I remember as a newlywed that we had a clock that used to flip over numbers as the minutes went by.  I laid awake so many nights watching those numbers flip, full of tears, anger, confusion, and pain.

Last night there was no clock watching, but I still laid awake.  No tears or anger and not so much confusion, but still pain.  After all these years, the pain is like a dull numb thing in the core of my being, almost a part of me now.  It feels a lot more like sadness now.

It didn’t feel different last night, but for some reason it kept me awake.  Maybe the reason was that at bedtime (seemingly out of the blue), he was affectionate and speaking loving words to me.  Last night as he spoke sweet words and was hugging me, I could only hear the hurtful things he said earlier.   There were other words from him earlier that day when I called him out on giving me conflicting information on a business invoice.  Cold blaming resentful words.  When he’s angry, he especially likes to tell me how different things have been the last several years (since the time I was away and we were in a kind of separation).

Even though he gave me conflicting information regarding the invoice, even though he flipped into passive aggressive accusation mode when I asked which information was correct, he still held onto not doing anything intentionally wrong.  He admitted to a kind of wrong, but couched it in words like trying to understand himself when he reacts a certain way when he feels like I’m interrogating him.

I replied that it’s reasonable for anyone to want the truth, and using words like interrogating are a kind of shifting of responsibility and wrong doing onto me, and putting himself in victim status. I said that I viewed his selective truth and withholding information as playing fast and loose with the truth, and as a passive aggressive dynamic.

I agreed that I’ve changed in the last several years, but not in any way that’s less loving to him.  I’ve changed with boundaries, and intolerance of abusive behavior from him.  I don’t see him as having changed.  He can be as wonderful and horrible as I’ve ever known him to be.  I’ve heard the words saying he was sorry when he was caught, but not the behaviors that reflected a repentant heart.

Well that didn’t go over well with him!  More accusations flew my direction.   I asked him if he even wanted to work on our marriage, and he said he didn’t know.  He said that his true heart wanted to, but the other part of him wanted… (at this point he made a waving goodbye motion with a sarcastic look on his face)… and would be relieved.

Throughout the entire conversation, I remained in a strange and quiet calm.  Detached.  Feeling almost unhurt by his accusatory words shooting at me.  Instead of striking my emotions, it was as though arrows were flying and shooting a small winged bird that was fighting to stay aloft.  It was killing hope.

That was the difference at bedtime.  When he was hugging me, I told him that there were certain things he tends to say when he’s angry, and that I can’t discount them as just angry words.  Instead, I listen to them as telling me how he really feels, believing him, and it was killing the shred of hope I’ve tried to keep for us.

His response was silence, and then finally rolling away from me in the dark.

Then I just laid there in the silent dark.  Not really thinking.   Just there.  Around 4:00 a.m., I sat up briefly out of nervous curiosity to see what time it was.  I’m not sure what time I finally fell asleep, but I was awake by 8:00 a.m.

We’re both up.  He made eggs and coffee, the girls are chatting, the old doggie is settling on her pillow near me, and I need to start making the first pre-holiday checklist.  Another day of quiet crazy on the crawl to finding life.

Posted in abusive husband, abusive marriage, Christian marriage, covert abuse, emotional abuse, insomnia, passive aggressive abuse, passive aggressive husband, truth | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

If I took those words away

Sayin’ I love you
Is not the words I want to hear from you
It’s not that I want you
Not to say it, but if you only knew
How easy it would be to show me how you feel
More than words is all you have to do to make it real
Then you wouldn’t have to say that you love me
Cause I’d already know

What would you do if my heart was torn in two?
More than words to show you feel
That your love for me is real
What would you say if I took those words away?
Then you couldn’t make things new
Just by saying I love you

Now that I’ve tried to talk to you and make you understand
All you have to do is close your eyes
And just reach out your hands and touch me
Hold me close don’t ever let me go
More than words is all I ever needed you to show
Then you wouldn’t have to say that you love me
Cause I’d already know

What would you do if my heart was torn in two?
More than words to show you feel
That your love for me is real
What would you say if I took those words away?
Then you couldn’t make things new
Just by saying I love you

Posted in abusive husband, abusive marriage, covert abuse, divorce, emotional abuse, passive aggressive abuse, passive aggressive husband | 1 Comment

Meaningless and meaningful

Listening to what my passive aggressive husband says is a strange business.  When he speaks casual words in the kind of nonchalant tone that other people in my life use for relaxing and every day conversation, my ears pick up, and my inner radar scans what I’m hearing and sensing.  When he says things in a kind of serious tone, it’s the opposite almost.

