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Thread: Is my relationship abusive, and how do I make the relationship better?

  1. #1

    Is my relationship abusive, and how do I make the relationship better?

    Hello,

    I’ve signed up here because I need some relationship advice. I’m a M with a F. We’ve been together for over 7 years and are engaged. Our relationship together for the most part has not been an easy one. Whilst we do get along, share lots of common interests, enjoy each other’s company – we have frequently argued in the time we’ve been together.

    Often, a lot of source of these arguments often stem around my actions (or in some cases inaction), or why I said this etc. This has often meant that a lot of discussion revolves around how I need to be different, and how I need to change. I have often spent time agreeing with these issues and trying to become a ‘better’ person. However, I have also felt at the back of my mind for some time that there’s something not quite right with how this dynamic between us works. I’ve been doing a lot of reading online, and I feel like the relationship I’m in displays a lot of signs of abuse.

    Before, I explain some more about these patterns that occur between us, I feel like it is important to point out that my partner is not a bad person, but a hurt one. I hurt her several times in the early stages of our relationship, and these are things that she clearly has struggled to move on from them. So, in many respects I sympathise why she does the things that does, and perhaps that is reason why I have put up with this behaviour. I probably won’t do her side of things justice here, and for the sake of brevity, I’ll just try to summarise the relationship with these two broad historical issues:

    1. At the beginning, I was not an easy person to be with. I was depressed and immature. I think I was overly dismissive of her opinions/feelings about the relationship. I often insisted I was right, and that she should deal with it/get over it. I think in part this is why she is so difficult to speak to nowadays, despite me having vastly changed as a person.

    2. I broke her trust early on into the relationship. I had an emotional tryst with another woman. Nothing physical happened between us, but that still obviously doesn’t make things right. This trust has never really returned.

    Anyway, as I said, that’s really not doing her side of things justice, as I am sure if she was writing this there would be a longer list of issues, and more examples than I am giving, but I think it provides some context to understand where she’s coming from. Of course, from my view, and I hope this doesn’t sound too unreasonable here, is that these things are in the past and that by staying with me she (theoretically, although I appreciate in practice is easier said than done) should be moving past these things. However, she has often struggled with that. So, with that being said, I’d like to speed forward to the more recent period of our relationship:

    I think the first thing I’d like to start with is how the lack of trust in this relationship has been a pervasive problem. In recent times, I have spent most of my days having to soothe her anxieties regarding whether I am in love with her, whether there is anybody else, or whether I have done anything I shouldn’t have behind her back. For example, almost everyday (and several times a day at that too), I have had to answer questions about whether it is just the two of us, whether there is anybody else, or what I did at work or who I spoke to. I mean this can often be that sometimes I would only have been asked the same question about if it just us only one hour prior.

    If it isn’t a case of me trying to reiterate that it just the two of us, on occasion I have been more straightforwardly been accused of infidelity or can get upset when my work might end up having me to communicate/work with a female colleague. This lack of trust has reached a point where I feel like it has really curtailed my life. I often spend lots of my daily life being avoidant of things that may cause problems – for example, I feel like I must live my life in a set ‘routine’ because if I deviate away from this pattern then it sends trigger warnings in her mind as to why he changed his behaviour. It also means that I often avoid situations at work that I feel might be misunderstood by her. If it isn’t trying to avoid situations, then it’s the anxiety that other situations can provoke in me. For example, if a female work colleague speaks to me, I can often get nervous if the conversation goes on for longer than 2 minutes, or perhaps isn’t strictly work related (e.g., “what did you do this weekend?” “have you seen this TV show?”). It’s just like sometimes walking around with this lingering feeling of dread. Worried that others might speak to me, or whether someone will message me. At times, I can feel so isolated that I sort of feel like I am wandering through life trapped behind a glass screen. I can see what’s going on around me, yet I can’t fully interact with the outside world.

    Related to this issue, is that I feel like I can’t talk to others about our problems which makes me feel further isolated. Now, look I get it, discussing relationship issues with friends/family is not always the smartest idea, and you should primarily try to sort things out together. Running to others can not only make you feel that the other person isn’t willing to work with you but can also make the person feel anxious being around those people. I used to be someone who might on occasion let off a bit of steam to say a friend about something, but over the years I ended up shutting off about all our relationship issues because that’s what she wanted. She would get angry about if I did this stuff, that I just stopped doing it. I’ve read online that this can often be a pattern that occurs in a toxic and abusive relationship.

