He does all that

In the midst of some painful and draining current events, my husband is behaving well.  So far, we’re tag teaming to deal with a lot of stuff.  I’m thankful it’s going this way, but I can’t trust in it because the years have taught me not to fully trust him.  There have been too many horrific moments and abusive incidents that taught me that my vulnerability was not safe in his hands.  But this is a good stretch, and so I try not to think about it ending because dwelling on those thoughts would waste precious energy that I need to sanely process and proactively cope.

During the times of good behavior, anyone from the outside might think I’m the problem.  Heck ya, how many times when he’s being industrious, helping with the kids or something in the house, and behaving in ways that seem oh so sacrificial, kind, and loving, have I then wondered…  What is wrong with me??

Add to the mix my own sins, my faults, weaknesses, and mistakes, and my less than shining moments as a human being.

One of my favorite bloggers wrote this post recently:  pity party  and it resonated for me.  She wrote:  “My husband took one of our cats to the vet for me to day.  He made dinner for me this evening.  He offered to rub my feet for me tonight.”

This is the part where outsiders look and think… “What??  He does all that and it’s not enough??”

What outsiders don’t know is that we long for those things to be acts of love.  We give him the benefit of the doubt that those are genuine acts of love (and perhaps indeed some are attempts to love us), and we want so much for those kinds of acts to be building blocks towards intimacy and growth.  We want so desperately for that one safe space that’s real, where love is real and safe and we can trust in hope.  We want hope to be real, sane, and safe.  Sadly, what I think most of us have learned is that when we allow ourselves to hope, we’re taking that step towards the crash.

The crash is the awful moment when love just isn’t there.  I don’t mean flawed or imperfect love, but the total absence of love.  We reach out for love, and there’s an empty space because he’s withdrawn affection and intimacy.  We reach out for love and there’s a gaping cold void that no real lover would leave for his beloved.  We look in his eyes hoping to see the same pain and distress that we’re feeling at the canyon yawning between us, but instead his eyes stare back with cool, implacable dispassion.  The hope that was like a small green shoot pushing through the obstacle of hard rocky history gets stunned and withered by the acid rain of his relentless resentments.

We want to be loved by the man who tells us that he loves us.  We want to believe that the behaviors that look like love are real.  We want the moments of feeling loved to be safe moments, not co-existing with a niggling fear that the rug will be pulled out from under our feet.  We want the loving acts to be something done by him because he takes joy in our thriving.

It’s just a matter of time before the amazingly nice guy, the charming and lovable man, switches to the critical, aloof, resentful, and lukewarm roommate.  Not a lover, but a platonic roommate.  I get to hear about what he did for me later when he uses it as a weapon to remind me what a great guy he is.   How dare you feel hurt by what I just did to offend you, harm you, or neglect you?  Bam!  Out come reminders of each and every thing he did for me.

If he did it for me, why does he throw it at me?  Why does he use it to sting me, and as justification for hurting me?

Right now he’s helpful, friendly, and decent.  I need that so much.  He just cleaned the litter box for our daughter’s cat, and cleaned up a furball icky mess the cat launched nearby.  He helped clean and make space for our son coming home.  He’s helping with the garden.  He helped with dishes last night.  (Never mind the dishwasher he hasn’t had time to install for the past two years that just sits in the shed.  It doesn’t matter.  I’ll still feel absurdly grateful for his doing the dishes, and try to remind myself that he lives here too.)

His frame is made of dust, just as mine is.  Compassion arises from acute awareness of our shared human frailty.

A passive aggressive man can be so lovable.  I married that lovable, charming, sweet guy.  I just didn’t know that he had an evil twin that would make it an eternal ménage à trois.

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10 Responses to He does all that

  1. chosetobehappy says:

    Yes, Mr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. To outsiders they only see the great part of our pah. But to us, they let off everything that has been wronged to them in private, sometimes in public but very seldom. Mine has been a shining example for the past little while, helping out at home, doing things for me when I’m not up to them, to outsiders he looks like the perfect husband, little do they know the hell he can put me through and the PTSD that I suffer and the trust that is now gone. I find myself thinking I’m insane sometimes and that all of it is imagined but I get glimpse of the nastier Mr. in much more subtle ways now because we’ve been in counselling but it’s still there very present and ready to explode at any time. Meanwhile, I’m the one that looks like the complainer, the unhappy, unsatisfiable wife, the monster. And he’s shown me that he secretly “loves” the reactions he gets from pushing my buttons – like this past week when he acused me of something that just wasn’t even an issue but he managed to push my buttons and he got me mad and to react. Now of course, he walked off as if nothing had happened only to return later like nothing had happened and to ask was was wrong, since I don’t keep anything in anymore, I told him I was mad at him for what he had done. He smiled eyes twinkling asked for a hug. He loved it!! And I went for the worm like a fish on a rod… grrrrrrrr. He can still get under my skin. I hate it.

