Goddess at 8:11 AM on January 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

Can we get an update to know how you're doing? I know a bunch of us have been wondering and are concerned.
posted by Gray Skies at 6:44 AM on January 17, 2017 [9 favorites]

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