"Crazy-making" behavior from my emotionally abusive husband

"Crazy-making" behavior from my emotionally abusive husband

My story seems complicated to me, and I’m not sure where to begin.  I’ll try to keep it as simple as possible. 

I have been with my husband for three years and although he firmly denies it, I believe he is emotionally and verbally abusive.  For a long time I couldn’t name what I was feeling with him.  I feel like I am always walking on egg shells and his mood swings are so unpredictable that I am never sure who I was going to wake up with each morning.  He blows up at seemingly minute things and then chastises me for not sharing his morals and beliefs.   He has isolated me from my friends and family and wouldn’t allow me to speak with my parents for years; he wanted all communication from them to go through him.  He is aggressive in his tone and says that if I was a strong person, I wouldn’t feel hurt or scared.  He manipulates every situation we’re in, and his favorite tactic is withdrawing love and attention when I don’t do exactly what he wants; he literally acts like I don’t exist.  For a long time, I didn’t know what to call my feelings.  I started reading about verbal and emotional abuse and heard my exact story again and again in testimonials.  I began to think that my husband is abusive.  And then, after a fairly severe head injury, he physically attacked me.  While he apologized, he has downplayed what happened, and insists that it is my fault for not leaving the room when he asked me to the night of the attack. 

I feel like I know exactly what he’s going to say in every situation, yet I am still surprised each and every time he blows up over something I deem to be rather trivial.  I was raised in an egalitarian and loving family, so this type of abuse still baffles me.  Before him, I was strong and confident.  Now, I’m not sure what to think. 

This doubt I have about myself is the worst part.  He is engaging in all kinds of “crazy making” behavior, and I feel I can’t trust my own thoughts and feelings.  The worst is that since I told him about my suspicions of his abusive behavior, he has begun insisting that I am the abusive one.  I know that deflection like this is a tactic of abusers, but he says that for every characteristic of abuse I apply to him, he can think of an example that applies to me.  I am literally going insane here.  I don’t feel that I have ever abused him.  I have done everything he has ever asked (except for completely cut out my family) and it’s still not enough.  I’m the one who sits crying while he lectures me, and he rarely offers any love or compassion when I’m scared or hurt.  I’m not perfect and I’m sure I’ve done things to hurt him too (the biggest thing he complains about is that I saw my parents behind his back because he wouldn’t let me see them openly), but I don’t understand how I could be the abuser.  He has made me completely question who I am. 

I am afraid to talk with my friends or family for fear of his lectures or rejection.  I am afraid to read books (and I love reading books) because he mocks me when I do so, calling me lazy and selfish, and telling me he’d rather see me doing anything else but reading.  I’m afraid to listen to my favorite morning talk show when I’m getting ready for the day because he says they are a negative influence and tells me that “I’m smarter than that.”  He trivializes everything I do, including when I work on my PhD studies.  He threatens to leave almost daily, and says that divorce is always an option.  And yet he says he loves me and wants to be with me. 

I am confused and sad.  If I am this beat down and abused can I really be the abuser?

Jessica S
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Re: "Crazy-making" behavior from my emotionally abusive husband

Hi, by no means think you are the abuser, by what you say I can clearly say he is abusive with you. Now he turned physical abusive, even if it was just once, don't wait for more. You need to seek for help asap, try to talk to your family and friends, I'm sure they can help you. Do you want to leave him?

"We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them." -Albert Einstein
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Re: "Crazy-making" behavior from my emotionally abusive husband

