Accountability and courage


Difficult to write, rather long, not proofread, very emotional.

I have been dreading writing this but I know I have to. I need to get everything out on paper so I can make sense of a traumatic conversation that prompted what I can only call an emotional hangover. I’m having trouble remembering the details, most of which probably aren’t important. It’s very foggy and I suspect that I dissociated during parts of it.

Last night I had a pretty intense conversation with Greg. He was argumentative, as usual. Defensive, as usual. I was trying hard, as usual.

I brought up couples counseling because I had started the intake process with a couple’s therapist at a large university system nearby. The counsellor had called me Friday afternoon and I didn’t have the wherewithal to call her back, because I dread 1) talking with Greg about counseling and 2) discussing my reservations which were growing by the minute.

The reservation I have is that individual issues are not appropriately solved in couples counseling. This is an area that can become thornier when the issue of abuse is present in that there is a risk for bias due to a number of factors which I am not going to cite here. [I only have so much gas in the tank. The Scholar must wait.] The other component to the problem is that I have not been effectively able to even use the word abuse in talking with Greg about my reservations. I finally gave in to his pushing for couple’s counseling because I felt I had hit the wall and that I was doing all of the work with none of the revelations mattering to him, let alone prompting introspection and perhaps change on his end. The latter has represented an increasing frustration of mine and I knew I was likely to expose my anger if I were not careful.

Why worry about exposing my anger? Backlash. Denial. Ridicule. More abuse. [Who wants more of *that* stuff – raise your hand!]

I asked him about an abusive outburst from the night before over our teenage son. I asked him why he made me the target of his anger toward our son. He was stumped. He didn’t know. He kept making excuses for why he got mad. None of it spoke apology. Over and over I heard how tired he was, how frustrated he was, how angry he was, how justified he was. After a few of these alloplastic excuses I responded with “that’s no excuse to be abusive.” I reminded him that our youngest son was upstairs when Greg had stormed back in the house and slammed the bedroom door so hard it shook the house [I was outside]. He denied he even slammed the door. Maybe he shut it, he said. [wow.] I asked him why the sarcastically went after me as a parent, again. He said he didn’t know. Over and over, no apology.

I then told him about the counselor and the intake process and said that I had serious reservations because there are unresolved individual problems that would make the process far more difficult and even damaging. I told him his anger was a serious issue in our relationship. He told me he thought his problem was us and that we should just split up. [He says these things, black and white, zero to sixty, when he just doesn’t want to deal with things anymore. He’ll say later he didn’t mean it, but that of course means I have to translate and deal. Not that it helps, because it doesn’t.]

I began to speak with him in a very sincere way and I told him something that was very sensitive and very vulnerable. He turned the conversation right around and told me that when he hurts me, it’s not intentional. It’s not planned and calculated like my affair was. [denial, again.] Essentially, he told me he thought he was justified every time.

I don’t remember what exactly it was, which is amazing to me. But whatever it was, he turned that around and said in a very nasty, sarcastic way something very, very hurtful. He used my vulnerability against me!! I couldn’t believe it!!

Then I got pissed. Not just pissed, but fucking pissed. I mean hissing goose in the room pissed. I was so mad that I nearly shouted back at him how mean he was to do such a thing. How dare he take something I told him in a sincere and vulnerable moment and use it to deliberately hurt me! Of course he didn’t want to hear it so he tried to cut and run, again. I growled at him “No, don’t you even think of leaving. You sit down and you TAKE it!”

I’m pretty sure I was scary. I intended to be. I was crying and mad as hell. What a fucking asshole.

So then he went back to the affair again after he tried to divert the conversation to the “apartment”, which always seems to be at issue. I told him we would stay on the subject and table the apartment until we’ve finished this topic. There was NO way I was letting him manipulate me and I told him that bringing that up, rapid fire, in the middle of THIS conversation was manipulative. It would wait.

