When It’s Not Abuse Or Infidelity

I’ve been thinking about my relationship. How people understand and accept the dissolution of a relationship for reasons of abuse and infidelity – you really don’t have to offer much in the way of explanation or detail if either of those reasons are the reason for it ending. If neither of those are the reason, there are likely to be some eyebrows raised as to just what happened that brought things to an end.

More than one person has – very kindly – expressed concern for me after some of what I’ve written, and they’ve used the term ‘abuse.’

I’ve thought about it in case I’m simply unwilling to use the label, but after giving it some thought, I still don’t think it fits. Not only have I read about abusive relationships and the classic hallmarks of such, I’ve also listened to people’s personal experiences with being in an abusive relationship. My relationship – the interactions between my husband and I over the years – don’t fit the descriptions.

Instead, our relationship was and is dysfunctional to the point of toxicity, something I’ll get into later in the post. Before that, I’ll give some examples of why I don’t think ‘abusive’ is an appropriate descriptor of our past relationship.

He did not intentionally try to isolate me from my friends. In fact, early on in our relationship he knew my best friend at the time, G, had feelings for me and not only did he not attempt to restrict the friendship, he remained friends with G himself.

He never insisted on access to my social media and never snooped through it, even though I was open about where I kept my passwords.

After we had kids, he still tried to be mindful of my need to get out of the house. For a time, he was watching the kids while I went and played D&D with a couple of friends. I stopped being able to leave the house much because of depression and anxiety, not because he was preventing me from leaving.

He never raised a hand to me, and he never said cruel or unkind things to me. He did not accuse me of wrong-doing or exhibit paranoia about where I’d been or where I was going or who I was spending time with.

He did not try to control how I spent money, and in fact encouraged me to go out and spend money on myself if I wanted, without trying to police my wardrobe choices in the process.

The issue wasn’t that he was trying to control ME, it was that he was trying to control and shape his life and make it look how he thought it should look, so that he could derive comfort and security from it.

I happened to be part of his life, and happened to be conditioned to accept a status as follower rather than equal in the relationship. The fact that I was controlled and shaped by his pursuit of life as he wanted it to look was tangential, not intentional.

He made decisions for us out of ignorance and sometimes selfishness. He was convinced – without ever having been pregnant or taken care of small children, not even siblings – that I could provide him with a family and still accomplish other goals like completing my education. He wasn’t trying to stop me from completing goals.

Even now, when he’s become insecure and paranoid in ways he never exhibited before, there’s nothing to prevent him from crossing certain lines, and yet so far he’s largely held himself in check.

That could change. He’s certainly been willing to engage in some attempts at passive-aggressive emotional manipulation – he doesn’t want to use financial or physical coercion to get what he wants, because he knows what that would be – instead he wants me to volunteer to give him what he wants, by convincing me it’s ‘the right thing to do.’

He’s not having any luck with that. I am keenly aware, now, of what I need to survive and I am going to keep making decisions based on my survival, not what he wants.

Of course, I’m unlikely to offer ‘dysfunctional and toxic’ as the public reason for the dissolution of our relationship. I’ll try to be more tactful – talk about how we couldn’t shape our life and relationship into something healthy and happy for both of us. Leave people speculating as to what the details might have been.

I think it might be a good thing if we could expand the conversation about love, relationships and marriage. Start talking about how a relationship doesn’t have to be abusive in order to be dysfunctional and how dysfunctional can become toxic. Stop treating marriage as something that we MUST succeed at, or be selfish, moral failures.

Sometimes we try and fail.

And that’s okay.

It doesn’t mean you have to keep trying over and over until you succeed. It’s okay to review the situation, and learn enough from that failure to realize you’re not going to gain anything positive by continuing to try.

3 thoughts on “When It’s Not Abuse Or Infidelity

  1. Beautiful post… so well expressed… and tbh this is how it looked to me from the outside, reading between the lines, and if anything it seemed to me that it was your husband, not you, who had been badly treated… but now that has all been rectified (to this one reader, at least), via your honest and fair outlining of the situation as a whole, and really, I can relate to so much of what you are saying. Sorry if this comment comes out wrong, i am tapping into my phone thus hard to look back on “the big picture…” and don’t want to overthink my comment too much… anyway, lovely post. 💓🌤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I got the sense you were uncomfortable with the story I was unfolding, and I wasn’t offended by the idea you might want to draw back and interact less because of the discomfort. You’ve got your own life to take care of and certain aren’t required to take on additional discomfort because of a stranger on the internet!

      Trying to get my literal needs met required my husband to step out of his comfort zone, and him being forced out of his comfort zone to prioritize my literal health (mental, emotional AND physical) over his comfort shattered the relationship.

      I’m not treating him badly by refusing to remain in a relationship where his comfort has always been more important than my literal needs, and I do hope that’s clear at this point.

      Years ago, I didn’t put my foot down about things like waiting for children until I’d finished college, not just because I’d been conditioned to give my husband what he wanted, when he wanted it, but because I had a sense I might destroy the relationship if I delayed or denied him the things he really wanted. More recently, but still for years, I didn’t put my foot down about his terrible sleep habits that were robbing me of my sleep because I knew he’d respond badly… and he did. I wish I’d been raised to see that my intuition about how he’d respond was a giant red flag.

      It doesn’t mean he’s a bad person, but it does mean he has some very unhealthy and entitled attitudes that proved to have devastating effects on me when paired with my religious background.

      I nearly destroyed myself trying to give him what he wanted, and he took it for granted and believes I owed it to him because we were married.

      I don’t owe him the rest of my existence. If I’m wronging him now, I paid the price for it in advance.

      (No worries about long rambling comments on your part, as you can see I can get very long-winded myself!)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I hear all this and totally admire your eloquence and clarity of expression… and it all makes sense to me…

        sorry this comment is comparatively short… something unrelated and awfully weird happened this morning, shattering my own perceptions of the internet (once again), and I am trying to process it… echoes some of the same societal issues you astutely mention here…

        anyway, hugs, and shine on, sister

        Liked by 1 person

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