Little words about his plans for the day, mentioning offhand something he ‘needs’ (often meaning he’ll buy it without further discussion), certain sighs or tones of voice, or at times his silence that ignores something I said as he immediately changes the subject as though it hadn’t been said, these all get my attention.

As I sit and try to sort this out, the lessons of past history run through my thoughts like a polluted river with a dark undertow.   He speaks about his faith in passionate terms of conviction, and yet to my ears they ring as a kind of pseudo conviction, because I’ve experienced the disparity in how he treats me.

Hearing as I was trying to fall asleep that he wanted to tell me again that he was sorry, really sorry, and that he really did love me, caused a stress response in my body, but no sense of deep belief.  Just sadness and fatigue.

Posted in abusive husband, abusive marriage, Christian marriage, covert abuse, emotional abuse, passive aggressive, passive aggressive abuse, passive aggressive husband | Tagged | 20 Comments

Sometimes I’m a stranger to myself

There are times when I hear or see him reading his Bible, that I feel disgusted or really angry.  There are times that I let myself get so hurt and so angry that I lash out or engage in futile communications, or even reactive abuse.   When that’s happened, I’ve typically engaged in harsh self-criticism and scathing self-condemnation afterward.  Nowadays, I instead try to comfort myself by free falling into humility, prayer, and just breathing.

On Friday night, he asked me to forgive him and to pray for him,  and I couldn’t help softening.  Well, I guess I could choose not to… but while I don’t really believe him, I always want to.  I want to believe that about any person probably, because I know that my growth often looks like a series of falls, stumbles, face splats, and missteps.

I want to have a wise heart, but not a hard one.

Friday night, he apologized at bedtime.  Saturday seemed to go well, there were no disputes or disagreements.  So as far as I knew, when he came out late Saturday evening as I was sitting at my computer and asked me if I was coming to bed, everything was okay.  I said I was going to shut down my computer, and a couple minutes later I was back in the bedroom.  In fact, when he got out of the bathroom, I went in to brush my teeth right after he was finished brushing his.  By the time I was finished brushing my teeth, and washing my face, he was in bed reading his Bible.

To further explain this story, there is some backdrop.  My husband has blamed me for his not getting to bed early enough many times.  On the nights that I’m in bed first, and he’s the one up late, it’s somehow different.  (yes double standards… wud-evah)  There were nights that I was in bed first, and reading my Bible.  Many of those nights were the Silent Nights, and I’m not referring to my favorite carol.  I asked him about it one night.  “If you’re not upset with me, why don’t you speak to me when you come to bed?  Not even goodnight?”

“Because you were reading your Bible!”

“I don’t understand.  Why would that mean you wouldn’t speak to me?”

He replied, “I didn’t want to disturb you when you were doing something important.  I was trying to be respectful.”

(I didn’t entirely believe him.)  Back to Saturday night when I was crawling into bed as he was reading his Bible.  I quietly picked up my Bible, read for a few minutes, then turned out the lamp on my side.  He kept reading, so I laid there quietly … you know… because he was doing something important and I should be respectful.

When he finally turned out his lamp, he rolled over away and silently in the dark.  I confess that it felt like a fresh stab in a scarred over wound, a wound that I peeled back the bandaging just a little bit on when he was asking me to forgive him and pray for him.  I usually don’t even ask myself anymore what he could be upset about, but I spent a couple minutes wondering what offense I’d committed.  I was tired, and I also knew that if I asked him, he’d not only probably accuse me of terrible timing, but that I wouldn’t sleep well.

The thing is that I didn’t sleep well anyway.  I tossed and turned, and woke up early out of a nightmare on Sunday morning.  Half in tears, full in anger, and all I could see in my fog of sleep tired emotion was him reading his Bible the night before.  Half asleep, I woke him up by asking, “I waited until morning, but could you tell me now what offense I committed that deserved the silent treatment?  And what book were you reading?  The book of hatred?  The book of hypocrisy?  Because your behavior towards me doesn’t reflect the Bible I read!”

Then I cried.  And he yelled.  He yelled a lot. The yells and anger and accusation that I realized he was waiting to unload.  I just hadn’t bitten the hook until then.  Old lesson relearned at the dawn’s early light.  One of the first things he said was about my knowing he was tired, but still coming to bed late.  As soon as he even mentioned that, it was so clear to me that the night before was indeed the typical punishing withdrawal of the passive aggressive man.  Withdraw.  Withhold.  Those are the dual weapons wielded by the resentful passive aggressive.

