The confusion, guilt and self-doubt of being abused

In my last three posts, When you’re in love with Dr Jekyll…, Coronavirus and domestic abuse, and It must be so much easier as a girl, I’ve finally started being honest about the kind of relationship I’m in. It’s very, very hard to get your head round the fact that you’re being abused. It’s even more difficult to accept that the person you love is an abuser. And even after making those statements, you’re not free of the guilt, confusion and self-doubt.

You see, I don’t want to call my wife an abuser, because I love her. I don’t want to call her an abuser because it reduces the wonderfully complex range of attitudes, beliefs, opinions and behaviours of the mother of my children into a single, negative label. And yet, if I am being abused, then I have to say who is carrying out that abuse, as ugly and disloyal as that is.

I asked my support worker today if I’m overreacting; if I’m blowing it all out of proportion; if I’m somehow causing her behaviour and therefore it’s my responsibility to fix it. By tolerating it for so long, haven’t I taught her it’s okay to treat me this way? So how can I throw her to the wolves? I’m her husband – isn’t it my duty to stand by her through thick and thin?

I guess I was desperate for confirmation that I’m being abused and she’s an abuser. I mean, it’s not like she’s beating me up. It would probably be easier if she was, because at least then I could point at the bruises or the split lip and say: there! Abuse. Cut and dried.

Instead, I’m full of doubts. Where’s the line where being awkward and aggressive crosses into abuse? Who draws that line? Who is responsible for it?

I’ve spent six weeks desperately trying to get my wife to stick to the lockdown, only to be told by both Social Services and my doctor that I should just let it go and she can visit whoever she wants. Does that mean I’ve been the one in the wrong for the past six weeks? Does that mean her reactions have been acceptable rebellions against my oppressive values? Because it seems to me that the professionals don’t care about following the rules half as much as I do.

My support worker reminded me that this isn’t just about the lockdown – I’ve been going through this for years, and no matter how many times she’s promised to change, she hasn’t. Now I’ve finally taken the decision to leave for the sake of the children and my own sanity, I need to stick to it because it’s the right decision.

But I’m even more confused and guilt-ridden by my wife’s recent behaviour. Since she learned that I was talking to Adult Social Services on Friday, she’s been weirdly pleasant and compliant. At least when she’s being mean to me all the time, I feel a righteous sense of being wronged; when she starts being nice to me, it messes with my mind, because I start thinking, ‘Well, she’s not that bad, is she? You’ve got a nice life here, really, and if you’d just ignore all the shit she puts you through, nothing has to change. Wouldn’t that be easier than walking out and becoming a single dad? Wouldn’t it be better just to tolerate it because you love her?’

Or is this all just part of the game?

The most confusing thing is her reaction to what’s going on. When I said I was going to see the doctor, she was really pleased for me because she thinks I need my head sorting out. When I came back and told her the doctor had said that, for her mental health, she can go visit [redacted] whenever she wants, I thought she’d be happy – instead, she said she’s not going to visit [redacted] because it’s against the rules.

I almost choked on my own spit! For six weeks she’s been visiting [redacted] in open defiance of the lockdown rules, and when I tell her she’s now allowed to visit, she won’t because it’s against the rules! What the hell? I told her I don’t understand her. I don’t understand her at all.

Maybe that’s what she wants?

So today, after six weeks of cycling to the dairy most days, and the day after I told her I no longer object to her cycling to the dairy, she’s told the children they’re not allowed to cycle to the dairy because it’s against the rules! How perverse is that?

And the oddest thing happened this afternoon. When I contacted [redacted] six weeks ago to say that my wife was mistreating me and the kids, she told me I deserved it; that I was a manipulative monster who caused my wife to attack me; that I wasn’t a good father or husband; that I was disloyal; and that she’d never talk to me again and never forgive me. She’s told my wife to openly defy me over the lockdown; she’s told my wife and kids to lie to me about seeing her or they’ll all get into trouble because I’m a bad man; and she’s told my wife to gather evidence against me to support their attempt to paint me as the abuser instead of the victim.

