Where's the normal?
July 2, 2007 5:27 PM   Subscribe

so okay, due to some spectacular feats of upbringing, my inappropriate-o-meter is all out of whack. So it's a long question.

(background: mother both physically abusive and suicidal. Actually left suicide note once blaming the 13 year old me for her choice to end her life. Brother sexually abusive with the knowledge of both my parents - mom's advice was a) it's a thing guys do that you have to put up with b) for god's sake don't talk about it and ruin his life)...anyway, blah blah, I have a hard time telling what's normal and what's out of line.

My marriage of 3 years is, on the whole, going well. I'm cuddled and protected and doted-on blah blah blah. Except on the very rare occassions we get into a monumental fight (we're talking once every six months to a year). Then he gets out-of-control tempered and has once grabbed me and shook me, and once shoved me off a bed, injuring my elbow. He has also drank bleach while yelling at me, and started hitting himself in the head with an iron. Again, this is not the norm. Once a year, MAYBE twice. He says I frustrate him and drive him to these things, and in all fairness, I'm not an easy person to fight with. I'm both insecure AND stubborn.

Where on the normal < ----> f'ed-up scale does this stuff fall? Is this what everyone does sometimes but doesn't talk about?

Apologies if I sound incredibly whiney/naiive.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (56 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Drinking bleach? Hitting himself on the head with an iron? That's so odd I have to doubt the veracity of this question. No, normal people don't do that.

The physical abuse you have described is also completely inappropriate.
posted by grouse at 5:36 PM on July 2, 2007

I am not a licensed anything but that's pretty fucked up from my point of view. You don't sound "whiny" -- domestic violence isn't something you whine about, it's something you get away from. Now.
posted by sanko at 5:36 PM on July 2, 2007

grabbed me and shook me, and once shoved me off a bed, injuring my elbow. He has also drank bleach while yelling at me, and started hitting himself in the head with an iron

This is never normal OR acceptable behavior, even if it happens ONLY once. But once or twice a year? 11 on the f'ed-up scale.
posted by puritycontrol at 5:37 PM on July 2, 2007

Pretty high on the fucked up scale... especially the self trauma with laundry products. Enough that unless he wanted to do some intense therapy, I would get the hell out.
posted by kimdog at 5:38 PM on July 2, 2007

Whoa, his argument behavior is rather high on the inappropriate-o-meter. 1) He has anger management problems, which he blames you on. 2) He is self-injurious (drinks bleach? Hits self in head with iron? NOT normal.) 3) He has injured you, and then blamed you.

Appropriate actions for men when they're frustrated:
1) Yell
2) Leave the scene for a while and crawl into their cave.
3) Possibly quit the relationship and/or ask for couples counseling.

You say you're insecure and stubborn, and that IS your problem. But his self-injurious behaviors and his bordering-on-physically-abusive behaviors are HIS problem.

I would recommend couples counseling if both of you will go, but if not, I recommend you go to individual counseling so you learn to set appropriate boundaries and quit taking responsibility for his behaviors.
posted by lleachie at 5:40 PM on July 2, 2007

Not normal. Not even close. Get help now. Do not assume this will 'go away' or not escalate. Asking for professional help on this is appropriate and no one is going to think this is 'whiny'.
posted by kch at 5:43 PM on July 2, 2007

Go get some counseling, the both of you, either separately or together. Feelings are normal, but how we express them is what makes a big difference--sometimes a life-and-death difference. When I become angry and think about violently lashing out, I usually try to talk about it with my wife, but that is so hard that sometimes I end up crying. Tears may not be manly, but they sure do help a marriage in my experience. I feel so much better afterwards, like it cleaned me out. I can't imagine repressing those feelings for too long without them exploding out of me unpredictably.
posted by markhu at 5:43 PM on July 2, 2007

These things are not okay. I admit being in a relationship like this myself, and not quite realizing it was inappropriate until I was disentangled from the person. Nothing magical will happen that will make these incidents stop happening, and they will likely only get worse. You're on the right track because you're self-aware enough to ask the question. Gather up support from whatever family and friends you feel you can rely on. I'm available by email. Think about it. Good luck.
posted by emyd at 5:43 PM on July 2, 2007

If he abuses you persistently (as in the two aforementioned incidents are not isolated examples but commonplace) than I would say get out.