He wanted to know why I had the affair. I told him his anger has been an issue for years. I told him I saw him as controlling. I told him how it was not OK for him to stand by while his ex wife, daughter, brother, daughter-in-law, and other family members abused me while he just fucking stood there. I asked him why he didn’t do something! He told me he thought I was a very strong person and that he thought I could take care of myself. I said “Greg, this is a principled thing. If anybody treated your mother that way what would you do? If anybody treated your child that way, what would you do?” He gave me a weak reply that he thought I could handle myself. I said “at the point at which you KNEW I was in trouble and being attacked, stalked even, you did *nothing*! You watched! Why??”

To get some closure I asked him what he would do in the future if that sort of thing happened, not like it would but…  He said he would get between me and whomever it was and get in their face. OK. Great. I didn’t feel very convinced that I could depend on that, but at least he put the brave face on it, so to speak.

Then I talked about the buildup of the effects of his anger on me over the years. I asked him what he was feeling when he ripped in to me the way he did. I asked him what he felt those many times I cried in the basement or in my closet for hours. I asked him what he felt when he turned over and went to sleep as I cried myself to sleep. No answer. He told me “I guess I’m not one of those people who is ‘in touch with their feelings.’” [somewhat sarcastic, derogatory.] I said in a very low and somewhat threatening tone as I leaned forward “well if you want anything to do with me, you WILL now.”

He told me he would try to watch his sarcasm a bit more in the future.

What a concession.

He told me “I’m sorry.” without even looking at me. I DEMANDED he look at me and he was starting to get angry but he knew if he did, I was more than done. So he stopped. He told me there were at least 3 mean things he could have said just then, but he didn’t. I thought “so what. We’re adults. If your anger isn’t such a big problem for you then you can make a choice and control yourself and not act like a damn infant, right?”

Well, then there’s denial. He told me how his parents yelled at each other 24/7 and that was just how he grew up [implying I should just accept it.] I told him my parents screamed at each other and were violent and that I crouched in fear most of my breathing moments just trying to stay out of the shit storm. I told him I never knew when the next violent confrontation was going to happen, when the doors would slam, things would be thrown, I would be interrogated and verbally whipped with things almost always escalating into my being smacked around. I asked him if he was ever in trouble and basically he wasn’t. I told him I was in trouble my entire life. I was never *not* in trouble and I was a damn good kid.

I told him that when he turned around things that I had told him in a vulnerable moment, with sincerity, and used them to hurt me – deliberately, that it DESTROYS intimacy and it was abusive.  [gods I was so mad at him.]

I opened a conversation about triggers. I explained the context and what I interpreted triggers to be and we agreed on a definition. I identified three or four of his triggers and he paraphrased and filled in the details where necessary, but essentially, I tagged them all. I asked him to identify my triggers and all he could do was point out how angry I would get when he would ask me questions about waxing before I went off to see Justin and that I knew how much it hurt him but I did it anyway. Um, that’s not really about my triggers in a broad sense is it? It’s more about your anger with me. So I redirected and refined, to no avail. After 25 fucking years, the man cannot tell you what makes me happy, sad, scared, anxious, angry…but yet I seem to have nailed all of his. Amazing.

What became really apparent to me is that of the 25 years we’ve been together, to him only the last 4 matter. He has this totally inaccurate picture of me being gone most of the month, every month, when in fact I was gone once a month for 2-3 days and rarely a few days during the week [when I actually didn’t see Justin]. He thinks the only reason I rented a place near campus was to fuck around and completely disregards the fact that he was constantly in my face about finishing my damn PhD and giving me a hard time, despite the fact that I finished in 3 – count ‘em – 3 years, which is unheard of! He totally believes I abdicated all parenting responsibilities, never paid attention to him or the kids [reduced attention, yes, but never? really?] and basically left my family.

The reality was he was transitioning fro his career to taking care of the house and the kids while I completed my degree. He lost his job when I was in my last semester with 5 of my toughest classes. Then he had a surgery which incapacitated him for 8 full weeks, during which time I tried to drop out but couldn’t because of my fellowship. So I commuted, took care of him and the kids, and mastered my way through. 4.0 baby. Then I aced the 12 hours of written exams [man that was awesome!] and then 2 hours of verbal exams and plowed through my dissertation with an outstanding research project.

