Stuck in an unhealthy relationship

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    I’m writing this from a place of confusion and hopelessness. I’m lost and I need help, I need some guidance on what to do with my husband. We have been together for a total of 9 years and married 1 year, we started dating in our early 20s, now we’re 30, he was my first relationship.

    Our relationship has always been up and down. I have always stood up for myself in the past and have told him when there was something that bothered me but I was frequently met with “you’re too sensitive” or “you’re overreacting”. Some of the things that have bothered me in the past have been, making me the butt of the joke just to make friends or family laugh, generally being too hard on me about things, “teasing” me but then the teasing goes too far.

    3 years ago he decided to go camping on labor day weekend without having a reservation, and I told him that we’ll probably have a hard time finding a campsite – he told me I was being negative for saying this. We had been driving for hours without stopping and I asked him to pull over so I could go the bathroom and eat something, and he said “just wait until we get to the campsite”. If I had insisted on pulling over, I knew it would have caused an argument so I didn’t say anything more. We got to the campsite and as we’re unloading the car he could sense that I was in a bad mood, I must have done something to trigger him because he suddenly yelled, “you’re such a fucking bitch, you’ve ruined my camping trip”. He started manhandling all the storage containers that had the camping supplies and threw them on the ground, and he had a mallet that he slammed onto the picnic bench. I felt like I really had ruined things, I felt horrible, but also really scared. I was the one who ended up apologizing for everything though, which is something that has happened so many times in our relationship, I always end up apologizing for things during arguments, even when I’m the one who’s brought up an issue. After we got back from the camping trip I told him that I needed a break from the relationship, after about a month or two he started being nicer and more attentive. I honestly thought, maybe this needed to happen in order for our relationship to grow, so we got back together. In hindsight though, something changed in our relationship after this.

    I started really trying to avoid arguments, I felt like I had to pick my battles so when an argument did happen I would try to move past it as fast as I could. What was the point since I always lost? I started just taking things, I let him walk all over me, but at the time I didn’t realize this was happening. A year and a half goes by and we’re engaged and then we get married. After we got married, everything started to get way worse. We adopted a cat right after we got married and she became the light of my life, but he seemed to get jealous of the attention I gave her. He would get mad when i would come home with new toys, or new food for her. He was really stubborn about getting her spayed when I knew she absolutely needed it, he was being so challenging about it. I was reduced to tears over this because I wanted to do what was best for her and he was so against doing anything but the “bare minimum”. I got her spayed eventually but the fight I had to put up to do it was ridiculous. Earlier this year the verbal abuse started up again, and so far he has called me: stupid, bitch, stupid bitch, hateful bitch, he’s told me that “no wonder no one likes you, you have no qualities that anyone could like”, he said “you’re so good at remembering the past why don’t you write a book about it and choke on it”. He has become hyper-controlling, he has this very “my way or the highway attitude”, I can’t buy anything for the house without talking to him about it first. He scrutinizes and criticizes what I’m doing, how I’m doing it and what I’m not doing. Almost every time I cook (which is 4-5 times a week) he has some criticism about it like, “you put too much salt in this”, “you should cut the tomatoes smaller next time”, when I tell him how much this upsets me he tells me I’m having an attitude and he says why don’t I want to take constructive criticism to improve? A few months ago he grabbed my cat by the scruff and tossed her like a bowling ball because she kept jumping up on the counter and I wasn’t doing anything about it (he has a “rule” about keeping the cat off the counter). But of course I ended up apologizing because of how mad I got at him. I told him to never ever do that ever again, and he got mad that I had raised my voice at him. He has told me he’s going to divorce me in two separate arguments, but then later says that he only said that in order to get his point across. I’ve told him how much it hurts me when he calls me names, that its confusing and de-stabalizing for a person who says they love you and made vows to you to go on a rant and call you a bitch. His response to this is: “I can’t control myself when I’m angry”, another time he said “you shouldn’t have been acting like a bitch”. Just over the weekend I asked him if he could help me unload the dishwasher while I cooked breakfast, and he said “that’s your job”. I eventually convinced him to do it but it turned into an argument about who does what, and him telling me that I don’t do very much around the house and what I do is not that hard of work. Keep in mind I: cook, do all the dishes, unload the dishwasher, vacuum, basically clean the whole house myself, buy the groceries, do the laundry. He puts away the dishes that are in the drying rack, mows the lawn 2x a month, and handles all the bills. He spent two weeks a few months ago giving me the silent treatment, he said he was “cooling off”. A lot of times after a big argument, he’ll act as though nothing has happened which leaves me feeling so confused. I’ve been noticing a pattern that whenever he wants to “make up” he just wants to be intimate. After all this don’t feel like being intimate at all, but it seems like when he’s ready to make up he’ll spend a little time being (noticeably) nicer to me and then ask for sex. When I tell him I’m not comfortable doing that, he tells me that I’m punishing him. I walk away from our arguments feeling so confused, and I feel like he tries to say things that don’t even make sense just to deflect blame onto me. During an argument we had recently I told him everything I was feeling and everything that I thought. He stayed totally cool and calm during the whole argument while I was getting upset and emotional. The next day he said that I sounded crazy and what I said didn’t make any sense, and if I meant what I said then he would be concerned. I can’t seem to do anything right in his eyes and I’ve always felt like I’ve had to improve myself in order to be a better girlfriend/wife. There is so much more that has happened, but I think you get the gist.

