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Would you call this domestic abuse?

SecondGeneration's picture

The downward spiral of domestic abuse...

As some of you know/remember, I relocated when I moved in with my fiance, so whilst I still have contact with friends back home it was important for me to make new friendships here. It surprised me how much more difficult it can be to actually meet and make friends as an adult. Its more, individuals rather than friendship groups, but anyway I'm getting off topic.

One of my fairly newer friends has had a rough time, she, like me, relocated for her partner. However its not exactly worked out the way she had envisioned. Her partner has no children, has never been married and is younger then her, great right? No baggage? He was having a bit of legal drama with an ex that they had made large joint purchases with, but in comparison to step-world, no biggie!
This friend would often talk about feeling unhappy, feeling ignored and as if her boyfriend wasnt prioritising their relationship. He would say many things but day after day his behaviour wasnt changing. They would argue alot and he would make excuses saying it was all due to the stress with the legal proceedings.
Low and behold, these legal issues have been resolved, her boyfriend has been able to retain ownership of the things he wanted so hes come out well, my friend was expecting their day to day life to get better, now this major stress had been taken care of.


From what she says there seems to be a cycle of them arguing over anything and everything, normally he starts shouting at her, she cries, apologises, ends up kissing his ass and after a while of ignoring one another they get over it. But a few days ago when he shouted at her, she didnt cry, she was angry and she shouted back. Her words to me were that her boyfriend "lost it" and went to shove her, she told me that in that moment she was genuinely fearful that he was going to lay a hand on her, he didnt, he stopped himself and instead stormed out of their home. Later he calls her in tears, telling her that he doesnt know why she loves him, that hes a terrible person etc etc. You know the drill, the whole guilt trip act.
This friend later texts me all about it and her texts are reasonable, she tells me what happens and tells me that shes not prepared to deal with these obvious anger issues that root deeper than she had previously thought. That they have gone through alot but shes not prepared to be his emotional punching bag and certainly not risk being his physical punching bag and she wants to leave and return to her home country.
We text for a little while and then I call her, yet somehow between these texts and the phone call her entire position on everything changed.
Hes given her the "I love you and itll never happen again" speech and she figures since he didnt actually touch her then its no harm, no foul. We then have a good long chat about everything and she tells me that she loves him dearly and wants him to get help and that if he agrees to getting some anger management help then shes prepared to support him so long as he never touches her but confesses she doesnt know how to talk to him about this because, in her words, if she talks about things that he doesnt want to hear then he gets angry and starts screaming at her.
I point out to her that if its that bad that she feels unable to talk to him about things because shes scared of his reaction then the emotional abuse is already happening.
So she goes home and talks to him, and now hes decided that it was wrong and hes horrified by it but he doesnt think its necessary for him to look into anger management, thats all over reacting because he didnt actually lay a finger on her, he doesnt have a problem, shes overreacting a bit because it wasnt that bad.

My friends response? So its sorted now but if he hits me Im leaving.
I cant help but sit here thinking WTF. I want to help but I have no idea how you are supposed to help someone that is able to make such massive 360s in such short spaces of time. A couple of weeks ago she was talking about trying for a baby with him, she know claims thats totally off the table whilst hes "like this" but when I asked, ok so what is HE going to do to change and actually make things better? There was no answer other than wait and see.

Some people are naturally more hot headed, some people are naturally more likely to lash out in an aggressive manner, Im not saying that everyone has to hold hands and sing all the time. BUT when it gets to this point to me, THIS is the time to actually do something about it.
I could understand her wanting to work things out if he was to turn round and say, his working hours are stressful so hes going to change those hours and hes going to do an anger management or stress managing type thing and actually did it. We all have faults, its being able to identify them and work to improve them that matters. But this whole, I dont have a problem you are over reacting, to me it just spells out disastor.

Or, am I perhaps over reacting on the information Ive been given?


Cover1W's picture

You've described my ex.
He was an emotional abuser. He almost laid a hand in me once, but instead punched a door and went out in the yard and started throwing things. He never hit me. Ever. But my god he made me think I was nuts. Never could do anything right. I was the issue not him. He didn't need counseling. I just had to know his every whim without asking...

She's probably thinking it's normal. Get her some information on emotional abuse. She's probably not even telling you the whole story just the worst parts. She's likely told she doesn't look right, she should wear different clothes or makeup. That what she cooked for dinner wasn't what he wanted and she should have known better (without asking), her friends aren't right, the neighbors don't like him and on and on...

SugarSpice's picture

^^agree with this. there are different types of domestic abuse. it is committed by cowards who are most often narcissists. you can deal with these people on their own terms but it takes energy and can wear you down.

most of all look out for signs that the abuse might escalate to the physical. breaking and throwing things is a form of domestic violence even is he never puts a hand on you.

the goal of abuse is to control. if the abuser smashes an object he is saying "i can do this to your face. remember that." men are so much stronger than women.

dh was just like this until asd started getted abused. did he develop some sort of sympathy when the shoe was on his daughters foot? maybe.

but it does not matter to my now. i just laugh at him.

narcissists are usually very insecure people.

WalkOnBy's picture

You've just described the man I was in a relationship with for 10 years after my divorce and before I married my DH.

Yes, your friend is being abused. It might not be physical abuse, but it is certainly emotional abuse.

The only thing you can do right now is be a listening board for her. It took me the better part of two years to recognize the situation I was in and then craft a plan to make my exit.

I wish you well.

moeilijk's picture

She's looking for ways to make her relationship ok because there's so much at stake for her. Who knows, maybe a sense of shame if the relationship doesn't work out, maybe she doesn't want to deal with recriminations from her family or other friends, all kinds of reasons that make her choice to rationalize staying easier than taking action to leave.

One thing you could ask her is what she is afraid of. I think she has some beliefs that have made her afraid to just expect better - challenging them in a casual way might help. Like if she's afraid she won't financially be ok, ask her if she was ok before and ask why she thinks she wouldn't be ok after.

Bottom line though, I think the problem is a double-edged sword. She feels on the one hand that she earns his harsh treatment, she doesn't deserve (or know what it's like to have) a partner who treats her with love and respect. And on the other hand, she enjoys having so much power over him, that she can control his behaviour by just doing xyz... It's kind of a sick way of looking at it, but people get into co-dependency because some of it feels good too.

LikeMinded's picture

Yes, this is emotional abuse. I watched my father do it to my mother... and she stayed with him for over 60 years.

That said... if your friend is not ready to hear it, there's nothing you can do. You might even loose your friendship over it. I lost my bff from highschool because she moved in with a drug dealer and was sick of me telling her to get out. He won, I lost, we didn't speak for 10 years, and then she told me the rollercoaster life she had had, but our friendship was broken.

My current best friend is dating a guy who spends all his free time with his ExW and their teenage daughter. Doesn't sound like a big deal except that this guy has been divorced for 12 years, and the ExW has broken up every relationship he's been in since then.

I cannot get my friend to leave him--even though he's recently told her that he's' not crazy about her body (what a douchebag). I don't want to loose my friend, so I'm not talking about it anymore. She knows how I feel.

Some people just have to make their own mistakes.

moeilijk's picture

"I don't fall for the abuse card much. I think women manipulate and abuse just as much as men."


So, it's not a broken leg because someone else also got a broken leg? If it's abuse, it's abuse. It doesn't matter who does it or to whom it is done.