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Recognizing abuse vs owning my part

learningtofeel posted 7/11/2020 20:48 PM

So I'm struggling with the question of the balance between my growing awareness and recognition of the ways STBXH behaved in controlling and emotionally manipulative ways, and my new experience of that as a form of abuse - on the one hand - and my desire to understand the ways in which I participated in a relationship that turns out was oppressive and stifling to me on the other.

As we move through the divorce process, and as I get farther and farther from his influence I can see more and more clearly his manipulative behavior. Part of me wants to go deep into acknowledging that as truly oppressive, and even abusive (and yet that feels like too strong a word). I'm seeing so often how I feel released, freed, and have a growing awareness of my own interests and desires that have been held in check for so long.

At the same time, I want to hold myself accountable for my part in staying in such a relationship. I want to learn and grow and not make this mistake again. It feels as though by acknowledging his actions as verging on abusive I will define myself as a victim and not be able to move beyond that. That scares me.

I lived with and loved someone for more than 30 years who turns out to have carefully created a narrative in which he got his way but it was always presented as him not asking for his way. And the subtlety of the control is staggering. I am only just beginning to be able to recognize it.

Here's today's example: We had agreed months ago that he would take on the monthly funds we give our young adult kids (who are financially independent, but barely - we cover the cost of their cell phones and their car insurance and that's it), because he has a better paying job than I do. We split it through the end of June because he was set to get a huge pay raise due to a job change after June 30. He chose, on his own, to take July off before starting his new job August 1. So, no income for him for July. Today he emailed and said, "I checked our emails and I don't see anything about how we decided to split the kids' funds for July."

That's because we didn't. He was supposed to start his new job July 1 and take over the funding. He never asked me about taking the time off, or negotiated with me to help out. But it gets presented totally neutrally, and also as if he is being somehow proactive or responsible by "checking past emails."

Until very recently I attributed that to him just not being on top of things or to me having done all the family administration in the past. But I'm seeing now how that's not the case. In fact, even my believing that now feels like part of my being under his influence. In fact, he's a smart fellow with a very good job with plenty of responsibility. This is about controlling me. Keeping me involved, keeping me tied up in the relationship.

Well, I emailed back saying, "We agreed you would take on all the funds for the kids after the end of June." That's it. If he responds asking for me to split it, I'm going to say that we never discussed my helping him out financially while he took a month off and so no. And I wonder what will happen then - that will be a new one.

I'm curious what you all have experienced and how you've navigated this. What do you think?


Charity411 posted 7/12/2020 10:19 AM

((((learningtofeel)))) I'm sending cyber hugs your way. I have been where you are. That crossroads between "What was I thinking?" and "How dare you do that to me!" It's an argument I had in my head for a long time.

The reality is, that by recognizing abusive behavior, you are not making yourself a permanent victim. You were a victim for a time. But you found the strength to get out of the relationship. That's very hard to do when you've slowly been groomed to keep all of your wishes, desires, feelings and goals at bay for the sake of feeding someone else's ego. You learn to doubt yourself. You found that strength after 30 years, which is astounding in its own right.

I spent about 6 years with someone like that. He was my first relationship after my ex left me for his best friends wife. He knew just how to pursue me, and as time went on, more and more of me disappeared as I tried to be good enough for him. His transition from flattering to outright cruel took a slow methodical path and it was intended to control me. He could use the best of me for what he needed, when he needed it, and continued to do whatever he wanted to do, as though I didn't really exist the rest of the time. He only paid lip service to my expectations if he thought he was losing control of me, so he could hook me back in.

Yes. People like them are in fact abusive. They use people to get what they want. On the other hand, it is healthy to question how we allowed ourselves to be swept up in it. Everyone who knows me considers me to be very intelligent. I have a job with a great deal of responsibility and I do it well. No one could figure out how I didn't see who he was until I finally got away from him. Realistically, I just wanted to be loved.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to be loved. The problems arise when we buy whatever someone is selling as love, without proof that it's real. For me, that proof is fidelity, shared responsibility, commitment and genuine friendship. That's what I own about the lost years I spent on this person. I had none of those expectations met and yet I stayed figuring he'd come around. In the end the only one who changed was me. I gave up all of my very reasonable expectations and allowed myself to be convinced they were unreasonable.

When you finally leave they are astounded that you know the word NO. They keep waiting for you to give in. Because I examined how I got there, I know that giving in was the start of it all. I'll never be victimized again.


Cooley2here posted 7/12/2020 10:52 AM

Read “Games People Play”. Old book, great descriptions of manipulations.

learningtofeel posted 7/12/2020 10:52 AM

Oh Charity, thank you! This is so validating and reassuring.

I am covid-seeing (in other words, nothing physical, taking it really slow - video chats and hikes) someone right now, and so far we're mostly just friends. But I'm seeing how I could be falling for him - and your post helps me watch for the things you mentioned.

One advantage of covid-dating is that you do have to take it slow! Friendships can develop, the old fashioned way.

learningtofeel posted 7/12/2020 10:55 AM

Cooley - thank you too! I remember that book from my youth. I'll check it out.

LadyG posted 7/12/2020 16:36 PM

I am reading “Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft.
My adult son read it first.

WH and I also help fund our adult sons during pandemic. My idea as WH wanted everyone to move back to family home with him

Eldest 25, lost well paying job. Son covers rent And car repayment with government support he is entitled to. We gave him an AMEX to cover living expenses. I wanted him to have some independence without having to ask for more money. He has been very careful about spending and is actively looking for a new Paying job while volunteering in Emergency Services.

