#1033: “My husband doesn’t like his life very much so he is pressuring me to quit my fun hobby and spend more time with him and also he screams at me sometimes and sends me long emails about how I am a terrible person when I’m at work.” No, really. That’s what is happening in this letter.

Dear Captain Awkward,

Happy Thursday! I hope you are having a great week so far. I wanted to ask your opinion on how to best handle my husband when he gets angry and upset and how I can better help us move towards having a happier marriage.

Some background: My husband and I are pretty nostalgic, and we both enjoy reminiscing on past things (I feel like I tend to be more in the present, but just because I think that doesn’t mean that is true). We met in college and hit it off. We had a great group of friends who we keep up with and we both got jobs about an hour away from our hometown/college town. The trouble is, he seems like he’s been upset ever since graduating. I totally get that, as school was a lot of fun and it was great being able to learn so many things (we are both engineers) and meet different types of people.

Fast-forward to now. We got married in 2012. Our marriage isn’t the greatest, and we usually do things on our own around the house and do not spend much time together. He constantly pines for the college days and constantly complains about how much things have changed and how people disappoint him and how much he hates his job. Both he and I are pretty selfish people who suffer from anxiety and depression, and I constantly feel like I’m forced to do things for him and on his schedule to try to keep him happy.

My husband likes to unwind after work, and his unwinding time got so long that I would find other things to do. I got involved in a dance class where we live now which has allowed me to make friends and to keep in shape. My husband has been watching a lot of youtube and complains about how he feels he is getting fat. Neither of us are super great at keeping up with the house, however I feel like I am the one who usually ends up cleaning and taking care of those type of things. He also likes to complain that when I go to dance (I am currently a competitive dancer, so I dance 2 days a week) I am out of the house for much longer than I really am, and that all I do revolves around dance. I do not feel like this is true, as I constantly skip events and I have drawn back on how involved I was in comparison to when I first started. I have made lots of friends with this activity and it’s a great social outlet for me. I do not want to quit, but he keeps dropping ultimatums. Of course, he doesn’t have his own hobby, aside from watching TV and reading the news, and neither of us have a hobby that we share.

Since my husband is so set on his college days, he is very attached to that group of friends. Unfortunately, since they do not live close by, we do not see them nearly as much as we did (why would we? We don’t live a mile away anymore!). When we do make plans to see them, whether it’s last minute or no, my husband expects me to drop everything to make it happen. He will not visit with them on his own, as he says that it’s important that I’m there to share the experience with him. I have trouble believing this because I feel like he usually tries to police my behavior in front of them and gets upset when I do not act the way he wants me to. We have tentatively gotten involved with some work friends in our area, but he is always on edge about doing things with them, and if any event conflicts with a change to see college friends, he always chooses the college friends.

He is very in touch with his emotions, however he is not very good at reflecting on himself. He has a bad habit of talking about heavy issues through emails at work, while he doesn’t like to discuss things at home. Sometimes he can lay it on thick and really tear into my personality and how awful of a person I am and how much I am hurting him (I get called names pretty consistently). This sometimes has a really bad effect on my attitude and makes it really hard to mask at work. Other times I’m able to ignore it and get on with my day, only to have him write to me the next day that I didn’t have time for him and he feels neglected.

I am a very active person, and I feel like I have no support in this marriage. I cannot talk to my parents or his parents about this, to save face. I feel like I am constantly changing my plans to suit his needs and wants only to get yelled at about it all later on, or to be told bluntly everything that is wrong with my personality and my thought process. It’s an extremely negative environment and I am having a lot of trouble handling it. Unfortunately, for the last 5 or 6 years, it’s been a weekly occurrence. I started seeing a counselor, which has helped a little, but it’s a process that will take a long while.

I have also read a LOT of relationship articles and books to try to understand how he feels and things that I can do to change it. (I’m not trying to make myself out as a “holier-than-thou” type of person, even though I am sure that’s exactly what I’m doing, but I would like to illustrate that I am trying). None of it seems to be making a difference, and it’s really difficult to make myself continuously try when nothing seems to work at all. I get discouraged and I don’t want to keep trying.
Both of us are too lazy to divorce and I’m (relatively) Catholic, so I don’t think that’s something I’d want to do in the end anyway.

Just would like someone else’s perspective. If this email is ignored, I totally get it, as you’ve addressed issues like this a lot. Also, my apologies for being such a poor writer.

Sincerely,

Worn out

Worn Out, I’m really sorry this is happening to you. It is not your fault. Nothing that is happening right now is your fault.

I going to talk to your husband for a sec, ok? He will probably never read this and in fact I don’t recommend that you show him this post but I have some stuff to say:

Dude. Here is a list of things you can do besides pressuring your wife to quit the fun thing that she loves doing, yelling at her,  and sending her mean emails when she’s at work:

  1. Treat your anxiety and depression like the serious conditions they are. Whether that means finding a therapist or counselor, getting a full health screen where you tell your doctor about having a low mood and being irritable and discuss medications, or using tools to self-manage if counseling is not possible right now, there are steps that you (and you alone) can take to try to feel better.
  2. Get a hobby.
  3. Join a MeetUp group and meet more people.
  4. Take an evening class in something that interests you.
  5. Check out the UFYH website and start cleaning the house once in a while.
  6. Go see your college friends by yourself sometimes. You are not 4. You don’t need mommy to come on your playdates.
  7. Those long emails about serious, negative topics that you’re writing and sending while your wife is at work or at dance class? Write that shit in a journal. Get the feelings out of your head and onto the page. Then, don’t send them to your wife.
  8. Repeat after me: “I am responsible for working to make a happy life for myself. My wife is not responsible for my social relationships with others or my happiness.
  9. If you really do need constant companionship at home and feel lonely when your wife is out, consider a pet.
  10. Wash your hair. Work out. Do a crossword puzzle. Use compressed air to clean out your computer keyboard and marvel at the grossness. Stare at the ceiling. Bingewatch every show that starts with P on Netflix. Do literally anything else besides yell at your wife.

Depression and anxiety don’t happen by choice, but being mean to your wife is a choice. You have a lot of choices about how to try to make a happy life for yourself and how to self-soothe when you feel sad. You are choosing to yell at your wife, derail her plans, try to drag her away from dance (thereby isolating her from friends and something she loves), and send her horribly critical emails. Here’s a list of common emotional abuse signifiers. This letter is checking off more than half of them, so, congratulations, you are emotionally abusing your wife. If hearing that hurts your feelings and scares you, good! Your behavior is mean and scary! You should be ready to move mountains to figure out how to stop it and do better.

Okay, Letter Writer, let’s talk. You can’t change your husband’s feelings or his behaviors or his choices. You can’t singlehandedly help him recapture the magic of college. You can’t make your life small enough that he won’t be threatened and resentful and mean to you. You can’t make your entire world revolve around this sad, lazy man. You are doing a ton of work (reading relationship books, etc.) and he is doing zero work to make the relationship better. It’s time to apply the Sheelzebub Principle, namely, if things stayed exactly like they are and nothing got better, how long would you stay? It’s already been bad for five years, so, would you stay another year? Another 5 years? Another 10? The rest of your life? Inertia is powerful and the Catholic church does frown on divorce but the Catholic church also doesn’t have to hang out with this dude day in and day out and you do. If you want to serve God in your life there are lots of ways to do that and staying in a marriage for form’s sake or martyring yourself to this man’s struggle to feel as cool as he did in college is not the only way.

I’m glad you have a counselor, please stick with that. I’m glad you have a hobby that you love, please stick with that and do not ever give it up for another person. In my opinion it’s time to at least talk to a divorce lawyer even if it’s just to get a picture of what the process will look like, so that you can make an informed decision. There’s a site called The Lilac Tree that some people I know have found helpful, use it if it’s useful to you.

Here are some scripts and strategies for you:

  1. It’s okay to filter his emails and not look at them when you’re at work. Don’t delete them – they are documentation of how bad things have gotten that you can show a counselor (or a lawyer) – but maybe set up a filter so they bypass your inbox. He is not allowed to electronically yell at you while you are at work! I hate so much that he does this, like, any minute you are away from him he has to somehow crawl in and poison it. You can tell him you’re not reading them – “I don’t have time to read emotional discussions at work, let’s talk about it later”  – or, you can just quietly take care of yourself around this.
  2. It’s okay to say “I can’t go to [college friends] event, I have a conflict. You should go and have fun.” And not cancel your plans. And if he won’t go without you, that’s his decision. And if he yells at you or sulks remember: He was going to do that anyway, no matter what you did. He was going to criticize everything you said and did in front of your friends. Him: “I won’t go without you.” You: “Ok, that’s your choice.” 
  3. You’ve read a lot of books about relationships, so, howabout one more? There’s a book called Why Does He Do That by Lundy Bancroft that is oft-recommended here. Here’s a quote:

“The abusive man’s high entitlement leads him to have unfair and unreasonable expectations, so that the relationship revolves around his demands. His attitude is: “You owe me.” For each ounce he gives, he wants a pound in return. He wants his partner to devote herself fully to catering to him, even if it means that her own needs—or her children’s—get neglected. You can pour all your energy into keeping your partner content, but if he has this mind-set, he’ll never be satisfied for long. And he will keep feeling that you are controlling him, because he doesn’t believe that you should set any limits on his conduct or insist that he meet his responsibilities.”
― Lundy BancroftWhy Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men

Bolding mine. Um, sound like anyone we know?

4. If you are capable of becoming pregnant and you don’t have children already, use a contraception method that doesn’t depend on him to succeed and one that he can’t easily sabotage. Lock it down for now.

I’m really sorry you’ve ended up here, but again, it’s not your fault. Nothing you have ever done could make you deserve this behavior from your husband. And the sad truth is that there is nothing you can do, no book you can read, no work you can do, no emotional labor you can perform, no magic words you can say that can turn an unhappy mean person into a happy kind one without his effort and participation. It’s time to protect yourself and invest in yourself. I wish you safety, and peace, and a lot of dancing.

 

 

316 comments
  1. --E said:

    I swear half the folks writing to CA are desperate to divorce/break up, but need someone to give them permission. Which makes a kind of sense, because their partner has gaslight them into having no confidence in their own decisions. Look at all the places where Worn Out is running herself down! (I’m assuming gender based on “Catholic enough not to want a divorce”) She refers to herself as lazy and selfish, but meanwhile is the one doing all the WORK of trying to make this relationship viable.

    I smell the effect of repeated bullshit from many people cutting WO down.

    Letter Writer, the Catholic church says nothing about a married couple living apart. Do you rent or do you own your home? If you rent, do you make enough $ to move out on your own? Or have a friend/family who can take you in for a couple of months while you save up to get your own place?

    You don’t need to get a divorce to get out of this relationship.

    • queenbeemimi said:

      Yes, I noticed that LW called themselves “selfish” too! And then before the sentence was even over it became a sentence about how LW compromises to keep husband happy. Those aren’t the actions of a selfish person, LW! The things you describe in your letter– having a hobby you enjoy and friends connected with it, making plans, having a job, reading self-help books to try and reflect– those are all very reasonable and healthy survival things! You are not neglecting your husband. Daring to put your attention in any direction other than orienting toward the gaping maw of his unhappiness is something he is not allowing you to do, and that makes me so angry for you.

      • M Dubz said:

        One of the most important and selfless things you can do in this life is spread out your emotional and social needs. By, say, having friends, and hobbies, and emotionally reciprocal relationships with lots of different people, so that no one person is entrusted with all of your emotional needs. Note, OP, who in your relationship has many outlets, and who very much does not.

        • GreyjoyGardens said:

          I agree with you. It’s not healthy for you OR the other person to put all your emotional and social eggs in one basket.

      • Angle-a said:

        I think the Cap called it “abuse moving in & colonising the victim” in a recent previous post.

        Quick vent: I’m really tired of shitty, irresponsible dickheads, have we learned nothing as a society???

        https://g.co/kgs/kNq4zP

    • Ginger said:

      ^TRUTH. My Favorite Ex-Boyfriend is a much (much!) older man who had been living apart from his [legal] wife for 15 or 20 years by the time I met him, and was very straightforward about the fact that he would never get a divorce because his wife is Catholic. It did limit the relationships he had a small amount – anyone who was Very Into Marriage was not someone compatible for him, since marriage would never be on the table with him – but he was very open about that right from the start and has dated a number of lovely women who were fine with not getting married.

      • slfisher said:

        JADP but the Catholic Church typically frowns on adultery too. 🙂

        • sorcharei said:

          True, but he doesn’t appear to have ruled out divorce because he is a Catholic. It looks like he is just respecting his wife’s religion. We have zero data about whether he himself is Catholic.

          • Ginger said:

            (He is not particularly – it was something he was not willing to hurt her over.)

        • His WIFE was Catholic, not him, Ginger said. The ex-boyfriend wasn’t getting a divorce to honor her beliefs around that. If he’s not Catholic, he’s not obligated to not date as well.

          • Lucielle said:

            The ex-boyfriend could get a divorce. As long as the wife doesn’t remarry without an annulment, she is still in good standing with the Catholic Church and can still take Communion.

          • tawg said:

            Lucielle, can you elaborate on that? Does the wife in that situation still seen as married? Or is it more like a divorce happened to her, rather than her taking part in one?

          • Petticoat Philosopher said:

            The wife is still seen as married but abandoned, so she is not at fault. However, she cannot have another relationship or remarry, since that would be considered adultery or bigamy. This is the exact situation of a childhood friend’s very Catholic mother.

          • EOA said:

            The wife WOULD have recourse in this situation – she’d have to enter into the annulment process herself. There are plenty of divorced Catholics who have gone through the annulment process, and are in good standing.

            All of that being said, this is a hot topic in Church circles because there are a lot of people who would like to see the Church be a little more welcoming to divorced Catholics.

        • TO_Ont said:

          Technically the Catholic church doesn’t ‘frown on’ divorce, it just doesn’t believe in it. In the sense of not believing it really exists, like Santa Claus. I.e., divorce doesn’t end a marriage, only death does. Which is why people who are legally divorced but stay celibate are not a problem to the church. Just ones who remarry (since according to the Church that’s bigamy if their first spouse is still alive). (Anulment is different because it says you were never actually married in the first place)

          However, what individuals believe and care about rarely precisely matches what organisations say. And in the end this is about what the wife believes, not what the Catholic Church does.

          • Lurker in the light said:

            Wow, thanks for all this. It explains a lot about my mother in law staying single after she split with my father in law.

          • frankie said:

            just to be pendantic for a second, the Catholic church does actually believe in Santa Claus, aka St Nicholas the 3rd-century bishop of Myra. but yeah you’re right in that because marriage is considered to be a sacrament instituted by God, civil divorce does not end it and so (civil) remarriage is considered the sin of adultery. there’s a fair amount of controversy among conservative catholics about Pope Francis’s document “Amoris Laetitia”, in which he suggested (in a footnote) that people who are divorced and civilly remarried might be allowed to receive communion, depending on the circumstances. which i guess tells you something about the strength of feeling on this issue.

      • EOA said:

        The Catholic Church thing is probably just an excuse. The LW could get an annulment, which is not nearly the onerous process that some would have you believe. The Church doesn’t believe in divorce, but it does have a process for dissolving a marriage and it even looks like the LW would meat the Church’s criteria (one of the reasons the Church allows for an annulment is that those who entered matrimony were essentially not ready for it).

        • That would have saved me and my ex a world of hurt….

    • Anon, Goodnight said:

      I was just coming to comment on the negative things the LW is saying about herself. She keeps saying, “We are both [trait],” and then givre a series of examples showing how she’s actually not that trait. (Lazy, but she goes to dance twice a week and does all the cleaning and works fulltime. Selfish, but she constantly changes her plans and behavior to try to make husband feel better.)

      This “we’re the same!” (but we’re really not) dynamic raises all kinds of red flags for me. The times I’ve been in relationships where I always described traits as applying to “we/us” have all been Darth Boyfriend times, and that “we’re just alike!” language always started with the guy, and I always picked it up from the gaslighting. It doesn’t get better. In fact, it gets worse every time something happens that differentiates you from him. It escalates until you find yourself in a screaming match because you have a different opinion of a MOVIE than he does.

      • slfisher said:

        It certainly seems like they’re both pretty unhappy with the relationship, but she’s dealing with it by going out and finding other interests and he’s dealing with it by flopping down in front of the tube.

        On Thu, Oct 12, 2017 at 12:59 PM, Captain Awkward wrote:

        > Anon, Goodnight commented: “I was just coming to comment on the negative > things the LW is saying about herself. She keeps saying, “We are both > [trait],” and then givre a series of examples showing how she’s actually > not that trait. (Lazy, but she goes to dance twice a week and does ” >

        • TO_Ont said:

          “she’s dealing with it by going out and finding other interests”

          While she does seem unhappy in the marriage, I don’t think that’s why she has other interests. She has other interests because that what healthy people do. She mentions practicing twice a week, which isn’t very much.

          • tarma said:

            Actually the dancing was specifically mentioned as beginning because of his behavior:

            “My husband likes to unwind after work, and his unwinding time got so long that I would find other things to do. I got involved in a dance class [etc]”

          • TO_Ont said:

            “My husband likes to unwind after work, and his unwinding time got so long that I would find other things to do. I got involved in a dance class [etc]”

            I read this as ‘I was waiting and waiting for him to be ready to go out and live our lives, so finally I stopped waiting and started living my life’, rather than being specifically about avoiding him.

      • queenbeemimi said:

        Ooh, good eye. Darth Ex hated the Avengers, and demanded an explanation of what others had liked about it. For years, it was a point of contention that people had become uncomfortable and fallen silent instead of delivering the virtues of the film to her, to make a logical case for why they liked it. I didn’t even start dating her until that movie was 2 years old, and yet I know all about it.

        Darth Ex also once picked a fight with me when I made an offhand comment about how cis women are on average shorter than cis men, which she categorically denied was true until I felt unsettled and terrible. Weirdest part about it was that she herself was only five feet tall, and should have known better than most.

        • Oh fuck does your darth ex know my darth ex? That dirtbag tried to convince me I’m not tall for a woman because I’m not 5 feet tall. Dude I’m 5 foot fucking 9, that’s 5 full inches taller than the average north american cis woman. It was unsettling as hell because why on earth would he try to argue something so obviously wrong and incredibly petty? Oh that’s right because it was very important that I knew I was wrong about literally everything, even down to whether I’m tall for a woman.

          • Argh, typo. I meant darth ex tried to convince me I’m not tall for a woman because I’m not *6* feet tall.

          • twomoogles said:

            That also almost seems like he was..literally putting you down? Like he wanted to see you, and for you to see yourself, as smaller than you were? (Not that height really has much to do with things like standing up for yourself, but I am a short woman and there’s a certain type of guy that will go on about my height in a creepy way…this just made me think of that.)

          • Oh it gets weirder. My Darth Ex once tried to convince my I was wrong about my *bra size*.

          • olivia0330 said:

            I ran out of nesting, but to whingedrinking and being gaslit about bra size: My husband’s friend (now ex friend, thank goodness) once corrected me when I said it was hard to find cute shoes in my size, because his friend Andy wore bigger sizes than me and had lots of cute shoes! I was a large shoe size, for one, I was a half size, and many places stop making half sizes at 9 1/2, and I was a wide width. I actually have an easier time finding shoes since my feet grew AGAIN, as even though they’re bigger, I’m back in a whole size and standard width. And I’m a stay at home mom to kids (who were tiny at the time), and Andy’s aforementioned cute shoes were for drag performances. P sure Andy and I had different shoe needs.

            Still makes my blood boil that this dude thought he could school me on the actual feet attached to my actual body. WTF

          • TinLizzie said:

            Oh god, this. I had an ex try to convince me that my sex drive was naturally lower than his because I was a woman and women don’t have high sex drives. (maybe sex with him just wasn’t great). Another ex tried to convince me because he had had more partners and he was my first, he knew what I liked sexually better than I did because he knew what women liked. Oh! And, that because I wouldn’t wear button down shirts because I gave up on finding any that fit well it meant I lacked confidence and didn’t like my body. Instead of, oh I don’t know, that I knew my body well, knew what I felt good in and wanted to rock that?

      • Crumbledore said:

        That aspect of the letter left me imagining arguments where LW’s husband projects all over her (probably in the letters, actually) or responds to any small critique with “well, you’re just as bad as I am” and a laundry list of reasons.

    • brandnewday said:

      I smell the effect of repeated bullshit from many people cutting WO down.

      It doesn’t have to be many people. It can just be one, if that voice is figuratively the loudest and most insistent. I see A LOT of my old self in this letter. For a long time I didn’t have close-enough friends who I could run things by and have them say “what, no, that’s not how that works!” It was just my ex tearing me down, a little bit at a time, day after day, in such small ways that I didn’t realize it was happening.

      I swear half the folks writing to CA are desperate to divorce/break up, but need someone to give them permission.

      True statement. I never got as far as writing to CA, but I read all of the archives, starting at the beginning, and it took many many many letters, seeing the same observations and the same scripts over and over, before it started to sink in that these needed to be MY scripts.

      • M Dubz said:

        I sincerely hope that, should I have children, this blog will still exist when they are teenagers. Because my plan is to plop them down on their 18th birthday and say “Read this in its entirety, then let’s talk.” so that hopefully I’ll save them some small measure of the pain of not having those scripts.

        • TheHumanVeraBrooker said:

          Why wait until 18 though? Many teenagers start doing some relationship type stuff in junior high school or high school. When I was a senior, the girl next door to me was a junior. She had a boyfriend and he was slapping her around.

          • jaynn said:

            I decided that on the off-chance my nieces or nephews start asking me what my problem with their male parent is, the lower limit of getting an actual answer is age 12. I don’t want to be bad-mouthing their father to them (although he totally deserves it) but I also want them to know that their patents’ relationship is screwed up once they’re old enough to date themselves.

            (So far they haven’t asked and I don’t know what they’ve been told. Probably something about not letting go of his mistakes, like leaving their mother multiple times, being unable to hold a job, doing drugs and going to jail for assault! are things I should overlook, let alone in tandem)

          • M Dubz said:

            I remember myself at 12/ 13. I don’t think that reading any of this would have sunk in at that point; I was a pretty sheltered kid. At 18, I had seen enough that these stories would have had an impact. And of course, regular conversations about consent, self-worth, and respect need to start REAL YOUNG (like, from the time they’re babies).

        • Tapetum said:

          Way before 18. I started dating my Darth-Ex when I was 14. I didn’t manage to get rid of him until I was 17, and it took moving. My boundary management was way too poor to dump him and stick to it without actually changing schools – and I’d never even heard of boundaries at that point.