I finally remembered to take deep breaths, detach, accept, forgive myself for being a person I didn’t recognize at times, and have faith that one day I could live with less pain, and more peace.  I prayed to find the healing and courage to create and take that path.

Oh… and he’s apologized again.

Posted in abusive husband, abusive marriage, Christian marriage, covert abuse, emotional abuse, forgiveness, growth, passive aggressive, passive aggressive abuse, passive aggressive husband, silent treatment | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

Pros and cons on the roller coaster

Yesterday was a typical day on the roller coaster I wrote about before.  It started with him being cold and aloof, and letting me know he wasn’t helping with the kitchen mess.  Check on the con negative side.  I did dishes and clean up for over an hour in the morning quiet while his silence filled the room.  Definite negative and check on the con side.

Yesterday morning, I was able to go somewhere and meet a young mother of a special needs baby (abandoned by her husband) and pay it forward.  I debated writing about it at all since I want to practice not letting the left hand know what the right is doing, but I also want to share with you all how much joy it brought me in my crawl forward to be able to do that.  It has been years since I’ve been able to give back financially, and it was another milestone in my goals to be able to do that.  My husband was supportive of my wanting to help someone.  A check for the plus pro side of him.

Because he wouldn’t help with any morning chores that we often share, I left to go out without time for breakfast or coffee, because I also had to drive youngest son to work before the meeting.  His cold behavior made the getting ready to actually go out more difficult.  Check on the negative con side.

I came home from meeting the young mother, and from grocery shopping,  and other than his saying he was proud of me for reaching out to help someone, he ignored me the rest of the afternoon and did whatever he does.  Without so much as a word from him that would acknowledge the opportunity to spend time together as a couple  Check on the con negative.

Our daughter’s cat had a poo poo accident that required cleaning his fur a little, and he was funny and helpful when our daughter called out to enlist his help.  Plus again.

Part of the afternoon while he was ignoring me, he spent time with our youngest daughter and took her on a walk (which made her very happy).  Check for the plus positive.

At supper time, he came out and put together the easy recipe that I’d shopped to grab the ingredients for on my way home earlier.  His cooking dinner? Check positive plus.

After dinner there was more of the typical do his thing without conversation, as though he was single and owed me no more communication than a roommate that shared rent and space.  Check negative con for the lonely with someone.

After supper, he started treating me more attentively (in comparison), and made popcorn for me.  A few years back, one of my sons made a comment to me saying, “We all know that Dad does whatever you want.”  I stared at him puzzled, then asked,

“What do you mean?  What does he do that I ask him to?”

My son replied, “He makes popcorn for you.”

I didn’t know if I was going to laugh or cry.  I said, “Son, if something really matters to me, if there’s something I really need or want from him, I don’t get it, no matter how much I communicate or plead or beg.  The little things like making popcorn?  Those can feel more like crumbs to me, but even a starving person will eat crumbs.”

It was something he didn’t really want to hear.  He just shifted in his chair and said, “Hm… maybe… “

Meanwhile, the kids and I enjoyed the popcorn last night, so I’ll check that as a plus positive.

Ignoring me after he made popcorn, once again not asking if I was interested in doing anything together (this is so typical that I don’t expect anything else from him) was a check on negative con side.

Spending time with youngest daughter again to watch a movie with her in the office?  A plus positive.

Ending my day with keeping the sadness at bay?  Was just sad.

Posted in abusive husband, abusive marriage, Christian marriage, covert abuse, emotional abuse, passive aggressive, passive aggressive abuse, passive aggressive husband | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

He said he was an a-hole

Life with my passive aggressive husband can feel like a roller coaster that’s rolling out of control.  I can be so determined to focus on my own goals and hold to my boundaries, and then find myself flying through some crazymaking at a dizzying speed.

A wonderful thing has happened recently.  Some really good work has come our way.  When we’re scheduling and planning, I try to make sure that the good clients stay happy, even as some deadlines are colliding.  My husband is actually first rate at actually doing what he does as a professional, but he’s not good with the planning, prioritizing, or business decisions.  Theoretically (and with the encouragement of a psychologist we once saw), this is where my strengths come in.

In a normal relationship that sounds like a win-win, but a relationship with a passive aggressive man is far from normal, and anyone who has been in one knows that these men are so driven by resistance, resentment, control, self-pity, and sometimes just pure contrariness, that they can behave in ways that make absolutely no sense at all.