You are clearly being seriously abused, and obviously showing signs of the "damage".  I feel I can say this because a therapist once told me, "all abusers read the same handbook".  And it is so true.  When I read your story, or 100 other stories, or my stories; the details might differ some, but the way the abuser acts, the things he says, the way the victim begins to think...... its all the same story, and reading yours is like reading mine.  There are some thing things I want to emphasize, after reading your story.  Some may be things you don't want to hear or believe.  I never did and still don't (its hard to come to accept that this relationship/marriage, that you had such hope for, that you were sure was going to be a good thing is not what you thought.  It is hard to give up that dream.  I can't tell you how to do that, or what to do, but I will give you some facts and what I see.  My first concern is that YOU are changing.... more and more... We focus so much on the abuser, but really he's pretty consistent.  He keeps doing and saying the same things.  What we don't notice, is that the abuse is changing us.... in ways that makes us....more likely to tolerate the abuse.... in ways that make it easier for the abuser to control us... which is his bottom line.  1. You are doubting yourself, more and more.  You "think" you are being abused.  You are obviously an intelligent, well educated woman (by the way, that doesn't make us immune from the tactics of the abusers.  Trust your feelings and your instincts that you always relied on before.  Cutting you off from your own inner wisdom by giving you mixed messages makes you start to doubt yourself.  Don't.  You know that this is not right. You ARE being abused. There is no question about that. Emotional abuse is just as dangerous as physical abuse ... the results are long lasting and much more devastating.  DO NOT underestimate the danger and damage that occurs with any abuse.  2. Asking him - no abuser will EVER admit to being abusive.  Don't bother.  If he would maybe admit to "hurting" you, it will still be your fault.  3. I hear you spending a lot of time and energy trying to "understand" why he is doing what he is doing, acting the way he is... etc.  Stop.
He is acting like that because he is an abuser and that is how they act.  You are not an abuser, and you will never understand the way his sick mind works. He will say he did X because you did Y, but it doesn't matter what you do.  He is an abuser and he will abuse.  Again, as a therapist told me: some people's minds are just xxckd up.
I spent years analyzing, trying to understand, making excuses, performing all kinds of mental acrobatics thinking I could change the situation.  You know the result of that.  He will NEVER admit to his abuse, he will never take responsibility for his actions, he will never be truly sorry, and he is not capable of empathy or compassion.  You can stay married to this man if you choose, but you will NEVER have a true intimate relationship with him, because he is not capable of it. You will lose some of yourself.  You will have to accept that your emotional needs will not be met. And, always a possibility - this man could kill you - if not physically, emotionally.  You know how "beat down" you feel after 3 years?  How do you think you are going to feel after 3 more? or 10 more.  It will be harder and harder to leave because the more time you spend with him the more confidence you will lose, your sense of normalcy and reality will become more and more distorted, you will have no energy, you will be depressed.... and you will begin to "accept your fate".  Use the energy you have now to keep your confidence in yourself and in trusting yourself, instead of trying to figure him out.  You never will.  But you can protect yourself. 2. "you are abusing him".  A very common tactic. No. You are not.  The simple difference is intent.  The abuser is INTENDING to hurt, humiliate, denigrate, control you.  This is  continual pattern.  None of us are perfect.  We get angry and frustrated and do and say things we don't mean or regret.  But these are isolated incidences, AND you feel SORRY, you feel remorse.  You did NOT want to hurt your partner.  You apologize.  You had no intent to humiliate him, make him feel less than etc.  You know this.
Do NOT start wasting time analyzing things you have said and done, thinking, oh that was wrong.....It does not justify his abuse and did not cause it.  Do you think everyone in a non-abusive relationship behaves perfectly?  You know the answer.  Don't doubt it!  My ex, after being arrested, filed a restraining order against me claiming I was abusing him (including sexual abuse!, which was interesting because he was always complaining about not enough sex! and how I could at 100 lbs subdue a man more than twice my size, and then excuse me, but I don't understand logistically how I could have made him "able" to engage in sexual intercourse).  My lawyer laughed, but I still have a hard time laughing..... of course the thing was thrown out, but I had to go to court and listen to him being referred to as the "victim".  These guys are sick.  They are like addicts.  Humiliating me himself no longer was enough of a thrill, he now had to do it publically, legally; and just like always; he seriously thought there was nothing wrong with this. He has never ever admitted to any incident in 8 years of abuse.  Worse, he has created this fantasy world where HE is the victim of abuse.  So when your husband accuses you of being abusive, DO NOT start to question yourself.  Tell yourself, okay, now he is doing #12 in the handbook. 

Your story is not complicated.  It is actually quite simple.  You married a classic abuser who is acting like a classic abuser and you are beginning to show the effects of that.  That is the truth.  Do not doubt your perceptions. The hard complicated part is coming to terms with the fact that the man you married was a fantasy, and accepting the loss of the dream that you had of a future with him. 
Of course, I want to tell you to pack your bags and run, as I'm sure everyone who loves you does.  Maybe you can't quite do that today.  But keep reading about abuse.  Listen to the women here.  Do not let him undermine  your confidence.  He is saying the same things every abusive man says.

I like this little story:  A woman was walking down a road, and she came upon a badly injured snake, a variety she knew was poisonous; but she knew if she left it it would likely die.  So she took it home, made it a nest, cleaned its wounds, fed it and gave it water.  The snake slowly began to recover and she actually started to really care for the snake.  Every day he got stronger and they developed a friendship (this is a story, so snakes can talk!).  He was almost fully recovered when the woman came to check on him, and he lunged at her and bit her in her arm injecting his poisonous venom.  She was stunned.  "How could you do that?, she asked.  I took you in, I took care of you, I cleaned your wounds, I saved your life".  "What did you expect?, he replied.  "I'm a snake".

