Husband has kept a journal to prove I am mentally ill
May 16, 2018 11:50 AM   Subscribe

Mind blown. Husband believes our marriage problems come from me having borderline traits and pushing him away when he shows love. I believe that isn't a helpful perspective to use and we are better off seeing problems as normal marital issues with communication etc. Husband has been tracking this. I think I want a divorce.

Basically that. We saw a marriage therapist a few years back that brought up the notion that I had borderline traits. My belief is that my husband has avoidant attachment and we had a toxic pursue-withdraw cycle that led to some seeking behaviors from me that looked BPDish.

Basically when things are going well between us, he will do something annoying and I say something. He accuses me of picking a fight and trying to push him away because I cannot handle being loved. I have said over and over, his belief that these issues happen because of some pathology in myself is really toxic, and paternalistic, and prevents any real resolution because it keeps him from seeing his own behavior clearly in the dynamic. I've said please stop framing things as "What a Joke can't let people get close and I have to make her see that she is doing this", rather than "What a Joke has concerns with my actions that may not make sense to me so I should try to understand her position better rather than assume she is making it up to push me away."

So today I find out he has been keeping a journal to prove to me that I get irritated after he makes some gesture of increasing intimacy, that I escalate and threaten the marriage as fallout from him being loving. He has challenged me to prove him wrong. I have said I don't want a marriage where I'm treated like a science experiment and I think we should divorce because I tried for like a year to get him to stop filtering things this way and he is still doing it.

Note, I have a professional background in psychology. And couples. Etc. So this is pretty invalidating and infuriating.

I've never threatened self harm. I have pursued when he distanced, sometimes sending a lot of messages. I have anxious attachment but I don't have BPD. I think that his whole interest in tracking me is twisted and gross and I don't know how to even trust someone that is this deeply committed to proving that our marriage conflicts are all my fault in this way.

Am I overreacting? He won't listen. How could I possibly have a mutually satisfying relationship of equals if I am the identified patient in my marriage? Based on nothing else than for example he sends a text of appreciation and valuing of me, then the next day I'm annoyed that he forgot to run the dishwasher.

I mean, that's like super messed up right? How do you get a male partner to question his own belief that his actions preceding conflict are above reproach? How do I find resources about falsely identifying a woman as bpd or as having some other pathology versus she's just fed up with her husband's bs?
posted by What a Joke to Human Relations (64 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Yes, this is nuts. IANAL but I think you probably need one.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 11:56 AM on May 16, 2018 [32 favorites]

Why is he working so hard to get you to disbelieve your own feelings? That sounds like some exquisite gaslighting to me.
posted by Dashy at 11:57 AM on May 16, 2018 [71 favorites]

I don’t know anything about your marriage, but you are coming across extremely reasonable and thoughtful here. This seems like a DTMFA situation.
posted by amro at 11:58 AM on May 16, 2018 [11 favorites]

That sounds extremely frustrating. My question to you: what is your goal?
1. Do you want to convince him that you are correct and he's wrong? (aka, "How do I find resources about falsely identifying a woman as bpd")
2. Do you want to figure out what you need and how best to make that happen in this situation? (aka, "I think I want a divorce")

If the answer is #1 -- I don't have any helpful advice to offer on convincing your husband that he's wrong. This seems to have gone so far, and his logical framework for dismissing you is so circular, that I honestly don't think that you're going to be able to convince him, persuade him, or win this argument.

If the answer is #2 -- I would strongly suggest that you seek out individual (not couples) counseling, and quite possibly a lawyer, to help you sort through the situation and figure out what you want from it, what is realistic to expect, and what your next steps might be.
posted by ourobouros at 11:58 AM on May 16, 2018 [13 favorites]

I don't think you can convince him of anything at this point. He has chosen to view your relationship through this lens and is taking painstaking notes and keeping score to prove it. With this lens, he has no impetus to make any changes because the "fault" lies in you. (Though, to be totally fair it seems like you've adopted a lens of attachment to view the relationship, and may be relying on him to change as the fault lies in him). So, I guess the question is what do you want from this relationship? It sounds as if asking him to make changes for the sake of the relationship is not going to be fruitful. Can you live with that?

This sounds incredibly painful and invalidating and I'm sorry you've found yourself here. I hope for better days ahead for you.
posted by goggie at 12:05 PM on May 16, 2018 [3 favorites]

My ex did this and it only proved to the relevant authorities that he was the mentally ill person. This is not a thing normal people ever do. Get out ASAP.
posted by mumimor at 12:07 PM on May 16, 2018 [44 favorites]

You’re not over-reacting.

Your partner is really committed to assigning blame to your conflicts and assigning it all to you. He is putting a lot of effort into proving to himself that any frustration you have with him is invalid. This is not how healthy relationships work.

You’ve put a lot of effort into trying to change this dynamic and it hasn’t worked. More effort wont fix it. The wisest thing to do is grieve and move on.
posted by mrmurbles at 12:14 PM on May 16, 2018 [13 favorites]

You're not overreacting. He is so hell-bent on finding an explanation for your dissatisfaction that doesn't require him to change that he would rather diagnose his wife with a personality disorder than work on himself.

It is super messed up, and I don't think there's anything you can do to make him understand the role that his actions play in the destructive dynamic in your relationship. He's perfectly capable of understanding it. He's couching it in clinical terms with a journal of supporting evidence, but the basic dynamic is an incredibly common tactic of abusive spouses: He's calling you crazy when you express valid concerns.

Lawyer up.
posted by xylothek at 12:16 PM on May 16, 2018 [13 favorites]

Leaving aside whatever problems you might actually have:

1. Your partner seems to think that if he can "prove" that you have BPD, then he "wins" in some way, like that means you'll whatever he wants? That seems really hard to come back from.

2. I am skeptical of the ways in which the discourse around BPD is used against women and femme people, because I've seen it mobilized super-abusively several times, and I've also seen someone "diagnosed" with BPD where the "BPD" mysteriously went away after they stopped being in an incredibly shitty, frightening, precarious situation.

You should follow through on the divorce. The fact that he's all "let me prove that you have a serious mental illness and this is what is needed to save our marriage" is really disturbing.
posted by Frowner at 12:24 PM on May 16, 2018 [62 favorites]

It sounds like both of you are trying to diagnose the other with various things to explain ongoing problems with your relationship, rather than working together to focus on a solution. I think when a relationship reaches that point it has run its course, no matter who is more to blame.
posted by something something at 12:35 PM on May 16, 2018 [100 favorites]

What he's doing has a lot of hallmarks of what I'd call not quite abuse but trying to force the issue so that you'll dump him rather than him having to dump you. I don't think he expects you to actually believe you have BPD, based on this, which is why I don't really think he's trying to gaslight you. I think he expects, or hopes, that you will be so deeply insulted by this that you will dump him and the nightmare will finally be over without him having to do any of the difficult stuff. Which is shitty, but whatever, it's still the better thing to get it over with. It doesn't even matter if you do everything he wrote in the journal, or if you do have BPD, or whatever. You both sound totally done and honestly you both sounded, in glancing at your past questions, like you were done-but-afraid-of-making-it-official even last fall. Just walk. It's logistically complicated but you'll feel so much better in six months.
posted by Sequence at 12:40 PM on May 16, 2018 [9 favorites]

reading your post was chilling. what he's doing is incredibly wack. he's gaslighting you by undermining your own reality... with him having appointed himself the Keeper of the True Reality of your relationship. that's not a relationship, that's just controlling and awful. he's doing everything he can so that you can't trust your own gut / your own self; that is an incredibly intimate violence to inflict on someone. nthing the lawyer & divorce stuff.

