Abusive Relationships/Tired emotionally


Are these sort of marital problems normal? I feel like I am going crazy!My husband was in the military for many years, so I know tidiness must be order of the day, but I feel like my husband is controlling, in a freakish way. Worst part is I have nobody to talk to, so not sure if these problems I am facing are just part of normal marital issues or something bigger. Is it normal if he gets really upset over stupid things? Like I laid my spoon on an old piece of towel on the counter versus a new piece of paper towel. He doesn't want me to lay the spoon directly on the counter it has to be on a paper. He doesn't want me to eat potato chips on the couch. He's upset if I leave half a drawer open. He gets pissed off if I walk in the bedroom wearing shoes I used to go out earlier, but then our dogs are free to walk about in the bedroom! If I get pissed off because of his requests, he gets more pissed off and then says he tried to say it nicely. Lately though, I get really mad and slam the door in hopes that he notices how angry he makes me and would make it stop, but so far no method seems to work to make him stop. He always come up with something new. Today he said I should just leave. He says this all the time, but I am getting tired of hearing it and am thinking to leave for real. He has a history of getting into fights with his ex girlfriends as well. When he worked I thought it was stress, so I closed an eye on it. Now, that we both work at home and there's no real stress triggers, I think it's just the way he is. I am tired of fighting. Also, the more I try to comply to his requests, the more he comes up with newer ones. Once, I was helping my grandma peel tomatoes and my dad told him 'Aren't you going to help them out?" my husband got really mad for this remark. He refused to eat dinner with my family for 3 days. My dad was upset from his reaction and a big fight erupted. My husband told my dad " Be careful or I am going to break your last teeth." I never forgot those words. There was also a time I thought he was cheating on me, but he denied everything even though I found an e-mail that took me to a picture of a girl and then found a condom in his wallet. He swore the e-mail he created it for his boss who had an affair with that girl and that the condom was there since we moved and he put it there months earlier and forgot about it. This was like 10 years ago.

The only reason I guess am I still with him is I feel responsible to adhere to our marriage and I love our dogs. Even though we make peace every time, there's always another fight around the corner and my husband thinks it's normal and all couples go through them, but I'm starting to think differently and feel exhausted not sure if I need a break or to leave for good. I will be going to Italy in 10 days to visit my family and I am thinking maybe this is a good time to leave. Yet, I worry about how he will be able to live financially since I bring most of the money with my business. He would be left with a high mortgage.I watch dogs as a business and he doesn't like it even though it helps us survive. He doesn't lift a finger to help me and if I need to ask for help like watch a dog 5 minutes while I use the restroom it's like who knows what I am asking him. I also have a hard time thinking about leaving my dogs. How can people divorce and leave children, when I can't even cope with leaving my dogs? It must be terrible tough. We have been married almost 16 years, I was very young back then (21) and even though we would fight over stupid things, I could get over it. Now, my blood pressure raises high. Maybe, I feel I am old enough and deserve more respect. Maybe I got tired of it. Maybe I feel I deserve better.  He never really hit me or anything, even though at times he acted as if  he would and when he's very angry sometimes I feel like I must not react too much or it could escalate too much. I know tomorrow he will come to me to say he is sorry. He'll likely say he was stressed because I got a dog to watch in our home (and he didn't want me to) and it disrupts our routine. He accused me earlier of taking this dog not because we need money but because I am too weak to say no to the client. Yet, these dogs are what allow us to work at home and pay our bills.

When I met him, I remember the first time we fought it was over something stupid. I remember though I was surprised at how stupid it was. It was raining and I was holding the umbrella and he got mad that I wasn't holding it well. With his ex, he risked one leaving him because he told her she drove badly. Another one because he got pissed off at her for not listening to him on how to fix the computer. I have always known to be patient and understanding and I think that was what has saved our marriage. Today though, I am feeling how suppressed my behaviors are around him and how free and happy I feel when I travel without him. I think he is having a big effect on my self esteem. I started noticing I often swallow when I talk to him. I think it's a sign of me being nervous. His reactions at times scare me. I have a hard time admitting this. My mom once told me I am a saint to stand him. I need help to understand what is happening and how I should cope with this, sorry if it's long. I think if I must leave him now is the time as I will have support from my family in Italy. Thank you for your time.

Dear Mary,
Thank you for your question and I am so sorry that you are faced with this kind of decision.  To answer your first question about whether your husband's behavior is normal, the answer would be no.  That kind of control is beyond the norm to expect from another person.  You said he was in the military, so yes, there is a certain amount of rigidness that comes from existing in the military culture.  However, even in saying that, he is not in the military anymore and it is not appropriate to expect one's family to behave as if they lived in the barracks.  Often it is difficult for a military person to re-integrate back into civilian culture, but that is what counselors are for.  

