Hang onto you

I realize there are women who want management tips and techniques to make their passive aggressive husband change and their relationship work.  I used to be one of those women.  Let me save you the years and heartache that I’ve already spent for this lesson:  You can’t change him.  He is unlikely to ever change.  You can only change yourself, and it will be work. You can, however, lose yourself in the process.

The only tips I’ve found helpful are the reminders to take care of myself, and keep clear, enforceable boundaries.  I do still love him; it’s my choice and in my nature to love.  More importantly, I’m focusing my energy on learning to love myself as a healthy adult should.  I pray for his heart to break in true contrition and godly sorrow, but I’m giving as much of my energy as I can to myself to heal and grow stronger.  To work at creating viable, healthy choices for myself that include becoming financially independent.  To work at creating choices that would allow me to leave him without unnecessary harm to others.  I’m trying to build myself up faster than the passive aggressive insanity can break me down.  This blog is my journey to get there.

The reasons for my having to learn this later in life are not complicated, but faceted.   I didn’t grow up understanding and learning what healthy self love and care felt and looked like, yet I don’t blame my parents (they did their best).  I suspect that I share this struggle with the majority of human beings.  The important thing is to seek to know better so that I can do better.

This means that I’m no longer interested in any advice whatsoever that advises me to treat him as less than an adult.  Sadly, my prior experience when reaching out to professional therapists, psychologists, counselors etc., meant the professional seemed to be looking to unearth the hurt/scared/wounded boy, much like an archaeologist carefully digs out a site. There was a time when I was hopeful and patient with that method because I wanted something, anything to work!  Even though most of ‘me’ was getting drained by the relationship with my passive aggressive husband, I was ready to be set as lower priority (again) a bit longer if it meant there was a solution in sight.  But at least in our case, the professional counseling didn’t work.

I watched these professionals joke with my husband, sympathize with him, make gentle suggestions for him to work on, ask him questions much as you would to get a child thinking, but never was I asked if I saw any improvement.  My husband seemed to charm the various therapists and counselors, and I think that made me wonder even more what was wrong with me. Why wasn’t I happy?  Why was I upset with such a likeable man?  The whole world loves him and enjoys him.  What’s wrong with me?  As professional help seemed to ignore my well-being, seemed blind to the cause of my pain, my confusion and cognitive dissonance increased.  If professionals didn’t see it, maybe I was crazy.  Maybe it was me. (I know better now, but it cost me dearly to know better.)

Only one time did I see actual accountability in action.  Years ago, there was one psychologist we saw for several sessions that came close to being helpful (but we know that only counts in horseshoes).  As usual, I forced the initial session, that time because of an ongoing argument about yelling at our kids.  It’s not that I’ve never yelled or never raise my voice in anger.  I absolutely have, but I don’t think it’s a good thing.  I think anger/yelling is something I’ve done when I’ve failed to be proactive to prevent getting that upset, and then I’ve reacted.  When I do that, I believe it’s the right thing to say that I was wrong, and then try to address it when I’m calmer.  My husband on the other hand, would absolutely defend his yelling at the kids.  He’d tell me that he did it because it worked, or say that he had to, or say it was the only thing that worked.  He wouldn’t say it was wrong, and wouldn’t show any intention of trying to change it.  I’d try to discuss it with him, and we’d argue about it.  I finally made the appointment, and that was the topic of our first session.  (Naturally, my husband quickly agreed when the psychologist stated that it wasn’t a good thing.  He ‘saw the light’.)

We continued to go for awhile after that (money was the reason we quit going).  This psychologist had us take a test that took an entire session just to take it, and then another session was devoted to the results.  (hmm… I wonder if he still has those records)  He started the session on results by asking my husband which of us was the more objective person.  My husband kind of smiled, almost shrugged, and said, “Me, of course.  I’m male, and [his profession].”

“Wrong,” said the psychologist.  “Your wife tests as an analytical and highly objective person.  You tested to be highly subjective.  Do you know what this means?”

Oh, the surprise (almost shock) on my husband’s face.  “What?”  (He asked in polite disbelief.)

“You should never make important decisions in life without her input.  Especially when it comes to business and finances, but also family and personal.”