Your husband is not acting the way he is because of anything you are doing or saying, or not doing.  He is an abuser.  He abuses.  And all your love and care and attempts to "help" him will never change that. You are not going crazy.  You are experiencing someone who is trying to manipulate you by making you doubt yourself.  Do not believe his lies.  You know the truth deep down.  Do not get into discussions with him, trying to defend yourself.  It will get you nowhere.  You are not working with logic and reality here.  Simply say, :that is not true".  And refuse to discuss it any more. 
And also, do not feel bad or guilty because you love this man or don't want to leave him. You would not have married him if he did not have some positive qualities, if he did not treat you well.  That is the hook.  If the abuser was just nasty 100% of the time, you probably wouldn't be with him, and there would be no issue.

I can't say this to many people, but the man who sadistically abused me for 8 years also gave me the happiest times of my life, and maybe it wasn't real, but made me feel more loved and cared about than I ever have..  It is so incomprehensible, it is such a complicated mixture of emotions.  And I think for me, doubting myself, at least at the time seemed less painful than accepting the reality of the situation and ending the relationship.

Ellen Olenska
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Re: "Crazy-making" behavior from my emotionally abusive husband

Maria - Thank you so much for the warm response.  I'm not sure if I'm going to leave him, although "happy thoughts" about my future don't feature him.  I know a good first step is to develop some more lines with him and see how he reacts.  My friends and family are on board, and they've given me no indication that I'm "abusive" at all.  I think I need to go with the consensus here. 

Ellen - Thank you for the very thoughtful and thought provoking response. I've looked at these hard truths, and while I know them to be true, it's so hard to find that healthy outside perspective while I'm still in the relationship (which I why I suppose I've turned to you lovely ladies!).  Ironically, my husband told me the snake story before we started dating as a warning about his "inner nature."  I know that his warning doesn't justify his abuse, but at least he knows he's a snake.  I agree that I can't try to understand him any longer; I probably understand him perfectly, which is why I'm so hurt and scared.  I need to understand myself instead.  If you have any more insight, I'd love to hear it.

At this point, I'm not sure what the next step is...

Jessica S
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Hi again.  It's been more than a month since I last posted about this situation, and it hasn't gotten any better.  Yes, there have been moments where I've seen the good in the man I fell in love with, but they're bookended with circular arguments that don't go anywhere and can last for days.  I'm exhausted and at my wits end. 

The MFT we've been seeing together has made it abundantly clear that my husband needs individual therapy, and has told me privately that he does indeed have abusive tendancies; she suggests I have a backdoor plan.  However, my husband refuses to see that there's anything wrong with him, despite the fact that no one really understands his point of view.  Most disturbingly, he fake-called 911 after I refused to let him take our toddler son to his parents' house at 11:00 at night.  He insists that I am controlling and abusive, and he constantly wants me to tell him about all my flaws, to take responsibility for all the ways I've hurt him.  I know I'm not perfect, but the thing that hurts him the most is that I saw my parents without him knowing because it was not safe for me to tell him up front.  He would be furious if he saw this post, as he'd insist that I haven't adequately laid out everything I did wrong in the relationship.

I know that I have to consider the source, but his constant insistence that I'm the "bad" one is clouding my judgment.  He has left our house tonight, since he now "sees me as the cause and the cure" of his anger and sadness.  I'm not sure if or when he'll be back, but he's done this before in an attempt to make me chase after him.  What do I do?  I don't want to give up, but I feel he's backed me into a corner here and I'm going to have to fight my way out.  Any perspective would be appreciated.

Jessica S
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Re: "Crazy-making" behavior from my emotionally abusive husband

You have already stayed too long.  If you have been harmed, what is to stop him from hurting your child?
Your MFT is spot on.  You need to pick-up and leave now and find a women's shelter, or, if possible, go stay with your parents.  I just want you to get out now.  You don't really love him, what you are feeling for him is an attachment due to his on-again and off-again behavior.  So sometimes it all seems OK and you want to stay, then it all hits the fan and you know you need to leave.  Do you see the difference?  Wanting to stay vs. knowing you have to leave? 
He has already gotten inside your head and confused you, blamed you, and sorry, but as a female, you have a tendency to believe it.  Not a sexist statement, just true.  In your heart you know it is not true,  just as in your head you know it is not true.  Once an abuser, always an abuser,  Get out, and get out today.
God Bless

Angel5
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Re: "Crazy-making" behavior from my emotionally abusive husband

I can see he has a lot of issues and he doesn't even accept them. I do think you should get out of there, he is being abusive and he is hurting you.

