Verbally Abusive Husband, Give Me Some Guidance

Question:  “I have to give you some background to help you understand the dynamics of our home. My husband ‘Joe’ was married previously for 9 yrs (in the temple) he had 2 daughters, his wife had an affair and married the man she had the affair with. I was married previously (out of the church) and had 3 children. ‘Joe’ has ALWAYS done EVERYTHING he was supposed to, never drank, smoked or did drugs… did not date while waiting for the divorce to be final, has never done anything wrong. I on the other hand grew up in a different world my parents separated when I was 14 and I went downhill from there. I married outside the temple and have the scars to prove it.  I divorced him shortly after 4 years of on again off again unhealthy married life (he had a plethora of affairs and did drugs regularly.) I was a single mom for 5 years.  After a very long repentance process and some humbling experiences I finally was privileged enough to take out my endowments.

‘Joe’ and I met on a website for LDS singles and married VERY quickly after. We joke now that it was Heavenly Father’s way of getting us married because neither one of us would have stayed in it if we didn’t do it so quickly.  We were content where we were in our own lives and very independent.

I moved my children away from everything I knew and everyone I knew and moved in with him.  I wouldn’t have and still won’t ask him to ever leave his girls so the choice was easy I had to come here.  In the almost 4 years of our marriage we have been through quite a few things;

A miscarriage, My brother committing suicide (the only person in my family that has passed away), Our Sealing, Our son’s birth, His oldest daughter not wanting to come to our home for 9 months , ‘Joe’ was involved in a shooting, Sealing my children to ‘Joe’ and I, our second son’s birth

‘Joe’ is a police officer and is the physical and mental epitome of the word. He is VERY strict and very particular about the way things are done.  He can find something wrong in just about everything.  He belittles all of us, on a daily basis, in little ways like constantly correcting myself or the children.  We can’t do anything right and it’s very exhausting. I am trying very hard to “please” him but it’s impossible.  I believe he is very insecure because he was raised with the same “verbally abusive” upbringing.  He still allows his father to “abuse” him and has told me it would be nice to have someone (meaning me) stick up for him.  I may be way off base here but I don’t think my defending him is going to help him (I think he needs to stick up for himself and confront his father). I allowed myself to change to his “world” which I know was my own mistake and I am working hard to get ME back.  I started listening to the music I loved before we were married and he told me country was all that we listen to around here, the rest is crap.
He informed me that his ex started listening to different music right before she had an affair.
I know that I shouldn’t have and I feel as though I completely betrayed him but I called her to ask her if the “affair” was the reason she changed her music.  She told me absolutely not and that she was sick of doing what she was “told” to do. She described him perfectly which scares me, because I thought he was making some progress and lo and behold he is no different then when he was married before. He is very self-centered, but if I try to tell him what needs I have and he tells me I’m too needy, and how can he be selfish when he works so much for this family. He hunts and come heck or highwater he makes sure he is out there in the woods every chance he gets.  I try to kiss him/greet him when he walks through the door and he gets angry, so I have stopped, even greeting him. We all hold our breath when he walks in to hear the list of things that are wrong. No hello, hi or anything of the sort just a bunch of why is this there and that here and did you do this. This is what he says on a daily basis to my 8yr old…..” why are you talking no one wants to hear what you have to say, I know ‘Fred’ you think what you have to say is so much more important than anyone else. You think you are as important as the adults. You’re a rude little boy….no tell me what did you need to say that was soooo important you had to talk right then” We are still intimate because I allow him to treat us all like crap and still I deliver sexually, hoping it will make him a little less mean. My needs are NEVER met nor are they even asked about. To be honest that isn’t even a care in my mind. He claims he is the ‘happiest he has ever been’ and that scares me because if this is happiness I would hate to see unhappy. I tell him all the time “you’re safe with me” thinking that maybe he’s this way because he’s worried I will leave. I need to know that my feelings/thoughts/ideas matter and are important to him.  He intimidates our children so much so that they won’t even look up anymore.  I have watched them go from vibrate, respectful, responsible, smart children to having to ask permission before they make the simplest of decisions. They are all struggling in school. ‘Fred’ gets the worst of it, he is the one with ‘Joe’s’ personality so he is the one he picks on the most.  The other day my husband said/yelled to me that I need to call my mom (whom ‘Joe’ has never been respectful to) and see if ‘Fred’ can live there because he can’t take him anymore.  I will admit I turned into a very ugly person at that point because I can’t even imagine what that did to my 8yr olds little spirit.  I took him to school and then when I got home my husband said I needed to go get him he shouldn’t be at school after witnessing that huge blowup between us. So I went to get him, he begged me to let him stay at school, I promised him Dad wouldn’t fuss at him anymore and my little boy said he would rather be there then at home.. I cried all the way back home and then let my husband have it.  I told him he could leave if he couldn’t handle ‘Fred’ anymore, I made it VERY clear he was to NEVER say something that stupid again.