My husband nodded, smiled as though this was wonderful news, and by now he’d assimilated the information as though it was exactly what he’d always known and believed about me.  Nod, smile, nod.

Then at one point the psychologist looked at him and said, “Your wife is a very affectionate person.  Do you show her affection?”

My husband gave the sheepish smile and said, “Well, not as much as I should…that doesn’t come naturally to me.”

The psychologist replied, “What difference does that make?  You do something because it’s the right thing to do, whether it comes naturally or not.  Do realize how many men would cut off an arm to have a wife as affectionate as yours is?”

My husband began the serious nod agreement shtick.  Nod, nod.  Of course, yes, absolutely. 

But no change.

There was one difference that lasted only as long as the sessions did, and it was like a magic bullet.  There would be passive aggressive behavior from him of some sort,  I’d say something, and he’d begin arguing, accusing, and gaslighting.  That was all standard stuff.  The difference was when I’d say, “I’d rather not discuss this right now.  It’s important, but it’s something I think we should talk about at our session this week.” 

Oooohh.  He’d give a kind of glazed, stymied glare.  I swear I could see the thinking going in his eyes, as though high speed wheels were turning behind that looking-off-somewhere stare.  Then the magic would happen.  He’d completely turn around, acknowledge what I was trying to say, and it would be over.  Yes, just like that.  It didn’t mean that he changed, but it managed his behavior.  The worst that would happen is that sometimes he’d mutter and walk away.  But within minutes he’d come back with the same magical result, acknowledgment and moving on.  He never wanted to carry his ridiculous, grinding me down, gaslighting, accusing, irrational arguments to the counseling session.  It was then that I realized that to at least some degree, he knew how his words, thoughts, and behaviors would be viewed by an outsider.  Break a cookie on my head and call me crummy.  So much for that part of his disordered thinking. 

This was the lesson that made me instantly agree with Dr. George Simon’s saying, “They see, they just don’t agree.”

This is also why I no longer want to hear management techniques that require me cater to him, coddle him, or view him as ‘wanting to do the right thing’ if only I could use the right approach so as to not trigger the supposed fear that would ‘make’ him behave passive aggressively.

Why?  Because it’s not the kind of thing where if you just love more and more and more, then one day you’ll turn this magical corner, he’ll finally ‘get it’, he’ll realize how good it could be, and in that aha moment,  gaze at you with awakened understanding because he realized he can be secure with your love. That corner is as real as the tooth fairy.

My advice to any woman that wants to stay in a relationship to a passive aggressive man is to HANG ONTO YOURSELF.  Take care of yourself.  Love yourself in the healthiest ways.  Keep ironclad boundaries.  Do whatever you have to do to remain independent, or become independent.  Understand that your thriving is probably not only unimportant to him, but something he’d see as a threat, and resent and sabotage.  Hopefully you’ll do this before you end up so tired on the inside that you struggle to think straight, and end up just wearing pajamas.  It would have been so much easier if I’d understood this when I was younger with the strength and resiliency of that age.

On the other hand, my best advice to a younger woman reading this is to run, don’t walk, and don’t look back.  When you get to a safer place, take time to be alone.  Unless you want your heart broken in ways you can’t imagine, don’t have children with him.  Take time to be single, and learn to enjoy who you are.  You’re worth getting to know and love.  Learn to love yourself so well, that you can smell an unhealthy man from a block away. 

Hang onto you. You’re the person that you absolutely will spend the rest of your life with.  It’s not a dress rehearsal, as losing loved ones recently has sharply reminded me.

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This entry was posted in abusive husband, abusive marriage, cognitive dissonance, covert abuse, emotional abuse, loss of self, marriage counseling, passive aggressive, passive aggressive husband, therapy. Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Hang onto you

  1. PJs, thank you so much! You very eloquently put into words what I and one of my friends have experienced with our spouses. The part of your post that particularly resonated with me today is the following: “Sadly, my prior experience when reaching out to professional therapists, psychologists, counselors etc., meant the professional seemed to be looking to unearth the hurt/scared/wounded boy, much like an archaeologist carefully digs out a site. There was a time when I was hopeful and patient with that method because I wanted something, anything to work! Even though most of ‘me’ was getting drained by the relationship with my passive aggressive husband, I was ready to be set as lower priority (again) a bit longer if it meant there was a solution in sight. But at least in our case, the professional counseling didn’t work.” An additional thing that I noticed when my husband was in therapy was that he lapped up the attention to his “hurt.” Well, we all like attention, right? But I saw my own therapy as first and foremost a way to learn how to overcome challenges and have a more satisfying life, not as a means for gratifying my ego.

