Jo’s Signs of Being Abused
Feeling unsafe to voice an opinion – not just a different opinion to his, although that was worse; increasing secrecy on his part so that I don’t have enough information to make decisions; when I ask for the needed information, there is an argument or put downs; no intimacy on any level; undermining me; stewing for hours when I felt I needed to discuss something – how to say it; what to say; how to minimize his defensiveness and anger. Frustration as I’ve tried reasoning and kindness and I know I’m not crazy; he’s not crazy either so why can’t he ever see my point of view? I’ve known for a long time that some episodes were abusive but it wasn’t until I read pages on this site that I knew the whole relationship is defined by abuse.
Jo’s Emotional Signs of Abuse
Uncertainty, Frustration, Anxiety
Jo’s Story of Abuse
I was raised by a single mum who probably used some of these same controlling behaviors So when my husband met me, I was pretty ‘submissive’ – I already knew how to keep things to myself so that I wouldn’t provoke an outburst. On the other hand, I was happy to have him stick up for me where she was concerned.
I think now that I’d never learned to safely assert myself or give expression to my own wants and needs.
For a few years, we were quite happy. He was affectionate and loving. Any bursts of anger were directed at others and although they did shock me a little, I put it down to my unfamiliarity with the ways of men. If a potential conflict arose, one or the other of us would quickly back down- usually me, looking back. I allowed him virtual free reign in picking furniture, cars etc. I wasn’t used to having money and he didn’t want me to work initially. I’m think I’m a home-maker by nature and loved being a housewife and eventually a mother. I don’t have any career ambition at all; I’m more of your self-sufficiency, grow-your-own food, sew-your-own-clothes kind of girl. So all was well for a while, or so it seemed. Now, I realize that the patterns had been set- he decided what was what and it was only because I submitted that it worked.
Then our kids came along and we were both tired. Sadly, I associate the birth of my second with the time my husband stopped loving me. We had huge arguments – he was mostly focused on my weight gain and I was disappointed that he had backed right off in our religious activities, which are huge in my life. He would say awful things about marriage and family – like he would never, ever remarry; it was too much hard work and not worth it. This with our beautiful children around us. I still loved him then and craved love from him and those comments cut to the core.
Because I was no longer his ideal, he never complimented me and rarely praised anything I did. He has never been physically abusive and only once threatened it but he does get right in my face and is intimidating in his anger. Once, he stood over our under 2-year-old ranting at him about trying to get the better of him and I put myself between them and told him very emphatically to never, ever intimidate our child like that. Something must have got through because it didn’t happen again.
So, without relaying 20 years of history year by year, our relationship is very strained. Most people who only know him a little, think he’s a good bloke. He’s handy and helpful – who doesn’t like a handyman? But he has alienated some friends and they see the other side; this makes it difficult to socialize because the wives and I are close but it’s too awkward now. In fact, he recently said that as his free time is so precious, he doesn’t want to waste it with people he doesn’t like so we will only socialize with HIS friends, okay? I can see mine in the daytime when he’s not home.
I am told that I don’t know what the world is like; “You think you KNOW things, but you don’t really,” if I suggest something, it is a bad idea; he could cook better, keep the house cleaner; would arrange things better; wouldn’t waste so much time/money/uneaten food if he was doing it. He hides money and disappears for hours and I’m not to ask where he’s going or when he’ll be home.
He ‘unfriended’ me on facebook during the dog incident (see below). He now resents that I don’t work, even though I’m homeschooling our kids (with his blessing). He resents providing for me. Never asks about my day. Gets visibly irritated if I get animated telling him a story/talk when he wants to watch telly/am busy when he wants to talk. Will get irritated if I say something he considers embarrassing in front of his friends. There’s no way of knowing what that will be ahead of time. He often gets uptight before we go to someone’s place, will start an argument while we’re getting ready, drives aggressively and then we have to pretend to be happy families when we get there. He will be at his most charming in front of them and I’ll be dying inside.
Now, if you’re still with me, I’ll tell you about the dog. A while ago we got a dog. He wanted one, found the litter and we all picked it out together. I asked if he was sure – we’d just lost a fabulous dog he was very close to a few months before. Yes, he wanted it. No, he didn’t think we needed to do any work to the yard to make a safe place for it. So we got the dog. Almost from the start he hated her. She was a bit naughty – aren’t all pups? But this one sassed you back instead of being submissive when growled at. As she grew, and chewed up some of his stuff (he could have fenced off part of the yard so easily- he’s handy, remember?) he got madder and madder. I saved her skin a few times, including when he chased her past the window with a fishing knife and told me ‘lucky you came out ‘cos I was gonna’ and he made the throat-slitting gesture.
Of course, we talked about giving her up but I really wanted to keep her. She was learning – making good progress and I liked her cheeky nature. The kids loved her too. So I held my ground and he wouldn’t do it himself and look bad in the kids’ eyes.
Then, he carelessly left the under-house space unlocked and she took rat bait. I took her to the vet as soon as I was sure and then I copped a heap of abuse because of the bill. He even said it was my fault for not making sure that I checked that the door was locked! I paid for the follow up vet bills out of my own tiny savings; mostly gift money from my dad.
He was so angry, he stonewalled me for 3 weeks. In that time, he left the garage door unlocked, knowing the dog could get out and I had to find her twice. I made the very painful decision to give her up because I couldn’t guarantee her safety. From the moment I told him, his 3 week tantrum switched off. Just like that. He was chatty, friendly. A tiny bit considerate, even. I wanted to puke.
He found a home for her (arranged within an hour, picked up next morning) at a workmate’s. When I asked about a fortnight later how she was going, he got instantly gruff and said he didn’t want to talk about the dog any more. That was about 2 months ago. The other day, he heard a friend’s tame bird had died and jumped straight onto the phone commiserating with her for ages. With me in the room.
For now, I will be staying in the relationship. I have religious beliefs about marriage that I’m not going to break unless certain lines are crossed and they haven’t been yet. I see a therapist and have some understanding friends. At the moment, our children are better off here in their own home than facing the uncertainty and ugliness that will happen if we break up. I feel my husband will eventually leave me anyway. If he could do it without upsetting the kids and his mother, he would have done it already; or pushed me as he knows what would make me leave and is careful not to cross those lines. I know there are things I can do to minimize the impact on me and the kids. I have started to make arrangements so that I won’t be totally unprepared if he does decide to leave, or if I need to.
Now, send before I lose courage.