also i wonder if you might find this post about sick systems helpful. sending healing wishes -- you have so many better days ahead of you. <3
posted by crawfo at 12:43 PM on May 16, 2018 [11 favorites]

Everyone in the world will display a bpd trait in response to trauma. That means you're a normally functioning human being.
Whichever way you decide to deal with this, make sure you don't internalize his gaslighting, because that crap will legit make you crazy.
posted by OnefortheLast at 12:48 PM on May 16, 2018 [24 favorites]


I just binged Dr. Foster on Netflix. I would advise you to binge Dr. Foster on Netflix. Just to get in the right frame of mind and to get a quick primer on what not to do and what to do. Basically: Seize control of your assets. Be chary. Negotiate from a position of strength. Move quickly when you need to. Avoid scissors.
posted by Don Pepino at 12:49 PM on May 16, 2018 [7 favorites]

It's not at all helpful to analyse each other in a relationship, to label. Focus on behavior. If he says you are being borderline, ask him to specify the behavior of yours that is bothering him. You can decide if you can or will change the behavior.

Pay attention to his behavior towards you, is he good to you, is the labeling a way to avoid addressing real issues, is it a way to be controlling? Pay attention to your behavior; what can you do to make the marriage more successful? Walk away from the discussions; listen to him, acknowledge, but disengage.

That kind of psychologizing a partner can easily be a form of gaslighting. When it comes down to it, are you better off with our without him, do you actually want to stay in this marriage?

When I disengaged from the gaslighting and fighting, focused on my behavior and how I wanted to behave as if I were in a healthy relationship, my marriage ended with a bang. Wasn't easy to raise a child on my own, wasn't easy to recover from emotional abuse, but I am far better off.
posted by theora55 at 12:51 PM on May 16, 2018 [5 favorites]

I want to clarify on rereading my own comment: I don't think you really are borderline. Just like--what difference would it make? You'd still deserve better than having to live like this in any case, and saying stuff like this doesn't seem to have any end goal aside from creating a big enough fight to make you leave.
posted by Sequence at 12:52 PM on May 16, 2018 [6 favorites]

IANY, but this would be a deal-breaker for me.

My gut reaction is that it sounds like he may already be planning a divorce, and this diary is something he plans to use as ammunition during the proceedings. After consulting a lawyer, I might start keeping my own written record of events as I see them. At the very least, it would be an aid to keep my own thoughts straight during the stressful time to come.

I realize thus may sound a bit paranoid to some, but I was amazed to learn just how far ahead my father had planned his exit in a similar fashion before letting my mother know he wanted a divorce.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:55 PM on May 16, 2018 [22 favorites]

Start your own journal.

"May 16th, day one of my divorce ... "
posted by French Fry at 12:57 PM on May 16, 2018 [7 favorites]

Ok so he changed the story. Now he says he was tracking it for his own memory to be sure he isn't falsely conflating details. And he did it because he wants to prove his theory about me wrong, he did it because he loves me and is scared when he shows love and then I am mad about something. I don't know if that changes anything at all for me, though. I am not a science experiment. This is still f'ed up. I have told him a thousand times that having a complaint isn't picking a fight and he's not hearing it. He thinks when things are good then they will be totally smooth for weeks without me getting aggravated about chores or forgotten appointments or undisclosed schedule changes. And the fact that things can be good then the next day I'm irritated is proof that he needs to track this process for his own mental health, to hopefully prove himself wrong that there is no correlation between loving actions and me lashing out at him. That is the context he has just given to me. Hut he says that his hypothesis continues to be proven because things are fine then he doesn't run the dishwasher or he neglects to tell me his family member is in the hospital or some other small thing, so I say something then he activates this whole process on his end, and things escalate, then I spend a day trying to get him to see both sides of the story. I still think this is twisted and if he would believe my own expert opinion about my motivations rather than assume he knows better than me, then he wouldn't be tracking this in such a creepy way.
posted by What a Joke at 12:58 PM on May 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

Mind blown. Husband believes our marriage problems come from me having borderline traits and pushing him away when he shows love. I believe that isn't a helpful perspective to use and we are better off seeing problems as normal marital issues with communication etc. Husband has been tracking this. I think I want a divorce.

This first sentence of your question embodies a classic 'borderline' trope.

On one hand you say "we are better off seeing problems as normal marital issues with communication etc.", on the other, you follow instantly with "I think I want a divorce."

I think you are in denial about your behavior.

Your husband is handling it very poorly to be sure, and I agree that the whole misbegotten industry of BPD is used as a club to attack women, but I think he is very likely right about the way you are behaving -- yet the two of you may well be better off with a divorce.

By the way, I am the person who does the kind of thing in my relationship of almost 30 years now which I am saying you are doing in yours, but that insight, such as it is, has not been sufficient to stop me from doing it.
posted by jamjam at 12:58 PM on May 16, 2018 [15 favorites]

Yes, it sounds like the relationship is through but what I see is he kept a journal of when the arguments where happening and what he felt seemed to cause them.

Basically when things are going well between us, he will do something annoying and I say something.

Maybe you always get the upper hand in most arguments, so he's started to keep track of when it's happening, because maybe he feels like he's always on eggshells and he's trying to figure away around these blow ups?...or he wants something tangible to lean on during the next encounter.

Nearly the entirety of the question is you catigorizing his motives/intents, so I'm not ready to jump on the "gaslighting" wagon.

But yeah, you need to get away from each other.
posted by bonobothegreat at 12:59 PM on May 16, 2018 [23 favorites]

I don't think keeping a journal of your arguments to try to figure out the patterns sounds *inherently* creepy or like he's treating you like a science experiment. The fact that he's processing things that way doesn't strike me as a problem, though it's entirely possible he's doing it in a gross way or for a gross reason.

But his complaint is basically: everything is going fine and I do one little annoying thing and you get annoyed at me--like, isn't that kind of a tautology? He does something annoying, you get annoyed. The "things are going great" part is just the background default; if he feels attacked whenever you get annoyed at annoying, what does he think life looks like? If you're getting mean or angry or questioning the relationship because he forgot to run the dishwasher, maybe, but that's not what I'm seeing here.