    I’ve really looked deep within myself and realized why I’ve stayed with him so long. In the beginning I could see the red flags, I could sense a feeling in my gut that there was something off, but I wanted to be in a relationship. I wanted to be loved. I didn’t know how bad things actually where, I had nothing to compare it to. He always seemed to do the “right” things – all the things girls dream their boyfriend would do, but I always sensed this emptiness behind it. Like he was doing it because he thought this is what girls wanted. But I ignored all these things because I wanted to be in a relationship. I used to believe him every single time he would tell me I was too sensitive, over-reacting, negative, closed-minded, immature. I thought, he’s been a relationship before so he must know more than me, plus I’ve never been this close to anyone before so I must be all these things. He was constantly negating my feelings, and I just let him do it.

    When he is not acting like this and I’m not walking on eggshells, we get a long so well. He is so funny and we share a similar sense of humor and similar interests, but I feel like I don’t know him anymore. I feel like I can’t trust him anymore. I feel so heartbroken and I feel like I have this very hollow feeling in my chest, I feel like I’m grieving. I’ve spoken to two different therapists/counselors about this and one suggested couples therapy – which he originally said yes to but it was because he wanted to “make up” but then he said he’s not going to therapy with a crazy person, and the other counselor said I should continue going to individual therapy in order to learn to stand up for myself more, and learn how to better respond to what he says to me in hopes that he will treat me better.

    I feel very apathetic towards him. I don’t feel like being particularly nice to him, to which he tells me I have an attitude towards him. It disgusts me to see him be loving towards the cat because all I can think of is when he tossed her. I also feel a deep anger towards him. I feel really bad about feeling this way though. I don’t know what to do, I have two people telling me to keep trying, but I think I just want to leave, I don’t want to be around him. But thinking about leaving him scares me. I don’t know what a future without him looks like, and that terrifies me. But on the other hand I have so many memories with him, he’s all I’ve known for almost a decade. I started looking at apartments and I had two different people tell me the apartment was mine if I wanted it but I hesitated and said no. I don’t know what to do, it’s incredibly hard to leave. But I feel like he’s crossed the line too many times now that I will never actually leave. I wish I had someone to come over my house and tell me to pack my things because it’s time to go. If I can’t find a place to live I would probably go to my moms, which would be a challenge but it might be better for me than this. I’ve been saving up as much money as I can for the last few months. I go back and forth day to day feeling like I can do this and feeling confident to feeling lost and weak and like maybe I should just stay because maybe I’m not looking at the bigger picture, like he says. Please, I need advice. What would you do? I feel stuck but also I don’t know if I just stay and try to work through things. Thank you to whoever read this far, I know it’s very long.


    The title of your post describes your relationship.  You are in an unhealthy relationship.

    If you really want to move forward then don’t look outside yourself for permission to do something.

    It is not what we would do or advise you to do but what do you want to do, what you NEED to do.  Do you love yourself enough to make the changes that is healthy for you?  If not then find a therapist to assist you.

    You say you wish someone come over and tell you what to do.  How about pretending to be that good friend and tell yourself to pack up and move out.  Read what you posted as if it was written by someone else, what would you tell her to do?

    I don’t disagree that it is hard to make changes.  Once you make your decision to change then look for support to assist you in that.  But my take is that you first need to decide for yourself before you seek help.

    Good luck,


    It sounds like a verbally abusive relationship…yes, like you said very unhealthy. Strive for something better, leave him and find yourself.


    Hi Peria,

    As I read your post, I was imagining crossing the path of a stranger who lives a life like yours, who holds those emotions and thoughts and experiences with her. Would she “act normal” — happy, well-adjusted — putting on a brave face or over-compensating (my tendency)? Or would she act out in a major way in her way of relating to other people outside of her unhealthy relationship?

    I second almost everything Mark said. Your wise mind is telling you that it is an unhealthy relationship, and your some other mind (we all have that but it may be less potent in some people than in you at the moment because of temperament, practice, bad experiences, good luck, etc…could be anything) is saying, “yes, but then…”

    What I would add is the observation that his behaviour seems quite reflective of “gaslighting”.

    Love to your way,


    • This reply was modified 5 years, 6 months ago by gia.

    Hi Perla,

    Welcome to the forum!

    I just wanted to say that it is a big step for you to acknowledge the fact that there are issues within your relationship. This is a start. Your husband sounds like he was a great man to start with but somewhat lost himself along the way and this emotional abuse has just become his way of being. This isn’t healthy and needs to change.

