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!”

Ah.

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.

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13 Responses to He said he was an a-hole

  1. JR says:

    I love and hate reading your blogs 😉

    You’re able to articulate things I just can’t quite get right.

    Semantics… I learned to listen very closely for the EXACT words/wording used. So many times, I’d have plans, tell PA and hear, ” I wanted to take/do that with you!” Oh, OK. I’d cancel or rearrange and be blown off.

    My disappointment was always my own fault, silly woman! PA said he “wanted” to… Not that he would! Stupid me.

    It’s always that way. I’m learning to listen very closely.

    Apparently, I’m the world’s worst communicator. All of our problems stem from the fact that I don’t communicate well. I misunderstand alot of things.

    I also am alone with someone. Thank you for your blog.

    Like

    • WritesinPJ's says:

      JR, I probably share the love/hate of my blog. I’ve also heard often about how I misunderstand, how I want to fight, how I choose the worst time to talk to him (which seems to be anytime) etc.

      Like

  2. Exodus says:

    Good Day PJ’s. I share JR’s sentiments about reading your posts. As I read your post, it was all too easy for me to imagine being there in every single one of the details. You described a typical scene from my daily work life with Norman. I know you can understand why I quit going into the office and gradually distanced myself from our business. I don’t know how you and I and the other PA spouse victims manage to survive each day without resorting to aggression or violence. OH I know why! Because we’re NOT vengeful angry defensive people! We’re just those boring humans who derive pleasure from sharing rather than comparing, teaming with rather than competing with our spouses and keeping score, listening and taking to heart every word because we genuinely care and value the context in which something is spoken, wanting to laugh, dance and sing in any moment, wanting to reach out and touch those we love without feeling that it might cause them to clam up or feel threatened, jealous and resentful because they can’t conjure-up those same happy emotions. Oh such a mundane corny cheesy life we desire.

    Your husband said, ‘ ..my pride does get in the way when things are going well” and this is exactly why we will never ever ever ever be happy with these type of men. They can’t be happy or love without feeling vulnerable, weak, threatened and powerless. This war will never end. Your husband is a little angry boy that patronizes you, like he did his parents, with insincere apologies intended to make himself feel like a good boy. It’s all so nauseating, draining, exhausting and disturbing. PJ’s it seems to me that you work too hard to force good character from your husband. Expecting him to show humility or bothering to question the sincerity in his apologies or asking a PA man not to say things that he doesn’t mean is unrealistic and just fuels the resentments and hurt in your marriage. You’re expecting him to behave like a typical well adjusted man. He is what he is and your attempts to force him to behave like one will only irritate him more and leave you feeling even less worthy. Certainly you would not believe that your husband’s emotions are sincere if you’re telling him how he should behave- right? He’s not a child and you’re not his parent. There’s no joy or satisfaction in forcing someone to behave in ways that are supposed to make you feel good. It’s like forcing someone to fake an orgasm for your benefit. You need to get off the merry go round and just let him be who he is because investing emotions and energy into his empty shell is only harming you and your children even more. I’m not talking about leaving. I’m just saying that it’s not healthy at all for you or the kids to be watching you teaching a grown man how to behave. Let him be who he is and either accept it or leave. Even if you stay, you’re better off because at least you reach a place of acceptance and can begin to create a happier life for yourself that is grounded in reality and not unrealistic expectations that result in continual disappointment, hurt and resentment.

    Speaking of corny- I was watching ‘ Little Men’ last night and I was enjoying it but I kept hearing myself saying, ‘ this is so corny’. I began questioning why it is that corniness connotes such negative responses in people. People roll their eyes, become timid and get uncomfortable around corny as if something were taboo and something to avoid at all cost. Corny isn’t so bad so why do we feel so timid about being corny? When I watch shows from my childhood or listen to many of those 70’s folk songs, I think how corny my youth was but hey, it was happy stuff. Remember H.R. Pufnstuff? No one could be cornier than Pufnstuff but could anyone ask for a better friend? I fantasized about living a corny life with a husband who actually loved me and respected me and how enjoyable our life together would be on the same team. Is it so unrealistic to imagine ourselves as corny friends, wives and mothers who want to express affection through our mundane actions? I wondered why it is that humans find it more appealing to be defensive, aggressive and greedy than being happy-easy-going- smooth- sailing, corny. So what if we stop and smell the roses or read a sonnet at the dinner table or walk hand in hand with our loved one through town? I imagined riding bikes together side by side with a husband who was enjoying my company and conversation and not feeling the need to race ahead and ignore me. What if we were always mindful of showing affection in everything we do? Would we be banned from civilization and exiled to a corny colony?