If the man likes his bleach once in a while, so be it.

As far as the fucked-up scale goes (and your question for that matter), it's difficult to take a measurement without a reference point.
posted by ageispolis at 5:44 PM on July 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

Yeah, uh, gotta say pretty off the charts. I'm so sorry you have to deal with this. Please get help.
posted by tristeza at 5:44 PM on July 2, 2007

He says I frustrate him and drive him to these things, and in all fairness, I'm not an easy person to fight with. I'm both insecure AND stubborn.

Where on the normal < ----> f'ed-up scale does this stuff fall?

His getting frustrated with you because you're insecure and stubborn: most likely normal.

His getting so frustrated that he has physically manhandled you: completely inappropriate, although far too common.

His getting so frustrated that he has physically abused himself in the ways you describe: completely inappropriate, although less common.

His blaming you for how frustrated he gets: between normal and inappropriate, because you're certainly a contributing cause (as you suggest) but he has to take the blame as well, it's a shared responsibility.

His blaming you for the way he acts when he's frustrated: completely inappropriate. We are all responsible for our own actions.
posted by davejay at 5:46 PM on July 2, 2007

I am going to assume that this post is real and that your perception of reality is just too far-out for me to comprehend. One true barometer of a healthy relationship is how disagreements are handled. It is okay to be communicative and emotional, or even angry. But it is not okay for those feelings to be expressed physically in any way that is harmful to anyone.

Not okay, not normal. This is called abuse and you need to respect yourself more than to be with someone who thinks otherwise. Or if this is acceptable to you, your definition of relationship needs to be changed. Only time and proper counseling can help at this point. But please do go get some help.
posted by |n$eCur3 at 5:48 PM on July 2, 2007

To me those all seem never-should-happen fucked up.

The physical outbursts seem bizarre and terrible, but blaming them on you seems even more bad. Don't accept his blame - he is responsible for his own actions.

You are responsible for your own actions too, but more relevantly, you are responsible for your own well-being. Please tend to it, and get help.
posted by aubilenon at 5:48 PM on July 2, 2007

I'm sure that some people are going to say for you to get out. I'm not, but don't hang around if you ever feel threatened or unsafe. But what I will say is that your husband needs help, and needs to recognise that he needs some sort of help, whether his behaviour is the norm or not. Hurting himself is essentially a way of hurting you but in a way that feels more acceptable to him.

I'd trust your instincts here. You're posting because you're worried, I'd say you're right to be worried. Even if you are frustrating to argue with and stubborn, it doesn't warrant this irrational behaviour. You're situation doesn't sound unfixable and desperate, but it does need to be addressed, or it will continue and it may get worse. Whether it's 'normal' or common, well, that's moot.

Hmm. More I could say, but don't really want to here. If you want, email me.
posted by liquidindian at 5:55 PM on July 2, 2007

I'm sure that some people are going to say for you to get out. I'm not...

By which I mean it's not my decision, not that you definitely shouldn't.
posted by liquidindian at 5:58 PM on July 2, 2007

My marriage of 3 years is, on the whole, going well.

No, it isn't. Please be honest with yourself. Bleachy McIronface is not a good life partner.

Are abusive relationships common? Yes. That's because people are stupid enough to stay in them. Don't do that. Don't waste your life like so many people do. Have courage.

Unless you're trolling, in which case "lulz".
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 5:58 PM on July 2, 2007 [11 favorites]

Ask them.
posted by Methylviolet at 6:04 PM on July 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

From my own experience, I think fucked up people seek other fucked up people to partner with for a myriad of reasons, not least because there will be much less judgement of self. That is, one may say the other is frustrating, but not damaged, or useless or whatever. So, I'm assuming not the best childhoods for either of you, and a willing to work and change. And counselling can help. Some self help books can help. A willingness to be terribly honest (especially about one's self) and to make boundaries is important.