    Like

    • WritesinPJ's says:

      marriedwithouthusband, thank you! for the affirming words that help keep me writing.

      I know what you mean about the lapping up attention to ‘his hurt’. That was my impression at times also.

      Like

  2. marsocmom says:

    You wrote, “This is also why I no longer want to hear management techniques that require me cater to him, coddle him, or view him as ‘wanting to do the right thing’ if only I could use the right approach so as to not trigger the supposed fear that would ‘make’ him behave passive aggressively.”

    I’ve always wondered why it seemed to be my job alone to keep the marriage healthy. He’s the one who “chased” me, he’s the one who wanted to get married, he’s the one who told me that if I had said “no” to him one more time that he’d have left me alone. Darn, I missed my chance. Now that he has me, it seems he has no more interest in me as other than a housekeeper and a sounding board. Having a ring on your finger from these PA men changes everything. It’s no wonder my twice-divorced sister and so many others figure that the best way to keep a man is to not marry him. Go figure.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. paescapee says:

    OH. This is a wonderful blog. I was with my ex for 37 years, I became an absolute expert on passive aggressive behaviour and it made not one jot of difference except that he got angrier as I got stronger. The therapist said I should let him have more responsibility whilst the bills were bouncing cos he hadn’t’ t paid his half of the credit card bill into the bank!

    Liked by 1 person

    • WritesinPJ's says:

      Thanks, paescapee, I think your blog is excellent!

      I detest suggestions that would leave me vulnerable to more harm, when in my opinion the focus should be on holding his feet to the fire.

      Like

    • Exodus says:

      Oh my gosh. The first therapist we went to see told me the same exact thing about the bills. You see, Norman would offer to take the bills I paid to the post and he would also offer to take our bank deposits to the bank. I soon learned that I couldn’t trust him with either because he would inevitably and ‘ accidentally’ lose the electric bill payment or he would forget to include the check with the highest amount in the deposit. Certainly it couldn’t be a coincidence that it was ALWAYS the check with the largest amount. During our first 6 months of marriage, I came home from work and twice our electric was turned off. I would argue and argue with the company that I had paid the bill. When I was finally able to speak with Norman ( we didn’t have cell phones) he would act so confused and wonder what could have possibly happened. I would have to go to the local market or payment center and pay the bill. Sure enough, as soon as I returned he would be standing there holding the bill or the check in his hand claiming that it fell down between the seat of his truck. I tried everything to make certain that nothing was lost. I used large pouches, paper clips and I even contacted my bank manager and asked if the tellers would make certain that all items were included in the deposits and if not, to call me. It’s truly insane how much energy I had to put into managing Norman’s angry behavior and how I transferred that responsibility on to others and even worse, how I was too desperate at the time to realize how ridiculous I must have looked to others.

      After explaining this to our counselor she told me to take control of all the bills, payments, mailing etc.. She told me to put those key locks on the doors and essentially, told me to take complete control of everything. Did it not occur to her at all how this would negatively impact my personal life, my health, my marriage? Did it ever occur to her that Norman would resent me even more for controlling everything? Apparently not. It just goes to show that some counselors are advising people based on their own emotional issues. Apparently, this woman had some sick sort of empathy for men. Maybe her mother bullied her father? Who knows?

      Like

      • paescapee says:

        That is a horrendous story. The events seem so hard to believe- if you explained them to someone else- that it seems you must have thought you were going crazy. I learned afterwards that it was very unethical of the counsellor to see us jointly after seeing my pah alone, as he would naturally have formed an opinion of me and could not be non-judgemental. My pay was very subtle, or maybe I was naive, I never caught him out in a lie. I honestly can’t see how you can be worse off without that man’s behaviour in your life. I don’ t know how you will feel, obviously, but I found my extreme anger and stress just fell away from me straightaway. A relationship should enhance and support your life, you really shouldn’t’ need to work so very hard just to cope day to day. Yes, you might worry about money or broken taps or spiders, but you managed your life before you met him and you can do it again. Stay strong just for a little longer.

