6th April 2021 at 8:19 am #124357FigureItOutParticipant
I’m new here, and found this forum because I am trying to work out if what I am experiencing is abuse. It is complex and very confusing, and even more so because my husband is autistic: he is diagnosed with what used to be called (detail removed by moderator). He is thus mind-blind: he cannot take or fully understand the perspective of others. He prefers routine, calm, predictability, and only some social interactions (on this terms). He has special interests that take his time and attention – luckily they’re also often useful things, like learning to make good (detail removed by moderator). He also has a noticeable deficit in communication capabilities and reciprocity. He can only have surface-conversations, and roundabout conversations – it’s hard to explain, but they’re never really back and forth. He also (detail removed by moderator). It means that he is not capable of recognising or expressing his own feelings, and nor those of other people. We are just (detail removed by moderator) his opinion.
I know that – or at least I hold on to the perception – that he does not want to hurt either me or our two kids, (detail removed by moderator). He has a job, and earns a good wage. He helps in the house, will look after the children, and has an ok relationship with them in many ways. We have a sort of….pragmatic companionship. Which he thinks is what a marriage is supposed to be like – that it is sufficient. I attempted to express(detail removed by moderator), but he disagreed. He is well-liked at work and can socially compensate well enough that to most people he comes across ok. He obviously cannot keep that up all the time, so at home we see the other side.
Because I would like this to work, for a range of reasons, I sometimes attempt to express my feelings. Because I do feel very lonely, often, and heartachingly so. It hurts. He gave me a hug not long ago, unprompted, because he’d said some hurtful things the night before and knows I have said (detail removed by moderator). When he did, I burst into tears just because having someone wrap their arms around me felt so good, so unusual and warm. Anyway, so I’ve noticed a pattern that occurs when I try to express myself. He escalates, gets angrier and angrier, and it becomes all about him. What I am doing, in his opinion, is not to express myself, but to blame and criticise him. It belongs to the story that I happen to be unusually good at expressing my feelings, and good at using words with some thought. English is my second language. I have told him many times, initially through just using words and grammatical structures that made it clear I was talking about my perspective, how I feel when…etc. Then I started (detail removed by moderator). But it does not help. He can come across as – to me – so over the top when he’s like this, that I get a little scared, and I get very hurt. He’s never attacked me physically, but it is a verbal attack. Last time it literally took my energy away and I ended up on my knees crying. His words were so harsh, his body-language so hateful, I sat on a chair sobbing and heard myself say “I want my mum”.
Nothing is ever resolved. There is a stilted routine for ‘making-up’ where we placate each other, and because it’s what I’ve taught him, there is a perfunctory hug. I have not largely stopped talking about my feelings altogether. He also likely has adhd, and a lot of things get left not completely done, tasks are not done with attention to detail, there is mess in his wake all the time. He does try to clean and tidy too, but I always end up finishing his tasks. I have two choices: I can either just quietly do it, or I can try to say that(detail removed by moderator) But those requests get taken as me being critical and horrible. They are brough up in these ‘meltdowns’ of his where he attack me, and piled on to the (detail removed by moderator) case.
I walk on eggshells. I am given no warm, relaxed, neurotypical-reciprocal affectionate, loving care. Practical care, yes. He takes care of things. He comes across as grumpy and irritable most of the time. His face looks stern or uninterested or cold a lot of the time. Sometimes not, of course, and he does try. He does smile. He tries to make jokes. He’s learnt to be better with the kids, learnt to show them care and affection. He shows them more (and animals so much more) affection than he does me.
