“My Emotionally Abusive Husband Makes Me Feel Awful”

by Annie Kaszina on June 3, 2014

Rosie’s emotionally abusive husband had been driving her mad.  She had not had a good week, she said. She’d tried to keep things pleasant enough with him, but he wasn’t having any of it. When asked what he wanted for dinner, he “didn’t care”. He was monosyllabic when spoken to. When my client asked if he would do something for their child, he said: “It’s not necessary.”

Rosie felt awful. She was living with the atmosphere of silent accusation, criticism, reproach that characterizes emotionally abusive relationships; you name it, you’ve probably been through it countless times yourself.

Why does an emotionally abusive husband do that?

“Why does my husband do that?” she asked. “Why does he make me feel so awful? Can’t he just be pleasant?”

Can’t he just be pleasant??!!

It may be perfectly reasonable to  want a partner a to pleasant.  But it’s NOT reasonable – and it’s certainly not helpful – to imagine an emotionally abusive partner is going to be pleasant.

zogsmallRosie’s husband came from the emotionally abusive planet – Zog – remember, where being pleasant is deemed high treason!!

Why would an emotionally abusive partner be pleasant?

What is in it for him?

Think about it. Rosie has been married to this Zogian, for a while. (Anywhere between 3 weeks and thirty years: in other words, long enough for him NOT to feel that he has to be on his best behavior.)

As he sees it, Rosie is getting out of hand. She’s starting to believe in herself, she’s doing things that make her life more fulfilling.

That flags up a Red Alert in Mr Zogian’s brain very quickly.

From his point of view, it’s is A Very Bad Thing. Why is it a very bad thing?  Because the Zogian One senses that he is in danger of losing his position as the Epicentre of Rosie’s World.

Scary!!

So, what does he do?

He needs to grab her full attention.

Fortunately, he knows a great way to do it…

“He’s having a sulk,” I said to Rosie.

“What?” she said.

“Just because he’s 6 ft 4 ins, and weighs 220 lbs, that doesn’t mean he’s not a sulker. There is no age, height, or weight limit on sulking. He knows it’s a great tool to use, because it makes you miserable.”

A series of small gulps and deep breaths followed. Then Rosie said:

“You mean he’s sulking?”

“That’s exactly what I mean.”

“I’d never thought of that,” said Rosie – who is a pretty savvy woman… when she’s not trying to communicate with a Zogian.

“He’s sulking, all right. He does that because he knows how upsetting it is for you. He also knows you haven’t realized he’s sulking in order to get your attention, and bring you back into line. It feels like you’re caught up in a game, playing by rules you don’t understand. Because that’s exactly what’s happening.”

“What should I do?” Rosie asked.

“What do you do with children who sulk?” I asked. “Do you reward them with your attention, and keep trying to talk, cajole and plead with them to stop sulking? Or do you leave them to get on with it?”

“I certainly do not reward them,” she replied, in a much firmer tone of voice.

Why would you reward a sulker?

“So, why reward the 6 ft 4 in sulker?”

Why do we do it?

As I see it – and my emotionally abusive partner was, actually, a Guinness Book of Records’ Sulker – adult sulking is an act of aggression. (For some men, it may be a precursor to physical aggression.)

That doesn’t mean you should take responsibility for the sulker, and try to talk him out of it.

That means you need to take responsibility for yourself.

You really don’t want to reward that Zogian for sulking. Instead of meekly toddling over to the virtual naughty step and sitting down on it to make him happy, you need to leave him to it. Your absence leaves him communing with that step.  Whether he chooses to park his bottom on it, or not.

If your emotionally abusive husband is one of those brutes who will resort to physical violence to get your attention, then you have to be prepared and, if necessary, get the police involved. He needs to know there are consequences for his behavior.

As a mother, Rosie’s quite a fan of the naughty step. As a recovering emotionally abused woman, she accepted the idea of the 6 ft 4 in sulker easily, and responded appropriately.

What happened?

Her emotionally abusive husband is – currently – behaving better.

That’s not to say he’s become a naturalized, decently behaved adult. For now, he’s trying to please because he can see that’s in his best interests.

But it’s not a solution.

What matters here is Rosie. She’s feeling much better about herself. Her emotionally abusive husband can sulk all he likes – if he likes .  He can sulk until he’s blue in the face; or go down to the bottom of the garden and eat worms (a threat allegedly used by an aunt of mine).  His choice of behaviour has nothing to do with her.

Rosie isn’t bothered.

He doesn’t have the power to make her feel awful anymore.

That’s what I call a result.

Don’t let anyone make you feel awful.

To read more about the way a  Class A Zogian One operates CLICK HERE.

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