        • Anon, Goodnight said:

          Yeah, I was 15 the first time I had a Darth Boyfriend.

      • Monica said:

        Are you me??? I did the same thing. Reading CA made me confident to file for divorce and move on. Best decision I ever made.

        • Palgolaki said:

          Is there a “happily divorced/single thanks to the Captain’s archives” club? If not, we should start one. Because me too. It blows my mind now how much happier I am alone than I was with my ex(who is not a terrible person, but man, we were not a good fit).

      • purps said:

        I don’t agree with every column (I love them! but you know, two people, two opinions) but I will be grateful to Captain Awkward for the rest of my life because in a situation where LITERALLY EVERYTHING WAS WRONG WITH MY RELATIONSHIP an internet friend quietly linked me to the first “you don’t have to make it work” column and I started crying with relief. I am a woman and was dating a man, and literally no one had ever said to me that I had the right to not try to hold onto a man (a man! a real live man! who didn’t hit me or steal my money, soooo what was the problem here?) just because we made each other miserable and the thought of dating him for any longer made me panic. But I’d gotten a man! I could make it work! I could get smaller and smaller until whatever was left of me could be happy here! I just needed to work harder!

        It’s five years later and I’m engaged to the love of my life. Not that dude. (I was also gayer than I thought). Even if I wasn’t, just, that guy was no good for me, and I’m so glad I was off the hook of trying to make it work and make it work and then also, some more, make it work.

        • Are you me? Except that I married the dude. And also turned out to be gayer than I thought. 🙂 Jedi high-five for being engaged and happy!

      • Brisvegan said:

        Me, too! Thanks so
        much Captain and commenters.

    • C. said:

      E, I totally see what you’re saying, but for we progressive weirdos, it’s easy to forget that a lot of pretty traditional people still believe pretty traditional stuff. Mostly I’m happy this LW found her way to Captain Awkward at all and will hopefully feel emboldened by a fresh perspective. I don’t get the feeling she thinks she’s on the way to a breakup at all, which bums me out so I hope she changes her mind.

    • azaleasinbloom said:

      Actually, the Catholic church does say something about separation. This is a quote from Pope Francis in 2015: “There are cases in which separation is inevitable. Sometimes it can become even morally necessary, precisely when it comes to shielding [one]* spouse, or small children, from more serious injuries caused by arrogance and violence, by humiliation and exploitation … and by indifference. Let us ask the Lord for a strong faith to see with his eyes the reality of family life, and for a deep love to approach all families with his merciful heart.”

      *original adjective removed for victim blaming

      You are not obligated to stay in an abusive marriage, LW. And you might not be ready to label it as abuse–that label is one that you and only you get to decide if it applies, in your own time–but the absence of physical abuse does not mean the absence of injury. Arrogance, humiliation, exploitation or indifference are also listed there, because the emotional injuries those can cause are truly serious. And it’s hard to gauge those when you are in the thick of it, but the way you describe your marriage and yourself goes well beyond “our marriage isn’t the greatest.”

      This is how you described your marriage [some commentary added]: “We do not spend much time together [even when we are in the same house]. He constantly complains [but doesn’t do anything to change the things he is unhappy about]. I constantly feel like I’m forced to do things for him and on his schedule [but even this doesn’t make him happy because he’s decided to be unhappy] … I am the one who usually ends up cleaning and taking care of the house (and the cat) [but he still calls me lazy]. He also likes to complain when I go [out of the house to do something I enjoy, i.e. be happy away from him], but even though I constantly skip events he keeps dropping ultimatums. … He doesn’t have his own hobby [but expects me to stay home while he watches Youtube and complains about getting fat, i.e. ignores me] … He expects me to drop everything to make [visits he wants to do happen but then] he usually tries to police my behavior in front of our mutual friends and gets upset when I do not act the way he wants me to. … He talks about heavy issues through emails at work [which affects my ability to do my job, i.e. support myself independently], while he doesn’t like to discuss things at home [when we could have a two way conversation rather than me just reading everything that is wrong with me]. …He really tears into my personality and tells me how awful of a person I am and how much I am hurting him (I get called names pretty consistently). … I feel like I have no support in this marriage. … I am constantly changing my plans to suit his needs and wants only to get yelled at about it all later on, or to be told bluntly everything that is wrong with my personality and my thought process…. For the last 5 or 6 years, it’s been a weekly occurrence.”

      Of course you’re having trouble handling all this negativity, you should be having trouble handling it! Those thoughts aren’t something to make go away with therapy, that is your sense of self preservation working correctly. Listen to those thoughts!

      This is how you describe yourself, which makes my heart ache for you [some commentary added]: I feel like I tend to be more in the present, but just because I think that doesn’t mean that is true [because I no longer trust my own thoughts and opinions about myself] …. I [believe I am] a pretty selfish person [even though I spend an enormous amount of time and energy worrying about my husband’s feelings and trying to make him happy and fix problems in our marriage that only he thinks exist] … I suffer from anxiety and depression [but I am not letting it define me and I am seeking treatment] … I [believe I am] lazy [even though I am working and taking care of the house on my own and dancing competitively and reading self-help articles to fix my marriage and seeing a councilor] … I’m not trying to make myself out as a “holier-than-thou” type of person, even though I am sure that’s exactly what I’m doing [except actually I am falling over myself to keep minimizing my own opinions and apologizing for having them] … I am having a lot of trouble handling this extremely negative environment [which is normal and also good] … None of the work I’m doing seems to be making a difference [because a marriage is a two person project and one person cannot fix it], and it’s really difficult to make myself continuously try when nothing seems to work at all [which, of course it is!]. I get discouraged and I don’t want to keep trying … My apologies for being such a poor writer [even though I am not a poor writer].

      Have your own opinions. You are your own person, and you SHOULD have your own opinions. That opinion can be “my husband is selfish and manipulative and isn’t treating me well.” That opinion can be “I’ve done the best I can do to fix this marriage but it isn’t working. I don’t want to keep trying so I won’t. I’ve decided that I need some space from this marriage, so I am going to do what I need to to take it.” You cannot change his emotions, thoughts, or behaviors. Only he can change them, and if he hasn’t done so after 5 or 6 years, he isn’t likely to do so now. I know that isn’t what you want to hear, but the only thing you can change here are your thoughts, opinions and behavior. You’ve tried changing them to make him happy and it hasn’t worked, so try something different now.

      Change them to make yourself happier. Be selfish. It’s a word that gets used against people a lot, especially women, but when it is taking care of yourself first, it’s a very good and necessary thing. Wanting to be successful at your job and able to focus on your work without being called names by the person you married isn’t wrong. Wanting to maintain your friendships on your own terms and act like yourself around them without having to change your behavior to fit your husband’s ideas of how you should behave isn’t wrong. Wanting to go do an activity you enjoy rather than stay home and be ignored or called names isn’t wrong. These are good things. Do what you need to do to be able to do them. Give yourself some space from trying so hard to fix this marriage and your husband. Read up on abuse–even if that label feels too extreme to apply, you’ll still find those resources helpful. Work with your therapist to relearn how to trust your own thoughts. Take care of yourself. You deserve it, even if it doesn’t feel like that right now.

      • Lizards80 said:

        Azaleasinbloom +a bajillion

        “Those thoughts aren’t something to make go away with therapy, that is your sense of self preservation working correctly. Listen to those thoughts!”

    • azaleasinbloom said:

      Actually, the Catholic church does say something about separation. This is a quote from Pope Francis in 2015: “There are cases in which separation is inevitable. Sometimes it can become even morally necessary, precisely when it comes to shielding [one]* spouse, or small children, from more serious injuries caused by arrogance and violence, by humiliation and exploitation … and by indifference. Let us ask the Lord for a strong faith to see with his eyes the reality of family life, and for a deep love to approach all families with his merciful heart.”

      *original adjective removed for victim blaming

      You are not obligated to stay in an abusive marriage, LW. And you might not be ready to label it as abuse–that label is one that you and only you get to decide if it applies, in your own time–but the absence of physical abuse does not mean the absence of injury. Arrogance, humiliation, exploitation or indifference are also listed there, because the emotional injuries those can cause are truly serious. And it’s hard to gauge those when you are in the thick of it, but the way you describe your marriage and yourself goes well beyond “our marriage isn’t the greatest.”

      This is how you described your marriage [some commentary added]: “We do not spend much time together [even when we are in the same house]. He constantly complains [but doesn’t do anything to change the things he is unhappy about]. I constantly feel like I’m forced to do things for him and on his schedule [but even this doesn’t make him happy because he’s decided to be unhappy] … I am the one who usually ends up cleaning and taking care of the house (and the cat) [but he still calls me lazy]. He also likes to complain when I go [out of the house to do something I enjoy, i.e. be happy away from him], but even though I constantly skip events he keeps dropping ultimatums. … He doesn’t have his own hobby [but expects me to stay home while he watches Youtube and complains about getting fat, i.e. ignores me] … He expects me to drop everything to make [visits he wants to do happen but then] he usually tries to police my behavior in front of our mutual friends and gets upset when I do not act the way he wants me to. … He talks about heavy issues through emails at work [which affects my ability to do my job, i.e. support myself independently], while he doesn’t like to discuss things at home [when we could have a two way conversation rather than me just reading everything that is wrong with me]. …He really tears into my personality and tells me how awful of a person I am and how much I am hurting him (I get called names pretty consistently). … I feel like I have no support in this marriage. … I am constantly changing my plans to suit his needs and wants only to get yelled at about it all later on, or to be told bluntly everything that is wrong with my personality and my thought process…. For the last 5 or 6 years, it’s been a weekly occurrence.”

      Of course you’re having trouble handling all this negativity, you should be having trouble handling it! Those thoughts aren’t something to make go away with therapy, that is your sense of self preservation working correctly. Listen to those thoughts!

      You spend a lot of time minimizing your own thoughts and opinions, and apologizing for having them. Have your them. You are your own person, and you SHOULD have your own opinions. That opinion can be “my husband is selfish and manipulative and isn’t treating me well.” That opinion can be “I’ve done the best I can do to fix this marriage but it isn’t working. I don’t want to keep trying so I won’t. I’ve decided that I need some space from this marriage, so I am going to do what I need to to take it.”

      You cannot change his emotions, thoughts, or behaviors. Only he can change them, and if he hasn’t done so after 5 or 6 years, he isn’t likely to do so now. I know that isn’t what you want to hear, but the only thing you can change here are your thoughts, opinions and behavior. You’ve tried changing them to make him happy and it hasn’t worked, so try something different now. Change them to make yourself happier.

      Be selfish. It’s a word that gets used against people a lot, especially women, but when it is taking care of yourself first, it’s a very good and necessary thing. Wanting to be successful at your job and able to focus on your work without being called names by the person you married isn’t wrong. Wanting to maintain your friendships on your own terms and act like yourself around them without having to change your behavior to fit your husband’s ideas of how you should behave isn’t wrong. Wanting to go do an activity you enjoy rather than staying home and being ignored or called names isn’t wrong.

      These are good things. Do what you need to do to be able to do them. Give yourself some space from trying so hard to fix this marriage and your husband. Read up on abuse–even if that label feels too extreme to apply, you’ll still find those resources helpful. Work with your therapist to relearn how to trust your own thoughts. Take care of yourself. You deserve it, even if it doesn’t feel like that right now.

    • Ve said:

      My heart aches for the OP. She torn herself down constantly throughout this letter, down to the very last sentence. People who are truly selfish don’t tend to refer to themselves as such.

    • Madb said:

      This. My father’s parents lived separately from the time dad’s youngest sister turned 18 until a few weeks before Grandpa died.

  2. Jess said:

    LW, your husband needs a reality check. The rest of life is not supposed to be like college. We’re all a little sad about it at the beginning, but after a couple years he should be able to look around and see that he’s not missing out- literally no adult is living like they did in college.

    Also, I’m noticing that you apologized for yourself or tried to point out every possible bad quality you (may) have, I think in the hopes of sounding rational/believable? This is a classic response to spending years with someone projecting their bad qualities all over you, and turning arguments back on you, so you can no longer tell what’s rational and fair or not. You end up wondering if they are selfish (your original gut feeling), or if maybe secretly you’ve been the selfish one all along (hint: no you aren’t). It may help to spend some time re-orienting your sense of reality, and work towards trusting yourself as having the correct version of things. I think you’ve been trying to factor in his version of reality but clearly his skewed and just way, way off. A therapist can be very helpful for this. Sorry you’ve been going through this, and good luck.

    • Allison said:

      I’ll admit, I was a lazy homebody my first year out of college. I was living with my parents in the suburbs, had an excuse for not doing anything that seemed like fun. I worked in the city but went home right after work every night, watched primetime TV, messed around on the internet, ate dinner, sat around some more, and went to bed. Sometimes I played video games.

      With college, everything was right there, and there were clubs and scheduled events and without that proximity and structure I got lazy, it took a while for me to get up off my butt and start swing dancing. My boyfriend has his own hobby, and we make it work.

      • Jess said:

        Totally! I think everyone has that adjustment period where they have to realize that the fun isn’t just going to show up at their door and they have to take action to create the life they want to be living. But this guy’s going on waaay too long without realizing he has options, AND he’s begrudging the LW for figuring it out first.

        • I mean, I’m a homebody by nature and didn’t get out much during college either…. so no, not everyone.

          But that’s tangential to the main point, just an uncomfortable nitpick after a lifetime of being told that my preferred activities are not a valid lifestyle choice.

          • Nanani said:

            Same, though I’d still say there’s an adjustment period.
            For me it was in the inverse direction: Living and working on/near campus meant I could spend the minimum time outside and go home as soon as obligations were met, if that’s what I felt like doing. After graduation, that became a to harder to do because the rest of the universe isn’t nearly as conveniently organized.

            (But then I decided to work freelance from home full time so I guess it’s universe 0, me 1)

      • aebhel said:

        I mean, and there’s nothing really wrong with being a homebody in and of itself; neither I nor my spouse really have any hobbies that regularly take us out of the house; I write and go hiking, he’s into flying drones and video editing, and a lot of the time we end up just hanging around messing on the internet and passing back bad puns and funny memes. But we’re not generally miserable about it (or at each other), and when he wants to take his bike out for a day or I want to go to a workshop, it’s not an occasion for browbeating and verbal abuse.

        This dude just seems determined to be a miserable jerk.

    • Angie said:

      Yeah plus, like, it’s OK to miss college. I was in college 20 years ago. Fall always makes me nostalgic. I just texted my college roommate how about her new baby, and I got so nostalgic looking at photos of the alumni marching band performance at homecoming this year on Facebook that I’m totally signing up for next year! It’s OK to be nostalgic, to go to homecoming, to keep in touch, to tailgate and cheer for your team. What he’s doing is… Not that. Beware of bees, LW, and keep dancing.

      • Redgirl said:

        Yes, this! I work at a university and I get nostalgic watching the students move in every year. I miss the feeling that my whole life was stretched in front of me with limitless possibility (now I’m almost 47–the range of possibilities has drastically narrowed). I miss how easy it was to have a social life because I lived and worked and ate and went to class with all my friends. I miss not being responsible for a kid and stepchildren and a spouse and a house. Nostalgia is fine. Being sad is fine. Taking those feelings out on your significant other IS NEVER FINE.

    • TO_Ont said:

      I was so happy to leave university. Maybe depends what you’re studying. I mean sure, there are great things about university and you meet a lot of people, but I have never in my life had so little free time as when I was in university. It was amazing to realise that once you’re out, you get evenings off, and even entire weekends.

      • I mean, seriously yes. I got out, got a job for a couple of years then decided I needed to go back to pursue a different career path and every minute of my day is spent thinking about school if I’m not in class. Plus having part time jobs to cover things means I have so much less free time than a career job. It sucks.

        LW, please evaluate your relationship using your friends’ eyes if you were to describe everything to them. They know you well, and their avatar in your head will have words to say about how he is treating you. Listen to those words because they’re really you. You pick your friends as a reflection of the qualities you like about yourself and that you maybe want to see in yourself if you don’t have them already.

      • stellanor said:

        Also you can actually sit down and do something relaxing without that little voice in the back of your head saying “You know, you should really be studying right now.”

        One of the most gloriously relaxing times of my life was when I was working a job that was hard but also hourly, because I wasn’t allowed to work overtime or work off the clock so when I was done I was DONE. I’m having a rough job search at the moment so people are asking me if I’m considering going back to school and I’m like OMFG NO. (actually I am because I’m getting desperate but I really don’t want to.)

        • Redgirl said:

          I really do miss college. But…I DID love getting out of school and finally being able to read for fun again, guilt-free.

          Of course, now I teach a class on top of my job, so I have that same guilt again. “You should be grading papers/preparing your lecture/finding new reading materials…”

  3. LW, I am so sorry this is happening to you. The Captain is right, you don’t deserve it. I hope you find a way to extricate yourself from the current dynamic, because it is awful for both of you.

  4. Allison said:

    In a healthy relationship, people have room for hobbies. They even have room to prioritize those hobbies sometimes, as long as they’re treating the relationship like a priority and making an effort to balance both. And in a healthy relationship, each person can make his or her self happy without the help of the other.

    This marriage is not healthy. LW is expected to be at husband’s beck and call, husband can’t get off his arse to do anything fun or fulfilling without LW’s companionship and motivation.

    I have this horrifying image of LW spoon-feeding husband and giving him spongebaths while he slumps in an old armchair, staring blankly at he TV and grunting at LW. I know they’re not “there” yet, but that’s where the marriage is headed if he can’t start taking responsibility for his own happiness.

  5. “Being in touch with your emotions” and “vomiting verbal abuse on your spouse 24/7” are two different things, LW. He’s not “in touch with his emotions”, he’s just verbalizing them in order to make you responsible for them.

    You don’t have to do that. You don’t have to keep getting smaller to try and make him look bigger and more impressive than he actually is. Live your life–be big and complex and full of joy. You can do it married to him, by just *doing it* (simple, not easy), or you can do it later if you aren’t married to him, but please do it.

    • That’s *exactly* what I came here to say! I don’t think husband is actually very in touch with his emotions at all. Yes, he’s having a lot of them, and making them LW’s problem, but I don’t think he has any idea where his feelings are coming from or what to do about them. And frankly I think he can’t do that because it would lead very quickly to the realization that LW can’t just manufacture happiness and serve it up on a plate to him, he’s got to do some work on his own.

    • Evan Tessuraea said:

      I feel like what’s going on with his emotions is probably a dynamic described a lot in the Lundy Bancroft book the captain cited. Abusers are often pretty good at expressing their feelings, which is something the rest of us don’t expect. We figure they’re probably repressed and a mess and stuff. But it’s not that – they’re good at *their* feelings, they just don’t really care about anyone else’s. Or at least their partner’s (some of them only hurt partners).

      It’s one of the reasons the partner does a ridiculous amount of emotion labor – abuser wants to talk about feelings – and it’s a manipulation tactic. And, in addition, it’s the reason that counseling for abusers often makes the situation worse. If the counselor doesn’t know how it all works, they assume the abuser has a feelings problem and talk about feelings, looking for an emotional root to the behavior.

      The behavior doesn’t have an emotional root. Abusers do what they do because it makes them happier and they benefit. They’re fine – they’re often absolutely fine, quite happy, except for when they tell their partners they aren’t in order to win sympathy and control them. Obviously not always, you can have abusers who are legit miserable (this guy probably isn’t super happy). But the unhappiness isn’t why they act the way they do. They just believe that they are more important than other people, and that their partner is responsible for their well-being but not vice versa. They think they have a right to the labor of others.

      Bancroft says they have a thinking problem, not a feeling problem, and from my time in the field, I totally agree.

      So when she says he’s in touch with his feelings – you know, he probably is? It’s just that he’s using his feelings to control her because he thinks it’s her responsibility to take care of him at all times, do what he wants, and fix his bad feelings. He’s probably really good at “I’m unhappy about X because Y” and “when you do X I feel Y” and “I have trouble trusting X because Y childhood.” It’s just that he has wrongheaded ideas about the solution to those problems.

      It’s mind-boggling sometimes. Abusers confuse the hell out of me. I can’t imagine not caring about the effect I’m having on someone else’s well-being. But they don’t. And one of the key myths out there is that they’re miserable too (“it’s just an unhealthy relationship”), but while that’s sometimes true, in most abusive relationships the abusers are actually benefiting a lot…

      • Thiiiiiiiis this this this all this. I’ve not read Bancroft’s book yet but I’m going to, because the LAST line of the quote CA posted was such an AHA moment it about blew my head clean off my shoulders. (My therapist is in for a treat tomorrow…)

      • This this this.
        Why does he do that? helped me more than I can say.

      • Angle-a said:

        In a recent post another commenter wrote somethin about the husband/SO definitely wanting their partner, it’s just that they want them to be small, insignificant, used, exhausted, miserable… you get the idea.

        • The Awe Ritual said:

          Wow. Ugh. Yes.

          Freedom can be a very good thing, and I am particularly grateful for it when I see my past relationship through a new lens of truth like that one there, just now.

      • bemusedlybespectacled said:

        I came here to quote this: “[M]ost of my clients are not unusually repressed. In fact, many of them express their feelings more than some nonabusive men. Rather than trapping everything inside, they actually tend to do the opposite: They have an exaggerated idea of how important their feelings are, and they talk about their feelings—and act them out—all the time, until their partners and children are exhausted from hearing about it all. An abuser’s emotions are as likely to be too big as too small. They can fill up the whole house. When he feels bad, he thinks that life should stop for everyone else in the family until someone fixes his discomfort. His partner’s life crises, the children’s sicknesses, meals, birthdays—nothing else matters as much as his feelings.

        It is not his feelings the abuser is too distant from; it is his partner’s feelings and his children’s feelings. Those are the emotions that he knows so little about and that he needs to “get in touch with.” My job as an abuse counselor often involves steering the discussion away from how my clients feel and toward how they think (including their attitudes toward their partners’ feelings). My clients keep trying to drive the ball back into the court that is familiar and comfortable to them, where their inner world is the only thing that matters.”

        • My fiancee’s ex is doing this and it’s driving me NUTS. I know the solution, she just can’t do it right now, and it’s frustrating and maddening but now at least I have words for it.

        • Evan Tessuraea said:

          That’s the bit I was remembering! Thank you for the quote.

    • Nanani said:

      When I read the “he’s in touch with his emotions” part, my reaction was “sure, some of them, namely anger, resentment, and entitlement.” Also he’s manipulative and pushes emotional labour onto his wife while making it SEEM like he’s enlightened by being so in touch.