But I couldn’t tell him any of that. His indignance and certainty that he remembers everything exactly the way it happened when he can’t remember dates, times, or even things like his family members abusing me or me crying myself to sleep? Come on. I am indeed crazy, but I am not that far gone.

I had been crying for hours and I cried more when I went to sleep. Of course then I cried when I woke up.

Needless to say, he’s been a perfect angel today. Happy as can be.

I don’t know what to make of this stuff anymore, but I know that he has to step up or I’m likely to call the next bluff he throws out there in an effort to cut and run. I know he’s not going to do anything productive like read the damn books he hounded me for a week ago until there is a crisis – for HIM. That means me leaving. I’m going to be the “bad guy” who left him after she had an affair. Whatever. I’m going to be the wife in the mental institution before too long.

He told me recently that I was making him out to be this bad guy and that he wasn’t feeling bad about anything from the past, any more. I told him that wasn’t my intent, but good for him. Coupled with the fact that I am not allowed to bring up the past [because it makes him so angry he gets “crazy”], I think we’re not likely to succeed in couples counseling.

Greg is charming. Everybody likes Greg. I am somewhat of an acquired taste because I’m direct and I’m usually a threat to insecure people. A quiet threat, but a competent one that suggests that one should not poke me more than once or else I won’t be a quiet threat anymore. I know how to throw my energy around and work a room when I need to. I use my powers for good and not evil (/smile). Some people catch that vibe right away but they don’t know what to make of it. Others like to push then they find out. Still others dismiss me – gods I LOVE that game! But in a situation like this, with a therapist who could potentially turn things around agree with seemingly sane Greg and tell me how I’ve contributed to my own abuse – are you kidding me?? Hell. No. Greg’s even got his therapist thinking he’s “doing really well”. How nice. I’m glad he’s doing well.

I’m NOT.

I’ll tell you one thing though: I am protecting myself from here out. The scary I let loose yesterday is the tip of the iceberg. I don’t care how nice he is. He’d better not fuck with me. At all. I’m done with the coercion and mind control and manipulation. Show me some effort. NOW.


11 thoughts on “Accountability and courage

  1. Pingback: Something you should know about me… | Dharma Goddess: The Journey to Me

  2. This is the most honest thing you’ve written so far, and therefore the post I actually ‘like’ (don’t take that the wrong way, hence the quotes) more than the rest. I won’t sit here and dissect it paragraph by paragraph, but I will say this; it touched a lot of nerves for me and resonated more than I expected. In particular, the part where he said this was how he grew up, with yelling and abuse, implying that it was written into his DNA and unchangeable. My ex-wife used to throw *exactly* the same raison d’être for her explosive and abusive behaviour at me. There was always that “this is how it is, deal with it” mentality on display. Put bluntly, it’s an excuse, an attempt at self-justification when people have neither the will nor skill to control their emotions.

    His sneering tone when discussing people who are in touch with their emotions is a huge wall in the way of his recovery, in my layman’s opinion. My own emotional awareness has been my saviour, and I think is the reason in general that women tend to deal with BPD better than men. Exposing your soul does not mean weakness, but like a lot of men – including myself – he was probably raised to shield himself, to hide his feelings behind armour for fear of exposing vulnerability. I wish right now I could show him how I used to be, and how I am now, and let him feel the difference in the quality of my soul – and all because I opened up an exposed my heart to the air. More than that, I wish I could give you an enormous hug.

    • Oh Frank…tears…I felt a lot of things when I read your comment. Validation, being understood, happiness for you mixed with sadness because of everything you’ve had to go through to get to the better place where you are now, realization that I indeed do know what I’m looking at and grieving even further for what I’m realizing might not be possible (the might is tipping toward probably not).

      I fully understand the risks of opening up and feeling things (en masse) where the armor had previously protected us. In this case, feeling “better” means feeling a whole lot worse for quite a while until one works through it all.

      Question: did your ex ever take steps to recover? [As I wrote that I felt a pang of “you probably already know the answer”.]