    Most recently, I have sort of broken this pattern of not talking to anyone because in the last few weeks she has been threatening to end, or has ended, our relationship on multiple occasions. This has led me to reaching out to my family for help, which to me seems natural. You’re upset, the partner you’re with says she doesn’t love you anymore and doesn’t want to be with you, it sort of sounds normal to me that you’d seek support from others around you, right? Of course, this behaviour has just angered her, and whilst I can still see the issues of reaching out to others, I just wish she could sympathise a bit more with how hard this is. I’ve reiterated that I still would be happy to keep issues to ourselves, but that because things have become so awful between us (as I am about to describe), or that she intimates its over, that makes me want to reach out for guidance or support.

    For what it’s worth, we have actually been to counselling together before, and I am open to doing this again. In fact, six months ago, I suggested we do so, but she flat out refused because she insisted that we should work things out by ourselves. To me, the refusal to see a counsellor not only limits our ability to improve the situation but makes me feel further isolated from having a support network. Aside from my relationship with her, I have generally felt so distant from colleagues, friends and family. Funnily enough, since I reached out to my family, she now says that a counsellor would be a better option, and I have agreed that I would like to see one, and that if we did, I wouldn’t speak to other people about the problems we were having. Even though I have specifically requested we see someone several times in the last few days, she has not yet given this the green light and for us to book an appointment. So I sort of feel… confused really. It seems like she would and she wouldn’t want to see a counsellor? I think this sort of point typifies our relationship – even the most seemingly straight forward things don’t seem straight forward, and I really struggle to understand that.

    The other issue that occurs between us is that the anger and abuse that I face in arguments. I would also say that I often feel like the way that she perceives arguments, and the way that I perceive them, seem so discordant with each other that I struggle to imagine that we actually live in the same reality sometimes. Let me give a few examples…

    Pretty much our arguments follow a similar pattern. The conversation starts with some sort of problem she’s having with me. In fact, over the hundreds of arguments we’ve had, only a handful I would say have started because of a problem that I’m having, but anyway. What often happens is that I try to listen and understand the issue she’s having. I try to be respectful with how I respond, for example by mentioning how I can understand how she might see things that way, or outlining how I can agree with certain points. Of course, what would seem like normal course for any conversation though, I then try to offer my own thoughts on the subject and where they diverge. Generally, this is where things start to go wrong. Although, in my view I have tried to listen and be respectful, in her view she sees my response in an incredibly hostile way. She will often insist that I haven’t listened (which perhaps there are some occasions where I might have missed the point of what she was saying), or that I am attacking her.

    Trying to stress that I have tried to listen, or that that I am not attacking her, only seems to make things worse. She often gets riled up quickly, and this is where anger starts to seep in and she becomes hostile and shouty. In these moments she can often say rude things, and I mean seriously awful things. I’ve been told to off on so many occasions, I’ve been told that I am pathetic. She’s called me a parasite, and on one occasion recently she suggested that if I was going to kill myself that I should do it “properly, and not just do it wrong to get attention” (note: it was I ended up apologising in the end for the fact that I brought such a crass subject up in a discussion as it was inappropriate and counter-productive to resolving the issue). She’ll often mock or belittle what I am saying too. This can sometimes be just flat out by saying my point is laughable, but can also just be by not focusing on what I said at all but the way in which I said it (e.g., fumbled over my words or using a certain idiom). Whilst I try to remain as calm as possible, I am only human, and often sometime of becoming agitated may end up raising my voice myself.

    After the initial hostility, I often find her anger is not very quick to fade. I might for example after some time has passed, try to offer an olive branch by reiterating in a calm way how “I see your point of view…” or” I’m sorry for…” or “I agree with you about…”, and perhaps end this with a brief and calm reassertion of my thoughts which is often just a simply “I hope you can just appreciate…”. This doesn’t seem to work, and her anger will still be high. And if I try to back away to give her space, for example, I might try to go downstairs again to give both of us a bit of space, I’ll be told that that behaviour is damaging. To me, this then leaves me in a situation of damaging the relationship, or being confronted with her hostility.

