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    • #138135
      CuriousB
      Participant

      I know this is a lengthy post – so thank you to anyone who gets to the bottom and responds! I’m feeling a bit all over the place at the moment and can’t tell if this relationship is just a bit toxic or whether I’m experiencing emotional abuse. (detail removed by Moderator)

      If anyone can identify with this kind of behaviour or could help shine some light on whether this may be abuse – I’d be so grateful. I don’t feel like I can speak to my friends or family about this relationship anymore as it’s been so on and off and my friends have heard so much. It seems to hurt my relationships when I’ve gone back to him. so now I prefer to keep it private.

      I’ve described an incident below which can be quite typical of his behaviour when he’s stressed or feeling overwhelmed.

      For context – I moved into his place about (detail removed by Moderator) ago. Another couple moved into the spare room and we had our first night as a household the other day.

      So the couple move in and go to the pub after they’ve finished getting their boxes in. I don’t join them as I’ve had a long day – by the time they get back I’m wearing pyjama shorts and a jumper. We all have a cup of tea and a chat in the living room and then go to bed.

      After we go to our rooms – it’s nearly (detail removed by Moderator) and my partner wants what seems like a big chat. I can already tell it’s something about how I’ve been (he’s got this critical and intensity energy that I know quite well) – I’m a bit resistant and feel it’s going to be something upsetting… I ask if we could not… (maybe already a bit irate as I’ve had a crazy day at work and he knows this).

      He goes on to tell me that “(detail removed by Moderator)” but then goes on to say only things that I’m doing wrong. He says he thinks I was being unintentionally flirtatious with the guy, wearing less than everyone else (a jumper and baggy shorts after the shower – as opposed to them being in full clothes after returning from the pub) and playing with my hair (which I have a habit of doing al the time – even on my own) and was trying to “look curated” a he said I should’ve been more self aware and how this could be misconstrued as flirting.

      Before they came back he made a comment that I can’t “walk around like that” when I was in the bedroom in shorts, a bra and cardigan. I wasn’t planning to – but it wasn’t exactly mentionable – I just had a crazy stressful day and lost a report I was working on (he knows this). I thought being in comfy clothes was normal and it feels that when I relax I’m somehow doing something that upsets him.

      I quite quickly put my foot down as this has happened before around “my behaviour” with another friend. I express that him telling me the way I’m being as a problem is controlling, that I’m not wearing or doing anything inappropriate and he goes quiet. I feel like if I take on what he is saying I’m going to feel hyper self conscious and unable to relax. I basically say I don’t think anyone else feels uncomfortable and my ability to relax here is really important. Especially as the week has been hard off the back of him micro managing the move and getting very irritated with me. He gets immediately upset.

      He gets sad and tells me I’m being hostile then out the blue says “(detail removed by Moderator)” It looks and sounds like break up talk – I ask what’s going on. He then is too upset to speak to me anymore… I ask repeatedly what’s happening. I try to leave the room – he stops me and asks me to sit down. He then says “(detail removed by Moderator)” after I’ve only been here for (detail removed by Moderator) days… I get really upset but have nowhere to go other than sit in the bathroom and cry.

      I couldn’t believe that was it was all it took to threaten a conversation about me leaving considering… I’ve worn pyjamas in front of the new housemates and made an effort to be friendly? I feel really upset, unstable about the situation and confused how we got there. He says I’m reacting very dramatically and being hostile and changing everything he’s saying. He tells me he didn’t question if I should live there and rephrases it.

      This is a really delicate spot for me – I feel out of control of the living arrangement as it seems like at the drop of a hat he’ll pull it into question. But he continues to say he hasn’t pulled it into question.

      I feel like I can’t make sense of anything and feel subject to his emotional will/logic and have to seemingly take any concern of his seriously regardless of how controlling/small it is… Straight after the conversation he was somehow super calm and almost irritated by how emotional I was. I’m then called the unstable one… told me I should call my mum or my friend (As if I’m having a breakdown) he brings up he thinks I’m being hormonal, that he’s marked a day in the calendar that he expected me to be emotional, that his concerns about the other housemate were “(detail removed by Moderator)” and says a casual sorry – but now it’s my reaction that’s the problem and that’s what needs to be spoken about.

      One moment I think we’re having a nice evening – the next he’s picking apart my behaviour and asking me to reflect on how to make him more comfortable by telling me what not to wear and what not to do with my hair and think about how I’m being interpreted- if I find this insulting or belittling- my “hostility” is then a problem when I’m just being assertive/draw a boundary. It feels as if I have a boundary it will be made so hard to hold it – it would be easier to just respond how he wants me to

      It can be so emotionally exhausting – but then maybe I am overreacting and that’s a bigger problem and the thing creating “drama” over his foibles?

      I just can’t tell why this feels really difficult and unsure whether it’s me that needs to go and get support with how I am emotionally and around my self-awareness or whether this behaviour is genuinely abusive.

      Any suggestions?

    • #138143
      Wants To Help
      Participant

      Hi CuriousB,

      Welcome to the forum. (detail removed by Moderator)

      We know what the ‘definition’ of DA is, which includes emotional and psychological abuse, but then there is the stuff that is emotionally and psychologically upsetting. We start to think if something is not making us happy but it doesn’t fit the terminology of DA then we have to put up with it, but we don’t.

      Personally, I think from what you have written this is a man who wants to control how you behave, what you do etc right from the start. Some of the things you do (such as playing with your hair out of habit, which I do too and I’m always twizzling mine) are irritating him, and as a result of being irritated he is making it an issue that he wants to control. The same with you lounging around in your PJ’s. It may be that you are not compatible, and living with someone soon shows us whether we are compatible long term or not.

      One thing I watched recently was some advice about disagreements in relationships and how these were approached. Was it with a ‘problem solving’ approach or one that caused more conflict and blame?

      If you are already feeling picked on and harassed by your boyfriend’s comments and judgements about you that is enough for you to question if he is the man for you. It doesn’t need to escalate, it doesn’t need to be ‘officially abusive’, it just has to be behaviour that you don’t want to tolerate.

      We should never judge our own relationships based on how they compare (detail removed by Moderator) we need to judge our own based on how they make us feel. If he’s not making you happy and there are no compromises to be reached that satisfy you both then maybe he’s just not the man for you? I think he’ll get worse though, the red flags are there.

      xx

      • #138152
        CuriousB
        Participant

        Thank you for this thoughtful response. It’s really nice to not feel judged and have an understanding space. It’s really hard isn’t it? (detail removed by Moderator) to decipher if your red-flag radar is working overdrive or you’re genuinely seeing them. I can imagine that must be really difficult for you experiencing an abusive relationship of your own.

        You’re right and I know it well enough that things not quite making the definition of “abuse” can create a bit of a barrier to seeing that a relationship that makes you unhappy is enough.

        Unfortunately this is just one example of the kinds of things that have been happening – but the outcome of it and the pattern of him doing or saying something very upsetting/overly critical then my reaction becomes the problem – It’s becoming something I’m finding hard to look past.

        With him it’s very hard to know his intention as he’ll bring up an issues with a lot of tact – but the content of what he’s saying can be very controlling and hyper focused on my behavior (A bit how you might guide a child who doesn’t know they’re being inappropriate). If I react with any resistance it’s a field day about me having hostility and “anger issues”… ironically it can be self-fulfilling and my frustration never seems to be “justified”.

        It’s when it quickly turns into insinuations and threats of talks about ending the relationship so easily – is probably where I need to draw a line and think about where my limit is.

        I really value your response and kindness – thank you

      • #138166
        Wants To Help
        Participant

        You’re welcome 🙂

        I’ve just read your post again and there are some more things I’ve picked up on that I think show you are already forming the opinion that this guy is controlling you. You mention the relationship has been very on and off and that you no longer feel comfortable talking to friends and family about it as it is damaging those relationships. Are you starting to hide the way he treats you from those close to you because you know they will be concerned? If so, this is a warning sign that things are not right. When we start to cover up for abusive behaviour it is the start of a slippery slope.

        Bananaboat has raised a very valid point that you are already starting to try and modify your behaviour to please him. He is using the ‘monopolised perception’ tactic of turning all of your concerns you raise back on to you and he is making out that you are the reason for everything that is making you unhappy. It’s so sad that within such a short time of living together you are locking yourself away in the bathroom crying. The very nature of the way he is speaking to you shows that he is belittling you and I think he knows exactly what he is doing. When people don’t speak to us as an equal but talk down to us with an air of authority about them then they are showing they are controlling the situation and expect that what they say goes. From the get go, this does not sound like an equal relationship of two people starting their lives living together, you have moved in to his house and you will behave and act in a manner that he would like and expect! I can understand why you may struggle how to interpret his words and behaviour because it’s all so subtle isn’t it?

        With CCB we tend to look at the evidence to prove the criminal offence of CCB but the offence of CCB is different to the behaviours of the coercive controller. For instance, the police will not prosecute a man because he has asked you not to wear pyjamas in front of other people, they will not prosecute a man because he frequently insinuates he will end the relationship if you don’t do things that please him, but these subtle things are what are making you feel that you need to toe the line with him and if you don’t it makes you feel uncomfortable. These are the things that are making you feel on edge and they make you feel uneasy, then you start questioning yourself that you are over thinking things and making a mountain out of a mole hill. It’s all very clever, it’s all very subtle, they plant that seed so carefully so that you start to think the problems all lie with you. It’s part of the gaslighting and ‘crazy making’ behaviour we find ourselves in.

        This man doesn’t sound good news for you I’m sorry to say, I think the longer you stay with him the worse he is going to get. Please apply all of your training and have an honest talk with yourself about what you are experiencing, I think you’ll know what the right thing is for you. And please don’t think that because you have only lived together for a very short period of time that you need to give it longer. If this isn’t working now it’s not going to work. A saying that I love is “you can roll a t**d in glitter, but it’s still a t**d!”

        Good luck whatever choice you make xx

      • #138185
        CuriousB
        Participant

        Thank you again for taking so much time and care with reading my post and responding so thoughtfully. Feeling understood in a situation so hard to explain really helps keep my head screwed on.

        Its taken some time to understand the patterns but writing it out here is making it a bit clearer. The subtly of his actions/words and the size of the impact can be one of the more confusing parts of this. He is very well versed in feminism (eyeroll I know), very intelligent and really good at justifying his behaviour. It ultimately does always seem to come down to him needing control and he often seems lighter/happier in himself when he asserts it regardless of how my it hurts me.

        The crazy-making deniability of his intentions create an atmosphere of hyper vigilance in looking for proof that what’s happening is real? I can sort of describe it of living in two different realities?

        My poor friends got such an earful for a while ago when I couldn’t understand what was going on – so you’re right about this. I do tend to hide it. It became very hard when I spoke about what was going on and I’ve ended up losing some friends because they didn’t understand why I kept making excuses. I’m scared of becoming more isolated if I keep talking about it and I know the friends I have left wouldn’t cut contact so I do feel lucky on that level. It does seem more important to preserve my remaining friends patience rather than talk about this with them. At least I still have a space and a bit of a life to escape to this way.

        It’s just so hard to square it all and gather enough emotional resources to make the best decision for myself. I have infinite respect for people who manage it and move forward.

        I know I’m rambling at this point and I don’t expect more replies – it’s just a bit of a relief to have a space to write this and maybe other women can relate to what I’m saying!

        Thanks again for so much of your time. I’ll read your comments again if I feel like I’m losing clarity. You’ve been so generous xx

    • #138156
      Bananaboat
      Participant

      You are (detail removed by Moderator) days into living together and you’d expect it to be the happy, exciting honeymoon phase. It’s concerning that he’s making demands to control you and you are thinking about how to change to appease him, and that he wasn’t supportive of your bad day. Maybe the question isn’t is this DA or toxic but are you happy and can you live like this?

    • #145884
      Takethelongroad
      Participant

      Hi CuriousB, I’ve just joined this forum and read your posts dated February. Much of what you write is what I’ve been experiencing for years and I just wondered whether you’re still in the relationship? I hope not as you might end up like me, which is not a good thing I can assure you.

      Anyway, hope to hear from you.

      • #145903
        CuriousB
        Participant

        Hi Takethelongroad,

        Welcome to the Forum 🙂

        Thank you for responding to me and sharing what you’ve been going through too. I’m sorry you’ve been experiencing something similar, it’s so difficult isn’t it to make sense of some of the more covert/deniable/psychological gaslighting and controlling behaviour when they’re so manipulative and in denial themselves (or at least in my case I think he wasn’t entirely conscious of what he was doing).

        I’m so sorry you’ve spent so long with your partner and feeling that it’s gotten worse from what compares to my situation. I did leave around (removed by moderator) ago now and I haven’t regretted it. It’s kind of maddening when the confusion and fog starts to lift (don’t get me wrong – I’m nowhere near out the other end of it). It also took me years to remove myself entirely and it’s still difficult. What I do know though is that it’s nowhere near as difficult as sharing a life with him. The decision to leave felt so scary and I couldn’t believe I was doing it in the midst of it all – But I think there does just come a time where there aren’t really other options.

        So since I left – The relief of not having to tread on eggshells, not having to explain myself every five minutes, deal with his paranoia is such a weight off my shoulders, that the upset and upheaval of leaving has felt minimised to some degree.

        There are of course good days and bad days, but in all the yo-yoing I finally feel able to be myself a bit more. When I think “I should be” coping better now – I sometimes remind myself that when I was with him – I couldn’t remember the last good day I had and how amazing it is that I get to have that now. I’m not worried about what he thinks, I’m able to quieten his voice telling me what is OK and not OK for me to do/how to behave/who to talk to. That’s enough for me right now.

        There are also the small things; Wearing what I like without worrying, speaking to people/meeting new people without being interrogated, omg having my own opinions without them being torn to pieces for the sake of a “healthy debate”. I’m always up for being challenged and discussions but I’m sure you can imagine – this was never the spirit of the way he spoke to me and was used as an opportunity to belittle me (Often in front of others).

        The reason I’m writing all this is because I want to share with you and anyone who can relate to my previous posts what can be waiting on the other side. I know everyones situation is different and people have different levels of support around them – but this forum has been amazing and I’m glad you’ve found it too. It was a huge help for me to pick up the courage and leave, so keep posting and talking if you feel it helps.

        I hope it can be as much of a help for you as it was for me (And still is). I posted the other day about struggling with my feelings of missing him too – It’s been such a help to have these complicated feelings validated and understood and it’s so key to letting go of some of that shame and guilt.

        Wishing you all the courage and strength to make the choices that are best for you. No one deserves this kind of treatment. Through all the fog the light is there and I believe with a bit of support we can all get there.

        Big hugs x

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