So why did my wife read out a text she received from [redacted] this afternoon saying, ‘I’m looking forward to seeing Gillan when this is all over. I’ve really missed talking to him. I’m very fond of him.’

‘What are you trying to do to my head?’ I asked my wife.

‘What?’ she said. ‘I thought it was nice.’

‘She sent you this just now?’

‘Yes. See, we’re not all against you like you think.’

What? What!?

So I’ve been sitting here feeling guilty, feeling confused. Is it all in my head? Am I the one with the problem?

It would be so easy to just roll over and let things go back to normal. Remain a husband in a nuclear family. Avoid the upset and the turmoil of taking my kids away from their home. Not end up a divorced single dad.

And then I looked back through the past six weeks of blogs, starting with It’s not meant to be this hard and coming up to date, and all the crap she’s put me through, and I remember that the niceness is just the thin layer of ice over the black depths below. And I realise that actually, while she is being nice, she’s not being that nice.

Like yesterday morning. I slept on the sofa the night before, so in the morning my wife sobbed to her support worker about it. She wanted to know what she’d done because she didn’t understand. I was heartbroken for her – I can’t bear to see people in distress, particularly those I love – and I don’t want to hurt her, so I offered to talk about it with her if she’d come into the other room with me, so it wasn’t in front of the children. But she refused – I could tell her in front of the children or not at all. I asked her again and again to go into the other room with me so we could talk about it, and again and again she refused.

So how serious were the tears, and how desperate was her need to understand, if she refused to discuss it? And by extension, how real is any of her current behaviour?

I just have to remember the bad times every time I’m blindsided by the good.

This is the confusion, guilt and self-doubt you face when you’re the victim of abuse.

8 thoughts on “The confusion, guilt and self-doubt of being abused

  1. > I’ve spent six weeks desperately trying to get my wife to stick to the lockdown, only to
    > be told by both Social Services and my doctor that I should just let it go and she can
    > visit whoever she wants.
    > Does that mean I’ve been the one in the wrong for the past six weeks?
    > Does that mean her reactions have been acceptable rebellions against my oppressive values?
    > Because it seems to me that the professionals don’t care about following the rules half as much as I do.

    It took me several of your recent posts to understand that some of this is not new, just more more acute with lock-down. Your doctor sounds as if he is still getting up to speed; while he does so he is likely to suggest actions that you have already tried or ruled out. Ditto for Social services.

    You are an aspie, so yes following rules is more important to you than to many people.

    I’ve recently found https://annsautism.blogspot.com/2020/04/staying-safe-versus-slippery-slope.html – a blog post by an “autistic autism professional” which argues that it may be appropriate to relax some parts of lockdown for autism-related reasons and has links to UK government advice specifically mentioning autism, and a new report suggesting that France has also done the same thing.
    Whilst it doesn’t advocate visiting others, and doesn’t justify your wife taking the children with her, it does suggest that going to a reassuring place is reasonable.

    |> You see, I don’t want to call my wife an abuser,
    > And yet, if I am being abused, then I have to say who is carrying out that abuse
    We are told to tell our children that an action of theirs was bad but not to say that they are bad for doing it.
    While it doesn’t stop what you are experiencing from being abuse, have you considered how much her actions are because she is sad? mad? or bad?
    Do either of those ways of looking at it help ?

    Like

    • Hi Andrew,

      Thanks for the comment. Sad, mad or bad? Probably a mixture of all three. I appreciate this isn’t easy for her, but in a ninety-minute conversation with her this evening about her behaviour, not once did she a) accept responsibility for any of her actions, b) apologise in any way, shape of form, or c) show any concern about the effects of that behaviour on her children. As you say, the cause doesn’t change the effect of the behaviour, but it certainly makes it easier to separate the person (who you love) from the behaviour (which you hate).