    • Ros said:

      “. He’s not “in touch with his emotions”, he’s just verbalizing them in order to make you responsible for them”

      … you’ve just clarified SO MUCH about my relationship with my mother. Not the point of the post but… thank you. I think.

      • sayevet said:

        This is ABSOLUTELY the point of these posts ❤

    • John said:

      Yes! I mean, being able to name all the negative emotions you’re feeling is not terribly impressive when A) you’re unable to identify their true source, and B) you believe you’re entitled to have them soothed by someone else.

  6. isabeausuro said:

    Oh, LW, my heart breaks for you.

    You are not being holier-than-thou. You are being an adult trying to make a relationship work. The fact that your partnr isn’t pulling his weight makes that a Sisyphean task, but that doesn’t make it your fault.

    All the jedi hugs, lovely LW.

    (I disagree slightly with the pet advice though — unless it’s a pet rock. Pets are lovely companions, but they take work and understanding — dollars to doughnuts LW will get stuck with the caretaking and the husband will find more reasons to complain.)

    • The LW! said:

      Wow! I cannot believe my letter was answered! It’s been a really hard week, but thank you CA, and thank you commenters! I really appreciate everything.

      We have a cat. My husband LOVES said cat. She loves him. It’s actually really cute when they are cuddling together. Cat is not enough though, and I am the one who feeds her and takes care of her box (though my husband will usually come when we have to take her to the vet)

      • catsdogshorses said:

        From an outsider’s perspective, I am not convinced that your husband loves the cat. It reads more as the cat is another being responsible for making him feel better, but he has no responsibility for their wellbeing. Going to the vet is a sometime thing; pets need food and water and a place to go to the bathroom every day.

        It looks to me like your husband treats you in a very similar way as he treats the cat. You and the cat are responsible for making him feel better, but you must somehow meet your own needs without any effort on his part. Well, in your case, with many efforts on his part to impede you meeting your needs.

        I’m not sure if I phrased that correctly, but looking at how people treat their pets has helped me make decisions about how much I am going to interact with them. If someone isn’t going to take care of (or help take care of) their pet’s daily needs, a being that has no choice in their life, they are not going to be willing to meet the needs of other people. I found that to be true often enough that I’d almost make an absolute statement.

        • LW’s husband is a total turkey! He is using both LW and the cat to make him feel better, while taking no responsibility for either. My ex-husband was an excellent cat daddy. He was the only one who could get her into the carrier and take her to the vet. I fed her and changed her litter box. He was also the only one who could pick her up (she was a tortie with a ton of tortitude.)

          • I just spent the last 5 minutes googling Tortoiseshell Cats, I totally blame you 😉

            I needed it after this post and comments.
            Have some virtual chocolate to go with my virtual cats.

          • Cactus said:

            Oh, torties.
            (We have two. The older one is just as stubborn about getting into her carrier and going to the vet as yours. The younger one really loves her carrier for some reason, and will sometimes hop into it even when we’re trying to get the older one in.)

          • SQUEEEEE at the adorable torties!

      • “He” will usually come when “we” have to take her to the vet? That’s it? He cuddles the cat, but does not feed her or clean her box, and only “usually” comes along when “we” have to take her to the vet. Even if he’s coming along, you’re still the one taking her to the vet EVERY time.

        In other words, you are doing all the labor in this relationship, and what is he doing? What is he doing that is positive?

        Chin up, LW! You’re not alone, and we’re all rooting for you!

      • Leonine said:

        My selfish man-child of an ex-husband cut our honeymoon short because he missed our cats. That…did not feel great.

      • Love is action.

        Your husband cuddles the cat. You care for it.

      • Friendly Hipposcriff said:

        LW: ‘We have a cat. I am the one who does all the work, though he _usually_ comes with me to the vet’ does not sound like ‘we have a cat’. It sounds like _you_ have a cat and he picks the really fun bits or the absolutely unavoidable ones.

        I cannot imagine having a cat and NOT doing any of the work, particularly the unwelcome litter-box scooping. That’s the price for purrs and cuddles, they’re part of the contract.

      • Raptor said:

        Oh jeez.

        If he loves the cat, he can at least feed and water the cat. That’s really not the hard part of having a cat.

        I will admit my husband does probably 2-3x the potty walks I do, but that’s more of a work schedule/ sleep schedule thing. We both do food and water, but I do almost all the training and grooming. (Small floof dog)

      • We have three cats.

        I cannot imagine loving a cat and not feeding it. I understand she isn’t starving, and I can imagine not feeding her all the time, but I can’t imagine “I love this animal, I will choose to do nothing to keep her fed and her environment pleasant.”

  7. Drew said:

    I am a dude, and if I were married to a woman and were treating her like that, I would HOPE she would dump my ass so fast I would bounce twice.

    LW, you don’t deserve ANY of what your husband is doing to you. Your whole letter is full of self-put-downs, and from what I can tell, NOT ONE of them is true. You seem smart and fun and caring and incredibly patient. There are thousands of guys out there who would treasure someone like you. Please get out from this sham of a marriage and go find someone better — or spend some time by yourself, dancing and working and seeing only the friends YOU want to see and having a splendid, lovely, loving time.

    Please write back with an update when you’re out from under. We’re rooting for you so hard, LW.

  8. Dear letter writer, I agree with everything that Captain Awkward said. One bit of your letter jumped out at me.

    “I’m not trying to make myself out as a “holier-than-thou” type of person, even though I am sure that’s exactly what I’m doing, but I would like to illustrate that I am trying”

    You don’t come across as holier than thou at all. You are trying, so hard. You are putting 110% or more into your relationship with your husband. I wish that people understood that the saying “relationships take work” has the unspoken corollary “from both people”. You are not solely responsible for making your marriage work! Your husband should be working on it with you. And if he doesn’t / won’t, then that isn’t your fault. Take care of yourself and I hope that it all works out.

    • I read that line as something the husband has said to the letter writer enough times that she’s starting to believe it. He probably uses it to shame her for getting help because he’s too afraid to get any help for himself.

      • Evan Tessuraea said:

        “You just think you’re so much better than me” is something that has been used against me in the past, quite successfully. I’m really vulnerable to it, especially when the other person is being a shit, so from any vaguely objective position, I am. Or at least, I’m making kinder choices and treating people better.

        It jumped out at me too. I’ve probably said it in the past. It’s a really easy way to take a person who is trying to get you to change and just stand squarely on their insecurities until they question their own motivations and think they’re being unfair to you.

        I love that what she said was “I’m lazy, selfish, and sanctimonious” and what we all heard was “I’m working SO HARD and I think it’s all my fault that nothing works and it just means I’m not trying hard enough.”

        • Evan Tessuraea said:

          I mean what she said jumped out at me – not that I’ve accused other people of being holier-than-thou!

    • Willow said:

      I kept trying and trying until I just couldn’t any more.

  9. Vicki said:

    LW, it kinda seems like you’ve… internalized a lot of kinda horrible things about yourself, and I wonder if a lot of these things you say to demean yourself (selfish, bad at keeping up the house, lazy) are words you would have used to describe yourself before you married this guy. You say a lot of things about yourself that feel like you’ve taken a lot of really negative projection from your husband, like he’s only capable of reflecting on his own flaws if he also gets to put you down at the same time. He gets to say a lot of “We’re lazy slobs around here, look at this house we don’t put enough effort into taking care of it, we live in the past,” that explains his behavior while still somehow holding you as responsible for it.

    If a stranger were watching your lives, would they say “Yep, two lazy slobs here!” Or would they see a competitive dancer who works and tries to keep up a household on their own while trying to figure out their relationship, and a guy who works then watches YouTube, day in and day out? Would they say “Yep, they’re both pretty selfish” or would they see one person who demands constant supplication and a person who consistently has to cancel their own plans to try to make him happy? I feel like your husband is trying to project his own flaws onto you so he feels less shitty about them himself and you feel like not believing him wouldn’t be fair to his side of the conflict, but the conflict is his damn fault and it’s not fair and you don’t need to cater to his feelings by feeling bad about yourself.

    Talk to your counselor about yourself, hang out with friends without your husband around to make you feel shitty or control your behavior, remind yourself of all the ways you’re NOT like him and all the things you like about yourself. And you’re not a bad writer. It sounds to me like you’re Hella talented and Hella skilled in a lot of ways and you’re building a cool life and deserve to be happy. Good luck.

    • flynnthecat1 said:

      ” he’s only capable of reflecting on his own flaws if he also gets to put you down at the same time. He gets to say a lot of “We’re lazy slobs around here, look at this house we don’t put enough effort into taking care of it, we live in the past,” that explains his behavior while still somehow holding you as responsible for it.”

      Aw dammit, I just realised I do the inverse of this. I’ll say ‘of course we are all messy and need to be better’ and take implied blame onto myself instead of just going ‘you need to clean more. YOU.’

  10. ASJ said:

    “Both he and I are pretty selfish people who suffer from anxiety and depression, and I constantly feel like I’m forced to do things for him and on his schedule to try to keep him happy.”

    LW this jumped out at me. I’ve been called selfish before. It really stuck with me, to the point where (in my personal life) I now hate asking other people to do stuff for me because I’m so afraid of infringing on them. But sometimes I try to remind myself that maybe it’s okay to be a little selfish. A selfish person puts themselves first. In my case, and certainly in your case, not one else is going to put you or me first. So it’s okay to do that. You exist in this relationship too, and you deserve to be happy.

    • Me, too. I was afraid of being selfish/being called selfish in my relationship, and looking back, I shouldn’t have been. Because as ASJ says, you are in this relationship too, and you deserve to have your needs and wishes acknowledged and treated with respect.

    • Guava said:

      So often, “selfish” is a neg that’s leveled at really giving, generous people as a manipulation tactic to get them to give their last drop of everything to someone else.

      • randomcheeses said:

        Selfish is also an easy insult to throw at women. Because we’re socialised to be kind and gentle and giving and nice and . . . So if a woman is called selfish there’s the nasty underlying implication that she’s failing at womanhood.

        • Even worse, selfishness can be seen as a provocation that entitles the man to do anything he wants to the woman, from putting her down to killing her. (Or that could be the rabid squirrels in my brain talking…)

          • I meant “perceived selfishness.” American culture teaches that it is evil for women to exist for themselves and not for a spouse/child/employer/lover/church/cause.

          • Indoor Cat said:

            Not rabid squirrels. Obviously, there is a large gulf between insult and murder, but I’ve finally gotten around to reading “Why Does He Do That?” and according to that book, the impulse to dominate through lethal violence is the same impulse to dominate through put downs (so the abused partner obeys the abuser). Like, it’s the same underlying motive (desire for control) and same worldview (sense of entitlement, belief that partner is there to meet his needs) just different tools.

            Different abusers use different tools, and some will never be physically violent, but that doesn’t mean their actions are not still quite destructive.

          • I have been trained to be as sweet as possible and take the blame no matter what. Three days ago, I was crossing the street in the crosswalk with the walk sign on when a car suddenly came through on a red light. Everyone else cussed and yelled at the driver. I said “Sorry!”, stopped, and tried to motion the driver to continue. I automatically felt guilty for getting in the way.

  11. Lilly said:

    My biggest pet peeve in the world is when someone is in the wrong, and they turn it around on you to make you feel guilty, bad, etc. this is so wrong on so many levels! A lot of people try this crap out in the world and I feel so bad for you that your own husband is making you feel this way. If your husband isn’t building you up to be a better person, why stay with him? I get it… and things can change, and we all have bad days, but obviously you are being abused and need to get to a place where you feel free and light and happy and have someone with you that makes you feel that AND MORE. If you don’t want to divorce, you should suggest couples counseling. Your man has some serious issues he needs to address.

  12. vanessamartinez said:

    Adulting isn’t supposed to be fun all the time; we need to lean on each other in healthy ways when it’s being extra frustrating and not fun. Millions of people don’t like their jobs. My boyfriend sometimes comes home bitching about how his job sucks and he wishes he could just spend all day every day doing activities he enjoys instead. (Really fresh concept, I know.) The topic has spread into jokes about retiring completely and letting me carry us both. (I suspect it’s 50% jokes and 50% judging my response to see if there’s a chance I’ll play ball.) My dude, we are able-bodied in our early 30’s and we’re not married yet and oh by the way: I ain’t working for YOU.

    For now I treat it all as him letting off steam after a hard 12 hour day that ends at 2am. He is responsible and would never ever quit but the mounting frequency of these comments has started to make me leery regardless. I’ve created a rotating cast of equally 50% joke 50% serious responses:

    “You have 30 years left, let’s revisit this in 2047”
    “You can quit your job if you become disabled or a stay at home father”
    “Great idea! I think I’ll retire too”

    All of the above takes the edge off his frustration and then we get serious and move on to discussing career changes that will give him less grief and more fulfillment. He’s hoping to find a job that’s more 9-5 like mine so he can spend more time with me in the evenings more nights per week. (His words.)

    • Darcy Pennell said:

      “The topic has spread into jokes about retiring completely and letting me carry us both.”

      My ex used to do that all the time. He’d say he wanted to be a househusband because he was such a great feminist and didn’t have a problem with housework, but eventually I realized the operative part of this story was the part where I somehow would become able to support us 100% while he got to stay home every day for the rest of his life. We were young and broke, and no way could have lived on my income alone. I think he would’ve made good on his plan to quit in spite of that if I hadn’t left him when I did.

      20 years later I’ve remarried, have an actual career, and am doing well enough that if something happened we could live (not lavishly but ok) on my salary. My husband has never even hinted at wanting to quit for the hell of it or expecting me to support him. And I totally would! Because I know he’s not trying to work an angle at my expense.

      • vanessamartinez said:

        See that’s my fear, because neither of us is an outstanding chore god.

        I need to open my mouth and ask, “So what do you really mean by that? Are you joking or being serious?” instead of cracking jokes. I know he doesn’t mean it, he’s just playing out a fantasy that makes him feel better, but the frequency does not make me feel good. Being more direct will help him see my side. I want him to be more like my dad, who has complained forever but is the most hard-working and responsible family man I know.

        Boyfriend’s true fantasy is to go into forestry work. That would be far less income but I would support it.

        • Serin said:

          I think it’s a good idea to bring “I’d like to stop working and let you support me on your income” out into the open and talk about it.

          If he’s actually floating the idea to see how you’ll react — well, you get to react.

          If it’s just a fantasy, then it should work perfectly well for him to imagine his life of leisure funded by a dead millionaire great-uncle or a magic spell that makes money or a robot that shows up for work on his behalf or anything that doesn’t make you want to lock up your wallet.

      • Yeah. My ex’s interpretation of feminism was that any female partner of his should work so that he didn’t have to be the provider. His idea of sexual equality was that the female should lay out at least as much financially as the male, preferably more. I’m not saying that I have a problem with working or contributing financially, but rather that that was all feminism and sexual equality meant to him – he didn’t seem to have any notion that they applied to anything else. Plus when I had an infant he thought that I “did nothing all day”.

        • I “love” coming across meninists who are like, “I’m all for women earning as much as I do! In fact I wouldn’t even date a woman who earned less than me! Why should I have to support someone else!” …without ever acknowledging the reasons why women usually earn less than men or putting in any effort to change that.

          • Witch Hands said:

            It’s because they literally don’t believe in the wage gap. In the same way you do not believe in the tooth fairy, “meninists” do not believe the wage gap exists. Even faced with statistics, they just go, “well, if she’s paid less, it must be because she’s a bad worker.”

            (I am assuming you do not believe in the tooth fairy. If you do believe in the tooth fairy, then this comment was sarcastic and the tooth fairy, along with the wage gap, exists.)

        • Were you married to my ex?

          I mean, no, you weren’t because he was sterile, but wow, that’s familiar.

    • B said:

      Being a homemaker is a lot of work, especially if children are involved. It’s probably at least as much work as a normal job if they’re doing it right. Being a househusband/stay at home dad is NOT “Getting to do what you want to do whenever you want to do it” ALJDSLJFSDF it makes me really annoyed, someone who just wants a sugarmomma is going to be a terrible househusband. It’s really pretty belittling to homemakers everywhere.
      (I’m at the point where I’m mostly the one supporting the family and i have the salary to do it, and it’s okay because my husband does indeed do 90+% of the chores and advocates very hard that he SHOULD do them while I’m the main earner, even if he doesn’t love them. He is currently working on some startup stuff too so he’s not the one watching the kids all day, which would be a more than full time job if he was)

    • Indoor Cat said:

      I hope your boyfriend has luck with the job search.

      I’m neither in my 30’s nor able-bodied, so I’m sympathetic to feeling like I’m going crazy by working in a job that’s unsustainable to me, because a paycheck is vital to staying alive. And I did, ultimately, live with my parents again for six months so I could build up a client list for a job that lets me work from home (meaning I could work while literally taking albuterol treatments every two hours if I needed to). I firmly believe that the six month at-ease period prevented me from burning out and needing hospitalization.

      But! There are always multiple options, even in that kind of situation, and it’s unreasonable to simply go for the easiest option when it puts undue burden on someone else. Sticking it out while using free time to apply elsewhere is definitely a good option in your boyfriend’s situation, and there are definitely other options that don’t involve total financial dependence on one’s partner (get money from parents or relatives? Sell expensive things he owns in order to coast for x months? Cut back some hours? Make job more manageable psychologically with therapy?)

      At the end of the day, trying to figure out what is best for everyone is tricky, but people are rarely as trapped as they feel they are. I hope things work out!

  13. Now better than later said:

    LW, stop skipping events that you want to go to if your husband has not come up with, on his own, presented in advance, a plan for you two to do something fun together. This is the only life you get, and skipping events to sit at home watching him click YouTube videos or tell you how “selfish” you are for wanting to dance competitively is not what you want to look back on in five, ten, twenty, or fifty years.

    You say he’s dropping ultimatums. Go talk to a lawyer. Shut that Catholic “I-am-bound-to-this-man-for-eternity” fantasy voice off and make copies of all your asset and financial statements, deeds and car titles and all that stuff. Imagine your life without receiving abusive emails excoriating you for trying to enjoy living. If he wants to keep dropping ultimatums without doing anything, fine; you can act to protect yourself in your own time. If he decides to act, you’ll be prepared.

    I think you’ll be hoping there is a magic way for him to be happy, and the only magic in happiness is making it for oneself. He has to make his own happiness and then share it with you. You cannot make him happy.

    I am older than you are. I skipped doing fun stuff for decades. I cut off parts of my self, believed the bad things he said about me, and pretzeled myself trying to please someone who could not be pleased. Finally, I took him at his word when he shouted an ultimatum, and I got out. I hope you go sooner than I did, because the dancing sounds awesome.

    • S said:

      I respect that you want to save your marriage, but I think other commenters have pointed out all the reasons why it might not be worth it. He seems to have you convinced that all the problems are yours, and are yours to solve, but that is NOT the case. He’s not the only person in the relationship whose needs and feelings matter. Also, he’s not the only one who can issue ultimatums.

      Here are some steps you could take:

      1. Look into your options. If divorce is off the table for religious reasons, what about a legal separation? Talk to a lawyer, know your rights, and figure out what you’d need in terms of paperwork and other resources. Develop an exit strategy.

      2. Then, give him an ultimatum: either he goes to marriage counseling and makes a sincere effort to fix the relationship problems you’ve outlined here, or the marriage will be over. Your current counselor may be able to recommend someone.

      3. If he goes to counseling and does make a serious effort, decide what your baseline is for staying. How long will you give him to make these changes? What if the changes are temporary and he returns to his old patterns? If he refuses counseling, which I suspect he will do, and does nothing more than recite the reasons why the problems are all your fault, then you will have options other than putting up with a life and a husband that makes you unhappy.

      Good luck. IMO, you deserve better.

    • Willow said:

      Agree about the “stop skipping things” and this is the only life we get. I took a hard look and thought that the next ten years might be my last GOOD years, and was this how I wanted to spend them, and the answer was a resounding “NO”. So I got out.

    • “I am older than you are. I skipped doing fun stuff for decades. I cut off parts of my self, believed the bad things he said about me, and pretzeled myself trying to please someone who could not be pleased.”

      Yes! I did that for SO LONG and nothing changed. Darth Ex-husband just got angrier, and I lost a little bit more of myself each year trying to act in ways that would not upset him.

      Letter-writer, I hope you will absorb the advice offered by the Captain and others. Because things will not get better. He expects you to keep changing for him, to be responsible for all his happiness and, oh yeah, to do all the work of the household. I spent 23 years living that way, and have come to terms with the fact that I can’t get those years back. But my oh my, how happy I am with the years that I have left because they are MY years* and not his.

      I wish you healing and happiness — and lots more dancing.

      *I actually did find midlife love when I least expected it, so technically they’re OUR years. The difference between a Darth Ex and my sweetheart is so vast it needs its own zip code. Short form: He’s an adult, not an entitled abuser.

      • Witch Hands said:

        “[He] just got angrier, and I lost a little bit more of myself each year trying to act in ways that would not upset him.”

        Donna, my dude, this is so real. That’s the thing about abusers, is they will never be satisfied. It will quite literally never be enough. If you fix the thing they hound you about, they will simply select a new thing to hound you about.

        If I explained to her why I felt a certain way, I was guilting her and “woobifying myself.” If I apologized, I was condescending to her and “oh please, she didn’t believe it for a second.” If I simply didn’t answer, I was “blowing her off.” If I changed and acted the way she wanted me to, it was performative and disingenuous and somehow worse than not changing my behavior at all. If she got mad about something and I didn’t also get mad, I was being judgmental and invalidating. If she got mad about something, and I agreed with her and also got mad about it, she made fun of me for “getting all riled up.” Once she said something awful (not about me) in front of some of my friends, and one of my friends was like, “I don’t agree with that, that’s not a cool thing to say,” and from that day forth, she never stopped making shitty comments about me “letting my friends jump down her throat.”

        No matter how small you make yourself, you will never stop being yelled at. If you transform your behavior and appearance exactly and fulfill their desires to the letter, their desires will suddenly change.

        There is no salvaging an abusive relationship, because the abuse inherently tears it asunder.

        I’m so happy you’ve found your person. Good luck, for real.

        • I hope you got out of that relationship, Witch Hands.

  14. LeighTX said:

    Sweet LW, I, too, once lived with a man who belittled me, criticized me, and demanded my full attention whenever he wanted it. He, too, was depressed and anxious, and he took it out on me for years. I, too, was embarrassed to tell parents or friends what was going on (although, guess what? They all knew anyway! He was really rude to me and people noticed!). I, too, was too religious to want a divorce.

    LW, those were some miserable, miserable years. I held onto my self-esteem, but it was only through sheer force of will. My advice to you is to get out now and don’t look back, but if you want to try one more time, give him an ultimatum: Get counseling and medication for your anxiety and depression within one month, or I will leave you. And then, our sweet LW, you follow through.