    I know it is easier said than done to say ‘Leave! Do better for yourself! You know you deserve better! You’ll be fine!’ so I will not tell you those things. After all, you have spent many years with your husband and must love him dearly to have lasted this long. You say yourself, when he is not acting up you two actually have a good relationship!

    I think there are a few things you need to ask yourself before making any decisions. Do you love this man enough to be willing to work through this IF he is willing to do that? Now I say this because no matter how much you may want to work through your problems, he may be unable to do so at this point in time or ever. That then is your queue to leave as the relationship will just continue the way it is. But it is important that you ask yourself if too much has happened now and you just want out or if you are still willing to work through things. You mentioned that you just want to get out and be away from him now. Is that because of the person he has become or are you just generally done with this relationship now? Ask yourself how your feelings towards him and your relationship would change if he no longer acted this way? Would your relationship be a happy one and continue to strive?

    We as human beings are often driven by emotion. The saying goes ‘don’t make permanent decisions on temporary emotions’ and I guess this is what I am trying to do here.

    If I were in your shoes, I would take some time out perhaps a weekend with a friend or family where I can have some time to myself outside of the situation and really think about everything. Do I want this relationship to work? What do I want? How do I want my life to look right now? Once I have been honest with myself this way I can then make a decision on my future. If you choose to continue your relationship with your husband then he must be available and willing to work through the problems. Starting with an honest, emotional, raw conversation about everything that he does that may hurt you and vice versa. You must be able to listen to hear one another, not just wait to respond. On the other hand, break ups are always difficult but if you do choose to walk away and build a new life for yourself at least in your lower moments you can always remind yourself that this was a thought through decision and you know deep down it is truly what you want!

    Sending lots of hugs your way! I hope it all works out just the way you want it to!


    Dear Perla:

    “I walk away  from our arguments feeling so confused, and I feel like he tries to say things that don’t make sense just to deflect  blame onto me”

    These are  my suggestions:

    1. Don’t try to make  sense of what he tells you beyond this one making-sense point: his motivation is to have  power over you, to keep you in an inferior to him, submissive position. He will therefore say and do whatever it takes to accomplish this goal.

    2. Don’t hope  that he will change if you become  a… good  enough wife. It was never about you being  good, it is about you being inferior to him, submissive. That is what good is for him. Don’t hope for love from him either. At best  you will receive the appearance of love when he wants  sex and  when  he  wants to take a  break and have a fun, relaxed  time.

    3. You need someone, a  third party, to help you move  out as  soon as possible. You need that social support  because you are afraid to leave  him by  yourself. I suggest you connect with a support group for abused women, get  together in person with a group of such women and take their assistance to do just that, move out. There are shelters in places for  abused  women, shelters that are very nice homes. I spent some time in one a long  time ago.

    What do you think/ feel?




    Hi Perla,

    A man doesn’t have to leave bruises for you to be in an abusive relationship.

    Ordinarily I would tell someone in your situation how to verbally stand up for yourself (i.e. after making you the butt of jokes for you to make a public scene three times worse than the original infraction. He would get the idea that it’s simply NOT WORTH IT to disrespect you. Ever!). The problem is you didn’t nip this in the bud. AND NOW IT IS A BAD HABIT HE CAN’T GET OUT OF.

    Also, the scene at the campground scares me for you.

    If I were you: Gather up all necessary documents. Clean out your joint checking account AND/OR open up a new account IN YOUR NAME. Do this SECRETELY. Drop the cat off at your mom’s. Forget your clothes and stuff. Go to a Women’s Shelter. You need one.

    Good Luck,



    I used to stick up for myself in the first few years of the relationship. I would always tell him when his joking or sarcasm went too far. But maybe it just wasn’t enough? I thought I was getting through to him, but as the years went on things got worse and then the name calling began. He also began to get angry at very random things I would say or do in everyday situations, and I just don’t understand why? Like he was attacking my personality. I struggle with feeling like a lot of this is my fault and like I’ve enabled him, and if I would have been able to handle things correctly or had done things differently then they wouldn’t be so bad. I feel bad for making him angry and upset,  I’m not a confrontational person, arguments are always very difficult for me. I think I may also be co-dependent and I know that I need to continue going to therapy to work on that. I do feel like a lot of the time his need to have control over things has taken over, he’s always been a bit of a control freak but as he gets older it gets worse. I do feel like no matter what I do, it’s never good enough for him. I don’t know if he will ever change his ways, when I try and talk to him about it, he just doesn’t seem to get it, he doesn’t seem to be able to put himself in my shoes and see how I feel. I’m a very giving person and I like to make others happy, but I honestly feel like he’s taken advantage of it.


    • This reply was modified 5 years, 6 months ago by Perla.

    Dear Perla:

    Your husband is clearly abusive to you, not motivated to help you, to help the relationship, not invested in your well-being. You taking the responsibility for his abusive behavior is typical (according  to the abundant literature on abusive relationships, and you may read  such) to  an abused woman, wondering what it  is  that you are  doing wrong when it  is him who is doing  wrong.


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