      Thank you so much. D

      • I’ll answer your final question first: No. You knew that was coming, though. As it stands, she doesn’t even admit that she has a problem. Despite having been shown video of herself in full flight, despite losing friends as they watched her tear into me, despite almost being ejected from court last year as she blew her stack, she still cannot see it. A favourite phrase of hers was “If people would stop pissing me off, I wouldn’t lose my temper”. Always with the blame-shifting.

        As for what I went through, I wouldn’t change a thing. It stripped me down to the component parts, and this time I was able to put them back in the order I wanted rather than in the way I was told to. I won’t lie, saying it wasn’t easy is a gross understatement, but without that inferno there would have been no ashes to rise from, and so I’m grateful.

      • Blame-shifting, uh huh. Apparently this goes hand-in-hand with denial. Ugh! [shaking my head] Some people rent property on Denial while others own waterfront property as a legacy.

        I hear you on everything you said in the second paragraph and agree with it all. Let’s hear it for the Phoenix inside of us all!

      • I guess in some ways I can understand that, though I don’t relate to it because I was conditioned to manage in chaos. I never have had the need for a whole lot of status quo to function, however, recently there has been an incredible dearth of status quo to the extent that I ceased to function. I got overwhelmed with instability which is interesting because I am built to constantly deal with instabilities.

        This may be a case of differences in kinds [of instability] vs. degrees. I can’t clearly see it yet, but that’s my gut reaction.

  3. I love that saying, “emotional hangover”. Being BPD, I know all about them, lots of them!

    This reminds me a lot of my ex. Everybody loves C with his friendly laid-back persona. Talking about problems or relationship issues just wasn’t on the agenda. He is a Physicist but doesn’t have a lot going on between the ears in the emotional/common sense department. I made the assumption he didn’t care about me or the relationship. It was during a recent telephone conversation, I came to the realisation that this is just him. Thinking of all the times, I tried so hard to work through issues and find the underlying cause of “his feelings”….tut… I shouldn’t have bothered my sorry-ass!!

    It sounds like we have similar childhoods; I also worry about the backlash from expressing anger and couldn’t deal with someone else’s tantrums or their sarcastic and derogatory remarks. In fact, I might go as far as to say, it just wouldn’t be on the agenda. I don’t speak to other people like that and expect the same in return. Perhaps this is something couples counselling might help with. I’m not quite sure what your own reservations are about unresolved individual issues.

    I hope things feel better today

    • Thanks Cat, sincerely. I recognize the left brain/weak corpus callosum thing. Just because many of us can think laterally doesn’t mean that everyone can. Lots of science and psychology to delve into there…my professional world is almost entirely made up of left brainers and I have some pretty funny stories as a result. However, the stuff we are talking about here isn’t funny and I’m betting we all could agree on that simple point.

      I’ll post in a bit on my reservations, with citations. What I’ve read is compelling, to say the least. Above all, I need to feel like I’m getting into a safe situation where some key risks can be mitigated.

      Yeah, similar childhoods…similar adult challenges…every time I encounter someone who tells very similar stories I feel both sad for them and comforted that I’m not alone. Not being “alone” was probably the only thing I ever got out of the Alateen program. As an adult, not feeling alone is a much smaller part of the comfort because I know I own what I own in terms of resolving my individual issues. My expectations are similar to yours and I cannot be “mean”. I refuse to take the karmic hit and believe it blackens my soul. There’s enough black (damaged thinking) there already, weighing me down, and I’m working hard to decrease that damaged thinking every day.



      • I would add, after C, I got myself into another relationship that became rather abusive (I don’t want to paint myself as someone I am not) I’m not saying your relationship is abusive, but I do understand that you would see the temper tantrums through for all these years. Thank God one of you is level headed and while you might have allowed your own anger to emerge, it sounds like you still had a degree of control and reasonability going on. Hope you feel a little better

      • Ah, you hit on a point of importance for me: I want to ensure I don’t end up in another relationship that replicates the same patterns. Hence the importance of changing my beliefs and patterns.

        Yeah, my relationship is abusive. I’ve accepted that. I’ve also accepted that I can’t change him. Individual change is just that; something that is not of shared ownership.

        What will be, will be.

        Thanks for all of the input you guys. Seriously, it helps.

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