Again, to me, it's not that he's taking notes that seems weird to me; it's what he thinks they prove that seem off. I take notes sometimes when I have a conversation that depends a lot on tone or seems weird or hard to understand, because stories get emotionally inflated when I retell them, even to myself, so having notes from the moment helps me keep things in perspective. But his perspective sounds very blamey of you, and I agree that if this feels like a dealbreaker to you, that's a perfectly reasonable position.
posted by gideonfrog at 1:08 PM on May 16, 2018 [12 favorites]

Okay, just assume he's right and the journal proves you're borderline. Then what? He wins? I mean if you're borderline, successfully identifying you as such isn't going to make you suddenly stop being annoyed by him in response to his gestures of intimacy. I don't see a solution where either you stop being annoyed by him or he starts taking responsibility for his own shortcomings.

In his defense, I kind of get where he's coming from because when your partner isn't the way you want them to be, it's common to want to put a label on it (although it's not usually useful to tell the other person about it . . . ). Even the journal-keeping isn't that insane--if he's trying to figure out what's going wrong or trying to make sense of things, I could see how that could be a useful exercise. It really doesn't matter whether you're borderline or not--you're not getting along and neither of you is doing anything likely to change that.
posted by HotToddy at 1:11 PM on May 16, 2018 [3 favorites]

Yep. Gaslighting. Run.

May you find yourself in a happy, accepting, respectful, and supportive relationship someday. This isn't it.
posted by Dashy at 1:11 PM on May 16, 2018 [9 favorites]

Posted before seeing your update but still, you "spend a day trying to get him to see both sides of the story" with your "expert opinion" sounds like a really one sided and effed up situation. I've seen this sort of thing in action and those sessions amounted to nothing more than brainwashing.

Get out, let him go too.
posted by bonobothegreat at 1:14 PM on May 16, 2018 [7 favorites]

Honestly, regardless of whether you have BPD, or he's gaslighting you, or you're both operating in good faith and just perpetually talking past one another, break up. Sometimes even well-intentioned people make each other do crazy things. Even if you're both trying your best--and it doesn't sound like he is, to be clear--this isn't how healthy relationships work, and ultimately it doesn't really matter who's at fault, or how blame gets apportioned. Get a good lawyer, stop trying to get him to see your side, and get out.
posted by tapir-whorf at 1:19 PM on May 16, 2018 [40 favorites]

Yeah, it doesn't matter.

Based on one side of the story, I think the key to the whole thing is that he's so terrified of anger that he's incapable of thinking his way through a wet paper sack about WHY somebody is angry so that he can avoid making somebody angry and that he gets stuck at "OH NO, SHE'S ANGRY! OH NO, ENDOFTHEWORLD, OH NO! SHE IS BAD AND ANGRY, OH NO! HOW IS THIS BAD FEELING ALL HER FAULT THIS TIME TOO AND HAPPENING FOR THE REASON THAT I AM AWESOME AND SHE IS BAD AND ANGRY? IS IT BECAUSE I AM MADE OF LIGHT AND LOVE AND SHE IS THE DEVIL? IDK, LET ME JOURNAL ABOUT IT ENDLESSLY AND THEN LEAVE THE JOURNAL AROUND IN PLAIN SIGHT BECAUSE I LACK EXECUTIVE FUNCTION"

Other people think that the key to the whole thing is that you're a BPD sufferer.

It doesn't matter. You guys are a bad match. Nobody knows why at this point, and it doesn't matter. The fact that the match is bad is the sole important fact. You can part amicably or you can Dr. Foster it. But get away from one another.
posted by Don Pepino at 1:20 PM on May 16, 2018 [7 favorites]

So I won't threadsit but since this group is so helpful and reasoned here are the actions that led to him staying out later than scheduled without telling me, and confessing later he did so because he decided I was on a warpath. I have no idea if my actions are out of line here or not.

1) we wake up, have ten minutes per day to see each other. He's very quiet. Waking up, which I gather, but the previous night I got all these loving communications about how much he enjoys me sexually. Then the ten minutes we have together (seriously most days of the week that's all we get), nothing, so I say it would be nice to use our ten minutes for meaningful conversation. He gets cranky and says if I want something ask for it directly. I say I know he's waking up, logically that I understand, but emotionally I am feeling sad that we want from positive bonding communication to nothing at all in the time we have. Didn't press the issue, left for work, sent some nice texts to show him I wasn't trying to belabor the point.

2) He brought up a topic of conversation via text while I was at work, I tried to engage as best I could, then told him I had to go because the topic was troubling, to please let me know when he was done with it. He felt that was a rejection so I clarified, this isn't about you, just the topic, everything is ok, and I hope you have a good day at work.

3) Came home with very little time to do everything needed for myself and the baby before bed, and he had miscommunicated about an important task for bedtime. I did get irritated, and I did lay into him a little via text - complaints, not character attacks, discussion of division of labor which is ongoing. Then I sent another text that was more reasoned communication and that was it. He has a history of not helping around the house and he is about to have more free time so I also expressed the expectation that he use the extra free time to help at home because that is a normal part of the role for the person who is home more in the day.

Now historically, I harbored a lot of resentment over how he handled some situations and it did come out as toxic anger and bitterness but since those issues have been addressed that is not the norm.

So do the things I described warrant being accused of picking fights? Or is this normal stuff that my partner is maybe not understanding how to manage? Nofe that plenty of positive communication also happened during the time frame in question, these are just the glitches. I won't write more but I honestly have no idea what the truth is here. Thanks.
posted by What a Joke at 1:27 PM on May 16, 2018

My belief is that my husband has avoidant attachment and we had a toxic pursue-withdraw cycle that led to some seeking behaviors from me that looked BPDish.

I still think this is twisted and if he would believe my own expert opinion about my motivations rather than assume he knows better than me.

It's hard to tell exactly what's going on, but you're also "diagnosing" him (and referring to yourself as an expert), and this doesn't seem to be part of a healthy relationship either. He's taken it a step further by keeping a journal about it, but it seems like you're both doing the same thing - thinking in terms of who is psychologically damaged rather than just considering each other as human beings.

Was your initial take on what the journal was for based on what he said or your own assumptions? I think it's possible he was trying to figure out things on his own unless he told you something else. Also, did he show this to you, or did you read his private journal? If the latter, that's a major violation.

MeFits tend toward DTMFA really quickly, but I don't feel convinced that this is all his fault - though it might be. This sounds like a difficult situation, but it also sounds like it's very raw. Maybe take a few days to think about it before deciding what to do.
posted by FencingGal at 1:28 PM on May 16, 2018 [23 favorites]

"I don't think keeping a journal of your arguments to try to figure out the patterns sounds *inherently* creepy or like he's treating you like a science experiment. The fact that he's processing things that way doesn't strike me as a problem, though it's entirely possible he's doing it in a gross way or for a gross reason."

posted by jbenben at 1:29 PM on May 16, 2018 [4 favorites]

I also want to validate for you it's weird he keeps score but does not see the direct correlation between him failing to do something like run the dishwasher and you getting annoyed.

What is it about your annoyance or displeasure you are expressing in dysfunctional ways, and/or he is processing in a dysfunctional way?