There has been incidents with the kids too. One time our (detail removed by moderator) while he was supposed to watch her and make sure she didn’t do that. But he’d taken both kids down to play (detail removed by moderator) When she knocked on my door and couldn’t get in and started shouting for me, he exploded, and shouted really horribly at her. I jumped up scooped her up in my arms – she was laying like a little ball on the floor. And I told him quite firmly and in angry, but still in control, that to treat her, or the children like this, was not ok. He then screamed at me about me undermining him in front of the children, about how I was making him look, making him look like the bad guy, that I was giving them the idea that he was the angry one. It was all about him, what this was doing to him. It is a trait of his condition that he will conceive everything from a perspective where his self is at the centre. Aut in autism comes from the Greek word for ‘self’. I understand that. I try to take that into account. But… I’ve had to have a chat with my kids to explain daddy’s brain is wired differently,(detail removed by moderator) I have had to sit in a car, because we were away from the house, and explain that daddy has two kinds of angry: regular angry (go get dressed, we’re going to miss the train!) and mean angry, and you are allowed to say to him that he should stop, that he’s upsetting you, whenever you feel like he is. I have had to say to my husband that I have to do all disciplining of the children. Although he doesn’t quite manage to abide by that.
So… it is difficult. I found the quiz on this site that asked questions to determine if it was abuse. I checked several yes-es, and it said only one was needed to consider it. But… he’s ill. Or, more precisely, he has a developmental deficit in social, interpersonal and emotional capabilities. I know he literally does not hear or can assess or modulate his own tone and presence. He is on anti-anxiety meds which has helped with his anger and irritability, and he is starting therapy soon, although I know all therapy can do is to give him some strategies that he might or might not be able to deploy. We own our house together, and are about to start doing it up. If we were not together, the kids would lose their home. And so much of what he does and is for us is also helpful and good and valuable. I feel so confused. So torn. Because I am trying and trying and wanting it to be all right for everyone, him included, but I am in so much pain, I am so tense and sad, and I want life and smiles and joy for my children (which they’re not without now, just… there’s always this shadow, at least for me, and I think there is for them too, because my son asks me not to go away etc. argh, I don’t know.)
Help! How should I think? I have flat out told him, in a couple of instances, that his behaviour is now abusive, in this moment (I’ve only been able to see that it was lately — it took a decade and lots of research and speaking to a counsellor). I also then (detail removed by moderator) But still I have a hard time wrapping my head around the possibility of being in an abusive relationship. For if it is ‘properly abusive’, then we, the kids and I, surely need to get out. But then we lose everything that is stable in terms of home and income and that’s traumatising too. And we lose all that is good about living and being with dad, whom we all still have caring and loving feelings for. I am so, so confused and lost and stuck.
6th April 2021 at 9:34 am #124366HawthornParticipant
Welcome to the forum😊. It takes so much courage to reach out for support, especially when you have been brought so low. Im so sorry for situation you find yourself in, you really don’t deserve it. I know for me, and many women here, the scars from the verbal, emotional and psychological abuse run much deeper than any from physical abuse, so please don’t downplay the trauma you’re experiencing. We also tend to minimise the abuse while we are living in it, how else could a person get through their day?
What comes across to me from your message is how very miserable you are in this relationship. You are tense, have no emotional support or love, living on eggshells afraid to do or say the wrong thing. Our home should be haven, a peaceful and safe refuge from the world. It doesn’t sound as though your home is that for you, or your children.
You make so many excuses for your husband, as we all do for our abusers. But he can control his behaviour towards his colleagues and finish tasks at his work. Why then are you suffering abuse at his hands and picking up after him at home? I’m sure his work involves receiving constructive criticism, does he fly off the handle with his boss like he does with you? He chooses to lose control and rage at you, he can control himself when it suits him.
Your children are learning that this is what a relationship looks like; one person in control as king of the castle, the other making excuses for their partners terrible behaviour and tip toeing around them trying to keep them happy. That your abuser is not neuro-typical is no excuse, he is an adult and responsible for his actions. Abusers always have a sob story to lure us in and excuse their behaviour, be it chdhood trauma, bullying, issues with addiction or low self-esteem etc.
Please reach out to women’s aid for support, you need and deserve it. They won’t make you do anything but will talk through your options and support you. Some excellent books include Why Does He Do That by Lundy Bancroft and How He Gets Inside Her Head by Don Hennessey. Build your support network; abusers isolate us, so reach out to your friends and family and keep reaching out here. You are not alone and you deserve a peaceful and happy home. Sending a big hug xx
6th April 2021 at 11:42 am #124374EyesopeningParticipant
Hi Figureitout, I’m sorry to hear your situation is difficult.
