Hi, I haven’t written for a long time, I guess as I’ve been recovering after splitting up from my narcissistic, passive aggressive ex. It was a long, long relationship, which has taken me a long time to get my head around. I just couldn’t see what he was doing- but i could feel it. A colleague recently asked me whether I was looking for another relationship? And also what has caused me to end my marriage after such a long time. I’m typing, so you can’t sense my fingers trembling and the butterflies in my stomach, just because I started talking about him. I hate it that it all comes back; I suppose a flashback or PTSD reaction. And he’s dead now so I really don’t have anything to fear from him (unlike before, when I was quite sure he’d run me off the road given the opportunity).
I struggled to explain to her what had led me to my final decision.My difficulty is that it wasn’t any one big event, not an affair or physical violence, but a million small, hurtful ones. People can easily understand a big problem. Neither was it a difference in values or ‘what we wanted in life’. No, it wasn’t civilised nor adult and certainly not reasonable.
My difficulty in explaining is that he appeared to wage a war of attrition, using as weapons hundreds of tiny hurtful events. If I try to explain to people, each of those actions of his sound too trivial and insignificant to bother with, just mere irritations. And I guess they were. Again and again and again…..so, maybe we just couldn’t get on? Just couldn’t see eye to eye, so not really anyone to blame? After all, relationships do involve compromise and some adaptation to the other, and human beings aren’t perfectly behaved. But no, I don’t believe this was the case. For a long time I tried really hard to see it like that, to accept my part in the dynamic.
So what is the explanation? He was emotionally abusive. There, I’ve said it. Where are my scars or the evidence? I have little evidence and the scars are only internal (oh and financial!), including my hypervigilant amygdalla.
So what am I saying? I’m aware I’m rambling anxiously and feeling tearful (always a sign for me). How can I justify it and should I accept some blame? I’m certainly not perfect myself, was my bad temper also abusive?
So bear with me if you choose to, through a million (give or take) small hurtful issues that I am calling ABUSE. Rightly or wrongly. I’m probably repeating myself from previous blogs too, which illustrates that it’s all come up again.
For four years in a row, he offered kindly to take me out for my birthday (without me suggesting any celebration at all). Various different scenarios but he always ended up working very late and keeping me hanging. Well, these things happen, we’re grown-ups, right? He generally got caught up late only 3-4 times a YEAR, it was very unusual just always on my birthday. In fact, on any occasion important to me he would generally only turn up at the very last minute without time to wash and change. He wouldn’t miss anything of course, because then other people would notice…
One year (only) he bought his father an Easter card and egg but ‘forgot’ me because, he said, he intended to go to the specialist chocolate shop for a special one.
He was always extremely polite and pleasant always and avoided confrontation. Nice, eh? People would envy that. He never asked me how I was or how my day went, was disinterested in my wellbeing and somehow never spent time with me. I was alone. When we had blizzards or floods, he was indifferent (unlike all of my colleagues’ husbands) as to how I would get home safely. It was impossible to discuss anything with him that had any depth or meaning in our lives although we could have trivial conversations and could get on well on holiday. He fobbed me off with ‘I’ll need to think about it’ but there was never, ever a decision except occasionally to just say ‘no’ to my suggestions without any alternative being given. He was cold and unaffectionate unless he wanted sex and slept with his back to me in bed. He was however, warm and loving towards his parents and eager to help them with their household chores. I found out after we separated that he had always told them that I was horrible and controlling him (I wish!) and that he was extremely unhappy throughout the entire marriage.