    You have tried, LW. You have tried and made yourself smaller and dealt with his ugliness and it is time to throw in the towel, to tell your friends and family (who, as I mentioned, mostly likely already know) that your relationship with Husband is emotionally abusive and that you are leaving, and if they cannot be supportive then they can at least be quiet about it. You deserve so much more than this. I wish you all the very best of luck.

  15. Dear LW,

    The Captain slammed it out of the park, did 32 fouettés, hit a high F, or any other metaphor that works for you.

    I love her entire post, and I want to reiterate, please read Why does he do that?

    Additionally, please note how the Captain has teased out the strains of your husband’s choice to be mean.

    And finally, dear LW, keep dancing. Hold your friends close.

    Jedi hugs if you want them.

    • One more thing: you might be selfish, but you’ve given exactly zero examples of selfishness.

      So, on the whole, I don’t think you are. Although it occurs to me that you might be using a church definition of selfishness, in which unselfish actions are: in service to the Church, in service to God, or in service to your husband — and all others are selfish. That definition is wrong.

      • Mrs. Morley, thank you for that comment. I frequently use church definitions for words like “good” and “selfish.” It took 38 years, reading Penn and Teller, and learning about D&D alignments to get me to realize that the rest of the world does not see things that way. I am still uncomfortable at calling myself “good,” because I think I will immediately do something blatantly nasty in public that will clothe me in shame for the rest of my life. I am comfortable with calling myself “neutral,” though, which has cut down on the comments on low self-esteem from everyone I meet.

        • You’re welcome, jennylinskyb.

          Something was nagging at me about LW calling herself selfish, when listing ordinary life

          Then I remembered the odd usage I’ve heard and read from some Christian types.

        • Drew said:

          Being “good” doesn’t mean never doing bad things. It means that you try to do right and recognize that, being human, you will sometimes fall short. When you do, you make sincere amends (and restitution, where necessary), and work harder not to do those things in the future. Very, very few people are so saintly that they NEVER snap at someone or make a thoughtless, hurtful comment. It’s OK to be flawed and still think of yourself as a good person.

          • Please read “Villains By Necessity,” for an interesting take on good people acting good and evil people acting evil. It’s a fantastic fantasy novel that really blew me away with its philosophy.

          • ran out of nesting…
            Seconding “Villains By Necessity,” it really shows that the “good guys” certainly think they are good, and the bad guys can be surprisingly honorable. And the ending takes a sharp turn 😉

          • Indoor Cat said:

            @Michelle C Young — Villains by Necessity seems to be currently out of print. Cheapest copy on Amazon is $39, and that’s prior to shipping. Anyone know if there’s a less expensive copy somewhere?

          • @Indoor Cat – Barnes & Noble marketplace claims to have two used copies under $10 shipping included.

      • aebhel said:

        Yep. Also, a little selfishness is healthy–a lot healthier than spending all of your time trying to fix someone else’s self-inflicted problems. You’re allowed to go out, have fun, and be happy even if your spouse is at home miserably clicking on YouTube videos and mourning his lost youth (and sending you mean emails at work–I can’t get over that. How goddamn petty can you get?). I mean, ideally he’d also find something to do with his time that makes him happy, but you can’t do that for him.

  16. Ellen Fremedon said:

    Also, LW, you say that getting yelled at and told everything about your personality is wrong has been a weekly occurrence for the last 5 or 6 years.

    You’ve been married since 2012. That’s the whole of your marriage.

    • Nanani said:

      This jumped out to me too.

      It is highly unlikely to be a coincidence.

    • randomcheeses said:

      Yeah. That’s disturbing. LW get away from this guy as soon as you can. Even if it’s just a week away in a friends house or bnb or hotel. You need space to think away from the abuse he’s flinging at you.

  17. subliminalflicker said:

    This sounds like my recently dissolved relationship, like a lot. Down to the demanding attention while I was at work (via email, then when they quit their job, via text, usually to complain about something or try to get me to magically fix something via telepathy) and being fixated on ye old college days. The constant watching of tv/YouTube, refusing to socialise without the other person, etc.
    I started seeing a therapist, resized why I was so unhappy, dumped them, and have been trying to rebuild my life again.
    LW, I do sympathize, but everyone here is right, you can’t fix their unhappiness, all you can do is stick around until you’ve become smothered in it.
    I had to claw my way out of the suffocating garbage heap that was a seven year relationship with my college sweetheart and I’m still shoveling crap out of my life to finally make room for me in it. It’s hard, but man is it worth it.
    Whatever you do, don’t let his unhappiness with his life suffocate you (and I do mean his life, he’s the one not taking part in living, and he’s trying to keep you there in his pit of sadfeels with him). Keep doing the things you love. I hope you find a way out of this mire that works for you.

    • I had a nearly seven-year relationship with my college sweetheart which ended with him refusing to socialize (or do ANYTHING) without my prodding and spending his nights clicking away on YouTube/computer games, too. At least he didn’t demand my attention while I was at work, though. Or ever. Come to think of it, I think the only reason he tolerated my presence was because I was paying the bills.

      I’m now just shy of five years out of clawing my way out of my own garbage heap, and my only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner. Congrats on the new lease on life!

  18. This sounds like a couple I used to know to the pint I started wondering if one of them had written in… then the emotional abuse started piling on & I knew it wasn’t them. But it could have been. The main difference is neither of them are cruel, & they started communicating their needs… both of them… and responding supportively. Can your spouse do that? Will your spouse do that? Bc it sounds like you’re doing everything both physically & emotionally & he… is not. You deserve better.

  19. Schwanli said:

    Dear Letter Writer,
    Would it help if you understood your care for him to be maybe a bit enabling? He is unhappy, and that is tough on both of you, because you love him. He just wants to feel happier, and if only you could take on the task of achieving happiness for him, everything would be great. Except that happiness has to come from within. If you weren’t there for him, he would have to figure out how to be happier on his own. Or he might flounder even more, but it’s more likely that, if he knew you couldn’t fix it for him, he’d start the hard work of trying to fix himself.
    It’s not easy deciding to leave someone you love, but I think you should consider it. And while you’re considering it, you should start to set some firm clear boundaries with him, so that he realizes that he’s expecting an impossibility from you, and starts working on himself. If you can’t set these boundaries, you really will have to leave him, so it’s worth it to try, isn’t it?
    I write this as someone married to a bit of a loser whom I love. What keeps us together is me remembering to keep healthy boundaries, and not to take his unhappiness and screw-ups onto myself.
    Best wishes!

    • LW, perhaps a trial separation would be wise. That would give him a chance to be forced to do the work for himself, with you not there to do it, and prove that 1) he’s willing, and 2) he’s capable. He may not believe he’s capable, and forcing his hand may be just the shock he needs.

      If he gets his act together, then you can go back to the marriage, mutually improved (because from what I’ve read of your letter, you’ll be doing some improvement on your own, anyway, such as more reading, more dancing, and a lot of thinking).

  20. Cyberwulf said:

    He sounds like he needs to grow up and take control of, and responsibility for, his own life and happiness. At some point he needs to e.g. stop complaining about his job or look for a new one, make new friends or make more effort to keep in touch with old ones, stop moaning about getting fat or start doing something about it, etc. He is unhappy with his life but change is scary and takes work so he wants you to make it all better for him.

    Also, I’m p sure Jesus wouldn’t want you to waste all the wonderful gifts you have by spending your life manacled to a mean sulky overgrown teenager. If you feel you need to get a divorce I’m sure God will forgive you.

      • Cyberwulf said:

        Yep. Jesus was pretty clear that there was almost no sin that would put you beyond God’s forgiveness.

  21. kanel said:

    I just wanted to say “go LW!” You are at competition level of your hobby. That’s pretty cool. Keep dancing, keep having fun, enjoying life and hang out with those new friends you have. The Captain gives good advice. Remember that you rock, and consider it.

  22. LucySnowe24 said:

    Great advice from the Captain as always. LW, it’s not OK for your husband to insult you, try to control you or keep you from your hobby. Relationships should make you feel stronger and happier, not drain the life out of you. It’s OK to leave if you think you’d feel happier and freer without being chained to your husband’s sad longing to relive his glory days.

    It’s a small point, but if you’ve all these emails from and to him in your work email, it could be treated as a disciplinary matter if your boss decides you’re wasting time on the clock, depending on your company’s rules and culture. He initiates it, but if you feel obliged to reply when he emails you with his latest emotional crisis, your boss could blame you too. For the sake of your job, take the captain’s advice and ignore your emails. If you’re afraid of how he’ll react to that, that’s another red flag in this relationship. Stay safe, don’t do anything that could jeopardise your job, get support from Team You and stop pouring yourself into the black hole of his life.

    • TK said:

      Excellent point! This also gave me the rather morbid thought that maybe this might be exactly what Husband is aiming for? Like many commenters here, I too am reminded fiercely of my ex– who was depressed and anxious and insecure and in the middle of painful life things (transition, grief, depression that was always worse than mine, etc etc etc) and just needed me to take care of him all the time– and he never quite liked how much I prioritized school over him. No matter how much was on my plate, I was never able to do my homework at his place, and he always made me feel so, so selfish and awful when I wouldn’t miss class for him. As hard as I tried to draw boundaries there, my education and my social life suffered because I sacrificed so much for him. For a long time, I believed my ambitions were too big, that I wanted way too much for myself, that I wasn’t responsible or realistic.

      Thing is, someone who genuinely loved me would have supported these ambitions and this schedule anyway. People who love me don’t expect me to minimize my personal life, and they definitely don’t harass me at work or put me at risk of professional trouble.

    • leverageandlipstick said:

      “It’s a small point, but if you’ve all these emails from and to him in your work email, it could be treated as a disciplinary matter if your boss decides you’re wasting time on the clock, depending on your company’s rules and culture. He initiates it, but if you feel obliged to reply when he emails you with his latest emotional crisis, your boss could blame you too. For the sake of your job, take the captain’s advice and ignore your emails.”

      Like TK, I definitely had the sense, reading this, that the fact of the e-mails being sent to LW’s work… might not be an accident? If they’re in the same field, and she’s appearing to do well at a grown-up job while he’s mired in dissatisfaction, I almost get the feeling that sending e-mails that disrupt her ability to perform at work might be a form of sabotage.

      • I assumed the emails were sent to a personal address to which LW has access. (For example, web access to a Yahoo account).

  23. beentherefortoolong said:

    LW… my first marriage was a lot like yours. my husband was mentally unwell, he wanted an exclusive monoply on my time and for me to manage all his feelings for him, which i was never able to adequately do. i ended up isolate from family and friends, miserable, and a tiny shell of myself trying to disappear at all times so he wouldn’t have any reason to get upset. he never changed. i had to leave him. i hope you do the same. you deserve your own life and your own happiness.

    • Evan Tessuraea said:

      I had a legit wonderful guy in my life with the same mental health issues. Just to offer this up for contrast: while some of those same unhealthy patterns were in play (he wanted me to stay home with him all the time, for example), ultimately he wasn’t trying to control me, and when I told him I needed more social time the conflict became about how often I could expect him to join me for social events even though he didn’t want to go. We negotiated that, because making excuses for him was a burden I didn’t want to carry, and came to an agreement that worked pretty well. There was tension around our competing needs, but I don’t think it was particularly harmful to either of us. (I should ask. We’re still close.)

      He wasn’t happy, but he tried to fix that himself, and when it didn’t work, he didn’t really blame me. He struggled, I tried to help, but I still got to have my own life and my own friends and hobbies. He was proud of me when I accomplished things. We discussed areas where our needs were different and learned to have conflict in reasonably healthy ways. Neither of us insulted the other – even in anger, we tried to be respectful. There were ways we didn’t work out (I mean I’m gay and not a man, which is in this story somewhere), and the relationship ended. Sometimes there was anger and hurt, and the ending wasn’t easy. But no one was systematically controlling anyone else, no one’s life was getting smaller, no one was becoming increasingly convinced they were worthless, and no one was being harmed.

      It’s really not about the depression/agoraphobia/anxiety/whatever – that’s part of the story, but, as the captain points out, this guy is still making the choice to treat someone badly. Routinely.

  24. Belle said:

    LW, you cannot save someone who doesn’t want to be saved. It sounds like your husband almost enjoys his wallowing and pining for the old days because they give him an excuse to be a shitty person now. If this was really about missing his college life he should treasure you! You were part of that great college experience and you are still there with him! The vibe I get is that this nostalgia is just a (possibly subconscious) excuse for him to dig his heels in and avoid moving forward and build a happy life in the here and now. You keep putting yourself down in your letter but you sound like a delightful functioning person who is living like an adult should and bearing way more that she should have to.

    If inertia and laziness is what’s keeping you with him, inject a little morbidity into your bloodstream. Just remember that this is your one life, the whole of your life. You don’t get to do this again and he is not going to change. Do you really want to spend your one life under these conditions when it could be so much better?

  25. Green Scarf Girl said:

    Dearest LW, don’t walk, RUN AWAY form this sham of a relationship. A person that truly loves you won’t try to control you, gaslight you, demean your hobbies and feelings and, less than less, tell you that you’re a BAD PERSON for wanting to have an enjoyable life.
    For Leia’s sake, keep dancing and please, seek legal help. A divorce is the healthiest possible solution.

  26. Friday said:

    One thing that made an impression on me was the last paragraph: the LW gives permission to the Captain to ignore them and apologises for bad writing. It made me feel so sad, like after years of walking on eggshells, they just want to make themselves as small and as accommodating as possible.

    LW, there is nothing wrong with your writing or with asking for help.

    I also have one advice for work email situation: please filter them and do NOT reply. Not just because you should not engage for your sanity. In many countries, your company/ boss have access and permission to read your emails at any time. Obviously you cannot stop anyone sending to you, but avoid writing anything that you do not want others to read.
    In a similar situation in the past I just replied something like “this is my work email and I do not deal with personal issues at work time. Do not send anything of this nature to me again”. In my case, work at the time was my safe place away from madness and I didn’t want my bad relationship poisoning the only place I was away and felt clean. I later found out that my boss was worrying for me and should they decided to check my account they would have seen that. (They didn’t thankfully)

    • BradC said:

      +1 on corporate email policies. I work in IT, and at all the companies I’ve ever worked at, all incoming and outgoing corporate emails are (potentially) reviewable by IT personnel and/or management. (Frankly most of the time we have more important things to do, but its possible.) This is pretty much normal for companies in the US, and is typically agreed to by the employee upon hiring (in one of those many forms you signed and forgot about).

      • Britta said:

        On the other hand, about 15 years ago a friend of mine was being stalked by an ex who among his other crimes used to email her hideously abusive stuff from both his work email and his personal email using a work machine. When she told me about this, LW, she used much the same language that you are in your letter, but it didn’t take long before I realized just how bad things were. After a while I helped her also to see, and convinced her to talk to a DV charity, who went with her to the police. Shortly after, the ex was called into a meeting by his HR, where a police officer was relaxing against the wall. HR read a few choice excerpts out loud, and then silently laid out printouts of every single other email the ex had ever sent her via their servers. The ex was then informed that he would keep his job and ability to get a work-related reference if and only if he never contacted her again, because they had grounds to fire him instantly with no severance/no reference (unusual in their country, which would have torched his career) based on his misuse of the work servers. Furthermore if he did not agree to that he would be arrested and charged with every single thing the friendly police officer could think of. The police officer smiled. The ex signed every piece of paperwork both the job and the police told him to.

        It worked – the ex never contacted her again – but even with that reassurance from the police my friend left the country without a forwarding address.

        • CommanderBanana said:

          As someone who works in DV and is often frustrated at how many abusers face little or no consequences for their shitlord behavior, this warmed the cockles of my shriveled little heart. 🙂

          • Nanani said:

            I’m simultaneously glad there was SOME consequence, but also horrified that he still gets to keep his job and career despite being a complete monster.

            “Don’t report abuse YOu’Ll RUIn his LIFeee”

        • Jules said:

          I teared up with how happy this makes me – to see all that support she got. That’s awesome.

          Now, there’s a thread for Ask A Manager – what are times when work has really been a help, beyond just the paycheck?

          • Britta said:

            The threats were vicious to the point that the ex’s company could have been legally held responsible for them. She had to go to the police with a lawyer from the DV charity in order to get the police to act; the reason her situation was handled this way was because those threats were the only evidence that was written down. The ex’s company didn’t do it for her, they did it to indemnify themselves. She still moved to a different country and cut off all ties with everyone connected to her ex (including me) because she was so traumatized by the experience, so don’t be too happy about it.

          • @Jules, I assume you’re familiar with the AAM letter about work helping the LW get a service dog? If not – go find it, but bring ALL THE TISSUES.

        • B2 said:

          Ahhh, wow. As much as one wishes he was fired because gross, that was probably the most effective strategy at actually getting him to stop. (If fired he might have gone into “nothing to lose” mode which could be very dangerous… not that that’s a reason not to do it if it needs to be done but I can see this strategy being ok too provided they mean to enforce it)

          • CommanderBanana said:

            Yup – while obviously the responsibility for an abuser’s actions are on no one but the abuser, we take it VERY seriously when an abuser is fired from their job, because violence spikes at pretty predictable points in a relationship:

            – when partners move in
            – when one partner becomes pregnant/a child is born
            – when one partner stops working
            – when a partner loses a job or is fired
            – when a partner tries to leave or move out
            – when divorce papers are served
            – when a protective or restraining order is served
            – when an ex-partner moves in with another partner or gets remarried or engaged

            We typically see an uptick in violence when one of the above happens, and losing a job is a huge trigger – it’s a loss of control and a perceived humiliation (abusers are REALLY REALLY GOOD at not seeing the loss of their job as the consequences of their actions).

            I’m not defending the company’s decision not to fire him, but not firing him at that point may have been a safer outcome for the victim.

  27. ashbet said:

    I have had two exes who replicated this pattern — depression, social anxiety, clung to (often far-away/unavailable) old friends and weren’t interested in making new ones, TV/computer on all the time at home, begrudged me going out and doing fun things and having a social life.

    Both of them had some reasons (work sucked, lost jobs, depression got worse, medical issues cropped up, etc.), but this stuff went on for YEARS.

    In both cases, this wasn’t how they initially presented, but things changed for the worse over time.

    I have depression! I can be sympathetic and supportive and loving and uplifting! I am totally willing to support my partners through rough times!!!

    …but I can’t be happy FOR them.

    No amount of propping-up can substitute for finding happiness/contentment within yourself, or for making life changes that lead in that direction — that has to come from inside.

    I wish that you could “love him well” and that your devotion could make him healthy and happy — but I’ve tried, and it doesn’t work. You can’t love hard enough to kill depression/apathy/codependency, and you shouldn’t have to try to change yourself to avoid meanness and criticism.

    I’m sorry that your husband treats you this way, LW, and I hope that you can get some distance from the situation, and build your own life based on the things that you find fulfilling and joyful. ❤

    • Britta said:

      Yup. In my case those faraway friends used to lay into me about how I wasn’t doing enough for my ex (same as your exes), except I would ask them if they wanted me to work a job for him in addition to the two I was doing myself. If they thought I should be forcing his medication down his throat when he could have taken it himself. They would splutter that he needed more than what I was doing. I’d point out there was nothing stopping them from stepping up. (Narrator: they did not step up.)

    • “…but I can’t be happy FOR them.”

      Yeah, when people say, “Aww, I’m happy for you,” this situation is NOT what they mean.

  28. Uptown Transcriber said:

    Near the end of our marriage, my ex kept telling me that I was “just trying too hard”. So, I stopped trying and broke up with him, and he was so shocked! That was in 1995. His second marriage didn’t last either. I wonder if she also “just [tried] too hard.”

    • queenbeemimi said:

      Oh, man, I’m sorry past you went through that, but this makes me laugh. How very DARE you try to fix and preserve a relationship you once found value in! He sounds like a real prize.

      • Uptown Transcriber said:

        I have a lovely husband now. My ex has two ex-wives and three offspring (our son, in his early 30’s, daughters with X2, late teens). Ex lives with his present girlfriend, a very smart and accomplished woman. My son expressed that he hopes his father does right by her.

  29. Swistle said:

    I know, I know I know I know from personal experience, that it is SO EASY to SAY “get a divorce,” and much harder and more difficult to actually do it. I can report on my own personal experience with ending a childless youthful marriage. The worst part was RIGHT BEFORE, and then it was mostly relief. I remember feeling surreal, like “This actually isn’t the earth-shaking, impossible process I’d thought it would be. It all feels…kind of normal. And…nice. All I’m doing is moving my stuff somewhere else, like I’ve done many times before, but this time I’m not bringing him with me.” I think that if you get a divorce (and I would strongly recommend it), you will later re-read your own letter with astonishment, amazed that you stayed so long and thought it could be fixed. If you feel too lazy or too Catholic to get a divorce, a separation will do. My ex-husband and I were separated for several years first, because both of us were too lazy to start the formal proceedings. I think it would be better to do it sooner (I was fortunate that my ex didn’t do anything to screw up my credit or anything else), but it didn’t really matter.

    This may or may not be helpful, but in my very limited experience it was easy to get a Catholic Church annulment. Lots of paperwork, but not difficult. My ex-husband had our marriage annulled when he wanted to marry a Catholic girl, and the church gave him the annulment against my adamant, vigorous protests, so they are apparently not very picky about it. They seemed to be using this kind of logic: “If the marriage ended, then it was by definition not a real marriage.”

    • Evan Tessuraea said:

      I know folks who’ve gotten annulments, too. I’m not a Catholic, but it seems to be that in abusive situations, and especially when there are no children, the church is pretty willing to compromise. If there are children, the type of abuse endured needs to be more extreme, but it can still happen. I know someone who got a marriage annulment after 4 children and something like 17 years of marriage.

      It helps to find a sympathetic priest to talk to – and actually, if the religious aspect is important, that’s a good thing to look for that can help along with counseling. You want the kind of priest who says “you are not being respected in your marriage,” not the kind who says “turn the other cheek and work harder,” and often the best way to do that is to ask friends who are survivors of domestic violence or who have gotten divorced who they’ve gone to for pastoral care. Priests/pastors/ministers/rabbis/imams can be absolutely awesome resources for people who are vulnerable – you just need to be a bit careful about who you go to. Some of them are better at prioritizing the health and happiness of the person in front of them than others.

      Even within Catholicism, marriage doesn’t have to be husband-as-god’s-representative, wife-as-support. Find survivors, talk to them, find out who they found support with, reach out to them. Or find the local nonprofit that works with survivors of intimate partner violence, and ask them for a referral – they will know local religious communities well enough to have a good idea which ones will be supportive.