We're not there to see the interactions so we can't know.
posted by jbenben at 1:33 PM on May 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

The change in story worries more than the journal tracking. That's a bit on the gaslighting, bit of I don't want to be the bad guy one two combo there.
posted by wwax at 1:36 PM on May 16, 2018 [11 favorites]

People will be much more sympathetic if they believe he's wrong about his amateur diagnosis, as I'm sure you know, but his behavior and attitude wouldn't be any more acceptable if you did have BPD. misdiagnosis wouldn't be as scary as it is if paternalistic mistreatment of correctly diagnosed women weren't an equal issue.

If you divorce him he's going to call your decision another symptom and so on and so forth. Tune that out. It doesn't matter what he thinks unless he finds a way to use it against you legally or in custody proceedings. so consult a good lawyer before saying anything to him, but I think it is not a safe marriage to be in and you will be better off the sooner you're out of it.

How do you get a male partner to question his own belief

You don't. Learning from you requires respecting you as an authority on your own inner experience and as an intelligent expert who knows more than he does in this regard. His inability to do this is the whole problem. He can get better on his own or with help, but he won't get better from anything you do for him.
posted by queenofbithynia at 1:37 PM on May 16, 2018 [16 favorites]

“And he did it because he wants to prove his theory about me wrong, he did it because he loves me and is scared when he shows love and then I am mad about something.”

This sounds incredibly gaslighty and sinister. I mean, is he also tracking whether or not you get mad at him for not holding up his end ofthe household chores when he hasn’t been super lovey-dovey before not running the dishwasher or doing laundry or whatever? If he is actually trying to track patterns in your relationship in a non-creepy way, he has to be keeping track of his own behavior as well. There are a few things he could be checking for here actually – whether you get more upset when he fucks things up if it is it immediately following some demonstration of love, whether HE is sabotaging your relationship by love bombing you and then dropping the ball
on household shit that he knows will upset you and stress you out. Does he forget or “forget” things more, or less in the period right after he’s attempted to reach out to you? Is he at all interested in keeping track of whether or not he might be pushing you away? all of this is to say what people have said already – your husband seems very invested in putting the blame on you and that’s neither fair nor healthy.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 1:43 PM on May 16, 2018 [12 favorites]

FencingGal, I paused at that, too, but on second read, she's saying she is the expert when it comes to her own thoughts and behavior--" own expert opinion about my motivations"--which is unassailable.

I've been in a "toxic pursue-withdraw" setup twice in my life with two different conflict-averse withdrawers, and in my experience, once somebody is chasing and somebody is running away, it's done. You don't recover from lethal relationship tag. It's the hallmark of a bad match. Everybody in it behaves like an insane person until, blessedly, the nightmare ends. Then everybody goes back to behaving like a sane, rational adult, and then maybe you can find someone who knows that the answer to "she is angry and she says it's because I forgot to do X" is not "mark this down in the spreadsheet and compare it to the other data points assembled over the past three months" but "do X." It is so, so relaxing and pleasant when you find that person.
posted by Don Pepino at 1:45 PM on May 16, 2018 [19 favorites]

Well, this marriage does not sound pleasant at all from either side. The level of fighting and anger you describe-- well that's just not normal, and it's making everyone miserable, and you don't have to live like that. Both of you seem to care more about blaming one another for your problems then actually (mutually) fixing the problems. You can get a divorce but that won't mean you win the argument. He'll blame you forever (as is his right); can you live with that? I suspect you're not quite there yet. Are you just seeking validation from us to help you win this latest fight, and for a bunch of us to say DTMFA so your next divorce threat can have teeth? OK, you got it in spades. Or do you actually want to do the painful and lonely work of moving forward to a happier future, whether alone or together?
posted by acidic at 2:01 PM on May 16, 2018 [15 favorites]

So today I find out he has been keeping a journal

How did you find out? And journals aren't inherently bad. They're quite useful.

How could I possibly have a mutually satisfying relationship of equals if I am the identified patient in my marriage?

So... you want him to be the identified patient in your marriage? Why does anyone have to be an identified patient in your marriage?

Now historically, I harbored a lot of resentment over how he handled some situations and it did come out as toxic anger and bitterness but since those issues have been addressed that is not the norm.

I think you've buried the lede here. This sounds like it has been an unhealthy relationship across the board for a long time.
posted by headnsouth at 2:04 PM on May 16, 2018 [19 favorites]

I was struck by this part:

He thinks when things are good then they will be totally smooth for weeks without me getting aggravated about chores or forgotten appointments or undisclosed schedule changes.

If his idea is that you only get aggravated after he makes some gesture of affection - does that mean his gestures of affection are weeks apart?

I don't think it's possible to know, based on your descriptions, whether your reactions are examples of fight-picking or not. But regardless it seems like you barely see each other, have a very young child (which could stress even the best relationship), and are not really operating with an excess of gentleness towards each other. Was it always this way?

(About the tracking: if he's just truly a quantify-and-analyze type, is he analyzing his own patterns as well? Tracking his own contributions to childcare and the household, his own stress-inducing behavior towards you, and so on?)
posted by trig at 2:07 PM on May 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

If nothing else, the word "warpath" would be a red flag for me. I would never want to be in a relationship with someone who was behaving in a way that could be construed as "warpath", and I would never want to be in a relationship with someone who described my own behavior that way.

Also, you don't mention liking your husband, or anything you love about him. You sound like you want permission to leave. As many have mentioned on metafilter, Dear Sugar was right when she said you can leave if you want to. That is reason enough.
posted by ldthomps at 2:08 PM on May 16, 2018 [9 favorites]

I want to play devil's advocate here a bit. Is it possible that the way you respond to annoyances is a bit over the top and that is what is throwing your husband around? The way it reads to me is:

Step 1: you two have a nice time together, and he thinks things are going great in the relationship

Step 2: he does something silly/irritating but really not a huge life-changing problematic thing, and you get really annoyed.

Step 3: he is confused because he thinks your response is exaggerated compared to the little annoyance it caused, and especially in light of how well things seemed in Step 1. Like he's thinking, wait, things were going so well, so how did this small annoyance become such a big deal?

Step 4: he tries to explain this and this makes you even more annoyed, leaving him feeling like you are brushing aside his confusion.

I mean basically, if two people have a good healthy relationship then something like forgetting to load the dishwasher shouldn't set off alarm bells. But when suddenly forgetting to load the dishwasher becomes a day-ruining event, that's a signal that things are way worse in the relationship than assumed. That can leave someone in the relationship feeling like they have completely misinterpreted how well things were going.. and that's a really unstable feeling to experience. So I totally understand why your husband may feel utterly lost and grasping at explanations here.

At the end of the day, it does seem like your relationship is coming to an end but that neither of you are on the same page about it. This is leading him to think that affectionate/happy interactions are signs of a good relationship and you to think that small gaffes are a Big Deal.

