Abusive Relationships/Silent treatment then explosive anger
I’ve been dealing with my husband’s extreme anger outbursts, which come after the silent treatment. It literally started after our honeymoon, when he blew up at me over something as trivial as me trying to zip his laptop bag at the airport. He got annoyed and gave me the silent treatment for 24 hours. I said something to him about it, while we were in he car and he began to drive like a mad man, and yell at me about being in debt, etc, and then he dangerously parked the car on the side of a busy highway, which caused minor damage to my car. I was in total shock! And there have been several angry outbursts like these afterwards with no major fight or conflict. For example, we are a blended family, and he asked me a question about when my ex-husband was picking up the kids and I told him the date and time, and he went off, and knocked over items in our bathroom and left out. There are other occasions within our seven-month marriage. The scariest was when we were having a date night, but needed to take our puppy to the vet first, I told him that we should take the puppy home first because it was too hot to leave him in the car, well he gave me the silent treatment the entire night, and when we were headed home he snapped and had an angry outburst, accusing me of caring for dogs more than people and once again, invoking my ex-husband in his tirade. He started to drive very fast and erratic and I could hear the car horn beeping at us, I literally begged him to stop and when he didn’t listen, I started to pray aloud and cry. There are other episodes like this, but I won't go over them. As of today I'm getting the silent treatment because of a football game we were watching at my relatives house on Thanksgiving. We have a fun rivalry with our football teams (Cowboys vs. Redskins), and my team was winning so there was some light and fun trash talk on my part, well hubby didn’t like it, and just got up and left he house without saying a word!! Of course my relatives asked where he was when they realized he was gone, and I didn’t know what to tell them because he left without saying a word. Long story short, my family asked if he was upset over the game, and basically came to this conclusion on their own because he left abruptly. Our kids (his step kids) even asked if he was upset when he finally came back, and this further angered him. What was a great time of fellowship with family I hadn’t seen in years turned into hurt when he began giving me the silent treatment. He’s still not speaking with me, and it hurts. And now I see this pattern and I don’t know what to do. If I say something to him about it, he will blow up in anger. He’s a marine and they can be intense. However, I’m a loving and supportive wife and bottom line, I don’t deserve this!!! We are devout Christians and this goes against all the principles we are taught as a Christian couple; like not going to bed angry. I even tried to make love to him and he shot me down. I just don understand, but I know I am not the problem here, but I know he will say it’s my fault. Or say we don’t need therapy. I think he’s the one who needs therapy because there are some deep issues concerning his first wife who left him for another man, and basically took his children with her. I tell him that the way he treats me is because of what he went through at the end of his first marriage, but he dismisses that notion. He downplays the anger and says he will never hit me, but I think a person like him with so much uncontrollable rage will at some point hit me. Worst thing, my two kids live in our home, and I don’t’ want them to ever see this side of him. Please help me! Is this abuse? Is he controlling? What should I do? I am grateful to God for this website. Thanks for reading.
ANSWER: Hi Elvia,
Thank you for writing and asking these very good questions. Relationships are challenging enough but when these extra elements enter into the picture, confusion, fear and knowing what to do naturally occur. I am so sorry that you are experiencing such events and very glad you are asking these questions. There could be many reasons why your husband reacts in this manner and he will most likely NOT change without him seeing a counselor. His reactions are NOT your fault and you are NOT to blame for these outburst and erratic behavior.
Now with that said, he most likely wants you to “put up” with his anger, silent treatment and outbursts because he doesn’t want to deal with it. Sounds as if he really doesn’t want counseling so you really only have two choices. The first choice is to seek counseling for yourself—sometimes this will lead people into counseling if you make the first move—it also lets the other person know that you are not going to put up with or tolerate this type of behavior and that counseling is needed. If that works and he sees a counselor, then he may be able to work out his anger issues with a therapist.
If he refuses to seek counseling, then your only other choice is to end the marriage. Being around this type of behavior WILL negatively affect you over time and your kids. This type of behavior usually causes people to “worry” about the next anger spell and they learn to walk on eggshells to keep such episodes from happening. Their time, energy and concern go towards keeping peace instead of focusing on building a healthy family life. Your kids will most likely feel the tension, fear and confusion as well. Your safety with his driving fast and hitting you is something to be also very concerned about.
You see the pattern and it will most likely not change and glad to hear that you understand that you do not deserve this type of treatment and are not to blame. Taking the lead and seeking a counselor is very important in taking a stand in this situation. But just to let you know, even if he seeks counseling, this process can take up to a year for real recovery but most do not complete the sessions because it is too painful. Taking the steps to protect yourself and your kids is most important and the right thing to do.
Please write again to let me know how things are going and remember, you deserve the very best in life and you have the power to make that happen. Keeping yourself and your kids safe is the goal. Much peace to you,
Cathy Backlund, Life Coach, Specializing in Abusive Relationships and Domestic Violence Education
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QUESTION: Hi Cathy,
Thank you so much for the quick reply to post. I've scheduled an appointment with a therapist today. I have another question for you. Is this type pc behavior abusive and/or controlling?
I am glad to hear that you are seeing a therapist today! Good for you! And yes, the behavior you described would be considered abusive and controlling. Extreme behavior with angry outbursts and dangerous driving that create fear, and silent treatments and blame that make you feel bad about yourself would be considered emotional abuse.
The controlling aspect comes into play when you change your healthy behavior pattern to an unhealthy pattern of compensating for his angry episodes such as learning to walk on eggshells or not feeling comfortable saying something because of his angry outbursts. When this happens, he is in control of you and your actions which allows him to continue with his harmful behavior and keeps you on edge worrying about his next outburst. This pattern usually escalates and can become physical because of not being able to control this type of anger.
Just remember, this is not your fault that he behaves in this manner. This is an issue that he has and he is responsible for getting the help he needs to deal with this issue. He also needs to deal with this because he wants to and doesn't want to behave in this manner anymore. Committing to the work that keeps him from behaving with this type of anger is NOT easy. It is easier for him for you to "put up" with this behavior and he may think or believe he doesn't have a problem and you should live with it.
As I mentioned in the previous answer, living with this issue will negatively affect you and your kids in time. Taking steps to resolve this issue today for your health and well-being and safety is most important for your joy and happiness in the future.
Please let me know how it goes. Much peace to you,