While we were planning how to get 60 hours of projects stuffed into a 30 hour bag, I asked him to inquire with Client K about any flexibility for the deadline on Job X.   He stared with a veiled irritated glare.   I asked, “Couldn’t you at least ask?  It would make such a difference.”

He replied, “I could try, but I’m already pretty sure it can’t change for this job.”

“I understand, but will you at least ask?  I’m not sure how we can pull this off without a little extra time.”

He said, “Yes, but I told you that I don’t think it’s possible on this job to change the deadline.”

“Yes, okay, but you will ask?”

My experience with him has taught me to play careful attention to exactly what he says, because semantics are a manipulative tool for him.

(Later he might come back with something like: I never said that I’d doooo that, PJ, what I said was that I could, but I didn’t think it would matter blah blah blah…)

I’ve learned that he’ll talk around something with slippery semantics in order to avoid a concrete commitment.

This conversation actually dragged on.  Above is the condensed version, with him growing more irritated, and in turn I turned part of my thoughts towards a future escape one day.  This was only a part of the planning and prioritizing, but it was as much fun as dragging my nails down a chalkboard.  I told him that Job X was an example of how the meetings took more time than necessary.  I said, “If I ask you to please inquire if there’s any flexibility on a particular deadline, a good answer would be to say that you will try.  Then we’d make a note, and move on.”

He went on a mini rant about hating my repeating things and wasting his time.

Later that afternoon, we went to long overdue haircut appointments that he’d made a couple weeks beforehand.  During the short ride, he was giving me job updates, and right before we parked to go in,  he said that Client K had called, and we had two extra days on the deadline for Job X.   I said, “You gave me such grief when we were meeting this morning about that.  Could you say it again with any humor or humility?”

Oops.  I guess not.  Instead he gave me a seething ugly glare.  He insisted that he never disagreed with what I asked, that he didn’t argue with me about it.  I said that was a lie, that I still had the morning notes, and to stop gaslighting me.

Then we walked into the hair salon.  He was instantly the tired lovable puppy.  We both looked like tired shaggy mops.  The stylist was a single middle aged woman that we’ve gone to before.  My husband said to me, “You go first,” and to the stylist, “Take your time with this lady.  She’s had a hard week.”

Um.  I looked around at him, and said, “And why was that?”

The stylist looked at him and said, “Were you the reason she had a hard week?”

He replied, “I hate to admit it, but I was.  I was kind of an asshole, and wasn’t treating her very well.”

The stylist said, “Well at least you admit it!  Most men wouldn’t do that!”

I said nothing.

When we got back in the car later, I asked him, “Was that real?  Was that a real apology, or did you say it for brownie points for your image in there?”

He said, “Oh no, it was real.  I really meant it.”

I said, “So you admit that you gave me a difficult time, and you were gaslighting me earlier?”

“I didn’t do that!  You misunderstood me, or you weren’t listening to me!  I think our problem in those meetings is a communication failure!”


We walked in the house, and started passing like two ships in the night, or two distant roommates.  As we bumped into each other in a hallway, I said, “Remember that one man’s resentment and irritation might be another man’s joy and treasure.”

Cold, but unsure disdain looked at me in response.

The evening went on, and later that night I was watching episodes of an old TV show with a few of the kids on youtube on the computer.  He came out and quietly whispered to me that he wanted to apologize.

I whispered back, “Really…Please don’t say things you don’t mean.”

“No, really, I really mean it this time.  Please forgive me.  I’ve been thinking about what you said, and my pride does get in the way when things are going well.”

(Heard it all before.)

He said, “I’m really sorry for giving you a hard time, and for gaslighting you.”

(really… heard this too)

“You’re admitting that you did gaslight me today?”

“Yes.  Please forgive me, and pray for me that God frees my heart from being passive aggressive.”

Heard this before too… but at this point, I softened.  How could I not pray for someone that asked me?  How could I not forgive when I always need mercy myself?

It was exhausting.  Draining.  And with what was left of my energy, I made a checklist for my own goals for the next day, and fell asleep feeling alone with someone.

Posted in abusive husband, abusive marriage, Christian marriage, covert abuse, emotional abuse, gaslighting, passive aggressive, passive aggressive abuse, passive aggressive husband | Tagged , , , | 12 Comments

Down the rabbit hole

“Little Alice fell
the hOle,
bumped her head
and bruised her soul”  Lewis Carroll

You’ll find today’s post interspersed with some favorite quotes by Lewis Carroll.  I feel a bit like someone who fell down a rabbit hole where everything was strange and topsy turvy, and these quotes speak to me today.