    Norman’s character flaws update:

    Character flaw No. 1: The other day Norman (once again) commented that I was just like his (cold, abusive controlling) father only this time, I just took a deep breath and nodded with a look of ‘ fine, whatever’ and said, ‘Well that certainly explains why you’ve been angry at me and treated me like shit all these years’ and I very nonchalantly walked out of the room. Norman stood there dumbfounded and speechless and then he walked out of the office and went to work. I guess what I said must have alerted one of his dopamine receptors that he better look elsewhere for a nourishing fight.

    Character flaw no 2 this week: Norman stopped by after work to drop off some payments. He walked in to the office and said, ‘ I need to call my mother, it’s her birthday’ and the red flag went up. You see, Norman has never cared to know any one of his relatives birthdays- not his brother or sister, not his mother or father or mine. I only knew their birthdays because I asked Norman’s mother and I always sent a card with just my signature ( not inc. Norman’s) I knew that it was highly unlikely that Norman would suddenly take an interest in anyone’s birthday- especially his mother- so, I said, ” so who told you to call her?” and I began making a cup of coffee. He didn’t respond so I asked again two more times and finally he said, ‘ Deb ( his aunt) texted me and told me it was mom’s birthday and to call her. She assured me that it was just our secret and that she wouldn’t tell mom that she texted me and besides, I wouldn’t tell mom that anyone told me to call her.” At that point I just left the room not wanting to risk regurgitating coffee all over the office. Norman is a 50 year old man who has a dysfunctional auntie peacemaker who felt the need to remind him to show fake affection for his mother. Norman’s entire family enables his bad character and always has and par for Norman’s delusional family, his mother gobbled up the attention as if it was sincere and Norman felt secure once again in knowing that he’s a good boy and thoughtful son. I walked out of the office, looked up and smiled and thanked G-d for that reminder to keep pushing through and forward.

    I have very little to say to Norman anymore because I don’t care anymore. I don’t care what Norman chooses to believe, don’t care what anyone believes about my marriage or me. I don’t care what anyone else’s opinion is regarding my abuse. I understand PA, I understand NPA, what I have endured, what I have lost and why and the puzzle is complete. I’ve learned my lesson and thankfully, I’ve developed such disdain for these human characteristics and the people who display them that I immediately turn in the opposite direction. I really believe that G-d allowed me to suffer all of this because He knew it would take ‘all of this’ for me to to finally develop the emotional freedom and self respect that I need to start living the life that He has planned for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • AlonewithGod says:

      Hey Exodus and PJ’s – You are both VERY articulate on the PA disordered man and what it’s like to be married to one for a long time. Nothing ever changes for long; he may want to change, but it is too much trouble and work. And the PA man doesn’t like feeling uncomfortable and challenged about behavior.
      The difference between you two is that PJs still cares and is trying to communicate, and Exodus stopped caring. PJs knows exactly what to expect and has mothered her husband for so long — that is just how it is in her marriage. Having kids in the home probably makes a significant difference. I get that PJs can’t just disconnect from their father and act like he’s invisible when kids are there plus they have a business together.

      And although Exodus and Norman have a business together too, she is totally detached from him. They don’t need each other and there is nothing but contempt. Like me, Exodus stopped having expectations for good from her husband. PJs still has hope.

      When my ex and I separated, I commented to several people that I didn’t like being alone.
      They ALL said, “You were already alone anyway”. True. I’m healing more and more daily and have strong faith that what I’m believing God for will happen in my life.

      You ladies have helped me a great deal. I always read your posts and empathize.

      Like

      • Exodus says:

        Hi Alone,
        You’re so right that nothing changes but we all mother our husbands until we get fed up enough to leave or they leave us.

