I wasn’t paying attention to the conversation between my husband and my mom until I heard, “I wash the dishes for her and she does nothing but yell at me about it.”
This was related by my husband to my mother. She turned and asked me, “Why are you such a bitch to him? He is the nicest guy, but all you do is get bitchy and complain.”
This was a slap in the face. I was so stunned I couldn’t even respond.
She didn’t see the smirk on his face as he left the room to go watch TV in her basement. I did.
You see, for over 30 years I’ve kept things to myself except for a couple of close friends. Unfortunately, even the close friends didn’t believe me. It wasn’t until my best friend heard DH say something that, to anyone else, would’ve sounded like a compliment. However, she knew the full story and realized that he had, in fact, insulted me. I could read the understanding as it dawned on her face. As soon as he left the room, she apologized for not believing me. I almost cried. Finally, someone else saw it. I wasn’t crazy.
My biggest mistake was keeping what was going on from my parents and others outside of my “circle” of close friends. People would hear him say something nice which actually wasn’t, and I would break and snap at him. To anyone outside of those “in the know”, it seemed as if I was the mean one. No one realized that he had been pushing me all day, and made a seemingly innocent comment, which in reality wasn’t. I was an ungrateful person who had a loving husband. He is very good setting me up for this.
Going back to what he said to my mom about the dishes I’ll explain the full truth. He deliberately left out a vital part of the story.
We have a standing rule in our house. This particular rule has been in effect for over 10 years. Our house doesn’t have the best water pressure when multiple faucets are running. Turning on hot water anywhere else diverts a good portion away from the shower. Our well water is ICY in the winter.
For this reason the rule is: No laundry or dishes while someone is in the shower. It’s a very simple rule. Everyone in the house can obey this rule except one person.
DH deliberately waits until I’m in the shower, then does dishes to “help out”. He will run the hot water as hot as he can stand it. In short order, the hot water tank has trouble keeping up with the demand. Having an ice shower in a house that is cold and drafty to begin with is a decidedly unpleasant experience. To avoid this, I began taking showers when he wasn’t home.
If I come out of the bathroom and say something to him, all I get is yelled at about how he tries to help but nothing he does makes me happy. If I mention the rule, that he darn well knows, he ignores me like I didn’t say anything.
After he left the room, I explained all of this to my mom. She asked me how long he’d been like that. I said, “Since we were married.” Finally, after 30 years, I told my mother everything that had been going on. Now it was her turned to be stunned. She asked me, “Why didn’t you say anything?”
My mom’s first husband was physically abusive, so this hit her a bit hard. How do I explain that I thought it was in my head, even though I knew it wasn’t? How do I admit that I made a serious mistake in allowing myself to be pushed into marriage?
And the big one: How could I admit that I, once again, had fallen victim? That I had again been taken in by a man?
I reminded her of his lie about our first apartment. He signed a lease on our first place, and told me plants weren’t allowed because the complex felt water run-off would ruin carpets. It made sense to me, so I passed it on to my plant-loving parents. My mom insisted on seeing the lease. There was nothing in there about it. When she confronted him, he laughed and said he was just joking around with me. “She takes things too seriously.” If that had been the only time he did something like that, then I would’ve agreed with him. But he did it so many more times it was and is unreal.
You see, I never considered myself an “abused wife”. DH never hit me, though a few accidents are questionable. I was never forbidden to go anywhere or work. He never outright called me “stupid” or anything.
On the surface, everything was fine. I thought most of what I saw or heard was in my head. Doubting my own senses made me angry. The angry and upset me is what people saw which played right into what he wanted.
There is a term called “gas lighting“. I never knew what it was or had even heard of the term until someone pointed it out to me. He is good at it. He is so good people think I’m just a mean person who doesn’t appreciate her loving, hardworking husband. Even my eldest three children believed that until a few years ago. Then they saw it with their own eyes.
He will repeatedly tell me that he wants me to work outside the home. However, when I do, it becomes stressful. He will “forget” to feed the kids dinner. I would get home at 8 pm and find hungry teens who would’ve made themselves dinner, but their father kept saying he was going to do it. When I asked where dinner was, he would say, “Oh, I forgot to make it.” He was home all day playing on his computer.
One of the kids told me, “Mom, he has been saying he would make it for the last 3 hours.” Even they knew he didn’t forget. I had to make dinner. The kids didn’t eat until 10 pm and they had school early the next morning. The only happy person in the house was him.
Animals will be “forgotten”. Sick children will be made to get up and do chores even if they are pukey or running a high fever. Things will be deliberately done until I quit the job, because I refuse to let the kids suffer for it.
DH will lie. Sometimes they are the most easily checked or outrageous lies, yet he fully expects me to believe him or not even bother to check what he said. He is the first man who thinks I’m a complete moron, yet if you ask him he will say I’m one of the smartest women he knows.
Let me stress one thing: His behavior is abuse!
It took me years to finally understand this.
If anyone out there sees their own spouse in this, please either seek counseling or get out of the relationship. I am trying to do the latter.