Younger 23, lives with STBXWH and suffers from depression, so unable to work with WH. I fund him for food and essentials. WH pays Their utilities, but constantly complains about it. The 2 of them live in our very large family home as WH refuses to downsize until Divorce is settled.

I cover all the mortgage repayments and expenses on all other joint properties as well as my own.

It’s financial abuse. During our 30 year marriage WH always spent twice what he earned.

The manipulation is clearer now. WH surprises me with a new car and a 5 year repayment plan, which He bullied me to sign off on, while telling me that he bought the car for me. This is just 1 of the many times when he abused me at my expense.

Owning my part? I am paying for my part and will be for a very long time.

99problems posted 7/12/2020 18:19 PM

I'm going through something similar.
My stbxw is an administrator of a healthcare facility. One of her patients tested positive for covid. She provided direct care for that person. That evening she watched my child. The next day she woke up with sore throat, fever, aches, fatigue.
So now my child, me, and my mom have been indirectly exposed to covid and the kid will not be visiting mom until stbxw's covid test comes back negative. Happily neither kid nor I are having any symptoms. I am also quarantining myself until test comes back.
Here's the fun part: stbxw (we separated on 6/28) is spending every night at her new boyfriends house (her like 10th AP) and living it up. She's such a piece of shit. I truly wonder if she ever had any real symptoms at all or just faked it to get off of work and escape parenting responsibilities for a week.
She's so gross and horrible. I will throw a huge party the day I sign those divorce papers.

learningtofeel posted 7/12/2020 18:45 PM

Dear ImcS (not sure I can call you your full name), I'm so, so sorry. That is colossally unfair. I will be partying on your behalf on that day of your final divorce.

LadyG - thanks for the book tip. Yep. It blows me away to realize the extent of the manipulation. In my case, always so subtle and so wrapped up in care and gentleness. And so stifling.

99problems posted 7/12/2020 20:33 PM

I will be posting that day, I promise.
And update: she tested positive, so now I'm getting tested... Yay!
The positive is that she has likely given her ap herpes and coronavirus all in the first month of their relationship! Poor bastard, if he didn't deserve it i'd feel bad for him.

StillLivin posted 7/13/2020 13:32 PM

It seems to me like you're already doing this. You now see clearly the issue, and you now address it accordingly. Some of us (me raising my hand) gaslit ourselves. We accepted shitty behaviors in one form or another and then whitewashed it to make it seem acceptable so we didn't have to address it because we wanted our own happy home with a freshly painted picket fence. Finding out the why's of this dynamic is important. Perhaps you're still struggling with the why's. That is the most important step. We all have different why's.
You're now aware. You can own that you have work to do without owning his shitty behavior and actions. I highly doubt you will ever be blinded again, or whitewash what's unacceptable again either.

learningtofeel posted 7/13/2020 13:39 PM

StillLivin, you are so right. In contemplating this thread I've come to see how I whitewashed myself over the years because I was determined to "work hard" in my marriage and demonstrate commitment. I blinded myself to the problems and to the ways I was being manipulated because I was determined to "do a good job" at marriage and to make my marriage work.

That played right into the manipulation and made it so easy for him to maintain his facade of decency. We looked like the adorable couple from the outside because of that.

Golly, do I appreciate this group!

StillLivin posted 7/13/2020 15:01 PM

Nothing wrong with your reasons, initially. We can't be faulted for being altruistic and not wanting to have a failed marriage. For me, at some point it transgressed from altruism to desperation to make a miserable marriage work at the cost of my soul. That's when I had to step out of the trees in order to see the forest. Kwim. There were so many reasons why I didn't know HOW to value myself more. And, I'm still a work in progress. But I have my why's now. Understanding them is what helped me to heal and to finally know my true worth. I am definitely worth more than what my ex valued me at. His inability to know my value was his problem. It will never be mine again. Same for you. You are on a wonderful journey. Stay the course.

barcher144 posted 7/13/2020 16:42 PM

So I'm struggling with the question of the balance between my growing awareness and recognition of the ways STBXH behaved in controlling and emotionally manipulative ways

Although the genders are flipped, I am in a similar position as you. I can tell you, in my case, it's been a very long process. I am almost 4-years out from D-day and almost 2 years since we decided to divorce. The abuse was subtle before we decided to D and then when she removed the mask her behavior became much more overt.

The things that have helped me the most? Reading The Covert Passive Aggressive Narcissist... watching documentaries that focused on narcissists (one on OJ Simpson, one on Jeffrey Epstein)... therapy... and dating someone with a similar history (we help each other through our past baggage).

At the same time, I want to hold myself accountable for my part in staying in such a relationship. I want to learn and grow and not make this mistake again. It feels as though by acknowledging his actions as verging on abusive I will define myself as a victim and not be able to move beyond that. That scares me.

I get this fully. One thing that you can do... is just say some bad shit happened to you and it didn't really mean anything about you at all. You don't have to reconcile EVERYTHING in your mind.

And the subtlety of the control is staggering. I am only just beginning to be able to recognize it.

This is where the documentaries on narcissists have helped me. I recognize connections between what the narcissists did and what STBXW did to me. I also see connections between how the narcissists victims responded and how I responded to STBXW's abuse.

What do you think?

Honestly? You sound heathy. You are processing what has happened to you and you are healing and you are trying not to make the same mistakes.

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