Tag Archives: emotional abuse

Behind a cut for emotional abuse, misogyny, and discussion of these things as specifically related to recent gun violence and the possibility thereof, which is not what the Letter Writer asked, but definitely something I saw in the question.

I did a giant dump of cat photos for patrons if you need to click on over that way. ❤

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Dear Captain,

My husband (he / him / his) is extremely smart and good in his job, has a close relationship with his sister, and good at figuring out mechanical challenges (e.g., setting up a new type of tent) patiently and thoroughly.

But I can’t bear the constant criticism. He’s always miffed about something. It is many, simultaneous small things: being hot, not reading for fun anymore, allergies, my refusal to go surfing, my lack of passion for running, that I don’t plan trips/activities, that we don’t share hobbies, that we don’t spend enough time together, that he has to constantly alter his schedule for me, that I interrupt him to serve dinner when he is putting away laundry, that I asked him to hang out when he was clearly doing something, that I can’t travel with him for > one month each year, that I work too much (I have a 9-5), that I joined a support group for depression that meets too often, that I have anxiety, that I’m doing a spiritual retreat, that I got off of work early and asked him out to dinner, that everything house-related is his responsibility. Our worst fights seem to happen I am busy at work. All of these annoyances contribute to big blow-ups with 2-3 hours of fighting every other week. He’s miserable a lot – physically ill or annoyed at me, coworkers, management, our HOA, the driver in front of him. He doesn’t praise or enjoy. He manages his emotions through running or eating.

I’ve done much of what he’s asked – get a non-demanding job; buy a house; plan trips; ask him to spend time together, but the negativity doesn’t abate.

I bring up my challenges gently, but I can’t get a dialogue flowing. If I bring up an issue, he’ll deflect and change the subject. If I ask him a question, he’ll critique the premise of the question. If I persist and bring us back to the question, he’ll start criticizing me.

I am trying to be better (therapy, meditation, support group, reading, self-care) and take advantage of every resource I can find (podcasts, EAP talks about wellbeing, gym). What am I doing wrong (what’s wrong with me?)? How can I do better?

-What’s wrong with me?

Dear What’s Wrong With Me?

What if nothing is wrong with you and the problem is you’re married to an asshole? 

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Reminder, monthly London meetup is tomorrow. Sorry for not posting this sooner, guys! It’s been the week of 1000 meetings.

Dear Awkward Army,

London meetup this weekend, 23rd March!  All welcome.

11:00 am onwards, Leon restaurant, 36/38 Old Compton Street, London, W1D 4TT.

The venue so far has worked out well, so I’m sticking with that.  They’ve also offered us 25% off all our food and drink.


Leon have a variety of good food at very reasonable prices – for central London, anyway!  Menu here:

This branch has an accessible toilet, and we’ll be on the ground floor in the back (around behind the food service counter).

I have long brown hair and glasses.  I will bring my plush Cthulhu to use as a table marker.  It looks like this:

My email address is kate DOT towner AT gmail DOT com

As discussed at previous meetups, I am happy to teach people to knit, so if you want to start or want help, bring something along!

By the way, I think it’s likely the April one will be on the 20th rather than the 27th, sorry about any confusion.




And now, a letter.

Hey Cap (and friends!),

There’s a little bit of background to this, but I’ll try to keep it short.

I have issues with my family. I guess you could say I’m the “black sheep” in a way. I’m the middle child, the only creative person, the only one who could be described as liberal, and (perhaps most importantly) the only one to inherit my mother’s bad depression, with a side of social anxiety. Add to this a big old heap of emotional abuse from my father and, later, my stepmother (who is thankfully gone now).

When I was in high school, I went through a lot of trouble, including self-harm, that was more or less ignored, and I didn’t do very well in school despite having clear potential. It was only later when I asked my parents about it that they said yeah, they always sort of knew that I had depression, and knew that it was holding me back, but they didn’t want to bring it up with me at the time because…they haven’t given a solid answer. As far as I can tell, they kind of sacrificed my academic future on the altar of not having an awkward conversation with me.

A few months ago, I moved out of state to live with my boyfriend and see about continuing into college now that I have things more under control. But every time I talk to my parents or my brother and sister, it seems like they have nothing nice to say at all.

I love my brother and sister, but every time I chat with them, they seem to be always upset with me. “Why haven’t you called us? Why haven’t you called Dad? You need to call us more and not be so ungrateful. You don’t even want to be part of the family.” Even putting aside the fact that they know I have a lot of anxiety when it comes to talking on the phone, I don’t understand how being busy up here and not able to contact home every day counts as ungrateful.