But back to your original question - are these behaviours normal? No, but that's not the scale you should be looking at. Are they acceptable? No, because they involve harm whether to self or partner. That is your scale. Is harm here? Yes? Seek help or change circumstances.

My partner, who also dotes on me, shoved me once early in our marriage. I told him very clearly never to do that again and he hasn't. He also used to react quite weirdly to relationship discussions (as did I - put me in the guess-culture) but now, it's much better. In my case, it was certainly worth sticking around. Doting really helps soothe that family of origin feeling of worthlessness.
posted by b33j at 6:09 PM on July 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

anonymous, I have some experience with people like this, and I understand that it can be very valuable to have outside observers tell you whether or not a situation is fucked up.

I would like to tell you that a situation where a person is drinking bleach or hitting themselves in the head with an iron while instructing you that it is your fault that he is doing these things is not an okay situation. Neither is your mother telling you that it's your fault she attempted suicide.

These are both monumentally fucked-up situations, and you should give yourself permission to respond accordingly.
posted by lemuria at 6:12 PM on July 2, 2007

Seconding davejay.

Was he drunk or high during the shaking/shoving/etc? That'd make it even more common. Go watch 'COPS' -- not being silly there -- it's pathetic, but it's not really unique.

The bleach and iron bits are extremely weird -- to me.
posted by kmennie at 6:13 PM on July 2, 2007

I had a girlfriend for a long long long time, who was both insecure and stubborn. Like your case, we would get into these fights -- but they were more freuqent (once or twice a month).

I would get INCREDIBLY frustrated but I never EVER laid a hand on her. However, when young (18--20), I did do things to myself out of frustration -- usually just break my stuff or tear up my shirt.

Lashing out in this way was a way for me to get my point across in the most dramatic way possible and just generally get an edge on the argument.

I only ever realised there was something wrong with the way I was behaving when one of my friends at the time asked me what happened to my "nice black shirt".

Personally, I did two things. (1) Got therapy and worked on myself a lot and (2) decided I wasn't going to ever let things get so out of control that I would do this again.

I achieved (1) through a therapist -- turns out I had anger management issues. Also turned out that growing up watching a house do tends to make you think its normal. That was a complete eye opener.

(2) was achieved by me making a pact with her. If things ever got to the point where I felt I was losing my cool and I was getting nowhere we agreed I would just tell her, and as hard as it is -- walk away and cool down for 10 mins before picking it back up.

That was MUCH more effective than I thought it would be.

So in essence: physical violence towards you is not acceptable, he might want to work on some personal issues and if both of you are aware of this behaviour some sort of forward-thinking escape protocol may be helpful.
posted by gadha at 6:22 PM on July 2, 2007 [2 favorites]

This is messed up. You've been messed up by your parents, and now you're in a messed up relationship with a messed up guy. You need professional help in a serious way.

Your question, by the way, made me think of Philip Larkin's "This be the verse."
posted by Dasein at 6:29 PM on July 2, 2007

If your guy is willing to get help, that's good.

If he refuses to or doesn't think he needs help, you should do what is necessary for you to be safe.

I won't tell you what to do either, but I agree this isn't acceptable behavior and you don't need to accept it.
posted by konolia at 6:35 PM on July 2, 2007

he needs help.
posted by thinkingwoman at 6:47 PM on July 2, 2007

If you are just asking normal vs. fucked, it might be normal; it's hard to tell (it's not normal for me or the people that I have any 'inside' info about). It certainly is not ok or something you should put up with. I'd suggest counselling, but then I pretty much always do because it's helped me a great deal.
posted by Nabubrush at 6:48 PM on July 2, 2007

If he's drinking bleach and blaming it on you, that's fucked up.