I am new to this forum and recently also posted for the first time as I needed some support and advice to identify if my partner is abusive – he is. But he does not have any condition like autism to complicate the issue.
BUT this story really struck a tune because your partner sounds very much like my father. He’s never been medically diagnosed, but we all think he is autistic due to the obvious signs in his behavior.
I have to say my childhood was difficult and confusing, he provided for us very well in all respects. But he would have episodes of rage. With age he got better, with less stress perhaps. During the pandemic he got worse again.
we walked on eggshells when we were young (still do if he is in that certain mood where we know he can get set off).
So in turn I have found a partner who gives me the same home life…
I’m sorry I don’t have any answers, but it’s something i have also always wondered about… if its his condition, or if was abuse.
Stay strong x*x
6th April 2021 at 6:48 pm #124410JulkaParticipant
It’s eerie how similar our stories are… from not using English as our first language, through your husband’s diagnosis with ADD / autism, us having two children and the issues around discipline, the abuse, the day to day behaviour,the fears and considerations regarding the future and the trauma of the split versus the trauma of us remaining with them…
I feel for you, it is such a difficult situation, abuse in itself is so tricky to deal with but with the diagnosis on top, it feels like a mission impossible.
I am not sure I have much advice at this stage, but I will send you a private message and if you’d like to reach out please do.
Take care and wishing you strength in the meantime xx
7th April 2021 at 3:44 am #124429EmpoweredhealingParticipant
Hi there, I’m so sorry you are going through this! From what you described, your husband’s behavior has all the hallmarks of verbal and emotional abuse.
His diagnosis, although a contributing factor, is not sufficient to justify abuse. And yes, it’s always a choice to be abusive.
Abusers are not abusive to everyone. Like most abusers, your husband instinctively knows to abuse only those who are vulnerable to him (his wife and children). There are very little consequences to abusing your family. And you can do this for a long time without anyone else finding out. It’s a pretty good deal for an abuser.
Have you reached out to your local WA or your doctor? You mentioned a counselor, that’s a really good step. Your husband’s diagnosis and his behavior are his responsibility. You have every right to protect yourself and your children from further abuse.
8th April 2021 at 12:56 pm #124529ISOPeaceParticipant
Hi there, I’m sorry to hear you’re going through this. One of the posts above makes a good point in asking whether he treats other people outside the family the way he treats you and the children. If not, it suggests he is capable of “normal” behaviour.
In my view the key things are:
1. Is the behaviour conducive to a happy, respectful environment where everyone can thrive?
2. If no to 1., does he truly take responsibility for his behaviour in a way that gives realistic hope that things will improve?
From what you say I think the answers to both are no. I don’t think whether or not he can help it is important in deciding whether you can have a happy family life. You could argue that all abusers can’t help it because they believe their behaviour is ok. Or if somebody had a brain injury that made them dangerously violent, it wouldn’t be their fault but that wouldn’t change the fact that you couldn’t have a happy home with them.
The most important thing to children is a safe and stable emotional environment. Yes changing circumstances at home can be unsettling, but please don’t underestimate the trauma of abuse. Taking the kids out of their home will be a one off change to get used to. Abusive behaviour is ongoing trauma. Also it will feel familiar to them so that when they’re older they’re likely to tolerate it from others or even perpetrate it, even if you explain it’s wrong. Children learn more from what we do than what we say.
I know it’s hard. Reaching out here is a really positive step. It may take some time to make the decision to leave. You can only make decisions for you and your children. There is no win-win in abusive situations. If you stay and things don’t change (it sounds very unlikely that things will change) then you and the children lose. If you leave, I see it more as win-draw, because you and the children are free, and while he will feel like he’s lost, actually you all being there weren’t making him happy or there would have been no abuse. I’m not in any way saying you’re at fault for not making him happy. The only reason you didn’t was because his expectations of you are unrealistic and nobody would make him happy. Sending lots of love xxxx
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