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    • Exodus says:

      CTBH, I hope that you keep a journal of specific things that happen in your relationship. My journal helps me stay grounded in reality and not spend time questioning what I’m dealing with. As yo know, dealing with a PA person is a no win…always between a rock and hard place and it’s real easy to forget just how bad it truly is once we’ve learned to tolerate it.

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  2. Exodus says:

    PJ, Thank you for sharing this brutally accurate portrayal of the confusing dynamic of P/A abuse or any abuse for that matter. I can relate to every emotion, every desire, every hurt and every bit of hope that you conveyed in your words.

    I am currently experiencing this same kind behavior with my husband at the moment except that this time I’m not receptive to his kindness at all because I know he’s only being so because he wants something from me. I have also realized that during any crisis, my husband becomes a kinder and more thoughtful man only because he needs me to help HIM get through whatever crisis HE is enduring. Granted, we might both be affected but it’s only when HE feels affected that he becomes kind. My suffering does not matter to him.

    In February of this year, we lost one of our dogs and it affected my husband to such a degree that he became an entirely different man. I mean that literally. I’ve been married to him for 18 years and I’ve never seen that side of him- ever! He actually cried when Mollie passed away. He didn’t even cry when his sister died. After Mollie’s death, he became the most thoughtful, kind, romantic, compassionate and spiritual man and I responded to him with an open mind and open heart even though I suspected it might not last more than a day or two. I was quite familiar with this seesaw ride but, there was something truly genuine and human about him this time. He began leaving me inspirational notes, love notes, massaging my back,helping with chores, communicating very honestly and openly about everything. He would reach out and touch me as I walked by. He seemed to be completely present…emotionally and physically. I saw him watching a video on youtube about being a better husband and he was taking notes. He even had me sit on his lap as he read them to me and apologized for being such a terrible husband! I was stunned and I actually thought that all my prayers had finally been answered!! I called my best friend and told her about my husband’s behavior and she couldn’t believe it either. Even so, I didn’t expect him to remain this loving and caring forever and I expected that there would be at least some degree of relapse. After a week, he was still in new man mode and I began to panic. I thought he must have a brain tumor or perhaps suffered a stroke or maybe he’s doing drugs or maybe he had an affair and regretted it. I began researching neurological diseases and personality disorders related to stroke or other health issues. I was terribly concerned that something was physically wrong with him and I checked our life insurance and other finances because I feared that he was going to die and I didn’t know how I could run our business without him.
    Another week passed and just like that,the hateful, angry evil bastard returned. I’ve often wondered if he has multiple personality disorder. So, back to square one. I called my best friend and told her that my husband’s brain tumor was miraculously cured. She laughed at my humor but then told me how sorry she was and that she had really hoped that things would improve for us.

    Last week, we lost another one of our dogs and I’m not dealing with the grief well at all. My husband is just fine and keeps telling me to ‘ get over it’. The morning after our dog had passed, I had a dream that I saw my dog running toward me and I woke up crying. I got up and got a cup of coffee and my husband actually noticed that I had been crying and asked me what I was crying about in his usual cold detached manner. I just looked at him with wonder and disgust and told him that I was worried that we might be out of ketchup ( we don’t even use ketchup). He told me not to worry and to go buy some more that day and then began rambling on about the news.

    From that one experience in February, I learned a very important lesson about myself. I’ve often wondered if I’m just so jaded by all his abuse that I could never forgive him or trust him or any other man should we part ways and I fall in love again. I have worried that I’m just too traumatized and wounded to ever open my heart to anyone ever again. When he was nice to me in February, I immediately reciprocated all his kindness, thoughtfulness and compassion and for two weeks, it truly seemed that we were in sync with one another for the first time ever. I realized that because this experience with him was SO wonderful and perfect that I didn’t give the past a second thought. . I didn’t care about what he had ever done to hurt me or create distrust. I was truly just living in the moment and very willing to forgive and let go of the past. I even felt sad at the thought of losing him. So now if he ever accuses me of keeping a record of his abuse and constantly reminding him of his ‘old’ mistakes and being a bitter unforgiving woman, I’ll just ignore him. I know that I’m very capable of loving someone who is kind, compassionate and sincere. I know that part of me is still alive and well even though I feel and look like a corpse most days.

    Today, I can’t stand the sight of him, I can’t stand for him to touch me. When he comes home at the end of the day, I start trembling. He’s been trying all morning to be nice to me and I can’t even find a grain of compassion in my soul for him. I know I’m grieving over the loss of my dog and very emotional but I truly do not want to be anywhere near him. My dog’s death also reminds me how alone I am in my grief and that I should not be sharing my life with someone who is emotionally unavailable. I deserve so much more but for now, I feel like I’m living, working and sleeping with the devil.