      • turn the other cheek and work harder,

        Not to mention this whole story in the Bible was about non-violent resistance! Something about how you hit your inferiors – open hand vs back of the hand. Apparently, this was a big deal in Jesus’ time.

    • Jarissa said:

      Just in the tiny tiny remote chance that this might be useful to you:

      In a GOOD Catholic view of annulment, they are not saying “Swistle’s marriage was fake”. They are saying “Ex-husband clearly was not mature enough / self-aware enough to have meant his promises to Swistle with his entire heart and soul. A wedding is supposed to be a reflection of Deity’s love for each of the participants, and Ex-husband was not capable of that regardless of what he intended at the original wedding. Therefore, we acknowledge that Ex-husband did not actually participate in a holy state of union because (see above) he was too immature/ignorant/whatever.” They are clearing the way for him to Be An Actual Grown-Up This Time, with an expectation that he has learned from his previous doofustry. (doofusness? state of being a doofus.)

      Ex-husband might have loved you, at one point, to the best of his personal capacity; but he did not love you even a tiny percentage of the way The One loves you: for being you, for all that you are and all that you could be, in a glorious dance of souls that could set the entire universe into motion. Therefore, no sacrament.

      There are people in and out of the church structure who misconstrue “annulment” as saying “the annulled marriage was fake! LOL” with a frequent side serving of “if Swistle had been GOOD ENOUGH then it would have succeeded, ergo, Swistle was not a real person for marriage purposes.” These people, regardless of their position in the church organization, are jackasses.

      • Lucielle said:

        Thanks for pointing this out. I’m Catholic and I would like to add that I was told Marriage is a Covenant between two people, which means that it is an Agreement WITH Conditions that include honoring each other. The husband is not honoring LW when he expects her to do all the emotional work, blames her for his lack of effort, and his other behaviors.

        When the Covenant (Agreement with Conditions) is broken by one person, the marriage is broken and no longer exists. It doesn’t mean that it never existed and that any children are illegitimate. This misinterpretation about annulment hurts a lot of people. The annulment means that the covenant no longer exists.

        I hope this perspective helps. It helped free me from 36 years of a similar situation.

        • Thank you for the information, Lucielle. I really appreciate it.

        • othermiriam said:

          Protestant clergy here, though I’ve counseled with a few formerly Catholic folks (who found their way to my church) around annulment and what all of the above folks say are excellent starting points theologically-speaking.

      • misspiggy said:

        That is so beautiful it actually made hardened atheist me cry a little.

      • Emmers said:

        This is beautiful, Jarissa. Thank you.

        I’m not Catholic anymore, but this is a good explanation of annulment.

    • ShannyL said:

      Absolutely!

      I was miserable in my marriage (not because of abuse, more that famous Dear Sugar column type of discontent) but the idea of ending it was terrifying. Telling people, striking out on my own, saying goodbye to how I’d imagined my life, feeling like a failure, making the wrong decision. I remember talking to my therapist about how divorce was going to mean giving up things, like the beautiful house we were almost finished renovating, with my dream kitchen and my beautiful bathroom, and got mad when she said I was making excuses out of fear. But she was right! Once the news was out, and I’d had a few good cries, there was nowhere to go but forwards, t’s been five and a half years, and that part of my life seems like a chapter out of someone else’s book now.

    • For some reason, I feel compelled to point out here that a growing number of people are enjoying happy, healthy marriages in separate domiciles.

      Is LW’s husband being an abusive jerk? Yep.

      Is there hope for him to improve, if he is forced to get off his keister and take care of *himself*? Possibly.

      Would a separation save the marriage? I have no earthly idea. Insufficient data.

      It MIGHT be the kick in the pants the husband needs. It almost certainly would be the flooding relief that LW needs, so I’ll say, “Go for it! Find your happiness! It is not selfishness to save yourself when you are drowning, and LW, you are drowning!”

  30. Even if she already has kids, it’s a good (vital, toweringly important) idea to lock down fertility unilaterally! Bad situation + pregnancy and
    additional children = worse, no matter the current family composition.

    • QoB said:

      You took the words right out of my typing fingers!

    • People who say, “Let’s have a baby to save the marriage,” have obviously never even babysat overnight, let alone actually had a child before.

      Babies will enrich your life in manifold ways, but they do not “improve the marriage.” The marriage may very well improve, concurrently, but it won’t be because you had kids. More like “in spite of.”

      I’m very pro-children, but I do recognize that they take an amazing amount of time and energy that you just can’t devote to your partner, anymore. They add obstacles that need to be overcome (together), along with shared joys, and it’s actually pretty common for one spouse or the other to become somewhat jealous of the kids getting their “share” of the other spouse’s attention that used to be “mine all mine.”

      • aebhel said:

        Yep. I’ve seen a lot more marriages wrecked by a poorly-timed pregnancy and baby than saved by one. All a baby will do as far as ‘saving’ a miserable marriage will be to make it more difficult and complicated to end it. That’s not any definition of ‘save’ that I’d use.

      • Redgirl said:

        Oh yes. Babies put inordinate amounts of strain on even a happy marriage. Having a baby might technically delay a divorce, because the people involved feel guilty about splitting up a child’s family. They absolutely don’t make an unhappy marriage become happy. I say this as someone who filed for a divorce when my kid turned 18.

  31. Erinwithans said:

    Oh, LW. This was me. I wish I could go back in time and give this advice to younger me. You can never make yourself small enough he won’t be threatened. He will never change. Divorce is hard and slow and tedious, but it is also a big favor to your future self. I’m grateful every day I didn’t stay in my marriage longer. I wish every day I hadn’t stayed in as long as I did.

    That crap he’s spewing at you is seeping in. That’s not your fault – it did for me too, it’s what happens when you soak in bile like that all the time at home (and at work, in your case, because he doesn’t even leave you alone then). It’s like the Swamp of Sadness, and it gets in and it gets harder and harder to pull yourself out of the mud as you sink.

    Divorce is hard and sucks, but you can do it. I wish so much better for you, LW.

  32. ‘Morning LW,
    Ouch. Your situation sounds really sucky (not the good kind). And, I just wanted to echo what many people above have said that you don’t have to live with this.

    You may be selfish and lazy (I’m not going to get into a fight with your brain about this by saying you’re not). You are also a human being who does not need to be treated in this manner by anyone – much less your husband.

    And as an engineer, I’d add a little reminder that often softened “make it less direct” language often doesn’t work well with people who have brains that can behave as effective engineers. Blunt, straight forward talk is often a more appropriate approach. And while saying “stop doing XYZ” may seem harsh, it’ll be more clear than “XYZ isn’t really working for me” which requires the hearer to understand that you’re asking them to stop.

    Keep with the breathing.

  33. LW, every word of your letter made my shoulders rise higher about my ears.

    You sound like a sweet, lovely, and wonderful person who is fully capable of making a fulfilling, productive life for herself. In fact, it sounds like the only thing standing in your way is . . . your husband. A partner is supposed to add to your happiness in life, not be an obstacle to it. In fact, I have to ask, what positives does he contribute to your relationship and your existence? From what you’ve told us, it doesn’t sound like anything at all.

    You have your reasons, so I won’t urge you to seek a divorce, but I do think you should pursue a legal separation. That provides you with legal and financial protection while you go about living your life in sweet, sweet freedom. I think once you experience living on your own in a space only you make untidy, dancing when you want to dance, seeing the friends you want to see, you’ll see that you are better at taking care of things than you are giving yourself credit for. And perhaps your husband will take advantage of the opportunity to move closer to college friends, and he too can be happier. Or not! But it won’t be your responsibility any longer.

    Please believe that a raft of internet strangers believe in you and are pulling for you!

  34. Max said:

    It is so hard to go from “…somehow I always end up cleaning / apologizing / working to make him happy” to “Okay, there is a pattern and I have to stop trying.” I always thought I needed to prove bad intention on my ex partner’s side to be allowed (!) to be angry / sad / fed up with what happened. So I felt like shit and blamed myself, especially for being “selfish”.

    I feel you, LW, and I am sorry that you have to go through this. You are so totally allowed to stop trying. You do not have to work your butt off for this, or him.

    • subliminalflicker said:

      This so hard.

      I spent much of the end year (s) of my last relationship rationalising certain behaviours, and feeling like crap because “they didn’t _intend_ to [hurt] me” and battling between feeling like I was the bad guy and trying to make room for myself, and basically ended up in a constant state of overblown anxiety – with daily panic attacks. It was awful, but I kept internalizing everything and never felt like I had the right to be angry or hurt or happy (because she too, was very unhappy and house dare I feel good if she did not!).
      I’m still working through it all, but that was a horrible way to be.
      I hope you and letter whose got/get to find your way out too.

      • Oh, God, yes. This was me, too, around the end. Even if I wasn’t directly upset at my ex at the time, there was a lot of unhappiness held in where I didn’t feel like I could freely express myself about certain circumstances.

      • Madb said:

        “I didn’t intend to X” is such a trigger phrase for me due to my abuser.

    • This. My abusive ex used “I’m not trying to be mean to you” as a way to shut me down whenever I brought up a problem, along with “you have a tendency to assume the worst.” Not only did I fall for it and wind up apologizing for what was often legitimate and reasonable anger and hurt, I wound up trying to make myself smaller because I was fooled into thinking I was the problem. Never again.

  35. rmloro said:

    LW, you are quite the opposite of selfish or lazy. You are incredibly selfless and generous and resilient and hard working and patient for putting up with a relationship that hurts you and makes you small and makes you doubt your own feelings and perceptions. On top of that, you are trying to fix things for HIM, too! If that is not the opposite of selfish or lazy, I don’t know what is. You are a big, beautiful soul, and nothing of this is your fault, and believe me, you will be happy again!

    But, as for the advice you ask for… You cannot save this relationship by yourself. That would require your husband to also want to fix it, and he obviously doesn’t, because he does not see you or treat you as a full human being.

    Keep building your Team You, keep going to counseling, do not cancel dancing plans, and make sure you put yourself first ALWAYS! ❤ That is not selfishness, that is basic ethics, because how can we truly help other people if we ourselves are not all right? Xxxx

  36. DJ said:

    Captain a couple of other you can add to what you’d say to him:
    Dude
    If you feel you aren’t spending enough time with your wide open up a conversation on some hobbies and activities you can do together
    If you need so much time to unwind then accept your wife will find her own things to do. The alternative is to be hassled and asked have you unwound yet?
    Get off your high horse and see there are other people local people out there that could prove to be as good friends as your college friends.

    LW has your counsellor mentioned the possibility of emotional abuse. Or just endlessly banging on about your childhood saying you will figure out what to do if you do this enough (like years) therapy! Maybe another counsellor if this is the situation

    • sconn said:

      Yeah, I was thinking the husband could just PLAN stuff. You know? She has nights where she isn’t busy. He knows what kinds of things she enjoys. He can just plan some dates! If he wants to have fun times with his wife, this is entirely in his power to fix.

  37. BigDogLittleCat said:

    LW, your letter breaks my heart. It disproves every negative thing you say about yourself.

    You remind me so much of Thistle, the main character in the Daughter of the Lilies webcomic.
    She’s a kind, intelligent, brave, sweet, selfless, super talented, well-liked and respected, kick-ass superstar, who happens to have a demon in her head who has convinced her she’s crap.

    I’m so glad you’re in dance. Dancing is great at getting rid of demons.
    You are awesome. Allow your awesome self to live your awesome life.

    • Back when I could dance, before the pain…

      No matter how many vicious, cruel people in the world told me I am ugly, I always, every. single. time. felt beautiful while I was dancing.

  38. rydra_wong said:

    “(I feel like I tend to be more in the present, but just because I think that doesn’t mean that is true).”

    So this is when the hairs started rising on the back of my neck, LW, because you are so reflexively undermining yourself.

    It’s true, thoughts are not always accurate! Cognitive-behavioural therapy is built on this insight! But … this doesn’t mean that all your thoughts are inherently wrong and untrustworthy, and it *especially* doesn’t mean that your husband’s thoughts about you are any more valid.

    (And it doesn’t mean you can’t examine thoughts and go some way towards seeing which ones are supported by evidence and which ones aren’t.)

    I think this is either the result of active gaslighting or of trying so hard to “understand how [your husband] feels” at the expense of your own perceptions of reality that you’re doing it to yourself. Or a mixture of both.

    • Maybee said:

      This is exactly what i was thinking. From that first paragraph, it is apparent that the LWs husband has so persistently degraded the LW to herself that it is automatic now to assume she is at fault and that her judgement must be wrong. Her husband has created an entire reality and forced LW to agree that ths sky is actually purple. LW, your judgement is not wrong. You are not selfish, and having hobbies and friends and a life is okay. For your husband to try and undermine your support network and act in a controlling way is not okay. And please, please understand that having to regularly try and stop yourself from breaking down because your husband is sending you abusive messages is not a thing anyone should have to deal with.

      Also, i know that you see his behaviour in terms of depression after moving away from friends. However, if you look at it in terms of an abusive relationship, what it also looks like is new level of commitment + you being removed from your normal support network = the standard stage at which an abuser will ramp up their abuse. This happens with all sorts of commitment stages like moving in together, getting married, having a baby, etc. Even if it was just depression that does not in any way, at all excuse it. A hell of a lot of people have depression and don’t emotionally and verbally abuse their spouses.

      You’re doing so well to keep it together, and i really really hope he can either get help, or you can get out. It seems obvious from your letter you are someone who will seek out positivity in life, and you will rediscover that again in full once you are no longer being held back by someone who wants to tear you down in order to make you a target for his own shitty feelings

  39. Another dancing anon. said:

    This sounds so horrifyingly familiar. Like, I am creeped out by the level of similarity here to what I endured. Right down to the dance classes. O_O

    LW, I am sorry this is happening.

    I too was married to a guy who saw it as my duty to make him happy, and treated everything I did for myself as selfish. He resented it when I tried to spend time alone with my only friend, he came home angry from work, yelled about how much he hated it, then collapse into a heap in his chair and say he was exhausted and become unavailable to support ME. He called me selfish and manipulative for crying about feeling lonely and overwhelmed.

    I was hopelessly unhappy by 5 years in, but I stayed for 21 years.

    LW, it almost killed me. And it certainly destroyed my spirit. I had shrunk myself so small, trying to prove to him, to myself, to the world I felt was judging me for being a poor wife, that therr was nothing left of me.

    I too felt I could not leave. By the end I was literally just waiting to die because that is the only way I could ever be free without leaving and proving myself the selfish person he said I was.

    We tried couples counseling but he could never see his own flaws and blamed everything on other people. Me, his boss and coworkers, his parents, anyone but himself.

    I read dozens of books, too. I worked hard to become self aware, I worked hard on my communication skills, I learned how to “compromise” (which really just meant how to knuckle under). He learned nothing except that hurting me was okay with me. He never did any work to become a better person.

    I went into therapy. He did too, at my insistence. He refused medication for his depression and anxiety and treated therapy as a place to vent about his awful life, which it IS, but he never treated it like a place to work on his issues, which it also is. He just refused to make a single positive change, ever, in 21 goddamn years.

    I finally reached my limit when he began seeing another woman because I, despite working myself down to a nub to make his terrible life bearable, wasn’t enough anymore. I am ashamed to say that I put up with that for two years because I liked her and I understood what he saw in her, and I didn’t blame him for needing more than someone who is mentally ill and disabled (which I am). But eventually I couldn’t take it anymore — the last straw was him getting mad at me when I had a panic attack so bad I couldn’t drive myself home and needed to pull over for a while, delaying his appointment with his adulterous girlfriend. I didn’t even ask him to come get me, just said I would be a little late. He was furious, berated me over the phone, and hung up on me, saying I was selfish. For having a panic attack, just as if that is something I would have asked for!

    I made him move out two years ago and finished the divorce paperwork a year ago this month.

    I have never felt so happy and so free. I am in a new relationship now, with a REALLY cool woman who loves and appreciates me for who I am and never makes me feel like I am too much.

    I say all this because I want you to understand: I have been there.

    I know you don’t want a divorce. But I’m sorry, you need to get out of there, divorce or not, because in an effort to fill the gaping hole inside him he WILL devour your life before he budges from his chair to get himself something to eat.

    A lot of folks above me are recommending moving out without a divorce. I agree. Do it. Permanently. No second chances. I don’t believe therapy will help this guy.

    Please go. There is no version of your story in which you don’t end up carved away to nothing, miserable, and effectively alone because he is not emotionally supporting you in return.

    Please take my word for it. This will erase you little by little. Get out now. I wish I had listened when people told me I should. I wish I had let myself dance instead of quitting classes. Please. Please get out.

    • I’m glad you left him. You have the joy of freedom for the rest of your life.

    • rmloro said:

      You are so resilient and brave! Well done for leaving!

  40. Guava said:

    Also, LW: YOU ARE A GOOD WRITER. And keep dancing!

  41. roramich said:

    LW: EVEN IF YOU ARE selfish/lazy/infinite negative judgement word here, you still get to have a better life than this. YOU STILL GET TO HAVE A BETTER LIFE THAN THIS. This marriage isn’t working out for either of you. You don’t have to blame anyone, or find the perfect explanation, it’s just not working. And you don’t have to stay forever in something that is not working. You can stop carrying the load of this marriage. You are allowed to just… put it down and walk into a better place. Godspeed.

    • Flawed people deserve happiness, too! However, not at the expense of other people.

      LW is a flawed human being (because all human beings are flawed), and she’s not actively hurting anyone. Her husband, another flawed human being, IS actively hurting someone. There is a huge difference.

      Roramich, thanks for pointing out what no one here was saying, that regardless of LW’s flaws, whatever they may be (although I suspect they are not selfishness or laziness), she still deserves to be happy!

      LW, if you move out (divorce or separation), or kick your husband out, he will call it selfishness, because you are taking away his support. But he will never learn to fend for himself if he doesn’t have to.

  42. You don’t have to be perfect to have standing to be unhappy with how someone treats you.

  43. Jen said:

    LW I know there are many calls for divorce here and I get them. I truly do. But if you are not wanting to consider divorce, for whatever your reasons may be, I would suggest to stop engaging in the discussions with him. I don’t mean ignore him entirely. You can still be active in the relationship, go to dinner, etc. I mean when he starts in on your being at dance class too much, for example, say something like I’m sorry you feel that way and walk away. It’s hard to do this at first because I think we are taught to try to work things out, don’t go to bed angry, convince the other person you are right, etc. I employed this strategy for a period of time with my husband when I had a new hobby that was “taking too much time” (it was not). He eventually realized I was not going to engage on the matter and stopped. I was not wrong and I knew I was not so I wasn’t going to entertain him trying to tell me I was wrong. You are not wrong. Don’t let him tell you otherwise. If it doesn’t get better, you can decide what you want to do for you.

    • Scarlet said:

      Sorry, but she really needs to remove herself from this situation asap. She’s been enduring verbal abuse and gaslighting for the whole duration of her marriage and it won’t get any better. It’s already severely undermined her self-esteem and her own perception of reality, as we can clearly see in her letter.
      1. It’s really hard to ignore someone who’s cutting you down and insulting you all the time. Even if you try to ignore them, their words get to you. The longer she stays, the harder it will be to regain enough self-confidence to walk out.
      2. I’m VERY concerned that if she starts ignoring him, he’ll escalate to physical abuse.
      I too understand that divorce is not an easy decision (and it takes time anyway), but I think the best course of action would be to consult a lawyer and see how she can physically separate from him as soon as possible. This is not a tolerable situation for her.

      • Just, no.

        The LW does not need other people, even well meaning people, telling her what she MUST do.

        I believe that the LW will be happier away from her husband. I agree that he’s an abusive creep.

        Nonetheless, the LW gets to choose her own actions.

        • Scarlet said:

          For what it’s worth, I said “need”, not “must”. Of course, she chooses her own actions, we’re not exactly in a position to choose for her, are we?

  44. DF said:

    LW, for what it’s worth, my extremely Catholic aunt divorced her husband in the late 70s because he was not a great guy, and it wasn’t doing her, or her children, any good keeping him in their life.

    And you know what? Then she met an awesome guy in the 80s, and her priest married them (without requiring an annulment!) a few years ago, because he knew that their lives and their happiness were worth more than the “rules.”

    Any decent Catholic, any decent priest, would want you to get away from someone who is so toxic, you’re at risk of forgetting how to love yourself, let alone your partner. It’s easy to use that as an excuse to stay, so you don’t have to face your Church or your parents, but you need to be at least open to the possibility if things are going to get better.

    P.S. you’re not a poor writer!

  45. Still and Storm said:

    LW, you say you’re too lazy to divorce. I get that divorce is a long process that may seem daunting, but is it more work than all the work you’ve been doing to try and make your husband happy? Is it more work than you’ll spend doing throughout your whole life if you stay with him?

    It’s hard to change the status quo, yes. But think of all the things you could do with that energy once you’re free – or all the delicious, lazy times you could be enjoying instead, by yourself, with your friends, or maybe with some new, much kinder man.

    If you could snap your fingers and be divorced right now, would you?
    Would you choose to marry your husband the way he is right now?

  46. Oh, LW, no wonder you are Worn Out.

    I dated a man who sucked the energy out of me, too. The main differences between him and your husband are that my ex was not mean (well, not actively, but I suspect a lot of his inactions were deliberate acts of passive-aggression to punish me for…um…trying to have a life, maybe?) and did not have a job the entire time we lived together. He did do chores in the early days, but eventually those faded as well.

    It is tiring, being around someone who is clearly miserable but won’t take any steps to make themselves un-miserable all the time. It’s even more tiring when you’ve convinced yourself that you are stuck with this person until one or both of you die – though I am not Catholic, I was convinced that my own slate of mental and physical ailments would be too much for anyone else to consider dealing with, and anyway, looking for someone else sounded like too much for me to be dealing with (spoiler alert: I told myself I’d take some time after I dumped him and stay the hell away from dating or thinking about dating until I wanted to do so. It’s been almost five years, and I love flying solo so much that I still haven’t had any desire to do so!).

    Anxiety and depression on their own are not dealbreakers, though I would guess yours will become a great deal more manageable once you break free from him. As for his, well, they’re his issues to manage, not yours. It’d be one thing if he were seeking out help and asked you to support him in specific ways, being understanding if you said that you couldn’t support him in those specific ways. But he’s not.

    You deserve better, LW. You deserve freedom to dance and be responsible for no one’s moods but your own and embrace the wonders of being selfish. And while you might not be looking at divorce right now (and I am no expert, so take the following with a grain of salt), I’ve heard that there are liberal parishes whose leaders understand the toll emotional abuse can take and who will give you guidance and blessings should you wish to pursue that option down the road.