      And yes, the behaviour has been going on far longer than the lockdown, but has become more acute because I’m less prepared to tolerate it.

      Thanks for the recommendation of the blog. It just seems bizarre to me that now that I’ve withdrawn my objections to her visiting her parents, she no longer wants to visit them.

      I always appreciate your comments, so thanks for contributing.

      Gillan

      Like

    • Hi Odd Pixie, I’m sorry to say it looks like WordPress didn’t take your comment after all! If you had the time, I’d love to read it, but if not, no worries – I appreciate the thought.
      Gillan

      Like

  2. Here’s another try at commenting, then:

    I think part of the difficult nature of this might be our natural tendency to see things in strict, black and white definitions. Abuser is an ugly word, so if you attach that word to someone, our tendency would be to think that reduces them to a one-dimensional monster. And then if you see any form of evidence of more dimensions, more sides existing in them, it might lead you to question that monstrous label, and by extension, the word that is attached to it and the acts described by that word — even though what you’re seeing isn’t proof that those acts did not happen, just proof that one-dimensional monsters aren’t the stuff of messy real life.

    It might be helpful to remember that while all those other sides and all those other motives exist — while there might be explanations and other sides and yes, even love — what matters at this moment is that there is abusive behaviour happening towards you and your children, and that you absolutely have the right to want to protect yourself and those you love from the harm that this abusive behaviour causes.

    If you were at the zoo and a bear escaped its enclosure and attacked your family, its motivations and the factors underlying its escape and its attack would not be relevant at that moment either, nor would the fact that it was sometimes a perfectly lovely animal — that’s stuff to maybe contemplate once you reach a safe place, not while you’re still in danger. And even if the bear lost interest momentarily and looked perfectly lovely again, you would still want to make sure you got out of the zoo safely, rather than continue your visit and risk another attack. This might mean hiding in a relatively safe part of the zoo until help arrives, to continue the metaphor, but leaving the zoo does seem imperative.

    I wish you and your children the very best, and I do also hope your wife will receive all the help she needs — but not at the cost of your safety, which from what I can tell, needs to be a priority right now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for trying again, what a great comment! I think the zoo metaphor is a really helpful analogy. You’re right – my mental and physical safety, and that of my children, is paramount right now. In essence, my wife is not a monster, but her behaviour can be monstrous and I need to protect myself from it. As the above commenter suggested, it comes from a combination of sad, mad and bad, but regardless of the intent, the effect is still the same.

      I truly believe she needs her mental health investigating, but after I’m in a place where I can no longer be affected by the repercussions.

      Thanks again,
      Gillan

      Liked by 1 person

      • > I truly believe she needs her mental health investigating, but after I’m in a
        > place where I can no longer be affected by the repercussions.

        Logically, the way to do that would be for her to go to a residential place where they can do that and give her whatever help she needs. That way you and your girls can continue almost as normal while mum gets help.

        Of course that would need such a place to exist and have space and for her to be willing to go.

        Good luck.

        Like

      • Thanks Andrew, I wholeheartedly agree.

        Unfortunately, she and her family think that I’m the one with the problem – that if I’d just tolerate the abuse, stop asking for help, and maybe even go on tranquilizers, then I’d be able to endure it. Notice that at no point in their thinking should my wife change HER behaviour. They don’t seem to think she’s doing anything wrong, and they own the house, so they’d kick me out before they’d ever seek help for their daughter.

        It’s a long cycle of denial on their part – her school reports were so full of red flags, I can’t believe nothing was done, but it was private school and the parents told them not to involve the psychologists or they’d pull her out of school. They use their wealth to intimidate and control. Her mum bounces from denying that there’s anything different about her daughter to blaming MMR, and neither will accept there’s something wrong with her because it would be embarrassing down at the yacht club.

        So, a messed-up situation all round!

        Gillan

        Like

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