"We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them." -Albert Einstein
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Re: "Crazy-making" behavior from my emotionally abusive husband

Hi Sweet Jessica!
I'm sorry I have not responded for so long.... I have wanted to... I had some password problem..it wouldn't take my password and they sent me a "code" to get a new one, and whenever I put the "code" in, it said it wasn't right.... I did that about 6 times....had to write the site to get the problem fixed... in the meantime, I could read the posts but not write!!!

I really am very concerned  for you.  Your husband is what I think is the worst kind of abuser.... the psychotic narcissist type who uses sadistic psychological abuse.  These types know exactly what they are doing....he is working real hard to make you the "bad guy", to even make you believe that, which you do to some degree (it is obvious it your writing) and that doubt in yourself put you in a place where he can easily control you.   I don't want to sound alarmist, but after mentioning that you have a toddler, and he made a "fake 911 call", I have to agree with the other 2 ladies who posted.  I know leaving seems impossible....but RIGHT NOW you need to take all of your energy off of trying to reason with him, which will never happen.... and think of your child.....because he is now using your child as a "weapon" to control you... and my fear is it will not be long before he makes a real 911 call, and the police come and he accuses you of abusing the child and /or him, and he is perfectly calm and reasonable, because he has planned this all ahead of time, and you are a frazzled wreck because of this completely insane situation...... so who are the idiot cops (sorry but it has been my experience - they are so easily conned by the abusers - its still like the "good old boys"
club) going to believe?  The calm "rational" man who called and told them you would be irrational and upset and deny what you did.   Then they will at least have to right a report, even if you aren't charged with anything, there will be a report.  His goal is to destroy you, your reputation, and just like mine did,  they will take it to the legal level, and it is scary how easily they can con they system.  And, he has been working up to this.  Of course he wants all the communication to go through him.  He wants to paint the picture of you as his "abuser".  Why? Because he is sick.
He is sick.  Part of  his sickness is that he doesn't think there is anything wrong with him.

So, on with my fear.... you do decided to leave, and custody and visitation  issues come up... and you will have this "report" that 911 was called because of whatever lies he made up, and again; even if nothing was ever done after that, the police report will state exactly what he said,  and they may have noted" he seemed calm, and she was very irrational"... and because that one cop wrote something like that in a report, he will be able to use that against you
and you don't want this monster having any part of custody of your child....  I know this sounds too outrageous to be true... but it is so easy ... and I just see it coming ... for him to start making a "paper trail" to make you now legally look like the "bad" guy.  Anyone can go to the police and say anything, and they have to write a report.  And again, unfortunately, even if you were never charged with anything, a complaint, or complaints will look bad.  This is the worst case scenario.... but if he mentioned calling 911, you know he's thinking about it...

AND - I thought it was like common knowledge - every therapist, psychiatrist, everything I read says that women in abusive relationships should NEVER have joint counseling with their abuser.  It often does more harm than good.
They con the therapist, and actually "learn" how to abuse you better.  You talk about your vulnerabilities. Perfect. He uses that information against you.  He learns all the right "psychobabble" to use when describing how "crazy" and "abusive" you are.  ABUSIVE TENDENCIES  - this man is a raving psychopath!  I know this is absolutely not my place, but I would kick this therapist to the curb, and get one for YOU who is familiar with domestic violence.  Is there a domestic violence center where who live?  Most counties have one.  Often they have therapists, or can refer you to one.  They also can help you with some practical issues in dealing with your situation.

I know it is so hard.  He sounds SO much like my ex... with that pulling away, withdrawing, and you ending up chasing after him....which no one, except those of us who have lived through it, would understand this.. but you have been conditioned to do that..