    Best wishes.

  47. Clarry said:

    More ideas for strategies to help you deal:

    Go to as many dance events as you want.
    Call his bluffs when he declares ultimatums. Honestly, I’m not even sure what “ultimatum” means in this context, but if he’s threatening something in terms of “If you do X (like go out without him), then I’ll do Y (like begin divorce proceedings), listen, nod, say “you do what you have to do” and then go out.
    If you’ve made plans, even plans for relaxing at home, don’t drop your plans at the last minute for his.
    When he complains, calls names, accuses, or drops how he feels on you, answer with “That sounds like a serious symptom of depression or anxiety. I recommend a therapist and doctor to help you with that.” Go into broken record mode with this one. When he says that he can’t do something to help his depression or anxiety because of his depression or anxiety, answer with “that sounds like a serious symptom of depression or anxiety …”
    For the housework, do only the amount you need in order to live in a clean orderly place. Tell him once that you’re no longer doing his laundry. If there are 2 bathrooms, stop cleaning his. Don’t let anything deteriorate to health hazard mode, but do whatever housework you do for you. If he complains, listen, nod, and say “that sounds like a problem” or “sounds like this bothering you,” then suggest perhaps he’d like to clean up after himself or to hire and pay for a housecleaner. No emotion on your part.
    You say you’re too lazy for divorce, but try staying away from him for a week or two. See what that does for your energy levels. You say he lays into you with accusations and name calling about once a week. Next time, tell him that you’re taking some time to stay with a friend (or a hotel) the moment he starts. Just reach for your pre-packed bag and go. Text once to tell him you’re safe (but not where you can be reached) and just wait.

  48. Erin McJ said:

    This is a heartbreaking letter. What jumped out at me was all the inconsequential things the writer instinctively apologized for. That is not a good sign – that suggests to me that apologizing for existing has become a habit, and it’s easy to imagine where it came from. I concur with the captain: don’t give up dance. Please do think about giving up on this man.

  49. jp said:

    LW, get out. Get out now. This man is abusive and controlling. He will only get worse.
    What chilled me to the bone was how he behaves when you are out at dance events–jealous, upset, doesn’t know what to do until you come home. I was once put on that same short leash.

    I should have run the first time a friend told me, “Those Tuesday nights when you go off to yoga and your creative writing group? He’s…beside himself til you get home.” I should have run the first time a nice person from that group asked me to join them after for a friendly beer, and I stammered out an incoherent answer, realizing in that instant I COULD NOT GO; I WAS NOT ALLOWED TO GO, that I could not face the rage that would result if I went for that innocent beer.

    You don’t want to see what this turns into. When I finally got free, I wondered sincerely more than once if he would kill me.

  50. Jenny Islander said:

    LW, you can’t love this guy all better. You just can’t. Read the recommended book, very soon, because I think you’ll start seeing your way through this mess when you have some names for what’s happening. But start keeping in mind right now that love doesn’t just beam out into the universe and Make Things Happen: somebody has to be receiving it on the other end. And for whatever reason, he can’t. He probably can’t even see it.

    Maybe he’s a good guy with a bad condition. Maybe he’s always been a terrible person and he’s just stopped fronting around you. It actually doesn’t matter. The day-to-day course of this marriage has become him picking you apart, bit by bit, and it’s about as sacramental as what my cat just did in the dirty laundry hamper.

    You don’t have to divorce him. But you don’t have to let him touch you or speak to you ever again either. Nowhere in your wedding vows did the words “I promise to let you chew on my spirit every time you get upset by something while never expecting you to handle your own emotional crap” cross your lips. He is sinning against you, every day and pretty much all day. Letting him continue like this is not your job.

    You call yourself lazy and selfish…but all I see is weariness and anguish. Please find a reason to go away for a few days, turn your phone off, and just rest.

    • Jenny Islander said:

      Also, please do what NotPiffany said even if you don’t go anywhere but work. Anybody who thinks it’s okay to harass their spouse at work is capable of spitefully destroying their proofs of identity and draining their joint accounts. Maybe he’d just do it in a fit of rage and regret it later, but the effect would be the same.

      • A bug-out bag is a great idea, even if things are running smoothly, actually. Natural disasters happen. The first 72 hours are the most important, and a bit of preparation can go a long way.

        Only, in a healthy marriage, you keep everyone’s bug-out bags together, at home. In LW’s case, she should keep it at the home of a trusted friend, or even in a safe-deposit box or a rented locker.

  51. J said:

    Wow the phrase ‘make your life small enough!’ Really fits. I was married to someone like this. Wasn’t like this when we dated. Became increasingly like this, and was to the point he literally wanted to control everything I did who I spoke to. Girl this is not about his depression or his nostalgia or that he’s oh so sensitive. This is about him controlling you and amusing you to make himself happy. If he loves you would he really expect you to give up your life for him? If you have kids is this what you want to model? That your kids grow up thinking mommies have to do what daddies want? Or else? That was the clincher for me and I was never happier than when I was finally free to live my life

    • J said:

      ‘Abusing’ not ‘amusing’

    • “If he loves you would he really expect you to give up your life for him? ”

      I recently read “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall,” and was shocked and dismayed to discover that that was EXACTLY the prevailing sentiment at the time (Yes, I looked it up, because WTF?!), that a husband’s job was to please himself and a wife’s job was to please her husband. The narrator’s mother taught her daughter this, even to the point of denying her daughter the right to have her own favorite foods, but always the food was chosen to please the sons, and the daughter could NEVER get her own way. Also, if a man was “good,” the mere fact that a woman did not like him, at all, and after three hours in his company was ready to scream (and probably after the wedding night would have been looking for a brick-bat to bludgeon him with) was not enough for her to refuse his proposal. Only his having a “real” character flaw, such as addiction or dishonesty, etc., were good enough reasons. Not “But I can’t stand the man.” It was her JOB to stand him.

      The narrator was a young man, who had some flaws that he would, as he aged, get the better of, but at least he always had the notion that if he loved a woman, he would live his life in a way that would please HER.

      Also, if he loved her, he would amuse her to make himself happy, because seeing her happy made him happy. The narrator ticked me off a few times, but I could see the growth in him, and was happy for him to find love, because he was deserving of it.

      The husband of the Tenant of Wildfell Hall, on the other hand, well… No spoilers, but if you can’t get “Why Does He Do That,” at least read Tenant, because it shows how this sort of situation can go, if left unchecked, AND it gives an excellent example of a woman who did not let it destroy her, but found the strength to deal with it. Note, she did not deal alone. She had a Team Heroine, and she used it, on her own terms.

      Ummm, while you’re reading classic literature by a Bronte sister, please avoid Wuthering Heights. Sure, it’s well written, but dang! That relationship is SO messed up. And Heathcliff is NOT sexy or a romantic hero. He’s just scary. Jane Eyre leaves me yelling at the woman (he keeps messing with your mind! Why do you even like him? He plays cruel pranks on you, and it’s NOT SEXY! I don’t care if Timothy Dalton is sexy, Mr. Rochester is NOT!), but Tenant of Wildfell Hall left me wondering why it was not required reading in high school!

      http://www.harkavagrant.com/index.php?id=202 – an excellent comic illustrating the virtues of the different Bronte sisters. Yes, they could all write and tell a ripping tale, but geeeez!

      Tenant of Wildfell Hall rocks! Much better than Romeo and Juliet, where six people died because a couple of young teenagers decided “You’re hot!” Seriously, Romeo was waxing poetic about Rosamund JUST BEFORE he saw Juliet, and suddenly he’s going to commit to someone forever? After already being committed to Rosamund, who had the good sense to know a ninny when she saw one? Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy, but not because the parents wouldn’t allow the match. It was a tragedy because Romeo and Juliet did not have Captain Awkward and the Army to help them figure out what to do.

      Sorry if I rambled there. My pain pill is kicking in. Anyway, LW’s problem reminded me of the book, and it was strange how the more she tried to please her husband, the more he was dissatisfied and pulled away. Because a person cannot fill the holes in another person’s soul, no matter how hard they try.

      • roramich said:

        I really love everything about your comment here!

        • Thank you! Huh. I thought this got lost to the interwebs, but I guess it was just in moderation.

  52. Liz Barr said:

    Dearest LW, I feel really bad for you.

    If it helps any — my parents were/are deeply conservative Catholics. My father studied to be a priest. My mother worked for a pro-life organisation. They were very active in the parish when I was a kid.

    And when my mother left, her parish priest and the local nuns were her biggest supporters, because my father was quite abusive in many ways. Some of his behaviours were similar to your husband’s. My mother spent fifteen years pouring time and money and love into a relationship, and got nothing back. The effort absolutely broke her.

    They got divorced, the church annulled the marriage. I know my mother is sad that she couldn’t make it work, but she also knows that one partner cannot singlehandedly make a marriage function.

    I hope this information helps you.

    (Also, you don’t sound lazy. You sound exhausted. Be kind to yourself, LW, you’ve been working hard.)

  53. I feel like I tend to be more in the present, but just because I think that doesn’t mean that is true

    Oh, LW, my heart started sinking as soon as I read this. It makes me so sad that you don’t feel allowed to even describe your own self without hedging.

    He also likes to complain that when I go to dance (I am currently a competitive dancer, so I dance 2 days a week) I am out of the house for much longer than I really am, and that all I do revolves around dance.

    Wat. That is just not true, LW’s husband. If you only dance 2 days a week, then it is simply not possible that all you do revolves around dance. I mean, you must be doing something on the other 5 days, right? Also props for being good enough for competition while only practicing 2 days a week. I’m not any sort of expert but 2 days a week doesn’t sound like much practice to me so I think you must be an excellent student.

    He has a bad habit of talking about heavy issues through emails at work, while he doesn’t like to discuss things at home. Sometimes he can lay it on thick and really tear into my personality and how awful of a person I am and how much I am hurting him (I get called names pretty consistently).

    Okay now I’m really mad. It is not okay to email people at WORK about personal issues. That is wildly inappropriate and would still be even if he just wanted to calmly and kindly discuss a problem he’s having with a friend and get your input. It’s WORK! He is supposed to be WORKING while he’s at WORK, so wtf is he doing composing long mean emails on the job?

    Not only that but there’s no “heavy issue” that can’t fucking wait a few hours until you’re both home. WTF are you supposed to do about his deep unhappiness at WORK while you are WORKING?

    It’s also just not okay to call people names. It’s also extra not okay to do that in an email where you have all the time you want to edit and cool down. That is not a bad habit, that is straight up meanness. He is being mean because he likes being mean.

    If you’re so awful, why the fuck doesn’t he just leave you? My dirtbag ex was basically the same way, to hear him tell it I was the worst girlfriend ever to worst. Everything I ever did, said, thought, or felt was stupid and I was also a huge jerk for never opening up to him. If I was so terrible, why on earth didn’t he leave me? Because he liked hurting me. He liked controlling me. He liked it when I felt like shit and tried desperately to make him happy. He liked it.

    I feel like I am constantly changing my plans to suit his needs and wants only to get yelled at about it all later on, or to be told bluntly everything that is wrong with my personality and my thought process.

    Okay this is creeping me out now. Your husband isn’t from the interior of BC, Canada, is he? Because he sounds spookily like my ex. He loved to tell me everything that was wrong with my personality and thought process.

    Both of us are too lazy to divorce and I’m (relatively) Catholic, so I don’t think that’s something I’d want to do in the end anyway.

    I can’t really understand what you’re going through because I’m not Catholic (or any variety of Christian, for that matter), but here’s what I think about marriage: if one person decides to kill it, there’s nothing the other one can do to save it. If your partner decides to treat you like dirt, what you have is no longer a marriage, it’s a trap. If you were to do the potentially-expensive, painful, and tedious work of getting a legal divorce, all you would be doing was admitting that the marriage he killed is dead. He murdered your marriage, all you would be doing by getting a divorce is laying the corpse to rest.

    I’m not trying to make myself out as a “holier-than-thou” type of person, even though I am sure that’s exactly what I’m doing, but I would like to illustrate that I am trying

    Also, my apologies for being such a poor writer.

    LW, I wish I could give you the biggest hug. That thing where you’re being super mean about yourself? I will bet you any amount of money that’s your husband talking. You do not come off as even the slightest bit holier than thou! Your clear and coherent writing shows me a person who is trying terribly, terribly hard to make their marriage work even though their partner doesn’t seem to like them the slightest bit and is also actively being mean to them.

    You deserve better, LW. You deserve to dance to your heart’s content, you deserve to get through every single workday without anyone being mean to you for the sake of being mean, you deserve never to be called names again, you deserve never to hear about your every supposed “flaw” from the person who is supposed to be your *partner*, you deserve all the good things.

  54. Amy said:

    LW, I think everyone is right and you should be separating from this guy. If divorce isn’t in the cards, then move out without divorcing–being single would at least give you room to live the vibrant, fun life you’ve developed, and you deserve that.

    But in case you’ve decided you’re not doing that…here’s what I think would need to happen for this to turn into a happy marriage.
    – Your husband needs to accept that you are not responsible for managing his social schedule, his feelings, or his general existence. He needs to start handling those things on his own. His shit is his shit to manage–he can ask for help on occasion, but he doesn’t get to completely hand off his stuff to you.
    – Your husband needs to seek treatment for his anxiety and depression. Alternatively, if he doesn’t want treatment for whatever reason, he needs to find ways to get chores and other tasks done in spite of them. His choice which path he takes. “I can’t do anything because of X, and I also refuse to do anything about X, so you need to do everything for me” isn’t an acceptable long-term plan, though–that’s not fair to you.
    – Your husband needs to accept that you have hobbies and spend some of your time on them. Doing a thing twice a week is not a big deal!!! If he’s bored or lonely while you’re gone, that’s his problem to handle–he can choose to learn to sit with those feelings, or find other activities to occupy himself with. But he doesn’t get to tell you to stop doing something you love just because he doesn’t like it. That’s controlling and not OK.
    – Your husband needs to accept when you aren’t available. When you’re at work, you’re not available for relationship talk (of course you don’t have time for him right then! you’re at work! where you are being paid to use your time in a specific way! that is not on him!). When you’re at a dance event, you’re not available to go to an event with friends or hang out at home with him. These aren’t invitations to wear you down until you give in; they’re boundaries, and very reasonable ones. He doesn’t get to ignore your boundaries or kick them down just because he doesn’t like them. Ignoring clear boundaries is a serious red flag for abusive or controlling behavior, so this is a big deal.
    – Your husband needs to stop calling you names and belittling you. That is abusive and needs to stop immediately. He always needs to talk about you with respect, always, even when he’s angry, even when he’s sad, always. Non-negotiable. This is an even bigger deal than the boundaries thing; if he can’t be bothered to offer you the basic respect we show to strangers, that’s really bad.

    I could go on, but I think you’re noticing the trend here. These are all things your husband needs to do. If he chooses not to do these things, then you are not going to have a happy marriage. That’s no fault of yours–you can’t force him to do them. You’re already doing what you can to support him, but a partnership inherently takes two people, and right now you only have one. You can’t hold a partnership together all on your own.

  55. Mrs. Ghastly said:

    LW, I spent 16 years with a man who treated me this way. I simultaneously recognized that his behavior was abusive and yet internalized and believed every horrible thing he said about me. Like you, I was too ashamed to tell anyone what he was doing to me, which made it really hard (ok, impossible) to have honest, meaningful relationships with anyone else—no close friendships (he accused me of sleeping with anyone I spent more than 15 minutes with regardless of their gender or orientation, which made it kind of hard to maintain friendships.) To this day even close family has no idea what I went through, because I kept our interactions distant and superficial, so they couldn’t possibly guess.

    In my case I stayed because we had a child together, and I thought I owed it to my child to raise him with both parents. (Child of divorce myself, so I wanted to spare my son from what I went through.) It wasn’t until I was finally out that I could see that raising my son in that environment didn’t do him any favors.
    I’ve spent a lot of time since getting out being angry at MYSELF for putting up with this for so long, and wasting so much of my life being miserable. Even now that I’ve been married for four years to a wonderful man who is always kind, loving, supportive, and FUN, I still struggle with low self esteem and anxiety. I actively have to remind myself that I don’t, actually, have all those shitty qualities that my ex managed to convince me I had.

    Like many of the other commenters here, I see you second guessing yourself and your perceptions and making a lot of statements about bad characteristics that you believe yourself to have, without a lot of evidence that you are any of those things aside from the fact that your husband has told you so. The longer you stay with this man, the more you will come to believe these things about yourself, and the less you will recognize your true self. You can be happy, and deserve to be happy, but it doesn’t sound like you will ever make your husband happy. How much more of your life do you want to spend trying?

  56. human said:

    Hey LW, you say some things about yourself — like that you are selfish or holier-than-thou — and you almost seem to think that we will think those things about you after reading your letter. But, I really don’t. Some people who write to CA definitely sound selfish and/or holier-than-thou, but not you. I read your entire letter and you sound to me like a kind, decent, conscientious person. I think you care about the people around you and about fulfilling your responsibilities to the best of your ability. I also think that you’ve done a really good job coming up with smart strategies to deal with a difficult and stressful situation. All the things you’ve tried to make your life and marriage better, would have most likely worked (or at least resulted in some improvements) if your husband was dealing with you in good faith and willing to meet you halfway. I agree with the captain: stick with your counseling and stick with your hobby. You’ve been doing all right so far. There really isn’t much of anything you can do to get your husband to stop behaving the way he is. It sucks. And you so don’t deserve it! You’re doing well. Keep being that thoughtful and conscientious person, and be sure to reserve a good measure of kindness for yourself, and I think you will keep making good decisions and as a result things will get better for you.

    • doubleink said:

      ^^^

      LW: If you have friends or family you can trust with a conversation about your marriage, I would like you to ask them for their view on whether you are selfish, lazy and ‘holier-than-thou’. These are people who know you and I hope they will give you perspective on how your husband makes you feel. Your letter reads not as selfish, but as someone who has been made constantly to feel bad about themselves, their choices, and everything they do to try and improve their life. When did you start thinking of yourself as selfish and lazy? Did that feeling start because of your husband’s treatment? Do you feel selfish and lazy when you are around other people? When you are away from him, do you feel more confident?

      Is dancing lazy? Is working hard to make your marriage work lazy? Is it selfish of you to give your husband so much leeway to control your time and put you down?

      Even if you’re struggling to see yourself in a positive light, ask yourself: Does being selfish and lazy mean you deserve to be insulted and shouted at? (No, it doesn’t.)

      If you leave, this will be an act of self-preservation, or you protecting yourself. Not selfishness. You deserve to be happy, you deserve to be able to pursue your hobbies without being made to feel guilty for them. You deserve people in your life who aren’t demanding and harsh. If there are flaws in your personality that you need to tackle, that’s what your counsellor is there for. You don’t need him to be putting you down.

      Stay safe.

  57. NotPiffany said:

    LW, I would like you to do four things for me tomorrow:

    1.Grab your birth certificate and social security card (or local equivalent) before you leave in the morning.
    2.Before you go in to work, head to a bank and open a new bank account (assuming you currently have a joint account) and a safe-deposit box in ONLY YOUR NAME.
    3. Put your ID documents in your brand new safe-deposit box.
    4. Once you get to work, change your direct deposit so that most, if not all, of your paycheck goes into the new account.

    If you’ve got bills automatically coming out of your joint account, you can switch them to your new account and change the passwords so that your husband doesn’t see them. You may not be ready to leave just yet (though I hope you get there soon), but you should make sure that you have a cushion he can’t touch if you decide to leave him.

    • NotPiffany said:

      In step 1, also your passport, if you have a current one. Basically all of your identification.

      Also, when you have a few moments to yourself at work, order a copy of your marriage certificate. Have it mailed to you at the office. It goes in the safe-deposit box, too. I’d like you to have all of the documents you need to prove your identity in a safe place outside your home, just in case you need them later. Please?

      • B.B. said:

        This is excellent advice. Because it happened to me, I would add—know that if your husband has incurred any debt since the wedding (there may be debt you do not know about) that you may be legally responsible for it as well, as long as you are married, in the US.

        Look into the laws in your state and do keep divorce open as an option. Protect yourself.

        Also: leaving exactly this sort of relationship was the best decision I have ever made. The lightness and freedom I have felt has been 100% worth the challenges. You deserve a relationship that sustains and holds you, and where you receive as much as you are giving, and you can trust in another human being to treat you with care and respect.

    • Scarlet said:

      THIS. So much this.
      I would also like to highlight the importance of CA’s recommendation on contraception. Please, please, make sure you’re 100% in control of your contraception and he cannot mess with it.

    • gytherin said:

      Seconding all of this. I didn’t do it, and it was a desperate scramble afterwards to gather all these documents together. And I didn’t have a separate bank account, and was short of food for a while.

      I know doing all this makes it seem more real, more like something you’ll have to deal with. Please grit your teeth and just do it. You’ll be taking back your agency, bit by bit. (Be prepared for a reaction to your money going into a separate account, though.)

      Please do this as soon as you can, before you lose your health. I lost mine and it isn’t worth it.,

  58. AnnieBanannie said:

    So. My husband and I are similarly mismatched in terms of energy level and social activity needs. I do know he feels a little sad about his life and would like it to be different but for Depression Reason and Introvert Reasons this is Hard For Him. The gigantic difference that can’t be ignored is that my husband supports me doing my thing (Judo) and hanging out with friends because he wants me to do the things that make me happy. He recognizes his limitations and regrets them, but is particularly conscientious to make sure that his limits don’t hold me down out of misguided obligation.

    Now, we have been together for donkey’s years, and it has taken work to negotiate this difference. But he has always been clear on what his worst self might look like and taken steps to move away from that. Also, we have two kickass kids, so making space for me to do my activities means showing up for housework and meals and homework and kid-raising. And he does.

    All that to say that a couple can be very different in many areas of life, even to the point of one feeling content with many choices and the other filled with existential angst, without one person constantly browbeating the other to steal their joy. That is not okay.

  59. Jackalope said:

    Just wanted to say that I’m a casual just-for-fun dancer who goes in 2-3 nights a week and sometimes on weekends for special events. My good friend who is more serious and has done some competitions goes 5 days a week. Just to say that 2x/week isn’t that much. This doesn’t answer all of the other issues in your letter but just wanted to put that out there.