However, he fought tooth and nail against any decisions I made unilaterally, despite the fact that that was the only choice I had. He was unco-operative, ignored any plans and resented any attempts to budget or keep within our income. I pointed out that we couldn’t afford to continually buy wine but it appeared relentlessly in our shopping trolley. And cigars. This was apparently not his responsibility, it was my duty to keep the money straight without any control over his spending. if I objected, he simply said I needed to spend less on the children (and trust me, I didn’t have much to spend on them). He also, as I discovered after our divorce, doing extra ‘private’ cash in hand calls and keeping the money back for himself. That was not our arrangement and every penny of my salary went into the joint pot until I separated my finances from his. I paid every bill and arranged every single bit of paperwork. Once, he was supposed to look after his father’s bills whilst he was away and wrote cheques from our joint account. I only knew when all of our own bills bounced and we received half a dozen letters from the bank! I guess a spiteful revenge for something but he merely pretended to be ‘confused’ about the issue.
Oh, I refused to do his work accounts on the basis that I was already doing everything around the house and garden and our finances on top of a full time job. He was working as little as he could get away with, 2-3 hours per day. He seethed whilst he had to do his own accounts, that’s probably it.
He was, I felt, disrespectful, for example coming to bed in his dirty work clothes. I objected and he agreed, in couple’s counselling (i.e. visible to others) but would then still wear them to bed whilst reading and sigh heavily, saying he’ll take them off to go to sleep! Other peoples’ toilet germs were on those clothes! I commented once that our kitchen sink (cream coloured) was beginning to age and we’d need to be careful about staining it – not a criticism, in fact I’d left some recycling in there leaving a stain that had needed to be bleached out- the next day, he decided to cook dinner (he never cooked) and left the sink splattered with tinned tomatoes. I daren’t discuss any difficulties with him as I was simply telling him how to get to me.
Oh, meals! He wanted to eat very late and, when I suggested eating earlier with the children on weekdays, he didn’t object but just never turned up from work in time although strangely was always home early when he wanted to go fishing. I discovered, when he was working only a couple of hours a day and I suggested he put the dinner on, that he was arranging calls for 4pm to ‘look busy’ and avoid the work. If he had any responsibility given to look after the children, he ‘forgot’ to collect them from school or left them unattended in the house whilst he pottered in the garage – although he said he’d only been a minute, I didn’t believe him but how could I prove it? He said I was paranoid.
He lied and lied. It was difficult to challenge as firstly, I don’t tend to lie much and assume others don’t, so I can be a bit gullible. And if challenged, he simply laid further levels of lies on top so he rarely got caught out.
He had ‘depressions’ which went on for weeks when he didn’t get his own way, I struggled with this as he seemed really, really sad at times and I felt I ought to support him but wised up eventually when he miraculously bounced back when asked to go fishing and when I eventually suggested I couldn’t do any more and it would be healthier to separate. Boom! depression gone. I didn’t fall for that again but I think this just angered him more- not that anyone would know he was angry.
He ‘forgot’ to pass on telephone messages from my friends, despite the fact that we all took messages all day for him when he went self-employed and there was a pad beside the phone. My friends were often hurt that I hadn’t returned their calls as he had certainly taken a message (he said). It seemed more likely to them that I had forgotten rather than that he was being malicious, after all! Eventually I threatened that I would refuse to take his business messages the next time I heard from a friend that I missed a message. He stopped doing that but I’m sure he got me back somehow… I was always watching my back.
On weekday mornings he stayed in bed until after I had gone to work but on weekends he leapt out of bed at 7am and threw the curtains open whilst I was fast asleep ‘Oh, sorreee, where you asleep? I thought you were awake…’
My favourite TV programme didn’t record for some unknown reason although I’d watched the light come on before I went out. My possessions we accidentally broken, disappeared or treated casually, such as chucking his keys onto my new laptop- he was a very tidy person and always hung them on the hook usually. It was an ‘oversight’ – why on Earth would he do that on purpose? My clothes were stretched on the line or washed mixed in with deep colours when he’d ‘kindly’ offered to help out. He was indignant, he’d tried to be ‘helpful’ and I was always having a go at him.
Phew! Thank you for listening. I feel better! I think the answer, when someone next asks, is simply that he was abusive. I can’t prove it! No visible bruises. And maybe I was delusional or paranoid. But it didn’t feel like that. This was my reality.