Archives for posts with tag: conflict

I read an article in Psychology Today entitled What drives emotional abuse in relationships.  I could identify with so much of it.

Firstly, the blame.  ‘I feel bad, and it’s your fault…You push my buttons’ is the accusation the article highlights.  For me, this translates into ‘You make me angry’ and what this does is shift the blame onto me.  The article suggests that angry and abusive partners fear their inability to cope and seek to control their environment and the people in it.  My sister recently mentioned how he has always been quick to anger.  She cited the example of when the girls were young and they dropped their ice cream.  He would shout at them but, as she pointed out the other day, no child deliberately drops their ice cream; it’s an accident.

‘Disengaging partners…try to deal with their sense of inadequacy about relationships by simply not trying – since no attempt means no failure’, the article goes on to explain.  So true, as every time I tried to discuss us, he got angry and blaming and gave no indication that he cared about me or the relationship.  Stonewalling and disengaging by one partner can make the other feel ‘unseen and unheard; unattrative; like you don’t count; like a single parent.’  This was exactly how I felt.  I used to describe myself as being single in a relationship.  I know I was definitely lonely, incredibly lonely when I was with him, yet fine when I was alone.

The following extract sums up my situation in a nutshell: ‘The most insidious aspect of living with an angry or abusive partner is not the obvious – nervous reactions to shouting, name-calling, criticism or other demeaning behaviour.  It’s the adaptations you make to try to prevent these episodes.  You walk on eggshells to keep the peace, or a semblance of connection.’  No relationship should be conducted in this manner.  Even now, I’m finding it very hard to stop automatically reacting to others in this way.  It’s become my way of life.  I engage in ‘constant self-editing and self-criticism to keep from pushing [people’s] buttons’.  I second-guess myself to the extent that I’m aware that I don’t know who I really am.  But I’m working on changing this.

‘Victims’ it goes on to say ‘will blame themselves…when the abuse is subtle…implying that you’re ugly, a bad parent, stupid, incompetent, not worth attention…you are more likely to think it’s your problem’.  This couldn’t be more true.  Look back through my past journals and you’ll find me analysing situations and searching for ways to get things right.  I had an ‘if only I could be a better wife, mother, housekeeper, cook blah blah blah, or sexier, thinner, better organised, more fun blah blah blah.  I didn’t feel that I was good enough in any respect.  I was working out and losing weight, to the point where I was less than 8 stone and could pull my jeans over my hips without undoing them.  His response: a look of disgust and a comment that I wasn’t back to my pre-baby weight.  I had a housework schedule to ensure that everything was done on a regular basis: he would always find something to fault.  I was cooking meals from fresh and on a budget: he didn’t want fish that day, he wanted a roast.  There was always something.  And I’d kick myself for getting it wrong.  Why?  I was never going to get it right.  For him, it would always be wrong.  I asked him what he found fun – I would do it, just to try and get some kind of connection, but ‘I don’t find anything fun’ he would say.  And I felt that was somehow my fault too.   I look back to that time and think I was pathetic, pathetic to be trying so desperately hard to please him.  Then I think, no – I should admire myself for being so determined to do my best to make it work.  At least, I can say with utmost honesty that I tried everything.  And despite his constant blaming me for ‘what you’ve done to me and our family’, I know that there was nothing more I could have done and I am not to blame.  I’m so thankful I wised up.

So now I need to watch my reactions and put a halt to the habitual responses.  We are divorcing, the relationship has been dead for a long, long time, and it’s time for me to make no apology for getting on with my life.

Thank you Psychology Today for giving me greater insight into my situation.

It’s my life!

I have an appointment with a solicitor next week. I’d been stuck for ages, getting frustrated that I couldn’t take the action that I knew was necessary.  Ironically, when he told me he’d taken advice, I was spurred on to take advice of my own.  He’s done me a favour.

For  longer than I care to remember, I’ve been trying to make sense of the situation: why he wants us to stay together but doesn’t want ME.  Something he said made things clearer: ‘I don’t want to live in a flat’.  It’s not about me, it’s about his lifestyle.

So I predict he’s going to make this difficult. And this seems stupid to me. It’s over.  Lets move on with our individual lives because there’s no going back to what we once had many moons ago, in another life.  Why won’t he accept this reality and make it easier for us both?

I’m tired, worn out, exhausted from living in a constant of stress and tension.  I’m existing on less and less sleep.  I’m struggling to function a lot of the time.  I can’t continue like this.

And it can’t be doing him any good either.

So why is he digging his heels in?  Part of me thinks he’s hoping I’ll leave. Then he can stay in ‘his’ house.