  60. DJ said:

    Captain Awkward love your comment about the Catholic Church not being the one that needs to live with him.
    In Aust churches were recently discovered that they were telling DV victims they were at fault had to try harder and were forced out of the congregation for leaving. The Anglican Church says there are onlt 2 grounds for divorce being abandoned and unfaithfulness. And still you need to try. Let’s abuse off the hook.
    Yeah apparently you get forgiven but can’t remarry in the church.
    Anyone or thing who says that needs to be ignored

  61. DropTable~DropsMic said:

    > And he will keep feeling that you are controlling him, because he doesn’t believe that you should set any limits on his conduct or insist that he meet his responsibilities.

    This reminds me so much of my shitty ex. He’d manipulate and threaten me to get his way but when I asked him to do or not do anything I was “making” him do it.

    See also: asking people not to be racist/sexist/religious bigots getting you labeled a reverse racist/misandrist/intolerant of their beliefs.

  62. Indie said:

    When I was in your shoes, I didn’t want to divorce either. It’s a reasonable fear as divorce is indeed a shitstorm of misery and expense. Also the (sometimes ) kind, funny husband was (sometimes) really helped by me. The harder it got to help him the more rewarding when I succeeded! Aren’t I a super strong feminist who doesn’t need a man’s care anyway? And who cares if he takes pot shots at me in public and disses my degree? He’s remorseful later.

    Every piece of flat pack furniture was put together by me. Every sexual initiation. Every laundry load even though I’m super not domestic and leave that stuff where he has plenty of opportunities to get to it first. I’m Catholic too. We don’t divorce over laundry, sex and furniture no? But maybe we should take a look at the following golden rule.

    *if they don’t care about doing the small things which make you happy, it’s only a matter of time before the example is a big thing*

    Also

    *abusive language, written or otherwise, should (at minimum) be an instant NOPE involving a packing of bags an ‘I will not stand for that’ and a refusal to come home until he is reassuringly detailed about HOW he will better manage ugly feelings.

    I didn’t apply the sheelzebub principle. It was like this in year one, but I stayed till year ten until he cheated on me with a friend and gave me a big enough reason to see that adultery was inevitable with someone so callous about petty stuff.

    Will it break your heart to leave or separate? Yes in a big way! But it heals and is so so much better than getting your heart broken every day.

    My boyfriend just made me tea and went out to get me cold medicine. He has NEVER called me ‘not perfect either ‘ when I need something from him. Its awesome on the other side. Walk through the fire.

    • Indie said:

      Oh! Also if you do nothing else, protect your finances. Make sure he has no debts or credit issues, that he isnt solely responsible for anything like the mortgage that can affect you and keep your own safe little pot somewhere. Depressed + entitled usually = her money is my money but my money is my money.

  63. Heather said:

    Cautionery tale ahead: dudes who think the grass is greener can never be pleased.

    I dated a guy GeekDarth who had moved home after university still in the glow of being the ‘Guy who everyone knew and loved.’ And he was fun to begin with. GeekDarth slid into a crisis after moving in with me, I was a year older, hadn’t gone to uni and had spent my late teens and twenties working, living alone, travelling, learning how to adult. I was so conscious of how the mundanity of food shopping, cleaning and making friends made him angry and depressed – he had no clue how to do it. He wasn’t interested in trying either. One week we visited his old friends at his uni town and I saw how much GeekDarth had idealized and embellished that part of his life, his geek crew were no different than our friends. I left him after 18 months because it was making my mental health worse, at the time I felt like I’d failed because he took no joy in the life I valued, stability, hobbies, friends. It hurt me so much to feel inadequate.

    GeekDarth was *furious* that I ‘gave up’ and did mean things to spite me. We didn’t speak for years. Eventually we met up, he apologised and admitted he had continued to flounder at adulting after I left.

    At one point he said ‘the year with you was the happiest one of my life.’ It floored because he was so miserable with me. His had mentally rearranged our relationship and idealized it. All the faults he found with me had been rewritten just as he’d sworm he was his uni towns local hero. A month before this meet up with GeekDarth I had met my current fella (who is fun to do food shopping with and can adult like a boss) and my ex asked me “so do you think things with your new guy will pan out?” And I really did. It was an aha moment for me to know that I am an optimist who trusts that the universe has good things ahead and so is my fella. I need optimistic people around me who can adapt to change. I wasted a lot of time and energy on GeekDarth by trying to fix a trait he is actually pretty set on clinging on to.

    • Scarlet said:

      This sounds really similar to LW’s husband. College can be fun and I understand how people can feel dewy-eyed about the “Halcyon days of yore”, but someone who seems so intent on staying in a state of arrested development for 5 WHOLE YEARS is mind-boggling. I also think he’s probably idealizing this period of his life and I suspect his old college friends are less enthusiastic than he is about those reunions.
      (Of course, that’s absolutely not LW’s problem and there’s nothing she can do about it, but that guy could really use some therapy)

  64. B said:

    Alas LW, you and we cannot control your husband; I can say it sounds like what he is doing is wrong and you do not deserve any of this. Stand your ground LW and take the captain’s advice; Make an exit path if you can / are willing to. Otherwise, no more reading emails at work, no more breaking plans for him. And if he says something mean about you, CALL HIM OUT ON IT. “that’s a really mean thing to say”. Maybe leave the room if he starts to get mean. Spell out who does what chores so it doesn’t feel one-sided*
    He’s in a vortex of depression and fantasy about what was – besides being unfair and mean to you, catering to this /won’t help/. It’s actually enabling him to sink deeper. So the fact is that you SHOULD be good to yourself and not put up with this crap, just because you are a human being and deserve kindness and respect, and further catering to this isn’t helping anyway. If you can’t leave please reset this relationship now and don’t tolerate this bad behavior.

    *chores someone else does tend to be invisible and IMHO it can always feel like I am doing more unless the other person is doing like, 90% – so just spelling things out and making an agreeable schedule helps.

    • B said:

      Also seconding NotPiffany’s and other’s advice to separate and protect your financial assets now and have a way of making sure any bills he is responsible for are getting paid. It’s never a WRONG thing to do even if everything is amazing (husband and I have separate accounts + joint account for joint things – my money goes to my account first, bills get paid out of joint account which I can see, etc) and its definitely a good thing to do if things are rocky. Someone as entitled as your partner sounds might decide to help himself to funds at any time because spending often makes a quick and fleeting fix.

  65. Anisoptera said:

    Oof LW I have been there, trying desperately to fix a relationship with a guy who didn’t seem interested in trying at all, reading every scrap of advice I could find (he read exactly nothing, even when I brought him stuff to read that I’d found – he didn’t even read it to tear it down), frantically searching for what I was doing wrong and how to communicate better (he showed zero signs of doing this), constantly looking for new ways to raise any issues that wouldn’t set him off (he didn’t raise issues at all, he just punished me with passive aggressive BS whenever he felt I’d done something wrong). I hung around for far, far too long because I believed our relationship was more than it was – I believed in the illusion we’d had when we first got together. There was this functional relationship I was always fighting to get back. Except, it didn’t exist. I wasn’t looking to leave him, I was, like you, looking for a way to fix it. I looked for a solution until I’d worn myself down to dust, and he left me for someone else who wasn’t worn away to nothing.

    It took me a really long time to put myself back together. Please don’t do that to yourself. The husband you’ve described acts like he doesn’t care about you not because he’s lacking communication skills or because you aren’t quite doing everything right yourself. He acts like he doesn’t care because he doesn’t. If he did he wouldn’t treat you like this.

    You wrote in looking for a way to fix something that actually isn’t fixable, at least not by you. You can’t make your husband do the stuff he’d need to do to fix it. All you can do is get yourself away from it, and live your awesome life far away from a guy who’s actively trying to sabotage it. There’s no great Captain Awkward Approved communication strategy that will fix this. All that’s left is looking after yourself and getting away.

  66. queeriodical said:

    Just to flag up, the link about signs of emotional abuse, though otherwise generally good, contains the line: “Male and female abusers tend to have high rates of personality disorders including borderline personality disorder(BPD), narcissistic personality disorder(NPD), and antisocial personality disorder(ASPD)”. Yes there are complicated relationships between mental illness and abuse, but there are many many people with personality disorder diagnoses who go to great lengths to avoid ever harming anyone, and nearly all are survivors themselves. I have a diagnosis of BPD and I tend to avoid all emotional intimacy, pricisely because of this fear that the effects of my trauma could be so terrible, so toxic, no one should ever see it. I would never abuse anyone. It’s a lonely place to be but I feel I have to be this way. And there are many many abusers with no such history or diagnoses, it’s just plain old entitlement. I see this discourse of people who have particular complex mental health issues framed only as perpetrators, whilst people with others, like if we reframe it as complex ptsd, depression or anxiety get to be victims, and it can be really harmful. Can we not just talk about behaviours without being amateur psychologists? It hurts to go to such great lengths not to harm anyone yet still be assumed to be bad.

    • Morticia said:

      I also had a problem with the characterization of people who have experienced emotional abuse as “victims”. I am not a victim. I am a survivor. That word just has a very negative connotation, and I feel like there needs to be a better word.

      • I think the term ‘victims’ has a place, but it should always be accompanied (or replaced) by ‘survivor’.
        I’m an abuse survivor, but for a while I really did need the label victim. I needed that validation that I really had gone through something awful, and I really wasn’t the one at fault, that it wasn’t me doing the hurting but the one being hurt. I don’t think there’s a term that will suit everybody at every level, but I agree that we should try to find one!

      • Friendly Hipposcriff said:

        Would it help to make the decision that someone is a victim while it’s happening to them, and a survivor when it’s over? You do not _stay_ a victim for the rest of our life.

        • Friendly Hipposcriff said:

          Bah, autocorrect. Distinction.

    • Temperance said:

      FWIW, I am a child abuse survivor, and my mom is BPD, and it’s been really important to me and to many others in my position to have this relationship acknowledged. It’s not saying that all PD people are abusers, but acknowledging the link that exists for many.

      I was always told that my mother’s alleged emotional pain trumps all due to her illness, but, IMO, nothing excuses child abuse.

  67. Sheelzebub said:

    I’m struck by the fact that you’re in counselling to cope with your husband’s tantrums and behavior. You’re strategizing and doing all of this emotional work to either mitigate the effects of his mistreatment of you and/or to help him, while he just continues to go along his merry way, ripping into you. You’re the furthest thing from selfish! The common denominator is him.

    You’ve been subjected to this treatment for years. How much longer can you put up with it? Another year? Another 5? Another 10? He isn’t going to change. You deserve better than this.

    So here’s my suggestion: Separate. Do so legally, with your finances protected. I don’t mean, move out and have him convince you that he’ll change just so you’ll come back and he’ll revert. If you don’t want to divorce, separate. Live in your own place (or with roommates). See what your life is like. Maybe you don’t divorce-but live separately and see how that feels. Maybe you’ll change your mind about divorcing, or maybe you’ll decide to stay married but live separately, with separate finances.

    Get out of the environment that has been screwing with you. Breathe some fresh air in a place that is yours, with your own stuff, where you can live in peace. Take the Captain’s advice to filter his emails and all communication with you. I won’t tell you to cut him off totally but manage it so that you can deal with him when you’re not at work and are in a mental place where you can a) deal with his anger and b) set some boundaries and sign off. That would include filtering all of his emails, not looking at his calls or texts until a designated time during the day, etc.

    See what it’s like to live a peaceful life. See how it feels. Get back to being yourself and then decide from there what you want to do.

  68. Hysteria said:

    LW, I’ve run this letter through my high-precision Lazy-Meter and my infallible Selfishatron. The resulting data says that you are neither. So go have an awesome life, please. 💙

  69. rydra_wong said:

    “Both of us are too lazy to divorce and I’m (relatively) Catholic, so I don’t think that’s something I’d want to do in the end anyway.”

    That great theological resource Google tells me that the current Pope said that in some cases, separation is “inevitable” and may even be “morally necessary”, for reasons including harm caused “by humiliation and exploitation, by lack of involvement and indifference”.

    https://www.thedailybeast.com/pope-francis-says-marital-splits-sometimes-ok-in-extreme-cases

    And the US Conference of Catholic Bishops explicitly include psychological and verbal abuse as “violence”, and say:

    “Finally, we emphasize that no person is expected to stay in an abusive marriage. Some abused women believe that church teaching on the permanence of marriage requires them to stay in an abusive relationship. They may hesitate to seek a separation or divorce. They may fear that they cannot re-marry in the Church. Violence and abuse, not divorce, break up a marriage. We encourage abused persons who have divorced to investigate the possibility of seeking an annulment. An annulment, which determines that the marriage bond is not valid, can frequently open the door to healing.”

    http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/marriage/domestic-violence/when-i-call-for-help.cfm

    As far as I can see, what current official doctrine means is that you can’t divorce *and then remarry* within the Catholic church, at least not without getting the first marriage annulled. But you can absolutely separate, and you can even get a civil divorce and still receive communion:

    https://www.catholic.com/qa/may-a-person-who-is-divorced-but-not-remarried-receive-communion

    I am not a Catholic (or even a theist), so consult a sympathetic priest and all that.

    And I don’t believe you have to follow what your church says when it’s *wrong*, and I will also note that there are a fucktonne of divorced-and-remarried Catholics out there, just as there are Catholics who have had abortions, Catholics who use birth control, LGBT Catholics, etc.. What is taught as official doctrine is frequently not the same as what many people who are faithful Catholics actually do.

    But in this case, it looks like current doctrine (especially as it’s applied in the US) would support you in getting the hell out of there.

  70. Traffic_Spiral said:

    A little suggestion about his emails – what if you put them all aside, unread, until the end of the day, then printed them out, brought them home, and read them out loud to him? Make him sit through it, too – no more of this feelings and spite vomit on you in the middle of the day, which he then gets to ignore. If it’s something important, then the two of you can sit down together and discuss it – along with why he thinks it’s ok to say mean things to you.

  71. Willow said:

    Wow, are you married to my ex? Especially that thing about cutting back on your dancing so he doesn’t get so mad about how much time you spend at it. Does he also tell you you’re no good at it? Mine did.

    My marriage was a lot longer, I got out and am feeling much more like my awesome old self. I wish you well.

  72. Rosa said:

    I just came across a poem that immediately brought this thread to mind. Here it is:

    Alcestis on the Poetry Circuit

    The best slave
    Does not need to be beaten.
    She beats herself.

    Not with a leather whip,
    Or with sticks or twigs,
    not with a blackjack
    or a billyclub,
    but with the fine whip
    of her own tongue
    & the subtle beating
    of her mind
    against her mind.

    For who can hate her half so well
    as she hates herself?
    & who can match the finesse
    of her self-abuse?

    Years of training
    are required for this.
    Twenty years
    of subtle self-indulgence,
    self-denial;
    until the subject
    thinks herself a queen
    & yet a beggar-
    both at the same time.
    She must doubt herself
    in everything but love.
    She must choose passionately
    & badly.
    She must feel lost as a dog
    without her master.
    She must refer all moral questions
    to her mirror.
    She must fall in love
    with a cossack or a poet.

    She must never go out of the house
    unless veiled in paint.
    She must wear tight shoes
    so she always remembers her bondage.
    She must never forget
    she is rooted in the ground.

    Though she is quick to learn
    & admittedly clever,
    her natural doubt of herself
    should make her so weak
    that she dabbles brilliantly
    in half a dozen talents
    & thus embellishes
    but does not change
    our life.

    If she’s an artist
    & comes close to genius,
    the very fact of her gift
    should cause her such pain
    that she will take her own life
    rather than best us.

    & after she dies, we will cry
    & make her a saint.

    ~Erica Jong

    • ramen said:

      This poem. I needed this. Thank you.

  73. Anonycat said:

    LW, I’m thinking about leaving someone whose life’s in a mess, he’s doing very little to fix it, and he blames me for a heap of stuff. He’s better than your guy in some ways and worse in others.

    Part of why I haven’t left yet is that the rest of my life is exhausting and I can’t cope with the effort rebuilding will take. I’m working full time while in school so I’m busy and distracted. I finish school early next year and I’m going to hold off till then. If you feel like leaving now is too much, it’s ok to set yourself a future timeframe – just don’t make it too far in the future.

    The other reason is that I’ve asked myself what I need to do to feel ok about leaving – to feel that I’ve done “enough” for him and our relationship. I realise I probably already have, but I’ll feel a lot better if I do a little bit more. For me, that means tracking down a good couples counsellor and trying one last time to sort things out. It also means continuing to financially support him for a while after I move out. (He’s been unemployed for most of his life and hasn’t tried to find work since he got fired from his last job 5 years ago. It’s going to take a while for him to find a job, any job.)

    In the meanwhile, I’ve set some fixed boundaries. If he shouts at me, I walk out of the room and stay away from him for several hours. If he tells me to fuck off ever again, I’ll leave there and then. Just setting those boundaries has helped, he’s moderated his behavior since I did.

    Could you sit down with your counsellor and make a list of what you’d need to do before you’d feel ok about leaving him? And then get on with doing that list and see if any of it helps – and if it doesn’t, then leave and be totally aware that you did your share of trying to fix things and leaving is totally ok.

    • B2 said:

      Just a one thing, if your deal is to financially support this guy until he finds a job, he probably won’t. He won’t until he has to so I would set a timeframe to cut him off from your support. He will figure it out, but only when he has no choice.
      Glad to hear you are standing up for ypurself & it’s working a bit!

      • GreyjoyGardens said:

        Yes, this! I’ve known guys like this, and they NEVER step up and get a job until the ex cut off the gravy train. Then – miraculously! – when the support went away, to a man they got jobs.

        The best way I’ve seen this work is for Ex-Partner to say something like, “I will support you for three months [or whatever time frame – sometimes as long as six to a year if the economy is very depressed in that area] – but then you are on your own. If you can’t get a job in your field, well, Starbucks/Tim Horton’s is hiring.”

        I don’t believe that people owe their exes long-term support unless that person is the parent of their minor children.

        • B2 said:

          Yeah, allimony where maybe one partner sacrificed carrer/education/etc for years expecting the benefit to their partner to be a team benefit for life is different than someone you’re dating and never had such an ageement with

        • CommanderBanana said:

          Yup. My Horrible Sibling was miraculously able to (almost) support himself during the year or two he had to live on his own. Then my parents let him move back in with them.

          That was EIGHT YEARS AGO and he’s been un- and under-employed since then.

          I think it’s very gracious of you to offer some financial support, especially if your ex moved to live with you or something similar, but I don’t think you owe it to him to support him indefinitely.

    • Whoa. There is no way I would ever financially support an ex-boyfriend!

    • Nope Octopus said:

      Honestly, it is beyond decent to leave with the rent paid up for a month or two (or however long you’re on the hook for the lease)–he’ll manage on his own or he won’t, and however that goes is neither your fault nor your problem.

  74. Lurker in the light said:

    “I cannot talk to my parents or his parents about this, to save face.”
    Says who? Your husband? Your shame brain? The internet advice columns who tell you not to compliant to Mom when you fight with your husband who doesn’t put the seat down? That doesn’t apply when you are in an abusive situation.

    In fact, cutting you of from your support system (making you cancel plans, forcing you to forgo dance competitions and practices where you get to shoppers time with your friends, etc.) is one of the signs of abuse.

    Please please please don’t feel that you have to cut yourself off from people who love and support you to protect the reputation of your husband. He is not holding up his end of the covenant and it is okay that he has some consequences for that.

    You are already doing the maximum a person can do alone for your marriage. There is no shame for you to take on here. You deserve more people on team you. You deserve friends and family who can give you honest “that’s not right” feedback when your husband sends you another of his screeds. You deserve to spend time with people who build you up.

    • Exactly this. If your support system doesn’t want you to talk about what’s bothering you, they’re not very good at being a support system and please find some new members for Team You! I don’t know that I’d go to my in-laws as the first option if I were having trouble in my marriage (even though they’re awesome), just because they’d feel rather conflicted (well, not if hubby was being abusive, which he isn’t, but still), but your own parents and friends should definitely be the first line of defense there if they’re otherwise supportive of you.

      And if your Team You is telling you all this is normal and “he’s just the way he is,” definitely expand that Team You to include some new people!

    • lowbudgetcyborg said:

      Yes, this.

      I have been in that place where the boyfriend who was supposed to be part of my emotional support network was instead tearing me down and making me doubt myself. My self-loathing and depression brain-weasels said that I shouldn’t reach out because I didn’t deserve the support anyway. The brain-weasels were wrong and when that relationship ended Team Me was pretty awesome.

      LW, if your parents would think less of you for having trouble in your marriage or for admitting to having trouble in your marriage, then you would know that better than I, an internet stranger. But I would like you to consider carefully whether the thought that they would think less of you is based on what you know of them, or if it is based on something else– like your own anxiety, or all the mean things your husband has said to you over the years.

      And if you are worried about your parents thinking less of your husband… well, it’s not your job to protect other adults from the consequences of their actions.

    • Willow said:

      I started feeling SOOO much better after I started talking to some close friends about what was going on. For one, it was not a big secret that I had to carry alone, and secondly, I got confirmation from my friends that this situation/treatment was neither normal nor right. It really helps to talk.

  75. Aurora S said:

    His behavior isn’t going to change unless he wants it to change, or starts giving one single fuck about your happiness. He seems content with the dynamic where he lashes out and you do all the emotional labor and housework, and appears to find your needs and desires completely irrelevant. Unfortunately, you can’t ‘force’ someone to care. The relationship is probably not going to last without drastic, lasting change.

  76. Liz said:

    Just wanted to thank everyone for the comments on here. I am not the LW but I think we might be married to the same person. I’m not a dancer but I’ve cut out doing most social activities because of the backlash from my husband at home. I’m in therapy and working on trying to get back into things I enjoy, but right now I have only been able to do so under the guise of staying late at work (e.g. Going to the gym after work and showering there and putting my work clothes back on so I don’t have to deal with the grief of not being home early and all the reason why my workout wasn’t good enough.) even work though isn’t a safe space–the more senior I get the more out of town trips I take and I get a lot of grief and even last night he said I needed to find a different job. (He isn’t working, hasn’t been for 3 years.) Anyway, my point is I read each comment as if you were talking to me and it really helps. Thank you.

    • viva said:

      Sending you and the LW lots of Jedi Hugs.

    • rmloro said:

      Hey Liz. You are your own one true love. You do not need to prop someone up when that person is actively working to drag you down. Never forget you must come first in order to be able to give back to the world ❤ ❤ ❤

    • Mo B One said:

      Your story about hiding your workouts is my story.

  77. JakeYashen said:

    Spot on advice as far as the contraception is concerned, Cap’

  78. LW! said:

    Thank you all so much! It has really helped me to get an outside perspective.