Then, the other night, a minor disagreement on Facebook randomly spiraled into them accusing me of hating our father, of not wanting to be a part of the family, and of being selfish in even moving away. These overtures were common before I’d moved, but now it’s been magnified so that they’ve become outright vicious about it.

I’m out of a toxic environment, but now the environment is starting to follow me. How do I tell my brother and sister that I still love my family (I really do!), but they need respect my decisions and treat me like a person?

Oh goody, when your abuser recruits others to do their abusing for them.

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Dear Captain Awkward:

I have had a very complex life in the last couple of years. I have gone from having a fairly normal life in regards to health and then I went on dialysis. Since that point I now have a kidney transplant.

My girlfriend currently has a really hard time wrapping her mind around the changes in lifestyle that I have to live. She almost finds my precautions somewhat unbearable.

What should I do? She also makes fun of my situation or lightheartedly jokes about it.

Unfortunately they don’t offer empathy transplants.

Was your girlfriend with you since before the changes? Because I would imagine that watching a partner go through dialysis and a kidney transplant would make it sink in that 1) Hey, you could have DIED 2) Following your doctors’ recommendations carefully is  serious business. If she met you after the changes, maybe the seriousness of it hasn’t really sunk in. Which isn’t an excuse, but it gives you a place to start in deepening her perspective.

If you want to try to make things work with this person, I think there is both a Big Serious Talk to be had and some day-to-day scripts.

The daily script is, when she makes a joke, to say something like “Whoa, that really hurts my feelings.”

After you say that, be quiet, and listen to what happens next. There is going to be a very awkward moment, and it is not your job to smooth it over – the awkwardness is the way that you get to the resolution. If she stops, apologizes, and changes her behavior, that’s a good sign. If you’ve been putting up with the jokes for a while, it may take a few tries for it to sink in – you are subtly changing the “rules” of how the relationship works and some people don’t get it right away. You can openly acknowledge the rule change with “I know I usually let it go, but….” or “I know you mean that as a joke, but….” when you say things like that, it really hurts my feelings. Can we find another way to talk about x issue?

If after saying that her jokes hurt your feelings, she doubles down on the joking, or starts justifying why it’s okay for her to make jokes that hurt your feelings, she is pressuring you to ignore your healthy routines, she calls you “too sensitive” and tells you to “toughen up,” or for whatever reason the conversation ends with you apologizing to her for bringing it up and being upset, here there be Evil Bees.

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Ahoy thar.

Cliff notes time! Over the past four years, I:
– dropped out of high school for Multiple Reasons
– got a fantastic very-part-time clerical job which, although I don’t **LOVE** it 24/7, has great co-workers and doesn’t take up too much brainpower (which is good because I have a history of overloading myself and panicking)
– realised my Dad was full-on abusive towards me for much of my life (physically and emotionally), and more recently realised that my Mum was at best ignorant about what he did and at worst complicit, and has also been abusive at times (much more minorly, but still).

I’m still living with my parents. Having talked it over with my wonderful psychologist and with a friend who is also a survivor of abuse, I’ve starting to think that I have to Get Out. ASAP.

My problem is that I have no idea how to do that. My friend has offered either to help me by giving me some money or by putting me up for a while, but the latter would mean leaving my pretty-damn-decent job to move to another city.
The former? Well, Dad often liked to tell me, “You’re a failure who will never amount to anything and you’ll be a burden on society all your life,” so I’m sure you can understand why I don’t want to take anyone’s money unearned (I did check, by the way – I’m not eligible for government assistance because I’m not studying full-time, able to work 15 hours a week, theoretically able to pay bills, over 18… You get the picture). I’d do the same for hir, yes, but when it’s me? Jerkbrain says no.

I’m the biggest introvert I know, so I don’t think a sharehouse would be a good idea for me, but I don’t know that I can afford to live on my own, both financially and because I forget to eat when I’m not around people. And the rental market is not too keen on first-timers at the moment. Besides, the most I’ve ever been responsible for in my life is a mobile phone bill and some goldfish. Exaggerating, but you get my point.

I don’t know what to do. Have you any recommendations? Stay at home just-for-now, find a flat immediately, move cities, try and find a friend to share with? Take someone else’s money to escape, or use my own (rather limited) funds? Those are my only options, I think.

Also, the fact that I don’t even have a high school certificate makes job-finding harder. Just to make things extra tricky!