I think your two options are to divorce or to seek therapy in which you BOTH put aside the armchair diagnoses and let a neutral third-party professional suss it out for you.
posted by joan_holloway at 2:16 PM on May 16, 2018 [26 favorites]

Your husband keeps an incident log and you set a stopwatch to track how often he will initiate conversation. You two are more alike than you care to admit and it's sucking all the joy out of your relationship. I think it's time for the Big D.
posted by rada at 2:18 PM on May 16, 2018 [52 favorites]

[One deleted. OP, please step back at this point. AskMe isn't a space for processing or back-and-forth conversation in that way. You've asked your question, now you can read people's suggestions and decide for yourself what's helpful, that's it.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 2:21 PM on May 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

I feel like you've buried the lede a bit here - you two have a baby AND you only get ten minutes of face time with each other a day? So you're two sleep-deprived ships passing in the night with a whole host of new chores and responsibilities to cover? Sounds like a recipe for disaster, especially if you had significant-ish communication issues pre-baby.

I would suggest trying to focus on self-care for each of you, getting more positive time together as a family, getting couples therapy, and waiting until you've gotten past the worst of the first year (sleep deprivation + recovering from sleep deprivation + recovering from the major life change of having a baby) before you do anything major like a divorce.
posted by Jaclyn at 2:23 PM on May 16, 2018 [35 favorites]

I think both of you are treating your relationship as if it is in need of a diagnosis, and you think you're right because you have a degree and he's wrong because he's not right. A diagnosis, a bit of psycho-babble that explains your cycle -- those things aren't going to solve your problem here.

Is your problem that you wildly overreact to even minor inconveniences? Is it that he never fucking does anything around the house so of course you're pissed off when he forgets to meet even his most minimal promises? Is it both? I don't know. I don't think you know. I don't think either of your psychological lenses is going to help figure that out. Certainly it has caused both of you to pathologize a breakdown in communication to an extreme degree.

I do know, though, that text messages are probably the least communicative form of communication since smoke signals. Even in semaphore you could whip those flags around with some emotion. Please stop talking to your husband almost exclusively by text message and then revisit these issues after you've spent some time actually talking to him about things in your day to life and in your larger relationship.

I know you don't have a lot of time together, and text may seem like your only opportunity to share basic household info, but you have got to find another way, because it is clearly not working.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:26 PM on May 16, 2018 [13 favorites]

Step 2: he does something silly/irritating but really not a huge life-changing problematic thing, and you get really annoyed.

they have a baby. they have ongoing "division of labor" issues. for the life of me I can't imagine the level of devil's advocacy it would take to belittle that into an overreaction to silliness.

assume he's right about everything. bpd's not a magic word that erases a century of feminism and studies and scholarship about exactly this problem. a man with time to maintain a meticulous wife-watching journal has time to do more childcare and housework than he is currently doing and no amount of irritability or frank mental illness on her part changes that. there's no asterisk in a marriage manual that says you have to do your full share of household and parental labor *unless she's crazy.
posted by queenofbithynia at 2:34 PM on May 16, 2018 [57 favorites]

Everything about this screams emotional abuse to me. It's fucked up in it same way it's fucked up when one partner films another during an argument to use against them later. I'd have real second thoughts about carrying on a relationship with someone who did this.
posted by Penny Dreadful at 2:36 PM on May 16, 2018 [3 favorites]

If he really does have an avoidant attachment style, then HE is going to set up conflict and withdraw when things start to feel too intimate. It seems very unselfaware of him, at best, to project this specific thing onto you. Yes, this getting close/pulling back is classic for textbook BPD, which is why perhaps he's fixating on that specific label. But the point is: he is projecting onto you what you are sad about in him, and keeping a journal of it all, and changing his reasons for that, seems to suggest that he is obsessively displacing his own thing.
I don't know what I would do with that information, but I'd want to see how introspective he could be about accusing you of the same thing he needs to do.
posted by velveeta underground at 2:39 PM on May 16, 2018 [3 favorites]

a man with time to maintain a meticulous wife-watching journal has time to do more childcare and housework than he is currently doing

This, very big time. Jesus Christ, I’d be pissed!

I’ve been in a relationship with a very similar man. My opinion is that 1) you may come across as nitpicky and needy, but in some part because 2) he withdraws and refuses to take responsibility for your shared family life. I think queenofbithynia was also exactly right that until he trusts you as an expert (in your field but ESPECIALLY on your own inner life and needs) he will be this oblivious and useless. He probably either needs therapy or to do a lot more reading or to smoke some pot or something, because his worldview is either sexist or just selfish (or both).

In other words I agree that you both probably have some issues, as all people do. What matters is that he decided to have a family but won’t participate in it.

And I mean, you’re not BPD for wanting a divorce. You want a divorce presumably due to years(?) of neglect and contempt from your husband, exemplified in this shitty journal. Wanting to work on marriage problems as they come and not slap on a diagnosis is entirely consistent with realizing that this guy is creepier than you thought and is not likely to change any time soon.

It sounds like you’re both trapped in crazytown and I’m inclined to blame it at least mostly on him, since the trigger issues seem to be his lack of commitment to his family. Maybe you’re a little codependent or something but IMO it doesn’t matter until he grows up.
posted by stoneandstar at 3:06 PM on May 16, 2018 [8 favorites]

I have really mixed feelings here. I don't think either of you should be diagnosing the other (and it sounds like that behavior is coming from both sides). That said, there is nothing wrong with keeping a journal to process one's feelings about their relationship with their spouse. If you really feel like things are not salvageable, then you can start looking into divorce. If not, some things to consider based on what you've said here:

--How can you guys get more facetime? Why do you only have 10 minutes a day together? Is there anything you can change about this? Even if it's something like a Skype video call at lunchtime or pulling back on an evening hobby or at least reserving one weekend day for time together.
--In that same vein, NO fighting over text. Text is basically the worst way ever to communicate if it's not something positive, because there is zero ability to read someone's tone, provide nuance, etc. Save it for a time when you have more than 10 minutes together, and be proactive about carving out that time at least once a week.
--Is it possible to make those 10 minutes you do have less about conversation and more about other ways to connect? I would also really struggle to force 10 minutes of "meaningful conversation" first thing in the morning after waking up, and my husband and I have a happy relationship. That's just never going to be a good conversation time for me. But can you use that time for snuggles or doing something nice together like reading books to your baby or whatever that could allow this to be positive time but not deep conversation time?
--Finally, it seems like couples counseling could really help here.

Also, as someone else who has a baby, I think this time of life is just really hard! As much as possible, I just try to assume good faith efforts on my husband's part and only ask him to change something if it is really critical/driving me insane. Yes, our house is a disaster area (honestly, this is probably something that bugs him more than it bugs me!). And we have BOTH dropped the ball on various things because we are working on an insufficient amount of sleep plus trying to figure out this whole parenting thing. I have just accepted this as a fact of life of having a tiny baby.

And also, yes, motherhood with a baby is harder than fatherhood, especially if you're breastfeeding. My daughter will ONLY allow me to put her to bed -- if my husband tries, she screams endlessly and will not be put down (which is hard on him too). He can give her bottles, but it means I have to pump (which is more annoying than breastfeeding 90% of the time). It sucks to have this gendered stuff popping up in our relationship, but also it's not his fault and I know he is doing his best. If you honestly don't feel your husband is putting in a good faith effort, then that's something I think you guys should discuss at a calm time (maybe with a couples therapist), and potentially a reason for divorce if he refuses to change. But some of this could also be just that having a baby is HARD, especially for moms.
posted by rainbowbrite at 4:09 PM on May 16, 2018 [5 favorites]

I guess if you want validation, you have it from me. I have a hot temper and yes, I do get irritated, but over the years, I've worked out stuff with my husband (my 3rd, and hopefully last, ha-ha).