Frankly the whole thing sounds fucked up, but that part leapt out at me as especially fucked up.
posted by lekvar at 6:48 PM on July 2, 2007

I think (as in, I believe so through observation and my own experience and from what I read, but without having any footnotable evidence to back it up) that relatively low-grade physical aggression is really common. Shaking someone, throwing the cutlery or their china collection, and so on are, while definitely not what I would call "ok," probably really really common, happening within otherwise loving and caring relationships with some frequency. Again, I'm not saying that these are ok or good or behaviors that you should tolerate... but I do think that they happen an awful lot, making them almost kind of "normal," albeit not an encouraged kind of "normal."

Also common (but also not really ok) are acts of aggression directed against one's self -- punching a wall (and then breaking your knuckles in three places, like my friend did), breaking a possession, getting dangerously drunk, etc. "Normal" in the sense that we all know someone who has done this, and many of us have done at least a hint of this ourselves, but like the above, not "normal" in that you wouldn't proudly tell your family and friends about your awesome behavior. These things are "normal" as in "common," not "normal" as in "really cool and definitely ok."

Drinking bleach and hitting yourself on the head with an iron, along with shoving someone hard enough to injure their elbow, fall outside of the examples I've given, and are not normal, and are not ok. Mostly, I think, because these have actual consequences, whereas throwing your favorite glass against the wall mostly just injures your pride.

And that's maybe a good way to judge these actions -- do they or could they have serious consequences (injury, death, your appearance in an episode of "Cops")? Do they make you feel, at the time or later, unsafe or unloved? Is there a pattern, or an escalation?
posted by Forktine at 6:49 PM on July 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

< -----*>
posted by thejoshu at 6:51 PM on July 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'd be really stunned if one of my friends told me this was happening to them. No, not normal.
posted by selfmedicating at 6:52 PM on July 2, 2007

Once grabbed me and shook me -> This is inexcusable, but all too (sadly) happens far too often in america (and likely eh rest of the world). I'll say a 8 out of 10 on the fucked up scale. This is below shaking the baby, but not by much. Do you find shaking of babies okay?

Once shoved me off a bed, injuring my elbow -> Uh, oh, this is a repeat of an inappropriate level of physical abuse. The second time takes it up to a 10.

He has also drank bleach while yelling at me.
Whoops? Where the fuck did this come from? Gotta tell you, I don't know anyone who has drunk any bleach at all. Now, I have an eclectic/odd set of friends. One of them this year has jumped out of a perfectly good airplane about 300-400 times. None of them has ever drunk bleach. Nope. Totally fucking Psycho.

Started hitting himself in the head with an iron.
Yes, because the bleach thing didn't work. Also his head has creases and the iron can fix this.

Have a talk with him, that the next time he's totally frustrated...that he should walk out the room. Perhaps mow the lawn. Paint the house if he's really angry. Do something constructive with all that anger.

I've been angry before. Really fucking, amazingly angry. At my significant other (whomever the woman was at the time.) Bleach and irons were not an option. I have a great imagination - and I don't think I ever considered those. Not once. (I'll also say that I've managed not to involve any physical violence). And I have a bee-you-ti-ful fucked up childhood (full of mentally sick parents - hospitalized for anorexia, and some bonus abandonment from my father.)

So, counseling, I vote yes. Maybe two therapists for your husband. Maybe some child proof caps for your bleach too.

And if you see him behaving as such, try "Hey, even though we're fighting, I love you, and I think we need about five minutes to calm down, before you stick your penis in the George Forman Grill"
posted by Towelie at 7:01 PM on July 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

To what everyone else has said, I'll add that blaming you for his (exceedingly weird and inappropriate) behavior is, while sadly common, completely codependent and not-good.

No one can make anyone do anything. You sure can make it likely for someone to feel a certain way, but even there, you don't completely control someone's feelings.
posted by RobotHeart at 7:28 PM on July 2, 2007

I had a boyfriend once who shoved me so hard I tumbled over the bed. I dumped his ass immediately. That is a dealbreaker for me, but probably more common than most of us would like to think. Appropriate? Hell no.