    My husband has a good heart (he does) but he can be very mean and is not willing to change. The problems in the letter are still big problems (of many problems, of course), but to give him some credit, too, he does have a job, he loves his family and mine, truly loves the cat and all animals, and we do have good times together when he is willing to get his rear into gear.

    I felt bad about writing the letter because I felt like I included a few too many bits of personal information for people I know to be able to recognize me, if this post was found, and it made me nervous. Like the paragraph above says, he’s not the worst person, even if he’s not always good to me, so I didn’t want anyone to find him and dislike him. But, the letter has apparently helped others, too, so for that I am very happy.

    Thank you very much CA and commenters! I appreciate everything!

    • Jenny Islander said:

      Good people can do very bad things. That doesn’t excuse the very bad things.

      He’s hurting you, every day, because he’s getting something out of it. That is wrong and must stop.

    • Cyberwulf said:

      Were you too harsh in the letter, LW?

      Or did you tell the truth, and are you finally hearing that your husband’s behavior is unacceptable, depression or not?

    • Traffic_Spiral said:

      Since you said you’re religious, let me remind you of some bible. “Every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

      You can’t justify bad actions by saying “he has a good heart.” Being mean and being unwilling to change are “bad fruit.” If his outward actions are bad, then his “inward self” “deep down” or whatever, isn’t good for much, because it’s not enough to make him actually behave like a good person.

      I’m sure he has good qualities (most people do) and that you love him (most people do love others) and maybe even that he loves you, on some level. However, love isn’t just something you feel. Love is something you do. To bring Bible into it again, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.” How many of those is he DOING? Cause to me it sounds like he’s failing every requirement on that list – so can you really say he “loves” you if his actions don’t meet the Biblical requirements for love?

      Also, listen to what you said: “not willing to change.” He’s not going to change. You can’t change him. Maybe you’re even enabling him. How long do you set yourself on fire to keep someone warm – especially if they refuse to warm themselves?

      • doctormead said:

        “Also, listen to what you said: “not willing to change.” He’s not going to change. You can’t change him. Maybe you’re even enabling him. How long do you set yourself on fire to keep someone warm – especially if they refuse to warm themselves?”

        This! If you allow things to keep going on as they are, you’re keep cutting off parts of yourself to satisfy a need in him that CAN NEVER BE SATISFIED. Yes, he may have a “good heart”, but, to quote C.S. Lewis’ _The Screwtape Letters_, “All villains need some virtues in order to be truly wicked, which puts the tempters at a disadvantage.” The fact that he has good qualities doesn’t excuse, negate or justify the fact that he wants your to sacrifice your happiness on the altar of his misery.

        • doctormead said:

          And here’s another relevant C.S. Lewis quote…this one from _The Great Divorce_.
          ““The demand of the loveless and the self-imprisoned that they should be allowed to blackmail the universe: that till they consent to be happy (on their own terms) no one else shall taste joy: that theirs should be the final power; that Hell should be able to veto Heaven.”

          • JenniferP said:

            Damn, that’s quite a quote.

          • doctormead said:

            Lewis had quite a way with words.

          • Asher said:

            This is such a beautiful and pertinent passage because the context of it is a woman in heaven leaving her earthly husband. She is big and vibrant and lovely and he wants her to be small and subservient. She leaves him to Hell and goes back to Heaven, surrounded by beauty. She does not compromise her goodness and joy. And her choice is celebrated.

            Letter Writer: You do not need to wait until you get to heaven to leave your husband. God’s plan for you is way bigger than diminishing yourself in a futile effort to make one miserable soul happy.

          • doctormead said:

            Asher: I was sorely tempted to copy pasta big swaths of that chapter here but figured that would make the good Captain flustered and stern. 😉

            LW: Even if you’re not a Christian, you may find _The Great Divorce_ interesting from the point of view as a window on the workings of people who are consumed by pride and/or selfishness. There’s a chapter where the ghost of an emotionally abusive and pathologically controlling wife comes from hell to the outskirts of heaven and demands they give her husband back to her because she had “lots and lots of things I still want to do to him”. It was chilling.

          • Jenny Islander said:

            Another quote from the same book, from the passage about the wife doctormead mentioned: As she becomes more agitated and less able to front, the abusive wife spills the truth. “You have no idea what it’s like back there [in Hell],” she sobs. Hell, for her, is being stuck with people who don’t flinch when she pinches them. “I must have someone to–to do things to,” she says. Note well: down at the core of her, it isn’t her husband she wants. It isn’t any particular person. She wants to do things to somebody, and her husband was just her target of choice. He wasn’t living out sacrificial spousehood; he was just there and convenient, and so she abused him.

            Also note that while each of the spirits on that bus ride from Hell is met by someone who stands ready to escort them into Heaven if they’ll just let go of whatever got them damned, her husband isn’t there. She isn’t his responsibility.

          • doctormead said:

            Then there’s this one from the preface to _The Screwtape Letters_…
            “I feign that devils can, in a spiritual sense, eat one another; and us. Even in human life we have seen the passion to dominate, almost to digest, one’s fellow; to make his whole intellectual and emotional life merely an extension of one’s own—to hate one’s hatreds and resent one’s grievances and indulge one’s egoism through him as well as through oneself. His own little store of passion must of course be sup­pressed to make room for ours. If he resists this suppression he is being very selfish. On Earth this desire is often called “love.” In Hell I feign that they recognise it as hunger.”

          • Jenny Islander said:

            Caveat for people who haven’t read Lewis yet and are thinking about it: He definitely makes some blunders. For one thing, gender essentialism is so firmly fixed in his mind that two of the damned in The Great Divorce are damned for failing to perform gender correctly. It can be read as “they don’t actually love each other, they just love the sensation of freaking the mundanes and can’t stop doing it,” but that’s most likely not how he meant it.

      • Jenny Islander said:

        Another one comes to mind regarding those emails he uses to blow off steam when she’s not around to harass in person: “Out of the fulness of the heart the mouth speaks.”

        • Traffic_Spiral said:

          Also, “Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife.”

    • Wulfwen said:

      Howdy, LW!

      I feel you *so hard* on the, “He’s a great guy, really!” thing. Neither of my ex-spouses were “bad people.” But they treated me horribly, and were not willing to make any changes, even when I screwed up my courage to a point where I spelled out exactly what they were doing that was hurtful, and why I was hurt. I did eventually get free from both of them, but it was like pulling a barbed spear out of my gut – I often, often wondered whether it was worth it. Finally, I decided that if I injured myself getting free, at least it was *my decision*, and I’d rather be actively choosing my life than passively waiting for more never-ending abuse.

      As tons of people including the Captain have said – this isn’t about whether your husband is a bad guy. It’s about whether he will ever treat you well. Not like a queen – just well. Like you and I and lots of other folks would treat anyone we just met – with basic courtesy and even some empathy. And from what you’ve said in your letter and follow-up, he not only hasn’t treated you well, you recognize that he isn’t interested in treating you well.

      I hope you get out. But most of all, I hope you can hear all the voices – including the one inside you! – saying, “This isn’t right. You deserve better. You are worthy, just by being you. You do not have to tolerate this for the rest of your life, or even for one more minute. You have the power to be free!”

    • Belle Starr said:

      I’m glad you’ve come to realize that he’s not willing to change. After you separate, maybe you can remain friends–he seems good at valuing old friends above all else, after all. That way you can still have his good heart in your life, when he gets his rear into gear. I bet he’ll even let you keep the cat, rather than take care of it on his own!

    • canadakate said:

      I still remember the exact moment, over 15 years ago now, that I realized my ex- husband WASN’T “a good guy”. I was telling a new friend about our split, and I always ended the story with. “But he’s a really good guy.” At that moment I realized that good people don’t tell their partners that everything wrong with their relationship is the partner’s (ie, my) fault. They don’t cheat on their partners. And they don’t tell them that they are “too fat to sleep with.”

      This man is not good and not treating you well, and you deserve to be happy and free. I know those scripts that say everything I did was wrong and it was all my fault, because I’d swallowed them whole and believed them for years. And I loved him. But he didn’t love me, and it showed.

      Please get out. I still possible. All the internet love and solidarity you want from me!

    • n.b. said:

      Does “very mean” plus “not willing to change” add up to a good heart?

    • BigDogLittleCat said:

      I doubt that someone who can be very mean and is not willing to change has a good heart. A good heart would not want to continue being mean. A good heart would want to change, to stop being mean. He doesn’t have to be “the worst person” for you deserve better and to take action to be treated the way you deserve, even if that means separating.

      No one who knows your husband will dislike your husband because of what you wrote. They will dislike him if they know it’s true.

    • Friendly Hipposcriff said:

      “he can be very mean” “he is not willing to change” “he’s not always good to me”

      Each and any of these are reasons to leave. He doesn’t have to be ‘the worst’ for this relationship to not work for you. *He* is choosing to be mean, to shout at you, manipulate you, not do his share of the housework, not scoop the litterbox. He may feel love for you or the cat, but he’s not _showing_ it. Only he could change that, and as you have said, he is not willing to change.

      I wish you the very best of luck, and a life where you don’t feel you have to apologise for being yourself.

    • Madge said:

      Dear LW, I want to add that however good and nice your husband is, you can still decide that the relationship is not good or right for you. If it is bringing you too much sadness, stress, or whatever else, it is okay to want and to seek out something else. One thing that jumped out at me in your comment is that when you describe the good things about him, including how much he loves your families and animals, you don’t say that he loves *you*. Above everything else, I think that you deserve to feel cared for and loved by your husband, and I hope that you will hold onto that.

  79. Helen Damnation said:

    “And he will keep feeling that you are controlling him, because he doesn’t believe that you should set any limits on his conduct or insist that he meet his responsibilities.”

    Ahahahah
    Ahahah
    Ahah

    This is my Dad

    Isn’t that

    So funny

    • Willow said:

      Love the name, Helen!

  80. Lapis Lazuli said:

    Newton stated that an object in motion stays in motion, and an object at rest stays at rest.

    You are the object in motion, and he is the one at rest.

    He wants to put you at rest with nails, an oil slick, and a whole lotta abuse. He is even harassing you at work.

    So if I would take your ids and precious belongings and crash on one of your dance friend’s couches (or go to a hotel) for a week or two. Block the dude’s number and messages during the time. Then, about 3/4 of the way thrpugh your stay ask yourself, “Do you feel better without this guy near you? Without him taking to you?”

    If you are unsure, make your stay just a little longer.

    I think you’ll find your answer when you do that.

  81. Training Wheels said:

    I agree with all the above comments and I’d just like to raise a couple of other issues.

    LW, it sounds like you got together in college, which means you were both very young. I’d just like you to consider what I call the Training Wheels problem, in case that might be relevant. Some people (and especially some teenage boys & young men) refuse to recognise that their behaviour is a problem until they break something they value in a way that cannot be fixed.

    (Think of teen bad drivers, for example, who insist their risky and dangerous driving is actually proof of how skilled they are – until they have a serious enough crash to force them to recognise reality; or young drinkers who insist they can cope with it – until they end up blacked-out, injured, or lose their job over it)

    Relationships involve a lot of learned skills. Some people will insist that they are ‘good at’ relationships because – well, because they’re in one. (Without recognising that their partner is putting in all the work and has the patience of a saint to put up with their BS.) Those people will not recognise their bad relationship habits – until they lose a relationship. A lot of people are terrible in their first few relationships – and only learn after they’ve been dumped a few times and noticed a pattern in the reasons their exes give them.

    This is especially true if people have gone straight from caring parents who did a lot for them, to a supportive college or uni environment, to a relationship. Has your partner ever lived alone, and really had to support himself and do everything for himself? Has he ever had to (for one example) buy the bleach and the toilet brush, get down on his knees, and clean his own toilet, every week? It’s easy for people who’ve never had to do all the work all by themselves, to underestimate how much work running a household takes – and then underestimate their partner’s efforts and take them for granted.

    I’m sorry to say this, but – based on what I’ve seen in my own life – if you are your partner’s Training Wheels, there may be nothing you can do but dump him. This isn’t a criticism of you (or of him, btw) – this is just…the only way some people learn? Some people need two or three serious relationships to fail (often in different ways), in order to learn all the skills to finally be able to have an adult relationship in a healthy way.

    LW, I think the best thing you can do for yourself is give yourself a time limit. It’s easy to waste years on ‘he’s trying to change! he’s making an effort!’ Depression lasts, *on average*, eight years – which means osme people can be depressed for six months – and some for decades. Don’t live like this for decades.

  82. Perlandra said:

    The Catholic church has fairly recently made annulments much more straightforward/quicker, especially if both people agree to it. My fiance recently went through the process, which took about 6 months and I think $500. His ex fought it so they still had to do the tribunal, otherwise I think it would’ve been under a month. Communion is allowed if you get divorced or separated, as long as you don’t remarry someone else.

    I agree with the other responders that you don’t seem selfish or holier-than-thou in the slightest! It really seems like you’ve been doing your best to accommodate your husband, but he keeps tightening the “cattle crush” on you. 😦

    I see so much of my relationship in yours! There are some minor differences: he has also hassled me about dancing, but I only go twice/month instead of twice/week, and I’m not competitive. He sends nastygrams via text sometimes, including when I am at work or in the same room with him. He doesn’t name-call or belittle me, but he can get loud, and sounds angry, and often is very passive-aggressive. 😦 To be fair, we share the chores roughly equally, and that part does feel like a partnership. He’s been saying some things that were very problematic and somewhat bigoted (against people of various ethnicities, mostly African American and undocumented Hispanic people, Muslims, and trans women).

    He gets really grumpy and passive-aggressive about me spending time with my friends, and said he was afraid I was going to find another man to dump him for when I wanted to hang out with my friends who are women and involved in relationships! He seems to want me to have my attention focused on him 100%, even reading or studying leads to him complaining if he has to repeat anything (I have a hearing loss, so he knows I’m not just ignoring him).

    I believe like your husband he’s depressed, but I tried to get him to see a counselor alone or together. He went a few times with me to see one about a year ago, and didn’t like/feel comfortable with the one I switched to when she moved out of the area. I just switched again, so I will try to revisit it, but it doesn’t feel like he’s willing to put in any effort on it. 😦 It looks like I will need to break up with him, since he doesn’t seem to be open to making the changes I need, and I’m worried that he’ll just lapse back into it if he’s stressed again. The people on the FOCA forum and Doctor Nerd Love have been really helpful to re-read when my local Team Me isn’t available.

    • Traffic_Spiral said:

      That’s really gotta suck for you. Here’s hoping you find a light at the end of the tunnel soon.

  83. Pibble said:

    Holy socks this is worse than you think! From my experience, I am going to guess why – and I may be completely off-base. When things started to take a down-turn, you adapted. As your husband’s behavior devolved and continued, you adapted a bit more, then a bit more. Normal changed for you. Then – because some part of you recognized that you might be able to make your life more enjoyable, you started dancing, you started seeing a counselor, and you started seeing what normal could be! This is HUGE and big pats on the back for you!

    If you want even more confirmation, check this out http://www.thehotline.org/ and then call the national abuse hotline. One of the total professionals will tell you yep, you are suffering from an abusive partner. And if you, like me, insist you can’t be a victim of abuse because (reason), that professional will say to you ‘What would you tell a friend who was being treated the same way?’

    This may be controversial, but I would suggest you do not go into couple’s therapy unless and until he starts to clean up his act. The job of a couple’s therapist is to be neutral about both of you. As long as he is abusive, you do not get to be treated like a person contributing equally to your relationship problems.

    You can suggest your partner see mental health professionals, start volunteering at an animal shelter (which are particularly emotionally engaging), and consider a job in academia . . . and then you are done, it’s up to him.

    Some practical things you can do to improve your days: Get a cleaner to come in weekly or monthly. Use a pick-up and drop-off laundry. Create an email filter that marks all his emails as read and sends them to a folder you never look at. Mark your dance activities on a wall calendar so he will know when they are.

    Scarier but good when you can do them: Get your own bank account and have your checks auto-deposited there. Close your joint credit accounts. Have a car registered in your name only. My suspicion is that he will be mean about it, but how much of a change is that?

    Finally, remember that the Catholic church has no issue with married people living apart. Leave that problem for another day.

    • Traffic_Spiral said:

      Agreed on the couple’s therapy thing. The problem is that it frames “my partner is verbally/emotionally/mentally abusive” as a problem the couple has, as opposed to a problem the abusive partner has – which devolves into “how can I stop my partner from/how do I contribute to my partner being abusive” (you don’t/can’t) and generally just empowers the abuser and teaches them better manipulation tactics.

      • BigDogLittleCat said:

        This. If a person isn’t committed to genuinely improving themselves, therapy can help them hone their abuse skills.

  84. Anonymouse said:

    He criticizes who you are once a week. ONCE A WEEK. I have been married twice, and had some meh boyfriends, and no one ever pulled that even once a month. If ever. That is so negative and corrosive.

    It is ok to talk about behaviors that your partner has that impact you. It is not okay to conflate those alleged behaviors with an indictment of who they are as a person. Just in general, it is always better to explain how behaviors affect you, not to make generalizations about who a person is based on how you interpret behaviors.

    Of course he has good qualities. You wouldn’t like him if he did not. That isn’t the point. The point is that he is not treating you with basic courtesy and respect. You say over and over again that you are not in a good marriage and that he does not treat you well, in so many different ways. Maybe think about why you think that someone treating you that was is ok. Would you be ok with treating him that way? Parents? Siblings? Children? Friends? What would you tell a friend if her husband treated her like your husband treats you?

    Strength to you, but I have to say, I am worried for you. You deserve better.

    Even in marriages I have observed where both parties are pretty mean to each other, I think they should either amend their interactions, or split up. Your own ‘failings’ (I put this in scare quotes because like the other readers, I am skeptical of your criticisms of yourself) are not justification for treating you badly and being emotionally abusive. If you are hurting him, he tries to explain how, and you can’t reach a resolution, that doesn’t mean he gets to hurt you. It means you split up. And I don’t think that is what is happening here. Quite the opposite.

  85. Oh, LW! My heart goes out to you. I have to admit I had a sinking feeling before I even finished your intro paragraph. I have a sort of extended metaphor that runs in the back of my mind when reading CA letters (and when people are talking about their relationships in general), that I’d like to share in case it helps shed some light for you. It’s similar to the “red flags” terminology that’s widely used in discussions here, but it’s my own twist on it, and is perhaps more detailed. I picture a complex control panel, maybe from the control room of a nuclear power plant, like this picture. Starting from “all green across the board”, as details get added to the story, maybe some little indications show up that something’s not okay. As soon as I got to “how to best handle my husband when he gets angry”, a little red danger light lit up, maybe a coolant pump somewhere is not putting out the pressure it should. Not an emergency yet, perhaps, but definitely something to look into. Way too many situations where a woman is struggling to manage a man’s anger end badly for the woman.

    And then ” feel like I tend to be more in the present, but just because I think that doesn’t mean that is true” is two more lights, maybe only yellow warning lights for an air filter that’s getting gunked up and will need replacing during the next scheduled downtime, say. This line may be perfectly okay, but I agree with other commenters that it has a whiff of two worrying dynamics: first, assuming equal responsibility for traits that seem to be actually just your husband’s problems according to the examples given, and second, immediately soft-pedalling your first (quite innocuous) opinion about yourself.

    * “he’s been upset ever since graduating” He’s been, um, “upset” for… six years? ish? That first red light? The one right above it just went red too.
    * “we usually do things on our own around the house and do not spend much time together” That sounds more like having a roommate than a husband, but to each their own. There’s a yellow warning light flickering. Maybe it’s nothing. Maybe.
    * “constantly complains” Another solid yellow light. Complaining has its place, but if he’s so unhappy with his life, and people, and his job, that he’s been complaining to you constantly for years, that’s unfair to you and he needs to take some responsibility for his own happiness.
    * “Both he and I are pretty selfish people” followed by many examples of how he is actually behaving in a selfish way and you are making sacrifices and working hard and learning coping mechanisms, all to accommodate him. Putting yourself down unfairly is very common among people who are being abused. Another warning light.

    I’ll stop listing every little detail, because it’s a lot of examples and I don’t want to beat you over the head with this. I will say, though, that the control panel is already lit up with enough warning lights that it’s distinctly worrying, and we haven’t even got to the part where your husband gaslights you about how much time you spend out enjoying your hobby or the part where he routinely yells at you about everything that’s “wrong” with your personality, both of which are big flashing red “serious immediate problem” indicators.

    Now, you say in a follow-up comment that your husband is “not the worst person”, which, sure, okay. He’s not broken glass guy (core is overheating, klaxons are screaming, shut down the reactor NOW) or “my partner who (usually) doesn’t (quite) hit me keeps a gun in our home over my vehement objections” (the control room is in flames and your only priority is to get out alive). And, you know, that’s good, insofar as it goes. But as you already know, not being the actual worst isn’t the same as being good, or okay, or someone one would choose to spend the rest of her life with. If you’re afraid that your meticulously-downplayed and self-effacing account of his behaviour will lead people to dislike him, what does that say about his behaviour? Seriously though. The problem is not that you told some folks on the internet how he treats you. the problem is how he treats you.

    You say he has a good heart, and I certainly can’t contradict you. I know nothing about his heart. But, to be blunt, so the hell what? Like, unless there’s some sort of unseelie enchantment in play where you have his innermost heart in a bell jar and have conversations with it while he sleeps or something, it’s not his heart that you have to live with every day, it’s the the actual man and his actual choices about how he actually treats you. And I agree with the many many other commenters here that the behaviour you’re describing is well and solidly into abusive territory.

    You say “both of us” are too lazy to divorce (note: you don’t need a consensus to divorce; in that particular question there is no “us”; that’s kind of the point) and you’re kinda-sorta-parenthetically Catholic, which… I know tone can easily go awry in the written word, but to me, you don’t sound real convinced about these reasons to stay. You do sound worn out, and I don’t think there’s any mystery why that is. I suspect that if you get away from this man, you’ll be surprised at how much lighter and freer you feel, and how much energy you have when it’s not all being sucked into his bottomless vortex of negativity.

    Also, I couldn’t help noticing that beyond “he has a job” and “he loves the cat (but doesn’t do any of the actual work of caring for her)” it doesn’t sound like your husband brings anything positive to your life or that there’s anything genuinely good or beneficial about the relationship, which makes me very sad for you. You deserve better than this. I promise.

    Keeping in mind that “there’s good in him; I’ve felt it” is the canonical origin for the Darth Vader Boyfriend trope that’s been a mainstay of this blog since reader question number 4… I hope you’ll seriously consider leaving this guy. He’s obviously harmful for you, and you already know he’s not willing to change, whatever may be going on in his innermost heart.

    Sorry if that was excessively long and/or overwhelming.

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