I do the kitchen stuff, because I feel like that is my arena. He does the trash stuff. Pretty typical, but it's not just taking it out, it's driving to 2 locations for trash and recyclables and it's his job and he does it without me asking him to. After a few years of him doing dishes after I cooked, it was like, he'd do a few, then sit down, then get up and do a few more, then leave the rest in the sink. Then I'd find a bunch of sort of greasy dishes in the rack, and a pile of unwashed dishes in the sink, and the counter never got wiped, etc.

I just stopped getting angry about that stuff and realized he wasn't brought up that way, and I want it a certain way, so I do it myself and it takes me 15-20 minutes to bring it back to the way I like it. And no matter how hard he tried, I was never going to be happy with the way he cleaned up the kitchen. So I said I'm going to take ownership of this thing, it may sound traditional, but I am much more happier when my forks don't have bits of egg on them and the stove top is shiny.

But you know, in the evening, he will offer to bring me dessert. So what if it's an ice cream sandwich out of the freezer? Or give me a foot rub or a back rub.

The problem with marriage is that you not only have a boyfriend, a husband, and a sexual partner, you also have someone as a roommate. Bring a baby into it, and it's even more fun.

I think your problems might be normal for a couple with a baby, and he might be overreacting to your normal irritation. I mean, "hey, you forgot to unload the dishwasher!" should be: "sorry, I'll bring you Chinese food or rub your back." Or some kind of other thing, instead of attacking you for being irritated at him forgetting something. My husband also neglects to tell me stuff that I deem important, to this day. Mostly because he doesn't want to tell me because he knows I'll get pissed off or ask why didn't he tell me. And his first response is always "I'm sorry." Mostly because he knows I'll stop bitching. And then he'll say "Did I tell you how much I love you today?" Or, "you're so beautiful." Which can go a long way, you might want to tell your husband that a couple of lines like that goes much further than keeping a diary on your behavior. If he doesn't know that, or can't learn it, I don't know what to say, other than he's being a jagoff.

It sounds like you guys are floundering, and instead of couples therapy and over psychoanalyzing it to death, maybe the both of you could use same-sex friends who have experience to vent to about this stuff. It's really helpful to me if I can say to my friend, "oh, blah blah blah," and she says, "oh yeah, blah blah blah, ha-ha" but not in a bad way, just sort of, "yes, I get this too." And the same for him, he might benefit from some guy friends who are like, "dude, you are in the dog house, you should make it up to her by vacuuming the living room or something."

What also helped me was to focus on my husband's positive qualities, because I know I am not perfect, and he is also not perfect. We are imperfect human beings who choose to live together. We both like animals, and nature, and watching TV shows together, talking about books, going on day trips, our cats (our kids now, we are grandparents). He knows when I am cranky that it's not about him. I apologize or say, "I'm sorry, I am tired and hungry and cranky right now," and he says, "I know, I could tell." And that's it.

Sorry for such a long-winded answer. If there is another guy in your friend or family who could sit down and tell him how to treat a woman who has a baby and not to get all jagoffy on her for being pissed off over loading or unloading the dishwasher, that would be one suggestion. Or his mother or anyone. "Dude, you are pissing off your wife who is the mother of your child by being a dick, so stop it and grow the f*ck up" would be how I would put it.

So yes, I validate what you are saying, and I hope it works out for you, whatever you choose to do.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 4:23 PM on May 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

An aside note: this diary cannot be used against you with the counterargument of the writer being a participant in the events and not an objective observer or 3rd party. One could just as easily assume that the events were engineered or malicious intent or agenda as the writer had full account, records and knowledge of your "bpd" triggers and was the sole witness with consent of and control over the documentation of them
posted by OnefortheLast at 5:02 PM on May 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

This reads to me like he is planning to divorce you and has already seen a local family lawyer who told him to “journal” your behavior over a period of time in order to show your future family court judge that you are an unfit mother and cruel wife, and therefore, he should not have to pay you any child support or alimony. If you live in a fault state and a one-party recording state, I bet he’s also secretly recording your arguments. Once you called him on this stuff, he suddenly changed his story, which makes me think he is just covering his tracks about his plans to divorce you. A very similar thing happened to me, only I was falsely accused of having post partum depression.

IANYL but I urge you to schedule a consultation with a local lawyer who specializes in high conflict divorce and can understand the mindfucking you’re being subjected to at this very vulnerable time in your life as the mother of a baby. Stay safe, do not confront your husband. Get your ducks in a row and get access to cash reserves to take care of you and your child while the divorce is pending, so he cannot “starve you out” and force you to settle for less than. I hope I’m wrong, but this reminds me of my own life a little too closely.
posted by edithkeeler at 5:04 PM on May 16, 2018 [19 favorites]

If he really does have an avoidant attachment style, then HE is going to set up conflict and withdraw when things start to feel too intimate.

This. Keeping a log of things that go on in your relationship is not necessarily a bad thing, but he has to be willing to look at the patterns in the whole "system," and not just stop his analysis when he finds something that proves his pre-determined point (and, not coincidentally, allows him to dump the blame on you).

Or, to put it another way, has he noticed that there seems to be a pattern of him failing to do some small chore or otherwise letting you down in a way he knows will upset you shortly after he has been vulnerable or expressed appreciation?

Feel free to tell him that this internet stranger has identified such a pattern.

Seriously, I'd suggest individual therapy to help you figure out your own feelings, independent of his, and identify how much you are willing to invest in this. There's no right or wrong answer but it does sound like neither of you are happy and something's got to change.
posted by rpfields at 5:06 PM on May 16, 2018 [4 favorites]

Oh yeah, I’m totally familiar also with the man who CANNOT say “oops” or “I’m sorry,” even to a woman with a baby who also has a point. It’s exhausting and it might be common but that just explains partly why the divorce rate is high.
posted by stoneandstar at 5:28 PM on May 16, 2018 [4 favorites]

How do you get a male partner to question his own belief that his actions preceding conflict are above reproach?

You don't. Or rather, you have done the things that can work for that, and they haven't worked - he does not believe your understanding of your relationship is valid; he does not respect your conclusions.

Decide if you can live with that, and otherwise, get out; he's not going to change for you. He might be able to change - at some point, in the future, with or for someone else - but he's already decided that not only are you wrong about How Your Relationship Works, he's gone out of his way to gather data that he believes counts as "objective proof."