        What I was trying to say to PJ’s was that it’s not good for her own self esteem to be managing her husband’s bad character by forcing him to acknowledge his behavior and be accountable for it. She’s beating a dead horse but even worse, reinforcing her need to control him. I spent way too many years doing the same thing and it harmed me to the core. All the years I spent questioning Norman and judging his bad character and forcing him to admit to his flaws. It was a complete waste of time and I never once ever felt that he learned anything or felt the slightest bit of remorse. Having kids certainly makes it even more difficult because a parent has to model the best character in the face of adversity. When PJ’s goads her husband into displays of good character, I worry that the kids will learn that they need to control other people in order to get what they want or need.

        Unfortunately, I can’t be totally detached from Norman until I work out the business details. It’s a horrible convoluted legal mess. I really don’t feel contempt for Norman anymore probably because I just don’t care about finding some way to fit him into my life anymore. I think if he had left me high and dry after all he did to me, I would feel contempt but since I’m the one leaving, it makes it tons easier to be indifferent toward him. I see myself separate from him and my thoughts and dreams are all about being separate from him and I feel no need to control him. He is what he is and he is the same man I married years ago. I’m the one who has changed. Norman knows I’ve changed and every so often he will ‘try’ to patronize me with some kind gesture but his good or bad behavior doesn’t matter to me. He’s like an annoying employee or neighbor that I have to deal with every so often but otherwise, I don’t think of him as being my husband or friend or anything else. Truth is, he never was but it took me a long time to accept that truth and how sick he is and that there isn’t anything I can do about it.

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      • WritesinPJ's says:

        AlonewithGod, you’re right that I can’t really disconnect right now, or at least I can’t see the way clear to that presently. Most of the time, it doesn’t hurt me anymore. It’s aggravating and it’s draining, but not often hurtful. The hurt comes when I choose to be vulnerable, and I suppose maybe that’s a good thing in this sense: I can still be the me that doesn’t easily believe that someone is going to intentionally be hurtful, that wants to give someone the seventy times seven benefit of the doubt grace, and would rather choose love. I’m okay with that! Now the times I offer him that kind of vulnerability are becoming fewer and further between. That’s sad. It really is.

        Like

    • Exodus, your comments always resonate so powerfully with me. You have done it again, especially on this matter of teaching them how to behave. To quote you, “Certainly you would not believe that your husband’s emotions are sincere if you’re telling him how he should behave- right? He’s not a child and you’re not his parent. There’s no joy or satisfaction in forcing someone to behave in ways that are supposed to make you feel good. It’s like forcing someone to fake an orgasm for your benefit. You need to get off the merry go round and just let him be who he is because investing emotions and energy into his empty shell is only harming you and your children even more. I’m not talking about leaving. I’m just saying that it’s not healthy at all for you or the kids to be watching you teaching a grown man how to behave.” Wow! Yes! This has been right at the forefront of my mind the last few weeks. Some interactions and an hour or so of conversation forced by a situation between him and the kids made this so absolutely obvious. Because mine is absolutely bent on protecting the perfect Christian man image (driven by his narcissism), he wants me to tell him how to behave. This is so wrong. A spouse should never have to provide coaching for how to be a human being. No wonder I am so used up! For two decades, without really even realizing it, he was using me to get tips and direction on how to act like a real person, then scapegoating me for his flaws and mistakes; using me to fit in at social gatherings, then stabbing me in the back in private to friends (which it took me a long time to discover after much turmoil). During part of this whole revelatory process, I wondered if it would be better for the children if I went ahead and coached him how to behave. I now have no doubt about the answer to that. Emphatically, no! There is nothing good or healthy about me helping a man fake it for his children. It messes with their heads and hearts to see him being himself and then to see him being someone else because he got some instructions. It is confusing for them. It is better that they know exactly who he is all on his own so that they don’t misplace their trust or distrust their intuition.

      (I have to add regarding your comment about forcing someone to fake an orgasm for your benefit. We wouldn’t want that because we want something genuine. I have no doubt that Gregory would be just fine if someone faked it for his benefit. In fact, I think he would secretly prefer it to anything real).