My 12 yr old son told me the other day to just let Dad yell/fuss at him to not step in between them because he can handle it and he doesn’t want him yelling at me.

What do I do when I know there is a good man in there somewhere a priesthood holder, a father, a leader but for whatever reason he doesn’t believe he deserves to be happy.  I truly believe that the past is just repeating itself.  How long do you give someone to change before you have to walk away?   Some moments are good and some moments are indescribable.  Why does this world not understand that VERBAL abuse is just as bad as PHYSICAL abuse?  Why do all the Dr’s ask if you are being physically abused at home why doesn’t anyone ask if you are being belittled and bullied?  He doesn’t believe that what he is doing is abusive because he doesn’t call us names, but how do you tell someone that when you are constantly standing over someone correcting each thing they do that that is abusive. His tone is so mean and scary.  I know in this paragraph I can’t give you the enormity of the situation I just hope you can give me some hope for the future.  We have 2 boys together and  I don’t want to give up on him since it’s seems to me he is expecting everyone to.  Since when we fight his response is always “I know, I can’t do anything right.”

I don’t even respond when we argue anymore because he does the tit for tat type of arguing and it’s IMPOSSIBLE to talk to him about anything. I am afraid if I divorce him he will then have my boys, who are only toddler and infant age now, to verbally abuse without me there to protect them.  What do I do now? I am not looking for a pity party at all, I just don’t know when enough is enough. Please help…

P.S. We did try counseling; he said it was a waste of time. Just to get him to go those 4 times I had to threaten divorce, and yes I’ve talked to my Bishop, that didn’t help at all.”

Answer: I appreciate all the detail. It appears that both of you have a long history, a history of hurt and trauma per the marriages and divorces and events that have complicated each of your growth and marriage. I can tell that you are living in survival mode, a mode of day to day living that means protecting your children from critical statements and abuses by your husband and trying to keep the peace. It appears from the information you shared that you are in a place of hurt and pain as you have been unable with a conversation with your Bishop and doing some counseling (which was shallow at best as his buy-in was likely about zero) to make things shift in your family.

I have a few thoughts for you in terms of how to proceed from here forward. You mentioned, “He can find something wrong in just about everything.  He belittles all of us, on a daily basis, in little ways like constantly …” and I am wondering what it is that you do during this time. Do you hunker down and hope it goes over, do you take him aside and give him feedback, do you blow up and demand he be kinder to the children? My guess from the narrative above is that you try to weather his ‘storm’ and then comfort the children. My feedback for you is to pull him aside and no subjugate your will to his but to instead assert yourself and tell him how hurt you are when he speaks to critically to them. Don’t landblast him for his tone (he’ll resist you) at first but instead share how he is hurting you. He’ll likely not listen as he appears to be quite narcissistic and in denial as to his levels of emotional toxicity.  I’d read up on emotional abuse in this article, here is the link and better acclimate yourself as to the nature of this kind of abuse that is so pervasive in your family per your husband’s issues.

Also, I suggest you start working through some Self work. Meaning your learning and getting a grasp on who you are and why you find it difficult to stand up for yourself. I can imagine that it must be hard to deal with him. The change must begin with you. Having some assertiveness training and work on redefining who you are and what you deserve is key. You are not causing your husband to mistreat you or your children. That being said, you may be influencing the pattern he is in by tolerating his abuses. From your post it sounds like you are in a lot of pain and are trying to make it smoother for the children. Your understanding boundaries and grasping how assertiveness and healthy understanding of your own personal boundaries, where you end and where he begins. I’ll email you articles on both of these topics that help you firm up your core Self to then better deal with and ultimately confront your husband.

Don’t give up. Your children need and are counting on you. Your husband is clearly in denial about his behavior. Likely he has his own hurts and is coping and engaging with the children and you as a reactionary measure with those hurts and has become stuck in a rut of abusive behavior. I am sorry to hear that the counseling did not work. He clearly was not invested and counseling fails miserably if the client is not willing to work. I might add, you can make large changes by getting involved in counseling yourself with or without him. Your strengthening your own emotional spine and getting some clarity will help you then interrupt the patterns in the home that he authors. Also, your making changes in yourself will influence (not cause) him to make small changes. In order for change to occur for him he’ll need to first get out of denial and realize that he can’t be a cop at home. He is in law enforcement for a job and being rigid and military like will damage the kids. He likely can see it but is so proud that he justifies his behavior in his own mind to make what he does ok and legitimate.

So, in conclusion I’d recommend reading the boundaries and assertiveness articles I’ll email you. I’d also recommend getting into a solid counselor yourself for help in your own Self work which can amp you up to do the difficult but doable work with your husband in bringing him out of the darkness of denial and into the light of learning and listening.

One Response to 'Verbally Abusive Husband, Give Me Some Guidance'

  1. Dee says:

    Why does my mate take so long to answer me when I ask him a question? Or , sometimes he doesn’t answer or with an excuse????