There is no "objective proof" about how a relationship works. Either the two (or more) people feel comfortable and supported by each other, or they don't. Sometimes those feelings can change if some behaviors are changed, but there is absolutely no workable version of "I am doing the right things, so you need to feel loved and supported here."
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 5:58 PM on May 16, 2018 [8 favorites]

Instead of projecting my own life experiences onto yours, I just will say is that you would be well within your rights to getting a lawyer and a divorce ASAP.
If he really feels this way he should have sent you papers already. It is insane to go through all this effort to prove you are nuts when it would just be so much simpler to GTFO. This is the surest sign, to me, that you're the reasonable one. You shouldn't have to deal with this crap.. no one should really. I'm getting a very strong vibe everyone would be better off with the ending of this relationship. Apparently you're the one that's going to have to make that happen. You have my sympathy, and I wish you the best of luck, seriously.
posted by some loser at 8:43 PM on May 16, 2018

I do think that you might be overreacting a bit. It's clear that you two have an underlying dynamic that isn't working. But it's not clear to me that it can't be addressed. What he's doing, forming a theory about you and why things are the way they are, isn't cool, but it's really common. And putting it down in writing, some people figure things out that way. Again, no, not cool, but how is writing our your own theory about what's going on here in this post that much different? It's a symptom that you guys need help. How about finding a new couples therapist? Given that you have a kid, it might be worth it.
posted by salvia at 8:48 PM on May 16, 2018 [8 favorites]

This would drive me Up. The. Wall. I experienced a milder version of the same thing once - I'd tell him something he did annoyed me, and he'd tease me for being "grumpy". It drove me crazy! It was completely invalidating to be told that I was annoyed simply because I was in a bad mood, not because his behaviour was bothering me. And then I'd try to insist that no, I'm not grumpy, I'm specifically annoyed at the thing you did, and I'd get increasingly annoyed until I self-evidently *was* grumpy so clearly he was right! Ugh. It seems like your marriage may be experiencing this dynamic turned up to the max, where you're in a "bad mood" because of your "bpd" and not because of anything he did, nope.

I read your past questions. You say you sort of hate him, and I'm getting the impression that he feels all the problems in the relationship are your fault, and he's now keeping a diary to "prove" it. I'd love to know if the diary even includes the things you said you were actually annoyed about. Even if that's not true, the fact that you feel blamed for everything is also crappy, and you want a divorce! Get the divorce, you sound miserable with this man and you want one.
posted by stillnocturnal at 2:11 AM on May 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

You are not overreacting. My ex did this to me. I found a planner where he had been keeping track of "fights"--he'd write a quick synopsis on the day of any fights or discussions we had. Some of them weren't even fights but he recorded them like they were. They were written in such a way that did not reflect what had really happened or any of his accountability in it. They were all written in a way that blamed me and made me sound crazy. Like if I got upset because he broke a promise and we had a discussion about how important trust is or whatever, he would write "she picked a fight with me about x again". I was horrified like you. For me it was horrifying to see that that was how he thought of me, that's what he took away from the discussions we were having and it was clear when I saw the planner that there was no way we were or ever could make progress with anything when that was how he processed it all. I could also see times when, after seeing what he wrote, I realized that he'd been trying to get me to react negatively on occasions, that he'd goad me. I felt like i had wasted hours trying to explain myself and him and work towards fixing things when he was walking away blaming me for everything wrong in our relationship.

He told me he was keeping a log so he could prove how mean and crazy I was. He told me he was happy when I would finally lose my temper because it meant that I was the one who was wrong. I still don't know who he wanted to prove this to or why he wanted to be with someone who he was trying to prove crazy. I don't know why he would say one thing to my face and write another in his planner. I don't know why he wanted to be in a relationship like that. Eventually he cheated on me and told me it was my fault.

Thinking about it still makes me go numb. It's gas lighting, and what your husband is doing to you is gas lighting. Changing the reason he gave you for doing it is also gas lighting. My ex used to do that all the time. Discussions went nowhere. Like your husband he wouldn't listen. Like your husband he'd send the nice texts but when it came to putting in any real effort or any actions, he did nothing. It is super messed up, you can't have a satisfying relationship on these terms.
posted by Polychrome at 5:34 AM on May 17, 2018 [9 favorites]

I bet if you find a way to confront Story #2 it's going to evolve into Story #3.

"Well, I SAID I was keeping this journal because X but really it's because Y."

And so on.
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:26 AM on May 17, 2018

Your husband's journal can't prove you are mentally ill.

Even if you are mentally ill (if you think you are, see a doctor for a diagnosis, not a passive/aggressive journal!), that doesn't prove he wins all of the fights forever. (I'm mentally ill and my husband isn't - he doesn't bring up my mental illness when we fight.)

Even if you are mentally ill, your husband won't necessarily 'win' in a divorce (however you see that) (though it is much better for everyone (except the lawyers) if you try to divorce amicably anyway).

If you think you might be divorcing, see a lawyer soon and protect yourself financially. Joint bank accounts are NOT your friend. Begin putting your own paycheck in a separate account, if it isn't already.

Couple's and individual's therapy is still an excellent idea. Even if you are 100% sure you want to leave, couple's therapy can help you decouple in a friendly way. Everyone knows that one couple who are in utter hate with each other still years after their divorce. Make it your goal not to be that couple.

Don't try and diagnose your husband. Don't let him diagnose you. Even if either of you were professionals, it would be unethical and inappropriate to try to diagnose one's spouse.

Good luck.
posted by happyturtle at 8:01 AM on May 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

When I first read your post, you sounded very reasonable and deserving of a sympathetic response. When I read it again, along with your previous questions and your additional comments in those threads, doubts set in. Speaking personally, and also speaking as a diehard feminist, I would not be able to survive in this marriage in its current state if I were your husband. This isn't me trying to play Devil's Advocate either; I'm being honest. I can see what a question might look like if written from his end (and would probably then be thinking, "I would not be able to survive in this marriage if I were your wife"). The reason I'm referencing your previous questions is because there's a pattern, and I don't think the answer to your problems is as simple as "Your husband is a gas-lighting asshole". Perhaps he is. I honestly don't know. All I have to go on are your words and it's to those I'm reacting.

You see him as applying a filter, and no doubt he does, but you're also applying your own. What stands out in what you've written is this: your need for control. If partner doesn't perform when and how you want him to, there seems to be a problem for you. It's your own actions that you present as being beyond reproach, which is understandable, but there is always the other human being's experience of them to consider, and often what you write is contradictory. Again, you present yourself as holding the more helpful perspective generally, mentioning that whilst he feels you may be displaying BPD traits (a suggestion of a previous marriage therapist), you believe you both have normal marital and communication issues. However, you have also diagnosed avoidant attachment in your husband as regards his motivations (and cite your professional credentials) whereas believe yourself to be the "expert opinion" as regards your own. That's sort of like saying, "I am the expert on me and on you, too".

You mention sending nice texts and having reasonable complaints but then what will leak out is a phrase such as "lashing out" or referencing your husband actually hiding from you or staying out late because he's afraid you're on the warpath. You want it made plain you don't belabour a point but mentioned previously spending four hours "calmly and patiently" asking your husband to sort out a problem (described in vague terms), or having developed a "volatile style" and being harsh. The way you describe your marriage, leaving aside the psychoanalytical language, sounds like a boss/employee relationship: "he had miscommunicated about an important task for bedtime"; "poor planning and poor communication which resulted in a schedule problem"; "how do I encourage the sort of proactive troubleshooting conversation I was trying to have"; "his lack of planning, foresight or proactive communication"; "I'm looking for practical ways to encourage proactive, solution focused conversation"; "ignoring the priorities I requested".