    PJ, enjoy the moment and allow it to recharge your spirit and remind you of all the love that you are capable of giving and receiving. I hope that your husband has suffered some sort of catharsis and will continue to honor you with all that you so deserve. If for any reason your husband relapses, don’t feel like a fool. Instead, let this time serve as a reminder of your beautiful, hopeful , loving and trusting spirit that no one can ever take away from you.

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    • Susan says:

      These “men” deserve to be dropped off on a deserted island with their own kind.

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    • Bronze says:

      I have pondered this ‘niceness’ a lot. Being on the other side (separated, no contact) my belief is he was being nice for a reason. You say you reciprocated all his kindness etc. and was feeling in sync with him. However, you can bet your booties that whatever you were reciprocating wasn’t actually what he wanted – he wanted some kind of reward, however, it is a secret and there is also a time line attached you also don’t know about. He wanted something big out of it – not just niceness back. They don’t care whether you are nice back to them. Also the reminding you of when he was nice to offset his abusiveness. I used to tell mine – you can’t use your nice guy acts as chips in the bank against your nastiness. He never got it. Because the only reason he did nice guy acts were for ‘secret’ rewards or for ‘payment’ against past and future abuse. When he didn’t get whatever secret big reward he wanted – he saw no reason to continue being husband of the year and reverted to his true self – nasty, resentful man who is always unhappy but won’t tell you why. In his head, of course, his unhappiness is your fault – you are the barrier keeping him from happiness. I could feel quite palpably the disappointment and anger in my husband as soon as his niceness ended – I started to realise the whole time he was being nice he was expecting something from me (maybe swinging sex etc from a chandelier?) – who knows? I also responded to my husbands niceness with hope and niceness, but it isn’t enough. By the end mine expected that 24hrs of niceness was long enough for me to figure it out and respond and if I didn’t, back came mr nasty with a vengeance. After we separated and he once again screamed ‘well, what about when I did…….?’ I said you know there are men out there who don’t do the nice stuff so they can be nasty – they don’t need to constantly scream out their ‘nice’ acts to offset their nastiness because there is no nastiness. And if you didn’t do so much nasty stuff there wouldn’t be so much ‘negativity for me to focus on’. would there? It simply wouldn’t be an issue. Of course he doesn’t get it and he has now found a new victim as my future improves daily.

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      • Exodus says:

        Bronze, I hear you and I know that you are correct that ‘they’ are always in self-serving mode. I can honestly tell you though that my experience with my husband in February was completely different than anything I had ever experienced with him- mainly because he was sincere in his grief. I had never seen him this way. Turns out though he did want something…he wanted me to ease HIS grief. When it comes to my grief or anything else…doesn’t matter. What is truly so spineless and sickening is that he really doesn’t give a hoot about anyone else or whether they are ill or even die- including his own sister that he had not even contacted or spoken to in 10 years. But, he’s such a good boy so he went to the hospital to appear like he cared and then when everyone at his work showed their sympathy, he just played right along with his nauseating manufactured grief. The man has no conscience, he has no spine and even his very own therapist told me once, ‘ Get out now, you cannot make him grow a conscience’. Anyone who tries to convince us that PA behavior can be cured is wrong. The only cure for PA is a lobotomy or brain transplant.

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  3. “I should not be sharing my life with someone who is emotionally unavailable.”

    Same here. My husband claims to want “intimacy” but actually he is frightened of emotional closeness.

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    • Exodus says:

      Sadly, that’s the problem with most PA’s. It’s also a symptom of narcissism. Many PA’s are classic narcissists. My husband was emotionally neglected as a child and abused so he developed this PA behavior as a coping mechanism. Every time he’s “beating” me up, he is really beating up his father or mother or boss or other authority figure. Inside these men are scarred for life, they feel small and unworthy and lack their own identity. In an effort to counter those feelings of inadequacy, they puff themselves up, identify with anyone they perceive as worthy/better whether it’s a celebrity or just a neighbor. They crave love but fear it. They want so desperately to be loved but then fear it and perceive it as a vulnerability that will ultimately lead to shame and emotional pain.
      Everything they do is designed to support a good guy public image. They always think everyone else is nice, even the shyster that rips them off. They will never compliment you or respect you or honor you in any way unless they are talking to someone else about you. As you know, everyone thinks he is a wonderful, sensitive and caring husband.
      I don’t ever say a nice thing about him in public and I haven’t in years. I won’t attend any function with him because I refuse to give him that kind of support/ammo.

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  4. marsocmom says:

    I remember the times like that, when he could make me cry and want to try hard to fix the things that were broken. But anymore, when he is kind and helpful I smile and say thank you, and when he is in pa mode I just ignore it. I just kind of zone out. There isn’t anything I can do about it anyway, and I’ve given up trying. I don’t want or expect much from him anymore, and it makes things so much easier. But then, I think my pah doesn’t lash out so much like yours does. I find emotional support in other places…my family and a few close friends, both female and male, normal people who make all the difference in my life.

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