Because that’s what he wants.

Not me.

This evening he told me not to bother coming home because I wasn’t welcome here. This followed on from him complaining that I wasn’t home in time to cook his dinner so he could go to the club to watch football.

I was at work!

He said it was my fault he couldn’t go out. I told him I hadn’t stopped him from going out, that he could have cooked his dinner earlier.

But it’s no use.

This morning I was brave. I told him we needed to sell the house so we could both find our own places to live and get on with our lives.  He refused point blank, said I couldn’t make him sell, that he wasn’t leaving, and that he wasn’t going to live in a flat.

He means it.

He’s  not going to be reasonable about this.  He calls me a crazy woman. And oh boy, is he right. I am crazy mad at him for not working with me to put this marriage right. When I tried to sit down to talk about it because I had tried so hard to get him to be part of our relationship without success, he just kept shouting and blaming me.  When I suggested counselling, he said I should go for counselling because I was the one with the problem with the relationship.  It was like talking to a brick wall.  Eventually, I got to the point when I realised it was futile and gave up. Still he made no effort. Then I reached the point where I told him we needed to separate because I was at the end of my tether.  I didn’t get married to be alone, to be in a loveless, sexless marriage where my husband didn’t want to socialise with me or come to our holiday home with me or…  Well you get the picture and I’m sure I’ve said all this before.

So we’re in this non-marriage that is unacceptable to me yet he doesn’t want it to end.  He now says he wants to go to counselling but I’ve gone beyond the point of no-return. During the past three, four, five, six, however many years, I’ve seen no sign that he cares about ME and now I think he only cares about HIM: who will cook his meals and clean his house and organise everything and deal with the paperwork?

And so now I’m the crazy woman.

Today I asked him if he remembered all the times I’d asked him to switch off the TV (it could be on fourteen hours a day) and he said yes.  I asked him why he thought I did that and he said because I wanted us to spend time together.  I asked him whether he turned off the TV and he said no.  What is there not to understand about why I’m completely disillusioned?

But I just don’t think he’ll ever understand.  I’m so lonely in this marriage that I’d rather be alone.  And now he’s accusing me of wanting to break up the family.

When I tried so hard to keep everything together.

And so today I took my biggest step so far.

I phoned a solicitor and said the words I never thought I’d hear myself saying: I want advice about a divorce.

I am trapped in misery.

And I have to get out.

Am I wrong?

He’s trying to exclude me, consciously or unconsciously I don’t know, from my own house.

I no longer sleep in ‘our’ bedroom – I have no bedroom. I sleep on the couch or in my daughter’s bed if she’s not here.  When I moved out of the bedroom, he got rid of the mattress even though it was almost new.  He says he didn’t push me out of the room, but he did keep pushing my pillow half off the bed, and so in the end, I left. I notice that everyone is calling ‘our’ bedroom, ‘his’ bedroom now.  It doesn’t take long. The other day my daughter asked where I wanted her to put something.  ‘On my bed’, I answered. ‘Where do you mean?,’ she asked. Oh well!

I no longer sit in the living room with him. I go out or camp in my daughter’s room. This is what he wanted: having the TV to himself. ‘It’s my TV, I paid for it, I can watch what I want,’ he said a few years back. I want to pull the plug out and say ‘my electricity’ because I pay the bills, but that would be childish and I’m not like that.  So now he’s on his own in the living room and I can tell he’s not happy that I’m not there. I suppose he’s lost some power and control, except that he hasn’t really because he’s indirectly controlling where I am in the house.  How has it come to this?

This morning I needed to go to my wardrobe which is in ‘his’ bedroom. The door was closed but I went in anyway and got my stuff.  When I left, he closed the door immediately. But I needed to go back to put some bits in the laundry basket.  When I left he closed the door immediately.  This is my house too, I feel like screaming.

If I confronted him, he would say that he hasn’t pushed me out the bedroom, or the living room, or anywhere else, but I can see his behaviour is passive aggressive.  And I know it’s very hard to challenge this kind of behaviour because he just says ‘I didn’t tell you to move out of the bedroom’, which is true of course.  But you don’t have to say something to make someone feel they’re not welcome or wanted.  Pushing someone away when they sit next to you on the sofa or when they try to hug you, or refusing to have a physical relationship – nothing was said but the message was delivered and received.  He just doesn’t get it.

And it’s ‘my’ house too.

I keep feeling stuck.

Why?

This is a question I have so much trouble answering.

Is it because I can’t believe that I’m in this situation?  I think so.  I know my situation is intolerable; I know it has to change because there is no turning back the clock; I want it to change.  Every day, the image of my future become more vivid. I can see it; I can feel it.

