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Emotional Abuse?


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Old 12th October 2017, 1:20 AM   #1
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Emotional Abuse?

I have posted on here elsewhere about my decision to end a 14.5 year relationship. It has been three months now and I have been trying to enforce a NC rule, but he keeps trying to break it. So one thing I am struggling with (which may seem still after three months) is whether or not I was subjected to emotional abuse during this relationship. I am struggling with it because a lot of people, including my therapist, have pointed out incidents of it and for some weird reason, it has caused me to think that I may have been the one causing emotional abuse.

Essentially, this was sparked by an unexpected encounter last week where he showed up and caught me having an emotional episode. The episode was brought on from stress of trying to get my house ready to sell and he had come by the night before to pick up some things (while I was not home) and could not start his car. I was stressed about getting a good photo of the front of the house for the listing because his car was still there, and my cabinet broke. As I am dealing with this, the doorbell rings and there he is. Asking for an extension cord to charge his car. He sees me upset so comes on in and proceeds to spend 45 minutes to an hour unloading on me. I could write several pages on what he said, but the short version is he accused me of pretending to make him family; accused me of telling his friends I left him because of finances and specific things from the past; accused me of not giving him enough time for recourse; alleged I could not use finances against him because he always offered to give me money when I said I was having money problems; etc. I froze up (not an uncommon response from me) and could only state that he wanted a clear reason but that everything we talked about the six months prior to breaking up amounted to me not being happy and not wanting to be in the relationship anymore. He then questioned me as to why I ever raised his issues during our discussions then if it was all me, and said my inability to speak to him was evidence that NC was not working and that we needed to talk because he was trying to heal in a vacuum.

The next day he comes by again and apologizes, reiterating that he is struggling because he is in a vacuum, left to ponder why this happened all by himself.

People told me this was abusive because he is not respecting NC. Because he knows I freeze up and can't communicate when he talks at me like this. Because he knows it's not true that he offered money every time I raised issues (and because I started to second guess reality as a result of his statement). Because I never pretended to treat him like family (I genuinely viewed him as family while we were together) and he was the one who doesn't like to have much to do with family; and because I have been severely depressed since this encounter and left to second guess my decision and entire history with him.

Throughout the relationship, it is true that we coasted for most of it and I avoided confrontation because he had a tendency to always be right and lecture at me, leaving me to not want to make a big deal out of things I should have made a big deal out of. He always had the right thing to say when I did raise issues, though I never felt his actions backed up his words. Toward the end, he had a habit of listening to me express an issue and then turning it around by raising something I did that was worse and I felt like the bad guy (for e.g., he got drunk on a Sunday night, spent a bunch of money he didn't have while I was at home and I woke up to him sleeping under his desk Monday morning - he was OK that I was mad for one day, but then annoyed when it went to a second day and then said I was just mad and wanted to dump him because he was drunk but I am the one who demoted the relationship because I didn't want to move (long story - he wanted to move because he doesn't like where we live but my family and career are here and we moved back specifically for that because he didn't know what he wanted to be when he grew up)). I asked him to go to counseling once for himself and offered free sessions through work, and he wasn't interested...only to say months later that he had told me at the time that he would take those sessions! I felt so crazy.

So there's more, but this illustrates the gist of it. Everyone tells me I have been subjected to some form of emotional abuse and it's crazy for me to believe that this is the case. In contemplating that, I started to feel like it was me abusing him because my complete inability to communicate with him has left him feeling this hurt and confused. I timidly sat by and didn't stand up for myself for a long time, and as a result he had no reason to really believe there were issues and I was so unhappy. I did actively try to engage him in these discussions the last six months of it and there was no question I was in trouble, but I still feel like my best efforts failed. I feel like leaving him after he got a DUI and has been feeling down on himself is kind of abusive too. We just couldn't talk through a lot of our issues and I blame myself for that. I just don't know. All this talk of abuse me in a whirlwind and I can't stop thinking about A, whether there was abuse and B, who perpetrated it. Maybe it was both of us and that should validate my decision, but I don't know. I am not looking for definitive answers - just some guidance to get out of this mindset and understand whether or not there was abuse because regardless of fault, I think understanding our behavior continues to help with closure.
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Old 12th October 2017, 1:40 AM   #2
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I would not characterize what you describe as abusive. I would characterize it as manipulative. (influencing or attempting to influence the behavior or emotions of others for one’s own purposes)
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Old 12th October 2017, 5:39 PM   #3
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I'm inclined to agree with simple logic. It sounds like you both have no idea how to communicate effectively with each other and are incompatible at this time, so it spiraled out with you both hurting each other and getting hurt.

That being said, if YOU feel you were abused or belittled, ie maybe suffered from gaslighting, cognitive dissonance, confusion, decreased self esteem, etc, things that you feel better about when you're away from him, then you should also trust yourself and not listen to Internet strangers either way, sounds like you need to work on healing! Good luck.
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Old 13th October 2017, 1:24 PM   #4
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Years long relationships are very complex with many layers. when they end rarely is it all one person's fault. It's always painful at the end and it sounds like your ex is lashing out at you in pain. It sounds like he didn't want the break up and is trying to make sense of it. I wouldn't say that makes him abusive. Anger and blame is pretty normal when one is being rejected.

You don't need to label his behavior in order to end the relationship. If you were miserable and unhappy with him then that's all the reason you need. You don't have to prove that he is the bad guy in order to move forward.
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Old 13th October 2017, 9:43 PM   #5
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Relationships are complicated. So much goes on consciously and unconsciously that it is impossible to understand everything. The fact remains that you were unhappy with him and wanted out. You have got out. He is confused and you are confused and feeling guilty. I think this probably pretty usual after a break-up. Just keep it as simple as possible - that it is hard to understand the real dynamics of what happened but you were unhappy and that's why you left. Explain to him you can't keep going over it all and that both of you may never understand what really happened but that you are no longer together.

I don't know if either of you can say there was abuse going on. When relationships fail, both people start acting emotionally and people get hurt. It is probably better to just accept that it didn't work out and try to leave it as kindly as possible. He is trying to understand and you are trying to understand. Tell him he must not contact you again and that both of you have to leave it there. It is a relationship that did not work out, hard though that is to accept.

If he still keeps approaching you after that, reinforce that he must not contact you again. If he does, tell him you will have to take legal action if he does not leave you alone. Hopefully, he will get the message before this point. I don't think at this stage what he is doing is abuse, he is trying to comprehend the disaster that he feels has befallen him. Continuing to approach you if you insist he must not do, is taking it too far and he would only have himself to blame if you took legal action to keep him away.
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Old 15th October 2017, 7:31 PM   #6
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Thanks for the responses. I really didn't want to label any of it abuse. I think hearing others tell me that was a possibility threw me for a loop because it is not something I wanted to believe either one of us were capable of. I think there clearly was some manipulation and gas-lighting, and I enabled that by having so much trouble standing up for myself (making it difficult for him to understand my true feelings). Ultimately I think it is true to say we weren't compatible in enough ways and that prevented us from communicating well for a very long time, and the relationship just slowly unraveled - so slow I didn't know it for a long time (and he still hasn't - or at least doesn't want to because it was my decision).
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Old 16th October 2017, 12:20 AM   #7
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I agree with "spiderowl". I hope you can take the time you need to heal. Wishing you the very best in the future!
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