Yours sincerely,
Ms Kittenwhiskers (because that’s a much cooler name than my real one!)

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Hi Captain:

I was raised by a mom who used the silent treatment. Whenever she was really mad about something- maybe once a month- she’d just shut down for several days at a time and not talk to anyone except to sneer at them. This only applied to people in my immediate family- my dad and I- as she’d easily turn around and be smiley and chatty with her father on the phone or a neighbour, and then continue to freeze me/my dad out. This has been going on for about as long as I can remember- one incident in particular stands out, when she refused to even make me dinner. I was about eight at the time. As I got older, it grew less damaging, since I didn’t rely so much on her approval, but it still left scars. She was my primary caregiver- my dad also lived with us, but he’s not so great at parenting as opposed to being a pal, so she was the only authority I really looked up to at home, and in my childhood, I needed a lot of looking after. (I had and have several leaning/social disabilities that necessitated a lot of care.)

Now I’m in my early twenties, and I think this treatment may have left some scars I’m not entirely sure how to deal with. When my mother is quiet or avoids me for extended periods of time, I start to freak out because I think I’ve done something “wrong.” (When she did this when I was a child, she never told me what she was angry about, so I had to guess until I got it right.) Even when I confront her and she insists she’s not mad about anything, it doesn’t calm me down, because I feel like she’s trying to make me guess again. This may be tied to my social anxiety, which I’ve been working on with a therapist, but I think it’s also just a byproduct of how I was raised. It’s also affected how I make decisions- whenever she disagrees with something I want to do about my life (enter a school program, move to a different place) I start to panic and second-guess myself because she’s been The Authority in my life for so long. I can’t talk to her about this, because whenever I do, she turns it into a conversation about what I’ve done to frustrate or anger her, and I end up defending myself instead of explaining to her that she’s hurt me. We’ve been trapped in this pattern for so long, I don’t even know if she realizes she’s doing it, or that it has this effect on me. How do I stop myself from being this needy child who’s desperate for her mother’s approval?


The Sound of Silence

Dear Sound of Silence

Thanks for your letter. I think it speaks to many, many of the writers in my inbox who I will probably not have time to answer, so if you’ve written something similar consider this your answer. And Sound of Silence, you are definitely not alone.

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Dear Captain Awkward,

I’m in a wonderful, 5-1/2 year relationship with a great guy. It’s not all sunshine and roses (what relationship is?) but we’ve built a solid, great thing based on mutual respect, and I’m 100% sure he’s the one I want to spend the rest of my life with/meld my DNA with in eventual babies/what-have-you. I appreciate this, since I was coming out of a sexually abusive relationship when I met him, and really, it shows me that he’s a truly special guy to be patient with me through all the healing I had to go through to get to the point where I could have a healthy relationship with anyone. Bottom line, there’s no question of me leaving this guy.

However. His family (and circle of longtime family friends) are all terrible people.

I don’t mean this in the casual, don’t-get-along-with-the-mother-in-law way. I mean really terrible. A list of events that have happened only in the last year:

1) His father disagreed with me on a political issue I brought up casually, to someone else (he overheard me talking to them). He then screamed at me and called me names. He finished up by telling me I wasn’t allowed to speak in his house any more. For the rest of the day, if he heard me talking or trying to join a conversation, he would loudly talk over me until I stopped trying to speak. Seriously. A 60-year-old man did this.

2) We ran into a financial crisis due to some unexpected and urgent medical bills which we didn’t have the money to pay for (my fiance was unemployed for almost two years and I work in the low-paying world of non-profit office administration, so we have been pretty strapped for cash for some time). However, my fiance was due to come into some money he had inherited from his grandfather, and asked his mother (the executrix) whether he could get the check – which according to the terms of his grandfather’s will he should have received almost a year ago, but whatever, estate distribution can take time. She then informed him that she was deliberately withholding the money from him, and that she was thinking of giving the money to his 12-year-old brother instead (in direct violation of the will) just because she didn’t want my fiance to get this money and turn all lazy and dependent and stay unemployed forever. (Incidentally, he’s been working in construction and manual labor – despite having a master’s degree in education – just to make ends meet…not exactly the sort of guy who’s in danger of becoming a leech sucking from the teats of hardworking Americans or whatever she’s afraid of.) Long story short, we DIDN’T make rent that month, were threatened with eviction, and would have become homeless were it not for a loan from a good friend. When told that their son was on the brink of being a homeless person, his parents suggested that he seek therapy for his inability to accept blame for his own mistakes.

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