    The kicker in all of this is that when the dust settles, she’ll be the one telling me that “I am so difficult to talk to” and so she doesn’t feel like talking to me about stuff in the future. I mean to me I just struggle to comprehend how this sort of conclusion can be drawn. Other than keeping quiet, passively accepting everything she says, and never voicing my own thoughts, is there any way that I won’t be “difficult to talk to”?. The other thing is that she will say how I was rude or aggressive. This normally stems from the fact that most of the time, after arguing for hours (and I mean sometimes hours without respite), I may get frustrated and lose my patience. Perhaps I might say something rude back, or I might bang my fist on a table. And I can’t help but think in those moments “sure, perhaps I should have contained myself or shouldn’t have said that, but why is it that we are focusing on my one comment or behaviour, rather than the litany of yours?”.

    She has also been physically aggressive towards me at points (although, these generally have been few and far between). However, she often seems to deny that this aggression occurs when I raise the issue. For example, some months ago she got so angry that she came charging at me, and I thought she was going to hit me so I backed away and cowered in a position against the wall. She has also pushed me on occasions, or gotten aggressively in my face/lingered over me aggressively when I’m laying in bed. Thankfully, whilst she has intimated physical aggression, she hasn’t actually been physically aggressive to me except for this one time. She said that the reason she hasn’t been able to move on from the past is because she never slapped me for what I did back then. So in a desperate attempt to resolve the relationship, I said she could slap me now. So I stood there and let her slap me really hard in the face. Looking back on it, I don’t really know what to make of it… why have I reached a point where I accept that this is okay? Is it okay? Sometimes, I’m just unsure what is right or wrong anymore.

    Anyway, I think I’ll stop there as although there’s probably more that I could say, I think I’ve covered the major issues. I think I’ve just reached a point of where I feel sort of subhuman. I certainly feel at points that I’ve been treated subhuman, and that there is no appreciation for the fact that as a human I’m not perfect, and I may not always say or do the right thing. I also feel that my emotions are invalid, or that I should be void of feelings, except for the ones that she wants me to feel, and that what she is feeling is more important.

    I guess I don’t really know where I am at anymore. It’s clear to me that the basics of respect and decency in the relationship are not there, but is this abusive? Or is what I’m describing just pretty normal given how I hurt her a lot at the beginning? I often have said to myself that I feel like this is ‘my punishment’. I also don’t know how to get through to her to help her see that there’s another side to this story, and that for this to work, we both need to be heard. Sometimes I sort of feel like whatever I do, I can never make her happy as there will always be something that she can pick on that wasn’t good enough – there’s always something else I could have done, or something else I could have said, or something else I could have asked. I wish she could just take a step back and see I’m trying, and whilst I may not always be perfect or say the right thing, that my motives underneath are well-intentioned and I just want things to work.

    Thanks for listening.

  2. #2
    Platinum Member Wiseman2's Avatar
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    Do you really want to get married? You sound rather unsure of her, the relationship and it's viability. Either of you playing victim or aggressor at various points makes it toxic all around. There is no good guy/bad guy here. If you want things to work you'll both have to act in a results oriented manner and both get out of a lot of bad habits.

  3. #3
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    I gave up reading about a quarter way through your post.
    So I am responding to what I read only.

    From what I read , you are not in an abusive relationship. You are in a relationship you don’t want to be in , only.
    It appears that you are playing the victim.

    You don’t talk to others about your relationship because she wouldn’t like it. ?
    Seriously??? You have no trusted friends or family to talk to? That won’t get back to her?

    If you want out , then get out.

  4. #4
    Originally Posted by Wiseman2
    Do you really want to get married? You sound rather unsure of her, the relationship and it's viability. Either of you playing victim or aggressor at various points makes it toxic all around. There is no good guy/bad guy here. If you want things to work you'll both have to act in a results oriented manner and both get out of a lot of bad habits.
    I do. I mean, outside of the times that we've argued (which unfortunately the last few months has been a lot), we really do get along and she is my best friend. I love her, and I have remained through all of this because of that I love, and I do want things to work.

    I can't deny though that the last few months since our relationship has soured, has made me start to question more about the normalcy of our relationship and whether we're heading is the right direction. As I tried to explain, we've argued lots, but generally we'd have a bad day and then we'd put it behind us and get back to being happily together until the next argument arose. Recently, it's been a lot more vitriolic, and the moments outside of those arguments (which have been very few), I think we've struggled to connect.

    I do appreciate that nothing is ever one-sided, and look, there are a number of things that I can appreciate that I could still work on/improve. I just wish that a) she was more supportive about them. I often feel like the evil incarnate to her, rather than just a guy who's doing his best. I often feel if she could be more supportive about things, we'd be much more of a team and that these things would be more easy to fix; b) that some of the things that she does/says are not okay, and that she should make a concerted effort to improve them. She rarely apologises for her behaviour, and often when these things are brought to light she's not willing just to say "yeah, that shouldn't happen" but try to either say "I do worse things" (of which I am unclear what these are), or that "I make her do them" because I've turned into this person through all the stuff in the past. And of course, if she could accept that this isn't okay and that she's need to improve, I'd be right there to support her because it's important that we work together.