You write of yourself as being patient, reasonable, exhausted, hurt, having your needs unmet, feeling neglected, and valuing quality time and words of affirmation. The only positive description of your husband is that he's a pretty egalitarian parent. Otherwise he's described as being childish, a poor partner, a teenager, horrifically immature, selfish, entitled, terrified of conflict, carrying toxic shame, having executive functioning issues, being self-absorbed, messing things up all the time, and prone to denial, minimizing and blame-shifting. He "doesn't do spontaneous well" and yet also annoys you when he calls to cousins on impulse with your toddler for a playdate or takes the child somewhere unusual. You want him to chip in with household tasks but if he makes a mistake and you're deprived of "1.5 hours" with your son one night, it's an issue. If he buys groceries but also buys non-food items one time, you're wondering if you should say something or just seethe with anger.

I am also actually unsure as to whether he's the father of your son because the latter has constantly been referenced as "my" as opposed to "our son". You mention inviting partner to join "toddler and I" for family dinner, after which you made "light-hearted" quips because there wasn't enough conversation - I'm guessing toddler is exempt - and then set a stopwatch for seventeen minutes to time the ensuing silence. You feel sad that you went from a nice bonding experience one night with positive affirmation from him to "nothing at all" in the ten minutes available to you both the following morning because you wanted "meaningful conversation" with a partner right after waking. You're annoyed because your partner avoids conflict but also: "He gets mad at me for not letting him get a word in edgewise, but I do give him plenty of pauses to use in conversation if he has something to say." Just as many people might display BPD tendencies in certain situations, people can rapidly display avoidant attachment when an ongoing situation warrants it. In the above situation, I might well also be keeping a journal but to convince myself I was sane.

"He will do something annoying and I say something". Is there any slack? Leave husbands and wives out of it even. People do plenty of things that annoy me on a regular basis but I try to look at it in the context of their overall behaviour and what they've tried to do right. Your perspective is that when your husband does something annoying, you have the right to say something to him and receive an apology. Differing perspectives might say that whether someone has done something annoying is subjective in the first place, and whether you respond every single time is also up for debate. Also, I fully understand any resentment at the unequal gender distribution of workloads - it's unfair, it's infuriating - but people will likely never do anything *exactly in the way you wish them to do it*.

I may sound harsher here than I actually intend and neither am I dumping all this on your door. I'm simply saying it's likely not all down to your husband's utter awfulness and inability to just do as you say and take initiative and yet also not take an initiative that antagonises you (as might be the major consensus here). In my own particular culture, if you used the labels "BPD" and "avoidant attachment" and "executive functioning issues" when describing a marriage or a spouse, people would gape. They wouldn't even consult a dictionary. They'd just gape. If I could wave a wand and do anything for you it would be to dump all your schedules and anxiety about quality time and meaningfulness and productivity and creating positive spaces and just give you some fun in your life. You have a son together so, despite the odds looking dubious, I hope that enough of this relationship can be salvaged to keep him feeling happy and secure, whether you divorce or not.
posted by Lilypod at 8:38 AM on May 17, 2018 [42 favorites]

he needs to track this process for his own mental health, to hopefully prove himself wrong that there is no correlation between loving actions and me lashing out at him

This sounds to me like he's doing some deeply-rooted attachment work, that may in fact have been prompted by the arrival of baby -- especially if this is your first child together ever.

Your husband's need to independently track phenomena he is particularly concerned about regarding his attachment and survival needs... does not sound weird to me (especially if he's of German-ish heritage, then it's not necessarily for you to claim his coping strategy here is "wrong"). It sounds like he needs to because the signals in your communication patterns are not meaningful enough to correlate with what he actually needs to know.

(For example, am I doing this right? am I loving you right? now that a baby is here, is everything horrible from my attachment-wounds going to open up again? what can I do to take control of this anxiety? why doesn't checking in with my wife help me feel like things are going well? why do certain things make me more anxious now, that baby is here, when I had better control of this same anxiety before? why does tracking data about human interactions make more sense than actually talking to the humans I'm trying to have relationships with? etc).

Waking up, which I gather, but the previous night I got all these loving communications about how much he enjoys me sexually. Then the ten minutes we have together (seriously most days of the week that's all we get), nothing

So he doles out texts and texts of high-quality intimacy, and you... nothing? No positive feedback, whatsoever? And you're surprised when he gets frustrated, because you haven't given any clear signals that his affectionate attachment-strengthening behaviors are being well received?

You are clearly willing to be aware (though I don't agree you understand) that he has an avoidant attachment style (because if you "understood" there would be evidence of your mutual re-directive strategies for managing it in your narrative). Therefore, you are clearly aware that having an avoidant attachment style indicates that strong patterns of non-congruent signals characterized his original attachment relationship. Therefore, on some level, you probably do understand that giving no/poor signals in response to high-energy, high-quality intimacy-seeking behavior... is going to repeatedly re-awaken attachment-wounded anxieties in your husband. You aren't dancing with him; he's reaching out for your hand, and you're ignoring it and then wondering why it doesn't still reach for you later. What is your behavioral indicator to him, to let him know his affectionate energy is well received?

And no, it's not okay to claim "you just don't have one", and you "don't have to have one" on account of your own mother-damage (or father-damage, wherever your own stuff is coming from). If your deal is, that you didn't get clear affectionate signaling patterns in your childhood growing up, therefore neither should he... then maybe you're contributing more to the negativity here than you're admitting to yourself. Push come to shove, it really doesn't like you and your husband have been able to utilize your marriage relationship as a vehicle for supporting each other in recovering from childhood wounds. Many people don't, and then those wound-inner-child/attachment issues spring back up when a child arrives, and both partners are forced to realize they still haven't made meaningful progress on their inner work.

I don't necessarily think you should divorce; I do think you both should both step-up your wounded inner child work, to make sure that on the subconscious inner child level, arrival of baby isn't ramping up those latent issues. I highly recommended using this as an opportunity to do a parenting course together, like "Parenting From the Inside Out" which is designed to work with attachment and childhood trauma wounds in the parents as they learn to parent their child. You two do need to step-up scheduling time together, instead of what you're doing now (scheduling as much time apart as possible, because your respective attachment wounds and connection deficits have driven you both to running away from each other when disturbed, rather than seeking each other out for the security of comfort that should have been cultivated in your marriage by now). Good luck, whatever you decide.
posted by human ecologist at 8:48 AM on May 17, 2018 [6 favorites]

just divorce already. Reading your question history, you come off as very pokey and proddy towards him and a bit harsh, not understanding, and occasionally explosive. He comes off as trying to avoid setting you off, but completely missing that youd rather have him clean the house than snuggle on the couch because you are overburdened. I don't think either of you are some clinical label, but you are both definitely wrong.
posted by WeekendJen at 12:42 PM on May 17, 2018 [4 favorites]

« Older Key organizer filter: What's this dealie bopper...   |   Question about opioid painkillers Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments