He Feels Justified

My husband believes that he is always being criticized - even if it is only subliminal. If I stub my toe and say "ow," he believes that deep inside, I secretly blame him for moving the furniture in to my way and that I'm being unfair and cruel. So he yells at me "what the hell am I supposed to do about that?" It took me several years to figure out why I was getting yelled at whenever something sad/bad happened in my life - it's because he is convinced I blame him. He doesn't come right out and say that - he just gets defensive and angry. It took years and years of clues and remarks before I figured it out. Then I flat out asked him if this was why he was angry. He said "of course! Anyone would be upset at how much you criticize and complain!!"

And because he believes that it's true no matter what words I choose to use, he is absolutely justified in his anger. Counselors and family members have tried to explain to him that this is abusive behavior on many levels, but he tells them they're wrong because secretly I really am blaming him and nothing will get him to change his mind about that. It was also true of his poor ex-wife. He tells people to this day that she was constantly critical and cruel to him. I used to take that at face value, but now I feel so sad for her.

If I cry during one of these exchanges, I am being manipulative. If I try to calmly call him on his behavior he will start yelling louder that I get to behave "any way I want." I'm pretty sure he's referring to the imagined criticism when he says that.Either that or the crying. I'm not sure which upsets him more. If I try to say that his behavior is hurting me, to him this proves his point: see, I am criticizing him. Sometimes I can't even figure out why he's mad - or what thing I've said might have set him off, because the imagined criticisms can be so bizarre I couldn't have anticipated them. I can't even dislike the choice of salt shakers on a restaurant table, because this means I am criticizing him for not taking me to a better restaurant. Sometimes it's not even THAT apparent. Maybe I'll admire the neighbors flowers (I am criticizing him for not getting a better house). Maybe I'll mention that my boss was being a jerk (I am criticizing him for not making enough money to support us both - this one actually caused him to hang up on me and not speak to me for three days). It's daily. It's constant.

It's not only the yelling that hurts so much, it's the complete absence of any support and the constant fear of making him angry. I cannot have a bad day. I cannot be physically injured. I cannot be sad about anything, because all of these are a form of criticism for him. It also makes me sad to realize he thinks so little of me; he perceives me as the type of person who is cruel or thoughtless or selfish or critical. I am sad a lot. He gets angry at me that I don't seem to believe that he loves me (which make me ungrateful in his eyes because he is such a good husband and "what more do you expect?!!??"). I just want to be allowed to talk to him. I want to be allowed to smack my head on a cupboard without the additional yelling. I want to be able to tell him about my experience with the rude banker without him believing that I'm just mad that he didn't go to the bank for me. It's crazy-making.

There are some interesting exceptions: when I was recently hospitalized and had multiple surgeries, he was very caring and compassionate. I think that this is because even he realized he couldn't be blamed for kidney failure. Thank god.

I keep imagining that some day he will have an epiphany and realize how he has painted me in to an impossible situation and he will change. How silly of me. Of course, like many people who have similar problems, when he is not doing this he is almost the perfect person. My family and friends all admire our perfect marriage and how lucky I am to have found him.

I guess that's fairly typical.
kibbly kibbly
3 Responses Dec 5, 2012

Thank you for sharing this story. I know it can't be easy, but I am glad you did.

It sounds like a very similar thing to what I have been experiencing lately, and I'm not sure what to do. I'm not sure if it is abuse, or if I am just too sensitive. I constantly wonder if I am doing something that makes him treat me this way, but I don't know what he will get mad about. Last night, on the way home from a Christmas party, he pulled over and told me to get out of the car because I had lied to him, and told him the party would end at 9:30. I told him that I didn't remember saying that, and if I had said that, it must have been a mistake, and I was sorry. He screamed that I lied to him and it was over...he would not tolerate being lied to and manipulated. So, I got out of the car. I sat on a curb in a parking lot and phoned a friend who had also been at the party. I was scared to be so far from home in the middle of the night. He drove up, got out of the car and took the phone out of my hand before I knew what was going on...and he wouldn't give it back.

I got back in the car, and went home with him because I didn't know what else to do. He has shown some small little things that I suppose could be perceived as "red flags", but I actively told myself it was me who needed to change. Last night was the first incident that really scared me, but, he did not hit me or threaten me. He just became so angry.

You ARE being abused. Don't let anyone trivialize your experience.

I'm getting the sense that this isn't "abusive" enough for this site, and for that I'm sorry - I don't mean to diminish the experience of other people or trivialize their problems by trying to compare to my little ones. But I feel so terribly alone. I'm so confused that I don't know what's true or not true, even about myself. I'm probably just hypersensitive.

No way! That is so abuse! Don't buy into that hypersensitive crap, trust me, it's a favored technique to avoid accountability and justify to themselves what they know is wrong.

To be put in a position where you feel on eggshells all the time is abusive...when you can't speak your mind about ordinary things like admiring flowers or complaining about a boss...that is abusive. Do not minimize it.