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        • Exodus says:

          Cathy, the thing that really touches me about your comments is that they address the very ( petty but pertinent) things I worry about such as broken taps, grass cutting, firewood and spiders. I have a horrible spider phobia. Then, I stop and I force myself to remember that even though Norman was married to me, he really wasn’t there for me and anytime I needed him, I had to beg and plead and deal with his anger and negativity. I endured most every crisis all by myself and before he lived with me, I had a grass cutter. I survived and while it wasn’t easy, I never had to deal with pathological psycho stuff and I had good friends.

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          • paescapee says:

            Thank you. These things aren’t really petty, they’re all the day to day things that can pile up. But I have found that my workload is far, far less on my own- seems less than half the work. Especially the cooking- I don’t feel the need to cook a full dinner every day when a jacket potato would do! Also, I no longer have the issue that I’m sure you will identify with whereby he promised or even insisted on doing a chore and then never did it, leaving me in a worst state than being alone. Now I just do it, or pay someone else- or choose to ignore it!

            Liked by 1 person

  4. Newshoes says:

    I’m not young anymore but I ran. 4 times! This time is finally the right time. I tried everything. Loving, more love, less love, arguing, agreeing, giving up, praying for change, seeking counselling, shutting myself out, protecting my heart, repenting it… I really could go on and on and you know what, nothing and I mean nothing changed, not for long anyways. Time to go. Back to me and back to life.

    Like

  5. lonelywife07 says:

    PJ….how did you know to write this post about my life with PA Man?? OMG!!!!! Wait! This is YOUR life???
    Is that scary or what…that so many of us can read this and think you’ve been peeking in the windows of our homes??
    What does that tell you???
    It tells me I have to GET OUT!!

    So I just spent $200.00 bucks a few minutes ago to become a distributor for a successful company…My friend has been after me for months to do this because she really feels that I can really go a long way with this company…so I made the decision to do it…without asking PA Man!!

    I need to take care of myself…because PA Man isn’t going to change, is he?? I’m finally seeing the light, and I don’t like what I’m seeing. We had a horrible Thursday and Saturday, and he now acts like nothing ever happened.
    It was so bad I told him to move out next month! I really felt like I hated him at that moment…and I’m feeling that way more and more often….he’s like a slow poison, slowly killing the both of us.

    My husband is a damaged man….and he will never become what I want or need. And I can’t live this way anymore…

    Like

    • WritesinPJ's says:

      lonelywife, please hold your cards close. Get all your ducks lined up if you can. Take care of yourself.
      Maybe it’s intuition, maybe it’s just concern, but I’ve seen women blindsided by things they thought their husband would never do.

      Like

      • lonelywife07 says:

        Yes PJ….I’m playing it cool…we went out to dinner with our group of friends tonight. We do that every month and it’s a relaxing time…
        On the way there I told PA Man that he’s like a cancer, destroying our marriage, and there’s no medicine that an fix it…his response, “I understand..” What the hell that means I just don’t know!!
        I feel like I’ve made so many excuses for him, because he’s NOT verbally or physically abusive…but I can’t make anymore excuses..he sucks as a husband and father!!
        Our youngest son told him TWICE over the weekend, “Dad, you need to go to counseling!!” His response? “I know and I will.” But you and I both know he WON’T!!!

        Like

      • lonelywife07 says:

        Oh, and yes, I was blindsided by his affair 4 yrs ago…nice, quiet, dependable PA Man…who’d a thought he could be so devious and a liar?? HA!!!