I also had a husband who hit himself in the head repeatedly with a shredder during an argument (you know, the kind that sit on top of the wastebasket that have a heavy motor assembly in them). He refused counseling. We're divorced now.

None of these violent acts are appropriate. The shoving, probably common. The iron to the face and the drinking bleach (!), not so much.

I highly, highly recommend counseling.
posted by bedhead at 7:30 PM on July 2, 2007

His blaming you for the way he acts when he's frustrated: completely inappropriate. We are all responsible for our own actions.

Yep. Never forget about that one milisecond in there when he could've decided to go take a walk. You can teach people how you want to be treated.

I second methylviolet. They'll have good advice.
posted by salvia at 7:30 PM on July 2, 2007

You need help. He needs help. Please seek help.

I hope you don't have children yet.
posted by icollectpurses at 7:33 PM on July 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

< ---------------------------- (he is here) ->

No, really, a therapist will be able to help, and I'd go so far as to say that you should see the services of one. I say that with all the love in my heart, as a very good friend of mine has a similar problem.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 7:47 PM on July 2, 2007

Drinking bleach & hitting himself in the head with a frying pan are a fairly extreme level of self-harm, they're warning signs that either he has some deep issues in his past that probably match those in yours or he has a significant untreated mental/emotional illness. Either way he needs to start dealing with it before you can make any decisions about your relationship with him. If he's unwilling to do that then you have to consider ending the relationship.
posted by scalefree at 8:02 PM on July 2, 2007

My god this is not anything close to normal. This falls at the 'completely fucked up' end of the scale. Leave now.
posted by number9dream at 8:06 PM on July 2, 2007

Agreed with everyone. People who drink bleach? Need to be in your past.

Speaking as someone who also had a massively fucked up childhood, trust me you can find the normal. You don't have to be a product of your upbringing. Fate chooses your family, but you choose your friends and significant others. Tell yourself that you do deserve better, even if you have to fake it until you truly believe it.
posted by miss lynnster at 8:07 PM on July 2, 2007 [2 favorites]

This is so past normal that normal isn't even on the horizon from his vantage point.

Or, to put it another way... Normal : Alaska :: His Behaviour : South Africa.

Not even the same continent. Not even the same hemisphere.

Get out, you deserve better. This isn't something you can really fix.

And listen to Miss Lynnster and Methylviolet.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 9:05 PM on July 2, 2007

There is no such thing as normal!
No, really, not in the way you mean it.. There is average, but nobody alive is average. There is "acceptable behavior", which you'll have to define for yourself (make sure to tell him, when you've figured it out, but absolutely not in the middle of a fight :P), but there is no "normal".

Bleach and an iron sound very serious. However, it also sounds as if he is channeling his physical reaction away from you, and that is a relatively good thing.
Shaking? Did you suffer whiplash? Pushed out of bed? Were you bruised by the shove? I've no idea what to make of those things..

You must absolutely protect yourself as a first priority, and the fact that you are asking this question suggests that you feel threatened. So, take a long hard look at this issue! How does anger manifest in other aspects of his life? Does he have a history of violence in any way (ever hit an ex, bar fights, fights at school when he was younger)? Does he have a history of physically abusing himself? Does he verbally threaten violence against you? Has he ever threatened anyone verbally? Does he see violence as a solution to problems? I don't know how I'd interpret the individual answers to those questions, but I think those are the things you need to think about to figure out if you are at risk in this situation.

Except for the fact that you have brought the question here, I would say that it isn't panic time. Things need to improve, but we are all working on issues..

Obviously, you need to try talking to him about it. "You know, when you hit yourself it really scares me." Or, like I said above, set a limit, "I know you aren't hurting me when you do that, but I'm worried about you, and I find it intimidating, it has to stop." Maybe you've done all that, and it isn't improving.. That would be a bad sign! Maybe you can't bring it up without causing a fight? You should try a few different ways over time, but if you can never discuss it rationally.. That would be a bad sign too!