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  6. #5
    Originally Posted by Billie28
    I gave up reading about a quarter way through your post.
    So I am responding to what I read only.

    From what I read , you are not in an abusive relationship. You are in a relationship you don’t want to be in , only.
    It appears that you are playing the victim.

    You don’t talk to others about your relationship because she wouldn’t like it. ?
    Seriously??? You have no trusted friends or family to talk to? That won’t get back to her?

    If you want out , then get out.
    Thanks for your reply. Perhaps the post a was a bit long and I could have been briefer.

    For the record, I do want to be in the relationship, and I do want to make this work. But the last few months I have struggled to make it work, and feel unsure about how to, and I just feel pretty down in the dumps.

    I don't really understand what your latter point is, perhaps you could explain it to me? I think you're trying to say that I could just talk to others about it, and promise them not to tell? The issue is that she gets angry if I speak to others, and that because I am constantly being checked on because she doesn't trust me, I wouldn't really have much of a chance to talk to other friends/family anyway about these problems without her knowing. Like I said, I feel very isolated and often end up just doing things to appease her anxieties/anger. I just wish I could help get through to understanding things from my perspective, and how it makes me feel.

    Edit: just to add, I'm not trying to play the victim. I was merely asking whether some of the behaviours, and physical/verbal aggression that I described would constitute abuse

  7. #6
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    How does 40 or 50 years of her treating you like this sound?

    You can't "change" it because she doesn't want to. She likes interrogating, berating and belittling you. She will not stop because she thinks it's all YOUR fault.

    40 or 50 years of this same treatment. Sound wonderful and amazing, or kind of like a nightmare?

  8. #7
    Platinum Member Wiseman2's Avatar
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    Try the counselling if you feel you're in a vicious cycle. You both want the other to change and you're both holding grudges.
    Originally Posted by notsurehelp
    I just wish that a) she was more supportive about them. I often feel like the evil incarnate to her, rather than just a guy who's doing his best. I often feel if she could be more supportive about things, we'd be much more of a team and that these things would be more easy to fix; b) that some of the things that she does/says are not okay, and that she should make a concerted effort to improve them. She rarely apologises for her behaviour, and often when these things are brought to light she's not willing just to say "yeah, that shouldn't happen" but try to either say "I do worse things" (of which I am unclear what these are), or that "I make her do them" because I've turned into this person through all the stuff in the past. And of course, if she could accept that this isn't okay and that she's need to improve, I'd be right there to support her because it's important that we work together.

  9. #8
    Platinum Member Annia's Avatar
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    I don't see much hope here as she doesn't seem to take responsibility for her part of the problem nor make an effort to communicate in a healthy way and see a counsellor. She won't change because there's not really work put in to change nor does she feel like she too needs to change. Instead she clings to you having hurt her years ago to justify her toxic behaviour and anger problems. She identifies with the "hurt one", the one that "was done wrong" and keeps reliving it over and over again and excuse her mistakes with it. Many people do this because it's easier to cling to that past resentment than working on those issues and make an effort to let go, weather by leaving the relationship or trying to work it out together. It's easier to assume the role of the victim than working to move forward.

    Maybe time apart would make it easier for both of you to figure out what you want and think through because you're toxic to each other and this dynamic is not healthy at all nor does it seem that either of you are happy with each other. Don't hang to someone out of habit or fear of abandoning unhealthy but known/"safe" situations. Take ownership and action.

  10. #9
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    Originally Posted by notsurehelp
    Thanks for your reply. Perhaps the post a was a bit long and I could have been briefer.

    For the record, I do want to be in the relationship, and I do want to make this work. But the last few months I have struggled to make it work, and feel unsure about how to, and I just feel pretty down in the dumps.

    I don't really understand what your latter point is, perhaps you could explain it to me? I think you're trying to say that I could just talk to others about it, and promise them not to tell? The issue is that she gets angry if I speak to others, and that because I am constantly being checked on because she doesn't trust me, I wouldn't really have much of a chance to talk to other friends/family anyway about these problems without her knowing. Like I said, I feel very isolated and often end up just doing things to appease her anxieties/anger. I just wish I could help get through to understanding things from my perspective, and how it makes me feel.