“I’m afraid I can’t explain myself, sir. Because I am not myself, you see?” Lewis Carroll

Awhile back, I caught whatever virus was going around.  The people that I knew that also had it seemed to be down and out for about 2-3 days.  For me, it was 2-3 weeks.  This has seemed to be status quo for my struggling immune system.  It was a respiratory type flu (thankfully no vomiting), but I ran a fever for several days in a row.  Beyond the obvious, what did this mean in my world?  What does it mean when your life is built around navigating a passive aggressive partner?

It means being more dependent.

At the very beginning, when I could feel that I was going to be ill, I looked at my husband and said, “Please listen to me.  This is really important.  Whatever you actually feel, I need you to try really hard to use cognitive empathy to take care of me when I’m sick.  This matters very much, and at the end of the day, it will impact my choices about us.”

“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” Lewis Carroll

He looked at me in that funny, almost puzzled looking past me but not exactly at me but thinking stare and said, “Okay.”

“Either it brings tears to their eyes, or else -”
“Or else what?” said Alice, for the Knight had made a sudden pause.
“Or else it doesn’t, you know.”  Lewis Carroll

And so he did.  He tried very hard.  Really, perhaps he tried as hard as I can ever remember him trying.  I could see the strain of his being ‘good’.  I could see and feel at times that he was struggling with self-pity, irritation, and resentment, but I could also see him trying to ‘fake it till you make it’.

There were lapses into passive aggressive behaviors, especially as I started to recover.  I think I tried to write about it one day, but I was so doggone tired.  I was too tired to do anything but be vulnerable and dependent on kindness and care.   So there were days that it just felt too demanding to sit and try to clear my fevered brain and write, but as recovery slowly increased, I began to realize that my not writing was something else altogether.

“You used to be much more…”muchier.” You’ve lost your muchness.”  Lewis Carroll

I realized that I felt uncomfortable blogging about the above referenced ‘lapses’ or incidents or hurts or frustrations, and so I began to ponder the why of that.  Why was I not blogging?  I almost felt guilty to even think about blogging, and so I kept putting it at the edges of thought.  In fact, I wasn’t even letting myself think of anything serious.

“Who in the world am I? Ah, that’s the great puzzle.” Lewis Carroll

I rather suspect I was experiencing an aspect of trauma bonding.  Factor in that he was trying, and it can feel confusing.  Guilt, questions, disappointment, hope, wondering, and letting go because you’re too weak to do anything else.

“How puzzling all these changes are! I’m never sure what I’m going to be, from one minute to another.”  Lewis Carroll

I stopped trying to figure out what it all meant, or what anything meant, and decided it was time to just get back on track, so a few days ago I forced myself to get-out-of-the-house.    Man, that was hard!  My fear and panic and discomfort to leave the safety of this house had seemed to escalate while I was ill.

“My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that.”  Lewis Carroll

I kept trying to talk myself in and out of going with one of my sons to an important appointment that required his presence about an hour from where we live.  This is the son who was hit by a car five years ago, and while legally things were resolving (mainly this just paid the medical bills and attorney costs), he still had to sign something to basically close the books on it.  In my mother’s heart, it didn’t feel okay to not be there as a silent witness when this has been so huge in his life.  Our lives.  And so I went, and there seemed to be no practical reason to not include other necessary family shopping and errands.  NINE hours I was out,  including driving, and we didn’t get home until almost midnight.

“Well!’ thought Alice to herself, ‘after such a fall as this, I shall think nothing of tumbling down stairs! How brave they’ll all think me at home! Why, I wouldn’t say anything about it, even if I fell off the top of the house!’ (Which was very likely true.)”  Lewis Carroll

The next morning, I was supposed to meet someone for coffee in the town I live near.  We’d already rescheduled twice because I’d been sick, and I really wanted to raincheck it again.   But I went.  The reason I forced myself to get out again (two days in a row is like a marathon of challenging my comfort zone) was because she’d repaired a quilt for my son.  She did a beautiful repair out of the goodness of her heart.  This is the son that used this quilt while he was deployed in a war zone, and the quilt became special to him because of that.  The weather is getting colder here, and so I knew I needed to keep that coffee appointment in part to get his quilt back to him.  There was one jarring note in that coffee meeting, a conversation that I’ll try to address tomorrow.

Here I am again, ready to move forward.  Next step, gym passes!

“I can’t go back to yesterday because I was a different person then.” Lewis Carroll

Posted in covert abuse, emotional abuse, immune system, passive aggressive husband, trauma bonding | Tagged , , , , , | 17 Comments