If it is all bad signs, you have to do something new. That might be therapy, maybe you just have to leave, or maybe just 'take a break'.
posted by Chuckles at 9:22 PM on July 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

I expect a good man to notice when a woman is physically afraid of him, and to back off. No other response is acceptable.

I hope you can hear what people are saying to you here.

Good luck.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 9:43 PM on July 2, 2007

I know he has done a lot of good stuff for you. But since you have those issues, you see this as abnormal behavior towards yourself--you may not see a loving partner as normal or feel that you don't deserve one so you'd best take what you can get.

But there are millions of great guys out there who can and will love you without any of the above. It happens everyday and despite what you might think, it is the norm in our society.

That means its accessible to you too.

Just keep that in mind.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:46 PM on July 2, 2007

I don't know why you should blame yourself if he hits himself in the head with an iron etc.

However, I don't quite like the sound of 'I'm cuddled and protected and doted-on blah blah blah.' as the definition of a good marriage. Doesn't sound grown-up.
posted by londongeezer at 10:25 PM on July 2, 2007

Sweet maudit Christ.

Looking at each item on its own, I can see why you're floundering. This particular shove may or may not be that bad, the iron hit his head, not yours, etc. When you have to balance this stuff against what seems like a lot of genuine warmth and closeness in your marriage, you may find it hard to really assess what's going on. (But I have to say that "I'm cuddled and protected and doted-on blah blah blah" sounds like a typical flipside to physical and emotional abuse. On the one hand, there's the violence; on the other hand, there's the nearly smothering, protective behaviour more commonly doled out to an infant or a pet.)

But here's the huge screaming issue for me: you have a horrible past with an abusive, guilt-mongering mother. This put you at risk of choosing a spouse capable of the same behaviour, and I'm really, really sorry, but it sounds as if you have done so in spades.

If you've told us about your mother, you have probably told your husband. I don't know what his background is, and it may be possible that he's acting like that because of his childhood, and he may not be consciously choosing to target your most vulnerable emotional areas. But it is also quite possible that he bloody well KNOWS how your mother did just the right things to hurt you and guilt you out.

This means that when he pours bleach on himself, he's pouring it on you. When he hits his head with the iron, he's hitting your head.

I understand that you want to be fair, and that you want to take responsibility for your own human frailties as well. But his reaction to your flaws (assuming your description of them is fair to you) is way out of proportion.

I'd advise you to be ready for anything. Yes, see what simple human conversation with him when he's calm will do. See if he's open to counselling.

But you may have to leave on short notice if any attempt to talk or start counselling goes badly: do you have anyone reliable to stay with? (Women's shelters are often very short of space, and you sound as if you're not really ready to define yourself as battered yet, either.) I'd highly recommend reading Gavin de Becker's book The Gift of Fear before you go so far as to try anything like a restraining order, which is often tragically counter-productive. And people are often at their most vulnerable when they try to leave an abusive spouse.

In short: his behaviour is very fucked up and not at all appropriate. While it remains possible that his behaviour could improve, the way he has acted so far is totally out of line and has to be dealt with one way or another.
posted by maudlin at 11:01 PM on July 2, 2007 [2 favorites]

Ok, I agree with previous answers - the guy is over the top of the scale on the f'd up side. As in, no, not even remotely "normal".
So don't take this as an apologist remark. However:

I've been moved to violence (against an object, not my opponent) during a spectacular argument with my wife exactly one time. I'm a guy, and when I get that pissed, I like to leave the scene and sulk for a while. Calm down, arrange my argument, maybe see her point, maybe not. Maybe the issue is small and I can't figure out why I bothered to argue about it. Anyway the crucial part is: I need to do that by myself. That one time, she chased me and would not let me disengage from the drama. Please don't do that, if you do (I have no idea. Just in case, I'm saying this.) Yes, I was wrong to lose control of myself. No, it was not her fault for "making me" do anything. I'm just saying, don't fan the flames. We discussed it afterwards and she agreed not to do that any more. Do not, though, let him blame the victim. That is the most f'd up thing about your story, that somehow it's your fault he has no self control.