I want to open the door to my own home, walk into this sanctuary, live my life and be me.  My eldest daughter wants to have friends round for dinner, for parties, to chill. My youngest daughter wants a kitten! I want to have friends round for dinner, for parties, to chill, and I want a kitten too.  Well, it’s not about a kitten; the kitten is just symbolic of the fact that we can’t do or have anything that doesn’t meet with his approval.  I want to close my door and have a sense of relaxation come over me, in place of the stress and tension that overwhelms me at the moment.

I have to believe the reality of my current situation and dispose of my belief that it is possible to remedy all problems, including a failing relationship. Because the truth is  that it takes two to repair a relationship and no matter how determined one person is, they just cannot do it on their own.

And, in any case, for me it’s now too late to repair it.

So why am I stuck?

I know what my next step is: I have to put the options to him that either he buys me out of the house or we sell it and I get my half.  But I know this is going to be met with resistance and who knows what else.  I fear what I might unleash.

This is real, this is happening to me.

But it still takes time to believe.

I’m been thinking about yesterday.  At midday, in my journal, I wrote “It’s ballroom and Latin tonight and to hell with the consequences. Feeling empowered now I have greater insight and my headache has gone.”

So what went wrong?

I’m strong when he’s not around but falter and doubt myself when he is.  I become Child Me, desperately seeking approval, desperately avoiding disapproval.

Last night, I avoided disapproval by not going out.  I sought approval by staying in.  And I didn’t get any acknowledgement and so Child Me wanted to scream “it’s so unfair” but she’s silenced because she’s only a child.

So now, not only do Happy Me and I have to put up with Sad Me dragging along but we’ve also got Child Me trailing behind us.

We’re going to have to teach her to grow up.

Fast.

There are times, like now, when the arguments and verbal attacks cease,  when I wonder if things aren’t getting better.  And if they’re getting better, then should it not be possible to continue in the relationship?

And I get so confused. So the next book I’m going to read is Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay by Mira Kirshenbaum.

In reality, better only means not being involved in conflict.  It doesn’t mean communicating on a meaningful level, it doesn’t mean doings things together, it doesn’t mean affection and intimacy. It just means no conflict.

And that’s not enough.

Is it?

I asked husband to come dancing with me tonight.  I haven’t done that for a long time because he gets annoyed, but I know that if I don’t ask him, then at some point in the future, he will turn this round on me and say I exclude him.  Sometimes when I ask him, I don’t actually want him to come: it feels like my space and my life and my friends.  At other times I wish he would.

Of course, he didn’t come.  And tonight I was disappointed.

But when I thought about it, I decided he’d probably be shocked: shocked at how relaxed and uninhibited I am when I’m dancing as I always used to be quite self-conscious; at the ease with which I chat and laugh with people, many of whom I’ve known for over a year, whose names he has never heard because he doesn’t want to know anything about my new friends; at the way I dance, because I’m in the advanced class now and whilst I’m by no means brilliant, I can certainly give it a good go.  I used to be fairly quiet and live a bit in his shadow so I think he’d be surprised at my confidence.  Perhaps he imagines, rightly or wrongly, what my nights out are like, or perhaps he doesn’t even think about them.  Who knows?

Then, when he came in from his night out, drinking down the club, he had a go at me for having asked him, accusing me of playing some kind of game and saying this didn’t bode well for the future.

How can asking your husband to spend the evening with you, to share part of your life, be ‘some kind of game’?

The gulf widens.

It doesn’t bode well for the future.

 

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt of late, it’s that issues should be raised and dealt with as they arise.  Instead there have been so many times when I haven’t addressed niggles because I didn’t want to create an argument and destroy the peace.  What I was basically doing was sacrificing my short term needs and wants for the sake of medium term harmony.

Consequently, if what husband wanted to do was in conflict with what I wanted to do, I just gave in.  After all, it wasn’t essential that I watched a particular programme or had friends round or went out or whatever.  In the grand scheme of things, it really didn’t matter.  Or so I thought.

However, consistently denying your wants and needs whilst prioritising your other half’s is not healthy and leads to a build up of resentment.  Thank you Andrew G Marshall ‘My wife doesn’t love me anymore’ for pointing this out.  He explains that ‘over time, there are only so many times you can swallow your own needs without feeling that you don’t count and becoming disillusioned with your marriage’.

So I am to blame in all of this.  I’ve been too passive.  I suppose I thought that one day husband would be as giving as I have been and I would get my turn.  In reality, I’ve just taught him to have his own way.

I should have put my foot down at times and to hell with the arguments.  No wonder we’re in a mess.