Even in saying what I have said, the kinds of things he is getting upset about move into the arena of hyper-control rather than preference of living.  One of the things I always tell my clients is that you should never have to be another person to exist in a relationship.  If he doesn't accept you the way you are, he wants someone else.  It is not appropriate to expect you to turn into another person to live with him.  You should not have to suppress your life and feel badly about who you are as a person in order to be in a relationship.  He seems to believe there is only one way to do things and that one way is his way.  That is not true.

He does need to speak to a third party who can help him become more appropriate with his expectations and his ability to relate to other people.  My concern is if you have been in this situation so long that you have detached.  When people develop relationships, there is an attachment process and when things start to go bad, there is a detachment process.  Detachment begins when one person begin to feel uncomfortable.  They try to talk, they discuss, they begin to argue.  When things don't change, then the person goes into a kind of despair, when hope begins to wain and they begin to wonder if the relationship will work or not.  After despair, detachment happens....that is when the person begins to not care.  When one person detaches, then the relationship either ends, or becomes one of duty. You seem pretty far into the detachment process because you are only concerned about your dogs or his financial well being.  If that is what you are concerned about...you can find a way to take your dogs with you or find people to take care of them until you can take them to Italy.  Your husband's financial well being is his problem, just as your financial situation is your responsibility.  It is as simple as that.

When it ends, the other person is usually surprised and goes into all sorts of behaviors, asking for a second chance as if the spouse had not given them any chances previously. This happens because they have not gone through the same detachment that the other spouse has. They promise to change, yet most of the time there are no concrete steps that are taken to begin that change or insure that it will happen and be permanent.  

You have described the cycle of abuse in your arguments....there is a buildup period to an event...the event happens (angry episode, abuse, leaving etc), then there is the period of I'm sorry, I will change, I won't do it again...the offended partner forgives and the couple moves into the honeymoon period.  That period gets shorter and shorter each time the cycle is repeated.  This cycle repeats over and over and over until either one spouse leaves, or one spouse pursues the help they need to make legitimate change in their relationship.  

Without knowing your husband's background, it is difficult to explain why what is happening is happening.  There are personality disorders such as borderline or narcissistic that contain some of these symptoms.  PTSD can account for some types of symptoms.....however in my opinion, people control because they don't feel safe unless they control their environment.  If he is unwilling or unable to deal with the underlying insecurities which propel the control issue, there is nothing that you can do and nothing will change.  Often spouses believe that if they just love the other person enough or accommodate them enough that things will change.  These kinds of issues require professional assistance...you will not be able to help him.

You indicated that he had not hit you even though he acted as if he would.  This is something that abusers do....it is called potential.  All an abuser has to do is convince you that there is the potential of being hit and they never actually have to hit you.  If you are frightened of him, you don't feel safe.  If you aren't safe in the relationship it is time to leave.  You DO deserve more respect, you deserve to have the honor and respect of your own opinions, of living your life free of anxiety and control. You deserve the respect to be able to be who you are in the relationship.

There are many books out there on the subject of abuse....Angry Men and the Women Who Love Them, Controlling People, Learning to Leave, Why Does He Do That?, and many others.  The issue boils down to whether the person with the problem is willing to get help and do the work necessary to change their offending behaviors. If you are not safe in the relationship, you don't have to be around for the other person to get help.  In fact, if they get help whether you are around or not, then they are serious.  If the offending spouse does not get help, then the answer is to stay in the relationship as it is or leave.  It is as simple as that.  You can't try for both of you.

I wish you all the best as you work through these issues.  If I can be of any further assistance, please feel free to contact me again.  

Abusive Relationships

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Kriss Mitchell, M.Ed, CRC, CNHP


I can answer questions regarding emotional and physical abuse in dating and marriage situations, however I am unable to give legal advice. Having had firsthand experience in an abusive relationship, I understand the feelings, the questions and the doubts we have as we try to make decisions about how to improve our situations. I am also able to address spiritual concerns regarding staying in or leaving these types of situations.


Having been a victim of emotional abuse for many years and having family members who were in violent abuse situations, I have personal experience on many levels. I have since gone on to become a professional counselor and work with abused women.

American Mental Health Counselors Assn., American Association of Christian Counselors, International Association of Prayer Counselors

I currently maintain a blog at www.livingwellcc.blogspot.com. I also have links and currently written articles on my website at www.livingwellcc.com. You can also follow me on TWITTER @livingwellcc, or on facebook at Living Well Counseling and Consulting. My writings have appeared in The Good News Northwest and the North Idaho Business Journal

Licensed Professional Counselor, Board Certified Professional Christian Counselor, Certified Rehabilitation Counselor, Certified Natural Health Professional

Awards and Honors
Board Certified Christian Counselor

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