Again, your dude is pretty messed up. Everyone elses's advice so far has been pretty good. Probably not a wise move to stay in that relationship. I'm not a believer that counseling helps anyone unless they seek it out themselves. If he goes to counseling to make you happy, he's pretending. Maybe even fooling himself, but it won't last. I'm no expert, though. So good luck with whatever decision you make.
posted by ctmf at 12:07 AM on July 3, 2007

For me, being yelled at is an unacceptable escalation of anger display, for many reasons; I have anger management problems, and if I'm sufficiently out of control to be yelling, I'm not in control. I therefore, take yelling as a danger situation that needs to be descalated fast. Projection, but it does tend to keep things within reasonable bounds.

What you're describing is so far off the end of the scale of 'acceptable' in my world ... well, all I can think of is 'domestic violence'. And 'abuse'.

Get therapy, both of you.
posted by ysabet at 12:26 AM on July 3, 2007

[mother] left suicide note once blaming the 13 year old me for her choice


He has also drank bleach while yelling at me, and started hitting himself in the head with an iron

are the same thing. They are harm themselves and then blame you for it. If you can see that your mother did this to harm you, maybe you could see this parallel behavior in your husband.

Please take care.
posted by clearlydemon at 1:17 AM on July 3, 2007

No, not normal. At all.

But even if it WERE normal, that really doesn't matter. What matters is what is acceptable to YOU. Even if you were the whiniest person on Earth and had a particular loathing for, let's say, a man who doesn't use coasters at the dinner table and that's your boundary, then if he crosses it, something's gotta change.

This is way beyond coasters and boundaries.

I just bring this up because I don't feel that you should EVER feel ashamed for the things that bother you. I really hope you find the path that will take you away from this and towards interactions that will make you happier. A place where you feel safe, and you know that the people around you are safe from (self-inflicted) harm as well.
posted by iamkimiam at 1:43 AM on July 3, 2007

This is not normal.

And trust me when I say -- most people do not act this way. I understand that when you are in a situation like this, it is easy to think that all men are like this, that whatever relationship you're in is going to have a certain amount of this kind of behavior in it.

They don't. This is not normal. Most men do not behave this way. This is unacceptable, crazy, WAY over the line behavior, and there is no possible situation in which it is acceptable.

It does not matter how "insecure and stubborn" you are. No earthly amount of insecure and stubborn EVER gives anyone a reason to do the things you describe.

I am sure that he justifies this behavior by saying that you are pushing his buttons, that you are frustrating him, stressing him out, that you should know better than to push him so far that he behaves this way. Trust me, this is absolute horseshit. Normal people do not respond to frustration by drinking bleach. Normal people do not grab you and shake you when they get mad, EVER.

The fact that this only happens once every six months to a year really is not important. The fact that it happened once is utterly unacceptable. The fact that it happened more than once means that it will never, ever stop. It will get more frequent, and it will get worse. Behavior like this does not stop on its own.

My advice, if you are not ready to leave this abusive relationship:

-- Read a bit about abusive relationships. See if you recognize any patterns from your own relationship.

-- Keep a journal of some kind. Even if you don't keep it all the time, write in it when things get really crazy. Make sure you write down the date and time when the crazy things happen, and what you think precipitated them. Look back at it from time to time.

-- Make sure you have supportive relationships outside of this relationship. If you don't, cultivate some. Begin regularly visiting a group of some kind (church, book group, knitting circle, dance class, etc).

You do not deserve to be treated this way. I understand that the rest of the time, the relationship is nice, that there is a sweetness that you don't want to let go of. But this is scary, controlling behavior. Pay attention to it. Don't dismiss it.

Much love to you. Stay safe, and take care of yourself.
posted by jennyjenny at 8:00 AM on July 3, 2007

I had a similarly abusive/bizarre mother and I'll be the first to admit that my relationship skills are sub-par. However, anyone who drinks bleach to show anger is more than a little out of touch.