        Like

  6. wornout says:

    Yes! Great advice! I completely agree. When I came to the realization that my husband is PA, I read everything I could about it. Some of the suggestions I read about just didn’t sit right with me. Making sure to approach things with him when he appears ready, talking to him in a way where he doesn’t feel threatened, being very sensitive to his need to feel loved and secure, remembering to handle him in such a way where any wounds from his childhood can heal in a loving environment, etc, etc. As I’m reading some of the stuff I’m thinking, “wait a minute, whose the victim here?!” Why should we, the ones being abused, be the ones who have to coddle the abuser and try to help him heal, be whole, and feel good about himself?! No. For years, I bought in to all that and tried all that, but I’ve wisened up.:) And I also couldn’t agree more with you about any young women out there who are in PA relationships. Your advice is the best advice, run!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • lonelywife07 says:

      Oh my gosh, Worn out…YES!! I felt the same way when I read that crap! Hello?? I’v raised my kids pretty much on my own, including home schooling them, paid all the bills, balanced the budget, and drove the kids to their various activities… do they REALLY think that we have time to MOTHER our husbands?
      How about they grow the hell up and stop living in their pasts?? I think that would work a whole lot better!! Sheesh!

      Like

      • wornout says:

        Lonely, exactly!! And no kidding, being married to a PA guy is practically like being a single parent, we don’t have time to mother our husbands, too! Yes, they need to GROW UP!! I have no more patience, sympathy, etc. for these guys.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Jane D. says:

    Wow PJs, I would LOVE to know what test that was. . . and meet that psychologist myself! I have seen the nod, smile, agree – and then go do whatever he wants. And yes, we attended counseling about 10 years ago and everything the counselor suggested to husband to do – he couldn’t. “That’s not me/I don’t know/I forgot” – just excuse after excuse after excuse.

    “The psychologist replied, “What difference does that make? You do something because it’s the right thing to do, whether it comes naturally or not. ” – wish our counselor would have said this!

    “Because it’s not the kind of thing where if you just love more and more and more, then one day you’ll turn this magical corner, he’ll finally ‘get it’, he’ll realize how good it could be, and in that aha moment, gaze at you with awakened understanding because he realized he can be secure with your love. ”

    And this – absolutely true, in my experience.

    Like

  8. Exodus says:

    PJ’s, your words are so so true and I hope anyone reading this entry will be strong enough and wise enough to heed your warnings. Unfortunately, I tend to believe that victims of PA abuse will only leave when they finally get fed up since we always spend way too many months and years trying to make sense of the nonsense. We just don’t get enough social cues from them that confirm malicious intent in their behaviors. We spend way too much time second guessing ourselves and searching for explanations as to why they do what they do. Certainly there must be some logical reason!! WRONG!!

    I’ve tried every durn behavioral modification technique ( modifying my own to produce a different reaction from him), took an antidepressant and valium and xanax to help me tolerate him, spent hundreds of dollars on self help books, videos and cd’s, joined Churches, etc.. and nothing I did improved our marriage or Norman’s character. The only thing that resulted was that I increasingly shut down and shut up and isolate and every so often my mind would awaken and I would have a complete nervous breakdown. I developed TMJ disorder in my jaw which destroyed my teeth/bite which cost me thousands of dollars to repair, my immune system has been obliterated at times, I had ovarian cancer that I had to suffer with no help from him except that he stole my medications which prevented me from becoming an addict ( thanks Norman?). I walked every path of healing that was available to me except the one that led me out of here. Of Course!

    Having empathy and compassion for others is good but choosing a mate shouldn’t be like choosing a helpless and needy dog from the animal shelter that we can effectively transform into happy, appreciative, well adjusted dogs and who will love us unconditionally in return. Choosing these broken, needy men is a life sentence in hell.

    Like

    • wornout says:

      Exodus, you’re exactly right. That’s the problem, huh, it does take years for PA victims to realize what is happening. You explained it well. It’s so sad, by the time we finally get to the point where we know what’s happening, that we aren’t crazy, and that our guy is the one with the problems, the damage is done, we are done. 😦

      Like

      • GainingStrength says:

        I agree. If the young ones just realize they will waste decades of their lives with these abusers, they might just not run, but run for their lives from the monsters (which they are).

        Like

        • lonelywife07 says:

          YES! I so wish all the young women reading this would realize we are RIGHT! Do NOT think you can change him…you CANNOT!!! Run, file for divorce, don’t explain yourself to anyone!! Just go!

          Like

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