So Angel is right.  I know you can't see it, but this crazy man has you actually considering that YOU are abusive......you will never be able to get yourself back if you stay, and it is going to get worse.  Read Angel's post over and over.
Go on the computer and search for "narcissists", "psychopaths:, narcissistic abuse, etc.  I think you will find descriptions of men that just like your husband, and reading about them will help  you understand that you are dealing with a sick person who is not going to change, he is never going to go near a therapist. Just that not letting you see your parents alone is not acceptable.  Of course he doesn't want you to read...he doesn't want you to learn anything that might make you see some reality...
Its hard for outsiders to understand, but I really think that that withdrawal of love and affection is the worst kind of abuse, and causes the most damage.  So I understand.  He threatens to leave one minute, then says he loves you... mixed messages keep you on edge...confused.. easy to control......because this hurts so much....he says he loves you because he knows you want to hear it...but he wants to control you , to destroy you.
My therapist said  something, that made a lightbulb go off in my head:(about my ex who complained about me, and I was so terrible , etc etc.)  She said if a "normal" man found so many things about you unappealing or problematic; he would say, this isn't for me, and leave early on. NOT stay and abuse you and try to demean you about those things.
Because its not really whatever he's complaining about, he'll pick anything.  And I thought yeah, this doesn't make sense.  I'm mean, if you are such an awful person, why is he not out of there?
Because you're not. You're a sweet, kind, loving person.....the perfect target for a sick man.  Your child cannot grow up in this environment.
Call the shelter/center
ANd write us back.
Tomorrow!
I have a password now, so I'll be checking!

Contact your local domestic violence shelter now.
Document everything you can.  The fake 911 call, the dates of things, the more "together" you look, the "better".

Ellen Olenska
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I noticed this site has a Narcissistic Personality Disorder forum, you might want to check that out, especially the latest post from a familiar "angel".  There are other sites i'd like to recommend but I think these sites don't like you giving out tat kind of info and I don't remember what the rules are, and I don't what to get booted out!  Definitely stay here, but doing some reading about NPD, etc. really helped me understand my ex, and "get" that it wasn''t me, and I could see the exact dynamics that were going on.  That's freaky that he told you that snake story too.....you didn't even know it, but he was giving you mixed messages right from the start.  He knows exactly what he is and has no remorse or guilt whatsoever to even try to hide it!  You however, have no idea that someone so sick could be walking around looking and acting so normal, so you react normally to the positive messages you get.....and slowly the brainwashing starts... until one day you find yourself begging a man who treats who like dirt to not leave you...and you know that isn't normal... but you can't stop.  But he has "trained" you, like a little lab rat.  He loves that begging, that watching you grovel, suffer, and all that power he has over you.  Do not get down on yourself. YOu have been programmed to act this way.  YOu are not stupid.  I'm sorry everyone I right so much . But this, a a few other places are the only "people" I can talk to about this stuff, because no one else in my life understands why I am so depressed, why I could still say I "love" a man who did terrible things too me.  I wish I didn't, but the fact is I do.  It's interesting, I can read someone else's story, like yours, that is similar in many ways to mine; and I can get angry and say "that guy is an a....h...  and she should give him the boot, he doesn't deserve one minute of her time".... But, I can't feel that way about my own situation.  I keep hoping that being able to feel that way for other people will rub off on me.
I know you love him, and the pain is horrible, the worst I have ever felt, and I have no cure to offer, but I know if you stay he will destroy you and your child.  There is help out there. And here.  Prayers for you tonight.

Ellen Olenska
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I apologize for jumping in on this thread. I read this and it is my life, to a T. I left my abuser about a year & a half ago. I left while I was 6 months pregnant with our child. We have played the same song & dance for all this time. I have doubted myself, felt so guilty for everything he swears I did to abuse him, which was actually his own abuse projected onto me. We would have weeks of "I love you" where he would stay at my apartment with my son & I, and then weeks of how much he hated me & the unbearable verbal abuse would begin, followed by weeks of ignoring & the worst cold imaginable. For over a year this up & down has occurred. And tomorrow our divorce becomes final. It's the worst pain. I know he's the abuser, I've felt if only I could be there for him & show Him love is real he could snap out of it. If only I could show him I'm sorry for my wrongs, he'd leave the girls & party life and be a loving husband and father for my son and I.  I have tried everything to win him back. One day he comes crying to me about how he can't lose me, and the very next day he will come saying how horrible I made his life & how I abused him & so on. I do not want a divorce, I try so hard to give him everything he needs while not totally giving up what I need. And all I've needed was for my son & I to move home & stop the divorce. I just needed him to make a step to show me he truly loved me. I am making myself crazy trying to figure out what I can do to make him happy or come back to me, but nothing I do makes him come back. I'm so heartbroken and alone. I know he's abusive, I know I don't want my son to be like that to me or his wife someday, but at the same time I'm so in love with my husband & miss him so much. I can't believe I can only call him husband for one more night! Why have my son & I never been worth fighting for in his eyes?

I know deep down I should be angry @ him, for the lying, cheating, blaming, abnadonment...But I'm not. I'm overcome with sadness.

I guess I just needed  to get this out. It's so hard to explain to others. I read this thread and saw myself.

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