      You sound like you are so strong in your course right now 🙂 Keep on keepin’ on, dear.

      Like

      • Exodus says:

        Thank you for your encouragement Seeing. I’m trying my very very best to stay strong but it’s not easy. I’m struggling to get through the holiday season as well. I’ve got to find something to do on T’giving and Christmas. Any ideas? I am in Jury duty now for two weeks. Lovely. I went on Youtube to learn about how to get out of jury duty and the videos are hilarious. I was planning on wearing converse tennis shoes and a hoodie but I just don’t have it in me to play games so, I guess I’ll just be the real me and hope that they won’t like me for every trial.

        Yes, we are all so worn down and exhausted from all the character management. Isn’t it just so sickening how these men expect us to control them ( another way they avoid personal accountability) and yet they hate being controlled so they punish us for doing what they want? I don’t know for certain what I would do if I had kids but I’m inclined to think that I would be willing to tell my children that Daddy’s behavior isn’t acceptable and it hurts people. If your children ever say, ‘ Well, daddy does that why can’t we”, then tell them the truth and that you don’t approve of their father’s behavior and why. What these men do is psychological warfare on everyone and it takes us all a long time to figure out that the problem isn’t going to go away. Your kids are smart enough to know that something is wrong with their father. Talk about it with them and let them know that despite his flaws you are always concerned with their best interest and would never teach them something that was wrong. I wish it were as simple as saying, ‘ See your slimy shyster father? He’s not what you should become!”…hehehe

        Yep, you’re spot on about how shallow these men are and the fake orgasms. We wouldn’t want that though. They truly are the most shallow self absorbed monsters. Yuk!!

        I grew up managing my mother’s behavior and her marriage dynamics and then ended up with Norman. The thing is Seeing, I realized not too long ago that I wasn’t always this damaged. I chose a perfectly wonderful first husband and I did that all by myself. So, there was at least some part of me that wasn’t all that flawed. Problem was, I didn’t have confidence in myself and I allowed my mother to control me. I may still be lacking in confidence but I won’t ever tolerate anyone with NPD or PA in my life ever again. I stay away from angry people.

        You sound wonderful and stronger than you have in months 😀 Stay strong!! I wish you and the kids could come here for Christmas. We’d have a blast.

        Like

        • Exodus, what you are hearing from me is a stronger mind and will, but my body is at an all-time low. I am more and more confident and firm in where I stand in my detachment from this relationship, but I have been falling into the trap of going over and over each new offense and then reliving the past and it has worn me out!!! I have actually been thinking this last week might land me in the hospital! New symptoms and everything! So I have got to stop letting him keep any space in my head after each incident.

          I am not looking forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas either really. I always look forward to it in terms of the children, but this is a terrible time of year to be dealing with Gregory. I have no doubt we would have a blast indeed! 🙂

          Like

    • WritesinPJ's says:

      Exodus, I will be doing the happiest happy dance when the day of financial independence for me arrives, and I never have to deal with navigating passive aggressive dynamics in business.

      If it helps, when I made the comment, it was slightly sardonic, with no expectations of him being either humble or humorous. Half of the time, I don’t care if it irritates him anymore, so I suppose while I do care for him, another part of me doesn’t care if he likes me or approves of me anymore. I can honestly say that his irritation didn’t make me feel less worthy at all. If he’s going to be difficult, at least I get the peace of mind of bearing truthful witness to my own self.

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  3. Pingback: Sometimes I’m a stranger to myself | my life in pajamas

  4. newshoes123 says:

    My pah has done that too, said he was bad to others in my presence. The only thing that gets them is that they have some sort of acknowledgement and praise from other people. And of course, they want you to disagree with them starting what I used to call the blame/shame game which amounts to an argument.

    Hate those…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Jane Thorne says:

    It’s exhausting because it’s all about them…and their seeming ability to pause, reflect and learn, is not real…it’s all part of the pattern. They have no empathy and that is a very hard thing to wrap our heads around. I am sending you huge love and hugs… My ex. and I were in business together and I spent way more time managing him and the fallout, than I did the business. Like your husband, he was good when he worked. Hugs Xxx

    Liked by 1 person

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