    Edit: just to add, I'm not trying to play the victim. I was merely asking whether some of the behaviours, and physical/verbal aggression that I described would constitute abuse
    You are playing the victim.
    Now you are saying you can’t ever have a private chat without her knowing.
    I call bs on that.
    If you don’t like the relationship you are in then get out of it!
    But don’t claim that she is a crazy stalker and secretly recording your every move and conversation. She isn’t.

  11. #10
    Originally Posted by boltnrun
    How does 40 or 50 years of her treating you like this sound?

    You can't "change" it because she doesn't want to. She likes interrogating, berating and belittling you. She will not stop because she thinks it's all YOUR fault.

    40 or 50 years of this same treatment. Sound wonderful and amazing, or kind of like a nightmare?
    Well, when you put it like that, a nightmare obviously, and of course I don't want to spend another 50 years of my life like that. But I do want to spend the next 50 years of my life with her, and I just want to find a way for us to let a lot of the past go, and find respect and trust for each other again.

    Originally Posted by Wiseman2
    Try the counselling if you feel you're in a vicious cycle. You both want the other to change and you're both holding grudges.
    Yeah, I think a lot of resentment has built up on both sides. I think counselling would be best, and I've just asked again now. I just don't really understand when I do that isn't met with an "okay", but instead just various more hostile and difficult responses that clearly aren't getting us anywhere.

    Originally Posted by Annia
    I don't see much hope here as she doesn't seem to take responsibility for her part of the problem nor make an effort to communicate in a healthy way and see a counsellor. She won't change because there's not really work put in to change nor does she feel like she too needs to change. Instead she clings to you having hurt her years ago to justify her toxic behaviour and anger problems. She identifies with the "hurt one", the one that "was done wrong" and keeps reliving it over and over again and excuse her mistakes with it. Many people do this because it's easier to cling to that past resentment than working on those issues and make an effort to let go, weather by leaving the relationship or trying to work it out together. It's easier to assume the role of the victim than working to move forward.

    Maybe time apart would make it easier for both of you to figure out what you want and think through because you're toxic to each other and this dynamic is not healthy at all nor does it seem that either of you are happy with each other. Don't hang to someone out of habit or fear of abandoning unhealthy but known/"safe" situations. Take ownership and action.
    Thanks for your insight and feedback. I feel pretty clear on what I would like in that I would like us to try and resolve these issues (preferably by seeing a counsellor), suspend the hostile behaviour, and try to just let bygones be bygones and accept the past for what it is.

    To some degree, I feel like she agrees with this view and wants that too, although for whatever reason it doesn't seem to seep into anything tangible. Like the other week I said we should just 'start fresh, forget about the past, and treat each other like we would any other person'. She agreed to this, but by the next day it was clear that wasn't going to let the past go because I started to having make promises again that it was just us etc. I mean, I really sympathise with her I do because I know I hurt her and I have regretted my actions ever since, but I just know in my heart of hearts that unless she can just put trust in me we're just going to keep going round the same issues, having the same arguments etc. I get to points sometimes where I just really wish I could turn back time and have not made the mistakes that I did, but I know I can't. I have just tried to accept to be a better person, but to some degree I feel like rather than growing and moving past these issues, we've just developed some really unhealthy and unsustainable habits regarding them.

    Originally Posted by Billie28
    You are playing the victim.
    Now you are saying you can’t ever have a private chat without her knowing.
    I call bs on that.
    If you don’t like the relationship you are in then get out of it!
    But don’t claim that she is a crazy stalker and secretly recording your every move and conversation. She isn’t.
    I don't really understand why you'd think I'd sign up just to tell a bunch of people online things that aren't true. The truth is that yes, I don't feel like I can, or it's at least incredibly difficult. This is in part because when she messages me, if even 2 minutes or so goes by without me responding then she can often get intensely suspicious about things, which results in me often feeling like I'm tethered to my phone when I'm at work. We've literally had several arguments about this. I don't think she is a crazy stalker/secretly recording me (I didn't say either of those things?) but she can get angry when I say I spoke to x, or gets anxious if I don't respond immediately, and has often outright accused me of things which aren't true. As I tried to make clear in my original post, I do sympathise with her and I can see where a lot of this stems from my past transgressions, but it does often make living my day to day life difficult.

    Again, as I've tried express, yes there are things about this relationship that isn't working, but that doesn't mean I want to get out of it.

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