The physical abuse is deplorable, and while not extensive or too frequent, it's enough to give a person pause. I'll go ahead and assume that you love this guy and that's why you married him, but I wonder if your love-o-meter took a little knocking around as a kid, too. Maybe this guy reminds you of something familiar, and you read that as love. He probably loves you back, in his way, but check this out: if he hits you, he's not loving you, despite how much he loves you.

Rule of thumb: if it causes scarring, bruising, broken bones, chemical or thermal burns, blindness, bleeding, or causes you to lose sleep or appetite for extended periods, then it's probably not healthy for the relationship.

You know that phrase, "the proof is in the pudding?" Well here's the pudding: your mother defined her craziness with her behavior; your husband's doing the same. You can make excuses for him, but his behavior is still utterly divorced from rationality (no matter what the motivation for it). Hurting anyone, himself, you, the cat, whatever, is decidedly not OK. Help him get help or help yourself to a trip out the front door; it's up to you. But don't allow yourself to take the blame for what ANYONE will tell you is abusive behavior on his part.

ps. to answer your last quesrtion; no, this is not something that happens to everybody but that people are just too polite/shy/ashamed to discuss in public. I really don't know anybody who puts up with that kind of thing, or who would. I know I don't/wouldn't.
posted by Pecinpah at 10:23 AM on July 3, 2007

have you heard the proverb "lean not on your own understanding"? I think because your "meter" is out of whack you are being wise to seek advise from others. You should also seek help from someone that can give you ongoing, lifelong help. Your husband sounds like his "meter" needs some adjusting too. A good sound minister or counselor will be able to guide both of you in the right direction and will be able to stick with you through tough times.
posted by monicaabc at 11:16 AM on July 3, 2007

Haven't read all the responses, but I'll add another data point. I've been in a relationship for 3 years with a guy who admits he has a temper and still nothing remotely like this has happened. In our worst arguments, he's told me to fuck off and thrown things at the wall (the opposite direction from me), but if he ever shoved me off a bed, he knows 1) I'd call the cops and 2) I'd pack my stuff.

If he ever did something as self-destructive as what you described, I'd 1) call the cops and 2) make sure he was held for observation at a psychiatric hospital. After all, I love him, and he clearly has a problem if he's doing stuff like that, so I would want to help.
posted by desjardins at 1:24 PM on July 3, 2007

You described physical partner violence and two suicidal gestures in the context of a relationship. These would not be considered "normal" in any setting.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:31 PM on July 3, 2007

See also this thread for some very useful advice.
posted by jennyjenny at 10:06 PM on July 3, 2007

I think it's really sweet that so many are just aghast at your question. It should be that way though so that's good.

Maybe forget the idea of normal. (Because to be honest I can't even mske myself care what 'normal, is. My standards are my own and things run pretty smoothly that way. Try it out chances are it'll work well for you too).

Physical violence of any kind is out. It escalates. You could be a survivor or lucky or even both but my money's on him. I don't like your chances of emerging victorious when/if that day rolls around.

Ah yes you gotta love that shit. Just a guess but he's not well is he chick? And I really do believe that other than those occasions, things are fine. But would you let a child go and play with a dog that is only going to snap once a year? Maybe maul her face or her throat? Maybe just take a finger? Couldn't really tell you what to expect it's only once maybe twice a year...

Luck and a survivors instinct that will never be the same were immediately ringing alarm bells that this is not safe. That he blames you is very dangerous for you on many levels. Worst case scenario - say mother theresa would even turn around and say 'yep, she deserved that and it was completely her fault.'

Guess what? Nope it's still wrong. The typical male over-reaction is to punch a wall ect (once) and break something in his hand. That's the worst thing that is acceptable and then ONLY in some very select carefully and honestly weighed circumstances.

But yeah if you wanna chat about this in(/or) a more light hearted manner my email will be in my profile if you like Chick?
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 4:26 AM on July 11, 2007

He is crazy.. not normal at all. most guys would try to be left alone but never ever drink bleach or anytihng like that. Normal people don't try ro hurt themselves....
posted by ahreumee at 11:43 PM on August 5, 2007

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